Gayatri Gopinath, a professor at NYU who focuses on gender and sexuality studies, wasn’t surprised to hear about the emergence of gaybros as the latest fetishization of hypermasculinity in the gay scene. She pointed to famous 1970s illustrations by the artist Tom of Finland, who depicted bikers, lumberjacks and construction workers as Adonises. What, then, is so different about red-meat-loving, high-fiving jocks in search of same? “This is a moment of the mainstreaming of gay life,” said Ms. Gopinath. “The fact that there is now an emerging subculture of ‘straight-acting’ gay men who are attracted to others like themselves isn’t surprising.”
Living in a time when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, Ellen DeGeneres feels like a family friend and gay marriage is growing in acceptance around the country, being a 20-something bro like the jerks in college is the rare gay identity that actually feels transgressive. The military, the chapel and some sports fields are now open—so why not the frat house too?
As for the “bro” part of the equation, the definition is ever-shifting. Sean Penn played the loveable original stoner-bro Jeff Spicoli in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and then Matthew McConaughey defined the bro as a pervy stud in 1993’s Dazed and Confused.
In the 2006 YouTube hit “Bro Rape,” which stars Community’s Donald Glover as the titular character, the bro was defined as an “18-to-24-year-old male who wears Birkenstock sandals, watches Family Guy, plays ultimate frisbee and wears an upside down visor with a pre-frayed brim.” Last year, Mike Lacher’s “On the Bro’d,” a scene-by-scene parody of Jack Kerouac’s most famous work, defined the archetype via Ed Hardy T-shirts and bottles of Natty (Natural) Light.
While the term is frequently deployed as a dig, there is a contingent that embraces the term, albeit in a slightly self-mocking way, and they seem open to embracing gaybros too. Brandon Wenerd is a senior editor at Brobible, the website that chronicles college bro culture and related news. When asked whether he thought gaybros might have their place in the scene as well, Mr. Wenerd was open to the possibility. “As far as Brobible goes, we don’t define bro using sexuality,” he said “I don’t think that bros define themselves by their sexuality—it’s a hobbies and interest thing.”
Additionally, an informal poll of current fraternity members at the University of Maryland and Penn State revealed a fairly blasé attitude toward gaybros, as long as they walk the walk. “I think gaybros can easily coexist with bro-bros as long as they stick to their bro guns,” said a Maryland frat boy. “For example, if three straight bros and a gaybro are drinking and playing video games, the gaybro can’t suddenly be like, ‘Do you guys want to go shopping?’ But if he’s doing bro stuff, I see no qualms.”