I was recently reading a blog in which the author – a mother of a young boy – was bragging that her son is “all boy” – meaning he is rough and tumble and plays with trucks, guns, and GI Joes. I found this offensive. What about the boys who like Barbies and arts and crafts are sensitive? Are they not complete boys? Are they somehow deficient? Would she be less pleased with him. It seems strange to me that we are still playing into gender stereotypes about masculinity in men and boys.
This creates potential problems for anyone who identities as male. The trans man has to figure out and come to terms with what his masculinity looks like. The gay 16 year old who likes drag has to accept that he can be feminine and still be a man. The straight man who holds his feelings in hears from his wife that he is emotionally distant, while he’s simply trying to be the “strong one”. It even makes life difficult for people who identify as straight females. I knew a woman who told me that she would be uncomfortable being in a relationship with a man who cried easily.
So what is a real man? I think the above picture answers this question perfectly. If you identify as a man – you are a man. Men look and act in many different ways and experience all of the range of emotions. They have all kinds of hobbies, from sewing to hockey. Some have penises. Some don’t. Some have always been seen by others as men. Others used to live life as girls. My proposal is that we accept this and move on.