More thoughts on masculinity

A few months ago, I wrote about the division between masculine and feminine gay men. But when I go back and read it, I think I sound a lot like the girl who doesn’t even go here.

That last post was bullshit. Sure, we all need to be nicer to each other, but there are much deeper issues at hand here.

Yes, I act more masculine than many other gay men…but it’s just that, an act. Am I really that person, or did my childhood steer me in this direction? Away from who I should really be?

This topic has been in the news lately, since openly gay actor Russell Tovey made comments on how his childhood led him to become more masculine and that he’s happy he’s not feminine.

But first of all, I want to disclaim that this post isn’t about Russell Tovey. The following quote from him just got me thinking a lot:

“If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now.”

That qualifier (“If I’d have been able to relax”) is key. If we didn’t have external forces pushing us to behave a certain way, who would we all be today?

I had a very similar childhood as Tovey in that regard. Growing up in a town where I only knew of one openly gay person in my entire high school, I worked hard to blend in. I trained myself to speak in a masculine manner. In middle school, if I let a feminine inflection slip out, there was always someone there to shout “femme!” at me.

So I quickly learned not to talk that way. A greater man would have spoken in an even more feminine manner to let the assholes know that he didn’t care what they think. But I wasn’t that strong. I let it get to me and made the choice to give in and “act” masculine.

Maybe that’s why I got into sports. And probably why I shied away from theater, because it was assumed to be feminine. Eventually, I got the courage to join the drama club my senior year, mostly because I enjoyed singing. But by then, I had perfected the whole “acting masculine” thing just enough to fly right in the middle of the radar.

So if adolescence truly is the formative years, then my formation was significantly influenced by the external pressures to act masculine. But unlike Russell Tovey, I’m not happy about this, nor am I very proud.

Wade Davis, the director of the You Can Play project, wrote an incredible op ed about this issue. In it, he talks about how we have to try to “unlearn” this behavior and just be who we truly were meant to be. It’s a really good article, but there’s one problem…

I have no idea who I’m supposed to be. I spent a good 10 years trying to change myself to be what I thought I should be—what others thought I should be. That turned me into a so-called “masculine” gay man, which is stupidly valued in the gay community. I’m not going to lie, I may have used that to my advantage once or twice in my dating life. But is this really who I am?

Once you get past the false constructs of masculinity and femininity, we’re left with this seemingly impossible question. It’s easy to identify the issue, but I constantly struggle with resolving it.

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