Labels, labels, labels

Is it time to ditch ‘masc’ and ‘femme’ labels once and for all?

Labels. People can’t seem to stop talking about them these days. Including opinion writer Edward Pike.

In a new op-ed titled Gay men won’t be truly free until we learn to ditch labels like masc and femme, Pike argues that if we truly want to live in a post-label world where everyone is equal, we need to start by doing away with the labels we impose upon ourselves.

“How many gay men like me have spent countless hours worrying about the tone of our voices, the sway of our hips, the limpness of our wrists, lying in fear of being discovered for the ‘girl’ within us that we’ve been so desperately trying to suppress?” he asks.

This way of thinking, Pike says, isn’t healthy, as it causes people to “[mask] their authenticity, their voice or their true desires.”

Related: Do Gay Men Have A Problem With “Glorifying Toxic Ideals Of Masculinity”? This Blogger Thinks So.

“We’ve been convinced that the right body, job or clothes would provide the decoy we needed so that others would never truly see us,” he writes. “Everyone has been living the same shared dream, in the silent and unspoken agreement that what is on the surface is what is true.”

Hmmm. We’re not sure about “everyone,” but we get what he’s saying. Many LGBTQ people, indeed, still feel pressured to keep their identities secret.

So what’s the remedy?

According to Pike, we need an all out “revolution.” We need to stop labeling ourselves and one another in antiquated terms like “masc” and “femme” and instead embrace total inclusivity.

“This revolution must start first within ourselves,” he says. “Without self-introspection it has no meaning and is merely a band-aid.”

Related: Do Gay Men Have A Problem With Gender Roles? “I’m A Masc, Dom Top Who Needs To Be Held”

“We have to pause and consciously ask ourselves questions such as ‘What do I believe to be true about masculinity?’, or ‘How do I define femininity?’.  It might take a little digging: these old images are deeply ingrained in our unconscious.”

He concludes by writing:

If we are ever going to let go of the need for letters and acronyms for our identity, we need to learn to move beyond our labels first. Because only when we can let go of our own unconscious bias, of our dualistic minds, of our age-old stories of what is right or wrong, good or bad, masculine or feminine–can we truly find the freedom we’ve been craving.


Well? Is it? #masc4masc #masculinity #genderroles #gay #carriebradshaw #satc

A post shared by Queerty (@queerty) on

What do you think? Is it time to ditch the “masc” and “femme” labels once and for all? And what about men who enjoy identifying as “femme” or women who like being “butch” or “masc.” Share your thoughts in the comments below…

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  • Heywood Jablowme

    Yet again, a “post-label” type who confuses the labels used in hyper-sexual hookup apps and ads with the more general aspects of real life.

    WTF – don’t these guys have ANY non-sexual, gay male friends? (A rhetorical question; I know the answer!)

    • Giancarlo85

      The problem here is that people use that masc label endlessly… even on this website. They use it to justify their insecurities and shortcomings.

    • Heywood Jablowme

      Oh yeah, I believe that part. The average self-described “masc” would be shocked to hear a tape recording of his voice and hear how gay he really sounds. So it’s often somewhat delusional on the “masc” side. But also the “femmes” are often aggressive and vicious in a way that women rarely are.

      I mean that the labels have never – until very recently – been applied in a blanket way to all aspects of everyday gay life (which after all is mostly non-sexual, no matter how young or horny one is). The labels were always a feature of casual-sexual print ads, which was reinforced when the internet came along and later with phone apps.

  • JerseyMike

    GTFOOH… There is nothing wrong with being called either. People use these terms because they have preferences and nothing is going to change that. Masculinity and femininity is natural for some. it is learned behavior for others. Question for Giancarlo85.. Why is someone insecure and have short comings for identifying as masculine and not feminine?

  • Chris

    Why doesn’t Mr. Pike ditch those terms in his everyday life? The practice will either spread virally or it won’t.

    I get more than eye rolling annoyed when people have deeply personal insights and then say that everyone else should do what they want us to do. Do what floats your boat and leave the rest of us alone to use, or NOT to use, a set of labels that – for all their fuzziness – seems to have served pragmatic functions in the past. And when those terms no longer serve those functions, the gay community will abandon them.

    And it’s not a deep insight that all words have limits. So puhleaze…..

    • Heywood Jablowme

      Yes – this reminds me of a joke from the ’80s:

      Q: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

      A: One to do it, and ten to write about it.

      The difference is that feminism is a real issue (unlike THIS bullsh*t), and back in the ’80s no one had the internet and blogs. We are so fortunate to live in an era when everyone can write endlessly about total bullsh*t!

  • Billy Budd

    I am a versatile guy and my best experience being a bottom was with a total femme guy whom I dated. He was FABULOUS as a top. I love femme guys.

