"But I'm a Football Player!"

This week, the gay part of the internet exploded in outrage after Slate writer J. Bryan Lowder spent a week pretending to be Jane Goodall amongst a bunch of dudes from the Reddit group, “Gaybros” and then wrote about it. Not sure what a gaybro is? Neither was I, although I had a pretty good idea:

wordplay!

wordplay!

If you're looking for something a little more specific though, Lowder’s piece does a pretty thorough job of  explaining what the “movement” (are we calling it that?) actually stands for— These guys just want to talk about videogames and drink craft beer without having to hear some faggot talk about Glee. And despite what us nancies might think it has nothing to do with perceived masculinity. 

Honestly though, despite being a historically sensitive people (following time spent being a historically abused and marginalized people), the gays I know on the internet were pretty quiet about the whole thing, despite what the headline of the piece may suggest.

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Seriously, Slate editorial? Who is the Great Gay Decider who gets to tell internet magazines what we’re mad about these days? I’d honestly like to know, because I’d like to put in an official request that the next thing we get mad about is Enlightened getting canceled.

In real life, the reaction I’ve witnessed has been decidedly mixed. A few precious moments figurines I know were genuinely upset by what these guys seem to represent, while others (like myself) are just kind of puzzled by the whole thing.

First, a little context. 

Ever since the Jews told the Gentiles that they totally could not sit at the same table, humans have been all about splitting off into different cliques. Gay people in particular seem uniquely inclined to organizing ourselves into smaller and smaller boxes (it’s what makes us such great interior decorators and magicians). You may have thought the coming out process was complete after you told your mom and dad via heartfelt Youtube video that you liked boys instead of girls, but in fact it’s not over until other gay men have selected for you the appropriate gay subgenus (probably after a rousing debate in the comments section of your heartfelt Youtube video). Classics include “twink,” “bear,” “otter,” “pwigtwaggle,” “snarf” or “fat.”

Listen, I get that labels can be reductive and the tiny white liberal who lives inside of each of us that makes you feel guilty for the kind of porn you watch wants you to believe that labels are like the worst. But ignore her for a second and remember that labels can sometimes serve as a useful shorthand. There are times when it's just quicker for you to tell me whether you're a top or a bottom so we can avoid a night of awkwardly rolling and flopping around trying to figure out who's sticking what where. See? Not all labels are bad.

On the flipside, some labels are both useless and a little offensive— i.e. "straight acting." You guys. Don't be stupid. There's nothing "straight acting" about munching on some dude's cock. 

But I guess that’s what I find a teensy bit perplexing about the whole  movement— the term "gaybro" itself seems sort of purposefully vague, and lacking in any kind of communicative utility. But it's not exactly offensive either. Alex Deluca, Gaybros' founder adorably describes the group's purpose as such:

The most simple way I can explain it, is that we care about interests and character, not mannerisms. Everyone is welcome to come to Gaybros to shoot the shit, grab a beer at a Gaybros meet up, and participate in the different activities and events we schedule.

"Interests"? "Character"? "Mannerisms"? What the fuck does that even mean? It is still so maddeningly subjective that it makes me want to pull my hair out. A group of people who have similar interests and character?

Don't we have a word for that already? Isn't it called "friendship"? Just tell us what your theme is already, buddy. Are you a history club? A gun club? A comic book club? Or are you just a group of guys who don't want people to think they're too femmy?

Throughout the course of the write-up, Lowder brings up some interesting points about community, how this group can be helpful to a certain breed of gay man who maybe didn't come out during week 3 of musical theatre camp amidst a group of tenors who could help them tap-tap-tap it out. That was pretty much my experience and I'm thankful for it. I understand it's not everyone's though, and for many, the internet is the only safe space to really start to develop your own identity as a gay man. 

Like most things on the internet, this group is a little problematic. And like most problematic things on the internet, it will continue to exist, flourish and piss people off no matter who blogs about it. Lowder insists that we shouldn't even be concerned about this group because they're not pulling away from mainstream gay culture, "they’re simply adding to the beauty of what was already there."

The question is, do I buy that?

Part of me feels like this is just the same kind of femmeshaming, internalized homophobia bullshit that anyone with a Grindr account is subject to on a daily basis. That a schism like this only serves to further marginalize gay men who don't fit into the mainstream's definition of "masculine." 

But admittedly, after lurking around on the subreddit myself for a few days, Lowder's affable description of these guys seems fair. The bromos shared pictures of their cats, talked about comic books and crushed on Benedict Cumberbatch— all things I love. So why did their banner of proud masculinity make me feel uneasy and a little unwelcome?

("maybe that's about you" — yeah, no duh, dipshit).

So is this just that human thing of wanting to be around people who like the same shit as you, or is it about douchebags who went around yelling "no homo" in high school who now want to make sure everyone knows they're gay, but not "gay"? Or something more complicated?

What does the rest of the internet think?

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