Creating My Own Masculinity
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.
Masculinity is a gender construction just as much as femininity is. Sure there are characteristics that may generally be more prevalent in boys or girls but the ideas of gender are nearly inescapable and children are immersed in gender from the get go. From birth, the choice of name, the colour of the blankets, clothes, diapers, nursery, toys, and even the expectations of parents, grandparents and siblings are based upon that little baby's genitals. If you don't believe me walk into a toys r us or any department store. Look at advertising for men and women. It's all gendered. All of it. You can't escape it. So what the hell do you do when you're a kid and everything you are expected to be feels wrong? When they tell you ALL little girls (or boys) want to be princesses (or hockey players). What happens when you are the girl that doesn't want to be pretty but instead wants a haircut like the boy down the street? The one who doesn't want to wear a pretty dress and wear make up and high heels like the other girls but wants jeans and flannel and high-tops? What of the little boy that doesn't want to go hunting? Or who hates being dirty and doesn't like sports of any kind and loves his long curly hair.
I was that kid, and there are more of us out there than you might think. We don't understand why you don't listen when we tell you we are different. We are scavengers collecting all the little scraps of gender that feel applicable to our unique selves. Like ravens we collect all the bright and shiny bits of boy-ness or girl-ness we need to create an understanding of the men and women and bi-gendered spirits we might become. Little boys and girls listen from under tables and behind doors, they lie awake in bed with the door open listening, sit quietly at the top of the stairs for answers to the questions of gender. Every man or woman who is kind to us or unkind to use teaches us something about gender, how the sexes are perceived, and talked about. We learn to listen quietly and take notes for a time when we feel strong enough to strap the patchwork wings onto our backs and leave the safety of our stick built nests to explore the world finally cloaked in the skin of our own gender.