Femmephobia: A Gay Man’s Tale

The Media

Click the photo to lead to referenced article from slate.com

On 2 March 2015, the gay world was in an uproar when Russell Tovey, an out actor of HBO’s Looking and BBC’s Being Human (UK), was quoted talking about his life, specifically some decisions he made as well as decisions made for him that shaped who he is today.

Throughout the article, the writer (J. Bryan Lowder) starts a hostile attack on Tovey. Taken from the slate.com article, Tovey was quoted saying:

I’d see groups of lads, even in a pub, and I’d feel intimidated. It’s a weird thing but if you talk to other people who’ve been through it, you give off a vibe. The pack can sense you’re weak. It made me so frustrated. And going down the gym, discovering the gym three years ago, and really going for it—I feel a lot more in charge. I needed to exorcise that feeling of being a little scared, skinny rat.


I was so envious of everyone who went to Sylvia Young Theatre School. I wanted to go but my dad flat-out refused. He thought I’d become some tapdancing freak without qualifications. And he was right in a way. I’m glad I didn’t go. That might have changed … I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.

Chip-on-the-shoulder Lowder took his scalpel and tweezers and dissected Tovey’s words and try to take offence in any possible way.

To Tovey’s reason to bulking up, Lowder wrote that “(obsessively building muscles) is probably the worst reaction” to the insecure feeling gays get when in the target of intimidating straight men at a bar. Lowder continued to write that it “play(s) into the notion that muscle-bound masculine power is worthy of more respect or safety than other qualities.”

To Tovey’s feeling of gratitude to his upbringing, Lowder summarised it as, “Tovey is glad his father, who he later hints cannot get through Looking because of the gay sex, kept him out of a faggoty art school in order to keep him from becoming too much of a faggot.” He concluded to state that he was irritated, angered and sad by Tovey’s statements, and pitying Tovey for his “experience of working out his feeling about sexuality and gender expression in public.”

Other major articles about the topic come from Queerty (writer Dan Tracer) and The Advocate (writer Neal Broverman). Tracer’s article takes light offence, but states that it’s not a “mortal sin” and that he should realise that he is representing the gay community, as well as being a role model to the next generation of gays. Broverman purely spoke objectively– a mere collection of statements and tweets from others.

Taken from Broverman’s The Advocate article:

Hours after gay social media exploded, Tovey tweeted: “#whiteflag #whiteflag.” He added, “I surrender. You got me. I’m sat [sic] baffled and saddened that a mis- fired inarticulate quote of mine, has branded me worst gay ever… If you feel I have personally let you down, I’m sorry, that was never my intention… I’m proud to be who I am and proud of others We’re in this together, I want you to know whatever you think I meant, I didn’t… I’m gonna ride this out, and one day we will all look back on this moment with a half smile of fascination and amusement”

Life Story

(Not Me) But Hermes!


Halloween 2013. Halloween is a holiday to celebrated with the closest of friends. Tinker and I graduated from university the summer before, but we came back to Tinker’s former house for special occasions because Ginger and Cat still lived there. Both of them had a year left of schooling, Ginger for her Psychology degree and Cat in her Masters in OLS. They had decided to throw a halloween party at their house, so it was convenient.

The party started off with just a few people, but it started to get hopping quite quickly. Tinker, her boyfriend, Ginger and her boyfriend had lots of friends that loved a good party. Cat also had a few friends come by, but not many since she was a quite a bit older and a quite moody. I was dressed as Hermes, Tinker as a witch, Ginger as a unicorn, and Cat as a mermaid. It was a cute party but, as most college parties aim to do, our costumes were just decor for our drinking. And so we drank.

But there was one black man that was a little more… Awkward. He was dressed with eye makeup, big headdress, a gold collar and a loincloth wrap around his waist, attempting to be an Egyptian of sort. Like Russell Tovey was saying, some people give off the vibe. Well, this guy wasn’t giving off a vibe— it was more like an atom bomb. The way he danced, the way he looked, the way his eye glanced at every single guy — it was obvious he was on the prowl even in the packed house.

Typically, I avoid these kind of guys. My friends are all pro-gay and know that I’m gay, but they really didn’t hangout with other gays on campus besides me. I was sort of glad of this, because I didn’t like to socialise with other gays. I handle them alright in a classroom setting, but I would rather not sit by or be in a group project with gays. I might want to officially add that I’m not that public about being gay. Cat and Ginger had kept guessing if I was gay for quite some time before being sure of it, perhaps with some help from Tinker as well as me starting to be opened about Perseus.

So to my typical style, I avoided this black man. I ignored him and didn’t talk to him the whole time of the hustle and bustle of the party and did a great job until Cat pulled me aside and asked me, “Hermes, how do you handle a gay guy that won’t leave?” I really didn’t know how to answer this question in a way that she’d want it to be answered. But it was rare that Cat asked for my help and I wanted to help as much as I can. I asked for the circumstance.

“Well, that black guy that’s dressed in the Egyptian costume is a TA friend of mine. His name is (honestly, I don’t even remember).  He’s upstairs and he’s drunk or something. We (Cat and her boyfriend) just want to take him home but he won’t tell us where he lives. Can you help?”

For some reason, being gay qualifies me as being able to help in the situation. But reluctantly, I agreed and followed Cat up to her room (her boyfriend decided to stop being involved). He was lying on her futon, nearly passed out. Cat wanted me to watch over him and get some information out of him as she went and got his coat. As I sat by him, asking him to wake up and tell me where he lived, he only took the opportunity to start flirting and mildly molesting me. He was pressing to get stuff done with me, but I kept him down in time enough for Tinker to walk in with her little sister to help me with the situation, despite her walking in on the wrong moment and thinking it’s not the sort of scene her little sister should be exposed to.

