The way the gay male community self-types has always interested me. Most men, it seems, can be separated into a few basic categories: bears, otters, wolfs, cubs, bulls, pups, foxes, twinks, etc. Each one of these offers not only a suggestion of how a person looks, but also how he dresses and possibly even acts. In addition, gay men have systems to signal which of these types they are attracted to. For example, simply go to a club wearing the correct scarf color, and you’re telling the entire club what type of man you are looking for. Your type is sorted for you.

I got to thinking about this. What if, for once, tall bearded men started talking to me at bars? What if I could avoid all the short lawyer types by simply wearing a piece of jewelry or a colored shirt? How nice would it be to avoid the awkward (and sometimes forceful) rejections women must give every time they’d like to walk on the dance floor or grab a brew? I wondered if I could stop all the online shenanigans altogether and try to meet someone in person using this method.

Why does this not happen? Why don’t we straight men and women find a way to signal to each other in a clear, basic way so we would understand what we are attracted to? Hmm. I’m not really sure. Is this too crass for the women, or is it that straight men would find it takes away the chase? But think for a second….I could pass the men who like petite redheads to my lady friend, and she could be on the lookout for the guys into blondes for me. The gay men have already set the stage for how to classify men; the problem is: how do you classify women?

Lesbians have come up with a few terms like lipstick and butch but haven’t given us the full nomenclature. Gay men have mostly named themselves after animals, it seems, but I don’t see us women being cool with being called a bird or cow. We could just go by hair color, but that isn’t specific enough and doesn’t get into body types. Maybe we classify by movie stars? The Marilyn? The Jackie O? The Salma Hayek? But those women are so unrealistic that they don’t represent the general population well. Also, specific stars carry with them a racial identity, which is one of the nice things about using animal classifications: no racial implication.

A friend suggested to me that we name women after music genres: indie, bubble gum pop, metal, etc. But we don’t always look like the music we like, and we may not want to be classified that way. What if you are like my friend S., who is a former cheerleader, dimples and all, who listens to death metal? She doesn’t really look the part of metal but would resent being classified as pop.

Then there is the matter of honesty and self-knowledge. Most gay men seem to be pretty aware of their type; even if they’d rather be another way, they know who they are and accept it. Maybe this comes with the self-struggle one goes through to accept themselves as part of a still-marginalized community. I think straight women are at constant battle to control and often change who we are. We curl and dye our hair, put on loads of makeup or heels. Could we sort ourselves honestly and be okay with this? Or would this breed more self-hatred of how we look?

Thinking this over makes me marvel at the simple yet complicated way gay men have managed to separate themselves and get the culture to agree on it. Of course many of my friends within the gay community speak to the very alienation this kind of sorting causes. As a culture that often self-critiques its emphasis on looks and vanity, this type of stereotyping can further marginalize those that don’t fit in as easily. Still, it seems like it would make the rules of attraction smoother and dating somewhat simpler. I guess the grass is always greener, but I’d be willing to give it a shot.

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