The following was originally published on Fetlife. I have made one alteration to it in order to remove ableist language.
I was born with a penis and a Y chromosome, and for these reasons my parents decided to raise me as male. I’ve questioned my sexuality and my kink extensively, but not my gender: inasmuch as “male” has a meaning, I seem to be one. I’m very fortunate that I currently live in a society which allows people to question their gender and to explore concepts such as intergender and queer, and I’m even more fortunate that I was born to a comfortable enough existence to have the privilege to do such things without getting beaten up or shunned. While I have an immense respect for those who do, personally, I’ve never felt the need to identify as any other gender.
This does not mean that because I identify as male, I mean the same things by the word as anyone else does. I don’t care about the football, I really don’t. I will politely pretend to follow the rugby and the cricket because I’m of a culture which is expected to do so, but politeness is as far as it goes. I’ve never owned an Xbox or fired a gun, and I hope to go my entire life without doing either. I choose not to grow a beard, and only in the last few years began to cut my hair short. I choose not to engage in aggressive testosterone-measuring contests during conversation. I do not regard my career as being something that I can “win.” I have no difficulty feeling or discussing my emotions, and have been known to cry when upset. In short, I may not fit anyone else’s definition of a typical man.
This is where I differ from a lot of people: I don’t see these as being intrinsically male traits. I see them as being traits that men in our society are taught, from a very young age. The difference between the two is subtle but significant: we’re taught as boys that we should aspire to develop some traits and shun others, while girls are taught that they should develop and shun different traits. Boys are trained to compete against one another, not to feel emotions, and to have wish-fulfilment power fantasies based around money, violence and dominance. Girls, meanwhile, are trained differently (I wasn’t raised as one so I can’t speak for what they’re taught). In neither case are we given a choice. In neither case are we asked to consent to the role that we’re being trained for.
Consent, as every good dominant knows, is key. And this is why I reject both the concept of gender roles in their entirety, and also the concept of the men’s rights movement.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my experience it wasn’t women who brought me up to deny my own feelings and see obedience and discipline as admirable. It wasn’t women who taught the “boys will be boys” attitude of laxity towards violence. It wasn’t women who portrayed sex as being a matter of doing something to someone rather than doing something with them. These are things that men teach one another. We act as distant, unapproachable fathers because that’s what our fathers were like. We act aggressively towards our friends because that’s what boys do. We hide our weaknesses from people who admire us, and so they learn that admitting to one’s weaknesses is a fault.
I wasn’t bullied as a child because I had my growth spurt hard and early and so I was always one of the bigger kids, but I’ve seen people get bullied, and it isn’t a thing inflicted on boys from without. It’s a thing we do to one another, a sickness of our society that never gets cured because we don’t see it as a problem.
That sickness has a very simple core: we see being male as an all-or-nothing affair. You are either strong and silent and motivated by power, or you are a faggot. You are either heterosexual and strong and smart and cruel, or you are a sissy. You are either obedient and disciplined and aggressive, or you need to man up and grow a pair. At no point do we allow ourselves to take a step back and look at the entire list of traits that we’ve been trained to display, and pick and choose our own definition of being male from it. We keep each other in line, but more importantly we keep ourselves in line. We’ve been taught to panic at anything which differs from the script even slightly, as if losing one of the list of traditional male attributes necessarily means that we’re no longer allowed to excel – or even participate – in another. There’s a very telling word for this: emasculation. If we see a man in a movie who’s henpecked by his wife, or who panics at the sight of blood, or who owns a smaller car than his neighbour, we think of him as being somehow less of a man, and start to suspect him of vacillating in all the other male traits too.
This is a suicide pact. It’s absurdity. I will have no part in it. More importantly, I will have no part of any movement which does not recognise that this is not inflicted by any outside agency. We are not an oppressed group. This is a self-inflicted poison.
This is why I reject the concept of the men’s rights movement. We do not need to win rights. We have all the rights we need. We have no enemy apart from ourselves. What we need to do is to release one another from the suicide pact. You get to be male, I get to be male, your sons and my sons get to be male, and none of us get to dictate what being male means to anyone else. We need to stop treating maleness as being an all-or-nothing affair, and start behaving as though it’s a la carte.