Thoughts on Masculinity: An Exploration

There’s been a lot going on in my head recently, most likely due to surgery coming up and the passage of my one-year anniversary. However, here recently it was brought to my attention by my girlfriend that she feels like I’ve become so masculine that she feels like she doesn’t know who I am sometimes. This of course, brought up complicated feelings. I just feel more and more like myself every day.

This got me to thinking though about my search for “how to be a man” and the socialization that I continue to put myself through, consciously or sub-consciously. I’ve always been either self-described or otherwise as a “bro”. I can’t help it, it’s just how I am. I like to be confident, hard, but also able to show my emotions to not only my girlfriend, but my friends and family as well. I’m a sensitive dude, and although I struggle with that from time to time, I believe that being true to your feelings is important.

That all being said though, I found myself musing and then worrying today about “Am I manly enough?”, “Will I ever stop obsessing about the socialization or “secrets” I missed out on?”, etc. In groups of people or even in my head, I wonder if people are truly seeing who I see in my head or if they’re seeing someone else. Also, I don’t know that I always feel like I have the space to express myself (that could be some of the teen-agey feelings of transition). I worry that because I’m in my late 20s, experiencing everything I want to as a young man may not happen before I reach 30 and then I’ll need to “act accordingly”.

I know it’s not on other people and that it’s on me to make myself happy, but I don’t know that I’m always receiving validation from those that I love the most. And that makes me feel like crap. It’s almost like pre-T, everyone made such and effort and maybe now my novelty has worn off. Or maybe people are getting more than they bargained for. Or maybe this shiz is just all in my head, but even if it is, it doesn’t make my internal struggle less real or important.

I read A LOT about masculinity, new wave masculinity, gender, etc. yet I still feel lost at times when it comes to myself. I know surgeries don’t make the man, but it is possible I suppose that I’m feeling this way because I’m pre-op.

Full disclosure: I feel more manly than when watching men’s oriented programing (shallow, I know), bro-ing out with the guys,  doing physical tasks or when women treat me like society has shown me that women treat men.

I realize that this may seem shallow to anyone reading this, and that’s fine, but it’s the way I feel. Not to mention, I am white, was raised in a household where gender roles were closely followed and live in the South. I don’t think any of the above should come as a surprise.

I don’t really know what I was expecting to get from this post, other than sounding off outside of my head. Either way, I’m sure this subject isn’t closed for me or those around me.

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11 thoughts on “Thoughts on Masculinity: An Exploration

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  1. Whenever I do something that is stereotypically femme, I get a lot of flak for it because “I identify as masculine” but if I do things that are stereotypically masculine the people around me tell me they don’t like who I’m becoming/acting like…

    Don’t really have a point except I hear ya.

  2. Dude, exactly to the latter part. When I’m being myself or exploring how I want to be masculine (which sometimes might not be something that people close to me expect), I get that “they don’t like who I’m becoming/acting like…” stuff. I mean, I’m not trying to be a dick, but I wish I felt like more people were jiving better with this. Sometimes I feel really damn alone in it.

    I don’t really do too much that’s femme, but if I do occasionally it makes me really dysphoric or like “I’m not man enough”.

  3. I don’t think it’s shallow. As trans men, we have lived the first part of our lives systematically denied recognition as members of our gender. This is a basic human desire; the vast majority of people seek out ways to express their masculinity/femininity socially. Even the people who have been recognized as members of their gender since birth feel anxiety about it. In my experience, nearly all men, cis and trans, sometimes feel worried about being “man enough.” Add in the experience of being trans, all the changes that come with transition, everyone else’s reactions, etc., and it makes for a bumpy ride. I feel like it’s totally ok, and even necessary, to embrace the 2nd adolescence experience and feel insecure, be obsessed with your role as a man, etc.

    I share your habit of reading and thinking a lot about masculinity–hopefully it will make us both better dudes. Best of luck with your journey.

    1. Thanks man! You said it way better than I did. I’ve definitely been trying to embrace the second adolescence, even if it’s hard for others sometimes.

  4. Ditto, and it’s weird, lately i’ve been feeling like I was recognized as more masculine when I was flying under the guise of dyke–like now that I’m being rounded to man, I’m not man enough, but I was masculine enough as a dyke. Ugh. It’s depressing and weird and I’m 35 so the whole adolescent figuring my shit out thing is frustrating and sad.

    Anyway, solidarity!

    -Eli

    1. You know, it’s interesting that you bring up age. I’m 27 and therefore on the “older” end of transition and I wonder if “older” guys like you and me have a harder time with validation or “the second puberty” than younger guys because it’s not “acceptable” for us to be changing so much. And I definitely get the well-rounded man thing versus dyke; I like things that might not be seen as traditionally masculine or have knowledge of things that aren’t and I am constantly in a state of introspection/anxiety about where and when, or even if I should divulge such things.

  5. Oh my god, I feel this so much. I’m still in the tentative early stages of trying to figure out my gender identity (which is unnerving since I also feel like I’m getting to this rather late at 25 years old). For the longest time, I wasn’t comfortable considering the possibility that I might be a man because I’m just not “manly” enough. Sure, when I was younger, I would do everything in my power to maximize my stereotypically male traits and I shunned anything that was remotely feminine because I didn’t want to be associated with it. But that wasn’t really me. Once I came out as a lesbian, I suddenly felt so much more comfortable embracing my the full spectrum of my personality. Once I was a “dyke” I no longer felt that same need to prove my masculinity. It was just sort of assumed, and people noticed my masculine traits more and attributed that to my identity. It felt good.

    But, in the end, it still didn’t change the dysphoria and the nagging feeling that I still wasn’t ME. Being a man feels right, but it comes with anxieties that I am not “male enough”, that I’ll never be taken seriously, that I won’t be able to pass because of my feminine mannerisms, or that people will feel that any of my masculine mannerisms are just an act… that it will never be seen as authentic. Or, maybe even worse, I’m afraid that I WILL start putting on an act of male-ness to try to fit in, and I’ll end up losing the other parts of myself again. Social pressures are a powerful thing.

    All in all, I just have a lot of fear and confusion wrapped up in this… probably exacerbated by the weird, fucked-up gender ideas that I was raised with (requirements to wear ankle-length skirts, obsessions with virginity and modesty, deeply oppressive of women, raised to be a “wife and mother”, homeschooled in a cult-like manner that prevented me from every hearing any other information ever…). I wonder how much I’ve missed and misunderstood about gender because of this. I suppose it’s never easy for anyone to fully understand themselves and work out their own identity, but this is pretty overwhelming.

    1. Firstly, it’s never too late. I started coming to grips with myself at the age of 23 and didn’t start medical transition until I was 26 years old. As for the other stuff, yeah, it can be overwhelming. My two cents is to be yourself and to read as much about other trans men’s experiences and about gender itself. It’s what has helped me.

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