Why hetero-boys are pretending to be gay on TikTok

It’s good to be gay, at least on TikTok, where hetero-boys are not only pretending to be gay, but doing gay acts, such as grinding against each other in hotel rooms, while likes, complemented by tens of thousands of comments that go from “hawwt” to “slide into my DM maybe,” pile up in the millions with every pretend kiss, fake hug, or mock cuddle. Queerbait, which isn’t offensive per se, but all that for likes, especially since social media engagements are often monetized? BTW, BL or boys’ love is also now becoming a genre of its own, whether as a book or as a film or as a series on Netflix, sometimes starring straight actors playing the leads. I admit, though, that we are splitting hairs here.

Not that it’s bad to be gay, but given how all these decades the LGBTQ+ community has been fighting for equality, not to mention basic rights, such as job opportunities or equal pay or even mere recognition, it’s no easy life either.

From any angle, especially from the point of view of older generations, these gay charades on TikTok and other social media platforms, which rose to a feverish pitch last year, in the middle of the pandemic, may seem to sort of trivialize the LGBTQ+ struggle. They might seem to make little of the plight or the fight of the likes of Matt Shepard, Sylvia Rivera, Harvey Milk, Edith Windsor, even Josephine Baker, or, closer to home, Gregorio Lampino and, lately, Gretchen Diez, whether he or she—or they—ended up a victim or a victor.

TIKTOK CONTROVERSY Vu Nguyen and Ben trended on TikTok for creating a series of romantic videos in 2019, however, they have taken down their accounts after being accused of queerbaiting

The operative word, in the preceding paragraph, is seem because, to be honest, in my time, the slightest indication of nonconformist gender would be tantamount to social suicide. So now it can be a shock that such public displays of affection for the same sex are so widely popular or viral. Whether it is queerbait or not, these TikTok posts are helping bring a lot of stuff out of the closet, granted that, at least according to the top boys-pretending-to-be-gay TikTokers, like 17-year-old Connor Robinson from Cumbria in North West England, majority of the followers of this kind of accounts in this video-sharing social networking service are females (90 percent!), who just find it cute for boys to be so cuddly together.

It’s possible that fluidity is the game now and this type of sexual identity experimentation and gender ambiguity are an expression of that—the new teen rebellion brought about by hormonal surges and natural curiosity. After all, no kid of the current or coming generation is going to grow up in a binary environment anymore now that same-sex marriages have been legalized in many places, and the old, misleading birds-and-bees take on sex between people is only one of many combinations. Watch any teen show on Netflix or Amazon Prime and you’ll see an entire alphabet of sexual identities, orientations, and preferences. When my nieces were eight and five, I overheard them having a sisterly conversation, where the older one told her younger sister, “Some boys like boys and some girls like girls. It’s not always boys liking girls and girls liking boys. It’s not like that, you know.”

SWEET BUT FALSE Screenshots of Nguyen and Ben's series that have since been deleted on the video sharing platform

And because I’m from a generation who is either horrified or refreshed by the sight of two men holding hands in a club, I need to step back a bit seeing them do more than finger locking on TikTok to evaluate whether my reaction is straight from the book of social constructs or out of many, many years of Catholic school upbringing.

No kid of the current or coming generation is going to grow up in a binary environment anymore now that same-sex marriages have been legalized in many places, and the old, misleading birds-and-bees talk on sex is only one of many combinations.

Sexuality is so complex and now even so individual. Does a boy have to be gay to kiss another boy? Is a trans-woman married to a straight girl effectively a lesbian? Is sharing a lollipop even a sexual act (Don’t do it in these COVID times)? Maybe intimacy has been set free, like the rest of the things we used to gatekeep, like the bodies of women, like information, like authority, like fame, like the Senate or Malacañang.

It’s a good thing, it’s a bad thing, but it’s not a hetero world anymore, let alone, a man’s world. This latter phrase even straight women will throw a fit over, but what does it even mean to be straight in this world anymore?

On TikTok, straight means mainstream, “the usual stuff,” like dancing and lip syncing, “mostly hypehouse, dances, and povs,” according to the Urban Dictionary.

The opposite of that is called Alt TikTok, where the artsy types, the gay kids, the goths congregate. And, because it’s going against the grain, because it’s above ordinary, because it celebrates being different, it looks like Alt is more fun or—their word—“less boring and predictable.”

In TikTok, as in life, as we are beginning to know it now, straight or alt is no longer just about sex or sexuality. While it is true that in some quarters, such as in Alt TikTok, in a twist of fate, heterophobia is real, straight or alt, it’s ridiculous not to be OK with it.

Maybe that’s the point.