Masculinity in 2018: An Exploration Series.

I was all ready to post a blog tonight about why retro cars, such as the MINI and VW Beetle should go electric. Then I had plans to go climb Death Mountain on my quest to save Princess Zelda. But, something about the new year got me thinking. I have been blogging about many things over the last few months and I have to admit there has been a white elephant in the room. I have said very little about stuttering. 

Sure, I have written a book about it and I "understand" it in an intellectual sense, but the cold, hard truth is I hate having a stutter. I hate the fact that it makes me feel broken and an obvious target in the world. You hear platitudes like, "It makes you special" or "You inspire people." My initial thought to that is "F**k you and your fluent speech." There is so much anger around it and I have struggled to put my finger on why. 

A few weeks ago, in my attempt to launch my next community event called "Speakeasy", I began reaching out to people in the stuttering world, LGBTQ groups and so on. The responses were either mute or non-committal and that fear of failing or having to plan the whole event single handily was keeping me awake at night. One very generous man did reach out to me, just before I flew home to Dublin. He is a psychologist, who I will call Dr. T. and I left a him with a copy of my book. He read through it in a day and a half and yesterday, I met him and we chatted.

In my warped head, I imagined he saw me as a walking, talking case study who had conveniently written all his neuroses down in print for easy analysis. I joked with him about this! He liked the book and commented that he wasn't sure if a boy or man had written it. I smiled knowingly. I told him about my constant fear. Fear of failing, fear of stuttering and fear of not really knowing who I am. We began talking about masculinity and this is where I am going with this blog and the next few over the coming weeks. 

Being gay, my view on masculinity is distorted. Can a gay man be authentically masculine? As a stutterer, I have always felt less than a man, weak and vulnerable and in need of protecting. Even driving the MINI is an example of this. I have been afraid to ask is the car man enough? I have always wanted to be a powerful man who commands with authority. A powerful lover, who can satisfy my partners all night long with unlimited stamina and aggression. I want to earn huge sums of money and spend it with absolute confidence. I know this is NOT reality, but there is such a freedom to it. Yet, I also am terrified of embracing my own power in case I become that maniacal monster I've just described. 

Within ten minutes it became clear that what I am struggling with is masculinity. What does it really mean to be a man in 2018? How can I define and accept my own masculinity, wholly and powerfully, stutter and all?

Dr.T. began talking about an exercise he had designed and I am taking this on over the next few weeks. I then want to share it through my "Speakeasy" event with other men from all walks of life. I see this as a huge opportunity for all of us to get to the core of our own masculinity. To define it and embrace it fully. I have never done this and I see it now as a huge missing in my life. 

Where to begin? Well, I plan on exploring masculinity and stuttering and masculinity and homosexuality in the coming weeks and take it from there. Today, I am going to look briefly and what I have believed masculinity to be, based on my childhood. Anyone who has read Just One More Drive will have heard this before, but humour me. 

Buck Rogers and his hairy chest had a profound influence on my when I was a child. From that moment on, I associated hairy men to be "real" men. I wanted hair when I was older and the more I had, the more manly I would be. I honestly do suffer from hair envy and curse any guy who waxes. Buck also used humour to hide his pain, having lost everyone he ever loved while frozen in space for 500 years. However, he effortlessly had a space Princess lust after him and could beat up her henchman, Tigerman, at the drop of the hat. Being a man, therefore meant being hairy, humorous and effortlessly sexy to me.

Michael Knight was my next lesson in masculinity. A lone crusader who championed the weak and innocent and punished those who operated outside the law. He too was hairy, so an instant man in my mind. His partner in crime was an autonomous talking car called KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), powered by a turbine engine and equipped with an near-indestructible molecular bonded shell, making KITT fast and bullet proof. Michael showed me that being a man meant being a loner, someone who didn't need anyone (except his car and weekly mission briefings in the back of a truck). He seemed so free to me. He would jump into KITT and keep going onto the next mission. I assumed he got paid monthly, and that the Foundation for Law and Government had a great pension plan. What an exciting life. 

Optimus Prime, the iconic leader of the Autobots, was another paragon of masculinity to me.  Prime was stoic, brave and wise, all in one package. He wielded a huge gun and carried the burden of leadership effortlessly. He was never wrong and lead the Autobots tirelessly into battle with the Deceptions. Emotionally, he never got tired, bored or frustrated. As a character, Prime was rather limited, nevertheless he has become iconic over the last thirty years.  Hell, he even cheated death on more than one occasion. Hasbro (the toy company) killed him off in the animated movie (1986) to the distress of many young boys and were forced to resurrect him. The fact Prime has been so resilient, speaks to his continual appeal to boys then and now. 

Reading what I have just written makes me smile. I am a child of the 80s and these shows were very popular at the time. They were relevant to me and the question remains, are they relevant now? I can't help but think of "toxic masculinity". This term refers to overly aggressive men. Men who sexually dominate women and are limited in their emotional expression. There could be elements of this toxicity encapsulated in Buck, Michael and Prime. 

Is there any place for these kinds of masculine role models in the 21st century? That is what I want to explore over the coming weeks. So, I invite you all to join me and share what occurs to you, particularly within the LGBTQ and stuttering communities. (robert@justonemoredrive.com). 

Next week: Masculinity and stuttering. 

Prime image sourced form TFWiki.com 

Buck Rogers image sourced from Den of Geek (www.denofgeek.com)

Michael Knight image from knight-rider.wikia.com