Throughout this post, I refer to queer men and women, but I understand that many of the people in question do not use the word “queer” for themselves. Let’s just acknowledge that and move on.
Here’s a little mystery that my readers can help me out with: What are the cultural differences between queer men’s and queer women’s spaces?
The differences are directly relevant to my life. I am gay, and I have hung out in many spaces for queer men. However, I am also active in online ace communities, which are predominantly made up of women. Occasionally, this causes a disconnect between the cultures I see online, and the cultures I see offline. For example, ace communities experience a lot of gatekeeping, wherein people try to say aces aren’t queer, or else reject the word “queer”. To me this has always felt like absurd internet nonsense, because my impression is queer men don’t engage in the same variety of gatekeeping at all. But the ability to dismiss gatekeeping as absurd is a kind of privilege. I want to understand the differences rather than dismissing them.
Obviously, one of the major differences is the difference between offline and online. But recently, I came to recognize gender as an important factor. I wanted to investigate this further by seeing what other people say, but all I found was a silly Buzzfeed article. Clearly this warrants more serious discussion.
So, here are a few observations and impressions:
- The first item in the Buzzfeed article is about the scarcity of lesbian nights, and that sounds about right. In San Francisco, there are gay bars and clubs all over the place, but hardly any for queer women. This appears to cause queer women to police their spaces rather heavily, since their spaces are in short supply. In contrast, the attitude of many queer men is that the more people who are gay, the more space there is.
- I think queer men do have gatekeeping, but of a different variety. They have a way of pushing out people who aren’t sufficiently attractive, or who aren’t white, or who otherwise disrupt whatever culture they think is worth preserving. I have, in the past criticized rape culture in queer men’s spaces, and the most common negative response is of the form, “If you don’t like it, then leave.” Anti-ace gatekeeping also looks like that.
- Queer men and women face different kinds of hostility from society. Homophobia towards men often comes in the form of disgust: people recognize what we are, and don’t like it. Women, on the other hand, are often seen as performing queerness to get attention. See, for instance, the stereotype that bisexual men are really just gay, while bisexual women are really just straight. I don’t know so much about women, but among men there’s always the tension between men who own the stereotypes, and men who reject them.
- In general, queer women seem to be more social-justice-conscious than queer men. This is most dramatically demonstrated by the political fringes. Queer women have TERFs, queer men have an MRA/libertarian cluster. I mean, look at Milo Yiannopolous–when I found out he was gay, I was not the least bit surprised.
- As noted at the top, not all of the women and men in question identify as queer. But, the reasons are different. Usually when men don’t identify as queer, it’s because they’ve grown up seeing it used as an insult, and have a negative visceral reaction to it. Also, they say “gay” works just fine thank you very much. When women don’t identify as queer (at least on Tumblr), they say they are trying to protect other people who may be triggered. I find this ironic for a number of reasons that could fill out a separate post.
What do you think? Are any of my impressions incorrect? Any other ideas to add?