The Gay / Straight Thing Revisited: We Must All Just Say No to Homophobic Men!!!

There have been a few more good comments added to that former post on Pasha and Marcelo and all that stuff. Since I don’t yet know how to have “recent comments” show on the side bar (I know, it’s ridiculous that I still don’t entirely know how to use my blogging software! Sorry!), I wanted to point them out to everyone because the comments are so astute.

I just want to say that, though I love the commentary and think this is obviously a very important discussion, it makes me so mad that we even have to have it, because if homophobic men didn’t exist we wouldn’t. When women (or gay men) ask about a guy’s sexuality, like the girls enquiring about Pasha, we’re simply trying to figure out whether he’d be into us — if a guy isn’t into your gender, you don’t want to embarrass yourself by going after him, obviously! Not that you still can’t flirt with a dance star who turns out to be gay, but you flirt in a different way. Bottom line: with us, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to know!

The problem is that we dance fans (particularly ballet fans, but all dance fans really), have ALL had that absolutely horrible situation where you’re talking to your male friend or maybe even boyfriend and you suggest going to a dance performance and he turns on you like a rabid beast. “I’m not going to see a bunch of —- in tights,” he screams at you. And what do we all say — WHAT DO WE ALL SAY??? “Oh no, they’re not all gay! So and so’s not gay, and so and so is straight, and look, so and so has a girlfriend and so and so’s even married!…” When what we should be saying is, “homophobia is wrong.” Period. End of discussion. And if he can’t understand what we’re saying, or replies, oh I’m not homophobic, no not me, I just don’t want to look at a bunch of ‘sissies, it’s just not my thing, I have better things to do with my time, etc. etc. etc., then we should ask him why he has such issues, is he confused? Why should he have such a problem seeing another man’s body if he’s at peace with his own sexuality?

I recently had this exact altercation with someone. It was so horrible I can’t even express (especially since this person is in the dance world). He asked me what my plans were for the coming week and I excitedly began chirping on about ABT saying that one of my favorite dancers would be performing the next night (not Marcelo but the other ABT guy I’m always on about). I asked him if he’d like to join me. Was I in for rejection. “Oh my god, that guy is so gay it’s not even funny … I knew the second I saw him. I’ll never watch any of that crap. It’s so unappealing to a straight man, you have to understand that, Tonya. It’s just … it’s just … ick,” he said as if I was a child who needed to be taught a life lesson. I’ll never forget that intense look of disgust in his eyes, and how awful it made me feel that someone could be so hateful toward a man who’s never done anything wrong to him, who creates such beauty, whom I have so much admiration for. I opened my mouth to reply but no words would come out; there’s no way to combat that kind of visceral emotion with appeals to logic and reason.

For me personally, I’m honestly not sure I really want to associate with that guy again. He then started making sexist remarks that really bothered me too. People who are filled with such anger and disgust over someone’s sexuality not only have problems with their own, but in general, I just find them to be uncultured, shallow, not very well-read, not very sophisticated, not very well raised — how could such a person expand my universe, make me think, be an interesting, kind, caring friend? What could their companionship possibly offer me? If someone is disrespecting your favorite dancer, your hobby, or your passion, then he’s disrespecting you. And none of us should put up with that.

Anyway, go here to re-view the post and new comments!


  1. Hi Tonya,

    I’ve been reading your blog for several months now, and I love the insights that you provide on both ballet and ballroom (especially ballet, since I also love ABT, but am not able to see the company as often as I would like).

    I could write several pages in response to this post, but I just want to add that I never realize how lucky I am to have the friends and acquaintances that I do have until I read about experiences like yours. At the risk of sounding horribly elitist, I’ll begin by saying that I just graduated from one of the top universities in the country, and I almost never had any trouble convincing my straight male friends and acquaintances (most of whom were fellow students) to come see ballet with me. Occasionally people that I asked told me that they didn’t think that they would really like it, but no one ever said anything to the extent of ’you must be absolutely out of your mind to think that I would even considering going to that sort of thing to see those kinds of men on stage.’ In fact, I turned quite a few of my (straight male) friends into ballet fans! Now that I’m about to enter the real world (well, I’m delaying that for another year by going abroad to Russia, where people love ballet) I fear that I will soon realize that ’sure, I’d love to go with you’ is NOT what most straight men say when asked to the ballet. I guess I’ve just had a uniquely positive experience.

  2. A great post, Tonya! It should be required reading for everyone, but especially for that homophobic type of guy out there that we all know all too well.

