Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Trans Male Reflects on Constructing Masculinity

Regular readers here already know that I consider gender identities to be socially constructed for the most part. Sure there is some biology involved, but gender itself (how we conceive of masculine and feminine rather than male and female) are culturally and socially constructed (as is most of our identity, but that is whole other topic).

As a blogger, I am fortunate from time to time to connect with interesting people with different perspectives than my own. Today was one of those days. A man from Canada contacted me about something I had posted around Halloween - and he shared his blog link. It's his diary, of sorts, of his transition process.

I think way back when I began this blog, and occasionally since then, I have posted articles on gay male masculinity, or butch lesbian masculinity, but I don't think I have posted anything yet on a trans male (female to male transsexual) perspective of masculinity construction.

There are a couple of posts from the last few months where he mentions the process he has undertaken to construct a masculine identity - which is rather interesting to me because he was raised as a girl and not socialized within the masculinity "box" to which so many of us biologically-born men have been subjected.

I can see both the good side of that (no stereotypes and unconscious beliefs to wrestle with) and the bad side (raised to think boys/men are violent, emotionally numb, unable to communicate, etc) - but now he gets to choose HOW we wants to be a man more than many of us have ever had a choice in.

I have asked him to maybe do an interview at some point - in the mean time, his blog is Trans Canada Coyote, and here are snips of a couple of posts.

Creating My Own Masculinity

Even five months into my transition, I still spend some time considering what kind of man I want to be. I think of the men who have influenced me and taught me about masculinity. What traits do these manly men have, what is it about a good man that people admire? Just what is it that makes a good man good? These are things I need to know if I am going to be the kind of man I admire.

Now I am sure already there are some of you who are thinking...creating masculinity, I thought you always knew you were a guy? Bear Bergman put it very eloquently when he said: Not feeling like a girl is not the same as feeling like a man. Not having been socialized as a boy I missed out on a lot and am still sort of in the dark about what male culture is all about. What exactly is male bonding? What do guys talk about when there are no women around? Does a pissing contest really involve pissing? Not feeling like a girl makes perfect sense to me and being a guy is still a little blurry. Things are still a little confusing for me because while I desperately want the body of a man to match more closely the way I feel inside, I can see no way for me to kill off the trilogy of little ladies that still live inside me: the crafty lady, the thrifty shopper, and the cleaning lady. Now granted the thrifty shopper could go either way. If you ask some people in my family it is one of the strongest genes I may have inherited from my father who is the only other person I know who can be as excited to have got a nearly brand new pair of shoes for five bucks.
And this one . . .

Collecting Scraps of Masculinity

There have been a number of men in my life that have meant a great deal to me. Each of them has taught me a little something that I have used to construct my own idea of masculinity. I have tried not to use stereotypes in creating my male self but I have to say there are a few things I have learned and put into my masculinity repertoire. OK that sounds kinda dumb but I do sort of carry around a little mental bag of miscellaneous artifacts that are shiny little representations of my own idea of masculinity.

I've learned a lot about men and about how different men are from each other. It never fails to amaze me how different people are and how amazing every person really is. Painting any group with a single brush covers up their individual beauty and diversity and makes us blind to the possibility of seeing similarities or opportunities to learn. The men in my life have taught me great things about strength, generosity, kindness, patience, and bravery.

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