Thursday, 31 March 2011

On Masculinity

This particular blog post has been formulating and gestating within me for over a week. The topic of gender is contentious and can be quite hard to put into words, which is why I've left it a while since my last post, since I wanted to do it justice. Caveat: I am a somewhat priveleged, white middle class cis-gendered man. Bear that in mind.

When I first stared Muay Thai, I expected I would be 'less than', given that I am a gay male. My sexual identity is so tied up with my gender, that I do not necessarily think of myself as simply a man; rather, I think of myself as a gay man. This particular qualifying adjective has huge ramifications for my sense of self. Since I am gay, do I not belong in a typically masculine environment? Will someone 'find me out'? How will I deal with inevitable questions and locker room banter?

To tell the truth, these questions and fears turned out to be largely unfounded. My kickboxing class is hugely inclusive, with a large percentage of women training on a regular basis. I have a sneaking suspicion that one or two of them are also queer, as well as a couple of the men, but as yet I have no confirmation. However, I have not come out as gay to anybody in class, even though this is my third week of attendance. Like all other relationships in my life, how I choose to share my world with others should be my decision. If somebody asked me outright, I would answer, but as yet that hasn't happened.

One old wound that I thought had healed was my vision of myself as delicate. Being a sensitive child, I was frequently told to 'man up' and to stop acting 'like a girl'. I have since carried into adulthood the belief that I cannot defend myself physically, that I can't do sport and I'm therefore not a real man.  Since starting Muay Thai, I have felt something stirring inside me. I originally thought I would feel 'butch', but that's not really the case. It sounds strange, but I simply feel more human. The resistance and push and pull against others is exhilarating. I feel strangely empowered when I strike a blow, and sufficiently humbled when my blocking is sub-par. This is connection - vital and strong - and gender does not have anything to do with it.

Kru said to us last week that we seek to include, not divide. He said that we should not have issues fighting somebody of the opposite gender to us. As a man, I found that to be challenging, given that we are taught that we musn't hit girls, but I wonder how empowering it must be for the women involved in our class - they come in, we are all treated as equals and some of them can beat the shit out of a guy twice their size.

For me, God Herself is pre-gender, post-gender and all in between. There is no power that is not Hers. There is nothing we can do that did not originate from within her teeming womb. Naturally, there are Mysteries out there that cater to certain chunks of humanity, but how simple it would be if we would recognise that there are countless traits, talents and interests to keep us all busy, regardless of what is between our legs.

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