In the news: Macho matters of life and death

Remember that gay neighborhood in Toronto where high schoolers were giving out ‘slushie facials’ about a week ago?  Well, things have gotten decidedly more violent with a gay bashing by two 21-year-old ‘men’ on Saturday night.  According to the Toronto Star:

Ryan Lester, 30, was kicked in the face and called “faggot” while getting a post-bar snack at Mehran Restaurant on Church St. early Saturday Jan. 22. His 24-year-old brother, Ben, suffered has deep bruises on his back and had to go to the dentist to repair a broken molar.

…Eoin McManus, 21, and Benjamin McCall, 21, both of Toronto, have each been charged with two counts of assault and one count of mischief after breaking the restaurant’s front window.

It looks like at least a few of the young men of this neighborhood feel the need to brutally attack men they perceive as gay.

And yes, there is a ton of research on how idealized masculinity and homophobic violence are deeply intertwined.  And I have written before about how this sort of violence is itself a form of self-defense against this sort of violence.  Welcome to yet another Catch 22 in the land of ‘traditional marriage’ and ‘appropriate gender roles.’

I couldn’t help but notice that during this same news cycle the champion cyclist Graeme Obree has come out of the closet as gay and offers such morbid quotes of his closeted life as:

“I was brought up thinking you’d be better dead than gay. I must have known I was gay and it was so unacceptable,” said the 45-year-old.

…and…

Obree admitted that the anxiety associated with hiding the fact that he was gay had led to two separate attempts to take his own life, in 1998 and 2001. 

According to his personal story twenty years ago Graeme spent his early 20’s wishing death upon himself, while today’s 21-year-old’s Eoin and Benjamin of Toronto have decided to wish that upon someone else. 

As have Terry, a still at large Vancouver man, who recently beat a gay man unconscious after promising, “I’m going to kill these guys.”  And then there’s William Payne who recently broke a pool cue over a John Skaggs head because Skaggs is gay.  There are many more of course, these four fellows are just a hand full of recent “I’m so straight I beat on gays” players in the news.

Being the eternal optimist I can’t help but hope in looking at the Coming Out story of someone like Graeme that these champion athletes and other public figures perpetually Outing themselves will expand the bounds of masculinity.  I mean with Graeme’s story following on the heels of rugby star Gareth Thomas’ recent Coming Out it seems more and more ‘macho’ men are acknowledging that they are gay.  One has to hope this will at the very least decrease the self loathing among young gay men.

And there is some evidence to confirm that case as the British MP Nigel Evans recently Came Out explaining:

“I went to a diversity talk by Gareth Thomas the rugby player, who talked about his own sexuality, and I thought ‘Hold on, if this iconic rugby player can make it known that he’s gay, what’s keeping me back?’

So yes, I think masculinity is going to have to make room for some sexuality modifications.  But will this really reduce the violence directed at ‘feminized’ homosexuality or ‘open’ homosexuality, whatever that is?

I’m not quite so sure on that one.  I think the valuing of people considered to be effeminate gays would take valuing all things feminine a great deal more than our society is currently even able to consider. 

There isn’t a gender study that comes out that doesn’t indicate the lesser economic value of females in our capitalist machine.  There is overwhelming evidence of the pervasive violence directed at women in our society. And it is easy to see the ongoing political presumptions embedded in the ongoing banning of women from managing their own bodies and health care.

Just to consider how the feminine is valued from a few social measures in our society…

So can masculinity expand as it absorbs teh gays and give up on the need to perform gay bashing to prove one’s manhood?

Maybe. 

But I don’t think that is going to come from absorbing mirror images of masculinity as brute power and total social dominance and control like Graeme, Gareth and Nigel.

I think the violence is going to be stemmed only when males who express here-to-for feminine traits are valued equally, when these behaviors are considered a normal and natural part of manliness, and are tolerated fostered from an early age. 

Afterall we have been fostering what are yet consider masculine traits in our young women for three decades now and this has brought us newfound possibilities as a society. 

When “man-up” and “having balls” starts meaning men who dare to; show compassion, nurture babies and children, celebrate beautiful things, experience and share personal emotions and so many other ‘feminized’ human traits

— when those behaviors get absorbed into masculinity —

AND when girls and women themselves are given a higher value economically, socially, politically, and personally…

…only then I suspect will young men lose the pathologic urge to kill themselves or others simply to prove their manhood.

HT Towleroad for many of these recent stories of gay bashing.

*Bonus footage:

Ellen interviews the mighty macho gay rugby star Gareth Thomas about his Coming Out process.

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