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Monday, February 29, 2016

Emotional Constipation: Feminism as Ex-Lax

Wes was a good friend sometimes. When we met in the second grade the only immediately interesting thing about him was that his mom was at every school event ever. So, on the off chance that I remembered to tell my parents about the book fair or parent-teacher conferences or whatever it was, at least there was another kid around to play with.  This wasn’t the case during school hours though, not that Wes was a mean kid or anything, but he was one of The Boys. I was a cry-baby.

In the eighth grade, Wes was a popular guy. Not in the stereotypical American high school kind of way, he just had a lot of friends.  And when we met again after that electric and uncertain summer, we were both in high school band. He was the musically talented freshman from our feeder school and I didn’t want to run the mile every week in P.E. Dressing down? As if. So I picked up a strange instrument I had never heard of before, the baritone horn, and for the rest of my high school career spent my Fridays in Fall at our local community college’s football field cheering on the home team. And for most of those Fridays Wes was there too.

After high school, after prom and all the band competitions, after his wonderful mother passed and much much after that big fight we had, we moved in together as college roommates. We were the best of friends. We could literally have conversations without speaking and if one of us was caught up in a bad mood the other could usually coax them out of it. I’ve moved in with a lot of friends, and Wes was by far the easiest to live with and tolerate. But when I started recognizing my queerness it complicated things. I started realizing the unique place I held or maybe didn’t hold in his life.

Wes was my best friend but there were things that were off-limits in our relationship. Our sex lives? Nope, too weird. The gay thing. Emotional vulnerability? That’s what girlfriends are for, he seemed to argue.

“Umm… hello?!”

I was never quite like “other” boys. Kimberly was my favorite Power Ranger, not because she was pretty, but because I really really liked pink. I still do. I had girls as friends because they didn’t laugh when I jumped rope or when I was crying after I tripped and scraped my knee on the hot gravelly blacktop.

I didn’t like “girly” things because I’m queer. I’m not queer because I liked those things. My gay dad was very present in my life, he taught me to play catch, forced me to do little league, didn’t buy me the dolls I asked for, told me exactly what a boy should do and how a boy should act, so eff all that rhetoric.

That’s just to say that I’ve lived most of my life keenly aware that 1. I liked boys. I love boys. And 2. Acting and presenting as strictly masculine didn’t matter to me. Of course both of these were at times very frustrating, but they necessarily colored that way I interacted with people. My identity as a queer man, but moreover, as one that is unconcerned with the small emotional capacity imposed on men by the gender binary, has severely limited my relationships with other cismen. And separate from my romantic attraction to boys, I crave the platonic companionship of male friends. I can’t explain why. I’m not sure I need to. Because of this, I felt true friendship escaped me. I’m just not “one of the guys” but I am a guy.

Philosophical inquiries about gender aside, as I float in this once irritating now dissipating limbo, I find friends. Wonderful friends who I can talk to about anything, friends of different genders, friends with no gender, friends I can share my emotions with. These are people who understand me. And I remember that this is ONE reason, of many, why feminism is SO important for cismen. To be able to share yourself limitlessly with someone you care about is a beautiful and important thing, be it romance or friendship. It’s my belief that my experience in this is not unique. To share that emotion, unmediated by the arbitrary and imposing binary, might be awkward but it doesn’t have to be.

If you've made it this far maybe you’ve come around to my way of thinking. Perhaps you’re even ready for your first of many exercises in subverting the patriarchy. Grab your friend, sit him down and say these three words:
“I love you.”