“I just don’t know if I can be in a relationship with him,” is what my friend said as we talked about his PNB (that’s Potential New Boyfriend). And when I asked him why, he went on to say, “he’s just too effeminate for me. I need somebody who is gonna be a real man.”
After that conversation, I thought about how many times I’ve talked to people who were once excited about meeting a PNB either on the internet or by phone. But after they met him in person, the story drastically changed. They were disappointed because the man who they thought could be the love of their life turned out to be “a big ol’ girl.” The tone of their voices when they give the details of how he walked, talked, or was too animated with his conversation indicates how disgusted they are that they were duped again by someone who presented themselves as masculine on the net or on the phone but in reality was not as masculine as the image they projected. It’s almost sad to think that people still believe the notion that masculine = top and feminine = bottom. Don’t EVEN get me started on the numerous profiles on any group, club or chat where people insist that if you are gonna hit them up you “must be masculine” or “straight-acting”.
So what’s the deal with “effeminate men”? And why do we have such hatred for them? I mean, are they any less man or less real than anyone else? Why are they undesirable? And why is it not a positive thing to meet a man who has wholly embraced his feminine side and is unashamed of it? Furthermore, why do so many effeminate men loathe effeminacy in other men?
I met a man from the United Kingdom a while back. In our lengthy conversations, he taught me so much about how different people in Europe think versus how we think in America. He told me, “T, it’s not uncommon for men in the UK to think of American men as brutish or barbaric. And it’s strange that what you all call `effeminate’ we just consider it to be sophisticated unless it’s like over the top or something.” He went on to say how most people in the UK have a live and let live attitude. As long as people are respectful of each other, nobody really bothers anyone else. His saying that made me to seek out other people from different parts of the world and ask them about what is considered masculine or effeminate in their cultures. It amazed me how the definition of masculinity and femininity varies from place to place.
The truth of the matter (in my humble opinion) is masculinity and femininity are opposites on the same human spectrum. And even though some of us can’t accept it, ALL OF US fall somewhere between the two and not necessarily on one polar extreme or the other. We all come from a man and a woman, masculinity and femininity lives inside all of us.
Being a same gender loving man, I know that what we call masculinity can be sexy. It’s attractive. But I submit that often times the most “masculine” man is not necessarily a “real” man. My father taught me that a real man loves God, himself, and others. A real man takes care of his responsibilities. He is respectful. He’s trustworthy. He honors his word. He has a kind heart and is faithful. He’s strong enough to be gentle and sensitive. He stands up and is willing to fight for what he believes in and is unashamed. He’s unafraid to take the road less traveled and is able to be independent.
After thinking about it for a minute, I discovered that most of the men I know who possess the qualities my daddy taught me to have are not considered the most masculine. The so-called masculine men are more often those who are so uncomfortable with who they are they’d rather lie or die than call themselves gay in public. They will not boldly stand up and make their voices heard when it’s needed for fear of someone knowing that they are attracted to the same gender. But who is often the first in line to stand in protest when injustice rears its ugly head? Who is often unashamed of who they are and will not lie about their identity? Who is often strong enough and unafraid to be who they are no matter what? In my experience, those who we call effeminate are the ones who seem to possess the characteristics of “real men.”
Now, I’m not saying that traditionally masculine men can’t be real men. Nor am I saying that who we call effeminate are all men of noble character. The point I’m trying to make is it’s important that we not try to define each other with some binary either/or system. It does us all an injustice. We need to learn how to accept and embrace each other. Look at each other and judge each other by “the content of character” (thank you Dr. King).
And when it comes to relationships, just how do we know that the very man we’ve prayed and asked God for; the one who will love, respect, be faithful and honest with us isn’t a man who falls closer to the feminine side of the human spectrum than we think he should? Why can’t we embrace each other in spite of the one of the many things that diversifies us? When will we learn the importance of stretching out just a little bit and learning from people who are a little bit different from us? We just might be surprised when we discover that we really aren’t all very different. I mean, we ARE all brothers…right?
So, my bruthaz (masculine and effeminate): keep being who you are! Don’t let anybody tell you that you are less than what you were created to be. Let’s stop writing off bruthas as less than because they are a little different. Learn from the diversity, don’t let it divide. Embrace each other and celebrate our similarities. Let’s continue to believe in our own greatness. Let’s strive together to be the real men that this world is seems to need so desperately.
Tuan N’Gai is the co-founder of the Operation: REBIRTH Movement, the author of “Will I Go To Heaven? The Black Gay Spiritual Dilemma”, “Little Brown Boy’s Blues”, and contributor to the New York Times Best Seller, “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living.” He currently lives in Chicago, IL.