I dont try to be masculine, i do what feels natural to me. In the absence of femininity my appearance comes across as masculine.
When I´m in a public restroom and again I've been made aware of the fact that I have obviously entered the wrong room, I try to stay polite and respond by stating that not every female person has to follow society's rules when it comes to the alleged female dress-code.
I don´t quarrel with the fact that I am a butch. In fact, it's the opposite.
I consider the gender binary and the constraints coming with this "either... or" - system a prison. As far as I'm concerned, being able to live my life somewhere in between is a real privilege.
Berlin, Germany (Photographed in Amsterdam)
A few weeks ago I met a six year old boy who said to his mother after our encounter: "I think she's a boy!" And this is probably the best sentence to describe my gender I ever heard.
I'm a proud stud, a rebel with a cause, butchy, strong-willed and
powerful, with a sometimes maybe clear non feminine mind and behaviour AND I'm deeply identified as a genderfluid, but always female human being, I was born with a female body and I love it. Having a female body & being packed in male clothes most of the time, makes me feel like the most interesting gift to explore ever.
My masculinity has been at the core of my identity as long as I can remember, and I enjoy the freedom to wear the clothes that make me feel good. When I was a child, I had to wear dresses and long hair like my younger sisters. It was such a relief when my parents finally gave up, sent me to the hairdresser to get my hair cut short, and bought me a pair of jeans.
I grew up as a tomboy in a small conservative town in southern Germany and I moved to West Berlin in my early twenties. At that time Berlin was still divided by a wall. Though I struggled to make peace with my female body when I was younger, I'm glad I was not born a man.
I'm so thankful for my friends and lovers who have taught me to see myself the unconditionally loving way they did. They stood up for me, spoke out for me and took care of me whenever the world saw me as an alien that was not normal.
When it comes to gender labels, I guess the tag "queer butch" probably fits me best. But my gender has always felt fluid. When I started to dance Argentine tango it felt only natural for me to lead, but now I also enjoy following. The best thing is to flow with changing roles during the dance.
Being able to embrace my female traits as much as my male qualities has given me inner peace. I consider myself as to be a twospirits human being, and it feels good to live the best of both worlds.
I'm feeling blessed to be born in a country where I don't have to hide myself just to survive, and I'm glad to work for a company that values the diversity of its employees.
My thoughts on masculinity? Well...for me I am who I am. A naturally androgynous woman. I'm almost 6 feet tall, wide shoulders, confident andstrong. I'm called sir more often than I can keep track of and I don't care. I understand that most people don't look at who they are interacting with throughout the day. Many find it comforting to put others in a box. I've been a dyke for a long time and I've grown into myself. A woman very much in touch with all aspects of me. Masculine just happens to be one of many.
Masculinity is more than just the attire and having muscles. These aspects help exude how I choose to present myself, but do not make up all of me in totality. My masculinity was earned and I wear it like a badge of honor. Life and experiences have taught me to have strength and to be bold. I've learned how to hold my own and be independent through being assertive and having courage during difficult times. The Handsome Revolution is exposing how individuals, like myself, can hold pride in celebrating our masculinity and it really showcases a spectrum of people who deserve to be represented.
My thoughts on masculinity is that it is not simply defined by any specific gender. Masculinity to me equals strength; in the way one feels and presents themselves. And, it's a type of confidence that isn't cocky; but proud. Growing up, I was a tomboy (I guess I still am haha), but it wasn't until last October that I made the decision to cut my hair. And it wasn't until then that I realized that I could finally relax. Because finally, how I physically portrayed myself matched how I felt on the inside. What I love about being masculine (and what I love about your project) is that I can show the world that being masculine isn't just for men. Because it isn't just about physical strength, it's also the strength we carry within ourselves. And that strength is represented in the way we dress and the way we carry ourselves.
I go by the nickname Reni. Born and raised in Sacramento, CA. I have been a tomboy for as far back as I can remember. I have always been rough and rugged. I am the girl that would play with hot wheels and G.I Joes instead of barbies. I have never felt comfortable wearing women's clothing. Just because I am a tomboy and dress masculine does not mean I wish to be a man. I am simply not afraid to be who I am. I am very comfortable with embracing my inner tomboy. I am a mother of two beautiful children and they mean the world to me. I have had people tell me that because I am a stud that I don't know how to be a mom to my kids. That is far from the truth. I am still a woman. I believe that my being masculine gives me the best of both worlds. I am strong like a man but I am also caring, understanding, and sensual like a woman. I applaud all masculine women for being themselves and embracing who they are.
Masculinity for me is comfort. Ever since I was a kid, I have always felt more comfortable wearing masculine style cloths and looking masculine. To me masculinity represents strength, independence, comfort, and confidence. I would always cringe and feel awkward with the feminine look as a kid, but would also feel ashamed that I liked masculine clothing and looks. In and of myself I wasn't ashamed, but I would get shamed at times by my authoritative figures. They would let me know it wasn't "normal" to wear boys clothing, and make me feel like I was wrong for liking it. I was also shamed for wanting to play with and like the boys on occasion as well. So when I was younger I loved masculinity/boyhood as a secret. It was ok to be a tomboy to a certain level, but not quite the level I truly felt I was at. Masculinity at that time was tainted with shame. It was a slow process to allow myself to fully be myself and express my desire to look masculine as well as portray some masculine behavior. I started out being androgynous feminine, and then in 2010 made the big shift. Before that I would go in and out of masculinity and femininity trying not to rock the boat too much; though at times not being able to hold myself back. After 2010 I cut my hair short for the first time and prepared to no longer be secretly masculine. I prepared myself for the new attention, the judgment, being called "sir" all the time. Masculinity then was wearing thick skin and being myself no matter what outside elements tried to effect me. It was still tainted with separateness and fear. Luckily shame was not something I allowed myself to feel anymore. Fast forward to the present and masculinity is simply a part of me. I'm so comfortable in my style choices and self that confusing people about my gender doesn't bother me. I'm so comfortable in my own skin and expression of masculinity that I forget it even makes other people uncomfortable. Sometimes I have to remind myself that my looks and actions are confusing to some people. It just makes sense to me now that I would be this way. It's my style and how I express myself. It's how I feel sexy, cute, handsome, and balanced. My true self I would say is androgynous leaning towards masculine appearance though character wise I am very effeminate. My outer self balances my inner self. I would say I am blend of masculine and feminine, and I express those qualities in different ways. I can't really say why masculinity in outward appearance makes me more comfortable, it simply does. It wasn't something I consciously chose to like, I have always liked it. I did however have to consciously choose to allow myself to be me, and express my preference and like for masculine look and behavior. What is masculinity? It is an expression of me.
Masculinity is feeling comfortable in your own skin. Today, as we fight against all those patriarchal colloquialisms, such as masculinity, it's more important than ever to understand that its definition is not branded in gender or sexuality. It means embracing our intelligence, strength, and passions in order to support ourselves and the ones we love. It's the stamina to be driven, to keep fighting for what you believe in, not bullying others, but instead bringing them up, and knowing that chivalry isn't dead. Honestly, it's about being a genuine human being that doesn't necessarily have the biggest balls in the room.
