Knowing the emotional turmoil I would cause if I honestly answered his questions, I always answered no. In an effort to fuel the believability of my answer, I would go as far as showing him photos of women I had in my phone. I was (and still am) his only son, and the hetero-normative society we live in says it is my job to carry on the family name, to spread my seed, to procreate, to get married to a woman and provide for a family. That same society is responsible for countless LGBTQ teen deaths, committed by those who so desperately try to “fit in.”
I found myself in similar situations that I faced during my childhood as I got older: constant plaguing questions about my sexual orientation, ridicule for playing tennis instead of football, reading instead of rapping, and engaging in extracurricular school activities instead of chasing after the plethora of single women gracing the halls of my high school.
Adult men are faced with a unique challenge when it comes to protecting the sacredness of their heterosexuality; it becomes intertwined with protecting their masculinity. We start battling with other men mentally, physically, and emotionally. Who has the more attractive girl, whose biceps and dick is the biggest (contradiction?), which one of us is making the most money, and drives the fancier car. Our obligations to heterosexuality are loaded with living up to the expectations of similar systems of oppression; patriarchy, capitalism, and being adept on the latest homophobic slur. As men, there are levels of heterosexuality that you must prove yourself worthy of reaching, not only to other men, but also to women. The expectations are more stringent, and the consequences of being labeled the “punk bitch” are even more detrimental to the wellbeing of one’s manhood.
It is our duty as humans to not only challenge that which many of us have been indoctrinated to believe, but also to take an uncharted, individually-invented journey into the free world of sexuality, gender and sexual orientation. It is time we stop allowing toys, placement and type of jewelry, colors, social activities, and our desire to follow the oppressive rules of procreation and hetero-normativity control our lives. It is time women end this search for the mirage of a “real man,” and for women to stop being criticized for not being “lady-like.” It is time for men to cease the perpetuation of the unwinnable masculine battle. Our masculinity is not determined by anyone else but us. There are no authentic guides, books or maps to manhood. It captures us at the least expected moments, and is supposed to leave us vulnerable to the unexpected. We should be elated when certain expressions and behaviors are characterized as feminine; then and only then will we escape the egregious label of being the savage beast.