Friday, May 2, 2008

the meaning of a better man

A couple of weeks ago I participated in an event organized by my good friend, a talented facilitator, as a part of his Women's Studies thesis. The event was entitled Nacho Average Macho, and it was a community discussion on men and masculinity. The evening was hosted in a local community initiated cafe in the community focussed alternative neighborhood of Fernwood. The participants ranged from grandmothers to men in their 20s, and the 3 panel speakers also ranged widely in perspective and experience.
The first panelist was a white academic man, who has studied fatherhood and the relationships and lessons we learn as men in this society.
The second panelist was a counselling professor from UVIC, miqmak background, giving him the experience of growing up in a more Matriarchal culture, access to first nations traditions of maleness and also the perspective as a someone in the counselling field.
The third panelist was me, a young transman, with only a couple of years experience living and passing as a man, and a life of observance on "the ways of men" from the outside.
All event participants were encouraged to think about question for Men that will improve the way things are. One of the big topics was about emotional understanding of one's self.

Who am I? What am I feeling?

Men in this western North American culture are not encouraged, taught or guided in answering these questions, unless we ask them of ourselves, and our sons and the next generation of men and their way of understanding masculinity.
In a brief comment during the small group discussion part of the evening I imparted my experience with emotions and testosterone; when I attempted to go off of taking my biweekly injection of testosterone for 2 months, I felt over loaded with emotions. Everything was very intense. Granted that is a complex situation to analyze, but it seems that at least partly testosterone limits the spectrum of easily accessible emotions, for me at least.
During this past week I have been moving and getting through a change in my life that I didn't expect to be affected very much by, but when push comes to shove, my emotions have turned around and slapped me up side the face.
My anger swelled to a point in my life where it reached explosion point and that was my over flow of emotion. I haven't cried in months, and even then, it is sometimes for odd circumstances, or I'll have a situation where I feel like tears would be most appropriate, but I feel that that certain expression of emotion is not as accessible as it may have been a few years ago. I can quite often answer the question, "how are you?" as "great" or "fine" but a lot of the rest of the time it's "not bad" or "going" or simply the internal "I really don't know what to say here."
It seems that even if I wasn't necessarily raised with the "ways of men" I have no problems not accessing my emotions. I think this is a challenge for me, all men and all people, because is obviously isn't restricted to men raised as men. Ask these questions of yourself:

Who are you?
What are you feeling?
When was the last time you checked in with yourself?
What does that check in look like for you? (for me it often involves writing, asking questions of myself and others, drawing, spending time alone, long bike rides, saunas etc.)