But many people do follow Proust's rationale, accepting homosexuals with a fair amount of tolerance, as victims of a mistake on the part of Nature. By considering gay men to be really women, and gay women to be really men, the attraction that homosexual men feel towards other men, and that lesbians feel towards other women, can then be seen as the 'normal' attraction of women to man and man to woman, thus restoring the comfortable idea of the universal attraction of sexual 'opposites'.
The simple theory outlined above is contradicted by another widely held belief: that homosexuals divide into masculine and feminine types who mimic 'real' men and women by playing out butch and fem roles. Certainly some gay people oppress themselves by identifying with the only models society offers; and we do find parodies of heterosexual marriage in which one partner adopts a male and the other a female role; but straight society has magnified the importance of these distinctions in order to support the universal division of people into male and female types; ignoring the fact that the most feminine men sometimes prefer an 'active' sexual role, and many butch men seek each other instead of confirming the heterosexual model by chooing feminine men.
In actual fact most gay people would be hard to classify as anything in particular. Moreover "effeminate" is hardly an accurate way of describing the traits and mannerisms of obviously gay men; they have a style of their own quite unlike that of women. It would be nearer the truth to say that certain very camp women have learned to affect the mannerisms of gay men. How clearly the use of words like "effeminacy" indicates our continuing self-oppressive acceptance of the idea that masculinity and femininity are opposing polarities to one of which everyone must necessarily be drawn!
By attempting to gain acceptance within heterosexual society by dissociating themselves from the stigma of effeminacy, gay men only support the rigidity of gender roles. In doing so they unfortunately confirm a definition of men from which their homosexuality automatucally excludes them. They must realise that the 'real' men they hope to resemble are not much given to hopping into bed with each other! Gay men should attack the idea that there is something wrong with effeminacy instead of trying to off-load their oppression on to those who are usually disparagingly described as the stereotype. Camp queens and diesel dykes came out and bore the brunt of heterosexual hatred long before law reform and the gay organisations gave their more discreet counterparts a platform from which to denounce them.
To the discomfort of gay people who try to achieve a respectable image of men who behave like men and women who behave like women, the Gay Liberation Front has developed a strong section of opinion which claims that the only way for gay people to come out that will make any real impact on the gender role definitions which underly gay oppression is by adopting a life-style and appearance that explicitly reject the masculine/feminine distinction and all that it implies.
Women are equally prone to this kind of self-oppression. An issue of a lesbian magazine containing an excellent demolition of some psychiatric rubbish about the unnaturalness of homosexuality unfortunately followed it with a curious remark to the effect that men anyway seen so reluctant to take baths! Lesbians often claim that homosexuality was the only course open to them, since aggressive male chauvinism made it impossible to form equal relationships with men. All this plays straight into the enemy's hands; it confirms the belief that gay people are frightened of the other sex and "retreat into homosexuality" — as psychiatrists persist in describing the uphill struggle to assert one's sexual integrity.
Possibly gay people who say such things have actually come to believe them; if so it is because social pressures are too great for them to welcome their homosexuality and they feel obliged to excuse it under cover of intellectual integrity or moral indignation. To pretend that one has chosen to be homosexual because women are frivolous or men selfish is not only dishonest — sexual direction is too powerful a force to be so easily diverted — but again, by virtue of the apology involved, deeply self-oppressive.
more gay life