Wednesday, February 27, 2013

To Be A Man: Beyond Not Being Gay

Dan Savage wrote in a recent blog post that two negatives have traditionally defined male heterosexual identity: not being a girl and not being gay.

Unfortunately the same thing can be said for what it means to be a man.

A guy who has interests in what some think of as being “traditionally” for girls is often seen as not being as masculine. If your interests include musical theater, fashion or cooking there’s a good chance that someone called your masculinity and/or your sexuality into question.

Then there are the simple three words: Are you gay?  This question for many guys is an affront to their "manhood."  If we define masculinity solely on heterosexual male sexual expression, then there is no place for homosexuality in our collective definition of what it means to be a man.

By defining what it means to be a man, by what men aren’t we are narrowing the definitions of manhood to the point that we are exclude others in a way that is both discriminatory and very damaging to boys who are struggling to balance loving themselves and trying to grow up to be a man.

Let’s say that a boy is really interested in fashion, but he internalizes that his interests are not “manly,” because of what his parents tell him. This conflict may completely diminish the boy’s interests and lead to a devastatingly low self-esteem. Ironically, it could rob our culture of the next Calvin Klein, a fashion designer who for many defines masculinity.

Then there are the tragic results of what happens when boys are made to fell less valued not only as young men but human beings for being gay. The suicides and hate crimes are a sobering reminder of the consequences of letting insecurities become damaging and insidious aggression.

If we accept guys who have less "manly" interest as men and guys who are homosexuals or transgender as men, then what are we left with to define what it means to be a man?

When I learned that you were going to be a boy, my own insecurities about my masculine identity made me concerned about helping you discover the great person that you will become. I wasn’t sure that I really knew how to help you be a “man.” For some reasons silly things like the fact that I’m really bad at sports became concerns. I’ve come to realize that those things aren’t important.

You will find when you get older that it's the relationships that we have and the way that we view the world that defines us more than anything else.  For me its my relationship with people I love and the acceptance and optimism that I struggle to view the world with that have shown me what it truly means to be a man.

Always be proud of who you are, the things that you love and the life that you lead.  Define your manhood not by pushing things away, but by embracing the best things inside of you. 

Being a man is not about not being girly, or not being gay.  Being a man is being yourself.  


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