Are you butch? Or do you fall more into another category when it comes to your perceived place in the gay community? Or perhaps like many you're offended by any label at all. GayHealthBlog'com's Greg Cason, PhD, our resident "Ask the Therapist", is featured in "The Butch Factor" on Saturday, April 17, on LOGO at 8 pm EST and PST., and we have an exclusive interview with Greg below the video trailer:
What exactly IS The Butch Factor?
It's an insightful documentary by Director Christopher Hines where he looks at the issue of masculinity in contemporary gay culture. He interviews gay men from rugby players to rodeo stars as well as various experts about what it means to be a man and be gay.
People so often get segregated by their stereotypes in larger culture, but especially in the gay culture. What can people do to branch out and go beyond a stereotype of 'fem' or 'butch' or 'daddy' or whatever other common group gay men can get lumped into?
Blatant segregation is mostly a thing of the past in this country (thank goodness!). Now, people don't generally get pushed into groups as much as they get pushed out of them (or are never let in). So when gay men try to get into a larger group, but are not welcomed (whether it is in the gay community or the community at large), they have a choice: find a group where they belong or be alone. The healthy will find a group to belong.
A problem for many gay people is that they are resistant and reflect the famous Groucho Marx quote: "I don't care to belong to any club that accepts people like me as members." For some, the gay community feels like high school and there are perceived "in" groups and those who stand on the outside wishing they were a part of that "in" group.
If one does not want to be "lumped into" a group, the best thing to do would be to not associate with those in that group. But not wanting to be a part of a group because of what other people think is at the core of this problem in the first place. If you really want to break through stereotypes and your own personal fears and biases, then get to know those whom you fear. If you have a harsh judgment about those who wear drag or leather, then it is time to get to know the people that do. You don't have to put on a wig or a harness to understand that not only is there nothing to fear, but there is much to gain by embracing the diversity of our community.
How is masculinity perceived in gay culture these days?
An exciting development is that gender extremes in the gay community are becoming less apparent. I believe this is a function of increased acceptance by many in the world around us. Gay men and women are feeling more comfortable to be truer to themselves and don't feel the need to play a gender role that someone else has decided for them, even if that someone is their own community.
In places where gay people are less accepted, you often see a gravitation in gay people toward either traditional gender roles or opposite gender roles. In a more accepting atmosphere, men and women are going to be more comfortable showing both their masculine and feminine sides.
But, let's be clear. Our culture still prizes masculinity over femininity. Much of the negative evaluation about gay men comes due to the negative judgment of men displaying traditionally feminine traits. As much disdain for lesbians comes from those who believe the feminine is trying to take over and replace the masculine.
Has the definition of 'masculinity' in gay culture evolved over the years?
I do not believe that we will ever let go of the traditional gender roles of masculinity and femininity in larger society, and this will also be reflected in views taken by gay men because they are also a part of that society. But, I do believe that there may be an expansion of what it means to be masculine.
Gay men may one day be less constrained by the outer version of masculine or "straight-acting," and more connected with the inner masculine ideal, or being proud of the man they are and expressing their true wants and desires -- even if that expression appears overtly feminine.