Dear Richard: My Boyfriend Is Such A Flamer
I know this is a shallow subject and it really shouldn't bother me but it does.
I have been dating a guy for quite some time and we really enjoy each others company. However, I hate taking him out in public and to family functions because he is loud and has a very effeminate lisp when he speaks. I think he does it on purpose when we go out because he knows that it bothers me. It is really embarrassing when people stare at us in public.
I have joked with him many times that I don't like to carry around a fire extinguisher every time we go out since he is such a flamer, but he still does it anyway.
What should I do Dr. Richard?
Dear Flame Hater,
The first thing you should do is stop calling your boyfriend a flamer.
Gay guys don't like disparaging descriptions, especially when it has to do with them being effeminate. Like calling them nelly, girly, or flaming. It reminds us of the assholes who talked shit about us while growing up. The guys who called us faggots. And when we came out we (sometimes foolishly) believed that we'd finally escaped that treatment—at least when we're around our own people.
So when you make a passive/aggressive "joke" like that, it taps into some very intense insecurities and it's no wonder that he fights back in an equally passive/aggressive manner. He's trying to save face by doing exactly what he knows will shame you, just as you shamed him with your words.
To be fair, you're not alone in your feelings. There are a lot of gay men who, reacting to those same intense feelings, lash out at gay men, twinks and drag queens who display any kind of femenine-associated behavior. "You're a man! Why can't you just act like one?" is the sentiment. So Dear Richard isn't suggesting you just ignore those feelings, but what he is saying is that you should communicate better with your man.
First consider his natural voice. Some guys just have a lisp or a high tone, and mocking that or making him go to therapy because you aren't comfortable with how he sounds isn't cool. However, if your issue is with his exaggerated behavior or speech, then you do have something you can discuss.
The easiest and least offensive approach is through a classic "I feel" statement because it isn't accusatory; rather, it puts things in a perspective that keeps the conversation neutral. For example, you say, "I feel (insert emotion here) when you (insert his action here) because it makes me feel like we're perpetuating negative stereotypes." Affirm how much you care about him, and admit that part of your uncomfortableness from your own insecurities about how gay men are publicly perceived. Acknowledge that your words were probably hurtful and apologize. Then let him talk about why he's behaving the way he does and LISTEN to him. Be understanding.
This won't necessarily be an easy process because it does tap into dirty baggage, but those are feelings many gay men have. So with that in mind, working through your individual issues won't just help you with this relationship, but with all of your gay relationships to come.
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Dear Richard is not a medical doctor, a licensed psychiatrist, a counselor, a reverend, or a rabbi. He has not been evaluated by the FDA, the CDC, or the BBC, and his words are not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. The information is for educational purposes only and it not intended to serve as medical advice. Dear Richard does, however, love hearing from you and answering your questions. Leave a comment or send him an e-mail.