Image depicting toxic, scary masculinity
Art, art history, gender, masculinity, Transgender artist

Toxic Masculinity vs. Non-Toxic Masculinity

I don’t want to carry tote bags and wear pink! 

Photo by Moose Photos from PexelsPink Bathrobe.jpg

I’m not touting an anti-pink, anti-feminine, trans male revolt here! However, I’m not fighting to express my toxic masculinity either. I want to claim my non-toxic masculinity without the soft, chewy, gentler male persona, that some men seem to like. I’m kind and unthreatening alright, but I’m tough as rocks, and still sensitive! My intention is to say “Hey, there’s lot’s of gray areas in men too.” I can still be sensitive AND masculine. The toxic masculine social norm, of the last, oh-I-don’t-know, 500 years or so, has annihilated us! Stomping on the subtle nuances and gray areas of our emotions. The new man, those of us who embrace non-toxic masculinity, love our gray areas. You know…I want to eat my entire spectrum of the gray-scale, in one bite. I love the grays, they’re yummy! So many beautiful grays in the world.

Artists haven’t escaped the beating from toxic masculinity either…

For centuries, male artists have ruled the art kingdom. Whether they were “straight” or gay, doesn’t, and didn’t matter much. Point being, toxic masculinity locked women out of the kingdom. Male artists got the recognition, despite having to wait ’til they croaked, and most did, and still do. Except for David Hockney, who this past week, broke a record as the highest paid living artist to date. Selling one of his paintings, for a staggering 90 million dollars!

Abstract Expressionism, an American art movement, born out of New York City (post World War ll), became a breeding ground for toxic male bravado.

Jackson Pollack at Work

Photo credit: Hans Namuth

Jackson Pollack, in my opinion, represented the Abstract Expressionist brand of the hard-drinking, brash, working-class, macho, toxic, overtly masculine, ART SUPERMAN, the best. In fact, he may have invented that brand. His wife, Lee Krasner, a brilliant artist herself, lived in the dark shadows of this classic, toxic male persona her entire life. Sadly, she supported his career, pretty much at the expense of her own.

Becoming Jay, for real…

It pains me to admit it (not really haha)… I love my non-toxic masculinity, but, I love the oh-so-masculine-old-world-alpha-male’s too. As long as they are like me, non-toxic, with lot’s of gray areas. (ie. No bully’s). I am both. That’s my exact point here. Masculinity today is becoming redefined by a new non-toxic-man-movement. Sure, I dreamt of being the Marlboro man (minus cigarette’s) rocky and rugged, a tough outdoors manly man. I still have that dream. The free-wheeling, free-spirited, chock-a-block-of-man, tearing up the wilderness, running with the wolves. Handsome and unbreakable.

I find the masculine binary life liberating in my personal trans-experience. But binary doesn’t need to present as one-dimensional, black and white, with no gray areas. Blah, how drab. Besides, I want to claim my male-artist identity stolen from me growing up dammit! Ha, I said it, whew!…that felt good.

Okay moving on…

Artists are transformative by default. It’s what we do, transform things. Isn’t it contradictory to human nature to pretend we don’t have lot’s and lot’s of gray area’s, non-toxic behaviors or emotions? Little by little that’s changing, but don’t you think, admitting the obvious would transform the art world, the world in general, to advanced levels? Levels where sensitivity is a strength, instead of a weakness.

I guess artists are guilty. Or, are we the lowly bottom feeders of a society, where the callous minions win, over us humans? No control over our own destiny? The hapless victims of a toxic masculinity? Are we doomed to hell for a lifetime?

Or, shall we progress toward enlightenment?

I pick enlightenment.

Transgender artists, like myself, are on a particular spectrum, a spectrum of enlightenment. We kinda have no choice here.  A colorful world, if you will of building a new human identity. An identity where no one life, no one gender, is greater than the other. Instead, experiencing the entire range of our personality. The feminine, the masculine, the whatever we want kinda’ thing. An enlightened life, walking through the fire. The fire of fear.

In today’s world, the violence-the fear-the Xenophobia, suggest’s that “the chickens are coming home to roost.” Toxicity is turning inward and it’s killing us.

I won’t go down with that burning ship. I want to claim my masculine-rugged-alpha-identity, which I longed for growing up.  I don’t want to wear pink though. I don’t want to carry tote bags (not dissing those who do). That isn’t who I am. No prerequisite’s in masculinity, no club to join, at least there shouldn’t be. This funny New York Times piece, pokes fun at non-toxic masculinity a bit. There’s truth in satire, and it’s okay, laughter is healing.

Truth is, non-toxic masculinity is part of what man has suppressed in the collective consciousness of men, since time immemorial. Emotional, but still masculine sensitive men, weren’t allowed to flourish in society, without a brutal beating from its’ dark counterpart, toxic masculinity.

I think in the end, it is obvious, that gender is more like an infinity circle than a binary dichotomy, of this or that.

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

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