Dear Straight Men of the World,
We’re not so different, you and I. Even though I’m a card-carrying homosexual, I’m also fond of wearing flannel, drinking scotch and eating everything in sight. Like you, I thoroughly enjoy undergraduate jokes about poos, farts and foreskins, and I’ll always adore you for teaching me delightfully instructive phrases like, “Two in the pink, one in the stink,” and the simple-yet-effective, “Bash the gash.” In fact, one of my fondest memories is you at the sushi train, drunkenly teaching me how to finger-bang girls. (On a side note, I’ve shown my lesbian friends your technique. They say you’re doing it wrong.)
We were friends in high school, even though you were a surfer jock or motor-head, and I was a weedy little Asian runt who couldn’t tell football codes apart. It didn’t seem to matter. I slept in your bedrooms, we laughed at each other’s bad impersonations and, on special occasions, smoked comically small amounts of weed in the bush while camping. Now we’re in our 20s and 30s, we’re still buddies, and you’re still calling me Benji after all this time. (No one else I know does this. It must be a heterosexual man thing.) Straight men: you’ll always have a soft spot in my heart.
So of course, it pains me to know you’re doing it rough. Everyone else: don’t laugh, because I mean with this sincerity. Sure, straight guys account for nearly 90 percent of Australia’s CEOs and enjoy largely discrimination-free lives (that time you went to the outer suburbs and ethnic people “looked at you funny” doesn’t count), but they also cop a raw deal. Crippling body issues rattle girls, and queer teenagers are subjected to merciless bullying, but you straight guys have your own cross to bear, and that’s a culture that tells you to be a dumb, macho, insensitive piece of shit. Living up to those standards must be exhausting. In fact, it sounds miserable.
But hey, the rest of us can only speculate what you’re feeling. Because god knows you can’t talk about flowery poofter stuff like feelings. Want to talk about your feelings? Clearly, you must be gay! Want to tell someone you’re sad? Go buy some tissues, Gaylord! Want to ask someone whether that cardigan looks good on you? Whether you should call that girl? Whether it’s okay drink white wine instead of beer? Gay, gay, gay. Clearly, you’re so gay you poo rainbows.
It’s depressing stuff. A recent article in the American newspaper The Christian Science Monitor discussed an 1980s study of hundreds of primary school boys in the States. When they started school, young boys were observed holding hands on their way to class and hugging each other at recess. By the age of 10, they were mock-punching each other and high-fiving. When they were teenagers, they were going to cinemas together but sitting separately, just in case—you guessed it—they were seen as gay. Ask any Australian primary school teacher: it’s still the same with boys here too.
Straight guys: I don’t know what you’re so afraid of. If you want to know what is or isn’t gay, ask me. I am gay; I should know. Feel free to write this down somewhere so you don’t forget. Telling another dude he looks good? That’s not gay. (Women do that all the time, and you don’t see them going all weak-kneed for snatch afterwards.) Talking about your feelings? That isn’t gay either. Hugging—even kissing—other guys? Not gay. Europeans and Ewan McGregor do it and, increasingly, so do my own straight male friends. There’s nothing gay about it. They’re just comfortable with themselves. You should be too.
If we want to get technical about it—and feel free to write this down too—‘gay’ means feeling an uncontrollable urge to place yourself inside another man. Do you feel that urge? Considering this letter goes out to dudes who identify as straight, the answer is probably ‘no’! And if the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘sometimes’, well, you should come around to my place and talk. You know, about your ‘feelings’. (I’ll provide the alcohol.)
Straight guys: being a man is different from being a macho prick. The best straight dudes are sure of who they are. They know that when people call you gay, it doesn’t make you gay; it just makes them small-minded. Being a man means that when other dudes make homophobic, sexist or racist jokes, you’re strong enough to make a stand and tell them to knock it off. Don’t be afraid to speak up for others or yourself. Don’t be scared about seeing a doctor, instead of stupidly nursing your injury silently. Don’t be afraid to hug your male friends and tell them you love them. Hell, don’t be afraid to kiss them on the mouth, either. At the very least, girls find that really hot. And to be honest, I won’t be complaining either.
Yours sincerely, Benjamin.