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Misogyny in Fag Space: How to Have a Dick Without Being a Dick

, by Brandyn Gallagher

Brandyn_pic_blackTfinal“Oh, lordy have mercy! A vagina just walked in the room.”

“There goes the neighborhood,” Dustin1 snarked, scrunching his face in agreement with Eric’s comment before prancing off to the bar for another cosmo.

Sometimes they just forget. Or, if I’m standing around near a group of guys I don’t know well yet, they probably don’t know. Unless I’m wearing my Three-Holed Faggot shirt or am naked, it’s not like anyone can tell I have a cunt. I’m just one of the guys to them. Usually one of the guys people like hanging out with, even. They assume I’m cisgender, and I don’t go out of my way to correct them.

Once upon a time, I was a young fag disguised as a girl. Throughout junior high and high school, I consistently dated boys who eventually figured out they were gay and dumped me so they could instead date men. Rejection, being told my body isn’t desirable or legitimate enough for the men toward whom I’m attracted, has been part of my internal narrative for as long as I can remember. It’s gotten better for me over time, but dating in the world of gay men is far from struggle-free—for anyone, but especially a trans man.

Early in my transition, I felt as though gay men had every right and reason to proclaim their disdain for morphologically inward genitalia. I heard these assertions made with enough frequency that I became convinced this attitude was a given among all gay guys. I had grown as disgusted by my body as many gay men seemed to be, and I even participated in the practice of unabashed misogyny for a time myself, reinforcing my sense of belonging among men in the face of raw insecurity about my masculinity.

I came to learn that existing in Fag Space means being subjected to persistent shame. It’s not just vagina-shaming, either. Dick-shaming, size-shaming, hair-shaming, and slut-shaming are rampant as well. Fag Space often feels like a shame-saturated world where we exist equally and simultaneously as both object and objectifier. Since I already felt ashamed of my body and its purported inadequacy, since I wanted to be a good fag, since I wanted nothing more than social validation and love—for years, I said nothing.

But this past year or so, I’ve been savoring my new male privilege—my sense of entitlement to be in Fag Space without a speck of concern about whether I truly belong there. I know I do. It’s been a tough chore to get here from where I was, but I’m confident that this is where I belong.

Now that my attitude has changed, now that self-loathing isn’t a thing I’m caught up in anymore, I’ve really started to feel put off by the misogyny I witness among my peers.

I’ve been noticing more often when the gay men around me talk with casual cruelty about bodies. Often, if I hear a guy say “vagina,” it’s clear he means “woman,” despite the fact that some men have vaginas and some women do not. Reducing people to their body parts is a common practice for many in this culture of objectification.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that to her face,” Eric explained dismissively as I called him out on his inappropriate, flippant remark. “I only say that here because it’s fine among us guys. You know I love you, sweetheart. Just not vaginas. Eww. This should be a place for cocks only. Nice, big cocks.”

The cisgender men around me either lift their drink in agreement or roll their eyes and say nothing.

He assumes, of course, that I have a penis. And, apparently, he also assumes that every man within earshot is either well-endowed, or at least agrees with him.

Is it really fine to talk this way? Even “among us guys”? I know there are cisgender men out there that are bothered by these types of remarks and even feel uncomfortable hearing them. Many times, though, they don’t speak up.

I tell this story not because one jerk in a bar annoyed me, but because I’ve been hurt by this brand of misogyny dozens of times now. I’ve seen poorly-planned announcements sent out for men-only events, where trans men were known and expected to attend, that read “anyone with an attached penis is welcome.” I’ve stood in leather bars while title holders who call themselves trans-inclusive yammer about how men whose dicks aren’t big enough are just a waste of air. I’ve heard size queens exclaim outright that any man with a two inch dick might as well just kill himself and end the shameful misery.

I see an opportunity for us to change how we talk about bodies. To prevent the shame and hurt caused by careless words and thoughtless remarks.

We all have the ability to pay attention to our words and stop making assumptions. We have the power to speak up—and speak out when we hear hurtful words from someone else. We have the option to acknowledge that we all have different bodies—and that unless you’ve seen someone’s genitals yourself, and talked with them about it, you can’t possibly know what’s between their legs or how they feel in their own skin. We have the power to be kind to everyone, even in the absence of this information. Our words and our voices are filled with power, in a community that has for decades so often felt powerless to prevent death.

Nearly half of all transgender men attempt suicide at some point in their life.

Have I been one of them? Flip a coin and tell me where it lands.

Does the coin land on the side where I feel solid and confident enough to tell myself that Eric is just an ignorant jerk who doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Where someone speaks up to say his comments aren’t okay? Or remind him that gay men have fought too long and too hard for survival to be tearing people down like this now?

Or did it land on the side where Eric’s words rip open a gaping wound that never really heals? Where a lifetime of self-hatred, of shame, of insecurity and inadequacy bubbles over? Did it land on the side where the word “vagina” was used one too many times in a way—unintentionally of course—that made me infer that my masculinity is inadequate and that I would never legitimately be recognized in my community?

Do I live? Or do I die?

You have the power to save my life. Is it worth it to you?

Brandyn Gallagher, Executive Director of Outshine NW, is a Seattle-based activist and community servant who has devoted his life to redistributing happiness by raising awareness about HIV, stigma, social justice, and the struggles of queer and trans people in pursuit of equitable healthcare access.


1Names have been changed.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of BETA Blog or of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. BETA Blog serves as a resource on new developments in HIV prevention, evolving approaches to HIV treatment, and strategies for living well with HIV. Our goal is to inform, empower, and inspire conversation.

Comments

3 Responses to Misogyny in Fag Space: How to Have a Dick Without Being a Dick

  1. Paul Regalos Urban says:

    Brandyn, you know that I love you man but I haven’t had nearly the bad experiences that you have had as a gay transman. I’ve been a gay transman for 27 years, living in SoCal, the midwest, the south, and finally San Francisco. Yes; there are gay men who hate vaginas but there are lesbians who hate penis’s. There are heterosexual women who hang out with their galpals and discuss men in less than flatering ways. Unfortunately, the human being is most comfortable with what is most like himself. If you think it is bad now, journey back with me to my transition to male, gay male during 1988. No man was interseted in dating me. Now, many gay cismales are interested in dating me even at my age, 53. Some gay cismales are just insecure about their homosexuality and it takes a confident gay man to place his hard cock inside a vagina that belongs to a hairy, shaved head transman such as myself and be comfortable with the fact that it just might hug and envelope his cock better than an anal canal that is only marginally snug at the sphincter muscled opening. You know what they say…”once you go transman vagina, you never go back.”

  2. Ralph Brew says:

    Brandyn, you are so on the money! The self-indulgent misogyny and competitiveness of a dominant part of conservative “apolitical” gay men’s culture is sickening and foul. It speaks of shallow analysis of the oppression of gay men, shallow because actually they’re men and therefore still on top and don’t have to think hard. No sense of solidarity with their sisters and others. Yuck! As a gay identified man I have constantly been confronted with this which is why I avoid mainstream gay culture. I live in Adelaide, South Australia, which has its fair share of this shit, but which was also described some years ago by some queer cultural researchers as a city in which the lesbians drive the motorbike and the gay men sit in the side car. Not a bad state of affairs really.

    • Thank you, Ralph. It’s nice to hear about places less saturated with the misogyny. I moved to Seattle from Arkansas a few years back, and the difference has been night and day. Everything is so much better for me since I got out of The South. The world still has a long way to go, though, and I don’t intend on stepping off my soapbox about the necessity of being kind to one another until I see it happening across the board for everyone. I figure I’ve got some job security on that front.

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