Together, Cat, Tinker and I tried to wrap him up in his jacket and led him out into the cold October night. We tried to take navigation from our patient, but in the end it was useless and we had to lead him back to the house, to the disappointment of Cat’s boyfriend. Cat’s boyfriend is the overly-macho frat boy sort, apparently with more money than brains due to his family’s chain of hotels in Bolivia. Still being complicated, we left him in the living room and I left to the porch, where Tinker’s little brother and some other guys were hanging out. We talked about the situation and came to the conclusion that this guy must be on something — pills or smoked, we don’t know but there’s something mind-altering. He then came out to the porch and tried to molest any guy in sight, starting with Tinker’s brother. Quickly, he was pushed back inside to face Cat’s boyfriend.

Cat’s boyfriend was tired of it all. He’s ruined this halloween night, where he could have been dancing with Cat for hours now but instead, had to take care of him. The black gay guy didn’t take this hint and tried to put some moves on him, which were ill-recieved and the boyfriend grabbed his arm and started dragging him out towards the door. “I’ll call my frat brothers to take care of him. Get out you fucking fag! C’mon, faggot! Get out of the house!” he yelled at him as he dragged him a few feet. Cat and Tinker was yelling for him to stop as I watched.

If you want me to be completely honest, I’d say he really deserved what was coming. I didn’t stop anything from happening, because it has been hours of dealing with him, making me miss seeing a few of my friends from the party as well. I would’ve been fine with Cat’s boyfriend taking care of it after this long at it. But Cat yelled at her boyfriend and told him to stop as Tinker helped the gay guy up, with no help from the gay guy.

There was a good reason for not leaving him at the house, but I forget what it was. I believe it was a space issue, being packed for out-of-town people. Tinker and her boyfriend decided that the best to just take him to the McDonalds 5 blocks away and leave him there to be cared for (yes, borderline shitty but what else was there to do?!). So they went on their way, holding the man shoulder-to-shoulder between them.

My Thoughts

Stuart Pilkington Endorsing Eyeliner
Stuart Pilkington Endorsing Eyeliner

Given that he’s a public spokesperson, Russell Tovey may not have stated his opinions most eloquently, but nobody can doubt his reasoning. He was tired of being bullied, or feeling that he wouldn’t be able to hold his own in a fight, so he bulked up in the gym. If you reread his statement and ignored the fact that it was a gay man saying it, you could think it’s any skinny whip, whether computer gamer, sports announcer or a blog writer.

As for his upbringing, he was stating that he appreciated his father for sending him to a non-performance arts school because it had helped him ‘toughen up.’ His statements here hit home to me because I went through private Catholic education up until my college years, and was raised with Catholic morales and values. I am very, VERY grateful for it because it has made me the way I am. To quote Tovey:

I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now.

I can identify with this. I don’t take offence in this at all because in an parallel universe, I could’ve been a real queen. I still sang, danced and acted in my life — nobody could take that away — but I am far from a true effeminate gay. It’s little consolation, but I was happy to hear all my friends and their boyfriends tell me, “God, I’m glad you’re not like that kind of gay. Now I know how good we have it” in reference to the black guy from the party. Tovey was telling us a mere fact of life, that we are an accumulation of our upbringing. Now, don’t take it as me meaning that “we were raised gay, not born gay,” but our personality is made through the lessons we’ve learned and the people we’ve met, like Wicked‘s Glinda and Elphaba told us:

Like a comet pulled from orbit (Like a ship blown from its mooring)
As it passes a sun (By a wind off the sea)
Like a stream that meets a boulder (Like a seed dropped)
Halfway through the wood (By a bird in the wood)

Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

And because I knew you

Because I knew you

Because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Now, I don’t have a problem with effeminate gays. They can be who they want, and express themselves however they want, but don’t shove it in our faces. It’s not that I differentiate between gays and straights, but anyone dressed in a certain way or push their values into my face, I’ll wholeheartedly shove you out of my face. I’m opened to hearing all your opinions and beliefs, but don’t attack me for telling you my opinions and beliefs as well. I’m NOT going to debate you and you are NOT going to change my true beliefs and opinions (meaning, the ones I truly think rather than pretend I think). Every single items of information we disagree on, let’s agree to disagree. That’s how I am, but thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I choose to not divulge people in my personal life from the get-go. It’s not that I’m embarrassed of being gay nor is it because I fear of losing friends or getting beat up, but it’s because I don’t want it to be my identifying factor. Sad to say, Cat thought I could solve the problem with her friend because we have the common factor: homosexuality, but I couldn’t and I hated trying. I would rather not be known for being gay, and known more for being a humorous, nice, cleverly sassy, worldly person. That’s what Tovey was really saying– that he’s glad his father raised him in a way that didn’t pigeonholed him into the classic gay role, where he will only be seen as a gay actor playing a gay character. He can be seen as his own person with actual talent, not because he can blow the director of X-Men, that he got the part.

I’m glad my friends are able to see me for who I am, and for loving me for it. Sure, I have effeminate tendencies, especially when I’m excited about things like seeing RENT on stage in Chicago  with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, but for the most part, I’m not a “prance around, sing in the street” sort. I’m Sassy Saint Hermes, and I’m glad I am the way I am. If I piss people off with truths about my past decisions or past decisions made for me, let them be pissed. You won’t hear me apologise.

**Not My Youtube Video


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