Masculinity in Queer Spaces
By Emma Coyle
What is queer masculinity?
In Singularis, a project by Akshit Bhardwaj, the photographer “explores the concept of gender identity and the way it falls at the intersection of reality and imagination”. It is important to acknowledge the pull between the way that masculinity is supposed to be presented by those assigned male at birth and the way that they live their lives, which might mean exhibiting traditionally feminine characteristics or continuing to embrace masculinity even as they identify as female. It is a difficult balancing act, between expectations and identity. In the middle of this ongoing discussion on the role of femininity, toxicity, and the role of masculinity within queer space, the figures photographed in this series “emerge from the metaphorical dust” where they are “[transformed] into unique gems”.
Masculinity in queer spaces can be a fraught topic. Men, whether they are members of the LBGT+ community or not, are taught to exhibit traditional signs of masculinity. What even are those markers of manliness? It’s hard to define. It’s especially hard to define without treading into the realm of toxic masculinity. There is some discussion of Masculine energy being penetrative and outwardly focused, where Feminine energy is receptive and more about going with the flow. These energies are not linked to a person’s gender identity. In the queer community there are a range of masculine identities that are not tied to gender. Think butch women or non-binary people who consider themselves masc-of-center. They can exhibit masculine traits without identifying as male.
It can be difficult for LGBT+ identifying individuals to deal with the pressure to exhibit signs of traditional masculinity. It encapsulates everything including the way they dress, the way they speak, the people that are considered acceptable partners for them, and their bodies. How a person presents themselves is a choice that only they can make but it is often limited by how society pressures them to behave. The body that each individual inhabits is non-negotiable, although it can be re-formed to better reflect ones identity.
Masculinity does not have to be problematic. It can be transformative for those who identify with it and is an essential range of the human experience in the same way embracing femininity is essential for community growth. Positive, healthy masculinity is the acceptance of differing bodies, softness, and personal presentation combined with the acknowledgement that those things do not define how one identifies or lives their life.