The Manliest Man I Know Is Also The Girliest


Until she met her fiancé, Alyssa Royse never understood how “girly” a manly man could be.

I like silence. A lot. And calm. As I prepare to get married (again) it is no wonder that this man with whom I am making a life is very quiet. And calm. At 5’ 4”, he’s almost mousey. He is extraordinarily gentle, in most regards. He will drop to his knees at a moment’s notice to play with our daughters, and will stay there for hours, dressing paper dolls and having tea parties. He prepares balanced meals for them, he tidies up the house, always a load of laundry in the process of being folded and neatly put away. He makes sure that everyone in the house—ages ranging from 3  to 80—is free to discuss their feelings, and will facilitate the sorting out of any problem that any of us have, so that there will be peace in our home, and our hearts. He’s working 2 jobs (by choice, he loves them both) and never complains, ever, about anything.

I am marrying June Cleaver.

Every now and then, I watch him step over a pile of my laundry, which will be there for a month before I get around to dealing with it, and I wonder when he’s going to give up on me.  (I keep thinking that if I leave it there long enough, eventually, he’ll do it for me. He won’t. But he also won’t give up on me.)


His mother’s life partner was over the other day, while he was at work, and she asked, “where’s Brady Ann?” Brady Ann? What? But that’s “my” inside joke! I have often joked to him that he is the most feminine man I know. It’s funny to us for several reasons, not least of which is that we’ve both made a life based on destroying gender stereotypes, so we mock ourselves when they sneak in. Both of our mothers are ardent feminists who raised us to be as gender-blind as possible. While all people are different, because they are different people, they are all capable of the same range of emotions, and can be as strong, tough, gentle, playful as they choose, if they are given the chance to be.

And if you were to meet Brady, I can guarantee you, “feminine “ would be the last word you would use to describe him. Those two jobs he works? He’s a firefighter and a CrossFit trainer in a gym that he owns. He shaves his head, sports great tattoos, still puts in his piercings now and then and you can see every muscle in his body. He is a “manly man.” Whatever that means.

Which brings me to one of my (many) gender-bias lapses. When I was online dating, I would say to my friends (usually with enough alcohol in me that I didn’t even try to be intelligent) that I wanted a “manly man”. I didn’t know what that meant to me. It didn’t necessarily mean muscley, I’ve never been all that drawn to muscley men. I prefer the really smart ones—as if those two things are mutually exclusive! THEY ARE NOT! But I have a very strong personality, and I have been with too many men who don’t stand up to me. Maybe because they’re trying to be polite or generous, or maybe they just don’t know what to do with a strong woman, I don’t know, but I know it doesn’t work. I wanted a man who knew who he was, could be true to himself, who wouldn’t let me, or a sense of duty, get him into situations he didn’t want to be in. I needed a man who didn’t need me to validate him in order to feel good about himself. I needed a man who didn’t give a damn what others felt about him, and wasn’t caught in some people-pleasing trap of self-denial.

And I needed a man who wanted a woman about whom he could say all the same things.

Now that I think about it, these are the same things I look for in my friends, of all genders. And all relationships. I don’t think of it in terms of gender, but in terms of maturity and stability.


Brady caught me by surprise. When we first met, I told my girlfriends that he was too nice for me. I can see you all roll your collective eyes, fair enough. It’s not that I don’t value kindness and manners, it’s that I am afraid of people who don’t stand up for themselves. That always smacks you in the ass later, and not in the good way.

He was so nice. So kind. So patient. So gentle. My PTSD from past bad relationships was triggered. I could futurize conversations in which he’s yelling at me for something that we did together and I say, “but you said that was okay, you said you wanted to,” and he says, “I only said that because I thought you wanted me to.”

It was my shit, not his. And I knew it.

He was so nice. So kind. So patient. And I found that irresistible, because I felt safe with him. So we went out again. And again. When he finally kissed me (date 3) he asked first, and he listened to my answer. And he may have been gentle when he asked me about it, but he kissed me exactly how I wanted to be kissed: fearlessly, ferociously, with his mouth and his teeth and his heart.

The next time we met up, he came to my house with his daughter, who was asleep in her car seat. He asked if he could kiss me again. When I said yes, he lifted me onto the kitchen counter for a better angle. And this was the first time I saw that perfect balance of manners, respect and raw power. He wanted what he wanted, but didn’t lose sight of my autonomy. Balance. You know what balance is? Safety and sexiness.

