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Androphile definitionBBC Three

I’m not gay, I’m an androphile

Chris Stokel-Walker

Nicolas Chinardet doesn’t like the words most people use to describe his sexuality.

“I think ‘homosexual’ is a bit clinical, and lots of people use it negatively,” he says. “‘Gay’ has a certain lifestyle attached to it, which I don’t recognise myself in.”

Nicolas doesn’t relate to what he calls “the clichés you could attach to the ‘gay’ scene". He’s a club photographer, but he says, unless he’s working, “I don’t go clubbing. I don’t like shopping."

So, in the early 2000s, he came up with an alternative term to describe himself as a man who finds other men sexually attractive: 'androphile'.

“I made it up from my vague knowledge of Greek,” he tells me. “Putting two bits together” – the prefix 'andro', meaning man, and 'phile', denoting a love for something – “to come up with androphile."

Since then, the word has mutated into a label of choice for some young gay men, often politically right-wing, who identify with a new kind of sexuality.

In 2006, the right-wing polemicist Jack Donovan took the word as the title of his book, which was subtitled, 'Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity'.

(Donovan, who has become an icon for androphiles around the world, did not respond to a request to participate in this story.)

More recently, as the ‘alt-right’ has become more visible, the term androphile has too.

A generation of young men who are attracted to men - but who eschew the liberal, activist politics they believe are associated with the gay liberation movement – have chosen it to describe themselves.

It's a label that is used exclusively by men, with no real equivalent for gay, right-wing women.

A member of the Gay Liberation Front holding a poster and under a banner.Getty Images

The term's reinvigoration may seem puzzling, but it shouldn’t be. After all, the word ‘gay’ was popularised in the 1970s, around seven decades after it was first coined as a less judgemental, less clinical term than 'homosexual'.

Even that word (homosexual), only came into common use in the late 19th century, when sexologists like Havelock Ellis argued same sex desire was just another sexual identity (something you were) rather than - as it was then perceived - a sinful, criminal act of sodomy (something you did).

Sexual identity is never really about biology or gender; it’s often more about ideology.

James Downs

'Gay' gained popularity after the activist Frank Kameny came up with the catchphrase 'gay is good' in 1968. The gay liberation movement then claimed this 70-year-old word to create a new, positive identity and language for same-sex attraction.

“Sexual identity is never really about biology or gender; it’s often more about ideology,” explains James Downs, author of Stand By Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation.

“In many respects, [the words people use to describe their] sexual identity often tells us more about a particular time and place than it does about behaviour.”

The gay liberation movement had its genesis in the political left, says Downs. It was a time when coming out took tremendous strength.

It wasn't just an act of rebellion against conservative mores - it was a fight for equality. But with society now being more accepting of homosexuality (though there are of course many who still face persecution and violence because of their sexuality), a new splinter movement has formed.

“I think what you’re seeing from this new term, androphilia, is a disavowing of the left,” Downs adds.

“They don’t want to identify with leftist politics, and so they want a term that doesn’t have that political baggage.”

Henning DieselHenning Diesel

“Gay is part of the LGBT+ world that I never see myself as part of”

Henning Diesel

Henning Diesel, a self-described androphile and right-wing libertarian who lives near Hamburg, Germany, also rejects the word ‘gay’. “Gay is part of the LGBT+ world that I never see myself as part of,” he tells me.

While some might consider his views on 'gay culture' to be outdated, to Henning there are very real issues with the term. He explains that he doesn’t identify with what he calls “gay music, like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus” and “gay TV and movies, like Queer As Folk”.

Henning admits to being “sort of associated with the alt-right,” and he regularly shares alt-right memes, as well as videos and tweets created by figures in the alt-right movement.

“My sexual orientation is homosexual,” the 37 year-old explains. He describes his personality as having “typically male characteristics like courage or diligence – very traditional aspects".

“It includes violence, too,” he adds, explaining that he has an admiration for militaristic, traditionally ‘macho’ pastimes.

He calls the LGBTQ+ movement “advocacy for socialism” because of its roots in left-wing politics. Being gay doesn’t mean you automatically “sign up to the gay movement,” he says.

“I’m aware that Jack Donovan subscribes to the alt-right political movement. I stand in opposition to that, but I don't think it invalidates his depiction of gay culture.”

James Milton

Yet many are not happy that the term is being used by members of the alt-right.

James Milton, a 24-year-old student from Chicago, encountered the term ‘androphile’ in Jack Donovan’s writing six years ago, when he was an angsty 18-year-old looking for a place within gay culture.

James MiltonJames Milton

He says it, “affirmed my suspicion that I wasn’t gay – just a man who happens to sleep with other men,” Milton told me.

He felt like he was on “the outskirts of gay culture because I didn't relate to the pre-determined gay identity”. A country music fan, he says he was mocked by the bartenders in gay bars when he picked songs he liked.

James is also a fan of wrestling and mixed martial arts (MMA) – an interest he believes has caused him to be excluded from social situations with gay men.

“Those kinds of experiences directed me to the label 'androphile',” he says.

James is an African-American who identifies as a political centrist. “I’m aware that Donovan and many of his androphilic followers subscribe to the alt-right political movement,” he says. “I stand in opposition to that, but I don't think it invalidates his depiction of gay culture.”

As for Nicolas Chinardet, who began describing himself as an androphile in the early 2000s as a rejection of gay stereotypes, he says: “I think I’m going to have to review my description.”

With androphilia now co-opted by the alt-right, he doesn’t feel comfortable with it anymore.

“I want absolutely nothing to do with those people,” he says. He’s on the hunt for a new term.