Man up; Strip down
How would you define masculinity?
I would define masculinity as the way people perceive men. I think that it really is the way that people perceive men because it’s something that other people set, in terms of judgement of others. And, you know, when I think of myself when I wake up in the morning, I’m not necessarily, “how am I going to be masculine today?” or “how am I going to come across as masculine today?”
If you had to describe to someone what a masculine person looked like, how would you do it? (What celebrities or fictional characters comes to mind?)
If I had to describe how a masculine person looked… this is tough, because is it MY perspective of a masculine person or is this society’s perspective of a masculine person?
Someone who walks with a swagger. Someone who’s confident with himself. Facial hair. Clean, and confident. When I was a kid I always thought Clark Kent/Superman was the ideal, clean cut, not hairy and very buff. Now I see people like Anderson Cooper and George Clooney and see that as masculine.
Based on your definition of masculinity, do you feel that the people you date share the same definition? And if not, how so?
I haven’t dated in four years, because that’s how long I’ve been with M. All my previous experiences… I honestly never really dated. When I was “straight,” the women I would try to have experiences with were long distance relationships, I was kissed by my first girlfriend against a tree. I didn’t initiate it. There was a woman in my life who loved me for me, and she broke up with me because she was like, “You’re gay. I can’t do this anymore.” and I affectionately refer to her as my beard because she was a long distance relationship who lived in Iowa. She was a comfortable situation that I could hide behind. Ultimately she took both of our needs in mind and she was the one to make the call. And so, I don’t know, and have ever really thought about what their perceptions of masculinity were and if I fit into that well. It seems like I’m the past I might not have been masculine enough.
Considering this description, how do you feel your body compares? Does this comparison influence how you feel about your body?
Absolutely. Being a bigger guy is really hard, especially with the idea of being clean and confident and swagger. I’m always unapologetically me. I like feeling clean, but being a bigger guy I feel like people don’t necessarily view me as being a clean person because people view me as being obese. I think that when I look at other people that are my size and when I can tell that they’re being successful or when they’re confident, that cleanliness is something that kind of stands out to me. And, like, I’m like, “You’re definitely masculine. You’re a man.” and I feel like I don’t necessarily fit in to a lot of my own perspectives of what I think being masculine is.
WHAT PARTS OF YOUR BODY ARE YOU REALLY COMFORTABLE WITH OR REALLY APPRECIATE? AND WHY?
Photogenically, when I see my hands, I don’t like them because I have always thought that my hands look really weird in pictures. I was thinking about this question a lot today and my hands are the things that I think I appreciate the most in my life because as a photographer, as a writer, and as an artist in general my hands really evoke all of my creativity and who I am. I really appreciate them because they are what help me express myself.
WHAT DO YOU GET COMPLIMENTED ON THE MOST?
People compliment my beard a lot; people say that I have a really good beard. People in the past have always said that I have a really nice ass— people in the gay community and people who are into bears and bigger guys. M. loves my chest and my arms a lot. And so coming from the person who I think matters the most in my life right now, M. likes my facial hair, my chest, and my arms.
What do you think is sexiest about yourself?
I’ve always liked my eyes. I’ve always thought my eyes were the sexiest thing about me. And I think that my tattoos make me feel sexier. But I’ve never really felt sexy in my life. That’s why I’m a photographer, because I want to find the sexy in other people and help them find it. My brain, too, I guess. I think my brain is sexy when people give me a chance.
COMPARE THOSE PARTS OF YOUR BODY WITH PARTS OF YOUR BODY THAT YOU’RE LESS SURE ABOUT; PARTS THAT MAYBE AFFECT THE WAY YOU GET READY FOR THE DAY, I.E. GETTING DRESSED, MAINTENANCE, PERSONAL HYGIENE, ETC. STUFF THAT MAYBE YOU’RE SELF CONSCIOUS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE NOTICING BECAUSE THESE ARE PARTS OF YOUR BODY THAT COMPROMISE YOUR SENSE OF YOUR OWN MASCULINITY OR APPEAL.
