I’ve had people tell me they’re surprised to learn I’m gay because, gosh, golly, gee whiz, I don’t ‘act gay.’ And so I’ve turned the question back on them, ‘What does acting gay mean?’
And they say, ‘You know, limp-wristed, lisping, and kinda girly.’
And I get it: Jack McFarland. Terry-Thomas — Google him, you'll see — or even Paul Lynde on Bewitched. I get it; but what they don’t get is that not all gay men act like that and, yes, there are some straight men that do. I have an old friend named Chris who is as heterosexual as the day is long and is also the most flamboyant person in the world; people are sure he’s gay, but he isn’t.
So, yeah, stereotypes. Gay men = girly effeminate creatures; lesbians are plaid-wearing wannabe lumberjacks. Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no.
But imagine coming out—which in and of itself is a huge undertaking — only to have one of your co-workers tell you they had no idea you were gay and telling you that you need to “act more gay.”
That’s what happened when Arizona Senator Steve Gallardo came out, and one of his more ignorant, stereotyping colleagues, state Senator Cajero Bedford said to him.
Act more gay.
And then, because he had never acted gay, she actually began to question his integrity, even going so far as to call for a vote to oust Gallardo as the Senate's minority whip because his being closeted was a matter of "honesty."
The vote failed at 8-3.
Bedford, who obviously has no clue, and no empathy, about what gay people go through in their struggle to come out, especially in a state as homophobic as Arizona, wondered, "Why was he hiding it? It wouldn’t have made any difference."
Obviously it did, to her.
"She said that I should be more gay and she questioned my integrity. She said she was glad I came out [of the closet], but that I should be more gay. I’m more offended that she questioned my integrity."—Steve Gallardo
Of course, now that people are reacting negatively to her stereotyping of gay men, in what I call her own hidden homophobia, Bedford is dismissing her statement as an attempt at humor.
You know, because saying hiding his homosexuality makes him a liar, and unworthy and untrustworthy is funny funny stuff.
For his part, Gallardo rejects Bedford’s claim that he was being dishonest by not coming out sooner:
"I have never lied about being gay. Everyone close to me, family, friends even the press, knew my sexual orientation. It was never an issue before SB 1062 [the failed Don’t Serve the Gays bill]. Those who would deny basic constitutional and human rights to individuals based on sexual orientation are the ones who made this an issue."
But Bedford isn’t giving up; she seems to believe that Gallardo’s coming out as the Don’t Serve the Gays bill became national news was also related to the fact that he intends to maintain his role as minority whip while also running for a soon-to-be-vacated seat to represent Arizona's Seventh Congressional District in Washington. If elected, he would be the first openly LGBT Latino person to serve in the U.S. Congress.
But Gallardo also dismissed that line, saying he was motivated to publicly come out in response to Senate Bill 1062:
"The controversy over SB1062 helped me realize it was time to let people know about me because it was the right thing to do. As my record in the legislature shows, I have been a champion of all human rights issues. I am proud to say I am the voice in the legislature pushing for LGBTQ rights. It is time that people focus on my record of speaking for those who have no voice, and making government more responsive to the needs of Arizona’s hardworking families rather than my sexual orientation. I am a proud American who also happens to be gay."
Happen to be gay.
Here’s what people like Cajero Bedford, and anyone else who says a gay person doesn’t ‘act’ gay or isn't 'gay enough' don’t seem to realize: we are all kinds of people. We’re tall and short, thin and fact, black and white, and every other color. We’re rich and poor, Christian and atheist. We’re flamboyant, we’re conservative. We’re Jack McFarland and we're Michael Sam.
We’re just people, and we should be able to act however we want to act. That said, I’m gonna go slip into a feather boa, play some Liza, put the key lights on the disco ball in the living room and strap on a leather jockstrap because that’s how I act … today.
Tomorrow is another story.