His daughter woke up from her nap, and he transformed into a mode I had not yet seen. Pure gentle. She was confused about where she was, he snuggled her in a way that as so pure. I almost disappeared to him, but not quite. His values were firmly in place, he was a father now, and the cool guy kissing the girl he had the hots for would have to wait. The fact that he could resist me was sexy to me. Not because I liked delayed gratification (totally not my thing,) but because I saw that he knew what matters, and could make those choices, even in the heat of passion.

That melted me. Dirty pool, for sure.

Same guy, no bunny ears.

I have always believed that our ideas about gender are pretty ridiculous. The feminist movement has done a fantastic job of illustrating that women can be tough, strong, leaders, smart and change the world. Although it’s not always been smooth, for the most part, we embraced a changing definition of “feminine” with the word “and” rather than “or.” Women can be sexy and strong. Smart and silly. Cute and inspirational. Tough and sensitive. A scene in a movie in which a woman in lingerie was fixing a sink while crying because things were falling apart doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Of course she can be all those things.

It wasn’t until Brady and I really merged our lives that I realized how far from true that is for men. Because I realized how different he was from any man I had ever known.

Our culture has divvied up personality characteristics between men and women, with precious few allowed to overlap without calling into question one’s gender identity.

Manly men are described with words like: strong, tough, brave, aggressive, lusty, confident, virile, daring, fearless, firm, messy, secure, heroic and countless other words like that.

Feminine women, conversely, are described with words like: delicate, demure, emotional, soft, tender, patient, sensitive, tidy, respectful, thoughtful, insecure and countless similar words that compile to make the “weaker” and “gentler” sex.

Women who don’t conform get labeled things like “tomboy”, but they’re still women, and there’s not much of a value judgment in there.

Men who don’t conform don’t fare so well. It is an insult to be a “girlie man” or a “pussy.” For that matter, your sexual orientation can get called into question. Neatly dressed men who are gentle are often called “f-gs.” I’m not sure what bothers me more about that, the fact that “f-g” is a pejorative or that assumptions are made about sexuality at all.

In addition to this subjective divide of adjectives, is an equally baffling list of emotions that men and women supposedly don’t all have. Women are afraid, men are not. Women get heart-broken, men do not. Men are driven by sexuality, women are not.

It’s all bollocks. We are ALL capable of ALL of those things, and many more. Sure, we all have more of some and less of the others, but it is natural and normal to be and feel all of those things. And for those things to change over time, contextually, as we do.

But where do we see that modeled for men? Where do we see examples of strong men who are also emotional and afraid?  Where do we see lusty men who are also respectful and thoughtful? Where do we see heroic men who are also sensitive, and even insecure at times?

Even Peter Parker isn’t allowed to be both heroic and insecure. Peter Parker is insecure. Spiderman is heroic. We have so fractured our idealized version of a Manly Man that we can’t even fictionalize a complete man, we turn them into a half-man half-monster creature and call them a superhero.


As I say that, I realize that I am preparing to marry a Superhero. A man so manly that he doesn’t need a cape and tights. (Though so comfortable with himself that he’d totally rock that look, with a wig and a tutu, in public, if it made one of our daughters happy.)

I don’t know if he was always like this. I know that as a teenager at 5’4” and barely 110 pounds, obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons and one of only a few white kids in urban Chicago schools, it’s hard for me to imagine that he wasn’t that pencil-necked geeky kid, to a fairly large degree.  I know he has a wildly theatrical flair and likes to dance like it’s nobody’s business, not exactly “butch”. Yes, he has spent his entire adult life either diving into forest fires or house fires, or pulling people out of car wrecks and that sort of thing, but he also dances, reads novels while drinking herbal tea and drives a beat up old car because it still works, so why wouldn’t he? I don’t think he has always been what one would call “manly”. And that’s precisely what makes him so solid, emotionally speaking.

But if you spend time with him, despite how he looks on the outside, he is tender, sensitive, calm, tidy, emotional, patient, thoughtful. He is, truly, the most feminine man I know.

I, on the other hand, am aggressive, slobbish, impatient and relatively intolerant of people’s irrational emotions, and into weight-lifting. Did I mention slobbish? I am a fairly masculine woman. (Though I ADORE lacey things and manicures.)

Which doesn’t cause me to question his gender, or mine. But rather, to even further dismiss the use of those words as descriptors of a gender.

It’s ridiculous that we believe so strongly in the gender roles that we have constructed that we actually believe our ideas are facts. We could just easily decide that the opposite “facts” about masculinity and femininity are true: that women are the strong tough ones, and men are the emotional crazy ones.