I am masculine in my own way. I actually don't really think of it as being masculine, but more of being who I am and how I feel comfortable. For so long I dressed in a way and also looked a way that wasn't me but how everyone else thought I should be. This is me and this is how I feel comfortable. I am finally comfortable in my own skin and who I am!
I grew up in a small town. I've always been masculine but it took a long time to embrace it because I saw how the out people were judged. Now that I'm comfortable with my masculinity I run into older folks that talk about "family" yet judge those who identify differently than them. Ex. A butch woman once told me that she was proud to know me because she thinks i am a proud lesbian who goes by my "real" name. I gave her a strange look which prompted her to explain that she was happy that I wasn't trying to be a man or go by some made up name to sound like a boy. I was shocked. This isn't why I dress the way I dress or act the way I act. It's not to please one set of people over another. I dress this way because this is how I'm comfortable and I think I look pretty damn good.
I don't want to be judged even by those who are supposed to be part of this community i was so worried about being a part of when i was younger, just as much as I don't want to be judged by those outside of this community. That's why I support this project. I want everyone to be able to be who they are without judgement. The more people understand ALL the different kinds of masculinity, the more it will help become everyone's norm.
Masculinity is a vibe you get from someone; it’s an energy that someone exudes. You don’t necessarily need a three-piece suit to be masculine. But it can definitely enhance your sense of self. My masculinity is what makes me feel the most “me.” The most genuine, authentic version of who I am and how I relate to others. I’m so grateful for my masculinity. And my femininity, too (I will rock the shit out of a dress). I’ve been so blessed to learn from others and grow into myself over the years. My idea of masculinity has definitely evolved over the years.
If you look at the definition in the dictionary it states: having qualities traditionally ascribed to men, as strength and boldness.
I do not agree with this just as I do not agree with the fact that people say that only women can be "feminine" . I am firm believer that people are born the way they are. My mom may have dressed my in dress and wanted me to be "feminine" but in side I wanted to play with the boys and wrestle play baseball. I could be referred to as masculine for the things I do and the way I look but I am not a man My boob's and vagina remind me everyday.
Masculinity, similar to femininity and gender, is a very fluid concept. One of the beautiful aspects of masculinity is that it can appear in many different forms. While masculinity encompasses qualities typically associated with men, I have always identified as a more masculine women and have embraced it. About five years ago, I decided to explore my masculinity further. Since then, I have found I am much more comfortable expressing the more masculine side of my personality. Masculinity can have different meanings for everyone, and people express it in different ways. For me, my personality traits that I view as more masculine, such as my competitive nature, my athleticism, and my love of adventure, have always been crucial aspects of my character. Over the past several years, I have begun to mirror how I felt internally with my outward appearance. I love a good suit and tie, I feel more confident and comfortable in men’s clothing, and I feel that by matching my outward appearance with my personality I have developed a very clear sense of self.
Gender roles are defined by society and more specifically cultures. The definition of masculinity is not the same across the globe. It's in the eyes of most other people that I'm masculine strictly based on my appearance.
In truth, I am both masculine and feminine as is every person. My outward appearance has never been based in the desire to be a man. I don't even like being referred to as a Boi within the gay community. I'm female. I love that part of me. I embrace it and am proud of it.
I grew up playing sports, getting dirty and shopping in the boys section for as long as I can remember. It used to hurt my feelings when people would tell me I looked or acted like a boy. I was confused when I was told to "act lady like". I always felt like I was behaving like a lady, my "lady like" was just done differently. I really wanted people to understand that girls look like me too. You don't have to dress or look a certain way to be a girl. Recently, when my 6-year old niece started asking questions, I simply explained that all girls are different. She understood right away.
Ultimately, to me, masculinity is about being comfortable with yourself and knowing who you are. It's about being strong enough to be yourself in a world that may not understand. It's about feeling free to express that strength through your style and how you carry yourself.
To move forward with gratitude, compassion and grace. To be loyal. To allow yourself to love deeply and to be loved. This transcends clothing or behavior. The perfect summation; the Latin phrase "Esse Quam Videri" which translates "To be, rather than to seem (to be)". Just be.
I've always had a hard time with feminine and masculine. Growing up I knew I was a girl but did not feel feminine and I thought if I acted too masculine I would continue to get called a boy and all I wanted to be was just me, a girl who just happens to feel more comfortable in "boy" clothing. But as I've grown up, I've embraced it cause every morning when I look in the mirror there stares back a feminine and masculine woman and I love it! I embrace my broad shoulders, deeper voice and short hair. I am feminine, I am masculine, I am me!
To me, masculinity is a feeling. Growing up I didn't know how to feel and as I got older I found myself and began to really love who I have become. I have never felt comfortable in girls clothes, when I was young you wouldn't catch me in a dress. When I was a teenager, it was apparent that I had no idea who I really was. Going to prom in a dress, having long hair, feeling completely lost as an individual....it wasn't until my mid to late 20's that I realized who I really was and how I really felt about masculinity. I dress the way that I do because it makes me feel confident and handsome. Because I dress this way, people assume that I am masculine.....I can say that yes I am, but I am definitely feminine as well. I am who I am and I don't want to put a label on myself.
Masculinity & being a Handsome Woman for me is definitive...it is who I am in my soul. It allows me to present with clarity, style, freedom and confidence.
My struggle was never with my masculinity, I loved that part of me. I had challenges accepting the feminine part of me; especially when it came to fashion. I couldn’t really present my fashion style with confidence, because I didn’t know what it was. If I wore boy’s pants & my sisters’ cool necklace, or a woman’s blouse and my father’s tie, did that make me less masculine or more feminine? Fashion magazines weren’t that helpful either. I never really saw myself on those pages, though I did like lots of the clothing. And without 'Ellen' on TV or the word 'Transgender' in the news, I didn't really have a lot of guidance. Tomboy suggested at some point I would grow up, stop playing sports, snap out of it & become feminine.
Butch was constant, it is what I am to my core, but did that have anything to do with my fashion sense? I didn’t relate to butch as a fashion style. Even though I dressed like a boy, I wasn’t comfortable when addressed as ‘sir’ because I was female. I needed a word or a vision that described my style with confidence. My sisters had words: pretty, beautiful, lovely etc. How could those words also embrace my masculinity? I was very uncomfortable when hearing these words wrapped in a compliment, mostly in an apologetic sort of way.
K.d. Lang changed my perception. She was Masculine & Feminine & Handsome, all in one. From the moment I saw her, something clicked for me: Permission to dress in a way that meets me where I am. From then on I owned and embraced the masculine & feminine. The fashionable Handsomely dressed package I present is sheer confidence & power! It definatley speaks to my self assurance and the respect I demand from others. Today, if someone says I’m pretty; I’m ok with that, and if someone says I look Handsome, I’m more ok with that.
Los Angeles, CA.
