Interpersonal Experiences of Traditionally Straight Men when Interacting with Effeminate Gay Men

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Updated: Feb 20, 2021
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Masculinity is an array of characteristics, behaviors, and roles linked with boys and men. Socially, the idea of masculinity is not associated with biological sex of a man. It can be characterized by physical attributes, achievements of power and success, and the restriction of emotions (O’Neil, 2008). Traditionally, straight men have been characterized as exhibiting these traits, proving their ‘manhood’ to society. Correspondingly, a man who is of a thinner frame, wears tight clothes, and has an effeminate voice is deemed ‘less’ of a man (Sanchez et al., 2009). Effeminate gay men do not normally adhere to the traditional ideals of masculinity that society has characterized.

Studies have looked at the mental health of traditionally straight men and effeminate gay men as separate variables. It is these two groups interpersonal experiences that interests the researcher, because in the near future there is a possibility that these groups will continue to grow in interaction. While femininity and masculinity have generally gone hand in hand together as it pertains to men and women, there is no determinant on how a straight man will experience an effeminate gay man. The literature has not touched upon this interaction and the effects it has on the traditionally straight man.

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Statement of the Problem

Research has shown how masculinity affects psychological distress with both straight and gay men (Good et al., 2004). Other studies have shown that gay men attribute traditionally masculine features, competition amongst other men, and lack of emotion with their ‘manhood’. There is plenty of research and data out there when it comes to the experiences of a gay men within a heteronormative society. In addition, the psychological effects of homophobia and how it contributes to a gay man’s life. There has not been much research on the traditionally straight man and the psychological distress they might exhibit when they interact with an effeminate gay man, and how it could be associated with underlying issues and discomfort.

This kind of research has not been studied due to the nature of the two parties. The traditionally straight man would not be inclined to share his feelings regarding the effeminate gay community, so to not seem discriminatory. Due to under-reporting it might be more difficult to obtain qualitative data regarding the interpersonal experiences of straight men with effeminate gay men. Clinically, it would be necessary to help the victims of abuse and discrimination with various protective factors to help facilitate the situation they might be in, rather than seeking out the aggressor and considering their mental status, psychological stressors, and underlying issues. Another reason that this kind of study might have not been conducted, is that these two communities don’t usually interact with each other daily. It would be hard to predict a natural interaction and reaction without facilitating an experiment within the two groups.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to explore the interpersonal experiences of traditionally straight men when interacting with effeminate gay men. Determining underlying issues, factors, and precursors that might lead to potential discomfort, discrimination, and lack of acceptance. Learning these factors and underlying issues can help determine motivations that might lead to unacceptance and discord between the communities. Studying the experiences of straight men rather than the experiences of gay men will help further the literature by observing potential psychological distress and discomfort amongst straight men. This study will help add a basis for clinical understanding within traditionally straight men who are uncomfortable with effeminate gay men.

Literature Review

Masculinity and femininity are words usually associated with physical and biological differences between men and women. In the United States, traditional masculinity is clear on how men should behave and act. There are four main rules that men are to abide by to prove their manhood; men cannot be feminine, men must be respected with admiration, men should never show fear, and men should automatically seek out adventure and risk (David & Brannon, 1976). Per O’Neil there are four main focuses for traditional masculinity. These four focuses include how men should aim to be successful, can achieve a status of power in their lifetime, curb their emotions when it comes to other males, and be work driven. (O’Neil, 2008).

Gay men are seen as breaking traditional masculinity because of their sexual orientation. A qualitative study of 15 HIV positive men in the New York City area have associated the idea of masculinity with the gay community with physical appearance (Sanchez et al., 2009). According to Sanchez the characteristics associated with masculinity included having a bigger built, having tattoos/body piercings, and being sexually assertive/adventurist. One limitation of the study is that it does not specify if the 15 HIV positive men were either cis gendered straight men, cis gendered gay men, or trans men. Correspondingly, a man who is of a thinner frame, without visible muscles or tattoos, who wear tighter clothes, and who may have a higher pitched, effeminate voice, would be perceived as ‘less’ of a man, according to these stereotypes.

Studies have been done on the interpersonal interactions amongst so-call ‘fag-hags’ and gay-supportive straight men (Castro-Convers et al., 2005). The study conducted by Castro-Convers focused on the contact experience the ‘fag-hags’ and straight men had with gay men and challenged previously held myths and stereotypes. Castro-Convers focuses on the friendships that are created and strengthened when a gay man comes out to his gay-supportive friends. The results showed that gay-supportive friends did have some apprehension when asked to attend gay bars, but eventually positive as time went on. The sample size had come into the study with open-mindedness towards homosexuality, and had a ‘live and let live’ philosophical attitude. The study used straight men who were open and progressive in their views of the gay community. However, the study did not use a screener to determine the level of inherent masculinity that would be associated with these men, which is a factor that I as the researcher of this study will be implementing moving forward.

