When we come upon those who show amorous bias against feminine men, say the gay man who writes ‘no femmes’ as a self-description on his Grindr profile, we might find ourselves reach for possible conclusions about their nature: They must be sufferers of internal homophobia, or they must be governed by prejudice, or they must be ignorant. And quite often our conclusion is spot on.
But we may at points be a little too quick to diagnose before taking a look at the details which guided us towards our diagnosis. It may be that the only cause for the bias, as demonstrated by some gay men, against amorous entanglement with feminine men lies in a detail any dignified feminine man loathes to highlight: We (feminine men) tend to make our propositions to the wrong group.
Let’s consider the concept of the gay man. It can be tempting to cement our understanding of what it means for a man to be gay, he simply has to experience exclusive amorous attraction to other men. This feels correct, but when we look at the world through sociological lens we can see gradations in the concept of what it means to be a man and how conceptions of what manliness means informs gay-male attractions.
A debate can arise in efforts to bring clarity to what it means to be a man but one feature often linked inextricably to the concept of manliness is masculinity. For many, a man is the person who exudes a sufficient dose of masculinity, and some would take this further into the realm of homosexuality to define the concept of the gay man anew: as the man whose amorous attraction (exclusively) arises from the masculine disposition of other men.
This, of course, is rubbish. The definition fails in its recognition of men who are attracted to feminine men.
However, we are better off recognizing the amorous gradations which exist within groups of ‘homosexuals’ because it can sensitize us towards how best to navigate the world in a quest for romance. This can open up paths for us to make our propositions to the right group. It can define our amorous gaze to rest not on gay men (drawn to the masculine disposition of other men) but on those within this subset of men, who are drawn to maleness and the many possible features it can bring along. And, perhaps most importantly, it lets us hold more generous interpretations of those who ill-present the nature of their sexual orientation.
Rather than conclude those who show amorous bias against feminine men to be sufferers of internal homophobia, or to be governed by prejudice, or to be ignorant, we can recognize the impossibility of what we sometimes request of them. In the same way all gay men would agree that for them sexual attraction to women is (close to) impossible, there are those within group of homosexuals where attraction to men with particular (feminine) features is an impossibility.
We should entertain the possibility that those who we sometimes expect to be attracted to us would be as a matter of possibility unable to do so. We shouldn’t vilify such men, or tag them femme-haters at the slightest opportunity. Our conclusions should be charitable. We should recognize that (sexual) attraction is a phenomena that manifests beyond the realm of choice: We can reserve our sexual advances for men whose interest we inevitably excite.