This is a post I have been wanting to do for a while. Height queens – or gay men who only find other men of certain heights attractive – are pervasive in the dating scene. They are similar to size queens, who will not hook up with any owners of a small-to-average penis. This is not the first time I’ve spoken of preferences in the gay dating scene, but height is particularly tough for me to understand.
In my book, The Grid, I self-identify as a height queen who is trying to do better. I write:
“The gay dating pool has a laundry list of innocent preferences – and also horrible microaggressions disguised as preferences. On the innocent end of the spectrum could be things like a guy’s location and style – on the horrible end would be racism, fem shaming, and body shaming. I struggle with where height preferences fall on this spectrum.”
Even those of us who try to be as open as possible in dating can acknowledge that certain physical traits are attractive to us – and there is nothing wrong with that. Nonetheless, I try to challenge my thinking about height. Why is it so important to me? Why do I feel uncomfortable when I am much taller than someone I date? Why does it trigger weird heteronormative ideals of the man often being taller than the woman, and why should it matter with two men? Why do some people freak out about the top needing to be taller than the bottom or vice-versa? Why do we care so damn much about height!?
Recently, a guy messaged me more pictures of himself and said “it’s ok if you think I’m ugly.” He was a good looking guy in my opinion, and I asked why he was so down on himself? He said “because I have a patchy beard, I’m a bottom, and I’m not 6’1.” This was a sad moment of awakening for me, among the many others I have experienced in the dating scene. Is this the shallow place the community has come to? Do we define someone’s value by their height, facial hair, and sexual position? Whatever happened to their personality, their mind, their goals, their heart?
Despite the multiple issues presented – I will stick to analyzing height. I wonder if height has slowly morphed into something as fundamentally horrible as “no fems, no fats, no races.” The issue with those three have been much discussed (on my page and elsewhere). While everyone can have personal preferences as to what they are attracted to, masculinity, size, and race wise, they certainly should not be posting those criteria on public dating profiles. The issue being, when the gay community constantly sees on dating profiles that an aspect of who they are is unattractive to so many, it does damage beyond belief. It creates classes of attraction which are fundamentally unequal, wrong, and when it comes to ethnicity, racist.
But what about height? Tons of people list their height on dating profiles. Certain apps like Grindr allow you to enter it, but other apps like Tinder don’t ask for it. Rather, it has become the norm for taller and shorter guys to list their height on their profiles as some sort of covert disclaimer. The guy who says he is 6’1″ might be signaling that finding someone of a similar height is important to them. The guy who is 5’4″ might be tired of being told they are “too short” for some daters so they list their height as a preemptive warning. The ultra tall, 6’6″ guys might be saying, yeah I’m really effing tall so don’t be surprised. I wonder if all of the focus on height is doing a similar type of damage as “no fats, no fems, no races.” Admittedly, my own Tinder profile lists my height, though I have become more open to a range of heights in recent years.
Height, like race, is something that a person cannot change about themselves. So isn’t it bad for thousands of profiles to imply that shorter guys are undesirable? Doesn’t that create a “second class” of men in the dating pool based on how tall they are? Isn’t that the exact issue we’re fighting with race? What about no fems or no fats? Femininity and weight are bit harder to classify. Some may argue that femininity cannot be changed, however, many gay people admit to masking certain feminine personality traits as they deem necessary based on their surroundings. So I would think it’s fundamentally less “unchangeable” than height and race. I consider weight somewhat similar, as it can technically be changed through diet, working out, or even surgical procedures. TO BE CLEAR: I am not advocating that it is ok to judge people on height, race, masculinity, OR weight – I am simply trying to classify traits by their permanence to better understand which, if any, are the worst evil.
With this reasoning, it seems that height is equal to race, in that it is unchangeable unlike femininity or weight. But wait – something doesn’t feel right. Am I implying that heightism is in any way remotely close to the centuries of evils of racism? No. In fact, I have to go legal here. The Supreme Court deals with issues like racism often. They decide how critical an issue is using the idea of suspect classes. Without getting too deep into it, the Court offers the highest standard of analysis and protection to groups who are most likely to be discriminated against. Race and religion are two suspect classifications for the Supreme Court. Notably, sexual orientation and gender identity are still not suspect classes (yet).
So – using this line of thinking, I can see that things like racism, body, and fem shaming are definitely suspect classifications in the gay dating world. There is a long history of those traits being discriminated against, further, despite the technical “changeability” of a person’s femininity or body, they are often very visible (or as the Supreme Court says, immutable) traits of that person. They are things that someone can so easily be judged and discriminated on, especially in a visual space like gay dating. Not to mention new features like Grindr voice messages where I have already seen fem shaming take place (i.e. “how masc are you? send me a voice message.”) I would argue that height shaming does not blatantly occur in as damaging of a fashion as racism, body, and fem shaming. I can think of countless examples of disgusting racist, body, and fem shaming messages, but not many with height.
Certainly height shaming happens on gay dating apps, but definitely not to the extent of the other three. That said, it is still uncool to judge people for how they look or act. We are all allowed our preferences in dating, but more of us should try to put ourselves in the shoes of others. We cannot be reckless with our dating profiles and messages, and should try to harm as few as possible in expressing preferences for our personal attraction. Height queen or otherwise, my takeaway is this. Imagine being rejected for a date over and over for a trait you currently deem as important to you. For example, if you are taller, imagine being the shorter guy you are rejecting, and it being the 100th time he has gotten rejected simply for something out of his power.
I’m not saying you have to date someone with a trait you find unattractive, but we should all try to be kinder in how we express that. Balance a person on the whole of their personality, not just a couple physical traits. Give more compliments to people, even if you must reject them. At the end of the day, we can’t all date every person we talk to – rejection is necessary. Just make it a rule of thumb to do as little damage as possible when doing it. I know for a fact I have passed on many amazing men due to my shallow heightism, and I try to work on it year by year.