Gay guys can be the most judgmental people towards other gay guys. We get judged by our peers on the way we dress, the way we act, our sex life, and on things we did not even think mattered.
The result of this is that gay men split into cliques with people who are similar to them in those aspects. It is very normal for people, gay or straight, to hang out with people they find similar to themselves – there is nothing wrong with that per se.
But for the gays, oftentimes cliqueyness in gay culture comes at a social and psychological cost: Not only do we form cliques, we do it in such a way that sends a message that we think our clique is better than the rest, and we do not take in anyone that does not meet our restrictive standards.
This pressures people to conform and not be their true self, which is the very thing we hoped to be by coming out. The stress incurred from this can be one of the hardest to deal with, because disapproval from our very own people can make us feel invalid as human beings.
The “bitchiness” of the gay culture is academically called relational aggression. It is the type of aggression that focuses on damaging someone’s relationship or social status. It is present in straight men and women too, in different ways.
For example, straight men are more likely to make indirect comments that subtly put people down or diminish their achievements, whereas women may exhibit social exclusion behavior by gossiping and isolating the person they dislike from their friends.
When it comes to gay culture, however, having both masculine and feminine traits mean that we gay men can judge, exclude and denigrate others in both ways, which compound on top of each other to make it worse. This is how gay men could passive aggressively mock your appearances, and then make sure none of their friends hang out with you.
There are many possible reasons we are like this. It could be internalised homophobia, low self-esteem, jealousy, hyper competitiveness from an all male environment, there is no one simple explanation.
This culture is even more blatant in the online environment, where there is a sense of anonymity. People tend to be a lot less empathetic on the internet, when they interact with strangers, and especially when they think they cannot be identified. There are also no ramifications, compared to if it happened in a face-to-face environment.
Consequently, it is common to see profiles on Grindr state things like “No asians” or “No fems”. While we all have our preference and should be able to choose who we are interested in, framing your preference in a prohibitive way like that is passing on judgment to others that “asians” or “fems” are not attractive.
The fact that there is this general trend of discriminatory preference is part of a bigger societal problem.
Be kind to others, start with yourself
Generally, I would suggest that we do not state black and white rules like that publicly and convey this preference through polite rejections, same way you would not tell people in a bar that you are not interested in them because they are Asian, but in a more tactful way.
To put a stop to this judgmental culture, start with yourself. Ask yourself if you are being intolerant in any aspect of your gay friends’ lives. And then ask yourself why you do it. Is it because you are not feeling very confident with yourself?
Or because maybe the constant judgment from the straight world made you used to this form of interaction?
Being aware of how and why you judge helps a lot in devising a personalised solution for you. We should also stop emphasising the dichotomy of gay versus straights, but rather all the different sexualities, gender identities, and self expression that people can exhibit. This is something younger generations are more aware of, which means openness can be built and there is hope.
When we do face judgment ourselves, be mindful of our response. Do not mistake this behaviour as acceptable just because it is common. Have some empathy for the people you tend to judge, and even more so, for the people who judge you. Know that they are victims of this hurtful culture too and are doing their best to work through it in their own way.
Do not give up on our beautiful community because of its flaws. Starting this new year, let’s work on changing it instead.