Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Russell Tovey and the Plight of the “Straight-Acting” Gay

 This past Sunday, actor Russell Tovey, who plays the role of Kevin on the gay-themed show Looking on HBO, gave an interview to the British newspaper The Guardian in which he said,
 “I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.”1
Predictably, gay men who identify as effeminate seized on this quote as evidence of Tovey’s “femme-bashing.”
But, wait!
In today’s PC world, there’s lots of love and support for “sissy” boys. TV is full of them! (Ross the Intern, Brad Goreski, Chris Colfer’s character on Glee, Carson Kressley, Jack from Will & Grace, just to name a few.)
But where is the love for the “straight-acting” gay?
Shunned by his gay brothers for not being camp/bitchy enough, yet not accepted by straight society either because he doesn’t like sports, pleated Dockers or “bro”-ish behavior in general.
Where’s the love for them?
I remember the first time I tried to get a gig as a comedian on Fire Island and was explicitly told by the club’s booker: “We only book drag queens.”
Is there no justice?!
It seems to me that the vast majority of gay men are, like myself, neither camp/bitchy enough to be drag queens nor muscular/handsome enough to be go-go dancers. Yet those are the only two alternatives offered to us.
Rather than attack Tovey for owning up to the circumstances that made him who he is (an unsympathetic father, being attacked by two men with a knife when he was a teenager), we should feel sympathy for him.
After all, it must be difficult not to do that Take That dance routine2 (like his character Kevin does on Looking), when you know you’re dying to.

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