Let Us Now Praise Effeminate Men

LET US NOW PRAISE EFFEMINATE MEN:

Throughout the “can gay people play straight?” hoo-ha rah-rah hullabaloo conversation (which we’re 95% sure that you are 100% done talking about even though we aren’t!) started by Newsweek‘s homophobic poorly-edited piece-of-shit article Straight Jacket, we’ve all been taking special attention to praise Neil Patrick Harris‘ ability to play a convincing “womanizer” and Sean Hayes’ ability to transcend the “flamboyant” character he’s best known for (Jack McFarland in Will & Grace) and successfully portray a love-torn heterosexual man in Promises Promises (and rightfully so, of course, they’re both fantastic actors).

But an equally pressing Cultural Issue — AND DARE WE SAY IT A FEMINIST ISSUE* — has been simmering beneath the debate but not quite yet cracked the surface — perhaps ’cause it’s the most complicated/dangerous bit of all. I’m not even sure that I know how to talk about “it.” But “it” is Ramin Setoodeh‘s writing’s most consistent theme, and it’s addressed head-on by Alan Cumming in his latest blog post, in which Alan summarizes the week’s events succinctly and then takes it a step further and OMFG HANDS DOWN Cumming FTW!

Ladies, gents, and all permutations thereof — here is the question:

What is wrong with being effeminate?

-Alan Cumming in his FTW blog post

To Setoodeh, it’s the Wrongest thing a man could ever be. Actually, Setoodeh isn’t so much afraid of gays as he is afraid of People Who Don’t Play Gender Right — he blames our Maine Same-Sex Marriage vote loss on “fey” television characters and blames a 15-year-old teenage boy for his own murder because he “flaunted his sexuality,”licked up his curly hair in a Prince-like bouffant,” and often would “paint his fingernails hot pink and dab glitter or white foundation on his cheeks.”

Prior to Alan Cumming’s post (which we’ll get to in a minute), the importance of the Gender issue in this debate has really only been directly addressed by Dustin Lance Black. From Black’s statement to the Hollywood Reporter:

It’s when the author peddles tired stereotypes like “queeny” that the piece leans away from reality and tilts toward openly gay Setoodeh’s own issues with sexuality and femininity.

And in Black’s interview with Newsweek:

I don’t know this writer, but it felt like this writer had a lot of issues with femininity and heterosexuality, and the connections between masculinity, femininity, and sexuality. It started getting blurred to me… to me it felt like it became more about this writer’s issues with sexuality and masculinity than it did the success of these performances.

So perhaps it’s important to say this, too, dear readers, to end this weekly conversation: it’s damaging to use words like “queeny” as negative descriptors of a gay man’s performance not only because it’s suggesting an actor’s sexuality overwhelms his talent or that homosexual = feminine but because WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH BEING A QUEEN? QUEENS ARE AWESOME. And it’s really gross that we live in a world where “queeny” has become a word we use to subjugate men.

I’m not saying it’s bad to assume that “queeny” is always a derogatory adjective, because it is, it was conjugated specifically to serve that purpose. I’m saying that “queeny” isn’t even a fucking word at all, and if it ever was a word, it would mean “queen-like” and therefore would only be properly employed to describe people like Queen Elizabeth and Queen Latifah. “Queeny,” according to the Oxford Dick, means “ladies in power/in charge of shit,” not men stripped of power simply because they seem act a bit too much like ladies.

I think Ramin is scared right now, because fully-formed three-dimensional characters like Kurt in Glee (out & proud & effeminate, but not just a well-dressed repository for sassy gay asides and girlfriends behavior) are progress, y’all, not a model for retrograde (as Ramin suggests).

Before Alan Cumming speaks, let him introduce himself:

Alan Cumming, May 13th 2010:

Here’s what I, Alan Cumming – out queer person, actor,  purveyor of characters both straight, gay and those whose sexuality is not defined, currenly typing this with acrylic nails and sore toes from being shoved into high heels from playing a TRANSVESTITE has to say about it all……

There are millions of gay people all over the world who convincingly portray straight people every single day. Some of them are even actors.  There are loads of gay people in the world who are effeminate.  There are loads of straight people in the world who are effeminate.  What is wrong with being effeminate? Does Ramin Seetodeh, and indeed society in general, have a problem with people who are too masculine? (Actually, probably yes, if they happen to be female). Calling someone out for being effeminate is a way of being negative about them for being gay without actually having to fess up to actual full-blown homophobia because our society has a tacit understanding that effeminacy is just a euphemism for faggot. Again, what is wrong with effeminacy?

