As a gay PE teacher and varsity football coach at a high school here in the South San Francisco Bay area I often think about the subject of masculinity and what that exact word means to gay men. I live/work in a world of hyper masculine men that would rather shit a brick than admit they are gay. This has always bugged me. Nonetheless, gay culture also has a boastful attitude towards masculinity. The word comes up all the time in personal ads - you know, "masculine guy seeks same." I have concluded that gay culture often equates masculine gay men with being the better type of gay man. If you are feminine in any way as a gay man it is a characteristic that is less than desired.
So what is masculinity, anyway - a hairy chest and the ability to change the oil in your car yourself? Being congenitally unable to ask for directions when lost? Can you be "too masculine?" Is being a top somehow more masculine than being a bottom?
One of the ways homophobes misunderstand gay men is in assuming we secretly want to be women. Gay men sometimes respond with camp humor, calling one another "girl" or "she." This is a funny way of defusing hate directed toward us, but it can cause us to become confused in relation to how we feel about being men.
Growing up, gay boys are sometimes taunted with words like "sissy," that imply they are deficient in the masculinity department. I hear my guys on my football team say, "Quit acting like a girl or you run like a faggot." Both examples of which I have a zero tolerance.
Many of the images of gay men in the media are unmanly in way that's supposed to be funny - the two gays on Modern Family, La Cage aux Folles, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Small wonder that one of the things that so upset the 'phobes about Brokeback Mountain was the image of two virile men with their lips locked on one another. More than one right wing critic has speculated that John Wayne must have been spinning in his grave.
It's easy to over-generalize about gender roles, but it's clear that some qualities are positive and some are negative. On the plus side, being masculine is often associated with strength and competence, as well as secondary sexual characteristics like big muscles and lots of body hair. On the negative side, manly men often seem over-aggressive, stubborn, defensive close-minded... perhaps not too bright.
I will be the first to admit that I am primarily attracted to rugged, muscled men. However, what I have a real hard time when gay men using the term MASCULINE ONLY as a vehicle to claim that if you are less masculine you are less worthy of being a valuable gay man. Masculinity should not be a tool gay men use to put each other down. Gay culture needs to cultivate those parts of ourselves that can lead to a healthier and less distorted sense of our own masculinity.
Also - yes I am "OUT."
How about them apples?