Recently at church I met a Christian guy in his twenties who experiences gay temptations and attractions. He very much believes like I do, that gay sex is sin, so he has decided to give up all sex with men.

As Jesus said, that means to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. Using modern lingo, this guy, like me, is “Side B” (holding to a traditional belief on sexuality).

One thing immediately obvious about this guy is that, unlike me, he rejects many traditional American masculine patterns of behavior. He uses cosmetics and has stereotypical gay mannerisms and speech. He is something of an Instagram star and has gained thousands of followers.

Many conservative Christians believe that gay men should not only give up gay sex but also deliberately choose to dress, speak, and act more masculinely.

A well-known Christian ministry posted an article last year that expressed the view that men with feminine mannerisms and dress are literally going to hell if they don’t stop. The article made fun of things like “floral shirts” and “salad bars.”

Many fellow “Side B” Christian men I know who have given up gay sex objected to the article and sarcastically started wearing flowery shirts and using exaggerated gestures and speech.

My response is that we should all show respect to fellow Christian believers rather than sarcastically put them down; still, we should evaluate anyone’s teachings by whether or not they agree with Scripture.

There are scriptural reasons for the conservative side of the argument, but I can also see some leeway with the specifics. Much of the argument rests on the following verse, especially the meaning of the original Greek word, malakoi.

From 1 Corinthians 6:9 (NIV):

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men [malakoi].

To understand this we must consider the whole of Scripture. Entire books have been written on this subject, so I won’t go into great detail here.

To summarize, the Old Testament law specifically forbids men to dress as women and the New Testament specifically forbids men to be “soft” (the literal meaning of malakoi). These commands are placed in the context of sexual immorality.

Peter, Paul, and the other early Christians agreed that all Christians need to obey the Old Testament commands against sexual immorality, unlike the dietary laws.

My understanding of these scriptures is that we as Christian men should not dress to such a feminine extreme that we would be confused for women, also not adopting effeminate mannerisms, dress, or speech that help us be noticed as “gay” if it is for the purpose of hooking up with other guys.

As long as someone does not go to these extremes, I believe we all have Christian freedom to dress and act in ways that may not quite conform to the traditional American masculine stereotypes.

What do you make of stereotypical gay dress, mannerisms, and speech compared with that of stereotypical American masculinity? What sorts of appearance should Christians avoid or embrace?

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  • I remember this article and I couldn’t stand it. It upset me a lot. And yes, if you aren’t naturally a more “effeminate” man then adopting certain dress and mannerisms just for show would be ridiculous. in the documentary “do I sound gay?” the guy even talked about how his sister perceived certain things he did for different reasons shortly after coming out.
    As for the Biblical references. The verse in Paul that the author of this article butchered was not talking about feminine mannerisms or dress, but was referring to what you would now call a “bottom.” And it is utterly ridiculous to assume someone preferred role in the bedroom based on the way they dress.
    One of the main reasons I found this article ridiculous is because many gay/ssa men that I know that people would point out as “effeminate” have always been like that even long before they even knew about their orientation. Many times were bullied in school or at home as small children because of style choices, body type, tone of voice, mannerisms ect, and none of it was them trying to seem effeminate or gay. and if floral button down shirts are SO FEMININE why would I, a female, get flack for wearing it? I would, and I do. They are just THINGS.
    It has always stuck with me when I was taking my Biblical Studies course that they told us when it came to interpretation of Scripture that it could never mean what it never meant in the first place: so basically you can’t take a scripture that is LITERALLY ABOUT SEX and make it about floral patterns and salad bars and cultural norms nearly 2000 years later. It’s still literally about sex. If anyone found any good in this article, all the power to you. and no disrespect to the man who wrote it (the people who attacked him as a person were terrible) but just because I respect the man who wrote it and love him as a brother in Christ doesn’t mean that his article wasn’t hot garbage

      • Eugene, Haha that is a good parody! I always appreciate your art. As I said, I see no problem in the shirt, the latte’ or the salad bar. However that cape would be a little much for me. You pretty much need the ability to fly or to be a world class swordsman to qualify to wear a cape! 🙂

    • Ashley,
      I definitely agree on your interpration of that scripture. From the context it is clear that it is referring to sex, not other behavior. I am not a Greek schloar, but I have heard that the word malakoi was used in other literature to refer to what we would call the “bottom” in gay sex. This passage in Corinthians also forbids Arsenokoités , which in Greek refers to the “top”. Because they are mentioned together, I believe it it clear that both roles in gay sex are forbidden.
      No, we should not engage in gay sex. No, a man should not dress in a way that is so exteme that he would be confused for a woman. Yes, we do have Christian freedom to violate American masculine cultural norms!
      I think much of the confusion comes from the King James Version, which translates malakoi as “effeminate”. Unfortunately, many conservative Christians have taken that confusion and run with it. Somehow they feel free to sarcastically put down culturally feminine behavior in guys in a way that can be deeply hurtful. That is not showing Christian love!

