"I mean, like he's a sissy boy..."

So a local talk radio station in Boston, WRKO, suspended one of their hosts after using a "homosexual slur" on air; the host, John DePetro, "The Independent Man", was going after the head of the Turnpike Authority, Matt Amorello, who is being held responsible by many for the Big Dig collapse last week. (Bizarrely, the reason seems to have been the fact that Amorello attended the woman's funeral with his wife and his spokesperson...)

Here's the Globe's report on what he said:

DePetro said his WRKO colleague Howie Carr calls Amorello ``fat Matt" and then suggested it should be ``[slur] Matt." According to a rough transcript of the remarks provided to the Globe, DePetro went on to say: ``I just mean the way when you're sophomore, juvenile in grammar school, and somebody would say you're like a sissy boy [slur] . . . I just want to be very clear about that. I don't mean gay [slur]; I mean like sissy boy. He's a sissy boy."

Now, what's fascinating and disturbing here is that, almost immediately, DePetro seemed to remember that you can't talk about gay people that way (either sincerely, or out of a desire not to get fired). So he tried to back away into making the word refer only to "sissy boys." Nice try. But while I'm sure there will be a good amount of ink spilled and blogs filled over this attack on the gay community, yadda yadda yadda, I wonder if his backpedal is even more interesting in that it shows just how successful the mainstream gay male rights movement has been in disassociating homosexuality from gender. The cult of the "straight-acting" gay man has continued to grow in recent years, and now we see its fruit: a relatively ignorant talk-show host instinctively knows that he can't get away with slurring gay men (after all, the muscle queens at his gym might beat him up), so he tries to get out of a tight spot by linking the slur not with homosexuality, but with the "sissy boys" whom he used to make fun of in high school. Implicitly, he's bought into a whole script of gender hierarchy which ends not just in kicking it to non-masculine men, but to women as well; after all, you can only make fun of girly man if you somehow think being girly is a bad thing. Now, 20 years ago, associating a guy with homosexuality would be all you would need, but that doesn't work anymore. But the danger is that, having put homosexuality off-limits for use as a public insult, we gay men, especially those of us who are white, over-educated, and in positions of power, might be content that we're no longer at the bottom of the totem pole, and so not lift our fingers from our mojitos in order to respond to gender inequalities, not to mention the slights against our sissier brothers.

I write all this as a pretty middle-of-the-road sort of guy; my friends would laugh at me if I tried to describe myself as "straight-acting", but I'm also not comfortable in heels. Probably "boring, GAP-wearer" would be the best description of my personal style. But I'm wearing my Nancy Boy t-shirt today in solidarity with all my sissy brothers.


NoisyNorah said...

What is this Nancy Boy of which you speak? If you wore your Nancy Boy shirt, and I wore my Girlyman boy beater, that would be adorable.

Your post reminded me of a recent Slate piece (Hate and Marriage) in which the author argues that people oppose gay marriage not because they hate gays, they just don't like men playing the role of women, which they must have to do if they get married. To which his feminist readers responded, "excuse me? Sexism is somehow better than homophobia?" I don't think the two can be separated. It always comes down to gender.

catholorenzo said...

NoisyNorah is absolutely right: the two can't be separated. At the very end, it always come to the fact that gay men are not "real" men because there is too much of a woman in them.
By the way, who said: "A drag queen is not a man dressed up as a woman. A drag queen is somebody with too much class and fashion sense to just stick to one gender."