‘Straight Space’ and the Male Gaze

Posted: January 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

Saturdays scare me sometimes. I get used to creating queer space all week, flitting about, connecting with other nonconformists who are not at work. Then suddenly Saturday morning comes and the streets are filled with a different energy. The city becomes hetero-normative, I feel like people stare more. There is less room for being a weirdo.
The LGBT jargon would be to call the atmosphere ‘too straight.’ That used to bug me when I identified as straight. It felt like a rejection of me. Now I understand though, and I will try to explain. Right now I am sitting in my favorite cafe. During the week it is very queer and laid back. The staff is fairly queer and a lot of interesting people float though. On Saturday morning it is filled with people who work all week, and they bring a more male energy.
If I am fucking with gender, I never feel threatened by women. If I notice them looking at me they smile. There is a friendly energy, and sometimes appreciation. Guys are different though. Some of them just stare in a rude way, like a challenge. Is this the ‘male gaze’ that I see theorized so often? This gaze take up and dominates space. This male tendency to take up space and dominate with the gaze changes the social dynamics of straight spaces.
My genderqueer presentation seems to produce a fight or flight reaction in many males. I see it in the corner of my eye a lot. A guy’s body will kind of jerk and stiffen when he notices me. He will puff up his chest and face me like had sensed a threat. It is frightening, and makes me very uncomfortable. I find myself scanning cafes before I enter. If there are too many men, I often turn around and go to another cafe. At night though or on the weekends or holidays there often seems to be a guy takeover. The queer potential (and safety) of these spaces is radically diminished. I am forced to find more countercultural venues.
If I was not male phobic to begin with this is enough to make me male phobic. This explains why I end up in lesbian spaces so often, in spite of all my rants about lack of acceptance in their communities. I feel that I will always be a second-class citizen in lesbian spaces, but I would rather face lesbian prejudice for being male than face the fear (and potential for violence) that male femininity brings up in many straight guys.

  1. autoerotic says:

    I like this post, and I’ll surely explore your blog more. I think the males you’re encountering are just threatened a bit. That’s pretty basic hetero testosterone reacting to anything feminized in a male. The ‘male gaze’ refers to a Freudian thing which I incidentally just posted about a few days ago here ==> http://baisemwah.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/everyone-is-effed/

    I feel envious of you sitting in a cafe where a lot of alternative sexuality / gendered people frequent. I live in a small town and there’s no such thing.

    I’ve been catching up on ‘The L Word’ these days (I downloaded the whole series) That takes place in LA and leaves me feeling so culturally deprived sometimes that I actually cry.

    I hope we can be friends. I like your writing style.


  2. Evan says:

    Hi, this is Evan. I met you again today after the childcare collective meeting. I really like your writing so far and identify with a lot of what you have written, especially in this post. I’d love to talk with you more sometime about femme-boyness, queer spaces, gay culture, male phobia and more.


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