Ask Angelo - Angelo Pezzote

Angelo Pezzote
M.A., N.C.C., L.M.H.C.

 Busting Into The Scene!
 How To Tell If That Hot Guy's Gay? and Straight Acting

Dear Angelo,

I just left a three year relationship with a woman. How do I plunge into the gay lifestyle? And how can I find out if a hot dude I like is gay?

Signed, Newbie

Dear Newbie,

Welcome to our community. Plunging into "the gay lifestyle" isn't quite like putting on your most fabulous Speedo and diving into a cool pool of water. You can't really jump into a well defined sea of gayness because it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what or where the gay community is. Since gay people are everywhere and out to varying degrees, the gay community is spread out and one's relationship to it varies from person to person. Also, the gay community itself has many subcultures: leather daddies, bears, jocks, twinks, drag-queens - the list goes on. Making a gay life for yourself is about building a life that works for you as a gay person. Enjoy the process of self-discovery, finding where you best fit in, and creating a healthy well-rounded life that's most comfortable for you as a gay man.

As for part two of your question, the best way to find out if a guy you like is gay is to ask him.

One thing we're up against out there is heterosexism, or the presumption that everyone's straight. A straight guy doesn't ask a single woman if she's heterosexual before he asks her out. He just assumes she is and focuses on mustering up the courage to hit on her. If he's not degrading, the woman usually feels complimented and affirmed by the proposal. Even if she says, "no," he most often takes it as she's-simply-not-interested and moves on. Usually no one is offended in the situatuion. Her sexuality is rarely an issue.

Well, the same needs to be true for us gays. While we need to use our best judgment in the situation to stay safe from physical harm, we also need to feel uninhibited to express our natural attraction to other men. Often we inhibit ourselves from expressing our affection openly because we buy into the idea that being "a fag" is an insult to one's manhood. The belief that it's offensive to ask a guy if he's gay reflects homophobic thinking. It endorses the idea that there's something insulting about being gay - something slanderous, wrong or bad. If a dude gets offended by a gay man hitting on him (because he thinks it infers he's gay and he's not) that's his problem. Don't take his baggage on - about being "a man's man" (another thing we're up against). There is nothing shameful about being a gay man.

All The Best, Angelo.

Dear Angelo,

Why do so many gay men detest "feminine guys" like me? Everyone's "straight acting" and says "no fems." Did I miss something? I mean aren't we all gay?

Signed, Peter Pansy

Dear Peter Pansy, Great question. I am passionate about this topic. It's the subject of my upcoming book on gay men, masculinity and finding true love.

There isn't one single standard that defines what it means to be a man. Being a man in New York City is different from being a man in the city of Beverly Hills. And being a man in America is quite different than being a man in Europe, the Middle East or Asia. But even after taking cultural differences into account, most would still agree that being a man means not being like a woman - bottom line. Most men experience pressure to portray a manly, emotionally strong, "tough guise." Humiliating, shameful and painful words like "sissy," "faggot" and "mama's boy" are most often used to emasculate men that don't measure up. Even though they're statements about gender more than sexuality, it's here where gender and sexuality nevertheless get fused. "Feminine" and "gay" become interchangeable.

Therefore, gay or straight - it's deemed more valuable to exhibit straight or masculine attributes than gay or feminine ones. What's so taboo for men is being unmasculine or womanly. For instance, in some circles, the dominant top is "straight" but the passive bottom is "gay." The root of homophobia is therefore in sexism and the degradation of women. Because we're not considered "real men," many gay men feel compelled to salvage their manhood inspite of their gayness. We're still men even though we're gay and our egos need to prove it. In fact, right now in our community there is an overcompensation of machismo as evidenced by an epidemic of gay man seeking "straight acting only, no fems." Out or not, this need to reject feminine guys - our own gay brothers - is the ugly and tragic face of internalized homophobia. Rejecting them is really the rejection of a part of ourselves - our inner sissy, the feminine within, our own gayness that we learned to loathe.

Instead of accenting our masculinity and stamping out our gayness, we have to learn to accept, embrace and love ourselves as men who are also gay.

All The Best, Angelo.

Angelo Pezzote, M.A., N.C.C., L.M.H.C.

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Angelo Pezzote, M.A., N.C.C., L.M.H.C., All Rights Reserved

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