Pillow Talk interviews are downright powerful. After every conversation, I’m reminded of just how important it is to come across someone willing to really listen and hold space for you. I see and feel the change that has taken place, no matter what was discussed.  But one thing that I’ve realized over the past two years is that at the end of every interview, I feel the need to say two things: Thank you. And I’m sorry.

I’m filled with thanks because it is truly special and awe-inspiring to witness someone bare their soul, fearlessly. To talk about things they haven’t told anyone else. The stories people have snuffed out or pushed into the deep recesses of their mind out of fear of judgement. The emotions people have buried out of fear of being seen as weak. The trauma never spoken about out of fear of making others uncomfortable. The pain silently carried behind every smile, laugh, and joke, never being addressed and dealt with.

More than anything, I find myself wanting to say “I’m sorry” because, for so many Pillow Talkers, this is the first time they experience the unconditional right to be. To be heard without judgement. To lay their burdens down and dance carefree. To be nurtured, supported, heard, and seen for who they are. And, quite frankly, to be able to critique, question, and reimagine masculinity, beauty, male desire, love, relationships, intimacy, etc. The list goes on and on and on.

I didn’t know it at first, but The Pillow Talk Project is more than just a blog, it is a movement centered around redefining masculinity and rediscovering the power of everyday intimate conversations as tools for living, loving, learning, and thinking, fearlessly.

It is a call to any and everyone willing to push the world to rethink societal pressures that say being a man is synonymous with being detached, emotionless, sex-obsessed, hypermasculine, invincible, and hardwired to oppress.  Such beliefs rob us of the rich diversity of people in this world who have so much to offer us that should never be forced to fit within the claustrophobic confines of fragile masculinity. But the only way we can prove it is to come together and do the one thing people never expect: talk.

In everyday intimate conversations is a sanctuary of redemption and salvation that doesn’t belong to any religion. There is healing that doesn’t cost a penny. There is release with no strings attached. You don’t have to be anything but who and what you are. And the only questions asked are the ones you feel most compelled to answer. You become the very embodiment of fearlessness, and you do so on your own terms, acknowledging the power behind your lived experience and funds of knowledge you may not even know exist. But don’t take my word for it. Hear what a few of our Pillow Talkers had to say about their own experience

“The Pillow Talk Project levels the playing field [for men] when it comes to emotions. Women can cuddle and talk about their emotions, but they don’t always know how their boyfriend or husband feels. This project encourages them to listen and allow us to open up. Not only are women emotionally complicated creatures, but men are as well. There is a void that needs to be filled, and this project does just that.” – Brian

“The Pillow Talk Project has been a vehicle where I can open my mouth, strip my clothes off, and run around in the rain and not care, figuratively speaking.It has been the thing–the factor that helps, the cherry on top–that has helped me realize it’s time to stop caring about what other people think.” – Cameron

“I don’t think men get a lot of opportunities in our society to open up, in general. We’re conditioned to be strong and silent–that’s how I grew up. To open up a dialogue about these topics is important because we don’t get told that it is okay to do so. Not only do I think it will be cool to see what comes out of The Pillow Talk Project  personally as a reflective experience, but I’m curious to see what other men are thinking and saying in their interviews.” – Jarren

“There is a giant focus on women talking about their feelings. And I think there is a fear among men when it comes to talking about themselves. It’s avoided. It’s looked upon as weakness, and with men it’s definitely a struggle. I felt The Pillow Talk Project was interesting from the get-go. But seeing how the stories were told, I felt connected to them, even if I didn’t know who the men were.”  – Franklin

“There are so many men, black men specifically, who feel they need to succumb to fit into a mold: that men are tough, strong, and that we don’t cry. The Pillow Talk Project let’s all men who think they are supposed to fit it in know they can relate to one another.  It is a platform for men who don’t want to be society’s notion of what it means to be a man, and it reminds them that they don’t have to.”  – LaQuann

“I think that we don’t explore how men feel about themselves as a society.Our emotions and feelings are normally limited, so it’s important to not only show how that is false, but give voice to men who feel that it is false, so they can tell their own stories. The Pillow Talk Project does that.” – Marrion

 I don’t know how long it will take to rid men–and those who love them–of the pain these toxic standards of masculinity cause. I also don’t know how long it will take for more men and their communities to see the need behind creating safe(r) spaces to question, critique, and reimagine the ways we are complicit in our own bondage and oppression.

But here’s what I do know: The Pillow Talk Project will be around for as long it can be to ensure that, no matter how hard life gets, men and everyone else who needs safe spaces like these will be able to find hope and strength through engaging and connecting with others. So they are reminded that they aren’t alone. That there’s hope, even when it doesn’t feel like it. And perhaps that’s enough…for now.