Yesterday I participated in the weekly #SAChat. The topic for this week was “The Challenges/Benefits of being a Woman in Student Affairs.” Let me tell you, even though I might not have been able to contribute a ton, it was perhaps one of the best #SAChats I’ve participated in. Listening to the stories, perspectives, challenges and benefits of the women in Student Affairs, got me thinking about my male identity in both my professional and personal lives.
As I pondered, I knew I understood that in both my professional work and personal life, my gender significantly influences how individuals related to me. However until last night, I never realized that the stereotypes and expectations as a male had shifted when I came out. That my sexual orientation identity influenced the masculinity of my gender identity.
For many reasons, I came out later in life at the age of 25. (I will elaborate with my 5 Year Coming Out Post in August). Reflecting back on the time when I identified as a straight male, it is now very apparent, the privileges and image of strength that I had.
Now, if you know me, I’m not the most masculine looking male in the world. In fact I’m a scrawny little thing, who is out of breath after climbing 2 flights of stairs. However, identifying as a straight male, allowed me a strong masculine identity. I now recognize that there was a privilege of strength, power and influence I carried with me solely due to my straight male identity. Many times I was asked to move furniture, heavy boxes, be in charge of set-up/tear-down and many other manual jobs. It was expected of me to hold the door open for women, help women across an icy street, pull out a chair for her to sit in, etc. I was expected to be strong, show little emotion and be a pillar of strength for others to rally around if needed. Also, my opinion as a straight male administrator seemed to carry significantly more weight at work.
Then, a year after I came out, I began seeing a pattern where the masculinity of my male identity had shifted. I was now a “gay male” which seemed to mean that I now had the best and worst of both male and female stereotypes/expectations due to my sexual orientation. Now, for those of you familiar with gender and sexual studies, gender and sexual orientation are two separate identities, both with individual models, theories, structures and so on. But the influence that sexual orientation has on gender was more significant than I had realized. When I began to identify as a gay male, the “strength” of my male gender identity seemed to have shifted because I had shifted my sexual orientation identity. I was still expected to uphold the male stereotypes of handling heavy furniture, and opening doors for females, and continued to maintain some male privileges such as pay and opportunity etc, but I seemed to have taken on the responsibility of some of the female identity stereotypes such as offering a “feeling” perspective, provide a softer touch to projects or help decorate a room or event because my sexual orientation had shifted to a “less masculine” identity (Now, on the flip side, as a gay male I am apparently able to move my own furniture and decorate a room without any help from anyone else…so totally going to save money on movers and decorators for Michael and my new apartment in July :))
I also realized that when it came to relating to the male population, my perspective was sought out less after I came out. It was as though having a “less masculine” sexual orientation identity meant that I was unable to relate to the male population and was unable to advise, understand and even provide perspective for the gender as a whole. My sexual orientation seemed to dictate my ability to be a male or the levels of masculinity I portrayed.
Now that my teeth are sunk into this new perspective I am kind of excited to ponder and research it. But I thought I’d take a moment and share with you what my reflections so far on this were, and as always, comment and share what you are thinking.
Until Next Time!
Peace, Love and Pandas!