“I’m from the inside not the outside. That’s where I come from. The inside.”
This is what my father said to me as we talked about him approaching 70 and me gliding through my 30s. My father has always operated with a level of introspection that I admired. It’s no wonder he eased into accepting me and loving me as his son. I think of my transmasculinity as a place that comes from within. It’s tethered to the spirit of who I am not by what is imposed on how I should be. Trans masculinity, in that respect is antithetical to cismasculinity in its current state because cismasculinity gets its power from how it's authenticated by everything and everyone outside of it. And for every made up indicator of what masculinity is, there are 10x as many things that can undo manhood with the effortlessness of a hot knife through butter.
Coming into manhood by way of deliberate legal, medical, and social transitions as opposed to birthright gives space for a lot of questions. Too often those questions stop at the medical processes, gender marker and name changes not giving enough time and attention to what it means to be a man in the world. And I don’t mean in the context that being a man is so complicated or noble that it needs so much deliberation, but because it has so much to account for. Being a man comes with enormous privilege and subsequently enormous responsibility. Everyday I’m challenged with how to meet that responsibility particularly when it feels like so many cisgender straight men aren’t. For me, being a man of transgender experience means having to start from the inside and not relying on any outside markers of gender; that’s what had me in the wrong gender expression and identity in the first place. Relying on everything else to define how I exist in the world instead of searching within.
I’ve had to dig deep. In the silence of introspection and frustration I began to pull from within my authentic self, regardless of how scary and complicated it would be. This excavation of self is an ongoing process of becoming the man of my own dreams. A man by my design. Particular now. With the ongoing state sanctioned violence against Black men, the violence that is perpetuated by us (namely cisgender men) and a cultural matrix that limits our expression of joy and compassion, it’s hard to find examples of how to be healthy in my black masculine body.
I’ve decided to be that example. It’s important that I’m visible, not just for the trans community but as a Black man trying to get free who is operating with the confidence that freedom mushrooms from the inside out, it’s not given by any official or system or homeboy approval. It’s about being a model of possibility for all those who embody masculinity in some way. I want to challenge, aggravate and change the way we talk about men and masculinity. The time is now for us to dig deeper and be better.
For the next 100 days I’ll be posting every day on instagram and twitter lessons learned, contemplations and promises I make to myself in order to become a man of my own design. Stepping outside of the austere limits of what masculinity is can only set us free. And I need freedom too.