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If You Think 'Straight-Acting' Is An Acceptable Term, You're An A**hole

In a recent interview, director Roland Emmerich attempted to explain his baffling decision to make the protagonist of his much-maligned new film, "Stonewall," a fictional twinky corn-fed white cis gay man instead of one of the many non-white transgender people, genderqueer individuals, drag queens, butch dykes and sissy men present at the iconic riots credited with birthing the modern queer rights movement.

"As a director you have to put yourself in your movies, and I'm white and gay," Emmerich told Buzzfeed in what qualifies as one of the most ahistorical, culturally tone-deaf and narcissistic soundbites printed in recent memory. But, sadly, that wasn't even the most ridiculous or troubling part of the interview.

"You have to understand one thing: I didn't make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people," he said. "I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny, the lead character] is a very easy in. Danny's very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him."

:: Shudder ::

As if hearing about Emmerich's inspiration for completely rewriting queer history and erasing the contributions of those who are already erased too often in order to be able to place and view himself in his own movie wasn't bad enough, now we learn he was concerned with making "Stonewall" palatable for straight people. And to make that happen, he apparently thought he had to create a "straight-acting" lead character.

The fact that Emmerich can earnestly trot out the term "straight-acting" (he apparently used it in the production notes for the film, too) with a straight (no pun intended) face (and without spontaneously vomiting up his Fruit Loops) means he's either luxuriously ignorant... or he's just an asshole.

Being "straight-acting," for a gay man at least, is directly related to how convincingly he is able to present traditionally masculine mannerisms. The term is so markedly offensive because its very existence insists that there is a particular, instantly identifiable manner of being gay (defined by effeminacy). And what's more, those qualities are seen as patently unattractive, undesirable and wildly dangerous. Conversely, it then follows that there simultaneously exists a particular, instantly recognizable manner of being straight (defined by "masculinity"). And what's more, those qualities are seen as incredibly attractive, desirable and wholly advantageous -- enough so that gay people would try to "act" in that way.

And there is a long history of straights attempting to straight-ify queer people (and of us trying to do it to ourselves). The performance of straightness is something that gay men have struggled with and against for as long as modern gay identities have existed. Because being gay has been so intimately connected with being effeminate, which was -- and still is -- equated with being submissive, weak and ineffectual. Gay men have been shamed (and attacked and murdered) for any display that does not reverberate with and reflect what our culture has determined is sufficiently masculine. Therefore many gay men have longed for and looked for any means by which they can throw off (or at least hide) the curse of even the slightest hint of effeminacy and thereby be welcomed into straight society or at least fly far enough under the radar to remain relatively unharmed.

I should know -- I was one of them.

I spent most of my young adult life trying to butch myself up. And it worked to some degree: I'm nowhere near the sissy I was when I was growing up. My deliberate metamorphosis was a survival mechanism. I survived. But I still mourn the little faggot inside of me who pretended to be Jem and secretly draped long-sleeved shirts over his head so he could live the dream of having mermaid hair for a few minutes at a time. I miss him. And I wonder what incredible things I've missed out on -- and who I could have been today -- because I euthanized him twenty years ago. But I also wonder if I would still be here -- if I would still be alive -- if I hadn't.

The bottom line is that we shouldn't have to choose between living as exactly who we are and death (figuratively or literally) because our society says in order for us to be worthy and valuable we have to "act straight." Too many queers have bought into this lie for much too long.

And we certainly shouldn't be sold out by our own kind, no matter how good their intentions may be. We haven't fought as hard as we have to ensure that once queers like Emmerich were able to get into positions of power and influence they could turn around and bleach our history while pandering to the very people who oppressed us.

By claiming that in order for straight people to like us or understand us, we need to be like them in very specific, stereotypical ways (or that if we are like them we must be "acting") Emmerich and anyone else who uses the term "straight-acting" -- including the legions of men on hook-up apps whose profiles read "Masc 4 Masc" and "Str8 acting only" -- is affirming all of the lies about who we are (and who we aren't) that we've been raging against for as long as we have been a "we." In fact, isn't this what the heroes of Stonewall were ultimately battling? Didn't they finally say "enough" to the constant tormenting they faced for being different from what society expected and demanded of them? And how stupendously offensive to take the story of these brave warriors and attempt to repackage it so that straight people can find a way to comfortably stomach our rebellion.

No. Enough.

