Navigating the nuances of what it means to “Be Man Enough” and creating our own definitions
Today was one of the best days of my life; I played pick up soccer with the guys, AS a guy. “Hey dude”, “hey man”, “he”, they all said. They saw me as one of them, as one of the guys. It was the best feeling in the world. Living as I was meant to live, I felt on top of the world. How well I played! Being slightly older, I still kept up with them. I scored the most beautiful goal and as I watched in disbelief as the ball flew into the back of the net. It was like a god had come down from the heavens and handed me this most perfect moment in the correct gender, so perfect in fact, that it completely outweighed any sadness or struggle I’d ever experienced as trans. The guys high fived me and continued to marvel my goal even as the game died out and we parted ways. Drunk on a high that no drug could even begin to touch, I basked in the glow of this gift wrapped in rare golden ribbon.
Somehow in the back of my mind, I still doubted myself. I kept thinking, any second now, something would give me away as a girl. That had been more exhausting than the game itself. My mind was fatigued from being hyper aware of how they interacted with me – trying to figure out how I was being gendered, and being tensely on guard in case I was misgendered. Then, this whole beautiful experience would have been shattered into a million little pieces. Inside I would have been crushed as my expanding yet flimsy identity dissolved into mere memories forever. Had the hormones worked enough? Was I passing as male? Sometimes I couldn’t tell!
I realized that I had no idea how to be a guy.
I feel like a guy inside. I see myself as a guy in my mind’s eye.
Thing is, I am a guy who has only ever been socialized as a girl.
What do guys talk about? How do they speak? What kinds of expressions do they make with their faces? What kind of gestures are made with their hands? What inflection do they use in their voices? How do they posture their bodies and in what circumstances do they make eye contact or avoid it all together?
What are the nuances of the social code by which men live amongst each other?
I’m starting to consistently be gendered as male but I’m afraid of being “found out”. Being trans in the “androgynous” stage is like constantly living undercover and every moment being afraid to get called out as a fraud- “You are really a girl!” That fear hangs over my head in every social interaction. I’m constantly afraid to say or do something wrong, breaching the social code of men -laugh at the wrong time, speak in too excited of a voice, apologize or say too much, and someone is going to realize I was born a girl, then think I AM a girl.
I contemplate this for a while and reason with that irksome inner voice. I AM trans. I WAS born a girl. Stop feeling like an imposter! Am I a guy? Yes. Am I a cis-guy? No. So why worry as passing like a cis-guy? Over time, I have no doubt I’ll be given the opportunity to be socialized into the male world but that is just that – an opportunity – bits and pieces of which I am entitled to take or leave. Living as female, I shunned social norms, gender norms and any aspect of socialization I did not agree with.
No doubt there will be small socializations like greetings and speech mannerisms that I’ll pick up and no doubt, there will be aspects of male culture and masculinity that I’ll reject completely. I’ve always chosen to be unapologetically ME in life and gender will not change that. In fact, I’m in a unique position to be so beautifully free and walk both sides (and in between) of gender and grow exponentially. Maybe I’ll be an odd, slightly off, different, unique guy and I want to embrace that. I am becoming more ME every day and I’m doing that for myself, not to perpetuate a specific male stereotype and certainly not to further toxic masculinity or unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a man! I’ll analyze and question everything just as I always have. I’ll just be transforming, changing, redefining, and every day this happens, I’m less attached to a concrete, definitive version of “I”. What can be more liberating that that?