Blaine’s gender identity and/or expression

So, I’ve seen some really fascinating commentary from Racheline speculating about Blaine’s gender (see here, here, and here). Interesting because she seems to think that he might be genderqueer or somehow other gendered. I don’t disagree.

My thoughts? Especially since Blaine is Filipin@?

Blaine is bakla. Problem solved. It makes perfect sense to me. Also makes it even more clear why I love the character so much, as Blaine really is the first one on TV I’ve ever been able to identify with.

18 comments

  1. [...] about a roundup? Blaine is bakla. biyuti (for an actual explanation, read these or Wikipedia) But there are so many things about him that [...]

  2. Larkin21 · · Reply

    I would be very interested to read more about bakla, Biyuti, and specifically examples of how Darren Criss’ knowledge of Filipin@ culture and bakla specifically might be manifesting in the character of Blaine. Not that I doubt it; I just don’t think I’m grasping exactly what bakla is and I don’t want to unfairly apply my Western European mindset to what you are bringing up with bakla. I guess, to me, it’s one thing to read about the characteristics of bakla and another to understand what it is when you see it, particularly in Blaine … if that makes sense.

    1. It does make sense. I suppose a long explanation might be in order. I’ll have to find some time to do it, though…

      One beginning place for conceptualizing bakla is the ways that it represents its own umbrella term in Filipin@ culture, functioning in many ways that are similar to queer. But with its own normative constructions, which, I suppose is what you actually want to hear about.

      1. Larkin21 · · Reply

        I’d honestly be interested in it all. I’ve read a little bit about bakla online after seeing this blog entry mentioned on Deconstructing Glee’s blog. But getting your perspective would help so whatever background information you have the time and interest to share, I’d definitely be happy to read. If you could include specific characteristics present in Blaine that show how he might be bakla would definitely be appreciated. Thanks for your response!

  3. Well… For the last bit of your comment, I really think you should look into what Racheline has been saying at Letters from Titan. I’ll be honest and say that prior to her posts, I’d never thought much about Blaine’s gender. But that is likely because he behaves in ways that make perfect sense to my brain. Like… I’m more puzzled by Kurt than I am Blaine. This is very much likely due to the fact that I wasn’t raised with a wholly white notion of queerness.

    Okay. I’ll promise you a post! (since you are so nice about it all)

    It may take a while because I really am incredibly busy, but I’m gonna start thinking it over and organizing my thoughts.

    1. Larkin21 · · Reply

      Yeah, I actually followed Racheline’s blog first and then a friend recommended Deconstructing Glee. About the same time I was got around to reading the article in which Deconstructing Glee linked back to this entry, that same friend recommended your blog. Annnyway, I’ll go back and read Racheline’s blog entries about Blaine and gender. I understand what you mean about it making sense already to you so it’s hard to articulate the distinction in Blaine’s identity. I may ask Racheline for more specifics on her interpretation of Blaine.

      To be completely honest, the main reason I bring it up is because right now I’m not seeing what makes Blaine so different from a queer kid in western culture, since, to me, sexual and gender identity in western queer culture is already very broad. I don’t want to be dismissive toward the Filipin@ influences that Darren Criss may be bringing to the role and that’s why I wanted to ask you about it. But since Racheline has an “outsider” view when it comes to bakla, it might be easier for her to explain her perceptions of Blaine’s gender and how bakla characteristics might manifest in him.

      I definitely understand it will take time to get to this. Like I say, I’ll be interested in whatever you can provide. I’ll also be interested even if it’s months from now before you can post it. I’m rather busy myself lately so it may be a while before I catch up on older entries in your blog or even go back to read and possibly comment on Racheline’s blog with similar questions.

      Thanks again :)

      1. No problem… Although we just may end up having it come in starts and fits in this comment section… :D

        I think the first thing that really struct me, particularly in terms of what DC is bringing to the role. You know that eyepatch scene? And finn and rachel come into the room and Blaine is all, “Hey, guys!” with the most femme body language in all of creation?

