How do you feel when you get a compliment from a gay person? Many of the straight people I know consider it the highest form of praise.
Quite stereotypically, gay people (usually gay men) are assumed to be discerning, even judgemental. We're supposed to have taste and clout and style. Our opinions are supposed to matter on all things aesthetic.
So when you get our attention for the "right" reason, It's supposed to be a good thing. Actively seeking it out? That's called "gaybaiting".
You might be gaybaiting, whether you know it or not. It's normally defined as something straight men do – yes, you read that correctly.
Gaybaiting is the notion that somebody would put themselves out there in order to receive attention from the same sex, but only for the validation – not because they want anything sexual or romantic to follow. Put simply, it's for the "likes".
Gaybaiting is prolific on social media. If you're a good-looking straight guy with six-pack abs and good hair, the quickest way you'll get your Instagram followers up is to target gay men. A shot in a pair of underwear here, a thirsty beach shot there... you'll confuse your audience and keep them lusting after you, which does only good things for your self-esteem.
A lot of LGBT people have a huge problem with gaybaiting, and rightly so. It's exploitative to manipulate a marginalised group for your own personal benefit. When you're part of the majority, do you really need any more confirmation from a minority that you're desired?
Yet personally I don't take issue with gaybaiting. I think it shows we've come a long way.
When I was a teenager in the early 2000s – which is not all that long ago – the concept of attention from somebody of the same sex was horrific. Guys would do anything they could do cover their bodies (remember only owning baggy clothes in 2001?) and to attract any kind of attention from a gay person was a personal slight. It meant that you, too, were probably a "fag", "fairy", or insert any other pejorative for homosexual here.
Today things are different. Less than two decades on, people are more comfortable with their own sexuality (whatever it may be) and gay people are more visible and less unknown. We don't conceal ourselves in the shadows anymore (and for the most part, at least in the West, it has been recognised that we're just humans too).
The concept of gaybaiting, therefore, I see as a positive. It tells me that straight men aren't afraid of gay men anymore. They don't want us to disappear or cease existing. Quite the contrary: we are so welcomed they're pulling up a chair for us at the table.
They say being ambiguous about your sexuality (when you're straight) is key to gaybaiting. I struggle to see this as a negative. Isn't it a good thing that men don't need to pound their chests and voice their heterosexual status anymore? That they don't need to prove anything?
Once upon a time, according to the Oxford Dictionary, gaybaiting meant "the incitement or exploitation of anti-homosexual sentiment, especially for political gain; the harassment, abuse, or intentional provocation of homosexuals." I am stoked that this is no longer the definition.
Rather than trying to get attention through malice, gaybaiting is trying to get attention by making people horny. That's at least an improvement – the object of "fear" of gay people has been removed.
I understand if you hate gaybaiting and you look at celebrities like Nick Jonas or James Franco (well-known gaybaiters) with distain.
Yet I think we should take a moment here and realise that this experience means LGBT people are more valued in society than ever. People want our attention. We matter.
After centuries of hiding and being ignored, I'm happy to have come so far.