The “New Generation of Dude”

Even if you don’t like Glee, I suggest you watch that clip. Kurt’s dad, Burt Hummel, is a car mechanic from Ohio. To have his character stand up for his son like this was an incredible decision on the part of the writers. Despite all my ranting, sometimes Glee really hits the mark.

After Finn uses the word “fag:”

We meant it the same way you meant it – that being gay is some kind of punishable offense. I really thought you were different, Finn. You know, I thought that being in Glee Club, and being raised by your mom, meant that you were some, some- new generation of dude, who saw things differently, who just sort of came into the world knowing what it’s taken me years of struggle to figure out.

A “new generation of dude.” Wouldn’t that be nice. I’ve been struggling with this, actually, because of the recent realization that despite the fact that some of my friends try very, very hard not to be homophobic, some of my friends aren’t there yet. If there’s a “new generation of dude” – and I think that generation might slowly be pulling itself together – some of the guys that I care about most don’t belong there.

Take the boy who supports gay marriage and the repeal of DADT and discusses – if exceptionally hesitantly – cute boys with his close friend who happens to be gay. But finding out that the guy he shared a bed with once on a trip is gay? Well, that’s awkward.

Or how about the self-proclaimed feminist who gets visibly uncomfortable whenever his gay friend puts an arm around him? He’s not into you, kid. Relax.

It’s pretty damn depressing, when I write it down. Realizing that I tolerate this bullshit in my friends makes me wonder about my own convictions. Because these guys – these men who I probably couldn’t live without – can’t look at their gay friends like normal guys. There’s something different about the gay men.

My first theory about this deals with how much emphasis society puts on sexuality. I do it, too – I’m the first to ask “but is he straight?” They’re not just men – they’re gay men. That’s how we classify: by sexuality. So obviously, when you’re thinking about a gay guy – simply by the virtue of the fact that we’re classifying by sexuality – we’re going to think about sexuality. This may lead some people to focus primarily on sexuality, and the fact that they have one. And then every action is suddenly viewed through a frame of sexuality.

Of course, that’s ridiculous. If we were to see everything through a frame of sexuality, I’d be making a move on my friends every time I hugged them…which would probably not make my boyfriends – or my friends – particularly happy. Just because I can be attracted to men doesn’t mean I’m attracted to every guy I hug. And the same goes for gay guys – they’re not attracted to every guy they hug, either. I think sometimes, we’re so caught up in the sexuality aspect of the identities of people who don’t identify as straight that we sometimes forget that.

And then, of course, we have the much simpler theory: if you’re hugging a gay dude, you’re totally not masculine, bro. Like, you’re totally gay.

Ooh, the horror.

Seriously, though. Male gender identity is so damn rooted in masculinity – which sure as hell doesn’t involve being gay – that some men will go to any lengths to prove how damn straight they are. And if you’re hugging a gay guy, people might think you’re gay. Being a manly man! is so important to be considered a man that these guys are actually afraid that if I see them hugging another guy – especially if that guy is gay – I’m going to assume he’s gay, too.

The “new generation of dude” maybe wouldn’t act like this. Maybe the a guy in the new generation would be a little less focused on the sexuality of his friends, some of whom might be gay. Maybe this guy can also get over the whole “people might think I’m gay if I’m touching a gay guy” – which allows other guys to break out of the cycle of masculine identity, too.

So what do I do? Some of the men I’m closest to in my life think they’ve reached this point – and then they do things that tell me they aren’t there yet. What can I do? I call it out when I can, which is uncomfortable, but beating the discomfort is how we’re going to break out of the cycle. Then again, these guys are my friends – I don’t want them to be uncomfortable.

Is there another way to crack through this? What do you do when you see this? Some people have told me that I should tone the feminism down a notch, but this is one element – this whole gender identity intersecting with sexuality thing – that I probably don’t speak out about nearly enough. Keeping my friends feeling comfortable around me and alerting them to their discomfort with differing sexualities or their own gender identities is…a difficult balance to maintain. And frankly, I have no idea how to do it.

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    • Eileen
    • June 7th, 2010

    I’ve noticed this a lot too, and it really annoys me in some guys – in high school, I had a really self-righteous friend who made a big point of being liberal, but to see two gay guys sitting together on the couch? Oh, the horror! (Of course, it was a little weird for all of us, since the guy had come out in rather spectacular fashion after dating a girl in our group for a semester, but still) In other guys, though – the ones who realize it’s a failing – it bothers me a lot less, because we all have things about ourselves we’re working on, you know? Actually, my sister and I were just having a conversation about this tonight, sort of…but I digress.