        This is a great moment for highlighting some of the choices DC is making. I mean… We are supposed to perceive kurt as being the stereotypically effeminate gay man, with his love of fashion, high pitched voice, and love of theatre. Except… Never once has his body language even been 1/10 as femme as Blaine’s in that one scene.

        Another major thing is Blaine’s love of performance and theatrics. Who he is appears way, way more affected and laced with so much more artifice. I also think this is why he was more confident in the Dalton uniform: it gave him a clear role to instantiate. He could be confident, dapper, and grown up. Be a man, essentially.

        But out of the uniform, in 3×1, and he is being introduced to ND by schue and there is the most adorable tremor to his voice. Where is the confidence? Blaine seems to be less sure of his role and the first 6-7 episodes of season 3 appear to be about him finding his role in ND.

        And… I’m not sure this is making sense. I should really do some more thinking *before* I start to write… More later!

  4. Larkin21 · · Reply

    Discussing this in the comments is absolutely fine with me :)

    And yes, you’re definitely making sense with what you’re saying about the eyepatch scene as well as the differences between Blaine at Dalton and Blaine at McKinley. I agree that he was particularly femme throughout the eyepatch scene and I’ll rewatch it to look more closely at his body language too. I have always felt like they were trying to use Blaine to represent the middle-ground-gay. Someone he has things in common with both Kurt Hummel and Dave Karofsky. Just think about the scene last season at Breadstix with Mercedes. We know immediately that Blaine loves fashion and theatre and has similar tastes in both to Kurt. But he also loves college football and particularly the Buckeyes. So I guess I’ve always expected to see both stereotypically masculine and feminine qualities in this character and maybe that’s why I haven’t been too surprised when both are present.

    I have been a little surprised by Blaine’s clothing choices at McKinley. It’s been strange to me that he seems like he is so at home blending in at Dalton (especially with clothing) and only really feeling comfortable standing out when he’s performing or talking about performing. Think about Prom Queen and how he just wanted to blend in … except when he wanted to be on stage singing (a rather interesting song that I just realized could go together well with your theory about bakla). So why is he now wearing attention grabbing clothing? When he’s at this new school that is a rather dangerous place? Wouldn’t he want to blend in more? I definitely agree that Blaine seems nervous when being introduced to New Directions but until this conversation, I always assumed that was general nerves of being new to the club and picking up the vibes from Finn and a couple others who seemed reluctant to welcome him. After all, Blaine looked comfortable walking up to Kurt in the halls of McKinley when he was out of uniform. That could have all been bravado. I just almost wish they had played up Blaine’s discomfort out of the uniform and away from Dalton in other scenes and other ways in addition to the stuff in the choir room. Because, like I say, I feel like a lot of that goes back to being new and through the sectionals episode, it seems to be about Finn’s negative reactions to him instead of him trying to get his footing out of the uniform.

    1. RE: Him appearing comfy walking in mckinley with kurt… I’m suddenly finding it interesting that the first scene of Blaine, as new student of mckinley, focuses primarily on his clothing. We see pieces of Blaine. We are meant to see the costume before we see the person. And he fidgets with the bowtie… Fascinating.

      Mainly because Blaine transfers for kurt. And that entire scene is about him trying to get kurt to *see* him. To *notice* him. Like all the hand waving at his outfit and his incredulity that kurt, normally quite observant and attentive does not notice. I’m suddenly wondering just how much of Blaine’s transformation into eye catching fashionista is about him trying to perfect his performance as ‘kurt’s boyfriend’ as opposed to Blaine actually being Blaine. This works well because all we know of Blaine is that he fills and becomes whatever kurt needs.

      RE: the breastix scene with Mercedes. I’ve always wondered about how much of Blaine’s ‘masculine’ interests are actually a reflection of him internalizing western/normative conceptions of masculinity. Because after he mentions a love of football, kurt congratulates him on breaking the stereotype. Like… He is passionately discussing politics and fashion with kurt, until it becomes clear that (by Mercedes’ hallucination of the purse falling out of kurt’s mouth) he is being ‘too gay.’ All of a sudden it is “I like football too!” Like does he actually like football anymore than he enjoyed rebuilding a car with his dad?

