By Tony Peregrin @TonyGrin
1:51 PM CDT, August 30, 2013
What do you call a brotherhood of gay men who get together and bond over sports, video games, gear, gadgets and guns? Meet the Gaybros—a Reddit-based community founded in 2011 with a shared interest in “guy stuff.” Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and even Dublin, Ireland, have active Gaybro communities with regular meet-ups at local pubs, restaurants and events such as Gay Pride.
“In Chicago, the meet-ups only started happening in the last year or so,” said Gabriel Villalpando, 28. “Some of the more popular meet-ups are at bars, or socializing somewhere in Boystown or Andersonville, or house parties. We don’t always meet in gay bars—we basically go anywhere that has a good beer special.”
According to Gaybros founder Alex Deluca, 24, of Boston, Chicago is in the Gaybros top 10 cities with San Francisco at the top of the list in terms of active members. Meet-ups—which tend to happen monthly or bimonthly in Chicago—attract as many as 30 Gaybros, according to Deluca.
“What is nice about Gaybros meet-ups is that it is not the same people each time,” Deluca said. “People go to these events nervous because they might be unsure of who will be there, but every Gaybros event I’ve been too has been filled with the kindest and most welcoming people who treat you like they have known you forever from day one.”
Bros before hos
The formation of subgroups and tribes within the gay male community certainly isn’t new—Chicago has an active bear scene, a world-class leather community (see: International Mr. Leather) and even communities and events built around DILFs and Otters.
“I would say our interactions aren’t strictly sexual in nature, and that is how Gaybros are different from DILF and Otter [parties],” Vallalpando said. “We’re all brought together because we are men who share certain interests that can be termed as ‘masculine’ but different from DILF because we’re not concerned with sexuality. We’re looking for beer specials, to find new music to listen to and to do things that don’t necessarily qualify as a stereotypical gay experience.”
“Unlike otter, bear or DILF events and groups, we don't limit ourselves to one ideal image in our identity,” said Jon Allen, a moderator of the Chicago Gaybros Reddit group, via e-mail. “It’s more about taking pride in your sexuality and masculinity, however you want to personally define those two things. Our emphasis has never been on how people behave or what animal they look like. Our emphasis has always been to develop a fraternal brotherhood that anyone is welcome to be a part of.”
“We are explicitly not a dating service,” Deluca added. “Having said that, people have met fiancés and significant others and had Gaypros—Gaybros proposals—but that is not the purpose of the groups. Gaybros is more for finding friends.”
“To a point, they're correct,” said Marc “Moose” Moder, 43, a DJ and promoter from Andersonville. “Events like our DILF and Otter [partiese] are geared toward a specific physical type and the desire to find that type, whereas Gaybro meet-ups are supposedly about personality type. That said, I see no huge difference in being attracted to a physical type versus a personality type—they’re just different kinds of attraction. In the end there is equal amounts friendship vs. lust involved. I think those who fear that Otter, DILF and IML are sexual in nature are either scared of their own sexuality, or don't know how to attend a gay event to make friends and dissuade come-ons.”
Whether or not Gaybros mirrors other subcultures within the gay male community is a subject for ongoing debate, but unlike these other groups, many LGBTs accuse Gaybros of actually promoting “femmephobia.”
“Over-flamboyance—to be honest, you won’t find a lot of that around us,” Villalpando said. “I’m probably the most overly flamboyant [of the group]. We’re not looking for the stereotypical experience—we aren’t looking to hook up with the next guy, and we’re not out to party all night, so to speak. We are looking for shared experiences and common interests such as rugby or beer—sports, that is our focus. People shouldn’t be concerned with what the gay experience is supposed to be, of course that is bunk, because everyone’s experience is unique. I think in five years more people will figure out ‘Hey, I can be into rugby and dudes and that is a cool thing.’ ”
“There are some people who hear the name Gaybros and their gut reaction is to think of those guys on Grindr who say they are ‘straight-acting guys only’ or something douchy like that,” Deluca said. “We have members who are musical theater majors or fashion majors—people lump us with people who are derogatory, but in the sidebar [of the Gaybros subReddit page] we put in bold letters, ‘It's OK to have a variety of interests— just like it's OK to be a member of more than one community.’ ”
Critics of Gaybros point out the sidebar Deluca is referring to also states, “If a topic clearly isn't for Gaybros [such as] ‘What's your favorite Cher song?’ we'll remove it and point you to another place.”
If discussions centered on a Cher song are verboten, would a drag queen be allowed to join Gaybros? The answer might surprise you.
“I couldn't care less if you put on a dress every so often,” Allen said. “I did drag for a rugby fundraiser once, and I had a blast. Whatever floats your boat, you know?”
“I don’t see why not—it doesn’t matter who you are to us. All power to you that you are confident enough to do that,” Deluca added. “If you can contribute to the conversation, you are more than welcome.”
Brode of silence
According to Deluca, anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent of Gaybros are “at the beginning of journey toward self-acceptance” (read: In the closet) and the network provides a friendly, accessible platform for like-minded gents to share experiences, find information and get advice on a variety of topics including the coming-out process.
Villalpando said some of the Chicago Gaybros are not out or consider themselves bisexual, and he points to the anonymity offered by Reddit and the closed Chicago Gaybros Facebook page as essential for building trust amongst these members before attending a meet-up.
“I don't think the closeted/out ratio is relevant,” Allen said. “I certainly don't have a quantification of our out or closeted members. What I have seen in the Chicago group is a sense of community. Many of the Chicago Gaybros joined because they are looking for a group of like- minded guys who they can share their interests with.”
Despite the controversy surrounding Gaybros, the group continues to thrive. According to Deluca, Gaybros gets about 3 million page views per month, with 300,000 monthly unique visitors. A new website will launch in January 2014 that will include features and networking capabilities similar to other social networking platforms such as Facebook.
“I think this [Gaybros] mentality is far more East Coast than Midwest, so I don't think it’s a lasting, powerful movement in this town,” Moder said. “But by all means, if they want to have a movement and events—go for it.”
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