Thinking back to my childhood, I can admit that I was never the most macho little boy in the classroom.
I was shy, timid, soft-spoken, and wanted to stay out of trouble. To be quite honest, a large percentage of my male peers seemed to stay in trouble and that was something I wanted no parts of. They did “boy” things like play sports which seems to be an international standard of, mission: build a “man.”
As a child, I thought I had to play a sport for the approval of others. As an African-American boy, basketball and football was what my peers gravitated to, but again—the social interactions between other black boys made me feel isolated from an early age. There was just something about me that made me feel as though I couldn’t exist while being my authentic self.
I think I gravitated towards baseball because it was less intimidating for me. What I mean by that is there appeared to be less black boys who played baseball. Let me take a moment to justify why I use the words “less intimidating.” I would say 99.9% of the time that I was called a f*g growing up, it was by another little black boy.
Back to my interest in baseball, my parents enrolled me in a baseball league and I cried the first time I went out on the field and that was that…LOL
I picked up on my attraction for the same gender at a very early age. A lot of the emotions that many adult gay/bisexual men go through regarding their sexuality, I went through a LOT younger. I believe that because I didn’t fit the mainstream idea of how a boy or man is supposed to present himself, I was left a bit lost while constantly searching for an image that I felt represented me. The lack of diverse imagery of gay men in the media was no help.
Growing up, a lot of my interest leaned towards what a lot of my female peers were interested in. Yeah I played with action figures, but I also liked Barbies. That gradually stopped, or became a secret, once I realized that little boys weren’t supposed to play with dolls. I preferred to draw instead of playing sports and luckily my childhood best friend, who was a girl, loved to draw as well. Thinking about it, I wonder if drawing for me started out as a way to escape from my social fears of dealing with what was expected of me in society.
As I grew older, my mannerisms gradually became more feminine probably because of all the little girls I hung around. Girls were always a lot softer and more embracing than boys. Mind you, I wasn’t flaming, but I was a lot less rugged than other little boys. I think femininity became a safe place for me to hide. Again, naturally I may not have had the most masculine energy in the classroom, but I went through some growing pains of being more feminine than I naturally was.
Let’s fast forward to my teenage years…
My transition into being a teenager was terrifying to me. Before–I could actually hide the fact that I was not interested in girls yet, but what would my family say once all the other guys started getting girlfriends and I was left out of the club?
You know the saying, “actions speak louder than words?” I took this concept and tried using it to my advantage. Although it was still a struggle, I thought that I could use femininity as a way of saying something without actually using words. Eventually people would catch on and I would never even have to mention anything, right?
I look at gay men today who are feminine and I understand that some are naturally being who they are. But what about the guys who aren’t? Do these men have similar stories to mine, and just haven’t taken off the mask? I’m guilty of it and watched others do it, but I believe that even in our adulthood we crank up the “gay” at times (and I think you know what I mean) to make others feel more comfortable. If others automatically know how to categorize you than they’ll be at ease and as a bonus, you won’t have to have that awkward “I’m gay” conversation. I think the goal here is to be less vulnerable, and that’s perfectly human! Being fully vulnerable and exposed is a scary thing—especially if your not in the majority.
Although my story nor my ideas reflect everyone, femininity was a safe space for me during my childhood and teenage years. Hell, I even catch myself pulling it out in my adulthood from time to time. Thankfully my 20’s have been an “AH HA” moment of me realizing exactly who I am and who I’m not. We all wear mask in different ways, but why spend your life being someone else? We are here on this earth to be ourselves UNAPOLOGETICALLY!
If you can’t be yourself, than who else are you suppose to be?
Feel free to leave a reply on this post below. Also, think about the idea of how masculinity can also be used as a safe space.