Russell Tovey Did No Wrong

Tovey Russell

Rob Buchanan may hate the term ‘straight acting’, but he defends Russell Tovey’s right to say he’s glad he’s not effeminate.


Russell Tovey has ruffled few feather boas by stating that he is happy he didn’t turn out effeminate, by not attending a theatre drama school. Cue the queens screaming: “How very dare you, Tovey!” as they rip his poster off their walls and collapse into melodramatic sobbing fits on their beds. Probably. There are two distinct identity issues here, which I think many of the offended gays being are confusing.

Firstly, there is a very real phenomenon of the effeminate gay man being looked down upon as an almost lower class of queer. It’s a tragic pattern echoed in many disenfranchised minorities – some of the downtrodden to make themselves feel ‘better’ about themselves by placing members of their group even further below them on the pecking order. Effeminate gays are ridiculed, assigned attributes like stupidity, immaturity and promiscuity in a bizarre parallel to the misogyny shown by some straight men for women. And this awful prejudice produces self-fulfilling prophesies, especially for younger guys who think they must be less important their more masculine brethren.

I’ve written previously of how I find the term ‘straight acting’ offensive. There are few things more patronising that a straight person can say to me than “you’d never think you were gay”. I’m being given a metaphorical pat on the head for being good at aping masculinity, and I’m supposed to be flattered? It’s even more infuriating to see my fellow queers on dating sites labeling themselves as ‘straight acting’. Try substituting masculine for straight, and show some self-respect! Not all straights are masculine, anymore than any massive swathe of people can be classified in terms of character due to what they have between their legs.

Despite my distaste for the disingenuous politics of ‘straight acting’ mumbo jumbo, I defend Russell Tovey’s right to say he what he said. The Looking star made it perfectly clear that he was referring to the undeniably camp effect a certain British drama school had on all the ‘luvvies’ who attended it, be they straight or gay. Tovey was describing this from the perspective of the working class background and culture, and I can entirely relate to it. He should be able to be proud to be the particular type of man he is, gay or straight, effeminate or not. Once it’s his own identity he is talking about, rather than passing judgement on anyone else.

The backlash against Tovey is ironic. By being proud of who he his, he has been cast as a denigrator of other people, yet the complainers are themselves trying to repress him and make him feel ashamed. They’re missing the point. How can they complain about conformity and rigid gender roles, and expect effeminacy to be celebrated, when they are themselves are vilifying this gay man for saying he is proud of who he is?

The hypocrisy from those quick to shoot him down doesn’t end there. I’m willing to bet for many it was Tovey’s masculinity that attracted them to him in the first place. Perhaps some soul searching needs to be done.

© 2015 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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