The internet has offered queer people the opportunity to learn from each other and spread queer theory. It has also provided more fodder for stereotypes about body types and sexuality. Stuart Pratuch discusses how being an introvert in LGBTQ+ on and off the internet has shaped his experiences and others'.
When I first set out to write this article, I was thinking about toxicity in gay male relationships. Particularly, I thought of how I have seen gay men so fetishized and stereotyped that some of us are doomed to lives where we believe we’re defined by the amount of sex that we should have and the body-ody-ody type we should be. I figured that I would have so much experience as a gay man! I know all about what scum men are! I know what sexism is—I read Reductress, after all!
Then I started writing… and I was stumped.
Don’t get me wrong. I know gay guys! Some are close to me; others would probably like to see me choke. I’ve talked to guys that made it very obvious that they just wanted someone who knows when to open and close their mouth. I’ve fallen for guys, been in “love,” desperate, clingy, or looking for attention in all the wrong places. However, I’m a hermit at the end of the day. Sure, I’ll send nudes on Grindr, but when it comes to “host or travel”, I’m a flake who suddenly falls asleep. If you talk to anyone who knows me, they’d be shocked to find out that I’m a virgin noting the game that I talk and the lingering stereotypes they prefer to project onto me.
I say all this because I get so absorbed in queer theory that I forget to recognize them in real-life. No, not every gay man wants to look my way. Yes, straight women could and have fetishized me. Heteronormativity, pinkwashing, homonationalism—words, Words, WORDS. In reality, I’m much more introverted and I end up staying online talking in LGBTQ+ circles that self-reinforce, the kind of spaces you go for your daily intake of hot-topic Discourse™. I went from discussing how companies profit off of our community’s high rate of alcoholism to “No, [insert friend’s name here], please don’t say queer. I don’t feel comfortable hearing you say that.”
When I turn off the screen, suddenly I’m face to face with gay men still struggling to be “out and proud.” There is the guy who has to tear off the pride stickers and pat off the glitter so he doesn’t get beat up when he gets home or the homo bro pumping iron in the gym to prove to himself and everyone else how masculine he is despite being gay.
The learning curve is real and it’s frustrating sometimes. At what point do we make accommodations for others and when do we preserve our mental health? I know the line is arbitrary across the community just as much as it’s arbitrary for myself. Some days, I feel like I’m the property of a fag hag. Other days, if you insinuate that I like Barbara Streisand, then you’re a homophobe and that’s just the tea on that (even if I do). In the end, have patience with yourself and other LGBTQ+ people as you navigate your queer boundaries on and off the internet because we’re all a bit more complicated than the stereotypes make us seem.