possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men.“handsome, muscled, and driven, he’s a prime example of masculinity”
synonyms: virility, manliness, maleness, machismo, vigor, strength, muscularity, ruggedness, robustness;informaltestosterone“he’s the picture of masculinity”
Masculinity is an interesting thing, for me as a transman masculinity the actual word has become meaningless. Reason for this is that I don’t fit into the social construct that is masculinity. I am often seen as a very masculine “looking” individual and with that comes the assumed and assigned. Assumed masculinity can be defined as the assumption of how masculine or “hard” a man is based on his appearance alone. Assigned masculinity would be defined as the expected traits of masculinity one is to perform in order to be considered a man, also based on the way one presents. Both of these are problematic for trans men because for a lot of us we don’t fit into these ideas of masculinity or manhood.
As I began my transition I began my medical transition I realized the masculine energy I held prior to presenting as male was the same but the way I was received was much different. When the world saw me as a masculine female, I was still coddled and protected as female presenting folks usually are. When my features started to change and my body aligned more with the societal norm of what men look like it all changed. Dating in particular became very difficult because the women I was dating would assign a certain level of masculinity that I was expected to perform. When I did not perform this correctly I was shamed as less of a man. One simple example, I was home one night watching a movie with a young lady I had been dating for about 4 months and out the corner of my eye I spotted a bug on the wall and instantly I freaked out. As I tried to “man up” and kill the bug she yelled at me as if I was a small child who had done something wrong. When I asked her why it was a problem that I was afraid of bugs she responded “you supposed to be a grown man, if you want to be a man you can not be scared of bugs but you are not a real man anyway”. My response was ” I am just as much man as any other man. I know cisgender men who are afraid of a lot of things including bugs.” This turned into an argument and further conversations where I was shamed for not performing manhood correctly which ultimately resulting in the demise of the relationship.
Assumed masculinity, in my experience, seems to be an opinion that can be shifted. An example of this is, I have a friend that before we ever official met noticed me at an event and made the assumption that I was mean, “hard”, and thuggish based on my stature and look alone. Once I started to speak and interact with folks at the event they realized how harmless and softhearted I really was. This can be seen in everyday life as well. Police profiling and women clutching their purses when I step onto an elevator are also examples of this theory. Men of color, weather trans or not, experience this often.
Have you experienced either side of this? Have you been the one to assign or assume these levels of masculinity? Join the conversation and comment below and let’s talk about this.
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