I’ve been dealing a lot lately struggling, experimenting and embracing my identity as a -gender fluid, Queer, cross dressing, drag queen, transvestite, twin spirit, masculine-feminine, however you want to call it- male. I’ve had a few thoughts I’d like to share concerning male emotionality in particular as it relates to our gender throughout history, our evolution and my job and my identity.
I think one of the reasons why men tend to be emotionally withdrawn is that to be emotionally available to the male experience is an exceedingly difficult and and potentially hazardous proposition. Male culture downplays and curtails emotionality out of necessity. Our work generally and historically tends toward life and death scenarios. Indeed much of the labor is directed towards the survival of the species, from hunting dangerous game or building safe domiciles and gathering places to going to war to protect your tribe or politicking to protect your constituency. In the mind of all men: their work and therefore their value is inextricably tied to our individual and collective survival which we are directly responsible for. This struggle for life is hardwired into us, in fact it’s part of our design as men to challenge death where e’er it crosses our path, exploring new environments, experimenting with different foods and substances. Males -across species- are evolution’s guinea pigs. Which is a lot to ask, and a lot to deal with physically, mentally and of course- emotionally.
Studies have shown that men actually have a greater capacity for emotions than women, or rather their feelings are simply felt more intensely, such that you have men willing to die for a cause or a lover, commit suicide in far greater numbers and parents across the board worry over their baby boys feelings a great deal more than their girls. Think of it in terms of the human orgasm but in reverse, women emote in a way similar to how men get off- quickly, easily and often enough to regulate their sexual/mental/emotional state while getting a man to emote is closer to chasing the female orgasm, it can be incredibly difficult depending on the man, it takes time, energy and focus to get there but the end result is cathartic which can go on to greater and greater peaks as it comes in full bodied waves. That’s a lot to handle as a man and for many women it’s not something they are prepared or interested in dealing with.
The male experience is tremendously stressful in ways most men cannot begin to articulate, and wouldn’t if given the capacity to do so. Like Achilles of old, a single point of vulnerability can give your opponent an edge in the conflict at hand, even if it’s only a perceived weakness it could easily lead to defeat, a break up or divorce, a mistake or a lapse in judgement at a critical juncture. Therefore the wall must be kept up, at all times, at work, at home, with friends, family or lovers. Men understand how fragile they really are and how much depends on their holding back the tide of their own waters, to poke a hole in their dam might well be enough to let forth the deluge from which we fear we might never recover, and even if we did, rebuilding that wall would be a near impossible task for which we are, mostly, unprepared.
The 21st century has brought a great number of shifts to this paradigm but it largely remains in tact as it is not only hardwired into our biology but into our culture as well. (Artists perhaps being the one exception to the rule culturally and historically.) Men are often looked to to provide a source of comedy of which most are well versed as it is a necessary coping mechanism for the grandiosity of their own emotionality. If any man were to actually take seriously how proud he is of his work or how happy the people he cares about in his life truly make him feel, he would weep. He would weep for days at the beauty of the world and his love, he would weep at the sight of his friends or his children. He would never be able to return to the world of walls and no man would look him in the eye for fear that feelings catch.
I rig for a living. I work with some of the toughest groups of people in the workforce, they bark and yell and curse and criticize and shit and spit on you for fucking up the smallest of tasks. They’re known for being one of the meanest crews on any job because we make it safe, we calculate dynamic and shock loads, force multipliers and breaking points of equipment you’re not even aware of, we risk our lives, daily, so people are safe. Because when rigger’s don’t do their job right- people die. My job is life and death, for myself and for everyone involved, whether client or performer, audience member or passerby. I know you’re safe, because I made it safe, and because my crew made it safe. I came here with a death wish, ready to take a step off of any beam high enough to end me. But I couldn’t take my life out of my guys’ hands, and I couldn’t risk anyone else’s. I’ve had trust issues with lovers all my life, friends, family too. But I trust these handful of men with my life, and they trust me with theirs. And I’m proud of them and I’m proud of myself. And for that I weep, it is almost too much to bare, but you’re never given anything you can’t handle. So I dry my tears and I keep doing the good work.
I’m not building a wall. Because I know, from history and from experience, it doesn’t work, not any more. When Mother Nature comes, as she will, to destroy what man has made the destruction is at best debilitating and at worst, deadly. No, I am not building a wall nor levee nor dam. I’m building a well to sustain me, an irrigation system to feed me, and a mill to energize me. There is no way back for me, and I think for any man. Women have struggled over the last 150 years to create a new paradigm for themselves, so too must we men. That process starts with each of us individually with a look within ourselves at our deeper, truer nature, at our X and our Y, heart and mind, body and soul.
At the beginning of this Summer I got the chance to get in touch with my femininity in a way I never had before. I met my guardian angel, a woman I can’t begin to express how much I love, myself, her name is Dottie. She’s sweet and loving and kind , she’s flirty and fun and fierce as fuck. The ability to express and emote and embrace all of these feelings has been a blessing and largely it has been due to her generosity of spirit and understanding that has provided me space and comfort enough to let it all out time and time again. I really am my own dream woman.
And now at the end of Summer I find myself exploring my own masculinity in a way I never had before and meeting my hero- the man I didn’t know I had in me. Myself. I don’t know if I know his name just yet, or if it is in fact, different from my own. But he’s strong and true to his word, he works hard and takes responsibility for himself and his actions and he wants to make things right, he wants to make things work and he wants to make things safe. Plus, he’s a total badass. He’s got grit, and rigor, he doesn’t coddle me but shows up and puts in the work and gets the job done no matter the circumstances.
Then there’s me, between these two, a child they might have raised, this woodland faerie who’s more Robin Goodfellow than Tinkerbell, though I Tinker. The holy clown and depraved knave, wise fool who teeters on the edge of oblivion, staring into the void through which the spirit of the divine descends. Whom is reckless and wild, mischievous and, potentially, dangerous.
It is important that I keep these energies balanced and focused: the artist, the builder and most of all- the lover. I am a man and I am a woman and I am also something entirely different. Here’s to them, and here’s to you.