Downsides to being seen as a man

I’m sure everyone knows the problems associated with being trans. We’ve all heard horror stories, I don’t think there’s a trans person out there who’s managed to transition without some sort of crap being thrown their way, and even if by some miracle you do, there’s always someone else who can share their trauma.

What’s not often talked about are the problems associated with being seen as a man in society. With apologies to the non-US readers, I’m going to focus on society here because it’s what I have the most experience with.

  1. There are no organisations that specifically work to protect men’s rights. In most ways I have no problems with this, the organisations that exist to protect women and minority rights were formed because society at the time was walking all over them. However, I do think it’s important for guys to realise that they’re no longer going to have access to political and legal teams designed especially for them unless their issues are GLBT or race related.
  2. Very few people believe that domestic abuse, rape, or sexual assault can be perpetrated against men. I see this far more often than I like to think about, a man will call the police because his partner (male or female, I’ve witnessed both) is assaulting him and the police act like nothing is wrong. Men can be victims, there’s not some magical bubble that protects us.
  3. If a man is abused there are virtually no areas for him to seek support. Men are not allowed in the vast majority of rape/sexual assault survivor support groups. There are no shelters specifically for battered men. Programmes for survivors of domestic abuse almost universally do not accept men. If a man does seek help for abuse or rape he is generally considered to be weak and something less than a “real” man. Prison rape is considered a joke rather than a real problem that needs to be solved. Gay men in particular have to deal with society believing they somehow “asked” to be raped.
  4. There are no men-only academic/professional organisations. Like the first one, I don’t consider this to be much of a real problem. I just wanted to make sure people recognised that once they start passing there aren’t going to be any more bonding experiences like at the Society of Women Physicians conference. Brotherhood experiences are largely limited to fraternities, G/B/FtM groups, some religious organisations, and more conservative orders like the Elks Lodge. Even those can be hard to find depending on your area.
  5. Men — particularly gay men — are seen as potential paedophiles. I like kids, before I came out I was an active volunteer for local youth groups and a very popular babysitter. That stopped as soon as I started passing. I can no longer smile at a child without people glaring at me as if I were fondling myself. Every single one of my father friends has at least one story of how random women will try to stop their children from going to them. Men cannot volunteer with children (even if they have one) without having people question their motives.
  6. Men are considered automatic threats. This is one I know of more from other people than myself. I’m not a threatening person, too small and flaming. Other people, however, have expressed concern about women and children assuming they’re someone to be afraid of. For god only knows what reason, we have it drilled into us that men always have the potential to explode. I hear this far more often from my (visibly) non-white friends and guys who dress in punk, goth, or hip hop styles so there are likely racial and cultural tones to it as well. I’d say definitely, but that whole anecdata =/= data thing has been drilled into me pretty well.
  7. Brotherhood experiences are generally seen as unimportant and anti-feminist. I like all-male areas. I enjoy being part of a group of guys without all the hassle that comes with adding women to a group. I grew up in male-centric circles, it’s just something that I got used to. Unfortunately, any time an event tries to exclude women without some religious or sexual-orientation related reason it’s seen as a threat. Women can have women-only events all the time without many problems, but we haven’t quite figured out the men’s side to that yet.
  8. Everyone expects you to be able to lift heavy things. I am a very small person. Most women are larger than I am. Yet for some reason when I was working retail everyone thought I could lift giant, heavy boxes. It was amazing, people who thought I was a girl would help me lift boxes of tissue paper, but if they thought I was a guy they’d expect me to be able to carry entertainment systems that weighed more than me. Even now in salons, I’m expected to move around boxes of product far more often than any of the women. I don’t know why people assume that all men can lift things regardless of how big they are, but they do.
  9. There has not been a men’s-lib movement. Like a lot of other things on this list, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. We’ve never needed a men’s liberation movement, men are already pretty well set. However, there are some social changes that came out of the women’s lib movement that guys could still use. Increased gender expression options, ability to be a stay-at-home dad without being seen as a freak, that sort of thing. More and more women are trying to tie issues like that into the feminist movement and while I appreciate the effort, it has the rather nasty implication that all men’s problems centre around women’s problems. Not really the “we’re all equal” message that I prefer.
  10. There’s a small subset of people who will insist on trying to make you feel bad for being a guy. This is a particular brand of radical feminist that I absolutely cannot stand. They’re rare, but fucking loud. These are the women who gave rise to the term “man-hating lesbian”. They think all trans men are traitors, all trans women are infiltrators, all straight women are pawns, all straight men are violent beasts, and all gay men are rabid misogynists. They are not happy people to be around. If you encounter one I suggest quickly heading for the nearest exit. Do NOT try to engage them in debate, it will only hurt your head.

Really being a guy isn’t so bad. You don’t get random guys catcalling you as you walk down the street, no one cares if you’re having a bad hair day, you can be grumpy without everyone insisting you’re PMSing, it’s a pretty sweet deal. There are just a few things that can take a bit of adjusting to if you’re not used to them.

24 Replies to “Downsides to being seen as a man”

  1. very good text, as always, NA. I find the pedophile thing the worst. One of my gay friends has a boy child with a couple of lesbians, and when I tell people about it, they all look suspicious at him. He’s only into men past 35, so it’s really absurd, and it bugs me.

  2. I find it tragic that it’s dangerous to be seen as deconstructing historic masculinity – as if it’s affording too much attention to a domininant majority (this is primarily within feminist circles, I guess, which is really the only place these things get discussed anyway).

    Men suffer from gender typing as much as women do – we all know that; why is talking about it a crime? Sometimes I feel like it’s so counterintuitive – doesn’t analysing masculinity contribute to the overall goal of any rational feminist who grew out of the second wave? I just don’t see how it’s such a threat and yet the feeling I get is that if you want to talk about men in any kind of positive or even curious light, you must be anti-feminist.

