For Lex Moran-Solero, a lot has changed since high school.
Are men so different now than they were generations ago? Even just one generation ago? What about the future of manhood? What can we expect? In my experience the answers depend on multiple factors: family background, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and education, as well as the prevalent culture wherever one is raised. It can also depend on one’s own experience as a man. I am a 51-year-old man, but I haven’t always lived as one. This makes my situation somewhat unique and gives me a different perspective from a man of my generation and similar background who has never known himself to be anything else.
Six years ago I came to terms with my status as a transgender man living the wrong life and made the decision to leap into the unknown. I chose to shed my false identity of female (as everyone saw me) and re-enter the world as a man. After so many years representing myself as a woman, the role had become comfortable and useful, but it never really fit me. I raised my son as a single parent—which is not as unusual when one is seen as female—and I worked most of my life in a field predominantly populated by women, so living as a woman was, in some ways, easier for all those many years. I fit in society fine, but I realized it was time to move away from that comfortable, yet ill-fitting, position and find a way to live authentically. I knew this meant I had to transition to male, and that I would have to quickly learn how to fit in that world.
As one might expect, transitioning involved coming out to friends, family and co-workers. For some reason this was a bit easier with people who are closer to me geographically than with people who I don’t see or communicate with very often—like members of my high school class who live over a thousand miles away and who I only see every five years. I came out to them via the class reunion internet site five years ago. The reunion committee was busy putting together a current class booklet updating everyone’s whereabouts and accomplishments, so it was a perfect opportunity to break the news to everyone at once. I gave them my new name and a simple explanation about my situation, and then waited for the reactions.
Sadly, most people didn’t take it well and I was advised by well-meaning friends not to attend the reunion in order to avoid unpleasantness. It was extremely disappointing—these people were part of my formative years, we attended thrilling school events together, we grieved together when other classmates had passed too soon, and yet they were rejecting me like a total stranger. They had accepted me into their small, tight-knit community three decades before and now they couldn’t see that I was still the same person—their classmate. For some reason, it was mainly the men who didn’t accept me. I was crushed, but I took their advice and stayed home.
This year, five years later, my class is again planning a fun-filled weekend of reunion activities to commemorate our graduation all those years ago, but things have changed. They’ve created a Facebook page devoted exclusively to our group and I was immediately added to the list. On that page and in personal messages, people have assured me that they want to see me at the reunion, asked me to forget what happened five years ago when my life-altering news left them stunned and brought out long-held prejudices, and they often make it a point to reassure me that I’m still part of the group. For some reason, it’s mostly the men who have come around to welcome me back now, and they make it a point to include me in their exchanges.
Are men so different than they were a generation ago? Yes, they’re evolving, adapting and maturing into more positive role models and open-minded individuals. What can we expect of future generations of men? No one can say for sure, but if my friends are any indication, we can expect that a large part of them will be more tolerant to differences and more thoughtful of what is and becomes important to them, especially good, old friends who, despite changes, are still welcome in their lives.
—Photo GOIABA (Goiabarea)/Flickr