Not only is it not a fact, it’s not useful. It’s harmful to tell men they can’t be afraid and sensitive. Imagine the uproar if someone were to tell a class of girls that they can’t be strong and brave! We need to stop telling people that they are allowed some emotions and character traits, but not others, because those belong to “other” people.

We need to ditch the whole gender-binary nomenclature altogether. And just say, “We are all human. We are all capable of all things. And we will all be happier when we accept that, and each other, for who we are.” It is as simple, and complex, as that.



Photos courtesy of the author


About Alyssa Royse

Alyssa is freelance writer, speaker, fitness trainer and personal coach living in Seattle with her husband and their 3 daughters. They own Rocket CrossFit where she spends most of her time training men and women in ways that are as much emotional as physical. She can also be found on her eponymous blog, where she pontificates about food, family, politics and the Seattle rain. Yes, she would love to speak at your event, host a workshop or write something for you. Just ask.


  1. I missed this article the first time– thanks for re-posting! I have the pleasure of knowing and being married to an amazing man who has spent most of his life being vastly misunderstood. He is incredibly kind, which has been misunderstood as weakness. He is unbelievably patient, leading some to suspect he has no backbone. He has been both mom and dad to his two kids, raising them almost single-handedly (until two years ago), yet administrators always asked to speak to the kids’ almost entirely absent mother (and now the very present me) regarding any decisions of importance. He soldiers on, neither seeking nor getting recognition for his many sacrifices, yet balances the harsh reality of his oft-thwarted life with positive enthusiasm. He has plenty of reason to cry (and sometimes does). And he is without question one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.
    Steve has been labeled with pejorative stereotypes often associated with women (weak, no backbone)– which pisses me off because (a) the conflation of these behaviors and these traits is just straight up ignorant, and (b) there’s no reason these traits should be associated with femininity, in my opinion. He has further been defined and dismissed through the stereotypical lens of ‘divorced, absent dad.’ I am lucky to be with a man who defies stereotypical definitions.
    He is in fact tall and muscular, sexy as hell, goofy as all get out, and can rock a little black dress if the situation requires. Masculine? Feminine? Just purely awesome, from where I’m sitting.

  2. Resonance says:

    Alyssa, your man is what David Deida refers to as a Superior Man. He simply is not afraid to be all that he is. God’s personal name means, “He that causes to become”. That name has reference not to his outward creations, instead to his ability to become whatever is required for the situation. Since we are created in his image it is the the obligation of men to demonstrate that quality foremost and be what is required. In the book The Way of the Superior Man one chapter speaks of one of the qualities that you admire in your significant other. That chapter say s a man must have and pursue a purpose first and foremost beyond the love of his woman. In the words of Omar from “The Wire”: “Everyman has to have a code”. I will tell you that being a superior man is difficult because the qualities of such a man are not admired or valued by most women. Woman as well as men are molded by a weak society and pedagogy. Most look for their ideas of love and mates from magazines or dating sites that showcase the hollywood aesthetic. I referred to your man as a specific rare type. My dear lady….Women of your type are in fact almost extinct. You are like Bigfoot. I have read about you and seen some of you as TED speakers, but I have never actually seen one of you in person. I’m beginning to doubt your actual existence. I am 52 and think that women at this stage are surely looking for men that are superior and would appreciate them. Instead they are chasing the Christian Gray fantasy and not looking for real men at all. Men watch porn, women read romance novels, while increasing the divide and cultivating the disconnect of who we think the other is and what we actually should be looking for. So what we have is both sexes striving to be images of men and woman instead of becoming superior men and women. The late Debbie Ford said that we resonate favorably or unfavorably to a quality that exists within us. You can only appreciate that which you are yourself. Thus you appreciate your man because of the woman that you are.

  3. Thank you so much Alyssa for posting this article. You’ve reaffirmed what I’ve always known in my heart to be true about what a REAL MAN looks like, and you’ve solidified my conviction in finding such a man for my own partner. I won’t settle, and I’ll leave myself open to let the type of man you speak of above find Me!

    • Anonymous says:

      A short list (note: not complete) of ‘REAL MEN’ for reference in the future.
      Sir Donald Bradman
      Mike Ness
      Joseph Stalin
      Abraham Lincoln
      Elliot Rogers
      Adolf hitler
      Nelson Mandela
      Jamie Wincup
      Nigel Farage
      George W Bush
      Despite the rumours these are all genuine real men. For real you can google them if you want. Totally legit. Will I need to do a list of real women as well for reference? Let me know as I will need some time. Finding real people is hard.

