Entertainment

I’m Not Your Bro, Brah: The Internet’s Beef With Gaybros

by Peter Rizzo
Contributor
Monday May 27, 2013
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Shower beers, the Smashing Pumpkins and Kawasaki motorcycles aren’t generally taboo topics for young men to discuss on the Internet, but one Reddit-based community has proved they can be kindling for a veritable Internet firestorm provided its members are gay.

Founded just over a year ago, the Boston-based Reddit group Gaybros has expanded across several social media platforms with its simple goals: building a brotherhood around shared interests, promoting self acceptance and bringing people together.

While the conversations the members gather around may be familiar, this expanding band of bros has effectively fragmented the opinions of those in the LGBT community over what it means to identify as a gay man in 2013.

Depending on who you ask, Gaybros may be giving voice to a new, controversial sexual identity centered around traditionally masculine - and straight - interests, or using "straight-acting male" subjects to offer a lighter, entry-level version of homosexuality - an identity that is breaking down existing categories and threatening the advances secured by those who subscribe to its more radical presentations.

These questions aside, it turns out that a sizable number of young gay men share the group’s core interests (cars, video games, military issues, working out, gadgets, sports) and are choosing Gaybros as their outlet of choice for these activities.

The community, which had humble beginnings, has quickly gained the kind of publicity reserved for the blogosphere’s latest buzz bands. To date, Gaybros has ballooned to more than 26,000 subscribers, 350,000 unique monthly visitors and 3.5 million page views. The group’s notoriety has even spread to Canada and a lesbian offshoot group - dubbed lezbros - recently garnered media attention.

In spite of Gaybros’ far-reaching implications, the community’s roots are in Boston, a city that Alex DeLuca, the group’s 23-year-old founder, calls "the perfect place" to foster a group like Gaybros.

"It’s at the forefront of the gay rights movement, with Massachusetts being the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, but also has a very deep connection to sports," he told EDGE in an email.


The Controversy

Sociologist Dr. Kassia Wosick, an author and professor who teaches sexualities courses at New Mexico State University’s Department of Sociology, goes one step further, suggesting that the emergence of Gaybros in Boston, a city outside one of the LGBT community’s historically relevant urban enclaves, represents something more: a broader evolution of gay identity across America that allows for more flexibility and less radicalization. In other words, a brand of homosexuality that is more likely to surface in places where normative male activities are more common like North Dakota, Wisconsin and Boston.

"There’s so much normativity in [traditional gay] communities that has been based on active resistance to normative hetero masculinity," she told EDGE. "I’m not surprised that here you have a community that has based its identity on subverting these dominant [gay] norms."

Still, Boston residents aren’t exactly known for their sensitivity toward any minority groups. After all, this is the place that Gawker has speculated is "the most racist city in America."

DeLuca says the group has never encountered any negative reactions at Gaybros’ events, however, but he seems to acknowledge the possibilities that are inherent in a city like Boston, saying "In that way, we are very lucky."

Following a round of publicity from high-profile media outlets like HuffPost Live and Slate, a debate over what Gaybros says about sexual orientation and gender identification in the 21st century began in earnest.

So far, the conversation isn’t so much about what the gaybros are doing, but who they say they are as individuals and what that says for the larger LGBT community and that some fear is becoming increasingly compartmentalized - and less homogenized - by labels like "gaybro." The term’s Urban Dictionary definition isn’t exactly sympathetic as it paints gaybros as members of the gay community who "have no gay friends because they can’t relate to other gay people."

Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder, in his profile, seemed split on the matter, once decrying the group for "asserting their supposed masculinity as a power play against more effeminate gays" while acknowledging that the community has the "potential as a lively new model for engaging with issues like coming-out, political correctness [and] community-building."

Wosick sympathizes with these more impassioned, sometimes contradictory reactions, noting that for older members of the gay community, more restrictive labels have been a way of life. A way of life that may be evolving, as all types of sexuality continue to change with technological advances, like social media, that aren’t as limiting to discussion as traditional media.


The Future For Gaybros

On a macro level, Wosick says the group can be viewed as a response to a broader, ongoing shift in sexuality that has seen the rise of more flexible versions of heterosexual masculinity. She compared the rise of Gaybros to metrosexuality’s ascent in the 2000s, when caring about fashion, hygiene and emotion defied what it meant to be straight, stating that a similar criticism dogged this movement.

DeLuca, however, sees the group in less complex terms, choosing to view the community as more of a club than an organized movement.

"I think it’s pretty clear that we aren’t forcing our worldview on anyone else or trying to promote any one group as ’better’ than another," he said.

DeLuca says that after the shaky introduction, his group is gaining acceptance in the LGBT community, and with this, the arguments surrounding Gaybros have subsided.

"There will always be people who disagree with what we are doing, and there will always be people who are vocally opposed to us, but it’s important to acknowledge and move past those things," he said.

Despite the perception, his current goals are more nuanced than the caricatured picture his critics try to paint. DeLuca is focusing on the future of Gaybros, and boasts the group is moving in exciting and unanticipated new directions.

The community is currently coding a new website - Gaybros.co - from the ground up, and hopes to officially launch it later this summer. For all the controversy, this development may lay bare what the true success of the group will be, its solidification as a veritable media brand rather than an organized movement.

