Amber Colyer shares her observations of a man’s need for validation and how this affects how men view themselves.
“You’re more of a man than your fiancé”.
This was said to me by an ex-roommate several years ago.
To put this into context, I am a woman and my fiancé’, now ex, was indeed a man. The roommate in question was a female-to-male transgender person who idolized masculinity to a fine point. What spurred this comment was a misunderstanding of my ex’s comments about the supposed manliness of this roommate while he was at work.
Even to this day, I never do quite know how to take that comment. It was certainly meant in a complimenting manner and said with a fierce pride I had come to expect from this roommate, who I shall call ‘Wolf’, as this was his nickname he gave out to a choice few friends. He had a new name picked out for the end of his journey, but to me, he was Wolf.
Given the argument that followed, I’m lead to believe he said it because I took over the argument and asked my ex to apologize for his misguided and honestly bigoted words: “Wolf isn’t even a real man. He just pretends to be one to act tough.”
I wonder if my emotional shutdown during the fight is what elicited that response from my angry friend. He was constantly volatile and did tend to pick fights where there didn’t need to be any, but he would not let you forget that he was a real man.
What even is this “real” bullshit?
We use it constantly in modern society: we keep things “real”, we love “reality” television, you’re a “real” gangster.
Sure, I am fleshy and real, as far as I can figure. Some scientists might disagree but still.
With that in mind, I am fairly certain that all men out there are real men. Even if you’ve never fist fought a bear or stubbed your toe in your spice garden, you’re real.
Getting back into the case of my angry friend, Wolf, I’d like to get into the idealization behind his struggle. He had been born with a very feminine name and had his share of the traditional struggles a transgender person sadly faces in this day and age. The constant need to remind people of his masculinity was a clear sign of insecurity, frustration and even a bit of resentment when it came to certain people.
When he did confide in me, he related that his parents vehemently disowned him at the realization of his body being a confinement and an imposter for him. He confided that he had always hated his original name and had fought against every notion of an identity that he never felt was right.
I never questioned that he was a man. I thought he’d be a really nice fellow to hang around with if he wasn’t constantly asserting dominance and trying to force himself into a leadership role.
Wolf had to explode at supernova levels to prove his manliness to everyone and anyone that would listen. He had to have only meat that was still practically bleeding, he had to have a big old dog for hunting and God help you if you ever tried to take charge of a situation. He was clear that he felt disrespected at any notion of weakness and that became a key word for the understanding between he and I.
He became a male stereotype to prove he was a “real man”.
When we tell someone they’re a real anything, what really are we telling them? We’re telling them that they are slightly more valid in our eyes then before and we’re making an assumption that there are others out there that aren’t as valid.
This is something that has grated on me for a long time. We’re the human race, we are capable of such astoundingly good and bad things but we’re constantly reduced to a series of judgments that make others question their validity. It’s a running theme of every single stereotype we see of men in Hollywood. Real men can’t do this, real men can’t do that, real men can’t feel things, they can’t cry, they can’t be raped, they can’t be weak and they can’t let anyone down.
When did “real” become inhuman?
Real men are humans. We forget that so often that an unconscious bias is consistently formed and then passed down to the next generation. Then they too get to be surprised all over again when they see men that don’t follow it.
When I first met Wolf, I thought he was the coolest man I’d ever met. He was confident, he spoke well and he made me feel like I could run with the proverbial pack. Watching him defend his own identity over the years broke my heart and his comments will always stick with me because they were the only rare instances that he would show his own emotional turmoil.
I’m not a man, biologically or mentally. I have to defend my womanliness from similar biases and each time someone makes it personal, I remember Wolf and let it pass.
Stay truly real, my friends. The real you is the best you the world is ever going to know.
Photo: Terence S. Jones/Flickr
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