Sexual orientation continues to be considered a taboo subject (Judge et al, 2008) and when it is discussed, engagements are often fuelled by unsettling stereotypes used to justify discrimination against sexual minority groups. Black gay men are a minority based on their racial identity and sexual orientation, and this study analysed how they perceive gender and masculinity in particular. The research questions examined the role of socialisation and social institutions in shaping ideas pertaining to masculinity through the life-stages of the participants, from boyhood until young adulthood. Masculinity is analysed using contextual tools – which describe sexuality and gender within the South African context – and conceptual tools – which provide theoretical explanations relating to masculinity and sexuality.
This paper explores masculinity as a dynamic and contextual social construct, which is learned and performed according to one’s personal experiences and upbringing. The study used qualitative research methods in the form of focus group discussions, supplemented by semi-structured interviews for detailed narratives on the experiences of the participants. The findings revealed the important role that primary socialisation agents play in shaping an individual’s understanding of gender and sexuality. The image of a ‘good black man’ remains entrenched in heteronormative ideals that reinforce homophobic, religious and conservative views. South Africa may have a liberal Constitution but the reality of ‘coming out’ is not without its challenges. These include the need to “pass as straight” in social interactions, religious/cultural humiliation, online bullying and socio-economic marginalisation.
Keketso Matlebyane graduated with a Master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Pretoria. (http://hdl.handle.net/2263/65583)