Do you cringe when guys use phrases like that every day (I say dude a lot; sadly it’s a habit I’ve been unable or unwilling to break). These self-declarations of masculinity used to assert manhood and strength. It’s an attempt at asserting bravado and a sexual attraction by all men. We are so intent as men to prove we are men. It’s our nature due to our genetic makeup so that exhausted excuse to an extent is true. But that outdated concept of our behavior can only go so far. Some of us may have the ideal instilled in us that in order to be a man we have to personify this every day. Whatever the case, we have to talk about why it’s there and why it can be problematic. And the purpose of this is not to condemn or insult because there is more than enough of that already in our community. But in order to grow we need to discuss.
I’ve talked about the yin and yang of gay before so consider this a further breakdown of the yang. Or rather the way in which some of us gay men express (or overcompensate) that aspect of our selves. Within our community and at times even more so than the straight community, masculinity is praised and exulted above femininity. Gripe as much as we like about missed text messages and the end to one night stands but it is true that we carry some of the hetero-normative behaviors from society. It is widely accepted to mock and trivialize any trace of the female gender. Insults are strewn with them as a way to take someone down a peg. Critiquing the over-usage of hand gestures or flamboyant movements, the very thing some of us were teased about to the point that some go out of their way to hide or suppress.
At the same time, let’s not kid ourselves here. We are attracted to men for a reason. That goes beyond a superficial model of physical anatomy or chemical pheromones transmitted on the microscopic level. It’s style and presence encapsulated in muscles and height. Expression of movement that captivates our attention. A firm, assertive stance accompanied by thighs of steel and gluts of granite. Deep voices from hard, angular features in tandem with thick facial and body that we can’t keep our hands off of long enough to recognize much else. The rugged touch and grip as the sweat that perspires making us hot all over. To even the taste of another man’s lips. All enthralling symbols we are innately drawn and captivated by.
You see as men, we are more apt to physical expression compared to our female counterparts that are more expressive in emotion and speech. It’s all about what we see first and foremost. As we take this information in we immediately begin to categorize and evaluate. Effective but exponentially different modes of communication in which each gender dominantly employs one or the other. Whether it’s a compliment of a feature or shaping up an adversary, we act and react to what we see. From the evolutionary standpoint of our hunter-gatherer nature we are still heavily dependent on. So I’m not arguing the biology of why we’re this way.
At the same time, we can’t let that be the only thing that we process as what strength means. It is not only exhaustive to the masculine traits we are drawn towards. Some of us get to the point of fetishistic masculinity as if that is the only suitable attribute in a life mate. It becomes the only acceptable mode. It’s because, again, it’s what we see and we are hard wired to do so. Goes back to the principle of yin and yang and having that. It’s common belief is that masculinity is dominance and control while femininity is submissive and obeying commands which isn’t true. As gay men we already defy the notion because of our attraction to men.
I didn’t learn how to be a man from that. I learned from my mother, who after my father died when I was an infant, took on the role of provider and the hunter/gatherer. She worked obnoxiously long hours to make ends meet yet still made time to throw a baseball around when she got home. She met and exceeded those needs of mine, even when she remarried and my step dad became a part of our lives. I know of course that experiences like mine either personify or diminish that initial evaluative mindset.
Some fail to see what we commonly consider as femininity as a strength. This assertion to me is contrary as the gay culture openly invites an almost worshiping of strong, self-sufficient pop stars and politicians that are women. So why is it shamed when we participate in the same behaviors? Ignoring the strength it takes to express the softer and emotional that provides so much more satiable relationships. In fact, that understanding makes all of our relationships better.
My point is that for whatever way you define what a man or masculinity is, to not let those concepts and ideals of what strength are. Be your only blueprint. Remember that the mind and heart are great and unimaginable sources of strength and passion. That the yin has the same attributes as the yang. Know that endurance is not always synonymous with muscles as it is with brainpower. Don’t let those initial characteristics be the only thing you see.