As the title of today’s blog says, some of the most memorable compliments I’ve received over the years have been from queer folks. That’s not to say I value them over compliments from anyone else, but there are three in particular that have each found permanent places in my memory:
The first was from my time in college. I was one of two young men in a women’s literature class, which I was unaware would have a feminist bent in its curriculum. There was a queer woman I was friendly with, who had been in the school’s Acting program with me when we began school, but we transferred out. One day, for whatever reason, she reached over and playfully ruffled my hair. I don’t remember why she said this as loudly as she did, but she proclaimed, “Mookie here is the only boy I’ll touch!” It was an off-hand comment and probably not meant to be as memorable as it was, but for whatever reason, there it is.
The second is from shortly after I graduated college. I was living in an apartment with three lesbians, but only for the summer. We shared the space easily enough, got along well, shared responsibilities, and when it was time for me to leave I was sad to go. There was a straight couple taking my place in the apartment, and they seemed very nice. As I was packing up my car to move to my new apartment, one of my roommates comes running out of the bathroom to me. She said, “Mookie! The bathroom smells like a guy!” To which I replied, “You’ve been living with me, the only straight man in this apartment, for months! In that time I used the bathroom plenty of times! What’s the difference?” To which she replied, “But Mookie, you don’t smell like a guy.” And then she hugged me. Maybe it was the tone of voice in which she said it, maybe it was the I’m-going-to-miss-you hug right after, but that little comment felt like a bigger compliment than perhaps it was meant to be.
The third was from my time as the host for a burlesque troupe. I was, once again, the only straight man in the group, and the scene was (and still is) populated with queer folks. I traveled semi-frequently with another troupe member, who offered me rides to various venues. I spent a lot of time backstage, as one does when you’re preparing for a performance, and I did my part to be as respectful to the other performers as possible. For whatever reason, I arrived at the backstage area with my traveling companion and they said to me, with a big smile, “You know, Mookie, I always forget that you’re straight.” That may not sound like a compliment, but considering the context of the space, and how many straight men are viewed in queer spaces (thanks largely in part to the behavior of other straight men), it felt like a massive compliment.
When you’re a straight guy (and not an asshole), compliments from queer folks just hit differently… even if they’re just telling you that you don’t smell as bad as other dudes.