Psychological distress has been closely linked to the ideas of traditional male masculinity. The consequences of these psychological stressors cause men to feel helpless, less of a man, and insecure. The study conducted by Good and his team aimed to study if both masculine role conflict and problem-solving appraisal would have a direct correlation with psychological distress with men (Good et al., 2004). Although the study did show that there was an association with problem-solving appraisal as a predictor of psychological distress, the study was not able to support their hypothesis of masculine role conflict having an association with psychological distress. The study utilized young male college students for their sample size, which made generalizability to other communities impossible.

The literature out there has shown how traditional gender roles, and masculinity can cause psychological stressors for gay men. The research indicates how a gay man’s interpersonal experience can have a lasting effect on the individual. Research out there regarding straight men and their experiences with a gay man is limited. The two groups are studied as separate variables, but never looking at how gay men affect the experiences of straight men, and if these interactions can cause psychological distress with straight men.

This study aims to consider the interpersonal experiences of traditionally straight men with effeminate gay men. Considering underlying factors, discomfort, and psychological stressors that might affect the way straight men might view an effeminate gay man.


Research Design

This research design is utilizing qualitative measures to acquire data. A qualitative approach would be helpful in identifying any underlying issues with straight men when interacting with effeminate gay men. A qualitative study would allow the researcher to focus on specific behaviors in a natural setting without facilitation. In addition, a qualitative study would allow for a more interpersonal interaction with the sample size, when the participant is self-reporting, and the raw human experience that could be beneficial for the study.

For this qualitative study the method being utilized is the grounded theory. For the purposes of this study, focusing on generating theoretical ideas from the data rather than having preconceived hypotheses would be the most beneficial for this study. Using grounded theory would allow the researcher to accommodate a multiplicity of social issues, and can be used to interpret complex and multi-faceted phenomena.


This study will invite 1 participant (1 man) to take part in my research endeavors. The participant is expected to be at least of 18 years of age, can speak fluent English, and can write in English. Specific socioeconomic status, education level, ethnicity, religious affiliation and geographical upbringing will not be considered for a more culturally diverse study. The study will require the participant to identify as a traditionally straight cis gendered man. Participants who identify as a transsexual man will not be considered for the study due to their involvement with the LGBTQA community and potential biases that could become apparent.


If this were to be a larger study participants would be collected via advertisement on the internet. Ideally a screener would be sent out to various college campuses to see if access to those populations would be feasible. This study will aim to be culturally diverse, ensuring a wide variety of experiences. The participants will initially be sent The Masculine Behavior Scale(MBS) to determine if they would be appropriate for this study. “The Masculine Behavior Scale (MBS) is an objective self-report instrument designed to measure four behavioral tendencies stereotypically imputed more to males vs. females: restrictive emotionality, inhibited affection, success dedication, and exaggerated self-reliance” (Snell, W. E., Jr. 1989). This scale will determine which participants will fall into the category of traditional masculinity. If the participant is a viable candidate for the study they will then be asked to complete a consent form to ensure complete privacy. The researcher will be using a voice recording tool to record the participant’s answers to the interview questions. After all the interviews have been conducted they will be transcribed and then eventually coded. The participant will be asked a multitude of open ended questions to help investigate the participant’s experiences with an effeminate gay man. These questions will help me learn the participant’s biases, thought processes, and outlooks on the effeminate gay man. At the end of each interview the researcher will go over the participant’s answers, reactions, and thoughts to ensure there is no misunderstanding. If the interview is successfully completed the participant will receive a 5-dollar cash incentive. Ethical code of conduct will be observed and practiced during the interview process.

Provisions of Trustworthiness

The provisions of trustworthiness will be solidified throughout the studies process and will be acknowledged in a multitude of ways. Observations, interviews, and detailed field notes will be accounted for with the participant. This will ensure an insightful and thorough recollection of data for the study. Observations will be made during the interview portion of the study and safely stored in a safe in the researcher’s apartment. The researcher will use a notebook and pen to take detailed accounts of any behavioral, nonverbal, or body language that might be of use when interpreting the data. Memos will also be kept in the researchers safe that will be helpful when it comes to interpretation of data. The researcher will be keeping up with his daily journals to keep his biases out of the study for the sake of credibility. A researcher should keep a journal during a study to develop and process their biases without interjecting them into their study. Participants will also be able to review transcripts & evaluate results and theories to determine whether the outcomes are in line with participant’s experience. This eliminates any chance of misinterpretation that the researcher might have transcribed and allow the participant to reflect on their experience during the study. All documents have been hand written and kept safe and will be handed over at the end of the study to provide transparency of the research process. Peer debriefing and consensus team analysis will be required for the researcher to be able to collaborate, and identify any biases that weren’t apparent during the study.

The provisions of trustworthiness that will be used in this study will help aide in the credibility, transferability, dependability, and conformability of the study.


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Interpersonal Experiences of Traditionally Straight Men When Interacting with Effeminate Gay Men. (2021, Feb 20). Retrieved from