This week on Glee, Kurt got jealous that his father was spending so much time with Finn (Kurt’s Dad is dating Finn’s Mom), bonding over their mutual love of Sports and other Guy Stuff. Kurt tried to “butch it up” with a new look and got a girlfriend, but all it did was confuse his Dad. The storyline’s wrap-up was actually pretty touching — when Kurt realizes that yeah, he and his Dad aren’t gonna share the same interests, and that’s not always easy, but his Dad loves him for who he is just the same. Even the cynical Vulture declared, “No hyperbole here: This was one of the best numbers yet on Glee.”

Witness the glory:

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It works because Kurt does have to learn to love himself, and thank G-d he gets all the self-loathing over with in about 35 minutes and ends with a showstopper, because carrying that shit into adulthood ain’t pretty.

And now again Alan Cumming, willing to speak the truth:

It is my contention that Ramin Setoodeh is not happy with himself. He has particular shame about being gay. He sees gayness, particularly open and unabashed gayness, or effeminacy, as a reminder of what he does not like about himself. And so he attacks it. His own shame translates into his paralysis when thinking of others who might have his own curse and yet be able to function fully and happily within the rest of the world: a child chasing his friends around a playground in high heels; an actor who he knows is publicly gay but feels he needs to re-out to make himself feel better about his own self-loathing and lack of acceptance of his most basic needs and happiness. As someone who is a only a decade or so immigrant to these shores, I have noticed that shame is one of America’s biggest exports, imbibed more domestically than overseas, and Mr Seetodeh could easily manage its Gay division.

Fuck that shame. Fuck hiding who you are. Fuck even worrying that if you are an effeminate gay or straight man that you can’t play fucking Rambo one day and Angel Dumott Schunard the next.

We’re often asked here at Autostraddle.com why exactly we are so fucking wet for Adam Lambert. Because Adam Lambert is a genderfucker! Because like we always say girls can do (if you want to, of course), he doesn’t pick one prescribed gender performance or the other, he just wears costumes and Is Himself. We dig girls who fuck with gender in their style as well — it can even be quite brave, and brave is very sexy.

Adam refuses to be shamed. And glam rock is perfect like that:  leather/glitter & aggressive/beautiful all at once. Check him out being sexy back before we even knew him:

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When we were getting our feminist roundtable together we wanted to include our lovechild JC Gonzalez, a blogger over at Bright Pink Tears and a proud feminist and gay man (he’s like 18 or soemthing, but totally wise beyond his years for sure). This is some of what he had to say to us about why he identifies as a feminist first:

Can we discuss, for a minute, our world’s fear of the feminine? It appears that the entire world is on a crusade to obliterate all things girly, and make sure it remains subservient to masculine energy.

Many criticize and question me heavily as to why I so adamantly define myself as a feminist. “Shouldn’t you focus on gay rights instead?”

I see homosexual rights and gender equality to be one in the same since both stem from discomfort over gender roles, behavior, performance, and binaries. If the gay community seeks equal treatment, they must start at the roots and revolutionize this ancient sexist mentality.

Be fearless and drop the need to be “one of the boys.” Let’s not ask for mere tolerance, but demand more. The feminine should not be tolerated, but accepted, redefined, and cherished.

Historically, gays only showed up in Hollywood as effeminate sidekick sexless fungays, fey hairstylist/makeover-enablers, or other campy (and sloppy) stereotypes, facing many of the same challenges faced by black male characters in TV, film and theater — their characters existed to make jokes, not to have opinions or – GASP! – sex!

Therefore even within our own community, we cringed to see yet another Campy Gay “representing” the whole. But we’re getting to a better place with those characters now. Because there’s really nothing wrong with being that kind of man, it’s only problematic when the character is cardboard, rather than fully human. And yeah — Keith on Six Feet Under and Will on Will & Grace have done quite a bit to challenge preconceived notions about gay men. But that doesn’t mean gay society really ever made peace with Jack McFarland. I mean CLEARLY NOT RIGHT?

I think this change is beginning in the writers room with writers who know what they’re doing. Writers can take what the community perceives as a negative stereotype and flesh it out into a full human being; and then it’s not a stereotype anymore. It’s a person!

When you’re writing a Jack or a Kurt or Emmett, it has to be so honest, and those characters have been. Peter Paige, speaking of his role as Emmet Honeycutt on Queer as Folk:

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This six-part Larry King interview with the entire cast of Queer as Folk from 2002 is fascinating btw, especially in light of this recent controversy. Larry King is absolutely OBSESSED with what it’s like for heterosexuals to play homosexuals to a degree where he just makes assumptions left and right, including that Robert Gant is straight (he’s gay).  Here’s a relevant quote, re: Emmet’s character –

“You can see someone who is so out there and in a lot of ways, is so much of what people assume is negative about being gay or what people make fun of in homosexuality or the way they view potentially homosexual behavior. And you see someone who loves himself and is loved by everyone around them. And, you know, the audience loves him. You know? It’s great.”

