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.”
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.
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.