  4. Jay_Dub1 says:

    Loved this article. Says a lot of the things i’ve thought of and said for years. You sound like quite the lucky couple to have found each other.

    Oh…and i tend to believe, more and more, that men actually are the “emotional crazy ones” more often than not.

  5. d'artagnan says:

    I agree with the article.
    But I will leave the fear and sensitivity to other people.
    No need for that in my life.
    My cynicism and pessimism are enough.

  6. Wow, THIS is the matter the GMP is made of!
    Pure brilliance and equality and inclusiveness.
    Thank you Alyssa, women like you are the ones that make me love women.

  7. Love this article and the comments here!

  8. Great article Alyssa, and your man is solid, as he knows who he is.
    Men too often fall into the false sense of having to be manly, and asserting their manliness. This is the reaction of many men to the feminist movement. Men have feared the feminist movement, as it has appeared to want to de-masculinize men. The feminist movement has not celebrated its achievement and evolved with our changing society, but continues to appears to be at war with men. We all need to remember that the feminist movement started out to bring balance between men and women.
    My mother was not a feminist, but she was a strong woman, that I admired (and still do), and taught me to respect women. I feel that for women to move forward they must trade in that old feminist vehicle for a new less aggressive one that will suit the terrain they now travel. The successful women of today that occupy the high powered positions that feminism set to propel them to would not call themselves feminist, only successful, strong human women.
    In retrospect, the male movement must now realise times have changed and we no longer have to have the caveman mentality requiring us to go out and kill our own dinners, and fight neighbouring tribes. We need to adapt to the changing roles in society, where men need to be more gentle and nurturing to balance out the strength that’s already programed into their DNA. The old adage of that is woman’s work is well and truly gone, and to be replace by that is part of everyday life.

    Your man seems to have found this balance and good for him, which makes you two a successful partnership. The more men that embrace this ideology the better, as this will become a necessity in the harsh reality of this modern day economy where the breadwinner could be male or female.

    • I feel that for women to move forward they must trade in that old feminist vehicle for a new less aggressive one that will suit the terrain they now travel. The successful women of today that occupy the high powered positions that feminism set to propel them to would not call themselves feminist, only successful, strong human women.
      In retrospect, the male movement must now realise times have changed and we no longer have to have the caveman mentality requiring us to go out and kill our own dinners, and fight neighbouring tribes.

      I’ve been thinking about this lately as well. For those of us whose feminism involves working for gender equity and respect for all people of all genders, is the term “feminism” misleading? My work, my writing, and my passion for equality are not focused on only women. Or only cisgender people. Or only straight people. For so many self-identified feminists, our passion for this is inclusive. So do we need to change the term? No.

      My reasoning is this: historically, feminism has been a struggle for gender equality. Sure, early feminists worked to gain rights for women, because women were severely second class citizens. Even given all of the gains we have made, there are still rights to be won for women – like the right to wear whatever we want without being objectified or “asking for it”, the right to have sex with whomever we want and not have to worry about getting pregnant, or the right to know if we’re being paid equally to our male peers. These have always been issues that involve questioning the gender binary and its role in our society. It is this history that makes me hesitant to drop the label. Although evolution is always necessary in social movements, feminism has a valuable legacy. Men have entered the discussion (which is a wonderful, valuable, long-time-coming thing) and their right to cross the gender binary is certainly worthy of discussion and more cultural work. But it is possible to do that under the umbrella of feminism. Working for equality for any gender helps all genders, because it will lead to a world in which everyone is allowed to be whomever they want to be – feminine, masculine, or somewhere in between.

  9. I try to be like this. I mostly fail, and sometimes I try to hard. At least I have sense enough to know that it’s a good idea.

  10. Alyssa Royse says:

    He read all of this before anyone else did, so he’s good with it. I would never have written it without his whole-hearted endorsement.

    Yes, it will take many years, but it’s up to us to get that clock ticking. The notions of masculinity and femininity that this closed-minded culture have created are indeed out-dated, which isn’t to say that the sexes don’t exist. Just that they are not a strict and mutually exclusive binary. All men are not one way and all women are not one way, and they both share the ability to feel and behave in the entire spectrum of human nature. Saying otherwise represses and harms people. No one is saying it doesn’t exist, what I am saying – and am far from alone in saying – is that we have more in common than not. And being told we must not feel things we feel, or be who we are is harmful to people.

