November 19th is International Men’s Day. A day that has been hijacked by some men in the past to justify their stupidity, their misogyny, their sexism. International Men’s Day is not about celebrating beer and soccer and affirming certain straight white males in their idea that they are superior or better than women. It isn’t about those yelling, insecure men who can’t handle equal rights and pays.
It’s about celebrating different kinds of masculinity and drawing attention to the patterns behind toxic masculinity. And that’s where queer kids come in. We as a community, more than anyone, know that things aren’t always black and white. Masculinity isn’t either. Masculinity is a spectrum, it doesn’t come with rules or fixed boxes. It’s not a case of yes or no.
Not a real man
Throughout my life, I never felt like a man because I believed I wasn’t a ‘real’ one. I didn’t like soccer or playing rough, I didn’t like to wear khaki’s. As a child, I just thought I was different. Then I realized I was gay, and later on I realized I wanted to express my gender identity in ways that are not considered ‘normal’ for a man. I always identified more with girls when I was younger, and with women when I grew up. Just like them, I’ve been the target of misogynistic or homophobic men that can’t handle anything outside of their binary man-woman thinking.
I am here, and I am valuable
That’s what International Men’s Day means to me. It means showing that I am here, that we are here. I might not fit into the traditional mold of what society thinks a man should be but fuck it. Biologically, I am male. I like that. I like my penis, I like my body most of the time, I am okay with who I am. My preferred pronouns are he/him, even though in some company I’m okay with she/her. When it comes to my gender expression, though, there’s a different story. I like to wear make-up, and skirts, I like to experiment with fashion beyond gender boundaries.
I am a femme gay guy, which for a long time made me feel like a failure, a sad example of what a man shouldn’t be. It took a while until I realized that I was in fact a man. Just not one like the majority of men. Not the school example of what a man should be. But that’s okay.
Owning my place on the spectrum
I have struggled with owning my masculinity and hating my feminine side, I have struggled with internalized homophobia and not feeling manly enough. Now I know I am enough. International Men’s Day is for me too. I am proud of my particular masculinity, even though it might not be the masculinity you read about in biology books. Yes, I like to wear eyeshadow and dresses and I still believe I might be more of a man than some of those angry, misogynistic assholes think they are.
I respect women just as much or even more as I respect men. I value them for who they are and what they do, not purely for what they look like. I take care of the people I love but I am not afraid of getting taken care of and I can be open about my emotions even though our society has taught men not to do exactly that.
Being a man is not measured by what you wear or what or who you love. I’m owning my place on the spectrum, and if you can’t deal with that, well, gurl, man up.