OPINION by Ian Silverstone
Photo © www.flickr.com/nettsu 

The first rule of being young and gay...

If you’re under 25 like me, you’ve had the enormous luck of growing up in the best ever era in which to be a gay man. Marriage is all of a sudden a possibility, even if we are just awkwardly navigating our first relationships. Will and Grace and Queer as Folk were already mainstream hits by the time we were still in diapers. Every day in the news it seems that another celebrity comes out of the closet, and is embraced by the public.

But with these new freedoms and opportunities comes a catch: now that we can openly be ourselves, we have to figure out who the hell we are. Before coming out of the closet, most of our first impressions of other gay men came from the media, and they all seemed to look the same. Young, vapid, status – and fashion-obsessed divas. They had the wittiest lines, could always spice up a conversation with tales of last night’s wild, slutty escapades, and... actually, that’s it. These gay characters paraded in and out of scenes without consequence. There was no substance, serious plotline or emotional weight attached to them at all. And they all looked, acted, walked and talked the same. 

So many of us, gay or straight, look to what we see in movies and on television at least occasionally to get a sense of how we should act in real life. Because of the narrow perspective Hollywood and British TV has on gay men, many of us feel the need to fall in line as a very specific sort of person. To make sense of everything, gay men have rearranged ourselves into cliques, and judge everyone based on where they stand (and how well they do it): you’re either a bear or a twink, a muscle queen or a leather daddy. And you’re either all in or all out. You need the right clothes, the right hair, the right catchphrases, you need to live in the right neighbourhood, like the right music, use the right hook-up apps and go out to the right clubs.

It’s all so exhausting, and I’m here to say enough. We’ve already gone through the process of coming out, of supposedly embracing our ‘true’ selves, so why do we feel the need to categorise ourselves to fit in with a Grindr ‘tribe’? 

It’s like we just left the closet and put ourselves into a box. Sometimes I’ll be talking with a gay friend and one of us will call ourselves a ‘bad gay’ because we left the house in sweatpants that morning, or had never seen some campy cult movie beloved by gays. Though it’s meant as a joke, it bears an uncomfortable truth about being gay – even without the homophobia, we still mercilessly judge each other and ourselves when we don’t fall in line with a certain set of stereotypes, and can’t shake the feeling that we should be doing ‘more’ with our sexuality and living up to pre-formed stereotypes. 

The ‘proper’ gay guy absolutely MUST:

Have an OTT sense of fashion and an obsession with grooming. Depending on where you fit in, that could be a swooping pompadour and Topman tank top, or flannel and an ironic moustache (if you can grow one, that is).

Know the ins and outs of celebrity culture, from Kim K to RuPaul. If you can’t quote from last night’s episode, you’re not one of us. Now, sashay away.

An encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music: at least know your Katy Perrys from your T-Swifts, or we are never ever getting back together.  

Be ready to drop a snappy one-liner for literally any occasion. (“How do five gay guys walk? In One Direction!”)

Keep a fully-stocked library of cock shots on your phone at all times, never pass up the opportunity for a shirtless Facebook photo-op, publicly devour bananas and popsicles, and always keep your jeans tight but your asshole tighter: anything to let the guys know you’re available and interested.

Monogamy is for boring straight people. 

Well, I’m calling all the above bullshit. 

Being out, proud and gay can be a tough business already, and we shouldn’t have to make it more difficult for ourselves by putting all these restrictions on how we must act or think. It’s time to ditch the invisible rulebook. 

Gay pride is in so many ways a celebration of diversity, so why not enjoy being just a little different? If  you want the husband, 2.5 kids and house in the suburbs, go for it! You want to revel in your youth and dance with wild abandon at some fabulous club? Fantastic! 

When you stop trying so hard and just start being, a new boyfriend, best friend or fuck friend is much more likely to come your way. And you’ll actually enjoy yourself in the process.