Shaun Baer

actor - singer - writer

Gay Men and Girl Power

Captain's Blog - Stardate 60412.9

My friends and I started a cabaret group in 2010 called Catalyst Cabaret. For three years, we did shows that included a lot of harmony and stories about ourselves. Near the end of our run, one of our members worked up a four part mash-up for the men to sing the songs of Disney princesses. My introduction to the song went something like this:

For years there has been a question about me that has baffled my father. "As a gay man, why are you so drawn to these vivacious female characters?" He was asking how it could be that I would be fascinated by Tasha Yar, Buffy Summers, or Disney princesses to the point of seeing them as role models. I'm obviously not attracted to them, so that couldn't be it. But then, in my favorite genres there are some incredible men I could potentially not only idolize but also develop countless cosplay fantasies about. Shouldn't Captain Picard or He-Man be the focus of my adoration?

What I've come to realize is that these women become role models for gay men, at least for me, for several reasons. For starters, they are having to find ways to prove themselves in a world where cis-gendered straight men, usually white, traditionally have the control. (I hadn't yet incorporated the term "privilege" into my social vocabulary.) These women have to work hard to do more than is simply expected of them.

It can also be difficult to connect to the straight male role model because the innate confidence and power they possess is not something a lot of us have access to while we're struggling to figure out who we are. 

Because of their intelligence and their desires to make something of their lives, these women not only have trouble finding their place among men, but also among other women who are supposed to be their contemporaries. "She really is a funny girl/a beauty but a funny girl..." (Beauty and the Beast) So, these characters have to redefine themselves completely. Instead of conforming to the expected social norms, they combine their strengths and their assets to find the identity that makes them happy, and to hell with everyone else. "When will my reflection show/who I am inside?" (Mulan).

There's one more aspect of the princesses that I think gay men are drawn to. The fabulous clothes. I know, that sounds so stereotypical and I'm setting back gay rights and progress just hinting about it. But hear me out. 

As I explore my current role as Ashley in "The Boys Upstairs," I wonder why he is so drawn to fashion. The manufactured beauty of the clothes, the ostentatious way these costumes are displayed, and the unrealistic expectations placed on the models, is to many an affront to feminism, to body image, and "real life." 

And yet so many gay men are drawn to fashion, or at least the drag reinterpretation of fashion. Why?

I think it goes back to identity. Just like Ariel or Merida, in order to live their most authentic selves, gay men must explore ways of self expression that are not typically "allowed" or expected from someone of their sex. I remember when I was in high school trying to understand what being gay meant, I thought I was required to lisp and be flamboyant in order to participate in gay culture. I actually practiced. I didn't understand yet that I could still be me and be a homosexual. The warrior Lieutenant Tasha Yar learned from her time on the Enterprise that "she could be feminine without losing anything."

Choosing clothes that stand out and look great is a way to solidify one's self expression. If we empower ourselves through our outward appearance, then we may begint o feel that power on the inside. The sartorial "fake it til you make it."

Disney princesses look fabulous. They stand out in a crowd, draw all the attention to themselves, and by the end of their movies they accept who they are, are accepted by others, and get the guy. Since we're still waiting for the gay Disney prince, for now we'll have to settle for being part of these princesses worlds.

Hailing frequencies closed.