Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Myles wrote this piece for the New York Observer about a burgeoning subset of gay men uniting under the banner of “gaybros”. I liked the piece and thought he did a really nice job, but the “gaybro” concept rankles me for a few reasons. Consider this an ultra-reactionary but hopefully semi-reasonable take on why the ideas of “gaybros” sets off an alarm or two. 

First, the good stuff: the gaybros’ quest to escape narrow-mindedness and prevent their sexuality from overshadowing every aspect of their life is understandable, even admirable. I felt the same way when I first came out; I told my friends and family similar things, that my sexuality was just a small part of me and I didn’t want it to define who I was. Myles writes that gaybros “don’t want to be defined by their sexual orientation so much as their manly interests.” The first part of this sentence is great; the second part is where we run into problems. 

Here’s how I see it: if you are a man and you’re interested in something, that makes it a “manly interest”. It doesn’t matter if it’s the NBA or craft beer or the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Sharon Needles or Demi Lovato or makeup tutorials on YouTube. Myles quotes a founder of the movement describing gaybros as saying they’re “your best bud, the guy you played sports with in high school, the guy you went on a camping trip with last summer, the guy you meet at the bar for a drink after work on Fridays. He makes fun of your picks for fantasy football, or he shows you the right way to do a keg stand. He would identify himself through his interests and character before anything else. He just so happens to be gay.” He’s not describing “gaybros”, he’s describing gay men. Why do we need a special subset? (We don’t.)

There’s nothing wrong with looking for gay men with similar interests, but the ideology behind the gaybro community reinforces ideas about homosexuality and masculinity that have haunted gay men for, like, forever. It implies that conditional access to groups of straight male peers is only granted by holding stereotypically masculine interests, like sports and video games; it creates a sub-level within the larger group of gay men that femme guys can’t access. It’s right there in the subtitle of the piece: “Lady Gaga Fans Need Not Apply”. 

For many gay men, loving sports, video games, and Lady Gaga are not mutually exclusive propositions. I count myself among this group. I love basketball more than anyone I know and enjoy the odd brewski; I also call RuPaul’s Drag Race my favourite TV show and wear tank tops from April to October. I hang out with a group of straight guys that runs ten deep and have done so throughout university, and I make them listen to Carly Rae Jepsen sometimes. I am happy to share my interests with anyone, gay or straight, masculine or no; I do not feel the need to cordon off sections of my interests and slap another label on myself. I contain multitudes, etc. 

Myles quotes another leading gaybro early on in the piece as saying “There was nothing in my life that said you can play fantasy football and be gay. That didn’t exist in my world.” It’s horrible to feel like there isn’t a place for you in the world, and it’s a familiar feeling for many gay men; that gaybro has my sympathy. But his efforts to create a world where fantasy football and gayness can coexist have reminded many of his gay brothers just how shitty those feelings are. 

Again, this is not intended to speak for anyone or to serve as a comprehensive take on the situation - it’s just one person’s opinion.