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8 things straight people get wrong about gay men

​Spoiler: Gay men aren't all "tops" or "bottoms."


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Posted on Jul 29, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 9:15 pm CDT


Acceptance of gay people doesn’t end with acceptance. It also includes post-acceptance sensitivity and awareness. Unfortunately, just because someone’s heart is in the right place doesn’t mean his or her foot will be, too. Here are eight common straights-on-gays misconceptions that can lead to inserting it directly into one’s mouth, which must be as awkward and uncomfortable for them as the gaffes are for us.

1) We’re all either “tops” or “bottoms.”

I never imagined that anyone who isn’t gay would even care who’s a “top” and who’s a “bottom”—or that they might not realize that some guys are versatile and others don’t enjoy anal sex at all. Then a straight woman recently inquired about the assigned sexual positions of a gay couple in our vicinity. I cringed, not so much at the question itself as at the possibility that straight people might be as curious about it as gay guys on Grindr are. She immediately tried to qualify and excuse her curiosity by citing her plethora of gay friends, but the damage had been done to my peace of mind.

She insisted that she’d never wondered that about any gay couple before, but the ease with which she had asked made me certain that it wasn’t an uncommon train of thought for her. What about other straight people? While they’re assuming that we’re all either one or the other, are they actually trying to figure out which one? Some questions are simply better left unasked.

2) Finding a great gay guy is easier than finding a great straight one.

Don’t be fooled by all the fun you have with us when the drinks are flowing and the music is playing. I’d like to say gay men are more highly evolved than our straight counterparts and that there’s a surplus of quality gay men running around towns, but if that were true, so many of us wouldn’t be single. Still, the theory persists among straight women that if straight men embraced more supposedly gay qualities, they’d be better men for it. Be careful what you wish for. I, for one, wouldn’t wish some of the men I’ve dated on anyone, women included.

Not only do we not all enjoy doing all of the things many straight women assume we do (going shopping, going dancing, talking about our feelings), but we’re often just as defective as the men they wish were more like us. Ladies, we’re all in the same boat: Most men, regardless of sexual persuasion, are not innately monogamous boyfriend material. Perhaps if straight women spent some time on Grindr, they’d get it. They should just enjoy our platonic company and be glad they don’t have to go home with us.

3) When a woman jokingly says “what a shame/waste” to a man who has just revealed himself to be gay, or talks about “converting” us, we should take it as a compliment.

I used to get that all the time in Buenos Aires’s mixed “gay-friendly” clubs, and I could never figure out if the women who said it meant a shame for them or a shame in general. Why does it have to be a shame at all? The world shames us enough as it is. There’s no need for a female admirer to compound that shame just because she won’t be getting lucky (at least not with one of us) tonight.

4) 1 gay man + 1 gay man = 1 potential couple.

They say straight men and women can’t be friends. Hollywood even offered a movie (1989’s When Harry Met Sally…) based around that point. Gay guys, however, can. Don’t automatically assume that the friend I introduce you to, or the one I hung out with the other night is my new love interest—or should be.

5) We’d be perfect for your other gay friend (or your son).

There are plenty of gay fish in the sea (especially waters as deep as New York City or any metropolitan area with a significant gay population), and mutual attraction between two men requires more than simply both being gay. I was flattered the time a woman at Bowery Bar in NYC declared me a perfect match for her son and went so far as to leave him a voice mail raving about me. Despite her tipsy enthusiasm, though, I knew I’d never have to meet him. What self-respecting 20-something gay man would agree to be set up by his mother?

Unfortunately, I did end up meeting Felipe, the guy my friend Hollie prematurely pegged as my soulmate because, in her eyes, since we were both sassy and gay, we were probably destined to live happily ever after. The party where Felipe and I met face to face for the first (and only) time nearly ended in fisticuffs because we mixed like fire and gasoline. The moral of this story: If sparks are going to fly between two gay men, let them fly on their own.

6) If we think a man is attractive, we want to sleep with him.

Sometimes a handsome guy is just a handsome guy. So relax, boys, and stop assuming that we’re going to hit on you. It’s entirely possible, likely even, that you aren’t our type—and not just because you aren’t gay.

7) We all sit around wondering who is and isn’t gay.

The celebrity guessing game can be fun, but just because some gay activists are on the outing warpath doesn’t mean all of us are. And hey, ladies: There’s no need to always point out that the guy we’ve both been eyeing across a crowded room, or your latest hot boyfriend, isn’t gay. Like the “Top or bottom?” thing, it probably hasn’t even crossed my mind.

8) Being gay is all about being gay.

There’s so much more to our lives than just that, so if you’re straight, the next time you’re around a gay guy, feel free not to bring it up.

Jeremy Helligar is a journalist, author, pop culturist and world traveler from New York City, where he spent 15 years working as a writer and editor for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly. This article was originally featured in Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section and reposted with permission.

Photo by Robert S. Donovan/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jul 29, 2014, 8:00 am CDT