The “Man Enough” Trap

“Construction workers at a considerable height without appropriate fall protection equipment.” Source.

Sometimes I get sick with the fear and shame of not being man enough. Is my dick too small? Is my body too weird? Are my gestures effeminate? My line of work unmanly? What really sticks in my craw is the sneaking sense that as a transsexual, I am somehow permanently inadequate, a poor imitation.

Yet this sinking feeling and shame and fear lie at the very heart of what it is to be a man in my society. To be a man is, so often, to be terrified of failure. Men compensate with violence, that trump card of masculinity, towards ourselves and others. Homophobia, transphobia and misogyny are, of course, attempts to demonstrate that one is a Real Man. But there are many subtler examples. Overworking is also a popular cover for fear of being an insufficient man. Slow death by incremental alcohol poisoning in another. Preventable heart disease brought on by a steady diet of “man food” is an excellent example. I can’t count the number of times a man has told me that he just couldn’t live without eating meat at every meal. Yeah right. Many men would rather have high cholesterol than risk being seen with a salad.

On some level, we think we would be worthless if we failed to live up to the standards of masculinity. And because we all secretly know we already have, we desperately try to hide it. And because everyone is constantly trying to hide, each man fears he is the only one with a secret. It’s an absurd conspiracy.

I’m not trying to say most men are constantly trying to prove their manliness, though many are. What I am saying is that most men live with the dread of failure. It may assert itself often or occasionally, with a roar or a whisper. In any case the story is the same.

I have no prescription here, no solution, no path to healing. I have something rather humbler, with it’s own quiet power: I know that we are not alone. We are all in this boat together, a crew of stowaways hiding from ourselves. When you know that fear of not being man enough is at the core of what it is to be a man, you may still be afraid. But, at least, you can laugh about it.

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6 comments

  1. genderneutral

    Beautifully written and expressed as always. I am struck by the reality that no matter what gender, we are challenged by fear of not being good enough. Good to be reminded sometimes regardless where we land on the spectrum. I strive to accept all my diversity and the diversity of others and not compare to some stereotypical template. I still struggle at times, but mostly feel at peace on this level. Because you are a spiritual man, I will share the chant that goes thru my head whenever I find myself in this place of self doubt, or a snippet – Ohm, pernamidam, purnat purnamudachatti……. writing Sanskrit is not a forte – but it essentially goes on and translates to this is perfect, that is perfect, when we remove the perfect form the imperfect, perfection remains. I will sing this when I am struggling with not feeling good enough and it reminds me the essence of all that is is all that really matters and in that essence I am perfect.

  2. Jamie Ray

    I think American society is particularly competitive when it comes to manliness – a left over of our myth of the “self made man” and the idea that we were all created equal and have full responsibility for our destiny (regardless of how much privilege we were born with). It is an unrealistic and dangerous way to look at masculinity.

    The good thing is that you only have to be the man you want to be; a sensitive and articulate one with multiple frames of reference.

  3. UnknownJamie

    I remember years ago, a cisman asked a forum if he was weird or effeminate for being into flowers and gardening. It really intrigued me because I found it such a silly insecurity, a man does what he needs to and is true to himself, if he wants to go get in the garden, then do it man, let no-one hold you back or tell you otherwise what you already know.
    A man is the things that you are :D

  4. Halle

    As one who has lived all three stages (youth, adulthood and now senior) pretending successfully to be male, I can tell you that only in childhood was it necessary to give a physical demonstration of masculinity (the bully discovered that the sissy had fists and could use them very well). Since then, the only special skill I’ve needed (having a small penis has never been an issue LOL) can be easily developed and practiced with a mirror.
    When someone is getting in my face and I need to settle them down, I shoot them “The Ray”. You know… that stern look that says, “Who do you think you are messing with anyway”… Most men are insecure too and it puts enough doubt in their minds that they go away, or at least give you increased respect.
    Stay calm and relaxed is always a good strategy too.
    All the best. Love your blog!

  5. Pingback: Gender Perspectives, Vol. 6 | Valprehension

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