Last year I was in the locker room changing into my running clothes for cross country practice when some boys started commenting on the length of the shorts my teammates and I were wearing. In cross country a lot of the boys prefer wearing shorter shorts as they are cooler and more comfortable to run in. One of the boys said that our shorts looked “gay” and that a girl should be wearing them, not a guy.
The use of the word “gay” as an insult towards other boys is unacceptable. The notion that the way you dress or act makes you “gay” and being “gay” means being weak is wrong and needs to stop.
“Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” defines “masculinity ideology” as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” This ideology is sometimes called “toxic masculinity”. Toxic masculinity promotes a culture where men are encouraged to hide their traits associated with weaknesses and compete with one another to be the best man. Therefore, toxic masculinity discourages participation in choirs, orchestras, bands, plays, musicals, non-sport clubs, art, literary clubs and much more.
What bothers me more is how homophobic toxic men are and how brutal the affects of that hate is on LGBT youth. The 2017 Vermont High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey concluded that LGBT youth are four times more likely to self harm and four and a half times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth. This toxic culture excludes those who do not conform and self-loathing is one of its consequences. At BHS we are taught to celebrate the diversity and embrace our differences. We clearly need to stop promoting toxic masculinity and start embracing the idea of manhood as diverse in and of itself.
We need to stop using “gay” to insult men who tend to act more feminine. We need to stop using “gay” to scorn pervieved “weakness”. We need to stop using “gay” to discourage empathy and kindness. We need to stop believing there is only one way to “be a man”.
What if being a “man” meant something different in our society? If we showed benevolence and welcomed the diversity every person has within them, then what… Being a man should mean confronting our own shortcomings, striving to be the best people we can be rather than fighting against one another for power. The human connections that can arise out of being more caring, loving and accepting can build support systems where fewer people are left out, and more people feel whole.