“Stop acting like a little girl, boys don’t cry, be a man, man-up, punk, stop being a little bitch, faggot ass, that’s not what real men do.” These words are piercing to the core of many young boys in the time of childhood innocence, and these same words continue to echo throughout the journey of self-discovery and manhood. At an early age, we are shaped and molded to fit a narrative of how boys ‘should act ‘ and restricted to the behaviors of what boys ‘should display’. Unfortunately, this is more problematic than it is empowering to our existence as boys and men as we navigate our way through and within society. Moreover, it puts limitations on how we connect with one another, how we communicate and interact, how we foster friendships and relationships, how we get to a place of finding comfort in our own skin.
Masculinity seems to be something others define for us, instead of something that we define solely for ourselves. This creates a space for toxic, hyper, and fragile masculinity; a space that does more harm than good. A space that further divides and separates than bring together and unify no matter what our differences may be. A far cry from the ‘safe spaces’ many of us long for just to have a sense of belonging. We are told to be ourselves and to be who we are, but when who we are goes against what is deemed acceptable and the norm we’re then turned into a spectacle for simply owning our authentic selves. Owning who you are is owning yourself whole and full, not in omitted pieces, not in a box based on set rules, not limited to the opinions of others, but whole as you simply are. We have to rid the notion that masculinity comes with an instruction guide and how-to-do-it manual; there is no right or wrong way. Holding on to these notions prevents us from truly being free to be who we are unapologetically.
As men, we should be able to feel and express emotion, to be vulnerable and transparent, to let our guards down, to be joyous, to be carefree, to be human, to simply ‘be’. Society continues to question and challenge these exact things but more strikingly, we tend to question and challenge the very basics of our human existence amongst each other as men. I long for the day young boys can live out loud, proud to be who they authentically are with no fear. The day men can paint their own narrative of what being a man is just by being true to themselves, the day I can define my own sense of masculinity for myself and that be enough without further question. The day we can be comfortable in our own skin no matter how it may look to others on the outside. We can be all this and more to each other and most importantly, to ourselves if we choose to show up each day, as we are, whole and full.
Michael J. Forbes is a carefree eccentric soul, challenging the status quo one fight at a time. While straddling between marginalized communities, he shines light on the realities of such from a lens of his own.