I grew up in the 90s, in the country. A town which remains in my mind infused with oppressive atmospheres – enough so that the idea of being in that town again sends shudders through my body. Male gender roles were very strongly instilled and insisted upon, not by my liberal parents, but by my peers and social settings. Homophobia was the accepted norm, it wasn’t even a question. I had to consciously leave those ideals behind as I entered adulthood, which took some re-wiring. But those assigned gender roles left me with a hangover that can’t be completely shaken off, try as I might. Now, a grown-ass man in 2014, there are some personality traits I still harbor that I’d happily do without. I get the feeling I’m not anywhere near alone in these hangovers.
It’s my natural tendency to shut down. I have great difficulty with emotional empathy. Namely, I feel virtually none, the vast majority of the time. Like many other men, I filled that void with a kind of intellectual empathy in order to become something approaching a decent human being. Rational enough to understand that my feels are my feels and other people’s feels are theirs, knowing that other people’s actions are not, by nature, directed at me, knowing basically that everyone deals with all the internal complexity that I do, is enough to keep me from being a sociopath. But I have a lot of trouble actually feeling anything in empathy with someone else. Of course, there’s questions embedded in there of nature vs nurture, and there’s also a question of physiological developmental problems caused by drug use in my adolescence, so this can’t be attributed wholly and confidently to gender roles in my upbringing.
I have a great deal of trouble crying. It can be done, but I certainly feel like crying much more often than I am physically able to, which is frustrating and ridiculous. I tended towards crying a lot when I was a little-un, and being a boy, I now carry a great deal of unnecessary shame tied up in tears. A couple of instances of crying in early adolescence really burned that shame home. What a thing to carry through life.
It can be very dull being a ‘man’. I’m supposed to dress sensibly. I actually want to wear whatever I want to wear, I don’t really give a shit if the clothing is ‘female’. But God, the dumb questions you have to put up with for something as innocuous as nail polish or anything pink. Or people yelling ‘faggot’ out of car windows. Such a hassle. It’s a limitation that paints our imaginations cold and wintery. I get real tired of being cold and wintery.
It’s horrible to feel ashamed of showing warmth, emotion, femininity, sadness. It’s really no wonder so many of us tend towards being so distant. I’m in for turfing the whole gender thing. It’s no good for any of us. It’s an ideology for the propagation of the unimaginative. And of course, my own problems with gender are only a sidebar to the stories of the people who really suffer for these silly ideals.