How Fragile Masculinity kept me from watching RuPaul’s Drag Race for so long

I’ve always had an often pretentious notion that I’m so different from most gay guys out there. I make this assumption just based on the state of gay culture today. Representation amongst social media often primarily shows a very specific type of homosexual. That attractive, bitchy, fashion-enslaved, drama-obsessed, female pop singer-worshipping gay. And while I do possess some of those qualities, I am sure they don’t fully represent the person I am. Juan is a guy who values romance, friendships, body positivity, feminism, equality, bad puns, food, writing, and heart. Juan is also problematic AF often being self-absorbed, messy, and uninformed. He sometimes references himself in third person and masks his errors by stating he “means well.” But above else, Juan is an individual who values and embraces being different and being himself.

When RuPaul debuted his now Emmy-winning reality competition it became a gay culture phenomenon. With a star as charismatic as RuPaul, challenges that were both hilarious and compelling, fashion, music, and sound bites galore, it was difficult to ignore it’s impact amongst LGBTQIA+ folks. If you had a gay following in social media, you were bound to listen to RuPaulisms, show references, or even reposts of the best queens or challenges. The fact that everyone in my circle was so passionate and enthusiastic about the show was actually the reason why I was avoiding it. I did not want to become yet another person using drag queen slang, obsessing over queerness, and frankly, I didn’t want to expose myself to the effeminate nature that the show carried.

See, people who know me personally know that I am not a beacon of manhood or masculinity. However, there has always been a certain vulnerability that comes from embracing the feminine qualities that often come naturally to me. The older I get, the less this becomes an issue, but at some point of my life, this really was an internal struggle. I was raised in a society with vastly regressive views towards homosexuality and effeminacy. Add to that my family’s catholic upbringing and their constant reminders about how wrong homosexuality was. I was afraid to embrace my inner quirks and queer ways. I was afraid to be myself.

After the show premiered, I had already gotten more comfortable with myself, but still had some of my old insecurities. I somehow thought that watching the show was going to make me less of a man or change people’s views about me. I was purposefully avoiding a show I knew I would enjoy just because of fragile masculinity and societal roles.

As the show kept becoming a cultural phenomenon, I realized I needed to start watching. Not only was I tired of the gay gasps that came from admitting to not watching, but also, I realized that I was finally at a stage of my life where I was ready and free to embrace myself to the fullest. Queerness is a part of my character. A part that, as reading, is fundamental and adds yet another facet to my identity. By being able to dismantle my preconceived societal notions towards masculinity, I was able to finally completely love myself. By embracing and celebrating my feminine sides, I’ve been able to become more open, tolerant, and emotionally engaging. By not having to succumb to machismo rules or overbearing masculinity, I have been able to become more aware of issues like gender inequality, sexism, and the problematic nature of predetermined gender roles. I was able to express myself more openly through writing and fashion, and I was able to become a proud part of my community. All of these enlightenments came from finally being able to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race.

For many years, I wasn’t watching the show because it was “too gay.” While avoiding it, I was doing it an unjust disservice. This is ultimately a show that celebrates diversity, inclusion, and the incredible power that comes from being able to be yourself. The amounts of visibility and representation provided by the show are more important than ever given the current political state of the country. Watching the show allowed me to see that I was giving more importance to how society saw me than how I saw myself. In an age where exclusion still happens on the grounds of a “masc for masc” or “no fats, no fems” culture, I decided to not be a part of that state of divisiveness anymore. I decided to love myself, to love others, and to embrace each other’s differences. Because at the end of the day, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”


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