Tops and Bottoms: 'Are You the Man or the Woman?'

05/15/2014 03:03 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
Steve Smith via Getty Images

"So who's the woman in the relationship?"

Seriously?! Is this real life? Even when it has not been hurled at me specifically, I have heard this question way too often.

When this piece of ignorance comes from a curious straight person, it is offensive yet mildly amusing. However, when it's a fellow gay, it's downright blasphemous and must be set straight (pun intended). Listen: There are two penises involved in man-on-man action, so what's the deal with people thrusting vaginas into the mix?

Now, I want you to understand that I fully reject the idea of heteronormativity. I am not straight, and I do not feel the need to align myself with the silly notion that the default gender roles applicable to heterosexual relationships should apply to me. With that being said, there once was a time when I too was a fool.

I can admit now, after years of "doing the work" (in my Iyanla Vanzant voice), that I was terrified of bottoming, not only because I was fearful that it would feel like someone was parking a tour bus in my ass but because I didn't want to be perceived as anything other than a man. I convinced myself that topping was the only dignified position, until I discovered the satisfaction that comes from the power of total sexual fulfillment. It was such a relief to be liberated from that man-cave!

Here are my top five "learnings" from my cake-clenching, chastity-belt-wearing days. Let's call this list "Love on Top."

  1. There are many other guys out there who have the same insecurity, which results in a ridiculous amount of sword fighting.
  2. Choosing to "top" exclusively, for appearances, will severely limit romantic options.
  3. It is not a smart idea to require something from someone else that you simply will not do.
  4. Every top is someone else's bottom. (Please be advised that this statement may take a while to sink in for some of you, and that's OK. This is a judgment-free zone!)
  5. Numbers 1 through 3 are probably the reason a number of us are still single. Yes, I said it! #BOOM

While preparing to write this piece, I asked some friends about this idea of male-female gender roles being imposed onto homosexual relationships. I learned in these conversations that the formula by which masculinity is determined in relationships resembles one of my ninth-grade math teacher's indecipherable equations: If fashionable + emotional x Beyoncé = bottom, then football + boot-cut jeans x dirty finger nails = top. True or false? Answer: That shit cray (in my Chris Brown voice)! What the hell happens if you like Britney and booty or football and dick? Now who is the man, and who is the woman? Does the top/bottom role supersede all the other important shit? I don't know; my head is spinning. Sometimes I feel that the gay community is stuck in some terrible, badly lit porno, written and directed by a closeted married preacher, from which we can't escape. I don't like it!

I do know, however, that the decision to be safe and one-dimensional is entirely personal. The need to be tethered to society's patriarchal norms is a contradiction that limits the ability to just be! Besides, by now everyone knows that the gays are like society's paintbrushes, bringing color to an otherwise dull existence. What's the point in being a rainbow and covering up in camouflage to fit in? I say throw caution to the wind and take it off. We look better in our birthday suits anyway!

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another."
--Toni Morrison, Beloved

I am a man who likes men. You can be a top or a bottom; I consider you a man all the same. Even if you don't agree with me, I still have love for you; just check your "boy pu$$y" at the door!