Toxic Masculinity

Of course, any examination of who I’m becoming must start with who I’ve been for most of my life without the gentle influence of my female half. The world I grew up in was very different from the one we’re building today. As bad as things still are for many marginalized communities, in the 1970s it was far worse. It’s only been 50 years that women got the right to have a bank account. Absent positive male influences, I modeled the worst behaviors I found instead.

This began with a baseline of antipathy toward girls. They were deemed weaker and overly sensitive. We would pick on them and call them names and generally make their lives miserable. That was just elementary school. As we got older, the abuse would take on darker tones with uncertain outcomes depending on just how toxic the boy involved happened to be. If they were like me and mostly scared of girls, the results could be mostly benign. A poorly worded joke with a bawdy punchline. Fumbling flirtations that were as laughable as they were bold and uninvited.

If they were targeted by the more aggressive predators among us, things could get much worse, especially as we entered into our high school years when truly staggering quantities of alcohol and drugs were added to this underlying dysfunction. Sexual assault and rape were commonplace when more often than not we all ended up blackout drunk without even a hint of adult supervision. This was a regular occurrence throughout my teenage years and even followed me into the military where women were still on precarious footing and would be for decades to come.

It’s only been recently this paradigm has started to shift. Slowly, painfully. We appear to be in the midst of a generational upgrade in that sort of thinking no longer being acceptable to the masses. It didn’t happen soon enough for me to break through my programming, however, so the toxic influences from my youth didn’t find their end until long after my marriage died. Aggression and ego are the worst possible traits for a husband worth having. That’s not to say my ex was perfect, but I never understood proportional response. Win at any cost was a lesson I learned early on.

While I banished that kind of thing from my life long before I realized I was nonbinary, knowing who I truly am certainly helps explain why I never felt comfortable acting that way. Helps explain why it was relatively easy to change those habits into something much more positive and sustainable. I’m excited to see where this new mindset leads me and who comes into my life next.