By: Jorge Diaz, MSW – Clinical Social Worker
As we continue to celebrate gay pride throughout the nation and all around the world, so many of us continue to stigmatize and shame one another for our “femininity overload” or our “lack of masculinity.” Why do we continue to set standards of masculinity? Are we moving in a direction where an ounce of femininity is viewed as “lacking masculinity?” Do we not have the ability to be proud of being both? Often I get blocked or ignored on Grindr if I don’t answer the infamous question correctly, “are you straight acting and masculine?” Asking gay men on a gay app if they are “straight acting” is a pretty interesting question. How low have we come to expect others to act or behave to fit an identity to which we don’t identify with or to suggest that there is a set of behaviors that allows us to check the “masculine” box.
Many of us come from families where certain gender norms and expectations were placed on us. We grow up in families where toys are designated for boys, and “certain” mannerisms are classified as non-masculine or our choice of hobbies or music may question our manhood. God forbid you chose tap or jazz class over soccer as a hobby growing up! However, we survived this stage of the coming out process while juggling dual identities within our Latino families. The sad thing is, the shaming is not over. Once you step into the “gay social world,” the next wave of expectations and rejection begins. Many of us grow up trying to meet our families perception of what defines a masculine man. Others attempt to meet their father’s expectation of what defines a “strong man.” While others are trying to heal wounds from middle or high school that began to tarnish our own perception of self due to “lacking masculinity.”
So how does this shamming behavior end up at nightclubs, social media and our dating profiles? When did it become “okay” to allow our preferences to shame one another? We have come too far to hit this road block-a road block that is constructed by our own perception of self, our relationships with the men in our lives, our relationship with our father and all the culture beliefs supported by machismo beliefs of what defines a “man.” So what is the answer? Im afraid that even beginning to define masculinity or femininity will be an endless conversation of opinions. Rather than spending so much time defining “masculinity,” we should begin to embrace our femininity. Rather than shaming our self-identifying “feminine” brothers-lets applaud them for their bravery of accepting all aspects of who they are. Maybe its time to redefine the “masculine man” and change our negative views on femininity. Maybe its time to change our language and narrative of the “gay masculine or feminine man.” Embrace who you are and reject who they told you or expected you to be. Being masculine, feminine, pretty or straight-acting should not define you as a man.