I’ve come to love the idea of myself, and always being unapologetically me. I feel like my size has nothing to do with my brain or anything that I have to say. Honestly, and I talked about it at the beginning of that last question, but I don’t like the way my hands look in pictures but I know that they also are a very big part of who I am. I guess, for me, my body has always been the biggest thing in my life that I’ve been the least sure of. When I was in middle school a girl came up to me and said that I smelled really bad. Ever since that day, in terms of personal hygiene, how I smell really affected me. I always make sure that when I clean or when I wash myself I always try to make sure that I won’t smell.
HOW DOES MASCULINITY HOLD YOU BACK? OR, RATHER, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU LOSE OUT ON ANYTHING BECAUSE OF MASCULINITY? EXPLAIN.
It absolutely holds me back. first of all: being in the gay community and second: being an obese person. When I was going through my period before I was able to meet M. I would only meet people online and I wouldn’t put myself because I knew that I was obese and I knew that I was a bigger guy. And so, I knew that if I wanted to find people that would be attracted to me I would have to reach out to find people who were only attracted to bigger guys and people who wanted to fuck bigger guys. M. is really the only person that I have ever felt sexy around and sexy for, unless it’s been for very specific people online who have wanted me, but purely because of my body. Ultimately I felt people never would be attracted to be because I assumed I wouldn’t fit their idea of masculinity.
The people that I am incredibly attracted to are clean, confident, muscular men and that’s always what I’ve been attracted to. That comes to a part of my coming out story. For me, masculinity really comes out in terms of muscle and being able to take care of yourself and having that body that is wanted by every person, perceivingly. I think I miss out on a lot because I don’t fit into that version of masculinity and so I don’t give myself enough credit because I always assume that I won’t ever fit into anyone else’s idea of masculinity and so I don’t expect it from myself.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR RACE OR ETHNICITY IMPACTS YOUR CONCEPTS OR UNDERSTANDING OF MASCULINITY? HOW SO?
I don’t think that that’s something that I perceive and recognize on a daily basis. Honestly, I grew up playing sports, oddly enough, in high school. And I continued to watch sports as I was getting older and I felt like, within the people that are around me and the people that I looked up to, they all match— they were successful. They all fit that clean, confident, swagger-type. I feel like I lose respect for anybody who appears to be unclean or appears to not take care of themselves or dress correctly, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the color of their skin or their ethnicity or anything like that.
I also have to say that that door hasn’t been open to me before and so I don’t know how other people would perceive my ethnicity in terms of masculinity. Being in a biracial relationship has also opened up some interesting doors for me because being influenced and being exposed to his family and how he sees things have brought different perspectives to light. But, a lot of our experiences match, regardless of what color our skin is.
HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT SOCIETY PRESSURES YOU TO LOOK OR ACT IN CERTAIN WAYS? IF SO, HOW?
I think that I pressure myself into looking certain ways. Acting, not so much. I could give two shits about how other people think that I act. But, in terms of the way that I look? Always. I care a lot about how people see me and how people perceive me, and so I care a lot about clothing. I like to wear a lot of bright clothing and I want to stand out, and I want to accentuate myself, but that being said it’s hard for me to find any kind of clothes. Clothes are something that I care about; I have a lot of clothes at my house because I’m always afraid to get rid of them because I’m so big. And so I collect and I hoard clothes. it’s so hard to find things that I feel good in, I think that’s the societal aspect: I haven’t been able to find clothes that fit me and look good on me, and so when I do I hold on to them. That’s one way that society makes me want to look different because of the fact that they don’t have enough clothing options that fit me.
WHAT DO WORDS LIKE “PATRIARCHY” OR “PRIVILEGE” MAKE YOU FEEL? WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY?
They make me feel really nervous. And those words frustrate me because I don’t know what I can do to be able to fix them. I believe in equality for all and the only things privilege and patriarchy do is tear people down. I think patriarchy can be fixed and I try to do my part to stand up and be a good feminist. But I feel like privilege is the one thing that you can work on recognizing, and using it for good instead of taking advantage of it and putting others down with it.