      Blaine’s mercurial and changeable nature, is to a certain point, one of my main reasons for thinking that his gender might be other. That maybe he is bakla. Blaine is almost always performing, but his roles are determined by his audience.

      (I’m not sure how well I’m making a case for him being bakla vs. gay. Mostly ’cause I’m basically just thinking and writing without much thorough thinking)

      1. Larkin21 · · Reply

        This is all interesting to me, even if we don’t stick to Blaine’s gender identity. You make very good points about Blaine trying to do things to fit in with those around him. He’s definitely a people-pleaser. I typically try to avoid spoilers but I know enough to know the new character in the next episode. I’m hopeful that we get more evidence of this being a “thing” that Blaine does in other areas of his life too. I think that changing yourself to please others is more common among teenagers than we always see on TV. Sure, we see peer pressure and making stupid decisions because of it. But doing subtle things to fit in because you’re still struggling to figure out your own identity? Maybe not as much. Obviously, Blaine still has some fundamental things about himself that don’t change. And he will stand up for himself in certain situations. I could see him trying to blend in more or imitate those around him when he’s uncomfortable or he notices that someone else is uncomfortable. Dressing in attention grabbing clothing like Kurt does makes sense in that capacity. He could also be trying to take a page from Kurt’s brand of courage.

        I think Blaine probably really does enjoy football and sports in general. He seems very comfortable hanging out with the guys, and last season with Burt and Finn. He also didn’t have a problem making fashion references in front of Burt and Finn so it’s not like he feels like he has to be super macho around them. Until we get something on the show that says that was *solely* on act for Mercedes benefit or so he can hang around guys more comfortably, I’m going to assume that he does enjoy sports in addition to fashion and theatre.

        Either way, though, I do see what you’re saying about Blaine’s gender identity perhaps being more fluid than what he feels comfortable expressing in middle-America-high-school, in addition to having a dad who might not be supportive of his son being anything other than Straight. Male. So we see little hints of him not fitting gender norms but perhaps they would be more pronounced if it weren’t for the outside pressures? And/or perhaps Blaine is floundering in coming up with his own identity (outside of the Dalton uniform or outside being Kurt’s boyfriend) because he doesn’t fit into typical gender norms? I can see that. But I’m still not sure I see it as any different than some kids of any sexual orientation having something other than a completely masculine or completely feminine gender identity.

        1. Your last paragraph, interestingly, highlights just why Blaine’s behaviour is interesting… The thing is, if you operating in a queer space then masculine and feminine are simply adjectives describing the behaviours of men and women. Kurt, for all his flamboyance, always presents himself in completely masculine ways. At least he does to me. Kurt only seems feminine if you are operating in a heternormative space where gender roles have some relation to sexuality.

          However, Blaine’s behaviour, even in a queer space (as pertains to sexuality only) tends to leave a lot questions in people’s minds. We are often supposed to read him as being more masculine than kurt, partially because of the interest in football but also because of his clothing. He certainly never wears lady sweaters like kurt does. Always very masculine clothing, even if antiquated. More importantly for the narrative, he is the sexual aggressor in their relationship, as we learned when he assaulted kurt. Kurt was especially set up to be seen as the virginal maiden in that episode, it was about his virginity and about his chasteness. Blaine deflowers kurt, but not the other way around.

          And, yet. So much of Blaine’s behaviour and body language betrays the role that both the show and kurt have cast him in. His assault of kurt occurs with him in a more vulnerable position (underneath kurt, instead of on top as is usual). He is always comforting kurt and being nurturing, suggesting a more maternal role (which is inextricably tied to his race, as most characters of colour on glee must either menace or comfort the white characters). This latter is important for why blaine is never centred in a story, he is kurt’s leading lady, not his rescuing prince, in terms of the narrative structure. It also explains why a person would transfer out of prestigious private school to public as a gesture of love. Generally, in fiction, only women are expected to or are the ones who give up everything for love. Love, for women, is sacrifice. For men, domination. And we see kurt almost continuously dominate Blaine from the moment he disregards Blaine’s traumatic past at prom to pressuring him into transferring to mckinley. Blaine, in many ways, displays the lack of agency usually characteristic of women in fictional worlds.