Masculinity has always been something I have struggled to define. Both within the confines of society and within myself. As I continuously grow more in touch with my true self, I have found the meaning to become more flexible than I had originally thought. Masculinity to me is something I previously connected to identifying as male. I identify 100 percent as a woman, though many would tell you otherwise based on my appearance and behaviors. For years I was under the impression that I had to pick “masculine” or “feminine”, and that anywhere in between was only confusing. There are so many parts of me that would classically fall into both categories but I am quickly labeled as a “boi” strictly based on my style choices and hobbies. That never sat right with me. I now realize that everyone, regardless of gender, contains aspects of masculinity as well as femininity, and that unique combination is what makes us so beautiful. Though social constructs have historically encouraged embracing only one of those components, in reality all we are just is a mix of everything masculine and feminine. I have never felt more comfortable with myself than I do now that I have embraced that knowledge. I cannot be labeled. I am just me.
Los Angeles, CA.
I believe that masculinity is a state of mind and attitude. It can be whatever we want it to be. I've always been more masculine than feminine and fought it for a long time because of society and their so-called norms. I spent my childhood as a tomboy with a feminine twin sister. She was Barbie and I was Ken...and Star Wars. I was criticized for 'being a boy' by others from time to time and it changed me. When high school came along, I became completely feminine with no trace of my former self. I forced myself to fit in; to be the girl that everyone thought I should be. It wasn't until I moved away for college that I realized it was okay to be different. Slowly, I gained the confidence to let my true self show.
For the past ten years, I have embraced it more and more because of the many positive influences we have available to us in our lives now. It's an amazing feeling to own one's 'boi-ness' and to be a part of this community that supports one another. We have come to know that are not alone. Wear those pants! Tie that tie! Be ourselves.
Los Angeles, CA.
We live in a world where gender is an enforced binary of male or female, I am so much more than that. Masculinity is part of me, it always has been. It’s reflected in my appearance, energy, and attitude. It’s where I have found my center.
Masculinity is where I finally feel like my body is home. Growing up, I used to study women's magazines and make-up and clothing guides, feeling like something was missing, something I couldn't understand. It wasn't until I came to a butch identity when I was about 20 that I finally started playing with fashion and appearance in a way that felt comfortable, let alone celebratory. Finally, my body made sense in the clothes I wore. Finally, I felt visible—like I was, for the first time, really me. It took me at least another five years to feel comfortable in that butch identity. Reconciling my own feminist values was hard for me, at first—I was plagued by the question, "What is masculinity without misogyny?" And building my own answer to that question has been a serious quest. Now, 15+ years later, I spend more time thinking about the privileges I receive because of my masculinity, rather than the challenges of whether or not I'm masculine or how to be masculine. Finding this home in this gender has been one of the most liberational parts of my process.
I have spent my life knowing I was a different kind of woman but not feeling like there were any role models that looked like me. But now, at this time in my life I get that it’s up to me and others to push the boundaries of the definition and visual image of WOMAN, because there is most certainly room under the tent for all that want to be there. My female masculinity has ease and comfort in it and swag! I finally feel comfortable in my own skin.
Masculinity is not such a strong word for me. I resonate more with Butch, as I feel like butch women and especially butch lesbians have a proud history of being strong and tender for one another, their lovers, and their community. I had a butch-on-butch relationship in seattle and my lover and I were talking about the "masculine of center" phrasing. I DO think it's powerful and cool, but I also really resonated when she said "I'm not masculine, I'm handsome." At the time (2011), we started a Seattle social group for butch women called "Handsome Gals." So I was excited to see the word "handsome" in your project. That said, for me I also feel very two spirit. I like to say I am a man and a a woman, a boy and a girl. For me, my more male selves are not necessarily about what roles we fulfill during sex or even in domestic situations. It is more about body language, clothing, some things about the way I relate. Coming out queer at age 14 (in 1980), my gender and sexual orienation have both been queer and not always clear to me as different. I did a lot of things I thought dykes were supposed to do- and I enjoyed them! Like playing the drums, learning construction, not pursuing professions that required "feminine" clothing. I sometimes look at the clothing options today and think my life would have had even more abundance if butches could have dressed the ways they do now in professional environments back then. But I love the work I do, teaching kids and families about spirituality and social justice. And I love having a very switchy relationship with my femme beloved.
San Francisco, CA.
Masculinity allows me to look in the mirror and not want to look away. In these mirror moments, my masculinity is equal parts posture, haircut, jawline, and collars. Masculinity is also a part of the way that I walk, speak, think, and do. But it cannot exist without the balance of the feminine parts of me, and everything that lies between masculine and feminine -- my tendency to nurture, many of my mannerisms, my ability to set people at ease. And my performance and interpretation of masculinity, femininity, and the entire gender spectrum exists solely within the framework of the society of which I am a part.
On being a Boi
Boi recognizes my masculine energy. It’s not about gender identity, orientations and or dominant or submissive energy. More often than not, the world usually recognizes my masculine energy much more than my female energy and that started long before I started presenting as a boi to the world. It is that balance of female and male when merged, that makes me whole-hearted and able to relate to others with a whole heart. When I finally started presenting and dressing as a boi, I finally really felt like the flawed, beautiful person I was always destined to become.
I don’t hate being female and I love my female parts and my female energy. Since I can remember, I always loved the way boys dressed, acted, the tattoos and more importantly, the way women looked at them, thought about them, felt about them, treated them and DESIRED them. I wanted all of that from women my entire life. I am not into “littles” but sometimes I feel like a 12 yr old boy when around really strong women that know the power they possess. Having more masculine energy than female doesn’t mean exhibiting typical male cultural social interactions but to me, means appreciating those masculine traits and social interactions and the beautiful femmes that appreciate those hard to define but those sometimes subtle intangible differences between female/male. Those things are the drivers of passion and desire.
Why boi and not boy, because I do not want to loose my feminine side but want to merge all of this masculine and feminine energy together. My desire is to be someone that is stronger, more sensitive, more sensual, more understanding, more loving with more compassion and humility. Those are the gifts I can offer someone who knows how to appreciate and take those gifts with grace and return them as passion and desire.
I am a butch through and through. I came into it naturally… there simply was no other way for me to be. I believe masculinity is a more than a frame of mind. It is a state of being. For me it goes beyond how I look and dress. It emanates from me in so many aspects.. the way i communicate, the way I move, the way I love. I think the beauty of loving a butch is that you get the strong, confident masculine presence but you also get the soft, loving, caring woman underneath it all. It’s the perfect symbiosis. I make no excuses for who I am and I proudly present very masculine of center. I am a teacher and I see it as my responsibility to be authentic without apology. It’s critical that we can be and have role models representing the full spectrum of human possibility. Only then can we move beyond tolerance to acceptance.
Masculinity as an abstract thing is complicated, but my masculinity is easy. It's the comfortable place where my clothes fit me, even when they don't fit. For me, it means a tendency towards simplicity, groundedness, and earth tones. It means getting dirty and playing rough and changing the oil on my bike. But, it also means tenderness and littleness, too, a dependency on my family and sweet gentleness for my loved ones. Sometimes it's the grunting of a workout or the bruises from getting fucked. As a boy who dates other butches, I think masculinity is sexy and full of friction, both in the give and take.
Masculinity is a mindset. It's a mindset that shows up in the way you dress, the way your carry yourself and the way you think. It's about the gentleman in you that is part of your core being. It's about the way you treat the women in your life always treating them with care and respect the same way you would want a man to treat your mother or your sister. Masculinity is about being a protector and a provider for your loved ones. There is nothing sexier than a confident, educated, well dressed and well spoken masculine woman.
