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.