A Gentle, Collaborative Social Orientation


An excerpt from Gay Men and The New Way Forward Gay men exhibit a range of characteristic traits that emerge well before puberty—sensitivity, gentleness, kindness, peacefulness, non-violence, empathy, and a collaborative, cooperative orientation. We tend to be considerate and accommodating. As Harry Hay described it, “What begins as an unformed disposition toward non-aggressiveness, favoring homosexual orientation, ends in a special form of consciousness. It is this consciousness...that is the source of social contribution of gays.”

From an early age, gay boys are fundamentally different. Because children’s work is play, these traits tend to show up in the ways that young gay boys like to play. Most gay boys, when allowed to express themselves freely, will either gravitate toward play typically associated with girls or engage in gender-typical play in a gentler manner. For gay boys of my generation, that meant choosing Barbie over GI Joe, an Easy-Bake Oven over a toy gun. These seemingly simple choices be- lie the very different “social orientation” that gay boys come equipped with—we gravitate toward gentleness and nurturing, not aggression.

Even when we engage in play associated with heterosexual boys, our more feminine energy changes how we participate in those activities. A typical gay boy who plays with Matchbox cars, for instance, will play more gently and thoughtfully, while a typical straight boy will demonstrate more aggressiveness. In team sports, the typical gay boy tends to exhibit less aggression and sometimes even displays confusion about his role in the game.

Consider the characteristics of gay boys who are drawn to historic preservation, as described by Will Fellows in his book, A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture: "The profile of the boy who is not like other boys emerges in one after another of these men’s stories. He is unusually sensitive, gentle, well-mannered, mature, attracted to reading and other quiet activities, to music and art, to homey things and homemaking activities."

Give or take a trait, this descriptor could easily apply to the majority of gay boys.

So let’s explore these behaviors and traits as they appear in gay men as adults. Men in Gay Men of Wisdom groups had this to say:

  • We are good listeners.
  • We are understanding.
  • We have good communication skills.
  • We are attuned to our intuition.
  • Gay men are consensus builders.
  • We tend to be more egalitarian.
  • We have a deeper understanding of difference and diversity.
  • We are less competitive. When we compete, we do so differently.

Ray is leading a retreat, Celebrating Gay Manhood, October 13-15, 2015, at Easton Mountain.