On masculinity

Not long ago, I wrote about a skirt that I used to wear constantly in the fall, and how I missed that desire. But truthfully, the desire isn’t completely gone. It has been superseded, in large part, by a greater desire to remain appearing consistently masculine. Why? Because there is a built-in protectionist attitude within masculine identity. I, like so many cis-gendered masculine people would not want to shake people’s beliefs, least-of-all my own, in my masculinity, and showing enjoyment in wearing that skirt, even voicing the desire to wear it, is incompatible with a masculine persona.

It’s just clothing, fer-gawd-sake. My style of speech, my swagger wouldn’t magically disappear; people wouldn’t be calling me out in the streets—“Hey! You! Take that tie off, you wore a skirt yesterday!”

But there’s so much energy put into appearing masculine, and it is such a fragile thing, that people are not willing to risk it. It’s the only reason I can think of that it’s almost acceptable for me to present mostly-male: bound breasts, big jeans, sneakers, fedora, etc… but male-assigned people are still getting kicked out of high school for wearing skirts. Women in pants is feminist, men in dresses is disruptive drag.

Masculinity is so fragile, so precious, the façade so easily torn down that it is violently defended on individual, interpersonal and cultural levels. So, even though it would be culturally acceptable as a girl for me to wear a skirt, my masculinity is so threatened by the thought that it has stayed, untouched, in my closet.

This wasn’t always so. When I was courting my present girlfriend, I wore dresses and bright red lipstick. There’s no way I would do that now. As I have become more outwardly masculine, I find it less acceptable to do something that I’ve done for much of my teenage life.

Yet, when I was in that dress, the lipstick, I was no different. I still pulled out her chair, lent her a jacket, carried our picnic to the park on Canada Day and laid out the food. It’s not as hard to swagger in heels as you might think, especially with a beautiful girl on your arm who’s hilarious to boot. In fact, I might consider myself to have been more masculine at those moments, because who I was shone through how I was dressed; I didn’t feel like I had to hide behind that extra protective layer of denim and butch wax.

Sure, no one would have confused me for a boy, but why does that suddenly hold such currency for me, anyway? Sure, I enjoy that moment of confusion that does (or, rarely, does not) come when they gender me ‘wrong’, but what is it that sends excited shivers up my spine when some random stranger calls me “son” or “sir” or “young man”? Why do my knees go weak when my sweetheart calls me handsome in that charming south-shore drawl?

I don’t have the answer to this. I’m wearing that skirt tomorrow, just to prove I can.

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~ by yondergen on December 1, 2009.

3 Responses to “On masculinity”

  1. […] been thinking about this post since I read it a few days ago. Yondergen wrote: Not long ago, I wrote about a skirt that I used to […]

  2. […] regulatory demands), Can I Help You, Sir? (“Are Those Boy Shoes?”), Yondergen (“On Masculinity“), and Dear Diaspora, which published this moving meditation on the function of certain […]

  3. […] regulatory demands), Can I Help You, Sir? (“Are Those Boy Shoes?”), Yondergen (“On Masculinity“), and Dear Diaspora, which published this moving meditation on the function of certain […]

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