It’s Okay to Like Masculinity

I’m Alexander Cheves, a writer, author, and sex educator. My nickname is Beastly. I give adult advice on this blog — no question is off-limits. To ask me something, email or send a message via the Ask Beastly contact form.

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Yo Beastly,

First things first, I love, love, LOVE the amazing work you are doing here. I’ve only recently discovered your blog and I’ve been reading nonstop. You’re an amazing writer, and your pieces are appreciated by this 18 y/o Kenyan queer boy.

So I’m planning to attend college in the US, and I’ve always thought it’ll be when I finally break away from my homophobic environment and start dating guys. However, I’m starting to realize how due to the media I consume, my taste in guys has always been hot/conventionally attractive masc guys, and I’ve been wondering if this, though completely fine, doesn’t feed into internalized homophobia.

As a black guy, I know I would be very disappointed if reached there and found part of the gay community to be racist ie: that my blackness is considered a flaw of some sort (though from what I can tell, there may be elements of truth there. Sheesh). And so I worry I’m feeding into the other “-ism”s when I—a (mostly) masc presenting guy—perceive femme, old, or disabled gay men as not really attractive to me, regardless of how much I respect them.

I’d appreciate it if you gave advice on how to expand your normal dating type.

P.S: Please drop your IG. Couldn’t find you there and I’ve heard good things…

Hey friend,

Let me welcome you our shores. You will find that gay men in the U.S. — like gay men everywhere — are not immune from society’s worst features. Some are racist. Some are not. Seek out the good ones. I should warn you, though, that America is an absurdly racist country in general. I’m sorry for that.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being exclusively attracted to masculine or “conventionally attractive” men. I never shame desire, even when desires seem to support existing prejudices. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about body standards, gender roles, and behavioral standards, which include the dogmas that men should be masculine and women should be feminine.

Body/image standards exist because many people in particular region find those features appealing, and conventional gender roles are fairly standard across cultures. The people who accept these roles and standards are not all morally bankrupt. In fact, they have little choice in the matter. We are all products of the cultures we are raised in.

It’s a weightier task to ask why most people accept and enforce gender roles and behavioral/image standards, but we don’t have to go into that here. You’re allowed to like what you like, and more to the point, you can’t really control what you like — at least not at the beginning of your sexual journey.

You’re new to Queer culture, so the only thing you know is the culture you’re from, which, by your own admittance, is very homophobic. Homophobic countries tend to enforce traditional gender roles more stringently, so it makes sense to me that you only find traditionally masculine men attractive.

That may never change — and it doesn’t have to. A kinky playmate I had a long relationship with in college said these words: “You can’t control what makes your dick hard.” It’s true.

The only thing you can do — and what I encourage you to do — is keep an open mind. Be curious. Be adventurous. I know many open-minded men who only like masculine guys because that’s simply what they like, yet I know far more closed-minded, sexually uncomfortable men who only like masculine guys because that’s what society says they’re supposed to like. See the difference? Feminine men trigger their internalized homophobia, their misogyny, their shame.

You like “conventionally attractive” men, but that’s a rather meaningless phrase. Conventions differ from culture to culture, region to region. When I lived in Zambia, a woman in the village of Zimba where we lived complimented my mother: “You are lucky, you are old and fat!” My mom was neither old or fat by American standards, but we were in a place where many people suffered from malnutrition and median life expectancy was low compared to the U.S. — few people had access to a hospital and AIDS ravaged bush communities. To the woman, my mother had desirable qualities — age, fat — because they were rarer there.

Conventions in the U.S. tend to infect other parts of the world, and global image standards have, over time, become increasingly Americanized. This is because the United States’ greatest national export is entertainment. In the U.S. (and, increasingly, the rest of the world), image standards are set for us by television, celebrities, brands, and other consumer products. My tastes were shaped by these things and yours were, too.

By the time a Queer man is aware of his internalized homophobia — when he’s old enough to understand the concept — he’s already internalized the homophobia he’s experienced. Awareness helps, but you can’t turn the clock back and impart your younger self with your present wisdom. The only thing you can do, going forward, is keep an open mind and ask the kind of questions you’re asking now: Am I being homophobic? How can I combat the harmful beliefs and perspectives I was taught? How can I grow?

Try to recognize your internalized homophobia when it appears. You won’t suddenly find every kind of man attractive, but you will be happier, I promise.

Internalized homophobia makes some queer men grow up to be right-wing, anti-LGBTQ politicians who pass laws that harm us. Other times, internalized homophobia makes men like us — guys who try to be the best versions of ourselves with what we have. I wish I knew why some go one way and not the other; I had all the ingredients to be a conservative bigot. Instead, I became me. It sounds like you turned out well. Before even reaching college, you’re asking questions I did not ask at your age. By asking them, you’re probably not going to grow up into a homophobic bigot. And I predict your “type” will naturally expand as you grow.

When I went to college, I thought I was exclusively into masculine blonde men my age. A decade has passed since then and my “type” has expanded to include men of nearly every size, age, skin color, and gender presentation — and even a few women. The man I’m dating now would not have been attractive to me when I was in college, yet I now think he’s the hottest person I’ve ever dated. Tastes and “types” change and yours probably will.

Remember that masculinity can be a cage. It can keep you from exploring your own self-expression, and worse that that: it can keep you from meeting and loving people who will truly be great for you.

Lastly, being Black is not a flaw. Don’t ever think that. As a queer Kenyan, you have a powerful perspective — one the world needs, and one this country certainly needs. I’ve been to Kenya. I know it’s a homophobic country, but it’s also a beautiful one. If you haven’t already, read about the queer Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, one of the most prominent Africans to ever come out publicly as gay, who won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002.

The U.S. is a racist country with some good people in it — find them. Black culture and Black people are beautiful. Anyone who doesn’t think so is trash.

I very much doubt that you’ve heard anything interesting about my Instagram. I’ve never figured out the platform and am overall a very boring person, but my handle is the same as my Twitter: @BadAlexCheves.

Love, Beastly

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