    Which is why the concurrent illustrations that you see as trite were chosen – it is not one or the other. It’s AND. We can be all of these things. And more. He happens to be these things. Another man will be other things, and it’s all okay.

    His height is a data point. Though arguably, an important one. Seeing as small guys are often referred to as less “manly.” And the June Cleaver reference was not to dress-up dolls, it was to the whole nurturing and gentle and home-making package. In our home, he takes on many more of the traditionally female traits than I do….. And I much more of the masculine. Though I swear, I’m going to put away my laundry while he’s at the firestation tonight.

  11. I think it will take many years of feminism to convince boys that it is a good think to be ‘girly’ and that masculine confidence and strength are part of an outdated patriarchy – and that masculinity and femininity are just constructs that are created by a narrow-minded culture.

    It fascinates me that this man’s height is emphasized – always a sensitive topic for short men – and that he is compared to June Cleaver while dress up dolls.

    I would like to know what HE has to say about all of this.

    The picture of the bunny ears and the lectures on gender roles and the ‘macho’ photo to balance it all out are too self-conscious and cute from my perspective.

    The idea that masculine and feminine do not exist is a hot-house plant, an idea we have created in our culture that has no precedent in history. We are involved in a huge experiment where men are encouraged to be feminized – yet at the same time told that femininity does not exist. Meanwhile women are masculinized through feminism.

    All of the trendy terms like gender neutral, gender binary and masculinist are part of a tiny left-wing elite. Even men dressed in bunny ears cannot change the world (fortunately)

    The irony, of course, is the photo of the “masculine” side of the subject – without the ears – “proving” that he is not all “girly”. Do the sexes exist – or not? That is the question the Left has to decide.

  12. “But where do we see that modeled for men? Where do we see examples of strong men who are also emotional and afraid? Where do we see lusty men who are also respectful and thoughtful? Where do we see heroic men who are also sensitive, and even insecure at times?”
    Brilliant. Well done. I see them here: the ManKind Project. In fact … this is what they teach. I’ve been a Crossfitter for two years … CF helps me Rx my physical life. ManKind Project (MKP) helps me Rx my emotional life. I hope my wife sees me the way you see Brady. I’m pretty confident that she does. ROCK ON.

  13. Alyssa Royse says:

    Steve, I’m sorry that’s all you saw in this, as it was not my intention. But, as I said in an earlier comment, that is the hazard of writing about one person, which is what this was. Were I to leave out the obvious facts that he is who he is, it would be patently untrue and far more contrived. That said, I thought that I did question those assertions, and say very directly that while women fair just fine as “tom boys,” men are not allowed equivalent leeway. That is the point, and that was what I spoke most directly about. We all need to be free to be anything and everything that we are, without getting beaten with binaries that harm us. As I said, the feminist movement has done a great job of freeing women from this vice of expectation, no similar effort has been done for men, and that was my call to action. I agree with you 100%.

  14. SteveDelaney says:

    This article contains many wise observations and concludes that gender stereotypes are rather ridiculous for men or women. Yet for me it was slightly unsatisfying. The author illuminated her partner’s many admirable characteristics but seemed to feel she had to back them up with sturdy boasts about his masculine attributes. It is as if she is saying “he is so masculine, he has room to be girly” which is surely not the point of her writing. Our society needs to realize how deeply these expectations for men are held, so deeply that they are rarely questioned, even rarely recognized. We are all aware of the repression heaped on women’s roles, but we are only beginning to question the repression forced upon men. This can be seen on any playground. A girl who exhibits traditionally male characteristics is given a kind of admiration and called a tomboy. “She is as good as a boy!” A boy who exhibits traditionally female characteristics is called a sissy and scorned by everyone, parents, teachers and schoolmates alike. I was one of those boys.

  15. Great piece. In addition to everything you said, an added bonus is that by putting this out in public, it establishes the precedent that the gentle, kind man DOES get the girl! which I think is a useful example for young men who are skeptical or hesitant about challenging gender norms. Not that life should be all about getting the girl, but it’s a nice little incentive. 🙂

    • what i need to add is, kind man get KIND girls too!!!! Sorry just getting ANY girls is not enough for me 😀

      • Alyssa Royse says:

        Laughing inside…. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something similar. Though kinda the reverse. Why would I want a guy who is just looking for any ol’ girl? I’m not any ol’ girl. I want a guy who is looking for something extraordinary. I would rather wait and blow the mind of a man who deserves to have his mind blown. 😉

  16. Articles like this are what keep me coming back to the GMP 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  17. Nice, Alyssa. Thanks for calling out that feminism has helped liberate women from the June Cleaver past, while also noting that our lack of a masculine equivalent to feminism means that many men are still stuck in 1955, which hurts both men and women.