  • natekerchel

    People should be allowed to be what they want to be – if they want to use labels so what? The problem only arises when people try to impose labels on other people. I have lost count of the number of times that both gay and straight people have automatically labelled me a ‘top’ in sexual terms. In reality I have no preference. I just look ‘masculine’ apparently. The objectionable part of that is that I am being labelled in the first place, and that a ‘masculine’ look equates with sexual dominance in the penetrative sense.
    When I meet someone new I make a point of getting that discussion over with as soon as possible so that no assumptions are made and no labelling done on either side.
    All in all I don’t give a toss if people want to label themselves. None of my business. Freedom of expression and all that.

  • Mo Bro

    “Pike argues that if we truly want to live in a post-label world where everyone is equal….”
    Note to Mr. Pike:
    Everyone isn’t equal, nor will they ever be, no matter what labels you give to or take from them. Your silly crusade to even the playing field on every level of society will never work, so stop trying to mold humanity into some Utopian fantasy and allow people to be people . . . be they masc or fem.

  • JoeyRamone

    Guess what? Sexual attraction is not egalitarian, never will be.

    This is where liberal politics goes off the road and into a ditch. This obsession with language and identity. Call me any name you you want. My only fight is for legal protections against violence and discrimination in things such as housing, employment, healthcare, etc.

  • PhuturePrimitive

    So let me get this straight… We’re now being told to effectively drop labels by the same outspoken types of people most likely responsible for the clusterf*ck of labelling that has become commonplace in society (not even just in gay and lesbian culture)? Every week, there’s a new letter or identity added to the LGBT acronym, cities like New York have upwards of 70+ gender identities you can choose from, Facebook has another several dozen, etc. At best, the wishy-washiness exhibited by many ‘progressive’ members of the LGBT community is misguided, and at worst it’s absolutely mental. So now we’re trying to police how people identify or their preferences (or rather, how they SHOULDN’T identify)? Get out of here.

    I’d sooner have respect for the individual who wrote the op-ed piece if they didn’t seem to parrot the same progressive buzzwords or sanctimonious linguistic gymnastics that helped get us to where we are today with such gems as “gender queer”, “non-binary”, “demi-girl/boy”, “pansexual”, “bigender/trigender” and a whole slew of other nonsense.

    Some gay men are in fact traditionally masculine. Some are traditionally feminine. And then there are others who fall somewhere in the middle. This has been a reality of gay humans since the dawn of time, to be sure. To make it seem that displays of masculinity and feminity are social constructs, and that we should just let them go, is intellectually dishonest.

    As long as there’s those glaring differences in human behavior (which doesn’t make one worse than the other), people can be free to refer to themselves as masc, femme, or whatever they choose. And those who have preferences toward someone who exudes whichever of those descriptors should be free to be selective in a mate or partner as they so choose.

  • DCguy


    Here’s a thought Mister Pike. Without labels I’m curious, if a straight woman is attracted to men, but there aren’t any “Labels” I guess she should just respond to every dating profile and hope that the person who shows up for the date is male right?

    Every 6 months or so the same damn article gets written by a different author in a different magazine.

    • BriBri

      Shouldn’t you be pleasuring your buds at The Crew Club?

  • JodyBoy

    I know what I like when I see it and when I see it, I like it. It’s that simple.

  • SeaNMtnsJon

    Sorry Queerty but this same article comes out in gay publications oh about every five years for the past several decades. It’s one of those talking heads-need-to-fill-airtime-on-CNN articles. First, I think a lot of the younger set actually have dropped a lot of the labels. Second, I do agree labels can be hurtful that’s why I always preach respect, kindness and tolerance. It’s no fun being labeled. But on the flip side of all of this is human nature and human desire. If you are into guys more fem – great – dig a little bit of the masculine action? Well, that’s great too. But to tell us to drop the labeling? I think what needs to be added is continued kindness and continued inclusion. People are different and people like and love different things. If labels aren’t don’t in a bad or exclusionary way I see no reason to tell us yet another thing we need to change about our community speak. I do agree one should not be promoted as better or more desirable than the other. But I think the younger set is ahead on all of this…. they don’t care. They don’t label as much. I think the blending of our labels is happening naturally. At the heart of your article is treating people with respect and kindness a message that should be on Queerty 24/7.

  • Gian Paul Graziosi

    Sense vs. Perception. One will always sense the difference in voice pitch, mannerisms, and interests. One should not perceive these differences unequally as to the value and character of a person. Labels are necessary. Prejudice is not.

  • jhon_siders

    Well there always will be types I prefer men like me Str8 acting my wrists don’t flail I don’t flame you would never know I am gay –Until you get me in bed or play space Then your butt is mine LOL I work heavy construction and the co workers that do not know have not a clue its not a issue im just like any other guy I just prefer other men intimately .

  • Chris2016

    That instagram post is so stupid. Yes, masculinity, is in a sense a ‘construct’. As are many things. But it wasn’t constructed by some sort of fluke. Biology/science had a major role, as well as culture/society. So it’s ridiculous to assume that people who are wired to be attracted to men, would only be attracted to masculinity, because of misogyny. I imagine all the straight women who are more (or only) attracted to ‘manly’ men have some sort of internalized misogyny too? This is just femme Gay guys trying to compensate with some pseudo-intellectual bollocks.

  • BriBri

    Not at all! Except for butch lezzies.

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