It's time we stop using "straight-acting" as some kind of dreamy, aspirational bridge-building tactic or lure. There are all kinds of different ways to be gay and straight (and everything in between or outside of that binary). And while we're at it, how about we just stop trying to act like straight people all together and start acting like exactly who we are? And let's get some sissies up on the big screen. And let's get some more trans people in the spotlight. And let's remember that our community is not comprised of only gay white cis men. Let's tell our stories to each other and anyone else who will listen. And if they won't listen, fuck 'em. If they'll only take us seriously (or won't jail or oppress or exterminate us) if we look and sound exactly like them, fuck them. Seriously! We'll just keep telling our stories over and over again until we all know them by heart and they're so loud and powerful and yes, of course, awful and painful and tragic in parts, but finally so beautiful and true that when we're finally heard -- and we will be heard -- they'll know exactly who we are, what we have been through and why it matters.

There are enough bad guys out there making it hard for us, Roland, without you joining their ranks. There are enough assholes telling us that we aren't butch enough or white enough or safe enough or relatable enough, Roland, without you adding fuel to their already handsomely blazing fire. "Stonewall" is a mess -- but this isn't over: There's still time to ensure this becomes an invaluable lesson for anyone watching now or one hundred years from now. The sooner you -- and all of us -- stop acting and start being honest about who we are and what we've achieved, the sooner we'll no longer feel the need to make the hideous concessions and compromises we're told we need to make to be like everybody else because we'll no longer want to be like anybody else but ourselves.

Also on The Huffington Post:

