To kick this off, a couple of little details about me:
One: I’m a gay man. That means I’m attracted to other men. It also means I am part of a community. I share a rich history with other gay people all over the world. There’s some good stuff involved but mostly it’s a lot of stigma, hatred, violence and death. It also means some people see me as automatically girly or less of a man. Whatever that means.
Two: I write about and photograph fashion, music and lifestyle. That includes writing for this website. Look at you, reading my work. I appreciate you. Let’s be friends. That dress looks great, by the way.
As a gay man who writes about and peruses the fashion industry on occasion, it’s often assumed the two are related. Simply by being someone who wears clothes and who doesn’t mind a floral bonnet or a nice Thurley frock, I’m often stereotyped as a ‘fashion gay’.
By virtue of fashion being woman-dominated and gay men being seen as feminine, it’s often assumed that gay men automatically dress well. That we’re dainty, flouncing queens, styling the womenfolk and fixing their hair (yours could use a cut-and-colour, btw).
And while I don’t really mind being the princess you so desire me to be, there’s something that I desperately need to say.
I am not your handbag.
I’m not your Gay Best Friend. I’m not your stylist. I’m not your Carson Kressley from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. And for the love of God, I will not go shopping with you.
I can hear you sighing: ‘But gay men are the best!’ over there. And to that I say, ‘I know’. We’re amazing. But there are a few things we’ve got to talk about first. Bear with me.
Far too often I'll meet someone who, noting my liking for fashion, will try and take me under her wing as her ‘new gay’. The number of gals I meet in smokers rooms at nightclubs who want to take me shopping, is directly proportionate to the number of straight guys I wish I could kiss.
That’s a lot, if you’re wondering. Like, oh boy.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the appeal. Here’s a man, a real, human man, who doesn’t want to touch you. He’s not interested in putting his hand up your skirt, which means you don’t have to tell him to fuck off. And you love it sick. It’s a novelty. I’m actually super happy you feel comfortable hanging out with me, because the world needs less creeps and more kewl friendships.
But why must we pretend that by virtue of my sexuality, I have a working knowledge of Givenchy?
I don’t even know who Riccardo Tisci is (to be fair, I don’t know who I am, either). Marc Jacobs only got my attention thanks to his accidental nude Instagram snap. I’m also quietly angry that a Marc By Marc Jacobs shirt, which looks not too dissimilar from a General Pants basic, is worth $330. I can hear you typing a comment about ‘the quality’, but seriously. It’s a plain white tee.
It’s gotten to the point where I can explicitly play it up, just to get ahead in life. PR girls at fashion festivals adore a ‘sassy gay’; we’re like women but not at all. I will also do it just to make you enjoy me. It goes a little like, “Oh my god, Marais top, yass queen! Dior, right? Totally Chanel, just divine, mwah”.
In my moonlight gigs as a nightlife photographer, I can abuse my own sexual orientation to get more shots. I’ll be at work and I’ll see a group of fashion-forward babes with cosmos in hand. I’ll approach them for a photograph and immediately play up the ‘sassy fashion gay’ stereotype. And it works, every single time. They love me; they pose. And on the way out, they want me to know I’m ‘fabulous’.
But when you assume, because I’m brave enough to don florals, that I’m camp as a row of tents, you might think it’s innocent. The reality is, however, you’re rejecting my cultural history, my life, and turning me into, at best: a two-dimensional stereotype; and at worst: a plaything. A tool you can use to make yourself more ‘fabulous’.
And I know many fabulous gays. Some of them love fashion. Myself included. But they are not fashion gays. They were not designed in a shop, nor were they handcrafted to make you feel good with a distressed leather finish. They are human beings with histories, interests, stories and lives.
Then again, I suppose you’re better than a homophobic dudebro. Wanna hit up Chapel Street? You’re really working those boots.