Despite the fact that there’s no real rule for masculinity, boys and men around the world are enslaved by their cultures and society to think that there’s only one way to be a man.
And for those who dare to push that definition, there’s often a consequence. But there’s something powerful about forever feeling like you fall short of something.
Without knowing it, you develop courage and a feistiness that refuses to be caged down any longer. To be ignored. To be reprimanded. Instead, starting with yourself, you create a revolution of acceptance. Open-mindedness.
And like Martin, who identifies as male-bodied but genderqueer, you push the world to rethink it’s cardboard box of (man)nerisms and force us all to wake the fuck up and embrace the fullness of ourselves.
Growing up, I remember the men were always well dressed, very clean with a flawless haircut in whatever style they wanted–tapered fade or Caesar, it didn’t matter. Their clothes were always fitted, but not too fitted, and they always smelled really good. They were really well manicured, which would later be something people would label as metrosexual. But their attitude was very masculine.
Men would shake hands and give each other hugs, but it wasn’t very intimate. When the men would get together, the decibel levels would get really loud and it sounded like a shouting match. An outsider might think they were arguing, but in reality the men could just be talking about the weather. They were never afraid to speak passionately, with vigor and soul.
But although the sound levels were passionate, the actual conversations were not very intimate or about their deepest thoughts and feelings. That was frowned upon. Men were always allowed to be expressive, as long as it was within the context of masculine bravado and showing off.
In moments where there was a conversation about whether or not I liked sports or that kind of stuff, it would always lead to me being asked, “What do you mean you don’t like baseball? What kind of man are you?”
I’ve always been aware of this standard about how men were expected to act or be interested in, and that I constantly fell short of it. I tried everything I could to behave like everyone else. For example, I remember when my father was alive, I would try to sit and talk with him while watching a Yankees game. I tried to show interest, while secretly being bored and uninterested.
And in moments where there was a conversation about whether or not I liked sports or that kind of stuff, it would always lead to me being asked, “What do you mean you don’t like baseball? What kind of man are you?” And there was only one possible ending to that conversation: me being told that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be a sissy or faggot.
My mother was always protective of me. Sometimes I think mothers always know what their child is going through or who they will become. You don’t spend nine months in your mother’s womb and them not know you in a deep way. After I finally came out, I remember asking my mother if she knew. She said, “No.” But I didn’t believe it. Instead, I thought she didn’t want to accept it or hoped I would change. So whenever I think back about to what it meant to be a man, especially when I was younger, the only moments that come to mind are those of my own shortcomings, never meeting the standard.
When I went through my rebellious phase, I tried to be as out there as I could just to piss folks off. There was a lot of anger, rebellion, and rage on my part, especially when I finally came out as gay. I remember thinking I was going to have to deal with a lot of assholes who would call me every homophobic slur under the sun, and I wanted to be ready to fight back. So I started working out and trying to get as strong as I could. Not to look beautiful, like most folks, but to scare other guys and send the message: I might be queer or what you might consider to be a faggot, but this faggot will kick your ass.
At the end of the day, the hardest thing I would say I’ve had to struggle with in being a man is reconciling living my life as someone who is male-bodied, but identifies as genderqueer.
That never ended up happening. Instead, when I would hang out in queer spaces, I began to realize that I suddenly fit the standard of physical beauty in the gay community, even though it wasn’t my intention. I was treating those moments as if they were the basic training I needed to be ready to fight at any time. But it didn’t turn out that way after all.
At the end of the day, the hardest thing I would say I’ve had to struggle with in being a man is reconciling living my life as someone who is male-bodied, but identifies as genderqueer. Instead of only embracing my maleness over my femaleness, I want to acknowledge and hold space for them both to exist.
I tell people that they can see me how they want to see me. I don’t have a preferred gender pronoun. And I’m hoping that one day when the world catches up and embraces the duality in all of us, fewer men (and women) will have to go through most of their lives feeling like something is wrong with them, and only focusing on where they fall short instead of embracing what makes them special and unique. We’re not there yet, but one day I hope we will be.