When I was 15, I wrote my first ever good short story. I did it as a writing exercise - I’d decided that I really liked writing and I was going to do it somewhat seriously. Everyone knows that in writing this story I also got my other pseudonym, “Snipergirl” from the incredibly cool Hallowe’en outfit a caller into the radio had had (“I went as Snipergirl!” she said). But I haven’t really talked about the story itself.
It was kind of an awful time for my family in that basically everyone had decided to self-destruct. In the background, I’d discovered that I was into girls. Really into girls. And I was just recovering from being incredibly depressed while being at an all-girls school where everyone was paranoid about “the gays”. Oh yes, and one of my friends had outed me a year previous. For such an awful time it might be surprising but there were some pretty hilarious times too.
I had started sneaking into my dad’s wardrobe and putting on shirts and ties and pants. Believe me when I say I make a pretty cute guy. I do. It would make me feel simultaneously scared and excited (in a non sexual way). One of my first memories is of walking next to my dad when I was 3, convinced that I was going to grow up to be a man just like him.
I idolised my father as a child. I did not realise that he had been thwarted in his desire for a “perfect son” by my brother having autism. So luckily for me I guess I got to absorb all the lessons a father gives a son. Like how to match a tie and a shirt? Or that real men can cook?
But moving countries and puberty changes everything. My dad got really weird and my family self-destructed. It’s no wonder that so many stories are written about the end of puberty I guess. Just think of Peter Pan.
So Snipergirl is about a girl(?) who sneaks into her father’s wardrobe and puts on his suit furtively while her dad and brother are having a physical fight downstairs. I did not realise what a hell I was living in until I left. Still, it could have been worse. I was not sexually abused or raped. My parents were crazy but our home environment and my parents could have been much worse. I could have had broken bones and bruises. I could have been someone without the means to get friends or help. I could have not been smart and focused enough to get into medical school and escape.
I came out as being into girls at the end of high school too. My parents didn’t accept it for years. Now they do. But I have never identified as a lesbian. Bisexual woman? It does not feel honest. But a mostly-straight man does. It feels unbelievably honest. I finally recognise the person in the mirror.
I am a man. A mostly straight man. An effeminate, silly camp man. A man who isn’t afraid to wear pink and give out manly hugs. A man who is full of personal strength and some personal weakness. An honest and warm man with integrity. A man who is in touch with his feminine side. A man who is strong and supportive. A man who rides a motorbike and plays guitar and sometimes wears flannel and watched rugby at the pub the other day. A man who paints and likes flowers and writes poetry.
In other words I am incredibly comfortable with myself and my manhood.
I do not need hormones or surgery or to be born XY with a huge cock for that. (I am more than satisfied with my ability to pleasure hot girls in bed, thanks)
What does it mean to be a man? Good question. Other than the obvious (gender identity), for me it means being an adult man and not a man-child. What does it mean to be an adult? It means being someone who takes responsibility for my actions. That’s about it. It’s possible to be a responsible adult who plays with Lego and jokes around and sometimes takes a sick day and sometimes needs other people. Being a man doesn’t necessitate being a mountain man living in a log cabin (though, the thought is appealing).
So I guess it is an ongoing disappointment to see that my age peers have a significant minority of man-children. People who define their sense of self by whether or not they are “banging hot chicks”. Or like the “men” who once did a furniture removal for me, base their sense of self on making fun of a poor disabled woman saying “would you root that”. Abusive men. Needy men. Men who use their position of power to lie and cheat. Men who refuse to have understanding of those who are less fortunate than they are and instead whinge about how tough they have it because no-one realises what a “nice guy” they are. Entitled men. Broken men.
I don’t know what the solution is. The majority of 30 year old men are not like this. I am surrounded by awesome, inspiring, supportive men. Some of them have mental health issues. They are not perfect. They have flaws. But they are good men.
Having grown up with the experience of a woman’s life I can say that women outside of family structures support each other and define a supportive identity for each other in a way that men have only relatively recently started to do. Women struggled a lot - and much more than the modern man - until they banded together and started helping each other.
I started the week wondering what it is to be a man and it turned out that I was lucky enough to have had positive role models in my family and around me. And I still struggled. I struggled with being a needy man and a “nice guy” in my late teens and the very very start of my twenties (until women kicked my ass and I was forced to grow up). Many of my male friends went through similar experiences. Almost all of them got over it, as I did, fairly early on. But a few slipped through the cracks and they are the “lost boys”. The guys blaming women and feminism and other men and racial minorities for their problems. Looking online, convinced that spending thousands of dollars learning the “art of seduction” will cure the deep, horrible black void within them.
It saddens me immensely. It is a major problem. Some of these people are the rapists and abusive partners and parents that cause so much darkness around them. That perpetuate the problem where young people - male and female - grow up exposed to violence and abuse and neglect and inappropriate relationship models.
There is a reason that children do better in a single (non-abusive) parent family than with two parents of whom one is abusive or unsupportive.
It is a problem that is too big for me to really cover or contemplate fully right now. But I am myself and I am free and happy and complete. I am myself and I glow as bright as the sun on a summer’s day.