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Opinion:The toxic masculinity I’ve experienced within the gay community renewed my respect for women

...and made me understand privilege - Vince Mallia

Personally, I have never been bullied because of my sexuality. I do consider myself to be privileged in this way, possibly because I have always been confident and never shied away from defending myself. This is the reason why I have always had a good relationship with heterosexual men. I have always found it very easy to relate to them.

As I started growing up, I realised that most of the bullying, intimidation and jealousy I experienced was from people within the gay community. Having teachers who were gay-friendly, the classroom was always a discussion that involved both heterosexual and homosexual people (at the time). This is why I was always of the mindset that as a “community”, we stick together because we share the same struggles. But I was wrong.

There is always a feeling of intense tension in the company of gay men. The lack of masculine traits is seen as inferior. It is not looked for. I felt it, and it was out there, as part of society. It is directly said to you, as Clayton recently said, on Grindr, dubbed as a sexual preference. “Interested in real men”, “masc only”, “no femmes” and “no drama queens”. Even the sexual position that you “practice” is ridiculed and othered! Really and truly, it makes you even wonder about men wearing makeup and dresses and why they’re made fun of in the first place. For this reason, which I am sure never worked, I (tried) refrained from acting natural, and it sucked, to be honest.

At the moment, I’m in my final year of my degree in psychology, and as such I’m working a lot on my dissertation. Essentially, my focus is on friendships between heterosexual and homosexual men but literature on masculinity, as expected, came up many, many times.

The literature I’ve read made me rethink what womanhood is, how it is treated and how masculinity is privileged, not only in men but also in gay men as well as women. In my opinion, toxic masculinity is hegemonic, meaning that it demands power and control over those it deems as inferior. Toxic masculinity is no longer an abstract concept but rather a phenomenon that can be felt and experienced by people of all genders and of all sexual orientations.

Is this how women feel when they are ridiculed, objectified and made to act womanlier? Are they honestly pressured to modify their behaviours, engage in roles that they do not like and abandon things they are not “supposed” to do simply because they’re women? As a man, and as a gay man, I am starting to revisit this whole idea of why women started marching for votes a hundred years ago, why they finally went to study in universities and dreaming of becoming presidents.

As a gay man, I expected more equality from what I thought were my brothers in the gay community. I expected more support, and not because I was (am) gay but because I was a human in search of something new, something which I thought gay men not only preached but also practiced. The toxic masculinity they have expressed speaks volumes of who is privileged and who is not, and for that, women have my upmost respect and admiration.

Vince Mallia is a final year student at the University of Malta reading a Bachelors in Psychology

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