True to its namesake, the Twink is regarded as the skinny, golden, cream-filled snack cake of the gay world. Perpetually fresh, sugary and delicious, but essentially junk food; empty calories, devoid of nutrition or substance. On one hand: young and thin. On the other: effeminate and vapid. With its full range of positive and negative associations, there is now an open debate on whether the Twink label should be considered a benign designation, or a derogatory slur.
Your first reaction to this controversy might be: Really, Twinks? You’re complaining about being called smooth, supple, and otherwise wrinkle, blemish, and fat-free? Last time I checked, these are all good things. They pretty much invented plastic surgery to make people look like you.
But stereotypes, even seemingly positive ones, can have demeaning implications. You may say with the best of intentions that all Asians are good at math, which has the unintended effect of emphasizing their perceived lack of social and physical prowess. Congratulate all black people on their collective athleticism and ample penises, and you’re reinforcing the old stereotype that they are unthinking, oversexed beasts. When you generalize what people are, you inadvertently imply what they are not.
Consider the context of the gay universe, where “straight-acting” is the most celebrated and coveted virtue, and where “queenie” or “fem” is a common deal breaker on Grindr. Along with the sought-after Twink traits, often comes the perception that a Twink is not a real man.
On the other end of the spectrum (or “rainbow” if you prefer), is the Bear. The massive, forested, ball-scratching, beer-guzzling, cheeseburger-devouring classical archetype of what an American male should be. Once you witness 200 of these sweaty, full-bearded, harness-clad “real men” doing what can only be described as queening out to “Like A Virgin” at a bar on Bear Night, it may shift your perspective.
I know Leather Daddies who enjoy posting pictures of adorable kittens on Facebook. I’ve met Scientist Twinks who follow football. Most people will defy our expectations, if we allow them to. If we must (and I suspect we must) continue to subdivide ourselves into these gay spirit animals, let’s agree to do it along the lines of objective, provable facts. Let’s leave behind the assumptions about how manly our labels should make us behave.
Sure, we could launch a ban on using the term Twink, but chances are, it would quickly be replaced with something equivalent or worse. In the end it’s less about controlling the words we use, and more about the attitudes we harbor.
Now, who’s craving a Twinkie? —>
Bonus Video: The Gay Classification Kingdom