East Harlem, Manhattan
"When I was three, my father abandoned our family. I grew up in a small apartment with my mom who worked long hours at McDonald’s to raise me and my much older half-brothers (same mom, different dads). I was very different from my brothers. They were very concerned about women and having sex with them, concerned about the image they projected out into the world as expressed by their Tommy Hilfiger shirts and jeans and their Nikes, concerned about listening to the right music, hanging out with the right people, and then breaking into people’s apartments and stealing thousands of dollars. They grew up to become professional criminals and spent years and years in prison.
I valued the lessons my mother taught me. I was what some people might call a Mama’s Boy because of this but it makes me feel more masculine than the types of #mascONLY bros I see because these types of men treat women, queers, POC with little/no respect while hijacking the cultures of the very people who they disrespect. My mother taught me about hard-work, something she definitely inherited from her grandmother who was an indentured servant in former Czechoslovakia, about the value of hard-work and how you do what you are, not you are what you do, because if you are good at something, that’s who you are, and you do that because you have no other choice. For me, that’s writing. I write because I do and I am. I enjoy the pleasures of hard-work that was handed down to me by my hardworking mother and great-grandmother, and in my mind because of this patriarchal society we live in hard-work is attributed to masculinity. But fuck that. Femininity is masculine as fuck.
Masculinity is a lie.
Masculinity is a curse brought down from earlier generations of ideas that disrespected other humans for the sake of greed, violence and power.
Masculinity is a boy’s club where men sweat heavily to build muscle mass to prove to the world that they are #soMASC so they can feel good about themselves.
Masculinity is a high school locker room where the boys terrorize each other so they can win the precious title of ALPHA MALE and prove they have the biggest cock.
Masculinity is the rich bro at the bar cruisin’ the next piece of ass they can conquer so they can brag to their friends.
Masculinity is an STD you can cure with a pill after you sleep around for a few nights and feel guilty about it because you’re supposed to feel shame about it.
Masculinity is casual terrorism.
Masculinity is a gay man’s Grindr profile of just his torso, the words “NO FATS NO FEMMES WHITES ONLY” scrawled in all caps across the bottom.
Masculinity is dirty culture and I won’t be like that.
I am human. I am human and messy and heartbroken and vulnerable and creative and destroyed. I am destroyed because I am a member of our society and society consistently tells me that I am wrong, that there are aspects about me (my body, my sexuality, my lifestyle choices, my career choices) that are deviant, that are perverse, and that I should feel shame. I am heartbroken by my sex, my by fellow gay males who are just as bad as the str8 masc boys in the gym locker rooms in middle school and high school who beat me up and called me fag. I am vulnerable because I am human and I have feelings and I sometimes I can’t control them but at least I have them. I am creative and I write and write and write and, hilariously, my writing is called ‘muscular,’ which never fails to amuse and frustrate me. I am destroyed because I am haunted by a father who didn’t raise me, by half-brothers who terrorized me, by a rape culture society, by racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, by masculinity.
I don’t know if I can redefine the definition of masculinity. I don’t know if I am that strong. And god knows I don’t feel confident enough to start tossing around that word to describe me or the things I stand for. I don’t stand for masculinity. I stand for humanity.”