Who’s the Man?

Convenient for me, the guy who only thinks about dating and is attracted to ninety percent of the human population, we’re writing about gender.

Every queer man (preferably every man, but especially queer men) eventually finds it necessary to ask, in a world that frequently determines us to be lesser: what does it mean to be a man?

The answer comes surprisingly easy: not much. It’s really just identifying as a man.

Better question: What does it mean to be masculine? Is it good, is it bad, does it even matter? Does it mean you’re physically strong? Violent? Cold? Does it mean you’re more of a man than someone more feminine?

My brother (who is much more masculine than me) recently watched The Godfather for the first time, and his favorite line struck a chord: “A man who does not spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Vito Corleone, the greatest symbol of male authority in the history of cinema, a man who maintains his power through coercion and violence, claims that it is family that makes you a man. It isn’t strength or power that makes you a man, but it isn’t family either (though that’s a much healthier yardstick than power or emotional stoicism). The only thing that makes you a man is thinking of yourself as one. There is nothing positive or negative about it. It simply is. If you are a man, good or bad, then you are a man. Liking normative masculine things doesn’t make you more of a man, just more you.

I’m not trying to insult people with different priorities, just to clarify that we have different priorities and that it’s good. I’m not the most masculine guy. I played football in high school, but that’s pretty much it, and since then I haven’t really cared about sports. But I do love how important sports are to other people. If you’re passionate about something, then I want you to embrace it. I want to see you be happy when you get to tell me about it. But, if you’re like me and you don’t really care about sports, you shouldn’t have to pretend to so people will respect you as a man.

Feminists and queer people don’t (or at least shouldn’t) want to take away your masculinity; we just want individuals to be able to choose what their lives are about instead of labeling those individuals as lesser based on what is really just a difference in taste. This is, of course, a two-way street. Traditional masculine activities and behavior are often dismissed as being basic or stupid. Sports, cars, and beer are all just sort of thrown to the side and labeled as being exclusively for straight, white dude-bros.

Your gender and sexual orientation do nothing to determine your personality or what you’re interested in; societal conditioning just pushes boys in one direction and girls in another at the expense of everyone’s happiness. I like a good manicure, and I drink whiskey; neither of those makes me any more or less of a man, and neither one should lead you to believe the other isn’t true. Tastes are varied and complex. We need to stop judging other people for liking what they like when it doesn’t fit with our societal perception of their gender and/or sexuality. Let’s mix it up a little bit! Women should be able to like traditionally masculine things without being judged (or more likely clumsily and obnoxiously hit on by a man who thinks it’s hot that she’s “not like other girls,” or harassed by someone claiming that they’re only pretending to like masculine things to get attention). And men should be able to enjoy feminine things without being judged (or more likely mercilessly bullied for being a sissy). I want to live in a world where you run into all of your friends from your crafts class the next night at your fight club (an extreme example, yes, but a fun one).

So, if you’re a man and you like lifting weights or watching football, that’s great; the only thing that’s wrong here is trying to make people define their masculinity the same way that you define yours.

There aren’t really any new ideas in this article, but if you want originality, then you should probably find someone else to talk to. Additionally, if you spend any amount of your time trying to decide what is and isn’t okay for other people to enjoy based solely on their gender or sexuality, then you’re a sack of human garbage and I don’t want to know you.

This article was written by Alec Petsche. Click here to see more of Alec’s work.