Randy Harrison (Justin, Queer as Folk) on the character of Emmett Honeycutt

We just want to watch this video of David Bowie now:

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Cumming signs off his blog post by asking Mr. Setoodeh to “deal with this picture.” Which is amazing, obviously.

We’d like to ask you to deal with this!

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** Autostraddle.com is a proud supporter of the Radical Lesbian Feminist Agenda. We are also proud supporters of the Womanist Agenda. We are also proud supporters of everybody’s feelings. xoxo


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Riese is the 35-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City and mellowed out in California before returning to Michigan for reasons that are unclear to her now. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2356 articles for us.

52 Comments

  1. 0

    Amen. “Effeminate” comes from the root feminine so why should there be any negative connotations to it unless society sees women as somehow lesser in the first place?? Thanks for an awesome read.

  2. 0

    I’ve been trying to say this for a long time but could never quite articulate it as well as the author can. There is so much judgement in society. There is even more amongst some in the gay community. There is this expectation among some (especially the older men) that a man is an embarassment to the gay community unless he publically acts straight. If he shows any effeminate traits than he is an “embarassment to the gay community”. It scares people and yes even those in the gay community when someone is out, proud and unashamed.

  3. 0

    Thank you for this articulate piece. Misogyny and homophobia are inextricably linked–and have been at lest since the writing of Leviticus. We need to understand that link in order to combat both in our time.

  4. 0

    I read a comment from someone to a newspaper a while back. sadly,It made so much sense to me.
    “When the world stops hating women gay men will be accepted”

  5. 0

    Great article! And awesome links. Rickie was my fave because, really, who doesn’t love some fucking Haddaway?
    Also, the whole what’s wrong with being effeminate reminds of the whole what if gay people have gay kids debate. Who cares if someone is effeminate or gay or whatever? You guys rule.

  6. 0

    DID YOU EVER KNOW THAT YOU’RE MY HEEEEROOOO.

    …but seriously, Bette Midler impressions aside, I agree completely. “look like a girl/boy” is probably my least favorite phrase…what does that even mean? I mean, I also laughed my ass off and screamed YES at Adam Lambert’s album cover, but. People who straddle that line are hot. I’m probably just sexually attracted to rebellion, I don’t know.

  7. 0

    a most excellent article – with great links/videos.

    although this one should be included (a intelligent lambert interview from a few months ago where he articulates about mixing the masculine with the feminine and why people may fear male gender-bending):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kORGrZvRPJw

  8. 0

    At the end of the day, they are still MEN whether they are effeminate or not. I appreciate it when people know who they are and own it. The reason that I absolutely love Adam Lambert besides his incredible talent is the fact that he is gorgeous with or without make-up, honest, funny, sweet and is true to himself. The fact that I as a “straight” woman find him so sexy and hot is because he IS a man and wearing glitter, make-up and nail polish can never take that away from him.

  9. 0

    This article is amazing. ALSO: did anyone else think that Adam Lambert looked a lot like Julie Goldman in that video?? haha. Both are super hot!! 😉

  10. 0

    Having literally just completed my history of photography final, I greatly appreciate this title. It actually sort of scared me a little.

  11. 0

    Love the Alan Cumming response and I totally agree. Setoodeh is one of those “straight acting” (g-d, I hate that term) gay guys who loathes any sort of queeny queer because of the reaction they receive from hetero middle-America. Steoodeh probably thinks that effeminate gays are “putting on a show” or, “they don’t really act like that, they’re just trying to get attention.” Basically, he desperately wants to be accepted and blend into the heterosexual world and dislikes any queers who really set themselves apart.

    • 0

      Word.

      This also reminds me of a column originally on HuffPo by the writer from gracethespot.com (http://gracethespot.com/?p=2609) saying that one of the keys to ending homophobia is “straight liberation”.

      I know so many straight guys who could be called “effeminate” and still others who would do more “girly” things if it weren’t for fear of being called that. Mr. Cummings does a great job of making the point that gay or straight, limiting yourself with gender roles is ridiculous.

  12. 0

    You are the best website EVAR and I so love this article.

    Plus, I want to make out with Alan Cumming.

