As a child, I remember thinking about getting married. In my mind, I always pictured a woman by my side. I was socially conditioned to think this way from an early age because I never felt like I had any role models outside of the traditional representation of what it meant to be a man or a woman.
My parents took me to dance class early on in life because I love to dance. When my friends at school found out about this they told me that, “only girls do dancing” and that I should do Taekwondo or swimming instead.
I was devastated and embarrassed. This was the first time I was confronted with the masculine vs feminine conditioning which is deeply embedded into our culture and social fabric.
I‘m sure I’m not alone in experiencing bullying of this kind. Children expose an unfiltered reflection of our cultural values. What adults hide under the surface of a polite smile, children expose, question and express. I think that the experiences and conditioning that we go through growing up has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and our bodies.
I have a slight lisp. Growing up, I hated this because I was bullied about it and, for this reason, I always tried to hide it. People would mockingly imitate my voice and ask me if I was gay. I felt this exposed my feminine side and that it wasn’t okay to embrace it. In order to fit in, I needed to conceal myself.
I am an emotional person. Throughout my life, when I found myself in an emotional state, the people closest to me would consistently suggest that I needed to be ‘stronger’ and that it wasn’t healthy to make myself so vulnerable to my own emotions.
In grade twelve, I remember a teacher asking our class if ‘in principle’ we thought it was okay for men to wear women’s clothes. The whole class laughed. But, in my mind, I thought, “what’s wrong with that?”
In that environment, and at that stage of my life, I was too afraid to stand up and say, “Absolutely, yes! Wear whatever you want!”
I feel that young men are heavily conditioned by our culture to fit into the dominant mould of masculinity. The spectrum of masculinity is ignored and boys are shamed or bullied until they learn how to hide their feminine traits.
When I was in high-school, I became aware that I was gay, but I denied this from myself for a very long time. It wasn’t until I was almost 20 that I came out to my parents. It took another three years until I was properly out to all of my friends and family.
Through this process, I unravelled and worked through so much conditioning of what it meant to be a man. I didn’t know who I was and I certainly didn’t feel like I fit into the normal male mould. I felt effeminate, yet I identified as being male. I was attracted to men, yet I emotionally connected more with women.
It’s only in the last few months that I’ve felt myself opening up. I’ve felt the feminine energy within me beginning to shine through. And I have embraced it. I began to feel how both the masculine and the feminine can exist within me in harmony. Both express different shades of what makes me, me.
It’s beautiful to have a lisp. It’s beautiful to cry. I don’t believe in gender-specific clothing and I began to push back against this entourage of suppressed male energy. I needed to be free! To embrace my femininity and masculinity because I finally realised that being effeminate doesn’t make me any less of a man.
I experience the masculine and feminine energy as fluid and always changing within me.
It doesn’t feel like it’s a fixed thing. Some moments I feel more masculine and others I feel more feminine. I don’t believe that my effeminate nature in any way threatens who I am as a man. In fact, I believe that it makes the expression of my manhood fuller and more complete.
Being a man doesn’t mean I have to conform to anyone else’s expectations. I have no desire to twist or contort myself into shapes that don’t fit me. My body and my being are sacred and beautiful. Its shape is truly unique to me. My expression of masculinity mirrors this.I grew up in a world where I was a clone to an unhealthy expression of masculinity. But it never felt right.My gender is my own and it is not defined by any borders. It’s a unique expression of me.
Youthfire is the moniker of Melbourne based singer-songwriter and producer, Stephen Carmichael, who shares stories about his personal life through compositions that have a warped sense of New Wave, 80’s nostalgia.