People tell me I’m being mean to women when I get onstage at a comedy club and introduce myself as the first female comic of the evening. I’m reductive and hateful when I make a crack about how I’m the loudest voice of a woman’s perspective in stand up comedy because when you compare me to Lisa Lampanelli and Roseanne Barr, I’m much more feminine.
These things might sound dismissive but when they come out of my mouth, I’m the object. I’m saying that I’m one of few gay dudes and especially one of very few feminine gay men in stand up comedy in Chicago. It’s a rough scene and a balding mixed guy with acrylic nails isn’t exactly the aesthetic. I stick out. I’m taking the top off the circus tent and pointing to myself as the freak. I’m saying that I fail so deliberately at being the expectation of a man, people perceive me as the equal and exact opposite. I’m the joke.
But these feelings aren’t moving out of my subconscious. I think about them on some level every day. My issues with the feminist movement, the relationships I have with women, the conflicts I feel as a gay man among gay men, and my complete bewilderment at the fact that the most successful gay comedians are drag queens tend to be intermingled in one confused blind rage.
The feminist movement in this country has been amazing and cradled talent like Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, and Amy Schumer and applauded them for being forward and unapologetic with their imperfect bodies and their lack of pristine sexual practice and for their right to be funny and fallible about being outside the expectation. It’s been shown slowly but surely that you don’t have to starve yourself, pretend to be stupid, be a virgin until marriage, get married at twenty-two, and settle for a guy you don’t want because you have a sell by date. Women are being shown from Joan Rivers to Andrea Martin to Judy Gold to Tina Fey to Joy Behar that there is more to life than being young, thin, gentile, and non-threating to men.
This has yet to happen for the fags. Gay men are still living in women’s 1930’s in a lot of ways. The pressure to be thin and or muscular, act like you don’t have two brain cells to rub together, have amazing skin and hair, be quiet yet somehow dapper and charming, absolutely nonfeminine in anyway, and essentially be devoid of any discernable personality beyond that of a sex robot that does LSD and doesn’t vote is present every single day.
I know that I live in a time right now that if I were a woman, I’d have a different story. There is space carved out in 2016 for being multiracial with wild hair and a lot of opinions and not being heterosexual… if you’re a woman. Because the women have fought to have their voices heard, refused to take no for an answer, demanded to tell their stories and share their experiences, and make spaces for themselves where they didn’t exist before.
I’m trying to do that for myself. I’m doing it right now by writing this. And I know my sentiments aren’t totally right either. I just have to explain on some level the outrage I feel at the fact that nowadays “she” doesn’t have to be a Barbie doll (and gets to be pissed if you ask her to be!) to get the guy she wants, and I’m still asked to be the Ken doll for that same guy that was never looking at me in the first place.
It’s such a strange position that no one’s really examining in such a large demographic. There are more National Geographic documentaries about the warrior class of the ancient indigenous women of the Panama Canal, than there is understanding of the social practices of the Modern American Faggot. This idea that we should be content to have most of our legal protection, swallow the social stigma, and try to be okay with the fact that I’m competing with the cover of Men’s Health and Vogue at the same time is preposterous. I’m about five more rejection letters (“rejection letters” sounds much more official than swipe rights on Tinder, hence justifying the severe blow to my self-esteem) away from starting a rally.
I’ll be the face for the movement! My acne scarred, blackheaded, dented in the forehead, ginger bearded, and absolutely alienating face will be the sign letting all those who need refuge but just don’t have it because it’s not marketable know that they’re going to be fine. If you’re straight skinny but gay fat, come with me! If you’re afraid you’re too ugly to live, I am your home now! If you hate your body and refuse to eat properly or exercise, I am your solidarity sister! If you’ve been so desperate for a cigarette that you’ve smoked a broken one out of a bong, get out. I can’t talk to you or help you and you’re too freakish for society on a savage, barbarian, or civilized level.
Think of my message as the same one in the 1976 horror film Carrie. “Don’t screw with the freak!” But I’ve added the caveat of, “unfortunately the freak running this pride parade is incredibly shallow due to a self-loathing narcissistic personality disorder and if you want to get into his safe space, you’ve got to pass through the bouncer.”
Don’t ask me what any of that means. You figure it out. You’re the one reading.