Life as a Blouse: Confessions of an Effeminate Top

Tackling toxic gay masculinity with a stiff D and a limp wrist.

Full disclosure: I’m a top.

Moreover, I’m that most rare—some would say endangered—species: a total top. I’d go so far as to say that I’m a gold-star top, meaning I’ve never been penetrated. Fully, anyway. Though several brave souls have tried, my back door is as tight as the Democratic primary and as inaccessible as the logic of a Trump voter. It’s not a point of pride or anything—just the way my sexual life turned out.

Ideally, I would identify as an “aspirational vers,” since I’ve always felt like I’m missing out on a whole different experience that many, many, many men seem to really, really, really enjoy. But I just haven’t found the right Mr. Gorbachev to tear down this wall. That being said, I do like being a top. A lot. While I do appreciate a nice dick on a man, I’ve got a Tina Belcher–esque fascination-cum-obsession with butts.

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Same, sis.

I’d use one for a pillow if I could.

The thing is, while I’ve embraced being a top, I’ve also embraced being a full-blown faggot. But if my butch-queen dichotomy works well for me, I’ve learned that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

You know those kids who basically come out of the womb gay, clutching a Judy at Carnegie Hall record in one hand and a tiny vodka soda with two limes in the other? I was one of those kids. Like, everyone knew on some level that I was a fag. At least, that’s what the other kids at school told me.

I had a high, very lovely voice—to be honest, I really miss being a soprano—and was mistaken for a girl on a number of occasions until my voice finally changed and I settled into this tenor-baritone range that’s fine, I guess. And while I would deny that I was gay, I knew the real tea. How many 6-year-old boys can recite the “I’m a winner, baby!” monologue from Mahogany? The awesome ones, that’s who.

Tenor

By the time I started coming out to my friends around age 14 and 15, I had gotten fairly comfortable with my sissyhood. I didn’t care for sports, couldn’t play them, still can’t catch a ball to save my actual life. I felt far more comfortable watching reruns of The Golden Girls or memorizing Katharine Hepburn’s mannerisms in The Philadelphia Story than doing more stereotypically boyish things.

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Me during summer break 1996.

While craving Barbie dolls I dutifully played with my old hand-me-down action figure of future former governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura, finding an odd pleasure in his hard plastic muscles and rounded butt.

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Little did I know this would plant a seed that would bear its fruit years later.

I always assumed when I had sex for the first time that I’d be getting nailed like a poster to the wall—crooked and (at least at first) upside down. I just assumed I would be the passive one because boys like me, it seemed, were the ones who got fucked. It took me a while to lose my virginity until I just took matters into my own hands and did it the old-fashioned way: I found some rando on Craigslist and got it over with. It’s called romance.

For the rest of my 20s, I was single and begrudgingly ready to mingle, and once Grindr became a thing, mom was out getting laid in these streets. In this case, I’m mom.

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And mom liked being a top. The problem was that Grindr introduced a very specific standard of masculinity that I found all but impossible to reach. Impossible mostly because I didn’t want to change who I was in order to get laid. That seemed to undermine the whole experience of dating or hooking up since I’d always hoped, rather naively, that a guy would be into me for me, not just the idea of me.

But then some guy asks you to leave because you’re gayer than he thought, and you start to doubt yourself.

I was hooking up with this guy who was from Guyana, where I was born. So I knew that it’s a heavily West Indian culture with homophobic baggage mired in toxic masculinity. Blame colonialism. I was into him, but the more we talked the less into me he seemed. He would emphasize how not stereotypically gay he was and I would… not. I had gay friends. I did gay things. I was gay, gay, gay. Then, when some cheerleading competition came on the TV, I remarked that I thought I knew one of the flamingly gay male cheerleaders.

Turns out I didn’t, but that was the last straw and he asked me to leave.

That was a rather extreme case. Some guys wanted to talk on the phone first to make sure I didn’t sound too gay, which I found kind of ironic. I mean, on the one hand, I guess no one really wants to be getting hit from the back then suddenly have me lean over and whisper into their ear, Who’s your mom? But on the other, completely reasonable hand, what’s gayer? A little sibilant lisp or getting rammed from behind by a stranger while blasting EDM? Maybe it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

So being a top presented its own set of pressures. But being a black top (and I’m not talking asphalt) added even more expectations surrounding my masculinity and sexual prowess. Some black guys don’t mind leaning into the whole “BBC” (“Big Black Cock”), Mandingo fantasy, which is fine—the older I get, the less I care what other people’s “preferences” are when it comes to race and dating in the queer community—but I’m just not into race play. The moment I get called the N-word is the moment someone has to die, and I’m not trying to catch a case under this administration.

But being a queer person of color, I’ve known how to code-switch my entire life. If I was too gay or too black or not black enough or—rarely—not gay enough, I could reach down into my bag of double-minority tricks just to make someone else feel comfortable. So when I realized that I contained multitudes and that I didn’t have to be one thing—just black or just gay or just a bad bitch—the code-switching became less about dulling some aspects of myself and more about emphasizing others. And from there, I just became more comfortable with myself, and other people’s comfort didn’t take precedence over my own.

So while I’m a top—and according to my Yelp reviews, a damn good one—I still love to enter a dance-floor ass first and then proceed to crawl like a Pussycat Doll in heat.

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Actual footage of me at Akbar in Los Angeles.

That doesn’t make me less of a top—if anything, having lugubrious hips has only made me a better one. Just as being more in touch with my inner femme queen has only made me a more well-rounded person. A person who, again, cannot catch anything ever, so please don’t even try, for both our sakes.

And if a guy is so devoted to the Church of Masc for Masc that my masculinity, or lack thereof, is an issue… well, thankfully there is no shortage of bottoms out there to top.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat