I have been reading The Good Men Project for years. I came across this blog in my need to understand my position with respect to masculinity because I found myself in a position where, perhaps many men may know or understand, men are expected to find a camaraderie with men and a solace in their masculinity but also secretly dealing with a silent full on frontal attack from masculinity and thus men.
What was a gay boy to do when everywhere he went attempting to bond and create friendships, there was always this sour air that spoke words that negated his existence and even threatened to annihilate it with violence?
This has been my struggle. This is why I came here, to know, perhaps—maybe, if I could also be a man, maybe…?
One thing I have learned in my journey of self-discovery is that there are things, no matter how much we want them to be, they just can never be. I learned this at 16 when I understood that being straight was never going to happen. You wouldn’t believe the mess I became after that day. It was a whole week of tears and then when the tears ran dry, it was followed by years of depression. It was not easy, especially when I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian setting that very comfortably stated things about people like me, not to mention the teasing I received from peers at school. It was trauma and gradual self-ruin. My youth still haunts me but it’s fine, I deal well enough.
I never fit in with the guys even though I attended an all-boys high school and grew up surrounded by just other guys, can you imagine the loneliness? I had not one person—well there was one until he launched into an extraordinary racist commentary about the nature of black people, and then things just weren’t the same anymore after that.
There were times I remember when I could have sworn they could smell the gay coming off of me, it was in the way they curled their nose, like they got a whiff of something slightly pungent, mixed in with that face one gives when they get an epiphany. It wasn’t because of body odor, I checked.
After high school I stumbled on this blog and for the first time I heard people, other men, talking about what it means to be a ‘man’ and I thought I have found my people. I would read the articles all night until my eyes got sore from the screen glare and then I would read some more.
But I don’t think I have yet to receive an answer to the question that has brought me here in the first place.
Can I also be a man?
I still ask this question because I still don’t feel like a man, that is to say, I still don’t receive the interaction from people and especially other men that would lead me to feel like a respected and equivalent man. Too many times I have sat in the company of men where most times, when guys get real comfortable, either around me or I unfortunately am within earshot—and just like my racist friend from high-school—launch themselves into an oral dissertation on the nature of gay people and gay men in particular. We all know the comments and in what way they are expressed because we have all sat through those conversations—some have even been the ones championing them. There is no need for me to replay them here. Too unnecessarily traumatic.
What I have witnessed in real-life interactions and also on this platform, is that masculinity and being a man are linked and most troublingly is that it is expressed in terms that imply its relation to women and femininity.
Sure most men are straight, and rightfully the conversation will include analysis on how those many men interact with women and how their relationships are influenced by their expression of masculinity.
. . . but . . . I am always asking myself, what about me?
I surely can’t be such an isolated case that there is no relevant space for me? And so, I always feel like a peripheral man on the sideline of masculinity; wanting to enter the space but understanding that there is a greater group of men that also must have their space and deserve the airtime they are finally getting to release and free up their limbs from being trapped in ‘the man box’ for as long as they can remember. I think of these things while also questioning whether or not I even have any right to any space on this platform or conversation the way I feel so sidelined.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. There is a lack of representation in men’s spaces that only go to create a feeling of exclusion. Sure, lack of representation alone isn’t enough to claim an unwelcoming atmosphere, what causes it is a seeming reluctance of men to entertain those men that seek to put forward their faces to increase representation. It creates a perception that masculinity is for a certain group of people …
That’s where the problem is with men’s platforms, there is a profound lack of identifying what makes a man and who can qualify to achieve manhood beyond mystic/ethereal concepts that don’t translate well into the lived experiences of the people that ask these questions.
Many times I have come across that philosophy that seems to say that one is a man if one says they are a man. This sound a little disingenuous to me because masculinity is not self contained, and I have an issue in denying the very real experience of most men who have felt the pressure to perform masculinity as ‘evidence.’ The most harrowing was when I was asked, very sincerely, to display my genitals because they just didn’t believe I was ‘male enough.’ If masculinity is performative then, it seems to me, it’s something only a chosen group can pull off because I just fail . . . repeatedly.
Not all issues of masculinity are about finding balance or ‘taming the lion,’ it is also about finding identity and relation to a part of us that we have never felt a part of—unless, of course, I was never part of it—just too different from the rest that it becomes meaningless to find identity amongst men as another man.
Sure, my issues as a male are different from the average male; I have to navigate my maleness and also my sexuality—not as in bedroom problems—but internal issues that eat me inside every now and then. And now I am understanding that I have never felt that men’s spaces provided me with the sense of belonging. Maybe I expected too much and these spaces aren’t for people like me. If that is so, it would be nice to be notified. I don’t want to overstay my welcome.
This post is republished on Medium.
Improve your writing, expand your reach, and monetize your craft.
We welcome all experience levels.
Photo credit: Shutterstock