I saw beautiful masculinities today.
The moment shouldn’t have been beautiful. It should have been wholly unremarkable. Normal. Quotidian.
But in a world that teaches men to be hard, to conduct themselves with swagger and violence, it’s a rarity to see such tenderness.
First of all, Trey is a shit-talker.
He goes home for the holidays and comes back decked out in White Sox and Bulls gear. He knows which teams other students support, and harasses them when their teams lose.
Trey thinks he’s got game.
He challenges our other young employees to pick-up games, and goes on and on about how he’s going to kick so much ass. The games never come to fruition. On the one occasion a young lady called his bluff and actually took him to the court, he rolled his ankle 30-seconds in and was laid up for weeks.
Trey brags about his work.
If his output is good, he’s a total boss. If it’s bad, it’s cause he didn’t really try. Or so he tells himself (and everyone else).
Trey tells stories about his many varied friends. The only people I’ve ever seen him around are in his assigned work group. Whenever I run into him elsewhere at work or around town, he’s alone.
Trey is like many of the young men who come through our doors: bravado without backbone. He’s still trying to figure out how to be a man, particularly when he’s a man who is insecure about his athletic ability. He’s short. He’s thin. He’s not especially coordinated.
But today Trey wrote a holiday card for one of my coworkers, Rafael, who asked me to read it. In the card, Trey told Rafael that he appreciated him and that he was going to miss Rafael when he leaves to go back to grad school next year. It was a heartwarming sentiment, and altogether surprising, given that Trey and Rafael don’t have a particularly deep relationship and that 21-year-old cis straight men rarely take the time to handwrite emotional holiday cards for their coworkers.
As I read at the card, Rafael began to cry. It was a heartwarming sentiment, and altogether surprising, given that 27-year-old cis straight men rarely are moved to tears by a greeting card.
We must normalize men and boys loving one another, appreciating one another, expressing themselves in caring and healthy ways. This little exchange shouldn’t be worth writing about; it should be so ordinary and commonplace that it wouldn’t register as interesting.
When my partner transitioned more than fifteen years ago, I began watching men closely, so that I could help him identify the rules of how to conduct himself, as he taught himself how to do gender “correctly.” I’ve watched the spectrum of acceptable masculinities change greatly, even in the last ten years, and for the most part, I’ve seen it change for the better.
We still have so far to go, but today I saw beautiful masculinities, and for now that is enough.
E.L. Axford is an angry, Roller Derby DykeTM who would prefer to keep her identity a mystery before her online persona gets her real-world persona into more trouble than she can handle. When she’s not angry (which is rarely) she enjoys drinking loose-leaf tea.