With masculinity and femininity playing such dominant roles in how many people view gender, it is not out of the question to consider how the two concepts might also affect race, class, and sexuality. Views towards masculinity and femininity differ across cultural backgrounds, because what it means to “be” a woman or man is not entirely universal. I am not confident that I know what roles masculinity and femininity play in race or class, but the topic of sexuality is one I am fairly familiar with.
As a gay man, I would say that both masculinity and femininity are prominent across the gay male community. However, in my experience, I would say that masculinity is something that is prized over femininity. There is definitely a stereotype that follows gay men and labels a majority of them as effeminate, but within the gay community, “Masc4Masc” culture is more prominent than a lot of gay men would like to admit. You can go on just about any hookup app and see that masculine men are seen as more attractive. Feminine men, on the other hand, are typically seen as undesirable. The phrase “no fats or femmes” can unfortunately be seen on a lot of these hookup app profiles.
I think a big part of this has to do with the fact that feminine traits are typically frowned upon even outside of the gay community. Feminine traits are typically associated with womanhood, and with society’s view of women being as negative as it is, those same views often bleed into other communities. The portion of gay men that prioritize masculinity do so because masculine men are seen as the “right” type of man. Gay or straight, there are still expectations for what it means to “be a man,” and I think a lot of that boils down to outright misogyny.
I also believe that misogyny and heteronormativity often intertwine. People will often ask gay couples who plays the role of the “man,” and who plays the role of the “woman.” There seems to be this strange obsession with heterosexualizing couples that don’t fit the typical heterosexual mold. People will consider whichever half of the couple has more feminine traits to be the “woman,” and the other half with more masculine traits to be the “man.” The half of the couple that is seen as more feminine will be seen as the more submissive half, which kind of fits the archaic idea that womanhood and submissiveness go hand in hand.
I find all of this to be incredibly frustrating. One of the biggest issues I take with the current state of the LGBT community is how desperate we are to be seen as “normal.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be seen as an “other,” but I also feel like buying into these types of patriarchal ideas does more harm than good. I don’t believe gay men should ostracize each other by spreading the idea that being masculine is the only way to be valid. While the stereotype of gay men might be that we are effeminate, fighting against that stereotype doesn’t require gay men that are effeminate to be looked down upon. It’s also entirely unnecessary for gay couples to try and model themselves after traditional heterosexuality. Instead of trying to create a picture of what the “ideal” gay man is, or even what the “ideal” gay couple is, the gay community needs embrace the fact that there are many types of gay men, with none of their existences being right or wrong.
Overall, the roles that masculinity and femininity play in the gay community aren’t all that different from the roles they play in society at large. At the end of the day, gay men are still men, and the societal expectations don’t change. That being said, I’m a major advocate for creating a new mold rather fitting than the current one that’s in place, preferably one that’s inclusive of more than one type of person.