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Including Gay and Bisexual Men
in Men’s Work in RC

Gay and Bisexual men are men. We were born male, and most of us were treated as males from the time we were born (and sometimes before), even if we didn’t feel fully male. When we took on1 our version of a “Gay” identity, we were still male. We have benefited from male privilege and have acquired patterns of sexism and male dominance. As men, and as Gay and Bisexual men, we are deeply good and human, and we have distresses based on what has happened to us, some of which are specifically related to what has happened to us as men. For these reasons, we belong in men’s work in RC.

For some of us, RC men’s work has been a good home. We have much more in common with other men than we have differences. We have men’s issues—distresses, struggles, strengths, and passions—that are common among men in many cultures. Despite how we or anyone else may feel, we belong fully in men’s work in RC. Over the years, the Gay liberation leadership in RC has held out a firm policy that we in our constituency belong in, are an important part of, and need to show up2 in men’s liberation activities in RC.

SOME BIG DIFFERENCES

That said, there are some big differences between the ways our lives have played out3 and the ways the lives of men who did not end up taking on our identities have gone. Some of us were the bullied ones on the playground—the ones who didn’t “fit in,” especially not into the rigidly defined male gender-role stereotypes that have prevailed in Western-dominated cultures. Some of us liked girls “too much” at the wrong age. Some of us liked music and the arts “too much.” Some of us showed our feelings “too much.” Some of us liked another male and showed it “too much.”

Many of us were targeted by other males for how we didn’t “fit in.” This, in the form of bullying, teasing, ostracizing, and other negative behaviors toward us, is what Gay oppression looks like in the early years of men’s lives. Emotional and physical bullying; sexual abuse, including rape and gang rape; repeated public humiliation and exclusion have happened to a substantial number of us at the hands of other males.

Many of us also carry deep longings for other men. These have been set up by a combination of things. Some of us have an empty place inside from the absence, emotional or physical, of our fathers. For some of us it was a man who played the key role, who kept us alive or gave us hope, at a certain point in our early lives. For some, sexual contacts early on with other males contributed to our pinning hopes, desires, sexual feelings, frozen needs,4 and so on, on other males. The whole set of feelings that many heterosexual men attach to women, many Gay and Bisexual men have attached to males.

There can be a wonderful human aspect to this. We sometimes have higher hopes for men, especially in terms of closeness and relationships, than non-Gay men are capable of retaining in current Western-dominated cultures. Whether these hopes are based in patterns or not, they have helped some of us build powerful, close, deeply human relationships with each other and have high expectations for those relationships. Because we don’t have the same sexual distresses, confusions, and frozen expectations attached to women that non-Gay men sometimes do, and because we have experienced various kinds of abuse at the hands of other men, some of us have been able to be strong allies to women against sexism.

I am pointing out the differences because they are there and they are real, and it is a mistake when we include Gay and Bisexual men in men’s work and act like the differences  do not exist.

RECOGNIZING THE OPPRESSION

We as a group have experienced some pretty5 vicious Gay oppression at the hands of other men. When in a men’s workshop that experience and other differences go unmentioned, when there is little validation of our particular experience of being male, many of us end up feeling unsafe, unseen, and like the facts of our lives not only don’t matter but are in some way untrue.

When we walk into general men’s workshops, we have to handle Gay oppression and the restimulation of Gay oppression in a way that may be similar to how people of the global majority have to handle racism and the restimulation of racism when they walk into a workshop that is mostly white. It is not sufficient for us to go off in a support group and try to discharge fast enough to keep up with the restimulation. As with any other oppressed group that is attempting to meet with a group of its oppressors, the oppression needs to be recognized (and preferably worked on) in the larger workshop if Gay and Bisexual men are going to be able to use the workshop fully for themselves.

SOME SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS

Here are some specific suggestions for action:

• Gay and Bisexual men need to be mentioned specifically when people are talking about “men’s experience,” and general men’s leaders need to become expert on what our experience as men has been and is today. The invisibility of our experience, and the assumption that it is the same as other men’s, is part of Gay oppression.

• Non-Gay men need to work on Gay oppression. A key part of many Gay and Bisexual men’s experience has been being on the receiving end of male dominance. We get blamed for the feelings this mistreatment has left us with—the sense of being separate, different from, not fully male, and so on. We do indeed have work to do to recover from these hurts. However, non-Gay men also need to work on Gay oppression and how it has affected them. Gay oppression is essential to the conditioning of men to accept the limits imposed by men’s oppression. It is also one important way that men learn about male dominance. The non-Gay men are dominant, while the “Gay” ones (treated as such even if they don’t yet have the identity) are forced to submit. Every man has experienced Gay oppression in some form. Some men have participated in it, some have been directly targeted by it, and some have been bystanders. All of these roles have been hurtful and need to be worked on.

• Work needs to be done on how Gay oppression affects all men’s lives now. Although some laws have changed in some countries, Gay oppression continues to be a vicious force in the “training” of men to play oppressive roles, toward each other and toward women. Changing laws is a step toward changing behavior, but our experience has been that behavior does not thoroughly change without discharge.

• Non-Gay men need to do much more work on their sex lives. In my experience, we Gay and Bisexual men have been far more open about where we struggle around sex. There is an assumption from Gay oppression that we are the ones who are badly hurt in this area. As far as I can tell,6 most men have been badly hurt in the area of sex and closeness. The lack of work on it among non-Gay men feeds the message of Gay oppression that we are the only ones who have sexual distresses.

• Work on heterosexual identity would also be helpful. The sexual identities are rigid boxes that combine human and patterned attributes. At workshops I have used directions with non-Gay men such as “I’m not really heterosexual, but fortunately I have been able to pass.” After a few minutes of numbness, the men have been able to have big, important sessions on how the heterosexual identity, like all other identities except human, has limited their lives and choices.

• There need to be support groups at men’s workshops on eliminating Gay oppression and being allies to Gay and Bisexual men. These are not necessarily the same thing, although there is obvious overlap. Eliminating Gay oppression is something that benefits all men, as well as all humans. Working on it can also be a vehicle for non-Gay men to face how terrifying Gay oppression has been for them and what it would take to stand up against it—openly, fully, and publicly. Being allies to Gay and Bisexual men means being willing to understand the unique mix of humanness and distress we have in our lives and our minds and to find and fight for the human while taking thoughtful stands against the distresses.

When men leading general men’s work do these things, when they make visible the differences mentioned above and encourage men to address how Gay oppression has affected all of us, workshops go better for the Gay and Bisexual men and deepen men’s work for everyone.

I very much appreciate the men’s work in RC and the committed efforts of the men who are leading it. I look forward to closer relationships among all of the men in RC and expect that we will establish fuller unity with each other through recognizing and working on our differences.

“David Njinsky”

Assistant International Liberation
Reference Person for Gay Men


1 “Took on” means assumed, adopted.
2 “Show up” means be present.
3 “Played out” means gone.
4 Frozen need is a term used in RC for a hurt that results when a rational need is not met in childhood.  The hurt compels the person to keep trying to fill the need in the present, but the frozen need cannot be filled; it can only be discharged.
5 “Pretty” means quite.
6 “Tell” means see.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00