  • 1 Megan Fox
    In a 2011 <a href="http://www.esquire.com/women/women-we-love/megan-fox-pics-0609" target="_blank">Esquire</a>&nbsp;interview
    AP
    In a 2011 Esquire interview, Megan Fox confirmed her bisexuality, stating, "I think people are born bisexual and then make subconscious choices based on the pressures of society. I have no question in my mind about being bisexual. But I'm also a hypocrite: I would never date a girl who was bisexual, because that means they also sleep with men, and men are so dirty that I'd never want to sleep with a girl who had slept with a man."
  • 2 Billie Joe Armstrong
    The Green Day front man&nbsp;opened up about his sexuality in a 1995 interview with <a href="http://theadvocate.com/" target=
    AP
    The Green Day front man opened up about his sexuality in a 1995 interview with The Advocate: "I think I've always been bisexual. I mean, it's something that I've always been interested in. I think everybody kind of fantasizes about the same sex. I think people are born bisexual, and it's just that our parents and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of 'Oh, I can't.' They say it's taboo. It's ingrained in our heads that it's bad, when it's not bad at all. It's a very beautiful thing."
  • 3 Margaret Cho
    Comedian Margaret Cho has long been open about her sexuality. In August 2013, Cho <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mar
    AP
    Comedian Margaret Cho has long been open about her sexuality. In August 2013, Cho discussed the semantics surrounding her open marriage to artist Al Ridenour, saying that she's "technically not able to stay with one person sexually because I’m bisexual,” and joking that she just “can’t stop up that hole.” She also identifies as queer, and opened up about her sexuality in an interview with HuffPost Gay Voices Editor-At-Large Michelangelo Signorile.
  • 4 Clive Davis
    Twice-married record executive and music mogul Clive Davis <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/clive-davis-bisexual-_n_27
    AP
    Twice-married record executive and music mogul Clive Davis came out as bisexual in his 2013 memoir, The Soundtrack Of My Life. Davis opened up about two long-term relationships he had with men after his divorce from his second wife.
  • 5 Anna Paquin
    Anna Paquin is adamantly open about her bisexuality. The actress<a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/anna-paquin-bisexuali
    Getty
    Anna Paquin is adamantly open about her bisexuality. The actress told "Zooey" magazine in a 2009 interview, "For me, it’s not really an issue because I’m someone who believes being bisexual is actually a thing. It’s not made up. It’s not a lack of decision."
  • 6 Megan Mullally
    After telling The Advocate in 1999 that she was bisexual, Mullally clarified her statements in an <a href="http://www.queerty
    AP
    After telling The Advocate in 1999 that she was bisexual, Mullally clarified her statements in an interview with Queerty, telling the blog: "I said that I thought that everybody is innately bisexual. I think there are different levels of awareness attached to that, so I may believe that everybody is innately bisexual, but somebody who is very homophobic may not see that quality in themselves in any way, shape or form. That’s on a very philosophical or even metaphysical level, you know what I mean? It’s not something that I think people are ready for yet. I think if you ask the average guy on the street if he was innately bisexual, he’d be like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ and then he’d punch you in the face. So, we’re not quite there."
  • 7 Azealia Banks
    The rapper has been <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/music/blogs/thread-count/azealia-banks-on-why-the-c-word-is-feminine
    Getty
    The rapper has been openly bisexual since the early days of her career: "I mean, I'm bisexual, so it makes sense. But I don't want to be that girl who says all gays necessarily hang out together, of course! I have people say to me, 'Oh wow, my friend is gay, too,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, so?'"
  • 8 Andy Dick
    Many people mistakenly assume that Andy Dick identifies as gay. However, he told <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy
    AP
    Many people mistakenly assume that Andy Dick identifies as gay. However, he told The Washington Post in a 2006 interview that, "just because I've been with guys, and I'm bi, doesn't mean I'm gay."
  • 9 Bai Ling
    Actress Bai Ling is openly bisexual -- and the identity category has often provided some humorous mix-ups involving her first
    Getty
    Actress Bai Ling is openly bisexual -- and the identity category has often provided some humorous mix-ups involving her first name. According to GLAAD, she discussed it in-depth in a 2009 interview with Entertainment Weekly: "[A]t first when I was in the United States I didn't always have an interpreter in interviews and I didn't speak English so well. There was some confusion. My name is pronounced 'bi,' so when I was asked, 'Are you bi?' I said, 'Yes, I am Bai.' Do you like men? 'Of course!' Do you like women? 'Why yes!' And later I found out what that means and I said, 'Sure, I am bi!' But I think the interpreters and the reporters thought that I didn't know what I was saying because I was so open about it. They were uncomfortable about it. Such a thing is not important for me."
  • 10 Carrie Brownstein
    The "Portlandia" star and former guitarist and vocalist for Sleater-Kinney is often assumed to identify as gay. However, she
    AP
    The "Portlandia" star and former guitarist and vocalist for Sleater-Kinney is often assumed to identify as gay. However, she told "Willamette Week" in 2012 that, "It’s weird, because no one’s actually ever asked me. People just always assume, like, you’re this or that. It’s like, ‘OK. I’m bisexual.’”
  • 11 David Bowie
    Though David Bowie has historically played coy surrounding his sexuality, he clarified the subject in <a href="http://www.vic
    Getty
    Though David Bowie has historically played coy surrounding his sexuality, he clarified the subject in a 1976 interview with "Playboy." "It's true -- I am a bisexual. But I can't deny that I've used that fact very well. I suppose it's the best thing that ever happened to me."
  • 12 Snooki
    The always-polarizing Snooki&nbsp;sat down with <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jersey-shore-snooki-and-jwoww-bisexua
    AP
    The always-polarizing Snooki sat down with The Huffington Post in February 2012 and sought to clarify her sexual preference. "I would consider myself bi. I've done stuff with girls before. But I would never be with a girl because I like... penis. But I've experimented."
  • 13 Amber Heard
    Amber Heard has been <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/amber-heard-bisexuality-elle_n_3756186" target="_blank">openly b
    Getty
    Amber Heard has been openly bisexual for quite some time, and discussed this aspect of her identity in "Elle." The model and actress told reporters: "[I] didn't want to look like I was hiding anything."
  • 14 Angelina Jolie
    Angelina Jolie has been open about her sexuality for quite some time, having had numerous encounters and relationships with w
    Getty
    Angelina Jolie has been open about her sexuality for quite some time, having had numerous encounters and relationships with women. She reportedly told OK Magazine that, "I have loved women in the past and slept with them. I think if you love and want to pleasure a woman, particularly if you are a woman yourself, then certainly you know how to do things a certain way."
  • 15 Evan Rachel Wood
    Evan Rachel Wood <a href="https://twitter.com/evanrachelwood/status/238791671553351681" target="_blank">came out on Twitter</
    AP
    Evan Rachel Wood came out on Twitter in 2012: “I myself am bisexual and have always ‘joked’ about Miley giving me gay vibes. Not a bad thing! Just an observation.”
  • 16 Sapphire
    The author of <em>Push,</em> the book that inspired the critically acclaimed film "Precious," <a href="http://www.standard.co
    Getty
    The author of Push, the book that inspired the critically acclaimed film "Precious," describes herself as bisexual.
  • 17 Drew Barrymore
    Drew Barrymore originally came out in <a href="http://www.contactmusic.com/news-article/drew-barrymore.-.i-am-bisexual." targ
    Getty
    Drew Barrymore originally came out in an interview in Contact Magazine in 2003, saying, "Do I like women sexually? Yeah, I do. Totally. I have always considered myself bisexual... I love a woman's body. I think a woman and a woman together are beautiful, just as a man and a woman together are beautiful. Being with a woman is like exploring your own body, but through someone else."
  • 18 Frenchie Davis
    This former "American Idol" and "The Voice" contestant came out in 2012, <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/frenchie-dav
    Getty
    This former "American Idol" and "The Voice" contestant came out in 2012, telling her fans that she had been in a relationship with a woman for the past year and had dated men and women.
  • 19 Vanessa Carlton
    Musician Vanessa Carlton <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/vannesa-carlton-im-bisexu_n_618697" target="_blank">came out
    Getty
    Musician Vanessa Carlton came out publicly at 2010's Nashville Pride, announcing to a crowd of 18,000 that, "I've never said this before, but I am a proud bisexual woman!"
  • 20 Fergie
    The Black Eyed Peas front woman confirmed speculation surrounding her sexual identity in 2009 through <a href="http://www.adv
    Getty
    The Black Eyed Peas front woman confirmed speculation surrounding her sexual identity in 2009 through an interview with The Advocate: "Q: After you discussed past sexual experiences with women in an interview with 'The Sun' in May, headlines everywhere read, 'Fergie Admits She’s Bisexual!' A: The funny thing is that I was very open and honest about that from the very beginning, and everyone was acting like it was some new trend. Go back four or five years, people, and you’ll see the same answer.

