On this rainy Friday night in Toronto, 25 young men are gathered upstairs at O’Grady’s on Church Street. Most are wearing plaid, clasping pints as they discuss the latest Grand Theft Auto release. Almost all the men are 20-something. A mounted television blares the Leafs game.
Welcome to the Toronto cohort of Gaybros, an internet-based community of gay men with conventionally masculine interests.
Launched on Reddit two years ago, Gaybros describes itself as a forum dedicated to “guy stuff: sports, cars, video games, military issues, working out, gadgets, gear and more.” Its members contrast their traditionally manly interests with what they perceive to be an effeminate gay mainstream.
With posts ranging from steak-cooking tips to football bets, the forum is a sort of fraternity that has gained 30,000 subscribers in less than two years. From Sydney to Toronto, Gaybros gather for monthly meet-ups to find friends with similar interests.
Boston sports fan Alexander DeLuca started the group after struggling to find queer-friendly spaces that fit his interests. He remembers mentioning his boyfriend on hunting forums and getting homophobic responses.
“Over the past decade being gay or bisexual has become increasingly more acceptable, but this acceptance often comes with a very narrow definition of what it means to be gay,” he told BuzzFeed earlier this year. “I created Gaybros to provide a space for these guys to gather and talk about shared interests and to break down stereotypes and promote the idea that you could be a gay man and still be exactly who you’ve always been.”
The forum has 30,000 subscribers and nets three million page views a month. Many Gaybros are Canadian, and there are regular meet-ups in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.
But the group has also attracted the ire of queer bloggers, who say the forum reinforces stereotypes. A parody forum describes Gaybros as “a place for homosexual men who think they're ‘straight-acting’ but want to use a more politically correct term to get together and talk about anything.”
“I don’t think we’re trying to foster a community of masculine privilege,” says Tim Karu. The 28-year-old is one of the forum’s seven moderators who remove discriminatory comments they come across. “We’re trying to build a community of guys with similar interests, with lots of different types of people.”
Bros out west have gathered at the Calgary Stampede, and a Vermont group recently conquered the Tough Mudder course.
But the Toronto group hasn’t delved outside of bars and occasional beach days. Many at the recent meet-up, including James Wilkinson, 24, don’t identify as being strongly masculine.
“It’s pretty diverse. You have a lot of different personalities and body types,” he says. “The group tends to skew toward tech geeks, because it is from Reddit. Otherwise it’s pretty inclusive.”
For Wilkinson, it’s a chance to meet a range of people outside the dating world.
“It’s a great place to meet fellow gay men interested in meeting people on a friendship basis and not a sexual basis.”
Robin Stoddart, 31, says the name “Gaybros” gives a wrong impression.“Frankly, it’s a stupid name. It’s a characteristic. It doesn’t represent the variety of people who are here,” he says.
Stoddart points at the forum’s numerous support posts for men just coming out of the closet.
“People think we’re shunning effeminate guys. That doesn’t happen here,” he says.
Behind him, a group is debating the newest Cher video. To the side, two guys argue over what makes a good whisky.
“We’re a very supportive group. If you’re a nice guy and you like to kiss boys, we’re here to support you.”