Masc4Masc – Kevin Schram
ROMEO knows a thing or two about dating, and about the gay community. Also, we’re really interested in hearing other points of view. So, we hand our blog over to guest writers from time to time, like Nish Gera or Mark S. King. On this occasion, we decided to ask a ROMEO team member, Kevin Schram, to give us his perspective on the topic of masc4masc culture.
Focus on Kevin
Kevin has been with ROMEO for over two years and works for our Care department. He is also a historian, an active member of the Amsterdam gay community, and is involved in a documentary, Acting Straight, that explores masculine culture in the queer spectrum. In the run-up to the documentary, Kevin has offered his own thoughts on ‘masc4masc’ culture.
Masc4Masc: I see it on many dating profiles. But what is masculinity and how do I define it for myself? I believe masculinity is a social construct and relates to perceived gender roles assigned to us at birth, based on a heterosexual, cisgender perspective.
Masculinity is something we see in society, and it can be seen as a part of gender identity. When we are born our parents, and sometimes our doctors decide what gender we are. Some babies are referred to as little boys and some as little girls. As there are only two types of genders used by most institutions, we can call this system binary. Using the binary system excludes anything other than male or female, boy or girl – so no room for intersex, transgendered, ‘gender non-binary’, gender fluid, and so on.
Yin and Yang
Being masc or masculine refers to specific physical and behavioral characteristics that are considered to be manly. However, I believe masculinity and femininity are two sides of the same coin – they depend on each other to exist. Like Yin and Yang. I find it surprising to see that in the gay community there tends to be a strong preference for masculine gay men, while one of the main traits of a masculine man is being straight.
Why would someone be so adamant on becoming the one thing they cannot be? Gay men can never claim the status of a thoroughly traditional masculine man, something I think most of us do not dare to admit or accept. Meanwhile, striving for this impossible identity leads to forms of toxic behavior.
Firstly, it creates a community hierarchy. In this hierarchy, the muscled, bearded, tall, dark, and handsome man is, for some, the ideal partner, and the ‘femme’, an effeminate man, is the least desired partner. Secondly, many gay men objectify potential (sex) partners to nothing more than a set of assets, to which nobody will perfectly conform. These assets can be discriminatory and sometimes even racist.
Lastly, I think it may lead to internalized homophobia. To compensate for the lack of heterosexuality, we have a lot of sex partners, work out in the gym, and have a constant fear of not being ‘masc’ enough. This goes hand in hand with a fear of being too feminine. This behavior is also called ‘hypermasculinity’ and I think it is a growing problem in our beautiful queer community.
Shift in Perspective
I’m not pleading for the rejection of masculinity, but for changing our perception of it by focusing on positive traits such as loyalty, endurance, companionship, strength, and respect for our brothers in arms. Unfortunately, I was told these traits are not what a new recruit to our scene experienced. He entered the scene with the expectation that it would be a loving and supporting environment. A community filled with people who shared the same feelings as he did, but instead he was confronted with suffocating military ranks of inclusion and exclusion.
I’m involved in a new short documentary called ‘Acting Straight’, and being part of this project has been a valuable experience for me. It has helped me to see and discover the different perceptions around masculinity and how its expression can sometimes be toxic.
Produced by Tofik and Willem for Dutch public broadcaster VPRO, I hope we can start a public debate on the topic. It was a great journey of self-discovery and awareness around community issues. It was painful for me to realize, despite trying to move away from the destructive hierarchy, that I find myself also actively contributing to sustaining it. This leaves me puzzled. Maybe I should not make it any more difficult than it is: “Try to say ‘straight-acting’ with a dick in your mouth”.
Photographers Taboo Kantine, VPRO and Mickey Hoyle Photography.
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We’re always looking for new opinion pieces; it’s a chance for you to have your voice heard, and to read other points of view. We’re happy to present some open editorials here to stimulate thought or initiate a conversation, but just because we share something, doesn’t always mean we agree with it; more that we think it’s worth thinking about. Topics like gay culture, food, fashion, sport, music, human rights, dating, sex, and anything else you get up to, that’s what we’re looking for.