    • I was gonna comment on the blog post, but you basically said everything I wanted to. So I’ll just say:
      I agree. Thank you, Ashley. You are amazing.

  • This is a difficult subject. Today in my devotion I read 1 Corinthians chapter 11. Paul talked about how men shouldn’t have long hair and women shouldn’t pray without their head covered. There are still churches that hold to the letter of this Word but the majority of us find it somewhat irrelevant.
    When it comes to gay mannerisms, the way many of us speak and act are beyond our control most of the time. I am not feminine but there are subtle cues that will indicate to someone I am gay, maybe the sound of my voice or the way I move my hands, or that I cross my legs. These mannerisms are just who I am. I don’t do them deliberately. They have also been a part of me since before I even knew what “gay” was.
    My slightly gay mannerisms used to cause me a lot of grief and fear. When around Christians I would try so hard to make sure none of those gay cues made it to the surface because I was scared of the Christians around me. My posture would become rigid, my voice tense and unusually deep. Never would I cross my legs in front of them. By the end of my time with masculine Christians, I would be so exhausted from trying to keep myself under control just so they’d like me. The end result was they still didn’t like me once they learned the truth about me.
    I remember saying to a friend after I got shunned by some masculine Christian bros, “if Christians can’t like me, a mostly masculine man wildly in love with Jesus, how on earth will they ever learn to love my extremely feminine gay friends?” It seems to me, it would be easier for the masculine Christian to just learn to love a feminine man than it would be for the feminine man to make himself appear masculine by changing mannerisms that are beyond his control.
    On the subject of dress: that’s a little different, I guess. When I see a gay man with long hair, nail polish, 50 bracelets on each wrist, eye shadow, and lip gloss, I don’t see him as a man that is dressing like a woman, I just see a gay man expressing himself through dress. I can see how a conservative Christian who is in a culture made up of manly men (as we traditionally understand them) having issues with the way this gay man dresses. I’m sure his dress is almost repulsive to that conservative Christian. But because my life and cultural experience doesn’t include conservative men like that, I can make a distinction between a man dressing like a woman (Cross Dresser) and a gay man that is just expressing himself.
    Going back to 1 Corinthians ch 11. If the Church wants to play hardball on this subject then it would only be fair that they also demand women start covering their heads and men start cutting their hair. Also, no tattoos. Furthermore, women shouldn’t speak in our congregations or wear makeup.
    The church shouldn’t cherry-pick verses on the subject of dress. If we are going to strictly enforce the letter of the Word, then we should enforce all of the New Testaments dress code, not just the one pertaining to gay men. Is the Church ready for that? Are women going to cover their heads and take off the makeup and bling?! I doubt it.
    Finally, I think about the early church, how many Gentiles from different cultures were brought into the Kingdom. I’m sure they dressed something freaky by our standards today. Do you think they had to conform to the dress code or was the efforts of the early Church more about saving souls and less about appearance?

    • Xiao,
      There have been entire books written debating the details of some of these Old and New Testament proclamations on dress. I would summarize by saying that a man should not go to such a feminine extreme that he would be mistaken for a woman. You have many good points here, especially that the church should focus more on the heart than on outward appearance. There is nothing wrong with dressing in an expressive way!
      I am sorry you felt like you had to force yourself to act more masculine among Christians. We should have the freedom to be our genuine selves instead of causing ourselves pain by always putting on a show and hiding behind it! Because I live with and hang around masculine straight Christian guys, I just kind of absorb their mannerisms and adopt them as my own. Sometimes that is helpful because I fit into that world a little better, but it is not essential and should never be forced!

  • I’ve never read the article you mention, but traditional American Christian stereotypes have never looked much like Jesus, so I question whether other traditional American stereotypes are a good example of what’s true in the Bible.

