The only one that can touch your masculinity is you

Wearing a dress isn’t for everybody, but if it is for you, no one should be able to tell you otherwise.

Showcased+here+are+two+pictures+of+Alex+McLemore+alongside+his+close+friends+as+he+wears+the+wedding+dress.

Alex McLemore

Showcased here are two pictures of Alex McLemore alongside his close friends as he wears the wedding dress.

Alex McLemore, Staff Writer

We all know that guy. You know, the guy who refuses to listen to Harry Styles because he “only makes music for girls.” He feels that the music isn’t “masculine” enough for him to listen to, but why? Why does the music he listens to have to reflect his masculinity?

In today’s society, we associate our genders with norms. These norms can range from the clothes we wear to the things we eat and drink; for example, guys shouldn’t wear rings because guys shouldn’t wear jewelry. Guys shouldn’t eat macarons because they are “girly.” Who came up with that?

But what we don’t realize, guys, is that the only people keeping these norms in place are us. We are the only ones holding ourselves back. The reality is: What you wear should have no control over your identity.

Every guy that is reading this, ask yourself: “Has a girl ever told me what I’m doing or wearing is ‘girly’?” I guarantee 99% of you said, “No.”

In reality, it’s other guys that make these comments. We define our masculinity. I’m here to tell you that if we break the norms that we set for ourselves, it doesn’t make us any less masculine.

Trust me, this idea is coming from a guy who has had to wear a wedding dress on stage for a month and a half.

Let me explain. I am a guy who does theatre. And I want to preface by saying yes, I know theatre is perceived as “gay” or “girly,” but I don’t buy that and I hope you don’t by the end of reading this story.

For theatre, I have had to do many things, but never would I have thought I would be wearing a dress. Now, five times a week, I find myself putting on a full wedding dress and veil and guess what: I don’t consider myself any less of a man.

Why should I? It’s just clothing!

We need to take a step back from these norms and let guys live. Don’t make fun of your friends for doing theatre. Don’t bully the guy that has earrings. At the end of the day, you have no idea how your comments can affect others.

This isn’t just to say “be nice,” because obviously we all already know that.

Would you want a world where we are all the same? I think we have all seen enough dystopian-set films in which this is the case to know we would never want this as a reality.

These norms curb our creativity and force guys to fit a stereotype.

Remember when I said masculinity is defined by us? Well, when we force our opinions on others’ masculinity, they may rethink their own manliness. What I’m trying to say is that what you say can change someone’s whole image of themselves. That’s why we need to think before we speak.

Let’s go back to the guy and his friend that listens to Harry Styles. Let’s say he and his friend are getting done with soccer practice. They throw their bags in the back of his red Jeep Wrangler and he gives his friend hands the aux. Without thinking, his friend turns on the song “Fine Line.” He then tells his friend, “Yo, turn this off. No guy listens to this.” Something he has “liked” is now uncool, and he questions his feelings towards the song that he previously loved.

That’s what I mean. What we say has weight. These types of judgments can lead to mental health and self-esteem problems that can affect him for the rest of his life. His sense of his own masculinity becomes questioned, all because of one unthoughtful opinion.

When someone questions their identity, it can cause angst and lead to problems such as depression.

Let’s return to my experience: I was in the second story ballroom of the Manatee Performing Art Center when my director told me about my costume for the first time. He said: “Are you sure you will be ok with wearing this? We know it takes a lot.”

What did he mean by “a lot?” Well in this regard, it meant a lot of courage. It then hit me: at first, I didn’t feel any shame about wearing the dress, butafter he mentioned it, I found myself doubting whether this was a good move or not.

To be honest, I was so nervous the first time I had to come on stage wearing the dress, especially the first time in front of my parents. I just remember thinking, “What are they gonna say?” Luckily my family and friends were there to encourage me. I saw how none of them cared, none of their views on me changed.

So what can we do to help break these norms everyday?

When I put on the dress for the first time, my director just looked at me and smiled. He said, “Alex, thank you for being such a good sport.” In that moment he realized that it wasn’t some tall favor to ask a guy to wear a dress. So by doing things outside the norm, you help break that norm entirely.

Now I’m not saying every guy should go put on a dress.

Instead I’m saying, if you see a guy wearing a dress, or wearing jewelry, don’t assume anything regarding his identity. What you wear should have no control over your identity.

Go out and wear and listen to what you want. The only person that can touch your masculinity is you.

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