So the internet is pretty pissed off at Russell Tovey, and with good reason. On Sunday, the openly gay “Looking” actor said this to The Guardian:
“I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.”
And within 24 hours, Tovey had rightfully become the poster boy for an issue that is extraordinarily problematic for many gay and queer men: Anti-effeminacy and internalized homophobia. Which has long been an issue, but one that has been heightened in the world that Tovey’s show “Looking” actually portrays quite effectively and critically (as far as I’m concerned, at least). The world where countless dating profiles “prefer mascs” or ask for “no fems please,” leading anyone who didn’t “toughen up” like Tovey to potentially face yet another blow to self-esteem issues that have probably never fully recovered from their closeted days. The thing is, of course, that those manly gays who only like other manly gays often don’t fucking realize that it was the pansies and the queers and the faggots (not to mention the lesbians, transgendered people and drag queens) who largely fought the battle that won them the ability to go on Grindr and find other “mascs” to fuck in the first place. This is what happens with progress… The oppressed become the oppressors, and it’s arguable that in pockets of progressive cities where so many gay and queer boys live, they have genuinely become their own worst enemy.
Anyways, so Tovey quickly responded on Twitter:
“I surrender. You got me. I’m sat baffled and saddened that a misfired inarticulate quote of mine has branded me worst gay ever,” he said on Twitter. “I’m proud to be who I am and proud for others. We’re in this together, I want you to know whatever you think I meant, I didn’t.”
While definitely a half-assed apology (or barely an apology at all), Tovey is hardly “the worst gay ever” (Mary Cheney, Rupert Everett and Jodie Foster definitely have him beat there — as do probably 75% of the people I see when I open Grindr). He’s clearly quite fucked up himself, and there’s a strong part of me that simply feels sorry for his obvious self-hatred and the midguided pride he finds in being butch. But frankly, another strong part of me feels thankful he said what he said, whatever “we think he meant.” Instead of getting mad at Tovey or threatening to boycott “Looking” (please don’t — these last few episodes have been amazing), let’s just use this as an opportunity to grow even just a wee bit as a society — or at the very least, as individuals.