Straight-acting is a term for a same gender-attracted person who does not exhibit the appearance or mannerisms of what is seen as typical for gay people. Although the label is used by and reserved almost exclusively for gay and bisexual men, it may also be used to describe a lesbian or bisexual woman exhibiting a feminine appearance and mannerisms. Because the term invokes negative stereotypes of gay people, its application is often controversial and may cause offense.
Proposed explanations and criticisms
Communication Scholar, Shinsuke Eguchi (2009) proposes to explain the emergence of the straight acting phenomenon "because some gay men want to achieve hegemonic masculinity to overcome gay effeminate images". Both Eguchi and Tim Berling relate it to the general context of sissyphobia—the dominant cultural norm that disparages effeminate men, which is not restricted to the gay culture. In "Negotiating Sisyphobia: A critical/ interpretive analysis of one ‘femme’ gay Asian body in the heteronormative world," Shinsuke Eguchi (2011) writes, "I began to see that the discursive manifestation of sissyphobia is not that feminine gay men are unattractive and undesirable. Rather, these straight-acting gay men would like to present their “heteronormative” masculine faces in their social interactions with others" (p. 50).
Sex advice columnist Dan Savage commented on the popularity of the term "straight-acting" in gay personal ads, criticizing both the practice and the idea that a man seeking a gay relationship through a gay personal ad is acting straight. Defenders of the term maintain it refers merely to one's mannerisms and that critics' isolation of the word "acting" in the phrase distorts the intended meaning of the phrase. Use of the term itself has been labeled as damaging to the LGBT community, as it associates certain attributes with homosexuality.
Men who use the expression "straight-acting" may express resentment that critics claim the term implies they are acting and not being their true selves.
In popular culture
Filmmaker Spencer Windes explored the term and the definition of masculinity in his film Straight Acting. The film is a documentary about Windes' transformation from a closeted Mormon missionary into an openly gay man, through his involvement in the subculture of gays who play contact sports.
- Science Fair Projects - Straight-acting[dead link]
- Jay Clarkson, '"Everyday Joe" versus "pissy, bitchy, queens": gay masculinity on StraightActing.com.',[dead link] The Journal of Men's Studies (2006): .[dead link]
- Acting Straight[dead link]
- Eguchi, S. (Nov 2009). "Negotiating Hegemonic Masculinity: the Rhetorical Strategy of 'Straight-Acting' Among Gay Men". Journal of Intercultural Communication Research. 38 (3): 193–209. doi:10.1080/17475759.2009.508892.
- Bergling, Tim. Sissyphobia: Gay Men and Effeminate Behavior. ISBN 1-56023-989-1
- Eguchi, S. (2011). "Negotiating Sissyphobia: A Critical/Interpretive Analysis of One "Femme" Gay Asian Body in the Heteronormative World". The Journal of Men's Studies. 19: 37–56. doi:10.3149/jms.1901.37.
- This American Life | Sissies
- Straight Acting. A Story about Queers and Sports