F A I L
There's nothing like a guy "complimenting" you by telling you how "straight" you look, or seem, in order to reinforce my point (or make that "life-thesis") that far too many gay men are still walking around every day putting a premium on hetersexuality (or hetero-normativity) and concepts of Straight.
You know the type(s) - the folks who are still living each day looking over their shoulder wondering and worrying about what The Straights are saying about them. It's still prevalent, and in many cases I can understand it in the younger members of our communities, who might not yet have found their confidence in a gay identity; they find a false solace instead, and they find it in their ability to "pass for straight" (which I and many others refer to as Passing For White). Their sense of identity comes from a distancing of "gay" and an embracement of a Falseness - Pride in the ability to pass for what you are not. Not all guys who are still stuck in this mindset are inherently or irredeemably self-loathing, but it's simply a sign that they're not too well-adjusted yet in their journeys as gay males. No confident and secure gay male bases a value system, or a sense of actual self-worth, in terms of "how gay" or "how straight" he sees things.
For me, this was a remarkably restrained and benign response to something that I generally have absolutely little tolerance for. I attempted to make what folks call a "teachable moment."
There was a time in my life when I might have been genuinely flattered by the "compliment" - I'm not very proud of my "early gay" years when I was, indeed, still hoping to find some form of societal acceptance by distancing myself from my gay brothers and sisters in the hopes that an attitude of "Oh yeah, I'm not like those other gay people" would somehow make my life better. I couldn't have been more wrong. I vividly remember visiting my sister at her university and a male friend of hers "bonding with me" by letting me know that he was cool with me because I "wasn't a faggot." He didn't mind gay people, and he was cool with me because "I wasn't obviously gay", and that it was "those faggots" that he hated. I didn't yet have the confidence in myself to tell him what a load of b.s. that was, and it still sticks out in my memory as not only a low moment for me, but a reiteration of a point I've been trying to make for years - just because a prejudiced person "explains themselves" doesn't mean that their explanation makes any sense whatsoever, nor does it mean that their "reasoning" should be given credence and respect.
It was, however, a moment of great change for me as his comment made me angry. I began reading gay and queer literature again.
I saw, and continue to see, the vanguards and heroes in our community. The people who put themselves on the line, who embrace an elective visibility, in order to wake up others, change hearts and minds, and actually made actual societal progress in the advancement of LGBT people in our culture. Reading the works of Ethan Mordden gave me a tremendous sense of not just gay history, but brotherhood - why on earth would I ever want to distance myself from these brothers of mine? These people who share so many of my scars, and so many of my joys; we are connected.
For many men there is still a desire to "pass for straight." It's not healthy. It shows a great fear, on their part, that being gay makes them "lesser" as men. Disdain for "visibly gay" people is often another symptom. This has nothing to do with concepts of masculinity, however. Such an argument may come up, but that too will be only in the mind of the man who still wants to appear "straight." We hear it all the time - the guys who have never been able to reconcile being gay and being a 'real man', and who continue to believe that to be a 'real man' one must be able to embody decidedly stereotypical straight-male characteristics, aesthetics, or manners. One can very well be 'masculine' in the eyes of greater society and still be visibly, obviously, and identifiably gay. It doesn't make him any better nor any worse than any male that falls on a different side of the "Perceived-Masc/Femme Spectrum". Diversity, folks.
Now, the guy who sent me this message is in no way an awful person. Just someone who would benefit from a change of mindset.
Rethink your value systems. Interrogate your attractions, your securities, your insecurities, your sense of self and identity. You cannot hope to find happiness in others or yourself if you are still comparing yourself next to a straight male as your way to validate your being.
On a side note, a good friend in California shared a photo with me of a friend of his - who has his own Harvey Milk tattoo. Brothers. See what I mean? ;-)