Real men don't care if other men are gay. They don't think about it much, don't worry about it.
A real man may, however, on occasion, worry that other men will think he's gay.
Or, as the great moralist and philosopher Sam Malone would put it, a real man doesn't care if other men think he's graceful. He just doesn't want to get a reputation for being too graceful.
The fear here isn't that other guys will think he's queer but that they'll think he's a sissy. The two terms get mixed up in a lot of people's heads but they really don't mean the same to men. A sissy isn't a guy who likes guy. A sissy is a guy who is afraid. Sissies are weaklings and cowards, and weaklings and cowards are dangerous to other men. You can't bring down a mastadon, storm a castle, hit a beach, or rush into a burning building with a weakling and a coward by your side.
If you're a sissy, or if the guys think you're a sissy, other men won't trust you. They won't want to have you around because they can't depend on you.
Worse, if they think you're a sissy, some of those other men will decide you are easy prey.
But by and large men are easy-going characters, inclined to give each other the benefit of the doubt, especially since we all want to be given the benefit of the same doubt, and so the topic of other men's sexual proclivities almost never crosses our minds.
Because of this, most men know to be suspicious when another man starts carrying on about the fags.
Since it's a topic most of us would rather avoid---a game of quien es muy macho all of us can't afford to lose---anybody who starts it is going against the code. Going against the code is not something we like to do. It feels, well, unmanly. You have to wonder, then, about another guy who goes against it. What's his problem?
Well, it's easy enough to guess.
Gay bashing is, in addition to being a hate crime, quite often a self-hate crime as well.
These are things we know about each other. Guys who talk a lot about sex aren't getting any. Guys who brag about how tough they are, are scared. Guys who talk obsessively about money aren't movers and shakers, they're thieves and suckers. Guys who boast about what great athletes they are, you don't want on your team. Guys who hate women feel whipped and castrated. And guys who go and on about the fags are probably fags themselves.
If they're not, then they're really, really, really scared that they are.
These are guys who have mixed up sissy with queer, and since they probably know whether or not "it" moves when they are around men and so shouldn't have any worries on that score, then what worries them is something else they must know about themselves---they're sissies. Weak, scared, and not to be counted on when the going gets tough.
The raging homophobia of the Right these days is so obviously a cover for fears of latency and inadequacy that it's laughable. Or it would be laughable except that apparently there are enough closet cases and enough cowards out there that the Republicans can induce mobs of them to go to the polls and vote their self-loathing.
And that it's a national movement to teach thousands and thousands of teenage boys and girls to hate themselves.
Which brings us to this guy, Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen.
Allen has introduced a bill to ban books written by gay authors or that contain gay characters from the state's schools and libraries.
Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon has no trouble laughing Allen off the stage for being an illiterate know-nothing.
[T]he "homosexual agenda" to destroy America book by book goes back a long, long way. Shakespeare's love sonnets may seem like simple poems written to a young man, but we all know his real intent was tearing down a nation that didn't exist yet. Even Sappho's seemingly innocent love poetry to women is part of the long-standing homosexual agenda to destroy America, even though she had no way of even knowing the landmass it would exist on was there. And of course, she was out to get Christianity, too, even though that didn't exist yet, either.
But I'm too astounded to laugh. It's just stunning to watch another man boldy demonstrating to the whole world that he's a raging closet case and a complete sissy.
It appears that plenty of Allen's fellow legislators have him figured out too and want nothing to do with his weirdness. Amanda reports:
Luckily, it seems like Alabama legislators realized that they didn't want to even be present at a debate that might feature an argument about whether or not cross-dressing to avoid harassment like Viola was just too gay or what have you, since most of them refused to even show up and vote on this turd of a bill.
I'm inclined to think that what most of them refused to show up to do was stand next to a man this confused about himself.