  13. 0

    god I love alan cumming. whatever happened to his fragrance, Cumming? was that just a joke because i really thought/hoped it was real. i would wear it, alan!

    anyway this is right on point, as usual. i agree that homophobia has deep roots in sexism and so much of the vitriol faced by gay men comes from, i think, a deep-seated devaluing of femininity or rather the notion that men are somehow *betraying* their god-given superiority by aping women, the lesser sex. the language of disgust that surrounds gay male sex i feel is also informed by this mentality. masculine women are more acceptable (generally speaking) because who wouldn’t want to be a man? totally understandable! but people with penises singing songs and wearing eye shadow? NO, HOMO. homophobia is absolutely a feminist issue – is there disagreement on this? any form of oppression is a feminist issue in my opinion.

    and i agree, setoodeh obviously has a major masculinity complex and should maybe consider a yoga retreat or something. or at least sitting at a bus shelter and screaming into the void.

    i can’t stop putting two spaces after a period. i’m trying but i’m gonna have to really train myself.

  14. 0

    Alan Cumming is my heeeeero. Not only is he a great actor, he has never held back. The man can do no wrong, and this post just proves it.

  15. 0

    I like JC Gonzalez’s response to why he considers himself a feminist instead of focusing on gay rights:

    “It appears that the entire world is on a crusade to obliterate all things girly, and make sure it remains subservient to masculine energy.

    I see homosexual rights and gender equality to be one in the same since both stem from discomfort over gender roles, behavior, performance, and binaries. If the gay community seeks equal treatment, they must start at the roots and revolutionize this ancient sexist mentality.”

    Yes, Mr. Gonzalez, unfortunately misogyny is alive and well.

    “The feminine should not be tolerated, but accepted, redefined, and cherished.”

    You deserve a standing ovation.

  16. 0

    This article is amazing. I’m not sure how to make society stop being so scared of effeminate men, gay or straight, other than to have effeminate men be unapologetic about the way they are. I try to do my part by not letting people get away with saying homophobic or gender phobic things around me and everyone else should do the same.

    • 0

      I try and do the same. When I worked with grade school kids and something happened to make a kid say, ‘That’s for girls’ or ‘Only boys can do that,’ I would make a little speech to them about how there is no such thing as a boy color or a girl toy, that anyone is allowed to like what they want, that they can’t let other people decide for them. Until recently my little ‘nephew’ would tell everyone that his favorite color was pink and I was so proud. Also his mommy is expecting a girl now and we went shopping for clothes for her that weren’t all pink/purple (it was hard, but we succeeded!)

  17. 0

    It’s exactly like butch and dyke being insults or used to shame, no? Of course, in my happy little world the words “butch” and “dyke” get licked up like ice cream cones, so it’s sometimes difficult to remember it isn’t always so for others, or that queer-allied straight girls might have these words hurled at them like so many sharp little rocks.

    Alas, this post is about the fellas, who are indeed fucking AWESOME and make me wish dearly that all male-identified so-called feminists would GET A CLUE.

    You know who else is an amazing dude feminist, BTW? My boy Bob Herbert at the NYT: http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/bobherbert/index.html

  18. 0

    Wow…Melody, that quote really hurts. I am a straight, older woman (now why did I feel that I had to define myself that way, is it because everyone else does it for me?) who happens to be in fantasy love with Adam Lambert. To me he is the most beautiful human I have every seen. His “sensuality” does it for me, he is both feminine and masculine and together it’s perfect, isn’t it?

  19. 0

    Riese this is so amazing. I want to hug it and you and Autostraddle. Seriously though, it’s really phenomenal and just like queersilver further up said… it’s things like this that make me want to be a better and prouder queer.

    I’d almost like someone to say that lesbians are too butch to play straight so that all these amazing minds behind Autostraddle could completely tear it apart and make us all feel a little bit more awesome.

  20. 0

    I’ve long thought that the feminist movement shot themselves in the foot when they tried to break gender roles by encouraging women to be more masculine to ‘keep up’ with men, and devalued the more ‘feminine’ roles of homemaker and child rearing, with the result that these things are more often than not an afterthought and a task to be gotten around to when everything else is done.
    What it boils down to is that everyone is an individual and feminine qualities are just as valuable as masculine ones, and it doesn’t matter what your physical body turned out as, it’s important to recognise the masculine and feminine qualities in yourself and not be ashamed of them.
    Not every woman is cut out to be the perfect wife and mother, and may be better off on a building site in dungarees, but there are men who are nurturing and empathic too, and they should not be made to feel ashamed just because these are feminine qualities.
    Most people Gay and straight are a mixture of both masculine and feminine, the world needs both to function properly.

