"Between, as a preposition it means confined or restricted to, like 'between you and me.' For most, 'between' is the journey from one place to another. But, what if the between is where we really exist? Between jobs. Between friends and lovers. Living between two societies. For some of us, 'between' is a place we call Home." Those are the opening lines to In Between Men*, a dramedy series about All-American out gay men living between a mainstream gay world whose clichés they don't relate to and a straight world they don't belong to. The Web TV Series represents a rarely heard-from voice in mainstream entertainment -- gay men who are not one dimensional, camp, flamboyant representations of gay life.
It goes without saying that gays have become more and more accepted in our culture, making gains in the workplace, Hollywood, and in legislation, but has that acceptance come at a price? Though it is more accepting, what the general public has really accepted as gay, propagated by the overwhelming imagery fed to them in the media, is that of the finger-snapping, purse-carrying, hip-switching guy who is more likely to give you fashion and decorating tips than tickets to the Knicks game. If you come to my house, you are more likely to see a bunch of t-shirts and jeans thrown around my room and a bathroom that should have been cleaned a week ago.
Who the world is less familiar with, is the dude, the bro, the jock, the average out masculine guy who is not easily identifiable as gay from his behavior. Yet, media would have you think that this man is an endangered species, when in actuality, he is (gasp) the majority of the community. You just can't tell he's gay unless he tells you. Or you are super savvy. I'm not talking about a DL guy either. Nope that's a piece for another time. I am talking about out men.
Modern culture has done gay men a cultural disservice. The price of all this acceptance of only one type of gay man is that gay men have been stripped of their right to their masculinity. Gay is not a behavior trait. Being gay is not a personality. All gay means is that you are attracted to the same sex. Period. The end. Somehow, somewhere along the way, behaviors and personalities became synonymous with being gay, with some gay people even buying into it.
I can't tell you how many times I, and men like me, have been accused of trying to "act straight" or we are self-hating because we don't act "gay." And these accusations come spewing from gay men, not straight men. Excuse me! Let me just make something very clear. Just because you are a masculine gay guy doesn't mean you are self-hating. Since when did being a masculine guy equate with self-hatred? Am I supposed to act feminine, and watch Top Model, and say "hey girl" because I am gay? Pass the remote please, the game's on.
I've never been a cliché gay guy and was never told that I was supposed to be growing up. Yet, there are many gay young men who feel they have to behave a certain way and display a certain personality to be gay, lest they be accused of faking it.
Many in-between-men don't feel a connection to the gay community at large. I always felt stuck between two worlds. I'm not straight, yet when I go to a gay bar or club or witness certain gay traditions, I don't quite feel like I fit in there. I feel a hundred times more comfortable and more like myself, in a traditional environment (a straight one, I guess), even though there is less of my kind there, so to speak. The reason being, I and many men like me find very little in common with the values and traditions of the mainstream gay world. The fact we both like men, well, that's just not enough to bond us, as far as I'm concerned. And that doesn't make us self-hating.
Make no mistake, I love men. Probably more than anyone. And I love me too. There is not a self-hating bone in my body. OK, maybe when it comes to my holdiay paunch, but not when it comes to my sexuality. Shouldn't how we define ourselves be at least partly based on the things we have in common with others and not who we sleep with? If you asked me who I am, I would say about 100 things before I said I was gay. I would use words like -- black, intelligent, kind, no nonsense, spiritual, creative, ambitious, resourceful, loving. The list goes on.
I remember being 18/19 and not being sure if I was gay. I knew I liked guys, but it seemed liked being gay meant being a whole bunch of other things as well. And I wasn't into them. So, I wasn't sure if I was to call myself gay and I had major reservations with applying the word to myself, even to this day. Not, contrary to popular belief, because I was or am ashamed of liking guys, but because of the assumptions that come with the word.
Gay men aren't allowed to be more than one thing. I found very little to connect with in the gay community as a young adult. And let's be honest, you could probably break our community down into 3 categories: parties, sex, and activism. And, even now, with the advent of sex apps permeating our community, I find even less to grab onto than 15 years ago.
The older I get and the more often I try to connect with the gay community, the more I consider giving up. It's why me and guys like me live in our own world, in the 'in-between". Maybe I am just conservative (not a conservative) and the gay community is clearly not. A conservative liberal, I like to think of myself. I am an in-between-man. And for now, myself, and those like me, will continue living in between.
*The popular series In Between Men can be watched at www.inbetweenmen.tv