This paper investigates social transitions, constructions of masculinity and coping among men in commercialised gay spaces, such as nightclubs and dance parties ('the
scene'). The findings are derived from two qualitative studies involving individual samples of 24 and 12 younger (aged 19 to 36) same-sex attracted men living in
Melbourne, Australia. The analysis recasts 'coming out' into the gay scene as a passage into a 'new world' and a 'new self'. On the scene, notions of selfhood are challenged and men enter various states of liminality as they (re)construct themselves.
New ways of performing the self can be tried on through ritualised behaviours, including performing various masculinities. While successful performances of masculinity can promote social 'acceptance', those who express non-hegemonic forms of masculinity can struggle harder. Internalised homophobia influences rituals on the scene, and men reported feeling like perpetual outsiders, regardless of the success of their performances. The emotional dangers to selfhood lurking in performance and ritual are explored, as well as the ways that men find to prevail.
Invariably, liminality ends, and the men who do well approach themselves, the rituals and the performances with insight.