Moving beyond 'a hierarchy of pecs and penises' : how gay and queer men contest, resist, negotiate, and perform masculinity : 219855 research report presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements to the degree of Master of Communication at Massey University, New Zealand
This narrative inquiry examines the identities and lives of nine gay and queer men living in Wellington,
New Zealand as narrated and performed in hour-long semi-structured interviews. Viewing identities
as social constructions that are generated through people’s interactions within specific physical and
temporal contexts, this research project examines the performative construction of gay and queer
masculinity, and the effects of gender and sexuality in the participants’ lives. Through the perspective
of a queer male researcher, this project locates gay and queer men within their wider struggles with
heteronormativity, and gives voice and privilege to their minority identities and experiences.
Narrative analysis of the participants’ stories focuses on how gay and queer individuals navigate their
lives as non-normative men who are Othered by traditional, hegemonic and hierarchical masculinity.
Viewing identities as unstable and requiring of endless (re)negotiation and (re)performance, this
research also examines the complex hierarchical construction of hegemonic homomasculinity by some
straight-acting gay men who bolster their own gender performances by Othering femme-presenting
individuals. It explores how heteronormative gender constructs and hypermasculine, hypersexual
stereotypes affect the lives of the participants, identifying poor self-image, feelings of shameful and
inadequate masculinity, and the need for secrecy about their sexuality as key drivers in homomasculine
identity development. Additionally, media, pornography and violence are examined as significant in the
generation and delayed performance of homomasculine identities. Finally, this research also analyses
how some takatāpui and queer-identifying participants negotiate Self with high agency, and perform
their identities free of the homohierarchy of traditional, hegemonic gender constructs. By integrating
aspects of their gendered, sexual Selves within their identities, queer and takatāpui participants make
clear the means by which people with non-normative homomasculine identities may be empowered,
liberated and validated as people like all others.