I have to apologise in advance: I really ought not to write this. Firstly the subject is clearly thirsty for attention (an appearance on Channel 4’s First Dates does not a ‘reality TV personality’ make). Secondly, I really do think we should expend our energies on poignant battles. Daniel May’s conservative gay values really do lack poignancy.
That being said, reading is fundamental. So let’s do some history…
June 28, 1969, a police raid sparked rioting at the Stonewall Inn. It was transgender women, drag queens and the best of the gender defying gay and lesbian community that fought back in the radical tradition of 60s militancy. They defended their venue from armed police who sought to shut down their abnormal associations, all the while many of them balanced fabulously on high heels. See, despite having been told they were men and that they should only ever behave as such, they shouted back a grand ‘FUCK YOU’ to that sort of normality. The Pride parades we enjoy each year began June 28, 1970. They were once a reminder of our pride as a community in Stonewall, in who we are and in what we wear.
Yet in his fifteen minutes to shine, Daniel May of First Dates’ fifth season attempted to unwind all of this history. When presented with Paolo as a date, everything fell apart at the revelation that the young Italian likes to wear a pair of heels. Attempting to express his dismay and inability to compute that someone with a penis could put on a pair of shoes with equally phallic potential, it all got a bit much for Daniel.
But that’s okay, right? We can’t govern people’s desires and inner thought processes. Well watch me go.
Daniel’s first instinct was to tell Paolo that it isn’t normal for men to wear heels. Noticing how revealing his language was, he has since decided that the problem is actually none of us understand what the word ‘normal’ means because we don’t know how to use that most challenging and arcane of books: the dictionary. Sure, simply observing a high street you’re more likely to find the men of this country sporting the short-heeled variety of shoe. In that sense Paolo is a deviation from the norm. But his comments suggest that Daniel isn’t simply the sociology undergraduate he pretends to be.
Speaking to GuysLikeU, he says “I really don’t find camp men attractive at all. I am gay for a reason and that’s because I like a man to be a man. I like a man who can kick and punch me in the bedroom, not scream like Bambi. I just wanna put a sock in their mouth and run out the house […] I really do believe certain gay men make it really really hard for us gay guys who are not camp. Unfortunately we still live in a world where being gay in not fully accepted and there are certain gay men out there that I cringe at and they make me embarrassed to be gay myself.”
And then it descends into pseudo-psychology and taxonomies of camp, allowing Daniel to delineate just how much femme is too much femme. A necessary task when you yourself have gone on national TV wearing a black sequin blazer.
I say ‘femme’ not because it’s a term Daniel uses, but because that is what this is about at its heart. The ‘masc4masc’ short hand signifier of gay hook-up apps is a stand in for a ‘no fems’ ethos. One that sees being gay in opposition to desiring femininity or anything associated with women. I’m not here to explain the fragility of your masculinity to you; Seán Faye has done quite well at unravelling gay male misogyny here though.
Daniel’s words really do speak for themselves. ‘In a world where being gay is not fully accepted…’ he chooses to cringe at other gays. He’d rather be more like the people who don’t accept him, than like others in his own community. He’d stand with your street harasser and attacker, quite happily being normal.
This isn’t a question of desire, it’s one of solidarity. You might not like heels. They might even turn you off for whatever reason. But as people who are routinely marginalised we usually try to adopt a principle of not treading on your fellow weirdos in an attempt to make it. That kind of behaviour is called assimilation and heteronormativity. Your desires may be your own to interrogate, but when you join in a chorus of public bigotry expect to be told just how bad your private reasoning is. Especially when it’s so painfully obvious that you’re trying to get a media career out of this.
So-called men in heels are not making anything difficult for you; they won you the rights you enjoy today. If you want someone to blame for any homophobia you experience, try a homophobe.
There are those of us who have become distanced from the gay-male community precisely because this brand of heteronormativity is the norm. It’s feeble and it’s sickening (not in a good way). And it’s certainly unworthy of the struggle that brought us to the social standing we enjoy today. Instead we are queers. Those who are told we’re not normal even by the Daniels of this world. Those femmes who wear heels, lashes and make-up for your entertainment, but you wouldn’t be caught dead with in the street.
The next time there is a Stonewall riot we’ll remember you were on the side of the police.