I recently read a poignant and surreal opinion piece published in the New York Times penned by Michael Ian Black. A look into hearts of American men, it’s timing couldn’t be more significant in the wake of yet another mass shooting at the hands of a young white man.
Mr. Black takes us on a personal journey of astute observation. Being both a father to a teenage son and having lived the life of the average man, his observations are spot on. And they found in this reader a subject close to my heart as I spent 44 years roaming the planet in the same vehicle as he. I encourage everyone to read The Boys Are Not Alright and then circle back for my insights as a man having come out as a transgender woman. His insights are truly staggering.
For outsiders the article may seem campy even silly. It is however a brief jaunt into the emotional world of the average guy. And I fully resonate with nearly all of the piece. Mr. Black acknowledges everything so eloquently as he circles third base for home. But just as he reachs that promised land, he crashes into a wall of masculinity. He stops for no apparent reason. Just short of a full on epiphany. As he postulates seeing his son struggling with these themes, he doesn’t engage him and open up dialog. Why? Apparently because, “he was a boy too.” The hell?!
He back-steps into “being a man and what that can look like.” Even citing feminism as a guide. He’s so close. So close to the answer and yet it’s his own sense of masculinity that snaps him back up. Espousing that, “there has to be a way to expand, but not lose our masculinity.”
My friend masculinity just as femininity, is a complete and utter fabrication. They’re cockamamie constructs assigned to us because of our genitals. Nothing more.
‘Oh this ones got a penis, put him in this little clear box right here!’ And so forth for the keeper of a vagina. Our very understanding of the human condition is predicated on what’s between our legs, not what rests in our hearts. In our minds. And perhaps he lost the narrative due to his position in life as an average cis-gender white heterosexual man. I feel he became lost in the brush of the male condition. This said, I’ll gladly take the unspoken relay and complete his epiphany for him.
As Mr. Black brilliantly noted the social freedoms women enjoy are real. And those freedoms may pale in the face of the suffering they still endure, however if I may opine, they are the result of that separation of boys from girls so many years before. From a very early age we here in the United States raise our children in two very distinct ways based upon the child’s gender.
We can ask any man or woman, (boys or girls too) no matter the walk of life, political affiliation or religion. Ask them about what they want and what they need. What they most regret, and what they think of when they view themselves in the world.
This is where you’ll find our societal programming resonate. Finding men and women having a completely different world views, not to mention a very predictable hierarchy of needs. Which of course is based upon the aforementioned programming rather than any personal enlightenment.
Indeed those feelings of self are just sounds reflecting off the walls of our little boxes. Folks regurgitating someone elses’ ideal not there own. Instead we express our dads, moms and families narratives not your own. In essence we live vicariously through the myths passed on to us from caregivers.
And this has been happening for centuries as we pass on the myth of what it means to be us. The “I’m a woman/man therefore” nonsense. We continue to strive towards a narrow structured reality passed on from long dead Kings & Queens.
Sounds crazy to think of ourselves as marionettes to long dead nobles and invisible entities. That is until we peel back the layers and ask WHY? Why do I wish or desire this versus that?
Why am I allowed to do some things and not others? Why do I feel so much guilt for wanting to experience something reserved for others? Or carry fear for expressing something not allowed? This conversation is rife with our own worst fears and denials as our battles silently wage within.
In fact Mr. Black saw this, if only in the eyes of his son. I’d like to extend this to him.
“You’re at the threshold of enlightenment my friend. You’ve unlocked the door to your box, it’s wide open. The scent is palpable as you’ve quite literally seen the light. Now take that step outside and bask in the beauty of our true humanity. Free from masculine or feminine rules where YOUR sense of self becomes as boundless as the world in which you inhabit.”