"I’m extremely interested in producing custom content for our audience which has surprised just about everyone, including myself, with its scope and size," DeLuca said. "I think there is a much deeper conversation to be had around the role of masculinity in modern society and how we can retain the positive aspects of this cultural concept while letting the negative aspects become history. It’s something I want to explore."


Comments

  • Anonymous, 2013-05-27 03:54:34

    Why does a group of gay people have to be representative of ALL gay people? If these guys are happy, who cares what they’re doing? There are so many unhappy, closeted gay guys out there, as far as I’m concerned Gaybros is doing a lot of them a favor by saying "You don’t have to be the stereotype. You have to respect it and those that it may be true for, but you can just be yourself."


  • Bob K, 2013-05-27 04:14:26

    Good for them. There has been a need for a way to describe Gay men who are not "Gay Gay". The term "straight acting" served that, but it was homophobic and divisive. I personally experienced some trouble "fitting in" because I was perceived as "not our type of Gay person". Gay men are a wide spectrum of humanity.


  • Anonymous, 2013-05-27 08:43:38

    I dislike everyone painting Gaybors as an "US vs Them" or as masculinity vs femininity. There’s masculine gay men, and there’s effeminate gay men, that’s all there is to it. Gaybros isn’t trying to destroy femininity in the gay community, it’s just noting that gay men can indeed have masculine interests. We shouldn’t demonize people who are masculine or feminine, we’re all gay, we’re all in this together. Consider the following; did you know that as soon as someone posts something derogative about effeminate men, they get downvoted to hell and called out on their behavior? Yes, even the gaybros police themselves.


  • WayGay, 2013-05-27 09:54:19

    The Gaybros seem like any other group of like minded people. Good for them. I think it’s laughable (and quite condescending) the quotes from the New Mexico professor... ["There’s so much normativity in [traditional gay] communities that has been based on active resistance to normative hetero masculinity," she told EDGE. "I’m not surprised that here you have a community that has based its identity on subverting these dominant [gay] norms."] Seriously? Active resistance to the ’normative Herero masculinity’ Wow. And they had tongi all the way to New Mexico for that. She obviously thinks we are boil down to a bunch of flaming hair stylists.


  • Anonymous, 2013-05-27 14:02:17

    This article is absurd. Never mind that this subreddit isn’t based in Boston, it’s based online. Moreover, the premise of this argument holds no water. Patriarchy and Masculinity have been conflated by critics such as these, who themselves seemed to have forgotten one of the many banners under which the gay rights movement marches: "There’s no one way to be gay."


  • Anonymous, 2013-05-27 14:25:21

    "Boston, a city outside one of the LGBT community’s historically relevant urban enclaves". What a ridiculously untrue statement.


  • Jay, 2013-05-27 14:50:51

    Shakespeare would probably call this article, "Much Ado About Nothing"...


  • gdhamf, 2013-05-27 17:20:28

    More power to them. Since when does being gay indicate that anyone must conform to a " gay" stereotype I know str8 guys that are very str8 but are also pretty far on the side of efffeminate in behavoir, along with many exclusive gay men who are more lumberjacks than any str8 guy I have ever met. We really can just be ourselves and stop worrying about conforming to any ideal.


  • Anonymous, 2013-05-28 05:15:42

    Okay, this whole gaybros thing is awesome! However one thing I don’t appreciate though is saying that Boston isn’t an accepting city. I have lived here my whole life and being an out bisexual black female is not something I feel like would be easier in oh I don’t know... Texas, Georgia, the Midwest, etc. Massachusetts was the first state to pass a marriage equality bill into law, long before this became a bandwagon trend over the last two or three years. So to say that Boston isn’t accepting, is slightly ignorant to all of the revolutionary progress made in this state. Granted, there are homophobic people in Massachusetts, but there are homophobic people everywhere, but on the whole, Boston is one of the best places to live and is incredibly diverse and prides itself on that. Sorry, a little defensive about my home.


  • Ciboney, 2013-05-28 14:38:26

    I agree that, if anything, this subgroup has expanded the definition of "gay." Not the opposite, like the beginning of the article suggests. And what is this about Boston being the most racist city in the US? I have observed a lot of anger from many Afro-Americans from Boston, but there is no hard evidence (except photos from the busing issue of the 1970s) or scientific comparative studies to support this. Gawker...? Really?! And, New York City is currently showing ITS "sensitivity" towards minority groups with all the violence there against us, gay men?


  • DerekJA, 2013-05-29 08:22:42

    This article and the statements by that idiot "professor" is just one huge stereotypical junk pile. There is NOTHING new about some Gay men being rather effeminate and NOTHING NEW about some Gay men being "Butch". That’s the word I grew up with as a "label" for someone like me who does happen to like "cars, video games, working out, gadgets)" (sorry, I had to remove 2 of those things because they don’t fit me!) LOL This prof also loves any derivative of the word "normal" and uses it to get across that masculinity is only that of heterosexuals. GET A CLUE LADY, being straight is not "Normal!!!" It’s just common. If anything, it seems to me, that this group is just opening up the doors, wider, for those who do not like to fit in SOMEONE ELSE’S stereotypical handbag! Sigh. And yes. Some men like to be gagged and bound. Some others like to be bagged and gowned. DEAL WITH IT! LOL :)


  • YesISaidIt!, 2013-05-29 19:03:10

    I’m good with this group. Aren’t we all free to be ourselves? We are no monolithic community. There’s room under the tent for all.


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