I straddle the gender line pretty comfortably and masculinity has always been something I've struggled with. I don't enjoy the stereotypical or traditional impositions of what masculinity should be, but I know I feel more comfortable presenting as what most perceive as "masculine." I try to present myself in a way that will make people think twice about gender while also trying to look like a boiband runaway. Ultimately, I'd like to open up discussion of how every form of expression is equally valid and a sight to behold!
Female masculinity challenges both social and familial norms. Bringing tears of joy and tears of pain that ultimately have allowed me to be the person I have learned to love and understand. Masculinity is away of looking at the world through its privilege and struggle to be an ally to feminine people as well as other masculine folks.
My personal style is at its center a political act. I feel as though someone’s personal style through a msculine lens can at times be a silent protest or a very visible statement. More plainly I am working to coin my own personal ideology, which I call “A Boi in Pearls”. It is a nod to a variety of things that coincide to make me. I have long felt that gendering of clothing and fashion has been to our society’s detriment and the statement of “A Boi in Pearls” works to dismantle that. I may be in what people may perceive to be a more masculine aesthetic which is almost always accented with what I feel is a very highly feminine symbol of the pearl earring. I also enjoy teetering the line of feminine and masculine items not typically paired and the use of color to make a very dramatic visualization.
Santa Cruz, CA
I’ve never felt especially masculine, but I’ve never seen myself as particularly feminine either. I have just always been a tomboy, a girl, but a tomboy. Even though it does not happen very often, I can put on a dress and earrings and look gorgeous. But, I’ve always felt more comfortable and relaxed in androgynous clothing. Recently, since I’ve discovered a more dapper style, I’ve never felt more confident and at home with myself. I’m excited to get dressed every day and step out into the world!
Over the last few years, as I’ve established my wardrobe as a college professor, I wasn’t sure how my colleagues and students would respond. But, I’ve received tremendously positive feedback! My fellow faculty and students cannot wait to see what I show up to work in each day. I’ve made the fashion section of the school paper twice, and almost every day someone stops me to say, “I love your outfit!” or “Your hair is awesome!” or “You are the best dressed professor on campus!”. Students have even begun to ask ME for fashion and hair advice which I never would have expected in my wildest dreams as a kid. The support from my academic community has further given me the confidence to be me, in whatever form that is…usually in a brain-covered bow tie. As an educator and feminist, I am especially proud that I can be a role model for my students. On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to challenge my students to grow cognitively and to encourage them to express themselves freely and however they feel comfortable: masculine, feminine, or anywhere in between.
Los Angeles, CA
I identify as a boi, which means I feel most comfortable somewhere in between a man and a woman – both in the way that I dress, behave, and most importantly, in how I feel. There's a part of me that is unfulfilled when I'm in an environment where I'm unable to embrace that. The term "transgender" can be pretty confusing to folks outside of the queer community because the term itself is so fluid and it's implications so broad. Yes, I feel like a world-class gentleman in a suit and get a twing of excitement when a stranger calls me "sir" – But I actually identify as a woman. I like to wear mascara and have my girlfriend put her arm around me. I'm even fairly domesticated. However, these little things don't constitute me as a "man" or a "woman." That's the point. My identity and image is MINE to create based on my right to live an autonomous life in pursuit of individual freedom. That's the model our country was founded on and it's time we stop enforcing rules on who deserves these rights, especially now that we finally have a president who is on board with this idea and recognizes the queer and transgender community as citizens deserving of these freedoms.
Masculinity is something I have felt inside since as far back as I can remember. It has always been a part of me. As I have gotten older, I have strived hard to live authentically, see the beauty in myself, and build self-awareness around sexism and other norms. I don't always have the exact words to describe who I am, which is both liberating and heavy at times. However, I can say that all I have ever wanted for myself is to be happy. To me, happiness is about self-acceptance, love and compassion even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Participating in this project was an act of self love. A tangible experience devoted to my image asking me to look at myself, unpack the shame and self hatred, and really see my own beauty in a world where I have not felt acceptance.
Embracing masculinity has been a life-long process. I was always a tall, athletic girl with a knack for basketball, softball, and gym class—a baby butch in the making. I grew up with three rough-housing older brothers. My dad enlisted us to help with construction projects. We all had to shovel the driveway, and my favorite chore was mowing our big, Minnesotan lawn with our John Deere. I had a childhood infused with typically "masculine" experiences, which I cherish and gravitate toward to this day. For most of my life, I went about the world as what I call a butch-in-femme-wrapping. I decided to cut this act in my early twenties. I got myself the “boy” haircut that I had always secretly wanted, and started wearing clothes that I adored from the men’s department. Despite some social discomforts of going against the grain, outwardly presenting my masculine self has been a marvelous improvement to my life. For all my sunny talk of gender-queer life in the Midwest, I must note how truly lucky I am for the general acceptance I receive from folks around me despite presenting myself against social norms.
New York, NY.
My masculinity allows me the freedom to be myself. Finally people can perceive me in the manner I see myself.
New York, NY.
My gender identity is spiritual alchemist and I use masculine clothing to express androgyny. I actually have very feminine mannerisms. My gender presentation is not about being hyper masculine, it is about transcending the gender binary to a space of flexible boundaries and unlabeled expression. My role as an androgynous person in this society is to connect others to this transcended space. I strive to illuminate the fact that we are all human, no matter our gender expression, and we all deserve to be treated with utmost respect.
New York, NY.
I've learned to embrace who I am as a women. I'm 6 foot 3 with big arms and broad shoulders. I've never felt comfortable in dresses because most of them never fit me well. I felt like a man in a dress. In Russia people made fun of me constantly. They just didn't understand me or gender fluidity. Wearing men's clothes is what makes me feel sexy. Not because I'm trying to be a man; but because I don't fit into the standard clothing for "girls". People say its masculine dressing but Ive just accepted that there are many ways to be a women. I don't like a lot of makeup on. I like cars. I don't need high heels. I like watches. I don't need a dress I like suites and bowties. Maybe it's materialistic to some people but why are there certain things always attached to what men like and what girls like. I'm just a girl with a man's soul.
Masculinity is a word used to describe traits which can be found in people of all sexes and genders. For me, masculinity does not exist without femininity; it is essential to my wholeness as a multi-gendered being. It adds depth, character and self-confidence to my experience on this planet. There is no one way to be masculine; we all have the power to re-define it on a daily basis. Masculinity can be beautiful when it is used to uplift, respect and protect instead of to dominate, subjugate and conquer. It all depends on who is performing the role and how. I think the same can be said for femininity.
Also, this is my quote excerpted from Freeing Ourselves: A Guide to Health and Self Love for Brown Bois, published in 2011 by the Brown Boi Project:
“I am a masculine female who has fought tooth and nail to be exactly who I am within both traditional collective culture (Lebanon and Syria), and liberal individualistic culture (U.S.). Whether society views me as a masculine female or a feminine man, any display of femininity brands me irrevocably inferior…I am thus chastised for “attempting to” claim my masculinity and wear it on my shoulder. I am reminded of my inferiority and kicked back into place. Well, I am here to say that I am not in crisis. I am at peace with the duality that is my naturally gifted female masculinity. Wholeness to me is balance: Masculine & Feminine. Yin and Yang. Fire and Water. All in one. Not needing of another to be whole. Complete in self. I thank creator each day for all the perspectives and tools blessed upon me”
New York, NY.