          But all of this is why Blaine’s race matters so much, since glee can only allow white characters to have leading roles. But this tension created by Blaine’s surface role but his contrasting narrative role is only exacerbated by the choices DC makes when he embodies Blaine. All of those little gestures that indicate both an awareness of Blaine’s narrative role and how it troubles the gender role that Blaine is, on paper, supposed to have.

          I actually made a few gifs for a key moment that I find truly interesting.

          1. Larkin21 · ·

            I feel dense because I’m trying to understand what you’re addressing in the differences between queer space and heteronormative space. When talking about Kurt, you said masculine and feminine in queer space relates simply to behaviors of men and women and that “Kurt only seems feminine if you are operating in a heternormative space where gender roles have some relation to sexuality.” But then when you switch to Blaine’s behavior, you say in “queer space (as pertains to sexuality only).” I’m really not trying to be picky and I’m definitely not try to be obtuse. I’m just trying to grasp the parameters you’re setting. It seems that you are saying that when it comes to superficial things like personal fashion choices and liking theatre versus sports, Kurt may be more feminine and Blaine more masculine but when it comes to interpersonal dynamics, Blaine is more feminine and Kurt more masculine? Please correct me if I’m wrong about that. If I am correct, though, I’d argue that looking at it either way (the superficial or the interpersonal), we’re still talking about heteronormative concepts of gender and sexuality.

            Looking directly at what you’re saying about Blaine, I do agree that he exhibits feminine qualities in his relationship with Kurt. But so does Kurt. After all, Kurt went to Blaine in the auditorium to clear up their argument from the parking lot. Yes, Blaine apologized but Kurt also issued an apology and even went on to reassure Blaine that he was proud of him and proud to be with him. Very nurturing. Kurt gave the green light for them to have sex, something that the “girl” in the relationship typically does. Furthermore, to me, Kurt only ended up on top in the car because Glee did not want the assault to seem more serious and threatening than it already was. I do agree that Kurt is in the more typically masculine position by being on top they were positioned that way so it never seemed like Kurt was in serious danger. Had Blaine pushed Kurt into the back of the car and climbed on top of him? That would have taken the assault to a completely new level and Glee did not want to go there. In my opinion, that is the reason for Blaine to have assaulted from the bottom. I don’t think it was a commentary of Blaine’s feminine role in his relationship with Kurt. 

            When it comes to giving up something for love, again, Kurt has done that as well. I do agree that Blaine transferring to be with Kurt is a huge sacrifice. Kurt also sacrificed when it came to the role of Tony. It could be argued that the play isn’t as big of a deal but it was a huge deal to Kurt and how much weight he put on that role in helping him get into NYADA. And yes, it’s not like Kurt stepped away from the role because Blaine wanted it. The opposite, in fact (although, I would further argue that if Blaine were completely stepping away from the role, he probably shouldn’t have used a Tony song to audition). But Kurt did graciously support his boyfriend before the cast list even went up, even though Kurt really wanted that role for himself. I also disagree that Blaine is the leading lady instead of the rescuing prince. Blaine started out as rescuing prince from his first episode as Kurt dealt with Dave Karofsky, even coming to McKinley to confront Kurt’s bully. He also initiated a shoving match with Dave later in the season, as though he had to protect Kurt. It could be argued that was macho posturing but it certainly wasn’t the act of a leading lady. Blaine also rescued Kurt at prom when Kurt was left alone in the middle of the dance floor. Other than sacrificing his Dalton friends and education, I really don’t see how Blaine is the leading lady. 

