Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Gay Beard

All right, I have been remiss, oh men of the world. First of all, this is my first post this month, and we are halfway through Octobeard. But I can compensate for that by outlining my recent research.

My most significant omission, as of late--"the gay beard." I hadn't even considered the heterosexual bent of my beard investigations until I hit a chapter with that title in Allan Peterkin's One Thousand Beards.

And then, this video:

The fact that I poached this link from a very out friend's page, and the repeated listing of "Glee," led me to assume that these performers are, in fact, hirsute homosexuals--a view of the original post on Joe.My.God., a blog touting its LGBT street-cred, confirms it.

I hadn't thought about what men who look at men think about facial hair. Peterkin, ever the psychiatrist/journalist, introduces the theory that gay men sporting beards are pursuing hypermasculinity, which may be a result of internalized homophobia. He also mentioned "the bear movement," a group of men who adopted the "large, hairy, strong (but also secure and gentle)" animal as an emblem.

Peterkin seems to have conducted more first-hand research into this area than I could, and he provides a short history of facial hair in homosexual exchanges from the Greek's preference for prepubescent companions, to their use as a mask of conformity in Christian Europe, to the flambouyantly smooth-face of Oscar Wilde, the wizened whiskers of Whitman, and the impact of Steve Reeves's portrayal of Hercules on the gay porn industry. In the sixties, men who take to the blade are considered sell-outs; then come the fighting drag queens in the Stonewall Bar raids, the evolution of the Leathermen, the Beards, etc. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much to say about the present-day facial hair situation in the GLBTQ community.

I tend to assume that bearded men are straight, unless they're sporting a polished goatee. So far, this guideline has served me well--the only times I've barked up the wrong, shaggy tree, it's because it was currently occupied by another woman.

But, since I'm trying to imagine life with a beard, I can't see why I couldn't have my dream beard (not a goatee) as a gay man. And I can't imagine having my own muzzle to nuzzle would undermine my affinity for bearded dudes. Imagine--our powers combined. An exponential beard!

Anyway, interviewing gay men on their perception of bearded men could be an interesting prong, but, since this is about my (female) attempt to understand the experience of a beard, I will inevitably marginalize their perspective. But I respect your excellent taste, fellow-beard/man-lovers, especially since we're not competing.

The last word goes to Wendover, who commented on the performance embedded here: "They're the perfect gay men - hot, masculine, furry, but can pull off a Glee musical number flawlessly."


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