It’s been seven years since I graduated high school. I still remember, just like it was yesterday, the sounds of the words “no homo!” echoing down the halls. Whenever I heard that phrase, I knew some teenage boy had just had his masculinity called into question. Maybe he’d worn something just a smidge too tight. Perhaps he complimented a friend’s outfit. He may have declared his admiration for another man. Of course, he couldn’t do any of that without making it abundantly clear that he was in no way gay or feminine. And if he’d failed to make the “no homo” proclamation, he’d be met with a laughing chorus of “That’s gay!” from his friends. Between those two phrases, adolescent boys sounded an awful lot like the sea gulls from Finding Nemo, mindlessly and enthusiastically repeating “Mine! Mine! Mine!”
I chalked it up to the six year nightmare that is adolescence, where people are still navigating identity and whatnot. But I watch some of you grown men tiptoe around your feelings and avoid certain colours as if you’re afraid your masculinity might shatter. Amongst the more ridiculous things I’ve most recently seen debated: mimosas, cuddles, and personal hygiene products. Then there are the usual suspects like crying and the colour pink.
Men, this is a problem. I get it.
You want your masculinity to be clear and unquestionable. I don’t fault you for that. Masculinity definitely has its place. It works in harmony and balance with femininity. It helps you feel certain about your identity.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to draw the lines and boundaries of your sexuality and gender. But there’s one tiny problem. Your obsession with walking the lines of masculinity is holding you hostage. You’re not really free. And I really want you to be.
I want you to be free to buy the pink shirt that caught your eye, or to wear shorts that don’t look like oversized denim capris. You should be able to order a pina colada because they taste better than the liquid fire you chug out of shot glasses whenever you go to the bar. I would love you all to be able to go to a spa and put your toes in a foot tub and get the crust scrubbed off your heels. You deserve it (and so does anyone who has to share a bed with you). Oh, and hygiene products—I’d like you to be free to have and use as many of those as you can fit on your bathroom counter. Your face will thank you.
But more than any of those things, I want you to be free to have feelings. You are no less of a man if you cry when you’re hurt.
Take it from me, a perpetual crier, shedding tears when your heart hurts feels really good. I want for you to be able to tell your homies you love them before they’re in a hospital bed or coffin. I also want you to be able to offer another man a compliment without saying “no homo” or otherwise declaring your sexuality, because you have working eyes, and if something looks good, it looks good. I want every man to feel ok about being sensitive toward his girlfriend and enjoy cuddling without questioning his masculinity.
If being a man is about feeling strong and empowered, it seems to be a huge contradiction that trying to live up to the expectations of masculinity would make you too weak and powerless to do any of the above whenever you want.
Power and strength is being secure enough in your sexuality to enjoy a cocktail or cry when you need to. It’s respecting your home boys when they choose to do these things, even if you wouldn’t. Stop limiting yourself and your fellow men for the sake masculinity. You deserve better.
A woman who wants you to know freedom