For me, masculinity and femininity aren't necessarily opposing forces. I feel most comfortable when I can use fashion to fuse these two and create my own space somewhere in between. I love the freedom that comes with rejecting tradition and being able to encourage people to define their own femininity or masculinity. As someone who is genderqueer, it can be a challenge to fit myself into fashion norms that follow traditional masculinity, but when we can make our own way and create our own norms, I believe we can truly represent our best selves to show off and to share with the world.
Being asked to write about what "masculinity" means to me, or what place it has in my life, is a tricky question because it isn't a project for me. I don't "play" around with it, and it isn't subversive for me in the sense that it still operates as a conscious decision in my mind. The subversive nature of my presentation lies with the fact that I bring my "self" into a traditionally non-queer profession through the wearing of suits and ties. Anything else would be uncomfortable and disingenuous to both myself and my interactions with others.
Female masculinity is the way I like to describe what I've got going on. I very much identify with my female self and I also present and carry myself in a way that feels more on the masculine side. My kind of masculinity is freeing. I'm free to present how I feel most comfortable and play with gender expression while still identifying as a woman. I'm just one way masculinity takes form. I love seeing how it shows up in others no matter the identity or expression. A big THANK YOU to the Handsome Revolution Project for showing some really rad examples of this. What a handsome bunch!
The experience of being a masculine of center non-binary person, has been a realization of the utter absurdity of how gender norms are assigned and imposed. I have always been attracted to a masculine presentation of myself but from an early age was taught that was not an accessible or appropriate way to live in my body. My hope and vision is for more visibility and empowerment of all kinds of expressions and bodies. Today I am presenting as I see myself and am in a loving community of affirmation. I hope my own visibility helps create more possibility and space for other folks to see themselves and feel affirmed in who they are.
I think the word "masculinity," as it's commonly used, reinforces a hard and fast binary that doesn't exist: male/female, masculine/feminine, man/woman. I have components of both and neither. I'm in the middle. I'm boyish, not mannish. I'm genderqueer, not butch. Masculinity is not the same as manhood, and that's fun and beautiful.
Ever since I can remember, I have felt most at home in a more masculine expression. I played sports, loved to climb trees and play in the mud, and felt awkward in hyper feminine attire. Only until I went to college did I have the language for my sexuality, then my gender identity. When I first “tried on” masculine expression as young adult, I modeled the masculinities portrayed by the media and my father. It has taken me years and the love and care of my family (chosen and birth), my partner, and the Brown Boi Project to provide me the affirmation and tools to begin to regenerate a healthy masculine identity. As a masculine of center (MOC) gender nonconforming person in the academy (i.e. higher education), I am both privileged in my access to this system and isolated as one of very few brown masculine of center women. Last October I participated in the Brown Boi Project’s retreat and Cole and Erica taught me that my masculinity, if not lived out in healthy ways, often perpetuates injustices to my sisters, mother, partner, and other women in my communities. My partner is my biggest supporter, both serving as protector when others are challenged by my masculine expression and holding up my identity as something she admires and challenges with care.
I think of my gender nonconformity as gender euphoria. In my female form, I am at ease in dapper attire and “professional drag” fit for the academy, playing with the endless possibilities of female masculinity. I am often allowed to navigate spaces and not be held to the standards of purely feminine or masculine gender norms. I get to exist outside of both, carefully examining their existence and power in our daily lives. I love to be called pretty as well as handsome (especially by my mom), one of the ladies and one of the bois, she/her or they/them, and enjoy a fine craft beer in our very queer neighborhood in Minneapolis.
I'm a 24 year old queer, self-identified pretty boy switch and to me, masculinity is a game, a ritual. It's the smell of gasoline and the way I pull the comb through my hair when I'm getting ready for a night on the town while listening to punk/psychobilly covers of classic love songs. It's mischief in the form of driving too fast and chain smoking Marlboro 27's on any given night, and walking tall no matter where I am. It's also about knowing how to pick my battles and always doing my best to keep the people that I love safe. It's not being afraid to love, and to love HARD with every ounce of my being, and doing my best to keep myself in check and setting a good example for other men/Butches/boi's/and other masculine identified folks around me.
New York, NY.
When asked to reflect on what masculinity means to me, I am compelled to note that, while celebrating the many iterations of queer masculinity and representing ourselves the way we want to be seen, it is crucial that we also recognize that masculinity, like maleness, is inherently privileged within our society. This is particularly important to remember for masculine queer folks like me who were socialized female and/or feminine and carry around quite a lot of internalized misogyny and femme-phobia. As we cast off the gender roles imposed upon us since childhood, we must remember that we seek to reject the violent imposition and maintenance of gender roles based on sex assigned at birth; we do not reject femininity. Furthermore, as we carve out space to be our authentic selves, we must recognize how much harder it is for transfeminine folks to do the same. We must work to resist the denigration of femininity and make our communities safe for all kinds of gender expressions. If you want to learn more about doing this important work, this article is a good place to start.
I really feel spectrum of masculinity and femininity within me - both are integral to my identity. What queerness has given me is an ability to identify as feminized masculine rather than masculinized feminine (think fey boy rather than butch woman). As a very noticeably gender nonconforming person, I experience a lot of street harassment, most often people calling me a faggot. This loaded word is one I've really been able to reclaim as a key part of my gender identity - that playful, swishy, flamboyant, tender boy-ness is fundamental to who I am. My gender is button downs and bow ties, it is booty shorts and glitter, it is tight fades and pompadours, it is Harry Styles and River Phoenix, it is loose hipped flouncing in the park and purposeful striding on the subway platform, it is handsome and beautiful and evolving every day.
Masculinity is hard to define-- it's abstract and intangible. It's something that we, as individuals, experience on a very personal level and it can mean something different to each person. For me, masculinity represents my inner self. It's the part of me that I want people to use as a cue on how to read and interact with me. It's not better, stronger, tougher or more valid than femininity, but it's how I relate to myself and the world, and it's how I want people to see me.
Masculinity is a tricky topic. Sometimes I think it's a silly catchphrase when it comes branded on a product (insert soap, deodorant, cologne...whatever) just to make a sale. Other times I think it's more of a personality trait. I've dated high femmes who were more masculine than me in their workplaces but didn't miss a beat when I open doors or picked up the tab at dinner. Since I started transitioning, masculinity has become more obvious to me as a archaic pecking order. I think most cis men think masculinity is about having bigger muscles or being physically larger...again silly. I think there's an element of masculinity where being humble is absolutely necessary. I tend to think people without at least a sense of that are posturing to bridge the gaps between their self image and their insecurities.
If you don't have anymore openings, good luck with your project. I love the idea!
Masculinity is an art I learned from my dad while I watched him prune, plant and play. I remember my dad in blue jeans and flannel snow blowing our driveway in the frigid winter. He was constantly cracking jokes, sometimes till tears ran down his face. I remember him taking food to some neighbors in need on his way to work in a tie and sport coat. These are a few examples that formed my ideas about masculinity; a way of being in the world that feels most authentically "me." Doing what needs to be done with poise, compassion and a solid sense of humor, dressed in threads appropriate for the occasion.
