Over the years of being gay and going to various bars, clubs, nights, hoot nannies, exhibitions, shin-digs, festivals, marches, (I could go on with this list!) I’ve seen all sorts of labels given to gay men. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not one or I just don’t listen but I don’t remember there being so many boxes for lesbians to fall into (no pun intended!). Lipstick, diesel, boy-babe, butch and alpha seem to be the only ones I can remember hearing. Trust me, I’ve spent a good few nights try to remember them, without google, so I could write this piece. And yes, before you say anything, not all lesbians fit into those boxes either. And the same goes for anyone in the LGBT+ community. As I’m writing this from my own perspective I’m only going to talk to about cultures and sub-cultures I may be part of. Mostly because I don’t know enough about the others and how it makes you feel. If you’ve thoughts on this feel free to share them.
For gay men there seems to be hundreds of labels or boxes we can tick to define ourselves. Bears, twinks, jocks, muscle, fem, clean-cut, daddy, geek, leather, rugged, poz, circuits, gay-listers, queens, show queens, again I could go on. If those weren’t enough each of those can be broke down even further. Especially the bear culture. Polar, otter, cub, wolf and so on. And to make matters worse we can, and do, cross over into one or more. This is all well and good but what if you don’t want to be labelled or put into boxes?
Many gay dating and hook-up sites will ask what “tribe” you belong to and on most you can pick a maximum of three. Some sites are kind enough to let you pick five. Some would have you believe that this is a good thing as it means we can define ourselves, say what type of man we’re looking for, and hopefully the dating algorithms written to choose your destiny will match you with the guy you’ll want to spend the rest of your life with.
It’s bullshit. I can list many of my friends who when looking for dates would choose one type of guy but have now, for many years, happily been with a partner who wouldn’t match the description of the guy they were hunting for on dating sites or in bars.
This method of labelling gay men can also lead to insane friction at speciality nights. At a ”Bear” event I attended a few years ago in walks a couple of twinks (yes yes, I know I’m labelling, I’m doing it to explain the situation, get over it!). Some of the bears starting complaining as this was a night for them and these twinks sadly looked like they wouldn’t be shaving until their late thirties. They were refunded and asked to leave all because they weren’t bears! I don’t know as I didn’t ask them but maybe, just maybe, they were looking for bears! This could have been the kind of guy they were into and now they’ve been turned away because they weren’t part of that sub-culture. I’m all for gay men only nights and lesbian only night, and all other LGBT+ sub group only nights as some people from the LGBT+ community only feel safe approaching those they know are the same as them. They struggle to approach people in gay bars as some straight people actually use gay bars. I know right?! As if they dare! (I swear I’m joking! – integration, it’s the new frontier!) (Seriously, I don’t know what’s wrong with me today!) Life for the LGBT+ community can be hard enough as it is, lets give then a bit of slack when we can.
As a community we will always be given labels. We will always be gay or queer or lesbian or bi or trans or so on, but do we really need all the others? Probably. But rather than limiting how many we can belong in why not let me say how many I want to be part of. There are hundreds of other “tribes” I belong to outside of the LGBT+ community. I’m a husband, a talker, a trainer, a helper, a volunteer, a moaner, a chancer. Do I need more? Labels define us but why choose just one? Regardless of the boxes I fall into, I’m still Rob. I’m still annoying.
If I look at myself and the gay boxes I might tick there are many. All of them depend on my mood. I could be a bear. I could be a daddy. I could be rugged (at a push) or a queen (maybe a little too easily) but tomorrow I could be clean-cut. Who cares? I don’t. You shouldn’t.
Of course, all that being said, when I need a quick ego boost I’ll be the first to tag my instagram pictures with #bear #gay #beard #lgbt etc.
And as for gay-for-pay? No. Just no.