This article was published on April 16th, 2020
a) containing or being poisonous material, especially when capable of causing death or severe debilitation.
b) extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful
“No fats, no fems, no Asians.” These are just some of the pervasive messages you’ll see plastered on bios on most gay-dating and hookup apps.
The systemic discrimination in some sections of the gay community, however, doesn’t stop on gay-dating apps. Gays, for example, tend to openly discriminate on gay men perceived to be femme. There’s also a reverence of masculinity among gay men, which leads to body dysmorphia and adverse effects on mental health.
Ours seems to be a community that perpetuates an ideal that we cannot reach either. We can only aspire. That constant reaching blinds us to the issues that matter, drives more gay men to loneliness, and leads to limited authentic emotional expressions and committed relationships.
According to Justin Lehmiller, a psychologist at the Kinsey Institute, “A big part of the reason people in the LGBT community have more mental health issues is not only because they experience high levels of marginalization from society at large, but also because of the intense pressure to be, look, and act in a masculine way.” He continues, “You have all of this social exclusion happening more broadly, but also within the queer community itself. We’re judging and excluding one another.”
Subtle manifestations of the toxic gay culture
The toxic gay culture permeates every aspect of our social life. We used to be the solidarity nation, in which we stood with even the least of us, but cracks seem to appear. Aside from politics, the toxic gay culture appears in other areas as well. Some of the subtle manifestations include:
Reverence for masculinity
“Masc4Masc” is perhaps the epitome of the reverence for masculinity, and an entrenched toxic gay culture. In the hierarchy of the gay community, boys with flexed muscles are at the very top. Muscular and toned bodies are over-represented on our mainstream porn, club promotion posters, and in the broader media.
The problem has deteriorated so much that, as Professor McDermott says, “Even gay men who subscribe to masculinity — and it may be genuine — feel a degree of uncertainty about whether they are masculine enough, and how others see them.”
This blind adherence to masculine norms makes it harder for gay men to adapt and cope with their environments. “It leads to men not seeking help, self-medicating, committing suicide, abuse in relationships. It’s not the toxic norms, but the ways people adhere to them,” he adds.
Gay men tend to openly discriminate against other gay men that express a gender outside traditional masculinity. Social media platforms, such as FB, IG, and gay-specific dating apps, are the breeding-grounds for body image struggles and online gender-based discrimination.
Twinks, a term used to describe young, effeminate, typically white, and slender gay men, haven’t been spared either. They are, for example, encouraged to masculinize or become more submissive for the consumption of more masculine gay men.
As a result, and in combination with other factors, high rates of sexual assault and high suicide rates occur in this demographic.
Discrimination on dating and hookup apps
Grindr, a popular hookup site, for example, is known among gay men for the focus on fit bodies, muscular physique, and ubiquitous gym selfies.
Due to the toxic gay culture in the community, our barriers to entry for desirability are higher. Access is difficult, and there is steep pressure to conform.
Healing the gay community
Given our obsession with juice cleansing, perhaps it’s time we cleansed the toxicity in the gay community. Sadly, there is no magic wand that will fix everything. Desire is complicated, and messy, and surprising.
Change requires prying ourselves from the muscle-bound chokehold on our desire. We need ready exposure to new images, diverse bodies, and a gradual expansion to our attraction. Also, we need to embrace greater sexual diversity in our wank banks, our heroes, and club promotional materials.
Necessary, too, is a relook of our politics as a community. We cannot think about how to help each other without thinking about who we are. Various epidemics in the gay community, such as loneliness, suicide, drug addiction, etc. cannot be fixed by a movement that only focuses on individual people’s happiness.
We are all in this together. Like in times past, we need politics of solidarity. We must stand up, not just for ourselves but with other threatened communities.