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Homophobia, Homosexuality, and How Men Identify Self

The idea of masculinity is one often linked to sexuality, sexual orientation, and what it means to
be a man in a heterosexist, patriarchal society. Although masculinity is exemplified as a male-specific
trait, it is also used to confirm male heterosexual identity as superior to that of the homosexual individual.
The term homophobia is characterized as the fear of those who identify as homosexual. Conversely, this
heterosexism is coupled with the hegemonic ideal of masculinity, and is portrayed as the standard for all
men to degrade and negate all things within, and outside of, themselves that resemble an effeminate
nature, femininity, and homosexuality. As society is illustrated through films such as director JeanMarc Valles Dallas Buyers Club, the notion of cohesiveness between masculinity and homophobia is
revealing itself to be more of a reality than previously presumed. Masculinity and homosexuality are
viewed as opposites, and although the two diverge significantly, each uses the repudiation of the other to
validate ones sexuality in the male domain. Further, with films like Dallas Buyers Club, the dichotomy
of masculinity versus homosexuality has resulted in the increasingly prevalent depictions of male
homophobic traits to define ones masculinity, heterosexist views toward homosexuality, and the use of
the term masculinity to exclude homosexual males from the resources accessible to males with their
dominant position within society.
To compare the two, masculinity and homosexuality have rarely been linked as having any traces
of likeness, but have instead been seen as forces of negation to defend and uphold one's identity. Within
the article Sexual Orientations in Perspective, Linda Garnets asserts that there are strong cultural
pressures toward heterosexuality based on fears of being labeled gay (299). As Garnets suggests,
masculinity is taken on through observation of societal stimuli dictating what is expected from males.
Moreover, the assertion that this masculinity is a learned, socially constructed ideology aids in the
establishment of acquired homophobic traits of males. For instance, within the film Dallas Buyers Club,
the main character, Ron Woodroof, is painted as being a man of sex, drugs, and hard times, who contracts
HIV/AIDS. Upon diagnosis, Ron immediately refutes all possibilities that he could be infected with the
gay disease by showing aggressiveness, referring to previous heterosexual experiences, and eventually

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exuding a nonchalant attitude before exiting the hospital. As Sharon R. Bird states in her article
"Welcome to the Men's Club: Homosociality and the Maintenance of Hegemonic Masculinity," each of
these actions carried out by Ron are labeled as defining acts of manhood, characterized by
competitiveness, sexual objectification of women, and emotional detachment (142). Thus, as a way of
defending his masculine identity when threatened with the idea of being connected to homosexuality, Ron
results to homophobic behavior. Likewise, masculinity is defined as being equivalent to what
homosexuality is not, and is further confirmed through acts that reject and eliminate acceptance of
homosexual traits constructed by a heterosexual, male-dominated society.
Furthermore, homosexuality is seen as an unacceptable trait by hegemonic ideology, and is often
portrayed as coming with a feminine or effeminate nature, such as with the stereotypical gay community
exemplified within Dallas Buyers Club. Linda Garnets makes the assertion that heterosexism, which
refers to the belief that heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexual orientation serves to legitimize
both individual and institutional prejudice and discrimination (Sexual Orientations, 295). This notion
makes it increasingly difficult for those who identify as homosexual to openly express their opinions on
the idea of their own sexual orientation, and also makes it easy for heterosexuals to further oppress
homosexuals within society. With this comes the newly developed paradigm of sexuality and sexual
orientation that has come to take on a more fluid form, encompassing erotic-affectional behaviors and
fantasies, emotional attachments, self-identification, and current relationship status (Garnets, 292). Not
only does this new paradigm make it more difficult to identify others as relating to a specific sexual
orientation, but it thins the lines of heterosexuality and homosexuality and allows for individuals to
transition to and from these previously fixed categories. Thus, homosexuality is no longer as easy to
identify, yet when it is presumably observedthrough the display of male femininitythe focus is then
to attack the flaw in ones sexuality and sexual orientation. Within the film Dallas Buyers Club, the
stereotypical homosexual male is illustrated through the character of Rayon who uses effeminate behavior
to define his sexuality and renounce any trace of masculinity. However, Rayon is a transitioning male
who desires to be female, and is often portrayed in womens clothing, applying makeup, or discussing a

