The other day, I was put in the position of having to explain what The Wunderkindof was to someone who had never read any of my work (also “work” is purposefully vague, since most of my posts consist of me transcribing my word vomit). If you’ve ever had to advocate yourself to someone who doesn’t know you, the act is masturbatory narcissism.
“It’s…funny…? It’s like…politics…and pop culture…and my thoughts…?” I said, like I was waiting for her to tell me what my blog was. Our mutual friend stepped in and described it as a sort of “flamboyant Jon Stewart.”
The second half of that compliment almost made me forget the first, because being compared to a late night host is as close to me weeping of happiness as I’ll probably get. But the first half of the compliment made me uncomfortable, as the word “flamboyant” always does.
Flamboyant. It’s been frequently assigned to me. When you have a voice that increases iN VOLUME AS YOU GET MORE EXCITED, and know anything about fashion, and you are a guy who’s into guys, then you run into this term often.
I actually Googled it before starting this post, because I’m not pulling a Michael Scott (get that reference?). “Flamboyant: tending to attract attention because of their exuberance, confidence, and stylishness; (especially of clothing) noticeable because brightly colored, highly patterned, or unusual in style.” Sure; I get why it’s associated with gay people; if you’ve seen pictures of me in high school, then you know that I was the pinnacle of “brightly colored” and “unusual in style.” The unusual part was that I didn’t have any style (drum and cymbal noise).
And I don’t even blame my friend for using that word. Because I don’t think she knows why it would be offensive. And truly, I didn’t know until I had really thought about it. Why it rubbed me so the wrong way. But I did. And now I know.
I make no attempt to disguise being gay. I regularly discuss boys and liking boys and being a boy. This isn’t “gotcha” journalism. It’s “duh” journalism. Imagine if I were straight. Just for a second.
Imagine a straight me, writing about politics and pop culture and music and—and this is important—dating relationship perils with girls. He wouldn’t be called “flamboyantly straight.” It wouldn’t even be noteworthy. But the fact that I am outwardly myself, and that being “myself” means being gay, it implies that being outward is somehow being flamboyant. But if I were straight, those same blog posts replacing a “he” with a “she” would never be called “flamboyant.”
And so the thread comes back to societal internalized homophobia. This notion that being openly gay is being “flamboyant” when being straight is just being normal. Not even noteworthy. And that’s why it’s so offensive. Why it’s so perverse. And it’s hard to stomach that even now, that me being outward and unapologetic is somehow being confused with a brash flamboyance. But if I were straight, would I be classified like that? If I were straight and wrote about dates with girls, would I have to weigh the pros of starting a dialogue versus the cons of being too open with my identity?
And the very use of “flamboyant,” this “showcasing my sexuality” implies that my sexuality is something abnormal and that me putting it forward is somehow impetuous and unusual and bold.
I’m tired of this double-standard. I’m tired of the fact that in equal situations, gay people are persecuted in a way that their heterosexual counterparts are not. Yes, my sexuality is an integral part of my identity. Just as a straight person’s is. That’s not a gay thing—it’s a person thing. Calling me “flamboyant” when what I’m doing is something that every writer does, just because I’m gay is problematic. So the fact that I was described as a “flamboyant Jon Stewart” proves that above all, my worth is placed in my sexuality. That my defining characteristic is not in my cleverness, or my comedy, or my cultural discussions. It is in who I am attracted to. And that is something that would not happen if I were straight. I would not have to defend myself, or correct people, or deal with the effects of “being open,” if I were straight.
It is so ingrained in our heads—to other and to categorize. We as writers put ourselves out there as a part of the deal. But we as queer writers deal with unnecessary and unwarranted speculation and analysis; what is unremarked-upon for a straight writer because “flamboyant” for a gay writer in the same way that what is “ambitious” for a man is “aggressive” in a woman.
It’s as simple as this. If I become a Pulitzer Prize winner—lol—I don’t want to be “that gay Pulitzer Prize winner.” I want to be “that Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote on LGBTQ issues, politics and pop culture” or “that Pulitzer Prize winner who faked his death by diving out of his private helicopter.”
Don’t let a facet of someone eclipse their entirety.