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      You’re welcome. This is becoming incredibly important to me, and I’m not sure how to tackle it. Feminism did amazing things for the liberation of women from harmful stereotypes, and no such thing has been done for men. It’s hard to do so, however, because one immediately gets labeled all sorts of things and the dialog gets buried beneath an antiquated and unnecessary war of the sexes.

      I would love to hear more ideas about how we can further this part of the dialog. How do we set men free from harmful stereotypes of masculinity and embrace a more holistic perspective of humanity? I want this so badly…..

      (You should have seen the look of panic on his face when I said that I wished we had a son, so that we could tackle this in our own way…… I wish I had a photo of it! But fear not, no more babies here, not of any gender!)

  18. This is a beautiful, insightful post, and I’m so glad I took the time to read it!
    Gender stereotypes are so ugly and offensive in this day and age–and yet they seem so entrenched, it’s easy to wonder whether we’ll ever be free of them. I hope we will, for the sake of all our children.

  19. Jay Edgar says:

    Wow, @Cynic, threatened much? Watch and learn.

  20. FlyingKal says:

    Thanks for the good read, Alyssa. 🙂

    Tangential thought. I’ve never connected this before, but I know 4 guys who fight fires for a living, and all of them are my height or shorter. And I’m 5.9-ish which is about 3″ shorter than average around here.
    Do you think there’s some kind of “predisposition or prejudice” that makes shorter guys (relatively speaking) apply for this kind of job?

    • Contemplating this a little more…

      Alyssa, I think that your description of (and admiration for) your future husband might be obscuring the view of the point you are trying to make a little bit.

      Because I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say about men who are trying to be anything a full person can be, but who can not or maybe not want to do the full “masculine” part of it.
      What would you say about a man who is in every bit as tidy, nice, kind, patient and gentle as your “hubby”, but does not have the physical attributes and bravado to back it up with?

      • Alyssa Royse says:

        Love that question, and that may be the flaw in focusing this on just one person, so thank you for asking. I would say that a person has the right to be ANYTHING they want to be and has no obligation to ANYONE to pick characteristics that are traditionally “masculine.”

        I need to find a cleaner way to say it, maybe you can help me with that. But if we ditch the oppositional gender binary that we currently use, the one which posits some characteristics as masculine and some as feminine, and people are allowed to just choose the characteristics that naturally suit them, this wouldn’t even be a problem. Right.

        If someone is quiet, tidy, gentle, compassionate etc… Then that’s who they are. They don’t need to balance it out with something tough and aggressive just to be a “manly man,” as the only goal should be to simply be fully human, however that manifests for the individual. One should not have to prove a gender either way, in any way at all, because it is a totally artificial construct. We should just be who we are.

        It does appear true that, to a large degree, some combinations of chromosomes, hormones and other things make some people more athletic and aggressive than others. But if you look at the real world – as opposed to the gender fantasy we have collective bought into – as many of those people are women as men. Whatever it is that creates these characteristics in people doesn’t seem to be links to genitals in any exclusive way.

        Yes we raise people to believe that because they have a penis or a vagina, there are things that should be predicable and true about them.

        Yes, Brady is about as balanced as they get. But there are many men and women (both cis and trans) in my life that are far on one end of the spectrum or the other. And they are perfectly manifested as exactly who they are. The point, to me, is that human characteristics of emotions and behaviors should not be dictated by gender, period. We are all capable of all of it, and I would like to see a society in which we understand that. In which people, regardless of how they choose to identify their gender, can simply pick and choose what feels best to them and be THAT, without questions.

        Getting closer? Perhaps you can find a kernel in there and help refine it.

        • Thank you for your answer, Alyssa. I really appreciate it.

          I agree with you very much that person has the right to be ANYTHING they want.
          But we are still social creatures, and we are to varying degrees affected by the way we are looked upon by society. My question (maybe not so much a question as a loosely connected train-of-thoughts, perhaps…) is not so much about being who we are.

          Heck, I can’t verbalize my feelings good enough to try and go all gender-neutral on the issue, so I’ll just get to it. How would you feel about Brady if he didn’t have that super-hero physique to balance his kind and gentle manner? How does a “pencil-neck” guy react to being called “Brady Ann”, not in an endearing fashion or as an inside joke but in a demeaning way, and what does that do to him in the eyes of the “public”?

