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Black Trans Bois and Reimagining Masculinity
Melz<[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">https:[log in to unmask]>Nov 19
I identify as a non-binary trans-masculine person; this article is written from my own perspective and experience of my complex relationship with masculinity, experiences will of course vary throughout the community. It is a stream of consciousness and fears. TW: Mention of suicide, mental health and SA
Recent research in the UK and the USA has found that trans men have the lowest rates of life satisfaction<https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/722314/GEO-LGBT-Survey-Report.pdf> and the highest rates of attempted suicide<https://www.hrc.org/blog/new-study-reveals-shocking-rates-of-attempted-suicide-among-trans-adolescen> in the LGBTQ+ community. There is often little light shed on trans men and trans-masculine people in public discourse and this leaves a great deal of us feeling misunderstood and lost. I didn’t know trans masculinity even existed for some time and so I didn’t think I could ever exist as my truest self and inhabit a body I can be at peace with.
Speaking from personal experience, when I accepted my gender identity and my desire to physically transition, the greatest struggle that affected my mental health was dealing with the conundrum of why I desired to appear in this world as a man if men are so violent. I struggled to separate toxic masculinity from other forms of masculinity. I continually questioned whether masculinity is inherently toxic, can a form of masculinity that doesn’t cause harm truly exist?
This led to a lot of self-hate and self-loathing; questioning why I want to transition to something that looks like what has caused me so much personal pain. Having to transgress gender in this way is incredibly difficult, so many times I thought I would rather not exist in this world than to have my presence alone inflict harm. This was an incredibly difficult headspace to occupy, and I do not for a second doubt that most trans masculine people have these thoughts that can quickly become intrusive.
[https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*N8-mu1xG0Wtvb6sNLGsRHg.jpeg]&amp;lt;img class="progressiveMedia-noscript js-progressiveMedia-inner" src="<a href="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*N8-mu1xG0Wtvb6sNLGsRHg.jpeg">https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*N8-mu1xG0Wtvb6sNLGsRHg.jpeg</a>"&amp;gt;
Trans flag — credit: https://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/qq-tgf.html
Masculinity is built up in this world as something to be feared, especially black masculinity. There is a historical picture that has been built up of black men over the past few centuries as hyper-aggressive, hyper-dangerous and hyper-sexualised. It is this very fear that kills black men across the world, especially in instances involving the State. It is this that causes police officers to shoot at black men and boys who are simply reaching for the licence they were asked to provide or doing some similarly non-threatening every-day task.
Black men and black masculinity are not synonymous though are very intricately related. Dark-skinned black women often bare similar tribulations to black men due to a historical production of dark-skinned black women as both masculine and hypersexualised. Hence, this becomes more of a case of the devil I do know and the devil I don’t. Regardless of my gender expression, my body and actions are policed, and stereotypes of aggression and violence are attributed to me. Though what this means when I no longer appear as a “woman” is what causes the deep fears of both the known responses to black masculinity, and the unknown.
Moving into myself, in to black trans masculinity, what I have realised is that healing the parts of myself that have been violated and hurt by masculinity is the only way I can accept myself. My greatest worry was that one day I would look in the mirror and see someone I fear. To see my father. To see black men that have wronged me through the years. Seeing them in me was something I couldn’t bear.
Trans-masculinity made me face head on the structural and personal male violence I have been subjected to, in ways I had not done previously. To allow myself to embrace myself in my fullness, it required acknowledging, examining and healing from these transgressions. It required not allowing my mind to conflate awful acts often carried out by men as consistent with a definition of masculinity.
[https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*XIpu4rcNqOktTXvl6X7puw.jpeg]&amp;lt;img class="progressiveMedia-noscript js-progressiveMedia-inner" src="<a href="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*XIpu4rcNqOktTXvl6X7puw.jpeg">https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*XIpu4rcNqOktTXvl6X7puw.jpeg</a>"&amp;gt;
Melz with Trans flag draped over them
For me being a trans masculine person is undergoing the task of simultaneously trying to heal from the personal and structural male violence I have been subjected to whilst trying to (re)imagine a masculinity that serves those around me. Trying to imagine between the four blue walls of my bedroom what the most expansive, daring and beautiful idea of masculinity is.
However I decide to approach this moment in my life, healing the wounds and the traumas beset upon me by cis men of all races tbh is central and critical to accepting and loving my own masculinity. I often say cis men ruined masculinity lol. In many ways they have done. But as a trans masculine person I’m here to reclaim it, to accept it, and to love it — to heal the parts of myself that need healing, to release and close up those wounds so that I can allow myself to live and grow in to my truth.
My own liberation is intimately and inextricably linked with the liberation of all women and feminine folk, as such this requires the re-imagination of masculinity. Understanding masculinity outside of violence and patriarchy is essential to the happiness and lives of trans-masculine folk. The masculinity I have (re)imagined for myself and always endeavour to live out is a masculinity that is soft, that is caring, that is open, that is loving, that is patient, that is kind, that is accepting, and that will wear nail polish and give zero fucks.
A masculinity that is not the binarist opposite of femininity, but a form of masculinity that learns and embodies beautiful lessons from femininity. As a society we need to allow this re-imagination of masculinity to flourish and I am certain cis men can learn a great deal from their trans brothers. Let us all reimagine masculinity.
Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman
Senior Teaching Associate
University of Bristol
School of Sociology, Politics, and International Studies<http://www.bris.ac.uk/spais/people/person/nathaniel-a-coleman/>
Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship<http://www.bristol.ac.uk/ethnicity/>
Centre for Black Humanities<http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/research/centres/black-humanities/>
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