Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I’ve had a few conversations with friends recently about how guys who deal with homosexuality also need to deal – one way or another – with their mannerisms. That is to say, those who struggle with this issue who also have “stereotypically gay” mannerisms have to make a decision about whether or not these are things they’d want to change, or if they are inconsequential to their spiritual growth as men. Like it or not, if you live in a conservative area and tend to set off people’s “gaydar” because of the way you sit, talk, or carry yourself, it’s going to be something you’re going to have to deal with, and you can choose to either conform and try to act more “manly,” or you can make a reasonable case that just because you act a little more “prim” than the average guy, doesn’t mean that you’re less of a man, Biblically.

I do believe that the Bible presents directions on how to be men and how to be women. I think men and women have unique – but equally important and respectable – roles within the church and family. Actually, after a quick search I found this pretty general resource about the characteristics that the Bible emphasizes for men. They’re pretty standard: men provide and protect, men are spiritual leaders, men should be loving husbands (if they marry), and men should be righteous. There are plenty of verses to support this, but you’ll find that not one of them says, “Men should like football” or “Men should have firm handshakes.”

Before I get ahead of myself, I’ll say that this post isn’t really about homosexuality. I know really stereotypically “macho” gay guys and very “feminine” straight men. The only way this relates to people who struggle with homosexuality is that many gay men and women are stereotyped to have the mannerisms usually reserved for the opposite sex. Still, heterosexuals can be pressured to conform to the “standard” mannerisms for their gender as well.

And generally, I find that wrong. I mean, surely it’s important for people to be able to have healthy relationships with people of the same sex. But I’ve often found that I get along best with guys when I’m being myself, even if “myself” is someone who has a little more “sugar in their step” as the Southern saying goes. I think the guys I know appreciate authenticity. I’m not very authentic when I try to walk with a “manly swagger” or talk about sports like I give two cents. I end up looking like that ridiculous scene between Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in The Birdcage. Williams tries to teach Lane how to “be a man,” and it doesn’t turn out well. The fact of the matter is I’m an English major who uses big words when I talk, has a high-pitched voice, has a little more poise when sitting or standing, and uses hands during expression very profusely.

And exactly when did things like that make one more “feminine”? I’m not going to say that notions of masculinity and femininity are purely social constructs. If you take the Bible to be revealed truth, then they certainly aren’t. At the same time, Biblical masculinity and femininity focuses more on what’s inside – what one’s spiritual state is and what role one is. It doesn’t really focus on outward trivialities. The closest you could come to that is when it says for women to dress modestly, and that has more to do with helping men not stumble with their eyes.

The things culture defines as a “masculine mannerism” or “feminine mannerism” changes with both time and geographic locations. Men in other countries can kiss and hold hands walking down the street. Men used to wear lace, stockings, and powdered wigs without anyone thinking less of it. Now I’m not trying to say a guy should wear a pink sequined top and makeup and expect to be totally accepted by society or by the church. But there’s a difference in ostentatiously trying to push the boundaries between genders and just being someone who has a natural “femininity” to them. I personally think that the church can use guys who, though righteous leaders, are gentler, more nurturing, more energetic… and know how to dress, decorate a room, and put on a musical number.

Okay, I apologize for the stereotypical humor in that last bit. Take care, everyone!

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