The Butch Factor, from director Christopher Hines, could be called a movie about trying to fit in when you don’t fit in with–even those who don’t fit in. It’s an examination of the the straight appearing gay or bisexual man and how they find their place within gay culture. Interview subjects talk about not being interested in pop culture/fashion/divas like some gay men; struggling with whether they might be accepted and supported in a traditionally manly-men job; and the struggle to accept and support themselves due to the macho family culture in which they were raised. All of these stories have something in common; society’s view of what and a man and a gay man are.
Though people are walking out of the closet on a daily basis in all manner of the spectrum of gay; pink collar to white collar to blue collar, there is still the perception that gay men are just one way: the pop-culture, diva-loving, artsy, gurl’s-BFF, sassy-with-a-comeback kind of guy. While we are stating to see more of the gay boxer, football/baseball players (post career), sheriff, these folks are few and far between; especially, in the public eye. Aside from Orlando Cruz, the most rough-and-tumble gay that we have is Dan Savage. There are very few role models for those gay guys who are straight appearing to look up to as someone with whom they can identify. For the young gay guy playing for tips in clubs on Nashville’s Broadway, there’s no out, gay country star. For the young gay guy playing H-O-R-S-E, there’s no out NBA player. For the young gay guy getting greasy in his garage, there’s no gay Daytona 500 winner. As interviewee Vincent Calvarese puts it best in the documentary; “There was no gay Yoda, going ‘Mmmm…tell me, please.’ This leaves some gay and bisexual men to wondering ‘how do I fit in?’
What I love about The Butch Factor was that it showed the places where these guys can find their home in gay culture. It focused on gay sports teams; it focused on a corrections officer; it focused on men who’ve come from that ‘a man is macho, and macho is not gay’ background. It provides, somewhat, that ‘Yoda’ that is missing for those gay men who’s interests lie outside the usual run-off-the-mill interests that qualify you for your gay card. I loved that it showed this aspect to gay life. And I liked that it presents these ideas and this journey to find where you are in a way that does not equate more masculine with better. It is just a peek into this other part of gay life and how these particular guys found themselves there.
The documentary, also, delved a little bit into the psychological aspect of masculinity for gay men. How we conscientiously think about masculinity and attempt to achieve it as well as touching on the concept of masculinity being defined by society. It also presents the opposite aspect of this continuum.
It interviews Mark Snyder, who is more feminine in his demeanor and style. Mark tells his story of being criticized, ostracized and attacked due to his persona. This is done with little commentary or judgment from the filmmakers point of view, and little pity or remorse on Mark’s point of view. He’s just relating his history in a similar manner to the other men in the documentary. His story is really more a reflection on society’s view of masculine vs. feminine than it is on straight appearing men vs. feminine men.
The Butch Factor is a really fascinating look at this subject matter and definitely some food-for-thought for the gay community no matter where you fall within the spectrum or what part of gay culture to which you gravitate.