Masculinity to me is an attitude. Society disapproves of women with strong attitudes and more so of masculine women with an attitude. Aye, this indeed has been the rub for me my whole life. Friends tell me I am the most “butch” person they know. I scoff, “Butch?” What exactly does that mean? I’m just being who I am. They talk about earning “butch points” for doing traditional “male” tasks, such as repairing a broken faucet in the kitchen—I’m not that handy around the house at all—although I’d like to learn to do more of these tasks I don’t think of them as “masculine”, rather they are skills to be learned—anyone can do anything with the right attitude, training and tools.
While I have been very comfortable with the attitude of being a masculine woman. I have not always been so comfortable in dressing the part. In the past I have wanted to don a very masculine suit and tie, but being fearful of being judged and labeled a “bull dyke” I have settled for the more feminine versions of these clothes in general because society still cannot understand the difference between gender and sexuality.
I do not have penis envy but I am envious of male privilege. I want to be free to be who I am in manner and in dress without fear of ridicule or physical harm. And I do not want a penis except for when I get lucky and my wife reaches for one of the latex versions from our bedside drawer.
I am 29 years old and I work as a motorcycle safety instructor and as a part-time education professional at the Portland Community College Welding Training Facility on a shipyard in N. Portland. I also teach drums and manage bands for Portland's Rock N' Roll Camp For Girls. As a masculine woman specializing in a male-dominated instrument and working in such male dominated environments, my masculinity credibility are constantly being challenged. I do what I want, I don't hurt others, I dress in men's clothes, and I don't take any shit. My masculinity can be very threatening to cis men, especially the older ones. I can read it in their faces when I tell them what to do or cut them off when they try to call me sweetie or mansplain something they really know nothing about. It confuses them when women treat them like they don't need them, and it terrifies them to know that they really aren't needed because there is nothing they can do that I can't.
I am just your average queer who grew up just outside of Minneapolis. As a kid, I played sports and I was a natural. I was generally regarded as a tomboy. Feeling like an outcast, I turned to music and started playing guitar. My interests were in typically found in a "man's world." I've played in bands over the years, got my degree in Guitar Performance and taught guitar lessons for many years. My style has always been influenced by musicians, male musicians. I wanted to be Slash when I grew up. Tattoos, loud guitars and women. I finally came out of the closet at the age of 25. My chosen family has supported me along the way and I am very grateful for them. This project will turn heads, open eyes and send out a positive image of those who don't fall neatly into one of two boxes. This is the kind of thing I wanted to see when I was younger. So, thank you for taking this project on!
As an educator, masculinity to me means being the female teacher in a button up and bowtie. It means my students learning that there are many different ways to be a girl. It means my students understanding that Ms. Kost doesn’t like “boy things,” but that masculine clothing, movements, or interests are open to everyone.
Masculinity has so many forms that present themselves both internally and externally. It is a voice of self expression that some of us display in the ways we dress (or don’t dress), the way we style our hair, wear make-up (or not) or simply in the way we carry ourselves. For many of us, appearance of masculinity is a way to identify with our inner selves. It is a way to stand out, feel strength and look beautifully handsome while doing it. I identify with my masculinity as a way to embrace my androgynous appearance. I rock out a suit and tie when I am feeling fancy, keep my hair trim with a clean mohawk, rarely sit with my legs crossed and lift weights just as heavy as the guy next to me at the gym.
Masculinity is a funny thing. It can be the most freeing and it can be the most constricting. Masculinity is often confused for meaning the same as being a man. That is not true. Inside every human there is a level of masculinity and femininity...they are just all different. And that is beautiful. It wasn't until I started my transition that I really started to understand what it meant to be masculine. So what does it mean? Anything you want it to mean. I think we get so caught up in thinking that masculinity has one meaning or one purpose, when in reality, how masculinity is perceived and expressed is as unique as the individual. It would be a really boring world if all masculine people expressed it the same way. Unfortunately thought our society favors one from of masculinity over another, and that is the image that is put into our heads. We need to challenge that image, and that is exactly what we are doing. Masculinity comes in all forms from all sorts of people. As a trans man, I always struggled with embracing my masculinity. But as I got older, started understanding myself, and then later transitioning, I better understood what it meant to be masculine. And I refuse to shy away from it. To be masculine does not mean to be oppressive. That is called ignorance and bigotry. To be masculine means to embrace your true self and live it authentically. For me it means that I am strong, confident, gentle, compassionate, energetic, and supportive...expressed through my everyday living. You define masculinity for yourself, and that is what is so awesome about it.
One thing that i have noticed is the association of masculinity and appearing angry, macho or disinterested. i'd really like to see that narrative changed. Masculinity can show joy and vulnerability while still remaining masculine. Masculinity is also not tied to a gender. It took me a long time to realize that, but it was really freeing.
masculine of center is very comfortable for me. growing up, i remember hating dressing up for occasions. but once i was comfortable enough in my own skin and started dressing up in suits and ties, i absolutely love it. now i make up reasons to throw on a bowtie (like, it's cloudy today... BOWTIE!). I have started to dive into "mens" style, and make it my own. i really love challenging the social norm and show that women can be beautiful in a suit and tie--because an article of clothing doesn't have a gender, our culture just categorizes it that way
Masculinity not only exists on a very instinctive and subconscious level for all of us. It's a profound feeling of empowerment to be a WOMAN and be self reliant, proud and show strength and beauty in displaying features like a strong jawline, rolled up sleeves, crisp collar, sharp suit and a tie- feeling beautiful and just as handsome as our male counterparts. We ALL have masculinity in all of us. It's just a matter of how we wish to display it.
Masculinity is the form I take that allows my authentic self to emerge. It is the way society sees me, categorizes me. To me though, it is comfort and beauty and challenge and fun. Masculinity is a part of me, but I am so much more.
While I myself find pleasure in fluidity regarding gender, I have always been drawn to the parts that society considers ‘masculine.’ As a girl growing up, I liked my cut-offs and t-shirts displaying comic book heroes or sports teams. I remember attending a wedding reception when I was about seven years old and being secretly jealous of a boy’s dress-up clothes – his suit to my floral dress. I remember wishing they made Ninja Turtle underwear for girls. I remember taking my shirt off while in the yard on a summer day, and my sister telling on me to my mom, who simply told me I needed to keep my shirt on. I did not resist, because I was given the message that girl’s weren’t supposed to (both resist and take shirts off). Despite this message, my parents supported me around other things I loved - baseball and action figures, both found in a section separate from the Barbie dolls in the store. Today, I enjoy a well-constructed blazer, and other structured garments for my professional wardrobe. I want my middle school students to know that it’s okay to blur gender lines, and to be comfortable in who you are. In my time off, I can still be found wearing cut offs and t-shirts with graphic prints, staying true to the child I once was.
Masculinity is the embodiment of one's character. That also includes womanhood. Sure, clothing attire can be attributed to "determining" factor to an outsider looking in. Yet, the adjective is more than that. Masculinity is touch, feel, care, and energy.