(Mac Thomason blogged about Allen back in December when Allen first began peeking out his closet door. Shakespeare's Sister has found a county commissioner in North Carolina who has even more complicated issues with his own sexuality. And, an update correcting an omission caused by a bout of amnesia, Coturnix has a series of posts on the femiphobia he sees behind the Right's many pathologies, including their gay bashing, power worship, and hysterical desire to dominate.)
Like I said, real men don't worry about homosexuality, let alone obsess so much over it that they can't even stand the thought that other people are reading about it.
There are, however, one class of real men who do worry about it. Athletes.
Athletes are and have to be terrified of being weak. In some sports---boxing, football, basketball, hockey---just the appearance of weakness can be devastating. It marks you as easy prey. In team sports a guy who is weak and cowardly is dangerous. Imagine being a running back having to depend for protection from angry linebackers on a blocker who is afraid of taking a hit.
Most athletes are neither well-educated nor particularly sensitive. So of course they confuse queer with sissy.
Now imagine being a gay athlete.
A particular kind of athlete.
A boxer, say.
A gay boxer.
You're a gay boxer, in the late 1950s, early 1960s, and you're opponent starts calling you queer. In front of the whole world. You're a good boxer. No, you're a very good boxer. You're one of the best of your time, one of the toughest, one of the most successful. A guy all the other fighters have to beat if they want to get anywhere.
Those guys are coming after you hard already. It's dangerous to be a fighter as it is. More dangerous to be a champ with everybody out to take you down.
Imagine now that all those guys coming after you think you're a sissy. Weak. A coward. How scared of you are they going to be? You need them to be scared. You need them to worry every time they get in the ring with you. Their fear is your protection. If they stop being afraid of you, you're in trouble.
On top of this, like everybody else around you, you confuse queer with sissy too. You can't admit you're gay because it would be admitting you're a coward, you're a weakling. How are you going to stand in the ring with all those guys looking to clobber you, thinking to yourself, I'm weak, I'm scared?
So this opponent of yours, calling you queer at the weigh in, taunting you in the ring, you can't let him get away with it, you can't let him expose your weakness like that.
You got to shut him up.
Which is what you do if you're Emile Griffith, it's 1962, you're fighting Kid Paret, and Paret keeps calling you maricon.
You shut him up, do it the best way you know how. You hit him hard. You hit him a lot. You got him up against the ropes, he's done for, but you keep hitting him. You hit him 29 times, fast and hard, without him being able to throw a single punch back.
You hit him until you scramble his brains and kill him.
Midway through the 12th, Emile stuns Benny with a short right. Benny reels into a corner, eats another hammer, then another. His head and shoulders slump. The only way to nail his jaw now is with uppercuts, and so that's what Emile begins to hurl -- or rather, that's what hurls out of Emile, an eruption of fury so mechanically precise that it seems to come from an engine house in hell rather than from the realm of human kinetics. At last Benny tilts, but the turnbuckle keeps him from collapsing, from saving himself, and now begins the terrible tick-tock of his cranium, left-right-left-right-left-right, combinations bursting from Emile faster than eye and brain can process.
The ref! Where's the ref? Who's the ref? Ruby Goldstein, a victim of his own expertise, a respected pro who knows this sport so well that he knows Emile's not a big finisher, knows Paret's a chronic possum, knows the Hispanics in the house will riot if he stops this fight just as their possum's about to pounce. Goldstein is caught flat-footed as 18 punches land in six seconds -- 29 consecutive unanswered punches in all -- bouncing brain against skull again and again. Eyes puffed shut, blood oozing from his nose and his cheek, Benny slithers down the ropes, at last, as Goldstein grabs Emile and his cornermen run to wrap him too.
That's from an article in Sports Illustrated, Shadow Boxer, by Gary Smith. I'd call Smith my favorite living short story writer except that short stories are presumed to be fiction and Smith is a journalist. But read Shadow Boxer and tell me you didn't read a short story better than any that's won an O.Henry lately.