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O ON It States heard the case and ruled 5-4 that the Boy Scouts was a private organization protected by the constitutional right to freedom of association. In light of this decision, Mechling wonders, “Can a homosexual adult male be an appropriate role model for a heterosexual teen?” Reversing the proposition, he asks, “Can a heterosexual adult male be an appropriate role model for a gay teen?” His answers add up to a refreshingly straightforward and progressive consideration of masculine identity, and an equally straightforward and refreshing condemnation of the troglodytes running the show in Irving. “I would have to say,” Mechling explains, “that heterosexual men can be appropriate role models for gay teens if by ‘appropriate role model’ we mean that the adults perform a more complex, broader spectrum of masculinity than the cultural stereotype allows.” Similarly, he also supports homosexuals as effective role models for heterosexual boys due to the fact that “[h]omosexual men are as capable of performing masculinity in the same broad range as heterosexual men, just as homosexual men are as capable of expressing misogyny as are heterosexual men.” His position rests on the key premise that “the performance of a range of masculine behaviors” has nothing to do with a man’s sexual orientation. It promotes the idea that, as Mechling continually witnessed among the boys at camp, “there are many ways to perform masculinity” Between the fireman and the geek, in other words, one finds infinite variations on the theme of manhood. The inclusion of gay men can only broaden a boy’s view of those options, and thus make him more comfortable with his own brand of masculinity, whether it be muscular or nerdy, and whether he be gay or straight or somewhere in between. Mechling’s conception of gender as a constructed category has its limits. Girls, for example, don’t make the cut. The androgyny that he appreciates within masculinityan inherent flexibility that “expands the culturally expected performance of ‘male’ to include qualities and behavior usually reserved for women”does not go so far as to erase the biological differences between men and women. There’s something about “the private folk culture of the adolescent boys” that Mechling finds especially sacred and, although he never really pinpoints why, he. suspects that the inclusion of girls would scuttle the peer socialization integral to the development of masculinity, no matter how liberally that masculinity is conceived. I have no idea if he’s right on this point, but I do have a supporting anec dote to offer. Not long ago, while walk ing my dogs behind the local grammar school \(at the time I was finishing this Scouts congregating around a hose to grab a drink. I stopped to watch them. Naturally, after a couple of gulps, horse play ensued and the boys were playful ly spraying the hose at each other. One summarily drenched, his glasses knocked askew, his clothes sopping. He was pissed. Shoving followed. A punch to the shoulder. More shoving. A head lock punctuated with a face rake. The continued on page 29 1118/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25