            I guess in going through all of this, the main take away I have is that I don’t see either Kurt or Blaine as the “girl.” To me, they both exhibit masculine and feminine qualities in the relationship. I also think that it is a cyclical argument to say that the show is  sexist because they don’t give feminine characters agency and storylines and therefore lack of agency and storyline is evidence that the character is feminine. And since I feel like Kurt is just as feminine (in the relationship and outside of it), I also disagree that the show refuses to give agency and storylines to the feminine characters. 

            I don’t say any of this in argument with your bakla theory at all. I can still see how Blaine’s gender identity is more feminine than some of the superficial gender representations, such as what we’re seeing through Blaine’s dress and his possible enjoyment of sports. I just disagree that he is as feminine as you’re implying, particularly in comparison to Kurt and how they interact with one another. 

  5. In terms of the first paragraph, in a non-normative sexuality space both kurt and Blaine are equally masculine, is what I was trying to say. And in non-normative gender space, I’d say that kurt is a man but Blaine… Maybe not. Which is sort of what we are debating.

    I also think our discussion could do with a pulling away from giving a laundry list of details from the show, since I’m sure we both could have an arsenal of details to back up each of our points.

    I think the narrative tension that our discussion has illustrated, the likely hood that Blaine was purposefully cast to be a more seemingly masculine foil to kurt’s apparent femininity. But this narrative intent is subverted by Colfer’s solidly masculine body language and Criss’s more effeminate body language. I also think the narrative intent is subverted by the fact that, very much true for season 2, Blaine was only a supporting character for kurt. Because in hollywood/tv leading roles are mainly filled by men and supporting cast are women (there are statistics to back this up somewhere).

    But I think the answer, anyway, lies in the tension created by the narrative intent and the choices made by each actor. Or who Kurt and Blaine supposed to be on paper and how they become embodied by the people who play them.

    This discussion has allowed me to clarify what I think Blaine’s gender might actually be. It isn’t that I’m attempting to argue that I think Blaine might be either femme or a women, but rather that I wish to draw attention to the fact that his gender (in terms of role and expression) seems much more fluid than kurt’s. If I were to locate Blaine’s gender in western discursive space, I’d be inclined to think that he is genderqueer, but of the gender fluid variety.

    I think Blaine’s gender and its expression fills the container of the relationship. If kurt were less masculine or less solidly grounded in his identity as a man, we might see Blaine being more free with his expression. It is the sort of thing that if I were a fiction writer, I’d write a futurefic of Klaine 10 years in the future after kurt has had time to live and exist in space where his manliness in not constantly challenged, so that he doesn’t have to be so defensive about it and how this allows Blaine more freedom to have his gender expression be fluid in ways that are more accurate to his gender identity. Or another story, I can see how, in the future, Blaine’s love of performance combining with his gender to make him one of the most fabulous drag queens known to humanity (with costumes lovingly designed by kurt, of course). But I can’t see kurt becoming a drag queen or doing drag as anything more than something fun to do once in a blue moon.

    1. Larkin21 · · Reply

      Sorry I’m just now getting around to responding. It’s been a busy couple of days. I definitely can see the case for Blaine being genderqueer. The reason that the “laundry list” of details is important, though, is because some of the examples you gave for Blaine being more feminine are also present in Kurt. I understand your point about being able to refute each other back and forth and back and forth but I also think that these canon details have to be discussed and remembered when talking about characterization and our interpretations. I’m also not denying that, statistically speaking in the entertainment industry, more often it is women who play the supporting roles to men in the leading roles. But Kurt was there first. He’s the main character. Of course Blaine is going to be cast to support him instead of cast to be the central character. This would be the case if they had made a genuinely macho football player be Kurt’s boyfriend instead of a show choir kid from Dalton (it’s rumored that was the plan before TPTB realized just how popular Darren Criss is and how popular Klaine would be). Unless Finn, Artie, or Puck ended up dating Kurt, Kurt’s boyfriend would always be the supporting character. At least initially.

