Alex Blaze

Weekend open thread

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 07, 2007 7:16 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gender roles, PBS

When I was around 12 my mother and father made me go to Tae Kwon Do to "toughen up". I suppose I may have been a bit of a pansy, but going to martial arts didn't butch me up.

So I was reading a description to a documentary on boys and masculinity on PBS (h/t Beth Marion), and here's a bit of what was said:

Figuring out the rules of masculinity and trying to live up to them is part of every boy's childhood. Most boys find the "tests" of masculinity scary and hard to pass. And some boys find this process especially painful because they feel they don't have the right skills and interests to be successful at being a boy.

I don't remember gender policing being so terrible, although it helped that I was about two feet taller than all my peers throughout junior high.

But what about you? Do you have any stories (funny or otherwise) about gender disconformity as a kid? Did someone try to make you more femme or butch? Do you think that the little PBS description is too harsh, or not strongly worded enough?

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In my family, none of us boys (I was the eldest of 5 kids, four of us boys) was terribly athletically inclined; I turned out to be the only gay one. We were moderately physically active, but it was not an issue that I was wrapped up in band, piano, photography, and my paper routes while avoiding sports.

I was the smallest kid in class until finally reaching average size in high school; there was some teasing and intimidation by tough guys in junior high, but it was small-town stuff, no gangs, never a physical bullying incident for me...

The issues I had with masculinity in adolescence were internal -- figuring out what being a guy meant to me -- instead of the external test they describe... I just can't relate to it, because I never felt forced or pressured into anyone else's masculine mold.

I had gymnastics and piano lessons as a kid. No one forced me into football or anything like that. I remember once my dad tried to play catch with me, but I think we both lost interest in it quickly... And then when I started actually getting good at the piano, mom encouraged stuff like journalism instead.

But just for the record, I hated the gymnastics classes. I've never even been able to touch my toes. I'm just not that limber.