Before today, I’d never heard of Russell Tovey.
Well, if you use social media, you probably know he’s an openly gay actor who
stars in an HBO series called Looking. His character on the show is also gay.
And from what I gather, both he and his character are rather “straight-acting”.
It sounds to me like Mr. Tovey is quite proud of himself, and I can’t say that, in and of itself, is a bad thing. Certainly I hope all gay people take pride in their identity, and I’m especially thrilled to see more and more public figures coming out and acknowledging they’re gay. But Mr. Tovey recently granted an interview to a magazine called Guardian in which he discussed why he felt he’d thus far enjoyed such success in his role on the series. The following is a quote of his statement:
“I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn't gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I'd have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it's probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.”
I guess his remarks created quite an uproar, and a
controversy ensued. Some in the gay community were quick to defend him, stating
he had a right to express his honest opinion. Others were deeply offended.
After all, he makes no bones about the fact that he feels it was a great thing
that his father taught him to be tough, to man-up and not act like a sissy
(prancing around, singing in the street). Obviously, that would be a bad thing,
right? No father wants his son to grow up to be a limp-wristed, stereotypical
I’ll tell you straight up, I’m in the latter camp. I was indeed profoundly offended when I read his words. It affected me so much, in fact, I was moved to tears…and then rage. I could probably write an entire novel-length dissertation as to the reasons why his statement is so egregious.
I won’t, though. Instead, I want to share my own experience. I know I’ve talked about some of this before, so if you’ve already heard it, please forgive my redundancy. I’m the second son in our family—I have a brother 18 months older than me. Though close in age, we could not be more different. Gene was the apple of our dad’s eye. He began playing sports at a very early age, a pitcher and catcher in Little League. He loved to fish and hunt with Dad. He shot pool with our dad, hung out with him, and more or less idolized him.
Gene was 100% boy. He played with trucks and B.B. guns, built forts outside with his friends, loved football, basketball, and baseball. He plopped down on the sofa with his legs spread wide. He passed gas, belched, wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve. He drank milk out of the carton, snuck cigarettes, and he even had a pet tarantula.
While he did all these butch, hyper-masculine boy things, I was the polar opposite. I played with Barbie dolls and Easy Bake ovens. I sang in the choir and learned piano. I was interested in reading and drama, and I hated every sport. I didn’t like to fish, and I’d rather die than go hunting. I could never kill animals, not even spiders.
When I was in the sixth grade, my parents sent me to a special school, a private Christian academy. I begged to go there, not only because I was deeply religious, but also to escape the constant bullying I endured in the public school. After my first few days at the Christian academy, my teacher, Mr. Matson, pulled me aside for counseling and informed me (by using quotes from the Bible) that I was acting too much like a girl. He told me God wanted me to learn to be a man and suggested I try to copy the other boys.
I copied. Or I guess I should say, I tried to copy. I became obsessed with copying them. I yearned to be normal, not necessarily like my brother but at least enough to blend in. My experience at the Christian school felt like Heaven to me because I did not get tormented the way I did in public school, but still it was no cake walk. I got my head flushed in the toilet. I had people mock me and tease me. One time I even was gut punched repeatedly in the boys’ bathroom. But I still felt safer than I would have in a regular high school.
When I graduated high school and went away to college, I finally figured out why I was so different from other boys. I finally was able to put a name to my condition. I realized I was gay, and I began to embrace it. As I gradually came out and began to make gay friends, I discovered that many gay people were concerned about blending in, even as adults. They often spoke of how straight acting they were at work or around their families, and when they mentioned this, they did so as if they were displaying a badge of honor. Some would even make remarks to the effect that because they were gay, that meant they were attracted to men, not women! Why, they asked, would any man attracted to men want to go around acting like a woman?
I never wanted to be a woman. I don’t feel like woman, and I have no desire to change genders. But I am sensitive like a woman. I’m emotional. I like a lot of the same things most women like. My close friends have always been female. I love cooking and crafts and decorating cakes. I love romances and sappy, tear-jerker movies. I have soft mannerisms, limp wrists, and a nasally voice. It gets high-pitched when I’m excited. I’m terrified of spiders and mice, and I always ask someone else to open pickle jars because I don’t have enough strength in my hands.
I quit trying to man-up long, long ago. I don’t want to be tough. I don’t want to get in fights. I don’t want to watch fucking football! And you know what? The people who think I’m a sissy, who judge me for being my authentic self, I really wish they’d go fuck themselves. Including Russell Tovey, whoever the hell he even is, anyway.
I might be a sissy. I might be a faggot. I might be a girly-boy, a limp-wristed, swishing, sashaying, pansy. I might be a “chick with a dick”. Whatever you want to call me, bring it on. I’ll own it! Because I’m exactly the person I was born to be, and I don’t need the approval of the Russell Toveys or the Mr. Matsons. I refuse to spend one more single second of my life worrying about how straight acting I am.
End of rant.
Posted by Jeff Erno.