Friday, December 16, 2016

#Gender, identity, misogyny and #masc in the Gay community...?

There's been quite a thread recently on several of the Social Media spaces I inhabit, talking about how there seems to be a growing soapbox backlash in the gay community against 'masculine' guys.

Now, complaining about this that could sound like a bunch of straight-acting guys bemoaning their loss of male-privilege - but I think there is something deeper and more important here about identity and just what the LGBT Community should be.

Some of the thread has been about enculturated misogyny: the lack of female voices being allowed to speak for the LGBT community as a whole, the number of 'male only' clubs and the lack of 'female-only' spaces, and the anti-female language that is prevalent amongst some of the community. And I think there really is a valid political point here. We do have a male-privileged society were the female and feminine voice has been historically silenced or pushed aside - and were unhelpfully binary hetero-normative ideas of gender see 'masculine' traits lauded, whilst 'feminine' traits are sidelined or belittled. As a community - and as individuals - we have been ostracised by that same patriarchal normativity, and so should fight it whenever and wherever we can. That includes in our Community spaces, and in our own behaviours and beliefs.

I think there is quite a lot of unaware misogyny in the gay community. We've all experienced those friends who grimace and mutter "ew: fish!" if a women enters their gay spaces, or who make disparaging remarks about women or fem guys - but equally, how often do we unthinkingly use words like 'slut', 'cunt', or 'pussy' in a derogatory or belittling way without thinking about how anti-women those words are, or how offensive they might be...? The words we use create the world we see after all.

If we really want to help change society for the good, then our LGBT events should involve and celebrate the whole of our community. As aware gay men we should be careful of unconsciously using our male privilege, and actively give space to our female, trans and feminine identifying colleagues. So that means stepping back to give other voices room to speak - and it also means that it is NOT OK to use sexist or belittling language, even as a joke - and that includes doing so unconsciously. It is only by actively ensuring that our Community spaces are inclusive and diverse that we can ever hope to fully become part of a rainbow choir for change

However. A rainbow community has to make space for every colour, and every identity expression. There can be no gaps.
There's been a thread on one of the gay fetish sites, were a member has been called out for being 'Masc' - and was specifically told that it was a bad thing to act male or masculine, because by being so he was actively hating anyone who isn't. The same idea is expressed in a video that's making the rounds that calls out 'masculine-acting' gay men for being misogynistic, and vilifies any guy who wants to have sex with men that are comfortable in their own masculinity as this is 'shaming non-cis feminine men'. Which is just so bizarrely headfucked!

By this thinking, it's OK and acceptable to be yourself if you are a fem-queen (which, for the record, IS totally ok) but it's not OK to be yourself if you happen to be a naturally masculine gay guy. This is such a misunderstanding of the Queer concept of performative gender identity! Gender identity in our culture may be something we express through our chosen actions and ways of expressing ourselves (so something we 'perform' rather than 'be'), but the core of what we are expressing is something that is a core part of our indentity - and therefore a core part of who we are (even if it is only subconsciously chosen). Expressing yourself as a fem or non-cis man is as much a 'performance' as expressing yourself as hetero-normative male - so how can one be 'OK' and the other not? Shaming someone for being and acting as they are is no different from fat-shaming a bearish guy, or telling every Lesbian that they have to wear dungarees - and how does that work in our 'rainbow collective'?!?

Sure, being a masculine gay guy isn't OK if you express it by acting like the worst misogynistic or queen-hating straight-guy you can think of - that's not being masculine, that's just being a dick. But how can me just being 'normal' (for me) be actively offensive? - unless we have somehow got to a flipped-over point where masculinity itself is vilified...

Shaming is shaming - and I don't care what it's over: fat, gym-bunny, fem or masc - if you're telling someone to feel shame for being who they are and how they are comfortable with being (as long as it's not being a dick) then YOU are being a dick. Plane and simple.

I feel solidarity with my female and non-cis gendered friends, but I am a mostly cis-identifying gay man. I like everyone - and enjoy partying with everyone from women to drag-queens to leathermen and muscle-marys - but what makes me gay is the fact that I am sexually attracted to men; and yes, that means cis men who are 'gifted' with the physical traits created by the testosterone that flows in their bodies (and their pheromones): tall, muscular, bearded, hairy, confident... (but also: caring, protective, intelligent, gentlemanly - and all the other positive 'masculine' traits we often forget)... That *doesn't* mean I think the often 'feminine' traits are somehow less important or meaningful (whether expressed by men or women) - it's just that those traits are not what gets me hard. Maybe some of that comes from a society-induced bias from my upbringing, or maybe some of it is biological and chemical - who knows? All I do know for sure is that it's how I'm sexually wired.

We all need safe spaces: spaces were we can be ourselves, and explore and celebrate our identities - and that includes our gender expressions. Sometimes those spaces might be 'safe' for us *All* to explore our non-heteronormative identity, but equally there also needs to be spaces were we express our gendered and sexualised identities too - and so there *should* be women only spaces, and likewise, there also needs to be men only spaces too. Some of those spaces can be political, some party spaces - and yes, some of them also need to be sexual spaces were we get to strip and express our deepest sexual selves and rutt like the animals we are.

My expressing my sexual and gender identity is not belittling you expressing yours. If you think it is, you need to look to yourself and your own issues.

I know my fetish is as much a performance of identity as dragging up, or gimping out. But expressing MY sexual identity is a core part of being who I am - and allowing each of us to be free to do so (without harm to others) without shame or criticism should be a fundamental part of what the LGBT community must stand for.

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