What does it mean to be straight-acting? People ask me a lot online or on certain apps whether I’m straight-acting and I haven’t got a clue what to respond with. Can you explain it to me?
-Straight Acting or Not
It is a group hallucination, held in more esteem within gay communities than straight. And among those who bandy about the term, I suspect means different things to different people.
Is straight acting whatever male construction workers act like? Consider that male ballet dancers are generally stronger than construction workers. Is straight acting whatever cold, emotionless, silent types act like? Or are those silent guys just dull and have nothing to say or express. Is straight acting pure top? Consider that plenty of straight guys like to get pegged.
The word that gets me in it is "acting" because if taken literally, it is an acknowledgment it's an act, an affectation in some way. For some they may be coming upon the term later, find it's used to describe them, and there is nothing about their demeanor or presence that they are putting on. It's just who they are. But for others, it is an act, aspirational, false, a fraud. However in context of hook up sex play, so what? Nothing super wrong about fulfilling someone's fantasy, as long as you don't lose yourself in the process.
It's not as strictly defined as something like lesbian butch/femme roles in the 1950s. Or left earring means this and right earring means that and George Michael fucking around in a men's room means it's another normal day.
So these tropes are fine to play around with, but there may be a lack of awareness among folks who use the terms as to what they are communicating to themselves and others. You're free to ask "what do you mean by straight-acting?" when someone asks you if you are. And you'll find you get varied responses, with some people not responding at all as they'll feel exposed that they really have no idea, or that you broke the spell of fantasy by asking.
Here are four different things that get conflated in the term: internal gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, biological sex.
In the past (an still now), it would be a big deal for a man to profess interest in knitting. There was a football player in the '70s, Rosie Greer, who had a whole men knitting movement, also about men expressing emotions. And then you can see how this could extend to the idea that a man could be a cake decorator or florist or hairdresser, yet magically, not actually be gay, or "effeminate". And biological woman could wear pants without the world exploding. In the past gender expression and biological sex were even more tied together. Are you a 19th century woman who wants to pass as a man in public, say to have more freedom in your career? Then wear pants and people will just think of you as a man because women don't wear pants.
So straight acting means: sexual orientation = gay; gender identity = don't acknowledge it's anything but 100% male; male; gender expression = masculine; biological sex = male. Despite the fact that there are plenty of non-masculine (whatever masculine means0 heterosexual, male-identified biological men.
Throw in the fact that there are cultural and regional differences in what masculine even means and you can see "straight-acting" at its worse is a sexist, homophobic, anti-feminine, reductive construction that people are locking themselves into and that separates oneself from oneself in the guise of acting or fitting in and that separates us from each other because when in that mode people are being fake as hell.
Except when folks know that it's a construct, it can become a fun, harmless sexual fantasy. And makes for good porn. Just acknowledge that on some level it's acting and that includes the person desiring the straight acting man. Societally-imposed limits may start to feel like our own choice. Figure out the line for yourself. And (my personal opinion), drop the term "straight-acting" entirely and just connect with someone as they are. No acting needed.
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