“Being Masculine Is Preferred.” The Pressures of Acting Masculine in the Gay Community.

by Daniel Bahner

I’m Daniel Bahner, I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio.

When I was three years old, I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz. It was my favorite movie. Dorothy was my favorite character, and I always wanted a pair of red ruby slippers, just like she had. So, sometimes my mom wasn’t around I would go into her closet, and sneak in, wear her ruby red heels, and just run around the house and have fun with them on, and just really enjoy it, enjoy having them and pretending that I was Dorothy. And living in this, visiting and exploring this colorful world that was so much brighter and better than the one I inhabited in Cincinnati, Ohio.

So there was this one time I remember when I was probably 13-14 years old. I was in junior high, and I was on the track team. And so the track outfits, if you’ve ever been in track — they were pretty skimpy tank tops and really short-shorts. And it was April in Ohio, and as weather in Ohio often is, it was windy and breezy and cold. And I remember sitting in the stands, just watching the other students compete, and I got cold. So I put my track jacket on, as one typically does when it’s cold. And this other boy from my year turned around and said “Are you gay?”

And I said, “What do you mean? No. Why do you say that?”

He said, “Because you put your jacket on.”

And so because I wasn’t this manly masculine boy who could deal with the wind against my skin, I must be gay, because I was too effeminate and too weak to deal with it. Just by putting on my jacket.

Fast forward again to college, where I, once I came out when I was 19 I started to reconnect with some of these things that I really enjoyed from childhood, so Disney princesses, and dressing up. We hosted a drag show every year, and in order for us to get the other students, our peers, excited, I decided to perform in a talent show that was happening a couple months before. And I was gonna perform in drag for the first time by myself, to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” And it was probably the first time since I was a kid that I really allowed myself to play dress up again.

Fast forward again to when I was an adult, and I was thinking what I wanted to do for pride and for Halloween that year. And I realized, as a 29 year old man, that I could buy myself some ruby red heels if I really wanted to, finally. And that’s what I did. And so I bought these ruby red heels that I then decided to bring to the Boston pride parade in June of 2016. I had these shoes in my Wizard of Oz bag, my Wizard of Oz tote bag. And I decided to wear them for the entire pride parade. I put them on, we took some pictures, and the pictures, they were so much fun to take the pictures, it was like a little photo shoot that I never get to do for myself. I still love those pictures.

The pride parade took off. I started walking, and all of a sudden I was on the side of the parade route of our little section of the parade. And people just started shouting and screaming out my name and calling me out, because they were so impressed that I was wearing 5 inch heels, and walking down the streets of Boston.

I think there’s a lot of pressure from society at large, and even within the gay community, the gay male community, to be masculine. That being masculine is preferred, and anything associated with femininity is weak. And I definitely feel that I internalized those messages a lot as a kid, and I had to unlearn those messages as I got older. And so while I never felt that I was anything other than a boy, and while I never felt that I was trans or anything like that, I think it’s important to realize that there’s more than one way to be a man, there’s more than one way to be a cisgender man. And I think it’s important to tell those stories, because we get those messages around gender all the time. And it’s important to start to learn how to be comfortable with who you are from a young age, because you don’t get those years back.

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