"
  • 21 Pete Townshend
    In his book,&nbsp;<i>Who I Am: A Memoir by Pete Townshend</i>, this musician <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/o
    AP
    In his book, Who I Am: A Memoir by Pete Townshend, this musician confirmed that he is "probably bisexual" and cited his attraction to Mick Jagger, calling him "the only man I've ever seriously wanted to fuck."
  • 22 Tila Tequila
    Tila Tequila is not one to shy away from anything. The former Myspace celebrity did <a href="http://www.mtv.com/shows/tila_te
    Getty
    Tila Tequila is not one to shy away from anything. The former Myspace celebrity did several reality shows centered around identifying as bisexual, beginning with "A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila." She was also the girlfriend of Casey Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heiress, who passed away in 2010.
  • 23 Amber Rose
    Amber Rose&nbsp;has long been perceived to be openly bisexual without actually addressing the way she identifies. In an inter
    Getty
    Amber Rose has long been perceived to be openly bisexual without actually addressing the way she identifies. In an interview with Complex magazine, the model sought to clarify the rumors: "They label me a bisexual freak stripper that fucks Kanye on a daily basis. To answer that: I’m extremely open with my sexuality. I can be in love with a woman, I can be in love with a man. I’m not into bestiality, but as far as humans go, I definitely find beauty in everybody, whether they’re heavy-set, super-skinny, if they’re white, black, Indian, Asian, Spanish. I can see beauty in anybody. I’m not into threesomes or orgies and shit like that. If I see a women and I think she’s beautiful and I like her, and she likes me back we can definitely try to be in a relationship together."
  • 24 Cynthia Nixon
    Currently <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cynthia-nixon-married-christina-marinoni_n_1550345" target="_blank">married
    Getty
    Currently married to wife Christine Marinoni, Nixon confirmed in a January 2012 interview with The Daily Beast that she is bisexual. The "Sex And The City" star stated, "I don’t pull out the 'bisexual' word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals... We get no respect."
  • 25 Jillian Michaels
    The first lady to ever come out in "Lady's Home Journal" as bisexual, "Biggest Loser" coach and personal trainer Jillian Mich
    Getty
    The first lady to ever come out in "Lady's Home Journal" as bisexual, "Biggest Loser" coach and personal trainer Jillian Michaels told the magazine in 2010: “Let’s just say I believe in healthy love. If I fall in love with a woman, that’s awesome. If I fall in love with a man, that’s awesome. As long as you fall in love… it’s like organic food. I only eat healthy food, and I only want healthy love!”
  • 26 Kim Zolciak
    Former "Real Housewives Of Atlanta" star Kim Zolciak was in public relationships with both the mysterious "Big Poppa" and DJ
    Getty
    Former "Real Housewives Of Atlanta" star Kim Zolciak was in public relationships with both the mysterious "Big Poppa" and DJ Tracy Young before marrying Kroy Biermann. In a 2010 interview with Life & Style, interviewers posed the following question for the reality queen: "Q: Do you feel you're giving a voice to other bisexual parents? A: I'm among the millions of parents who have been in a gay or lesbian relationship. It hasn't been an easy road lately, but I feel there are no mistakes in my life. Everything happens for a reason. To have the opportunity to speak for myself and to have people understand what I'm going through is really special. I myself was confused and scared at first. Being able to speak from my heart and get this all out, it's a huge relief for me."
  • 27 Lady Gaga
    Lady Gaga has been open for quite some time about her bisexuality, initially coming out in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/wa
    AP
    Lady Gaga has been open for quite some time about her bisexuality, initially coming out in a 2010 interview with Barbara Walters.
  • 28 'Mama June' Shannon
    The star of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" revealed that <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mama-june-bisexual-_n_7140040">s
    Charles Norfleet via Getty Images
    The star of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" revealed that she's bisexual in an "Inside Edition" interview in April 2015. Her daughter "Pumpkin" Lauryn Thompson also came out as bi at the same time.