    I also think that part of it is tied up in the image of gay men that the media – especially media marketed at women – puts out there. Take SATC, with the “gay best friends,” where gay men are portrayed as having more in common with straight women than with other men. And that’s just the first example that comes to mind (since my sister is currently in the process of watching the entire series on DVD). Movies and television – with a few notable exceptions, such as Brokeback Mountain – put out this idea of gay men in which their gender identity as men is called into question. I think that that’s part of the problem. How about television shows including gay men who play sports instead of performing in musical theatre, or who race cars instead of entering beauty pageants, or who wear baggy jeans and old tee shirts instead of flashy designer clothes in bright colors? Many of the adult (i.e. out of college) gay men I’ve met don’t act any differently from straight men – they just happen to date other men.

    Basically, I think that this problem will persist as long as men feel that there is something different – something unmanly, something womanly – about being gay.

      • Mara Alyse
      • June 7th, 2010

      WOOHOO! We agree on something! Just to add to Brokeback Mountain – despite the fact that Valentine’s Day was an awful movie, the two gay men in the movie are both pretty stereotypically masculine (and hot).

      I guess we also have to consider, though, that some men – both gay and straight – want to wear bright, flashy clothing, too. At the end of this Glee episode, Finn, who plays football and is just HOT and every kind of masculine, shows up at school in a red shower curtain dress. You’re right that we can’t just show gay men as flashy, flamboyant, and fitting all of our stereotypes. I hope that we can do that with straight men, as well, to demonstrate that gender identity doesn’t have to be limited to a particular perception of masculinity or to a particular sexual identity.

        • Eileen
        • June 7th, 2010

        I know; it’s so exciting!

        And yes. To all of the above. My little sister goes to Vassar, and her almost-boyfriend (long story) is into musical theatre, listens to NSYNC, gets really openly emotional over relationships, etc. He’s not gay (and he tried kissing a man once to confirm, haha) – he just happens to like that stuff.

        I mean, deconstructing gender identity is kind of a tall order, and it’s not even something we’d necessarily want if we could do it (I like being a woman as well as being biologically female). But it [gender identity] needs to be a little looser, and it needs not to be sexual orientation. I think that with women, the situation isn’t quite as bad – I can, for example, be a lesbian while still loving pretty pink dresses – but it’s still a situation. And it’s all still a tall order, but an accomplishable goal, I think. Especially now that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is off the air.

    • Melanie
    • June 9th, 2010

    Really great post, Mara. Do you mind if I pass it on to my fellow Pride e-board members? I think it would be a good topic of discussion for one of our meetings.

    Honestly, you’re right. Really the only way to get around this is to just kinda push on through the momentary discomfort. After years (and despite still being closeted) I got my brother to not only stop saying “that’s so gay” but to yell at his friends when they did it too. There were a lot of rather uncomfortable moments, but really in the end it’s worth it. And I’ve noticed if you keep it non-hostile sounding, a lot of people really don’t mind that much when you call them out. A lot of the time they’ll take a step back and just be like “wow, good point, my bad.” and then start catching themselves at it later.

    It’s definitely more of a problem in the gay male community, but my girlfriend and I were just talking about how annoyed we were with the whole butch-femme spectrum. It’s nice that people acknowledge that there is a spectrum of gender identity within the lesbian/bi community, but why should it be such a required part of the LGBT community? I never hear straight women discussing whether they’re butch or femme and no one seems to feel a need to. Gender identity and sexual orientation have gotten way too caught up in each other.

      • Mara Alyse
      • June 14th, 2010

      Of course I don’t mind! I’m glad it might be useful. :)

      Getting your brother to stop using that phrase is pretty impressive. I have a friend who does it now, and I wish I had the balls/ovaries/guts to get her to stop. For all my ranting, I’ve never been able to say it. And I really need to. Seeing that it works helps – I’m DEFINITELY going to say something the next time she says “that’s so gay.”

      And you’re right – it’s obviously a problem in the lesbian community, as well. Lesbians and gay men shouldn’t HAVE to be one end or another. I don’t know as much about this as it relates to lesbian sexual orientation, primarily because I know more gay men than gay women, but also because I haven’t thought about it very much. That’s another blog post in and of itself, because for a lot of people, that gets to the core of what feminism is supposed to be. That will be an entry at some point haha.

        • Melanie
        • June 15th, 2010

        Yeah. The response I’ve been trained to tell people to give is just something along the lines of “I know you didn’t mean to say this, but by using gay to mean stupid or unfair, you’re insinuating there’s something wrong with being gay.” Obviously, you can choose to phrase it however you want, that’s just what I was trained to tell all those freshmen.

        Awesome, I look forward to the entry. It really is an odd spectrum in the lesbian community and it gets tied up with so many other aspects of identity and sexuality that it just starts getting insanely complicated. Someone was trying to explain to me the difference between being a soft butch, a “boi,” a stone butch, and just plain butch in an effort to get me to pick one. I finally gave up on understanding and told them, “I like to fuck women, my fauxhawk really has very little say in the matter.” Last I heard, they decided I was a boi. So much for subverting the status quo.

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