Houston We Have a Problem
by: Korie Houston
Houston we have a problem. What is the problem you ask? Well simply put, our community has an issue with femininity. Let’s talk about it.
I watch a lot of movies and television. The trope of the manic pixie dream girl has plagued cinema and literature for decades. For those of you who don’t know what that means, the trope is essentially a young woman whose entire purpose is to teach a man about what life means to them. An unobtainable creature of no particular habit whose sole purpose is to be a man’s North Star. But what about when that same trope applies to the emotional constipation that’s dating within the queer scene?
Let’s face it, physical relationships, whether a one night stand or a friend with benefits, sounds appealing to many in our community. I’ll pose some questions. What’s the line drawn between this mythical enigma and the femininity of flamboyance? Why do we value femininity when it comes from celebrities, reality stars, and all others in that category, but not from the people who continue to walk that line every day?
I don’t identify as feminine or masculine, I’m just Korie. I’m an imperfect person as we all are and guess what? That should be enough. But there is this deep rooted stigma attached to the friendships, dating and all of the parallels that happen to go with someone who’s a little more limp-wristed than your average masc4masc darling. So why is this a problem you ask? Breaking it down for you, all of the same reasons you praise and love someone for being their most authentic self and remind them to be a little extra are equally some of the same reasons you don’t want them in your orbit. “They’re too much.” “Can you tone it down?” or “You’re a little too flamboyant.” Those are all sentences that I’ve heard before. After a while, it strikes a nerve. Am I the problem?
The answer to that question is “No.” When your dating profile requires a caveat that says “Looking for someone a little more low key,” that’s a preference, but isn’t that also just a dog whistle for saying “looking for someone less gay?”
When I walk into a room I light it up. Charisma. Uniqueness. Nerve. Talent. I was once ghosted by someone who for all intents and purposes embraced the aspects of me being extra. Yet at the same time, I truly felt like their own substitute for a life lesson. Someone else whom I was once interested in told me that I’m really not the “type” they were looking for, while doing everything else that would signify we were dating. Before that revelation, I did find out that previous partners all fit the same type. But, I was something a little different to him. We won’t give this man a nickname, but maybe I’ll change my mind.
That being said, what is this deep rooted fetishization of a “man’s man”? I am your type, as you learn valuable lessons from me. I spark joy, creativity and a sense of adventure in your life, but I’m not dateable. If we learned anything from Netflix’s “Glamorous” it’s that we should never settle for the person who says you should “tone it down.” I am not your manic pixie dream gay. I’m my own person with wants and needs beyond superficial companionship.
So why is this such a problem to me? Aside from the fact that it hits close to home, across all walks of life our community often doesn’t seem able to move the needle past internalized homophobia and misogyny, yet at the same time takes on the mannerisms that we deem as “feminine.”
There is this innate desire to be taken care of. To have a man for all intents and purposes be this dutiful and strong caretaker; who also can change a lightbulb, deadlift a weight number that doesn’t exist to me, and lastly, be able to take charge in the bedroom until you can’t walk. The pinnacle of masculinity, as some would believe.
Yet, there’s the people out there who aren’t as strong, not as bulky and at the end of the day, you’d call them a little softer in comparison. Those are the same people within this community who some would say blaze trails in ways you would never anticipate because you count them out. Do we have a problem with femininity or do we have a problem with the perception of weakness? Is it not strength to show up as your truest self?
Drag queens, trans women, people who fall under the spectrum of butch and so many more have done more work for this community than I have the ability to speak on; from the movements of Stonewall to the spaces we continue to occupy. Yet these are the same people who we have the same questions of. Those questions range from why are they so feminine? to how are they not feminine enough? The wisdom espoused by these same individuals is enough to teach you a lesson within yourself yet not enough to make you see yourself with them. This isn’t to say, you can’t have a “preference,” because we all do. This is to say that there’s more to life than our perceived standards of beauty. There’s more to life than a narrow view whether someone is presenting in the way that you perceive as right. Lastly, there’s more to life than placing expectations on people who don’t know what your endgame is.
If movies like “500 Days of Summer,” “Garden State,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Love Simon,” and “Call Me by Your Name” have taught me anything, it’s that I am guilty of it too. I’ve watched these films over the course of several decades and it taught me that I create an aura of mystery at times instead of being real.
I do know that I gravitate toward people who tend to see me in a way that isn’t truly genuine. As I said and will say loudly, I am not your manic pixie dream gay. I am not here to heal you, I am not here to teach you, and my purpose in life exists outside of you.
As someone who has felt the need many times to conform to the expectations of others, I crumble under the weight of pressure. At times I don’t feel good enough, but unlike our characters in many of these films, I don’t get to walk into the sunset. I’m left wondering, did I just waste my time again teaching lessons instead of learning from them?
Think about the people in your lives who you treat this way. Are they a lover or a lesson? Is the entire relationship built around catering to their needs? We’re all our own main characters but you are not someone else’s main character. Gender and presentation do not have to go hand-in-hand and these deep rooted traits of masculinity vs femininity are not helpful for how we as a society move forward.
Is this a binary we place ourselves in or one that others have already created for us?
I’m not dreaming; I’m living in a reality that can always change for the better. How I choose to present and walk into a room should have no bearing on my desirability. In the end, all I have to say is, how can we all show up more defiantly and confidently in our relationships?–Korie Houston is a local social justice advocate. Reach him at [email protected].