  21. Pingback: And Bravo, Alan Cumming | H A V I L A N D S T I L L W E L L

  22. 0

    Lambert doesn’t strike me as what is traditionally called “effeminate.” He appears as a highly sexual, aggressive male who likes boys. He is not averse, when intoxicated, to making out with girls. He seriously flirts with female interviewers. Is he just a permutation or something on a sliding scale of behavior?

    • 0

      Aggressive? On stage, yeah. But in interviews he comes across very differently, often using intonation, expressions and gestures that would traditionally be seen as “feminine”.

    • 0

      Leigh — I think the beautiful thing is that we can all decide for ourselves how we interpret an artist’s presentation of themselves, just like we all even describe our own friends differently. adam is a highly sexual, aggressive male who likes boys. does that mean he can’t act “effeminate” too? or that he can’t, as feylamia says, seem one way on stage and another way in interviews? and isn’t that awesome? i mean, gender-bending is one of the most awesome things as a human being can do in my opinion.

      none of these terms are negative, and none of them are mutually exclusive from each other. he’s a person like any other person, and yannow, let’s forget about “traditional” anything, really. he breaks boundaries you won’t see kris allen break. And that’s cool.

  23. 0

    Just on the Queenie part – lots of gay men have called themselves and others Queenie/y…it’s used to describe a certain type of behavior (flamboyant…) – when guys use it to describe themselves, it’s usually meant as a positive – others just use it as a descriptive — and still others, who don’t like flamboyance, may say it in a negative way; it’s been around for a long time (also often “old queen” – and many gay men have had issues w/aging – just like so many women have)

  24. 0

    Bravo! Here’s to having us all find our ways out of the cocoons, boxes, closets, corners that we’ve been manipulated into and often come to view as home.

  25. 0

    I already knew I wanted to make out with autostraddle, but now I think I’d scissor with it. 🙂 In all seriousness ladies, THANK you! Boys/girls like me appreciate this more than you know!

  26. 0

    I think My So-Called Life should be required watching for all junior high kids. Then we’d have less fucktards beating up “queeny” boys in highschool and later in life. Maybe then it’d be okay.

    However, I think that in our society that is constantly genderfucking it’s self there will always be something negative to say about one’s labeled sexuality. If it’s not them being too effeminate, it’s them being too muscled or their diction or their DNA. Stuff that, to be honest, we can’t really control without giving ourselves up to someone else’s idea of what we should be.

    Kudos to Cumming. Sorry to say, but never knew how articulate and insightful he was. I learned new words thanks to him.

  27. Pingback: Morning Meme: Danny Miller Gets Goofy, Fall Television News, and Praising the Effeminate Man | Gay China official website | for gay Chinese and Asian

  28. Pingback: Morning Meme: Danny Miller Gets Goofy, Fall Television News, and Praising the Effeminate Man | Gay LGBT

  29. 0

    I couldn’t agree more with this passionate defence of effeminate men. God or Goddess save the queens!

  30. 0

    As the proverbial effeminate gay guy (never even knew I was effeminate until I was called on it in college.), let me thank you for a wonderful article. Great stuff!!!

  31. 0

    thanks for the wonderful article! in fact, im a bit effeminate but, honestly im really afraid to act publicly as what i really am. i totally lack of self-esteem. would somebody please gimme some advice?

  32. 0

    *Sees YouTube video of Alan Cummings shirtless* Wait this article was about something, I think I completely forgot. Sorry to the author, but that video was extremely distracting. Also if Glitch from TinMan were real, I’d marry him. That is all.

  33. 0

    I realize this is an old article, but it made me really happy. As I came out and began to figure out a queer identity for myself, I realized there was a masculine energy in me, but I hesitated to call myself “butch” because I didn’t fit the stereotype of the “typical butch”: I hate competitive sports, am better in the humanities than the sciences, and don’t care much for camping. My female masculinity was more like my straight dad’s: patient, courteous, helpful, handy around the house, soft-spoken, nonaggressive, noncompetitive. I gravitated more towards male dandy forms of dress and self-presentation than the athletic or casual. I prefer suits, dress shirts, bow ties, oxfords and white bucks to cargo shorts, tee shirts, and cool kicks. I often feel that I am not butch enough or that I will be called out as a fake even though I know how I am in relationships (and the bedroom)constitutes my butchness. Reading this reaffirmed my belief that there are many flavors of masculinity and I happen to be one that is not the “typical” American version of “acceptable” masculinity.

    PS: I love the Dapper Q features and I totally stole one of Ari Fitz’s looks to wear to Pride in my town this year. Seeing gorgeous butches of all sorts of body types in awesome dapper wear makes me happy 🙂

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