Feeling Russell Tovey (Why I Strut)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Russell Tovey and BBC Radio 3 does 'something funny for money' and raises money for Comic Relief.
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Russell Tovey and BBC Radio 3 does 'something funny for money' and raises money for Comic Relief. Tune-in March 18 held at The Royal Albert Hall on March 14, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

I imagine there are times for celebrities that they wish they could back up, shut up and forget. Russell Tovey made some comments recently about being glad that he didn't turn out effeminate and promptly lit the Internet on fire. Yes, his comments were insensitive, but I get where he's coming from. First let me be clear: everyone should be proud of who and what they are. No matter what your freak flag says, fly it high and fly it often! Like Macy Gray sings: "You've got to express what is taboo in you, and share your freak with the rest of us 'cause it's a beautiful thang."

When I was in high school, I was slightly effeminate, at least enough so that some of the kids picked up on my gayness before I ever considered sharing it with anyone. After being taunted for being gay one day, I remember asking a friend if he thought there was anything about me that seemed gay. He sheepishly said that I maybe, sorta, possibly walked with a touch of a swish. God love him; he was trying not to hurt my feelings. When you're telling a closeted teen boy that they give off a gay vibe, it's hurtful no matter how you say it. At least it was back then, and it stuck with me.

I didn't want to give off a gay vibe. I was 15. It was the '80s. It was the Midwest. You get the picture. At that age, I did think there was something wrong with being effeminate. Pretty much the whole world was telling me so, too. I also knew that the guys I was attracted to were masculine, not effeminate. Was I projecting my own insecurities? Yes, most certainly. The bottom line is I knew the image I had of myself in my head and the image I wanted to project to the world. A swish was not part of that image, so I consciously worked on how I walked. Think Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, but with a little less John Wayne. Yes, it was stupid. Yes, it was self-judgmental. I get all that now.

Times, and my perceptions, have changed. I no longer see effeminacy negatively. I certainly don't try to influence my own son's masculinity (or my perception of it). Still, on some level, we all craft the persona we want for ourselves. We all work to enhance the attributes we like and de-emphasize the ones we don't. Someone once told me that my walk was bad, so I worked to change it. Now, sometimes people tell me that I strut. Not like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, but I walk with a confident, if cocky, strut. And they're right, I do walk with purpose and confidence. I consciously created that walk. For much of my life, I have taken what I was born with, mixed it with what the world has given me and crafted the man that everyone else sees. I've also learned to like who I am, regardless of how others see me.

That's really no different than what Russell Tovey did. Over the years, he crafted the man he wanted to be. We can debate the validity of the reasons why he did it, and yes, he absolutely could have expressed himself better on the topic. You don't always know how people are going to perceive your comments. Sometimes that perception is very different than what you intended. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. He has since apologized for his comments. I, for one, am willing to cut the guy some slack.