It’s Only Gay When Men Do It
A commonly accepted social norm in in our culture is that the level of intimacy male friends can show towards each other is considerably less than the level that female friends can show towards each other. This kind of attitude permeates in many ways and often spills over into the relationships of many women and men. If there are two women holding hands, one might consider it a platonic way of expressing affection for each other. However, replace that with two men holding hands, and people make reference to Ken Jeong from “Community” shouting “haha, gay!” from the back of a classroom.
To sum things up, such actions are not well received in the American culture. Consider the following story. On the last day of Thanksgiving break, I arrived on campus early and decided to meet up with a friend. After some debate, we were able to agree upon ice cream at a local restaurant on Easton Avenue. I would buy cookie dough flavor and Reese’s toppings, while my friend would order green tea flavor, and we would pile all of this into the largest cup size, splitting the price.
Yet upon placing our order, the staff became visibly uncomfortable by our actions, and one of them insisted we instead buy two small cups.
Considering the higher price, we insisted on our original order, until another staff member interjected and said we could buy two smalls for the price of a large. Both staff members seemed very uncomfortable by our order, and one of them looked as if he had just seen a ghost. Generally, a gesture such as sharing ice cream could be considered romantic. However, had it not been for the scene caused by the staff, my friend and I would have never seen our actions in terms of such a platonic vs. romantic dichotomy. The reaction of the two staff members is problematic and reflects the broader attitude that society holds in terms of male intimacy.
Even if the two workers were not homophobic, most people would have still viewed our actions and assumed us to be gay. The logic would have followed that if two men wanted to share ice cream, they obviously are both gay, and so a degree of policing, shaming and categorizing follows suit. Few, if any middle ground, exist for two men to show affection for each other in a platonic fashion. There are many questions that should be asked about these situations.
If there were two younger boys in the place of my friend and I, what kind of message would the reaction of the staff have conveyed to these boys? What kinds of opinions would these boys have formed about male intimacy if they had thought something was wrong with what they were doing? Would they have thought that only women could do that? Would they have thought there was something wrong about homosexuality? Why did the staff need to assume that we were gay? Most importantly, ask yourself how you might react if you were in the position of those staff members.
Daniel Munoz is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science with a minor in Spanish.