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future sex change, which further blurs the lines of a definite idea of sexual orientation. Essentially,
Rayons character epitomizes the hegemonic ideal of how homosexuality looks, walks, and talks.
Homosexuality has developed into a combination of set feminine characteristics in which the dominant
society has used to identify those of the other sexual orientation.
As pertaining to the heterosexist ideal, it is the presence of masculinity that defines the
heterosexual community, while it is the lack thereof that typifies the homosexual community. According
to the article "Men, Masculinity, and Manhood Acts" by Douglas Schrock and Michael Schwalbe,
masculinity is "...not a psychological entity, nor a built-in feature of male bodies...[but] rather a self,
imputed to an individual based on information given and given off in interaction..." (155). Moreover, the
masculinity of a man, being highly dependent on ones sexual orientation and sexuality, is viewed as
being challenged by the presence of femininity and effeminate behavior. However, this hegemonic
perspective concluded by the dominant culture of white, heterosexual males uses the term masculinity as a
form of discourseto define self from otherin order to determine who reaps the benefits of male
dominance while excluding the men who do not necessarily carry the masculine trait. This contrast
between masculinity and homosexuality is embodied predominantly through the interactions between
heterosexual males and their homosexual counterparts within Dallas Buyers Club, but even more so
through the brief side story of Rayon and his father. For instance, Rayon makes the decision to visit his
father, and upon doing so, he masks all effeminate characteristics and femininity by wearing male
clothing and deepening his voice to essentially appease his fathers hegemonic dominance and position in
society. Although, Rayon does not proclaim a stance of overt homophobia, this scene depicts the purge of
his own integrity to himself to break down and conform to hegemonic ideals of masculinity, in order to
receive financial support and other resources accessible for heterosexual males. Likewise, it is the lack of
feminine and effeminate qualities that the heterosexist community has used to define masculinity as
something only achievable by heterosexual males. The interpretation of masculinity, through the film as
well as modern-day society, is used as a form of discourse to define heterosexuality, which in turn

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exhibits society as one very much rooted in set standards for men to perpetuate their dominant position;
however, male homosexuality and the traits often linked to the community are not included.
Although masculinity and homophobia are being gradually interpreted as synonymous through
films such as Dallas Buyers Club directed by Jean-Marc Valle, the divergence of understanding between
masculinity and homosexuality remains incongruent. The homophobic behaviors of heterosexual males to
define themselves as men are becoming more of the standard in creating ones male identity. On the other
side of the spectrum, homosexual males, often seen as conveying feminine and effeminate qualities, are
discriminated against, yet the actions are legitimized by a heterosexist perspective of sexual orientation.
In all, the term masculinity has been used to justify the homophobic behavior of the heterosexual male
domain, as well as exclude those who define their sexuality and sexual orientation on the basis of
homosexuality. While the film Dallas Buyers Club gave viewers a glimpse into this patriarchal male
order, the extent of interconnectedness between homophobia, homosexuality, and how men identify the
socially constructed self has revealed itself to be a tangled complexity in the idea of masculinity.

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Works Cited

Bird, Sharon R. Welcome to the Mens Club: Homosociality and the Maintenance of Hegemonic
Masculinity. Multicultural Film: An Anthology. Ed. Kathryn Karrh Cashin
and Lauren C. Martilli. Spring/Summer 2014 ed. Boston: Pearson, 2014. 142. Print.
Garnets, Linda D. Sexual Orientations in Perspective. Multicultural Film: An Anthology. Ed.
Kathryn Karrh Cashin and Lauren C. Martilli. Spring/Summer 2014 ed. Boston:
Pearson, 2014. 292-299. Print.
Schrock, Douglas, and Michael Schwalbe. Men, Masculinity, and Manhood Acts.
Multicultural Film: An Anthology. Ed. Kathryn Karrh Cashin and Lauren C. Martilli.
Spring/Summer 2014 ed. Boston: Pearson, 2014. 155. Print.