          I’m sorry but I gotta go. I’ll try to get back…

          • Alyssa Royse says:

            Well, we are all turned on by what we’re turned on by, and I don’t think it’s wroth dissecting the “would you still be attracted to him if…..” question, because It’s not necessarily applicable to anything other than me and him. If history is an indicator, then yes, because he is the first and only “buff” dude in my dating history. I am typically attracted to quiet geeky types – and I have no idea why. He happens to be quiet and geeky, but also buff. To some extent, it works well because at this stage in my life I am far more athletic than I ever have been, and health and fitness is a major part of my life and I want it to stay that way. So it makes sense that I am attracted to people for whom that is also the case – we are more compatible.

            The fact that he sees “Brady Ann” from his mom’s long time partner (also a woman) as endearing is also part of why I am drawn to him. Because he was raised to eschew such gender binaries and not see them as negative. This was said by a woman who loves him as if he was her own son, it is meant – and taken – as a compliment.

            Had it been said by the school jock who was picking on him (I have no idea if that ever happened to him, ) it would read entirely differently. And that’s the point, indeed. We need to get to a place in which being quiet and sensitive isn’t seen as “feminine” and as such, “Brady Ann” would make no sense as an insult. A place in which men can be as gentle and sensitive as they want without getting called “feminine.” Which brings with it the obvious corollary – why would being like a woman be a negative thing? That implies that women are less, an insult, weaker….. See, it’s all wrapped up in one big gender mess. That needs to be eliminated.

            And I think the only way we do that is by talking about amazing men who are ALL of these things. And women. Because we are all ALL of these things. Strong, weak, scared, brave, confident, insecure – at different times and places we are more of some and less of the other. We need to understand that being human means making room for all of these things.

            Can changing our language now change minds now? Probably not. But it can change the way future generations grow up, which ultimately changes the world and the future. If it’s not an insult to them to be sensitive, if there is no social risk, then I suspect we will see more people – men – expressing their sensitive side. And yes, that’s a good thing.

            • Thanks again for your answer, Alyssa.

              And I’m sorry for the “tone” in my last post. My intention was to try and discuss the subject in a broader context. Not to try and squeeze some kind of “responsibility” out of you for your personal lifestyle choices. I was in a hurry, I couldn’t clearly collect my thought together, and English is not my native language. These are mere explanations, and no excuse for a poorly written post, I know.
              Anyway, as I said in my first post, your admiration for your future husband might be obscuring the view of the point you are trying to make.
              It’s not about you, your attraction or your choices (at least I try to steer clear of that). It’s about how society, in large, view men who are not traditionally “manly” in appearance and behaviour, but instead are more kind, gentle and tidy, and attentive to people around them and their needs. And the difference between such a man with a sturdy “frame”, and one of a more delicate build. (Also, where I come from there’s a lot more ways to be demeaning to an unmanly man than to compare him to a woman. So being picked on for being weak or a cry-baby doesn’t automatically mean that you are seen as “feminine”)
              You say that you have a history of dating quiet and geeky guys. Would you say that Brady (and other guys like him) is treated differently by other people? And if he is, on what grounds do you think that is? Is it because he is able to “compensate” for his delicate manners with his job and training regimen?
              (Sorry, I just feel like I’m ranting again…)

              • Alyssa Royse says:

                How bout this, I’ll just choose not to see “ranting.” 😉 I think Brady is treated differently, sometimes, because he is in his mid 40’s and chooses not to react to people’s petty shit. I also think that his upbringing was to not care about people’s petty shit and be true to himself. (His mother happens to be a feminist lesbian who was a serious ass-kicking lawyer, so gender roles were definitely NOT enforced in his world. His father is a neuroscientist, also didn’t buy into gender roles, and was / is as geeky as it gets.) When he was a smoke-jumper (the Navy Seals of forest fire fighters) he was typically the only “crazy hippie liberal” of the bunch. If you were to see him walking down the street, he does not exude “manly” at all. He’s tiny, and quiet, soft-spoken, gentle. It’s really not until you hear him talk about his work that you can even “see” the “manly.” (For reference, we both have the same measurements and he can wear my clothes. I’m a size 4.)

                Yes, I think that obviously “manly men” are treated differently in this society. And i think it’s bullshit. I think it needs to stop because there is no such thing as “manly” if it is a narrow descriptor. Men come in lots of styles – thankfully! But a lot of it has to be a choice for all of us to collectively call “bullshit” on it at one time. Just say, “we’re not gonna take it” just as was done by feminists with what it means to be a woman.