      Anyway, when it comes to their roles within their relationship, I’m still not seeing how Blaine is more feminine than Kurt but that’s probably just going to have to be something that I continue to look for when I rewatch episodes and as new episodes air. I do agree that, from time to time, Blaine’s body language is more feminine and, of the two (hell, of anyone on the show), Blaine is the most likely to be genderfluid. As we’ve said, he seems to be trying to be what other people want him to be so we only get hints of who he really is. I also agree that, despite wanting to be considered to sing “girl songs” and wanting to be in the girls’ group on boy vs. girl competitions, Kurt strongly identifies as male and we’ve heard him say so more than once. I can definitely see your point about how Kurt’s personal identity could easily influence how Blaine self-identifies at this point in his life. And if you ever write that futurefic, I’d definitely want to read it.

      Looking back at the scene you first brought up where Finn and Rachel arrive to visit Blaine and Blaine’s body language is particularly feminine … I had a laugh rewatching that scene because, although I didn’t remember it when you brought it up, I had originally thought that Blaine was on pain meds and that was the explanation I came up with in my head for his body language and for his behavior in most of that conversation. Obviously still functioning fine but a little on the loopy side. And honestly, that could allow his more feminine side to come out since he’s not actively trying to be someone else (specifically: not trying to be more masculine than he naturally feels). I almost wish he had been acting more femme while drunk last season to further support this theory but I still think it’s very interesting and very possible.

      I’ve really been enjoying this conversation. Thanks for talking this out with me. I’m not trying to put an end to the discussion and I’m definitely still interested in learning more about bakla if you decide to write about that at some point. It’s just starting to feel like we’ve might be winding down so I wanted to be sure to thank you while I had the opportunity.

      1. No. I’m not winding down… but this conversation is totally making me get firm ideas about what I think about Blaine’s gender.

        One thing I’m realizing is that I don’t believe that I would (at this point) actually like to argue that Blaine is more *feminine* than kurt. Which is somewhat the argument I’ve been making. Yet… it doesn’t sit right for me, as revealed by our discussion. Because it isn’t that I think Blaine is significantly more femme, especially not in relation to kurt. My own views of gender, as stated earlier imply that both are equally masculine, insofar as they are both men.

        The tie in for Blaine being bakla and why this is qualitatively different than kurt being gay, is the comment I made about Blaine becoming a fabulous drag queen in their future. The somewhat older version of bakla has heavy involvement in cross dressing and the sort of performance that constitutes drag. However, in the west being a drag queen or cross dressing has no essentially links to one’s sexuality (i.e., one can be a drag queen or cross dresser and be heterosexual) whereas performing femininity is often an essential characteristic of being bakla. Enough so that it is the normal way that most bakla in the Philippines are… this is what being ‘gay’ means when you are Filipin@.

        In part, this is also why I think that DC’s race has a meaningful impact on how Blaine is characterized… because he is, on the surface, presented as being more masculine than kurt but DC’s body language as Blaine subverts this alleged role.

        I guess what I might be trying to say at this juncture is that Blaine performs femininity in ways that kurt doesn’t. Kurt is a man and his perceived femininity is more due to normative gender roles. Blaine is mostly a man, most of the time and in most ways… just that he marks himself (purposefully) as being queer by performing femininity, not because he is more femme but because this is what being queer means to him.

        But being man who performs femininity is not really a category easily identified or expressed in a western context. Importantly, I think Blaine purposefully tries to (as much as possible) put *himself* into a more femme role in their relationship: this is the role he desires. Of course, kurt’s uncompromising queerness won’t really allow Blaine to instantiate a more heteronormative structure to their relationship, perhaps accounting for the back and forth our discussion has illuminated…

        (um, basically? I’m still thinking this all through!)

  6. [...] hair and the stuff about the bronzer, also have clear racial implications, which brings us back to biyuti’s remarks that Blaine is bakla. Now that the race and gender stuff around Blaine is intersecting so vividly that a lot of [...]

  7. I have really enjoyed reading this conversation. It has really made me think and analyze things in a way I hadn’t considered. I kind of agree with both of you on most if not all of the points you have been making.

    1. Ha! Maybe that is the answer… we are both right!

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