  • If being not being masculine sends me to hell, then so be it. I’m tired of the heterosexual Christian community dissecting, pulling apart and ripping the souls from gay people who don’t conform to the T. I am not a masculine guy, whatsoever. I am sensitive, soft-natured and have always felt more comfortable and related more to women. I don’t use the words “bro, dude, man, etc.”; I hate handshakes, I’ve always been a hugger; I hate sports, fishing, guns hunting, and every other stereotypical manly thing there is. I love dressing in floral, hawaiian shirts, bright colors; the majority of music I listen to is by women; and I’m almost the definition of soft. I am NOT changing that or any part of who I am to conform to some hellish/disgusting/toxic masculine role. I am simply NOT doing it.
    It’s one thing to conform to the sexual intercourse ethic (which I can agree with; Side-B); however, I am not and will not tolerate ripping apart the literal destruction and ripping apart the complete identities and personalities that make us gay. Sorry, not doing it. Now, I’m angry. These conservative heterosexual Christians (let’s be honest, it’s really only straight men creating these articles because they are notoriously homophobic; women are much more understanding and relaxed with this) can go shove it somewhere. I’m not respecting anyone (Christian or not), who doesn’t respect me and wants to use the Bible to justify their hate (and yes, it’s hate, no matter how one tries to spin it). Anyone who does can go to hell; I don’t care. If you don’t struggle with same-sex attraction and how it literally colors your whole state of being, I don’t want to see any straight man writing an article on how he thinks a “man” should act. I would literally commit suicide if I had to conform to a traditional straight male role. There is NOTHING appealing about being a straight man, to me. NOTHING.
    To all of my fellow gays who don’t conform to masculinity and other traditional male roles: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG YOU. You are perfect the way you and don’t let these hateful, belittling articles tell you otherwise. I know the church is always telling us how disgusting we are, how we’re abominations and how we’re going to hell for simply BEING who we are. I need you to know that I LOVE you, and I am so grateful to be a part of this community.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective, Tyler. I echo all of your words for our fellow gay/SSA brothers who don’t fit those rigid masculine shapes. Grateful to be part of a brotherhood with much diversity, both in appearance and personality. Such a representation of the Kingdom.

    • Tyler,
      I can feel the hurt in your words. That is understandable after all the shaming, put downs, and thinly veiled hate directed at you. I would never defend that lack of love on the part of your abusers.
      The healing for this kind of hurt is only found in following Jesus Christ, the ultimate best possible loving friend. There are also Christian brothers who will demonstrate Christ’s love to you instead of abuse!
      Call out to Jesus for the love you need instead of thinking too much about your abusers. He will provide what you need and even more loving friends than you thought possible. He is that good!

  • I really see it two ways. I got called gay in middle school because middle school is dumb, and it infected me with a deep annoyance towards people calling things, behaviors, and strangers gay. I feel it most if it comes from a conservative Christian; which I consider myself to be. That’s because I have always felt whether someone is naturally more dramatic, has a high pitched voice, or is touchy feely has no bearing on their sexual preferences. Yet, you forcing them to consider whether it does might just tip them into something you consider sinful. Seems pretty counterintuitive to me. It is for this reason that I don’t mind that I cross my legs differently, enjoy outrageous shirts occasionally, and have a penchant for dramatic storytelling.
    On the other hand, I believe it is healthy to exercise restraint in pursuit of unity. I try to walk a line where I am myself but not to the exclusion of others. I concern myself with the concerns of others for the sake of keeping the peace. That doesn’t make me enjoy hunting, tolerate wrinkled clothing, or lose my interest in interior design. I won’t allow others to be denigrated or accused around me, but I may gently take them aside and encourage them to sacrifice a little self for the insecurities of today’s church. After all, there’s more to masculine men than the stereotypes thrown onto them as well.

    • AJ, exactly right! It is wrong and hurtful for others to put us down for minor perceived feminine characteristics. Still, we need to be considerate of others and not flaunt our freedom in order to stir up an argument.

  • The typical American understanding of masculinity cannot be the only voice at the table. Global Christian understandings should be part of the discussion. And honestly, there are plenty of straight guys these days who are wearing floral and acting “effeminate” by the standards of that article. If the church can put up with that, then it should do the same for LGBTQ people dressing/acting the same.

    • Aaron, my observation is that most churches will tolerate straight guys dressing or acting “metrosexual”. I think it is clear that we should all have the same freedom!

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