  3. Thanks Bob!

    I’m so jealous, Z.B.! — Both of your experiences with most straight guys and that you are going to Russia! You’re going to have a great time there! I was only there for about a week a few years ago but it was the best international experience of my life. I just can’t wait to go back, if I ever have the time. They do value ballet SO much there, they value art in general more than we do here; practically all of Europe does, which is probably a big part of this problem. Art is seen here as feminine, girlish, “sissified” all those negative stereotypes that are both sexist and homophobic. It’s so great that your friends are different — and I definitely don’t mean to say ALL straight men are like that one guy — not at all! (though I’ve met more than one like him, unfortunately, and from various educational backgrounds and ages – -this guy is older than me and went to a Seven Sisters Ivy). I hope younger people in general are becoming less and less homophobic, but, education definitely makes a big difference.
    Anyway, thanks so much for commenting, and for your nice compliments on my blog, and have an awesome time abroad!

  4. Some of the most homophobic people I know go or graduated from Ivy League “top university” schools (I just graduated from Columbia)…so you’ve been very lucky, Z. B. and chose your friends very well. The fellow students at Columbia who have attended ballet with me have either been gay or straight girls…very few straight guys (maybe 3?) have attended the ballet with me. All three straight guys LOVE classical music so they will go to the ballet if the ballet is performing their favorite composer (Bach, Stravinsky, etc).

    I think homophobic people are everywhere, some of the most homophobic people I know are gay… I think it’s like that Avenue Q (Broadway musical) song: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. Homophobia just exists, in all degrees, like racism. I had a friend in school that thought *I* was homophobic because I had lots of gay friends…because she claimed I was “reducing my gay friends’ identities to their sexualities”….(this is the kind of thing I face when I go to school with social work students who want to be therapists).

  5. People love to talk down about others; I think it makes them feel better about themselves. If your straight friend can put down ballet by calling it “gay” (read…wimpy), the implication is that he’s strong and manly. And of course, the deep-down truth is that he’s insecure about his own prowess, but when it comes out as derogatory, I have trouble empathizing. If you don’t like ballet, that’s fine. But disliking it because there are some gay dancers in tights isn’t a very smart reason.

    Using that rationale is just like saying “you run like a girl” or “that’s so retarded.” I dislike all of those characterizations and cringe every time people use them. And I know lots of really good, really non-prejudicial people who say things like that all the time. But by allowing those little derogatory things to remain part of our vernacular, we allow the negative feelings toward, women, gay people, disabled people, or whoever to continue. I don’t actually believe that everyone’s a little bit racist or homophobic. But I do think most people are a little bit (or a lot) insecure. And insecure people who won’t face up to that flaw can be really mean.

    Also, I totally understand the knee jerk “oh no, they aren’t all gay” reaction. That’s still something I’m working on not doing. And I kick myself every time I say it because…so what if they are all gay?! That’s not the point at all.

  6. I knew I was venturing into dangerous territory when I essentially wrote that that students at a ’top university’ (I went to Georgetown for both undergrad and grad school) are more likely to be open-minded about ballet, because I’m sure that many, many people (such as Jennifer) can respond with counter-examples. I don’t actually believe that going to a ’good’ college is more likely to turn straight males into ballet fans… but I am trying to figure out why I’ve been so lucky in my own experiences. I would say that most of my friends are somewhat arts oriented (despite the fact that Georgetown is as non-artsy as any school can get), but many of them aren’t. I worked at a ballet company for a while and thus always had access to free tickets to various performances. If I couldn’t go – or if a friend cancelled at the last minute – I would announce in one of my classes that I had free tickets to the ballet, and just about everyone would ask me to give the tickets to them. But maybe that was because college students love free things? And I don’t mean to suggest that I haven’t come across my fair share of straight males who have absolutely no interest in seeing ballet – it just seems like this number has been smaller than most (including myself) would expect.

    Anyway, I think your blog (and this post especially) is really great, Tonya, and I look forward to reading it while in Moscow! Although I’ve also been told that I’ll need to start a blog when I get there – I’m sure that I’ll be at the ballet (or the opera, my other great love) several times a week.

  7. Tonya, this makes me so sad to think that there are still young straight guys out there that are such blatant homophobes. I guess I thought things were improving, especially in NYC. I’ve got to think that his type is in the minority. Makes me appreciate my husband of 25 years who will go to any and all dance performances with me. Maybe because he’s a musician and audio engineer and basically likes any kind of performance art. Who knows. I just think your story is a sad commentary and wouldn’t be counting that guy as a friend. Plus who in their right mind would turn down an invitation to see the best dancer in the best company in the world!

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