“This rigid, toxic idea of masculinity teaches men to be angry, closed-off, and inexpressive. It hinders boys and men from talking to each other about real things they feel. They turn to strangers online to teach them how to be “real” men instead of working together to break down the walls that entrap them in this false idea of manhood.”
I struggled with accepting femininity for a really long time because I didn’t want to be seen as a girl just because of the things I liked and the ways I chose to express myself. For a very long time, I pretended to hate the color pink and frilly clothing or floral designs. I pretended I hated makeup and nail polish. I would never wear jewelry or even wear my hair as anything other than a ponytail. Finally, during my first year of college, I decided to accept my truth: I am a man.
Accepting this truth was difficult, of course. It meant a lot of things in my life were going to change. While, for many people, being trans might close some doors, it also opens up a whole bunch of new ones. For me, accepting my gender identity allowed me to play around with my gender expression and the way I viewed what it meant to be a man. I realized that masculinity required a set of defined roles and practices, and being a man was intertwined with these things but didn’t necessitate them.
I had to unlearn a lot of internalized misogyny that had built up within me and started to realize that femininity was something truly beautiful. I realized that I was seeing sexism from both sides and that I had to make a choice to support women and see femininity as a liberating thing. Femininity allowed me to be a softer person. It allowed me to be vulnerable and talk about my feelings honestly. It allowed me to have the sad kind of anger, not the red, hot, violent kind. It allowed me to find a style that I actually liked, not one that I felt like I needed to like to be accepted as a man. I wear a lot more pink, a lot more floral patterns, and a lot more jewelry. I have dyed my hair vibrant colors twice, and play around with the style. I take pride in all of the products I use to clean my face and keep my hair soft and make sure I smell good. After all, when did taking care of oneself even become a feminine trait?
I was baffled by the amount of things that I told myself I shouldn’t do or like and realized that so many other men, trans or not, must be dealing with the same thing. Axe actually started an advertising campaign recently that showed all of the things guys search on Google. Apparently, men are asking all types of questions every single day about what they should and shouldn’t do if they want to make sure they don’t come off “gay” or “feminine.”
This rigid, toxic idea of masculinity teaches men to be angry, closed-off, and inexpressive. It hinders boys and men from talking to each other about real things they feel. They turn to strangers online to teach them how to be “real” men instead of working together to break down the walls that entrap them in this false idea of manhood. It’s actually creating emotional and psychological trauma in boys and men all over the world. Until we start to see femininity as equal and acceptable, we’ll continue to grade each other and ourselves based on how well we perform and conform to these ideas of masculinity. It teaches men to ignore the problems women have because of sexism and misogyny. It teaches men to cringe and laugh in the menstrual hygiene sections of stores (after all, some men have periods!) It teaches men that rape and assault aren’t their problems; that a woman must be to blame. They ignore the male victims altogether. They become the people that many of us know to fear sometimes more than those who actually seek to hurt us. They’re the bystanders. The ones who will watch a gay man being beaten outside of a bar and laugh it off, saying “Well, he shouldn’t have rubbed it in everyone’s face.” These are the men who catcall trans women but talk about wanting to kill them. These are the men who one day raise a son who likes the color pink and Barbie dolls. These are the men who will throw that child out of their home instead of learning that femininity is okay. Coming out taught me that I didn’t have to accept this role as a hyper-masculine, femininity-bashing man- that none of us do. Who cares if you want to wear pink and paint your nails and dye your hair and dance to One Direction while baking cookies? Why does anyone else get to decide if you’re a man and what kind? Why shouldn’t we all have fun and express ourselves honestly within the short period we have on this Earth?
Real men cry. Real men wear pink. Real men dance around their rooms, singing into their hairbrushes. Real men worry about how they look. Real men cook and bake. Real men are self-conscious. Real men have long hair. Real men are chubby. Real men care about gay men and trans women and trans men. Real men have depression and anxiety. Real men like to cuddle. Real men dance like nobody’s watching. Real men like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé and don’t need to keep it a secret. Real men watch Sex and The City reruns. Real men shop with the women in their lives and have fun doing so. Real men don’t cringe in the menstrual hygiene aisle of their local convenience store. Real men are gay. Real men are virgins. Real men are skinny with gangly arms. We need not be serious all the time. We can let loose and be our true selves and stop being afraid of who that might end up being. Now, when Cyndi Lauper shows up on Spotify, I sing at the top of my lungs. Girls just want to have fun. And you know what? Boys do, too.