                I think Brady can rock both worlds because he was raised from the get-go to believe that he could. That “real men” were all sorts of things, and he was given the freedom to design it for himself. That’s what I want for all men. Are we there now? Not even close. Can we get there? Yes, but we have to agree to start now, even if it sometimes means having to say, “yes, in fact, I am a real man, the fact that you don’t think so is your problem, not mine.”

                As a female weight lifter with short hair who swears like a sailor and would rather build a deck than go shopping, I know a little about what it’s like to buck the system and sometimes be told I’m not “right” enough. But I am also keenly aware that I have generations of feminism backing me up, and that most men don’t have that support yet.

  21. Same with my darling husband. He’s tough as nails, a martial artist and comic book geek, with long (gorgeous blonde hair) who paints his nails and wears makeup… he takes care of me, cooks like Julia Child, tidies up, and does all the heavy lifting (I do the fixit up work around the house, and am the primary breadwinner, and take care of him when his social anxiety kicks in)

  22. Congratulations on meeting, falling in love with and soon marrying what sounds like a really cool guy. As another one of those guys who… kind of straddles boundaries, I guess (chaplain/kickboxer) seeing a little recognition for the balancing act, and someone who handles it well, makes feel really great. It’s like the infinitely wise (and infinitely bearded) Jim Wendler once said, “Just kick a metric ton of ass; the rest will fall into place.”

  23. I loved your piece! I am more of a feminist that my best female friends. I think what I love most about your piece is your honesty. It’s a much more attractive quality than people realize!

  24. Alyssa Royse says:

    “He’s also physically stronger than I am. We have insecurities about different things (thank goodness), and take turns leaning on each other. There are times I feel like a mess and he bolsters me; there are times he thinks he’s a mess and I lift him up.”

    And THAT’s what I call a relationship! We all get to be both, the key is trying to not be afraid and insecure at the same time. Gotta take turns on that! 😉

  25. Jay Edgar says:

    Well done, Alyssa. I congratulate you on escaping as far as you have from the gender stereotypes. I consider myself lucky in one regard as a gay man–there is no automatic mold I drop into when I put my life together with my husband. There was no assumption one of us would do the laundry and one of us would take out the trash. He does most of the laundry (I’m lazy about that) and leads in cooking, although I’m a good sous chef. He cooks without a recipe, where I’m pretty good with one.

    He’s also physically stronger than I am. We have insecurities about different things (thank goodness), and take turns leaning on each other. There are times I feel like a mess and he bolsters me; there are times he thinks he’s a mess and I lift him up.

    I’ve always felt sad seeing people I love in m/f relationships who appear to be conforming to their assigned gender role instead of who they really are. I’m hoping your article indicates this will be happening less and less often.

    Thanks for a great article!

  26. Alyssa Royse says:

    Arthur – thank you so much. In the best of circumstances, these things can feel forced and wrong to so many people – probably most of us. When you ad in medical challenges, financial challenges, mental challenges, or racial and religious diversity, these problems can compound and confound.

    I can think of so few instances in which this oppositional gender binary serves us. It almost never holds true in any exclusive manner, and any deviation from it feels like a flaw, a weakness, a problem. Something to hide and be ashamed of. It breaks my heart.

    And I think it’s a huge part of the problem, one which creates an unnecessary “war of the sexes.”

    Thank you for sharing. And for evolving. And for being part of a chorus reminding us that there are many many many ways to be a man.

  27. Arthur MacMaster says:

    Thank you Alyssa!

    You are more of a wordsmith than I am. Through your essay, you have eloquently expressed concerns I have around gender values that are taught to men to and women in our society.

    “Manly men are described with words like: strong, tough, brave, aggressive, lusty, confident, virile, daring, fearless, firm, messy, secure, heroic and countless other words like that.
    Feminine women, conversely, are described with words like: delicate, demure, emotional, soft, tender, patient, sensitive, tidy, respectful, thoughtful, insecure and countless similar words that compile to make the “weaker” and “gentler” sex.”

    Those are values I have heard throughout my life and were deeply ingrained into the person that I thought I was and formed my attitudes in how I dealt with the world. The problem was that they felt deeply forced and artificial in context with how I truly saw the world and my part in it.
    It took me many years, and I diagnosis with MS, to come to terms that the Gender values that were being hoisted upon me were damaging my very soul. I realized that I needed to let go of what I thought society wanted me to be, and be happy with what I truly wanted to be.

    Thank you again for writing such a passionate and articulate article. I wish you all happiness with your family.



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