You could say I was raised with gender privilege. I was fortunate to have parents who let me be myself, and dress and play the way I desired, which veered towards the masculine. I have a photograph of myself at age 6 tearing around bare-chested on my tricycle, and did not realize until I was older that girls were expected to wear shirts. I never knew that I did not fit the feminine stereotype because of the acceptance I felt. And even though I grew up in the south, I managed to avoid discrimination, hate and fear. My friends were a hippie/music crowd, and very accepting.
It wasn’t until I became a mother at age 26 that I felt the pressure of gender roles as a woman. Suddenly my masculine appearance stood out in stark contrast to the other stay at home moms. I would overhear other children ask my girls if I was their Dad.
Being forced for the first time in my life to defend/ define my identity has only made me stronger. I have always felt strong. I have always had a deep voice. I have never liked pink. I have always looked handsome in a tie. I have always been me, but society is who has labeled these traits masculine. I have always just been me.
My masculinity is rooted deeply with how I love. In being true to my authentic self, my masculinity manifests itself in how I love myself, how I love my chosen and blood fam and my community and how I live in my day to day. Conversations with the moon and my divine spirit guides, grillin and kickin back, building little buildings or building community, being a sub to my dom, honoring the soft and tender parts of me while acknowledging the strength in my arms and in my healing is all a part of my masculinity.
What does Masculine mean to me?
Growing up as a Tomboy in the 1950s — 1960s was an interesting time to make this journey. It helped that my Dad, a Design Engineer and my Mom, thought it was pretty cool to have a capable Tomboy girl who spent time helping Dad in his shop and fetching tools for him as he design or built something new for his clients. It was a great time of learning about tools, building techniques and other capabilities that supported my growing masculine skills and spirit that are part of my heart & soul.
Today, I live into my masculinity from a place of self-confidence. It feels good to fully accept my dominant strengths and celebrate that forever Tomboy that is truly part of who I am. Many years ago I made a conscious decision to wear men’s clothing for comfort and style. Truth is I love wearing masculine clothes, especially dress up clothes with suits and tie’s and the opportunity to attend Black Tie events where I can proudly wear a tuxedo, often with a custom made corsage to ad a little flair. As a maturing Tomboy I am excited about my purchase from Saint Harridan, a great clothier making clothes carefully designed to fit us Tomboy’s.
-Dr. Cheryl Maloney
Masculinity to me is something that defines my center. It allows me to break down social constructs and educate people on a daily basis surrounding the "normative" ways women should act and dress. It empowers me as an individual. To show that masculinity in women is completely acceptable. Masculinity is very much defined by the individual embracing the broad range of qualities being masculine has the ability to hold. Personally, being masculine gives me strength, confidence, courage and a voice in myself without following age old gender roles and the idea that only a man can posses those qualities masculinity carries.
I connect masculinity with beards, fashion, male privilege and personal joy.
Beards - because my dad had a seriously long, full beard, as did his father and as does my older brother now. And I'm excited to be on my way with my own beard as I newly transition as a transman. I finally stopped shaving and had a nice goatee before even starting testosterone. Now I am growing out my beard to see how long it gets. It's a new adventure.
Fashion - When I started my own public health consulting practice a couple of years ago and was in the process of defining my brand, I instinctually started buying and wearing men's dress shirts, ties and pants. This made me very happy. And each morning as I dress for work I enjoy taking care with what I wear, the colors, the patterns, the textures. Fashion is fun and a way I express my own brand of masculinity.
Male privilege - It is unfair and unjust that masculinity is so valued over femininity and all the ramifications of that. As a feminist, having been raised female and lived as a woman for 45 years, I am adjusting to how I am being treated differently as a man. I commit to being more vigilant about being an active feminist ally. This especially includes championing trans women, who have to endure sexism and trans misogyny.
Personal joy- I am thrilled to be affirming myself as a man. I feel more in touch with my masculinity and my femininity. From four years old, I knew I was part boy/ part girl- more boy. I knew I was masculine and feminine, without having that language yet. Feeling free to explore and express my gender is life saving and such a joy.
Masculinity has always been a difficult concept for me to embrace. I was never girly enough. I didn't know what to do with my hair or makeup or clothes. I went through puberty as gangly, awkward, and a head taller than all the boys. Family members and friends clucked about how masculine and broad my shoulders were, suggested I wear certain things to soften them up, pointed out how my upper lip could use a good waxing, bought me (never used) containers of bleach for my facial hair, gave me plenty of fake sympathy over how terrible it must be to have body hair like mine. I never tried hard enough to be a girly girl to compensate. I wasn't interested, and I already knew I was doomed to fail. I just had to be girly enough to hide the masculinity I quickly learned to be ashamed of.
Over the past year, I've started honoring my masculinity for the first time. A friend had a drag-themed party in November, providing the perfect opportunity for me to fully embrace my masculine side. Since then, I've rocked the boi look at a few different events, and let me just say, had I known I could garner that kind of attention from the ladies, I would have tried this path a decade ago! I'm still unsure and halting when it comes to masculinity and what it means to me. My own masculinity was never something to explore. It had always been something pointed out by others as something I should feel ashamed of, something they should pity me for, something to cover up with perfume and pink. Bringing this out instead of covering it up is finally giving me a chance to figure this out. To me right now, masculinity means confidence. It means not bothering with what others think of how I "should" look. It means jutting out my chin and squaring my shoulders with a cocky grin. It means embracing all the parts of myself I wanted to hide. Screw waxing my upper lip and bleaching my face. Instead, you can find me experimenting with mascara and a stipple sponge in an attempt to give myself that sexy stubble look.
After I just cut my hair during my senior year of high school, one of my mother's best friends told me, "I miss the long hair. You make a cute boy but you make a beautiful woman." She wasn't the only one who agreed. All my life whenever I was femme and wore a dress, heels, and make up, people would tell me how beautiful I was. But whenever I wore something more masculine they looked the other way. Still, I love "dressing up like a boy" with a button up shirt I manage to find in my what seems to be impossible to find male small size at H&M, a tie, and my cheap fedora I bought on the streets of NYC. I feel handsome even though I may never be called that. To be masculine is to carry a certain poise and grace. It is also truthfully daring as you express your gender identity in a society that may not understand. And that's why I love seeing masculine womyn and being one.
To me, masculinity is an energy and a mindset more than anything else. When I think of masculinity, I think of chivalry -- the definition of which is masculine in service to the feminine. Being courteous, generous, honorable. This is how I want to be in the world personally and how I want to act toward women. I don't think masculinity necessarily has anything to do with maleness -- and I love that I can stride into a room wearing boots and jeans, my breasts just as out there as the tie I'm wearing, and I can be masculine as hell. Women feel it. Men certainly feel it. I walk an edge between genders and worlds. And I like it.
I think masculinity means many things to many people. When I think of what it means to me, I think about my Great-Grandpa who helped raise me, quiet and kind, strong, compassionate and steady. He taught me that respect is everything and even if you have no material possessions if you have respect you have everything. He also showed me that hard work was essential to being a man and that men provide and take care of their families. The measure in a man is how well his family was cared for. When I think of masculine, I don't think macho, I think of my hard working, callused hands, dapper fedora leaning to one side great-grandpa.
