A virus killed a generation of my forebears, leaving gay men in my age group with few role models. Today, there is tension between older gay men and younger ones. It sometimes seems our cross-generational relationships must be sexual or antagonistic, nothing in-between.
I’ve met older homos with survivor’s guilt form AIDS, whose lives have been absolutely wrecked by grief. Many of them have few nice things to say about guys my age. To them, we appear catty and vapid and mean (many of us are). Then there are young men pursuing daddies and daddies hunting for boys, which despite being very hot unavoidably borders on fetishism and ageism.
The cross-generational relationships I see the the least of — and that I wish I saw more of — are friendships. We have much to learn from each other.
Young men: we need guides. Gay life is tough.
In lieu of someone older and wiser giving you the lowdown, here’s a run-through of the “gay labels” — the list of stereotypes we try to pin each other into. I’m not condoning the labels or damning them — they are simply part of the world. I’m giving you the speak. Here’s what you need to know.
Top: Pretty obvious. The dominant (inserting) sexual partner. Also called the pitcher.
Bottom: The passive sexual partner. The guy who takes it. Catcher.
Bear: A typically hairier, heavier (muscular or chubby), older gay man.
Bear Chaser: A gay man who pursues bears.
Cub: A younger version of a bear.
Otter: A typically slimmer, slightly less hairy version of a cub.
Pup/Puppy: A term often associated with BDSM. A typically slimmer, athletic, younger gay man who likes being taken care of/manhandled by older, stronger men and role-play as a stereotypical dog. This practice often involves hoods, harnesses, and tails that appear distinctly canine. For more info, check out my post about pup play.
Pig/Piggy: May be a bear, cub, otter or pup. A pig is essentially any gay man who prefers bareback sex, enjoys cum (semen), and often enjoys more extreme forms of sex, like bondage, BDSM, piss play (watersports), etc.
Poz: HIV-positive gay men that are open about their status. Unfortunately, they are often represented – or represent themselves – by the radiation/toxic waste symbol, which some tattoo on their bodies.
I think this symbol is ridiculous, since no one is toxic waste, regardless of their HIV status.
Daddy: A typically older, financially established gay man.
Daddy Chaser: A gay man who pursues daddies.
Twink: A typically younger, thinner gay man with little or no body hair.
Fairy: Like a twink, but typically more feminine or flamboyant. Can also mean a member and practitioner of the radical faerie movement/mentality.
Queen: A typically larger, older gay man who is known to display sass and attitude.
Discreet: A gay man who is in the closet, or at least is private about his sexuality.
Leather: The community of gay men who have a fondness for leather gear/fetish play, including BDSM, roleplaying and sub/dom.
There are many, many more, but that’s a primer.
I know the labels I fall into. Even if I try to reject them, men classify me the minute I walk into a gay club. Trying to deny them or live outside them is like trying to deny the weather — it will happen regardless. Although the self-labeled Queer community is doing a damn good job of creating spaces and language where the power of these labels is reduced.
It’s important to acknowledge the labels and accept that they are entrenched in gay culture. It’s also important to not care very much about them, because whatever category or categories you put yourself into will never be adequate. They will never be the sum of who you are, my love. You are more than what others call you, and the good people in our family know that.