This year is my seventeenth year on hormones, my seventeenth year as consciously living as a man. A friend who knew me seventeen years ago, who saw me last year, said I had really made the transition. Their words reminded me of my beginnings, where every chin hair and ever deepening voice was met with glee. In retrospect I was terribly self-involved then. But I think the process of changing genders for me required a kind of relentless self-involvement.
At some point in my recent past I stopped worrying if my behavior was masculine enough. Now I worry whether or not I am behaving like a good human being ought, which means with kindness. I don’t feel any compelling need to read websites like The Art of Manliness, with its narrow minded nostalgia for the 40s when blacks couldn’t vote, gays had no rights, Japanese-Americans were in interment camps and women had no legal access to birth control.
No thank you.
Though I did read those pages looking for what I asssume all the other men reading that website - and others like it - were looking for, namely, how to be something they are not. But somewhere several months back I stopped reading all those blogs. I realized I am a man because I say I am on and because I am a master of this process.
Malcolm Gladwell opined that mastery comes after 10,000 hours of doing something like practicing an instrument, for example. Well, I’ve been at this masculinity practice at least three times as long so I guess I am a super, mega, master of being a man.
After all these years I find now the whole thing has become very ordinary, which isn’t to say I am not still astonished by all my experiences. But the relentless self-involvement, gone. I am now more concerned with my body as it ages, since I want to maintain a good infrastructure well into my nineties. But the quality of my focus has changed. Perhaps the best way to put it is to say I have shifted my focus from am I man enough to how can I support my body as I age.
I don’t think I worked to stop focusing on my masculinity. It seems that the process of living my life as a husband, friend, family member and co-worker shifted the focus for me. Perhaps I’ve become more focused on others. I’m not sure. But I am sure that I am a grown-up man now.