For me, masculinity is a feeling. It’s how I feel comfortable. It’s who I am. I would not be able to change it even if I tried. I embrace being a woman, but I own my masculinity. I encourage others to embrace whomever they are. I want them to “Be Brave. Be Authentic. Be You.”
Chivalry is not dead. I open doors, offer my coat, and walk to the street side of the sidewalk. It is being tough without forgetting to be sensitive and thoughtful. Strength to make hard decisions for my family while keeping their best interests in mind. It is wearing sexy bowties for my wife to look at while learning to do my wife’s nails or hemming her pants. It is wielding tools to fix things, building things with my hands, and tinkering with my car. It is taking care of my woman but being strong enough to let her take care of me too. It is celebrating my individuality and being proud that I am different from the boring norm because I love that I march to the beat of my own drummer. Masculinity...I am just me.
I feel masculinity is a fluid concept, not a concrete idea. It's feeling comfortable in pin striped pants and a button down shirt, knowing I don't have to wear a dress to a fancy engagement. It's walking with a gate that feels natural for my body, not trying to swing my hips. It's being proud of my shoulders and strength.
My name is Shaley and I’ve identified as a butch lesbian for over 20 years. Masculinity in the queer community is more than a socially constructed identity. It’s queer women who feel more comfortable in mens clothing and embrace them naturally. I’m a 6’ tall, broad shouldered butch woman who loves wearing and feels right at home in ties, suits, jeans, t-shirts and big boots. But masculinity is more than personal attire. It’s a way of walking through the world. It’s swagger. It’s inherent confidence; knowing your personal power, internal and external strength yet at the same time possessing the ability to be vulnerable and articulate and express emotions. That’s mature masculinity.
I think masculinity in our society today has power attached to it. A lot of that comes from our patriarchal society giving it power. However, I believe anyone can claim that power through the way we express ourselves. A fundamental way to express that is through the way we dress. I find that I can be confident dressing masculine and feminine, but feel more comfortable dressing masculine. I enjoy turning heads and having people second guess what my gender is and also having them react positively in thinking that I look good or dapper. My masculinity is something I carry with me all the time but is stronger when I wear button up dress shirts, ties, bow-ties, and slacks.
Since I have been dressing myself, I have toiled with how to present myself. As a masculine presenting female bodied and identified person, I grew up proclaiming myself as a tomboy. In this space I was able to reclaim my womanhood as I gravitated to masculinity.
As I work to unpack my privileges and challenges, I am appreciative to the rise of the 'dapper movement' within the boi community. This has increased the acceptance of fluidity, to an extent, in the queer community and has allowed me to live closer to feeling free in my presentation.
It is hard for me to bring these thoughts to light in regards to the masculinity/femininity I feel as an individual. I don't often think about it much. My presentation is certainly masculine in the sense that I like my hair short and clothes to come from the mens department. However, a lot of my personality characteristics could be defined as feminine. I'm sensitive and emotional, gentle, to name a few. Society has certainly molded the way many people think about what is "masculine" and what is "feminine." But I feel, there is a blend of both in everyone. There certainly is for me. Some may lean more in one direction than another.
I am me. I am not butch, I am masculine presenting, as my g/f has concluded. I like the "masculinity" of mens clothing because a lot of it is more comfortable to me, has plain or simple patterns that appeal to me, and suits me better from an aspect of functionality. I've had my hair buzzed short since I was 16 and I've never looked back. That is my masculinity. My presentation. That is how I define it; it doesn't define me.
Gender and I have had a long journey; I've never really known where I fit in (honestly, I don't care to). I relish in both of my feminine and masculine sides. For a long time I thought I needed to be one or the other typically defaulting to the more masculine. I felt shame that I was so sensitive and not quite as “tough” as my more masculine presenting counterparts. To my friends I present as bit of a dapper old gay man. I don't know where my gender fits in or really what my “masculinity” means to me but I love that at 35 I’ve figured out how to exist in a world as myself feeling no shame for how I chose to present outwardly. I strive to make others feel comfortable in their skin (no matter what size, color, shape) and challenge all gender binaries. I think it's important to show all sides of the masculine and feminine within in the queer spectrum.
I found that the single most empowering thing that I have ever done in my life was making the decision to wear a necktie out of my house for the first time. I am strong because I subvert normative gender roles and expectations and I am empowered because I was able to reclaim the concept of masculinity in a way that best suited my gender identity and provided a necessary framework for my gender presentation. Utilizing fashion as a means of gender expression has liberated me from insecurities that have surrounded my gender since I was a little girl. In my adult life, reclaiming the socially constructed “masculine presentation” in a uniquely feminine way has finally allowed me be read by the outside world in such a way that is authentic to my true self. Choosing to embrace my masculinity in the form of menswear inspired fashion has truly been the greatest act of self-love I could have ever done for myself.
Masculinity is a noun, and the definition in the dictionary includes words such as “gender” and “mannish”. This definition to me suggests that masculinity can’t actually be defined in a black and white sentence. It is defined by the person themselves and the energy they put into the world. It is both a state of mind and a presence. This word has been transformed by our generation into a movement that breaks down the walls and barriers our human race has created. Masculinity is an aura and spirit. No longer gender specific, it bleeds into every facet of life. Whether it is a job, hairstyle, tie collection, sexual orientation, or lifestyle, masculinity makes each person feel something strong, something personal. It is beautiful and handsome, fearless and bold. To me, it is empowering, comforting and natural. It makes me love me just a little bit more. Masculinity encompasses strength, resilience, and forms a backbone for the person I present to the world.
To me masculinity is all about confidence and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about wearing what you want to wear, when you want to wear it, without caring about how others perceive you. Masculinity is being proud of who you are and challenging traditional female/male gender roles. Just because I’m female-bodied doesn’t mean I have to dress feminine. I can look just as sexy wearing a vest and tie as any guy can.
Masculinity is beautiful and complicated. I was EXTREMELY feminine before I came out as queer, after which I wholly rejected any femininity and tried to be as masculine as possible. As hard as I tried, I heard repeatedly that I had a feminine "edge" or quality that I would never be able to escape. Being in feminine clothes felt like being in drag, yet trying to be hyper-masculine didn't feel any more comfortable. I felt that the androgynous/masculine of center folks I found to be gorgeous would never be me. I have slowly found myself over the years, and love the masculinity that drives my style and being.
To me, masculinity isn't about the clothes I wear, or my haircut. It's about the way in which I walk in the world, the privilege that I am given, and the challenges that I face for daring to be who I am. I am continuously carving out my version of masculinity - addressing sexism and misogyny in community spaces and working actively on broader issues through BUTCH Voices. My masculinity is about resisting the idea that I have to be above anyone else in order to embody or prove myself. My masculinity is a set of responsibilities that I hold for myself, to my community (past and ongoing), and to those who are near and dear to me.
I'm not sure how to describe masculinity. It's a certain energy, maybe. I'm thinking of the saying "he's secure in his masculinity." This guy is impressive because he knows who he is. He doesn't need outward validation. Other people's standards of masculinity don't concern him.
Once I got over what other people thought about me, I started dressing and moving about in the world in ways that feel right for me. These days, I'm secure enough in my masculinity that I don't feel the need to prove it to anyone else. I am who I am, and I feel great about it.