    I think the point about domestic violence is also very, very well made. A few years ago I had the opportunity to do research in prisons on infections disease transmission and the ignorance and downright dangerous silence around rape and violence between inmates was from the administration down and it was truly astonishing and terrifying. It was everywhere and NO ONE would talk about it.

    • The “can’t talk about men without being anti-feminist” thing is part of why I had to stop talking to self-identified feminists. It’s funny, the women I know who purposely try to distance themselves from feminists tend to be the most rational and self-assured. Too bad really, any movement that gets taken over by extreme radicals is almost guaranteed to alienate more people than it draws in.

      Domestic violence and rape are two of the biggest areas I get pissed off about. The number of guys I know who transitioned and suddenly were barred from support groups is astounding. Same people, same histories, but because they had beards now they were considered threats. That’s not even getting into prison situations where you’re absolutely right, no one will even consider talking about. It’s seen as a joke, not anything to be taken seriously.

  3. You’ve talked about this before, but I think it’s important to point out again. It is very hard to be an expressive man – whether it be animated, flaming, emotional, artistic, etc. Women are expected to be expressive, which is also bullshit, but men get harassed, bullied, and beat up for being this way.

    PS – I love the way you spell paedophile – very british!

    • Ugh, don’t get me started on the lack of options for men to express themselves. That’s a post all on its own.

  4. Hey, NotAiden.

    This comment is really isn’t related to the post, but I just wanted to say how much I like your website.

    I’m a fifteen year old transguy who is just starting to come out. When I first learned about transmen, I was glad that there were others like me, but I wasn’t sure that I could be one (even though I now realize I am indeed a boy) because I’m attracted to males. You blog helped me realize I can live as the gay guy I am. I’m not effeminate, but I’m not masculine either, so this blog was a great help. I just wanted to say thanks for all your help, dude.

    • Hey! Glad I could help. I remember thinking I couldn’t be trans because I liked guys, it was kind of a pain in the ass. You’ll probably find more of us as you go on though, a lot of guys start becoming more comfortable with dating guys once they stop being seen as women.

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  6. NotAiden,

    I wanted to thank you for your post. It’s sometimes hard, I a lot of times feel alone of this sort of mindset. As sad as it is, I sometimes feel at a disadvantage for being a straight, Caucasian male.

    I don’t have much in the way of constructive or thought-provoking comments, but I also hate being profiled as a potential pedophile for the simple act of being a good citizen or good neighbor. Generally, if I find a lost child, I find a woman to assist me as to remove any suspicion of ulterior motives. It’s even worse if you are an African male.

    It’s a sad state of society. Even as a straight man, I am almost always socially pressured to “be a man” and “suck it up,” if I encounter any hardship to bear it with a grin and keep it up. I personally had an abusive experience which left me with emotional scarring, but I feel pressured to not bring it up and bring closure. I have anyways through the efforts of female friends. It’s nice to be able to express one’s feelings.

    Thank you for your post. 🙂


    • You’re definitely not alone, it’s just that most of us have been trained well enough to keep our mouths shut. Rather, most trans guys know not to say anything. Most cis guys don’t see the problem because it’s what they were raised with. Those that do learn pretty quickly that no one cares what they think about sexism unless it involves women being oppressed.

      It doesn’t help that more than a few guys speaking up for men’s rights are just assholes. I get the sentiment behind the idea that men should have some say in abortion, but seriously, it’s not a good idea. There are other ways to even the playing field without trying to force a woman into a pregnancy.

  7. there actually is a growing men’s rights movement thats slowly gaining momentum. However, its often simply seen as misogynistic which it is not.

    • Oh I know. It’s just not often heard of, especially in trans circles. It also has its own faults, just like feminism. Difference is that feminism at this point has enough momentum to not really be called on their problems, the men’s rights movement isn’t.

  8. “We’ve never needed a men’s liberation movement, men are already pretty well set.”

    After everything else you said, you still believe this garbage fed to you by feminists?

    • I believe that even with all the problems men face we’re still nowhere near the level women were at when women’s lib started. When men are sent to asylums because their wives want new husbands then we can talk.

      Are there things that need to be fixed? Definitely, I won’t fight you there. However, saying men are in need of liberation is like saying white people need an emancipation proclamation.

  9. If someone is abused the person who did it should be punished, not some random other person simply because they happen to be the same gender or race as the guilty party.

    A lot of people suffer domestic violence. Most are women, but that is not reason to ignore a victim because he happens to be male. If you are against violence you are against all violence.

    I am in the UK and the BBC aired the first episode of a new police drama last night (another reworking of the two mismatched detectives working together formula). It got pretty good reviews. At the end one of the cops, suspecting their spouse of infidelity – wrongly, as it turned out – broke both kneecaps of their decent honest spouse. The show got good reviews and the domestic abuse was considered funny.

    You’ve guessed it. The violent cop was female and she broke her husband’s bones and this was generally considered funny.

    Just imagine it the other way around. Imagine even pitching a script…

    “And after they’ve solved the crime there’s this really funny bit where the cop breaks his wife’s kneecaps with a large piece of wood! He does it quite deliberately, and he does one, then the other so it takes longer on screen, and – here’s the really funny bit – it turns out she wasn’t being unfaithful after all! Hysterical! Oh, and don’t worry, the wife is so loving (fearful?) she doesn’t press charges and the cop doesn’t even get disciplined. Really funny eh?”

    Would anyone even think of making a show like that? No, but it seems, in the UK anyway, women breaking men’s bones is funny, in fact to be admired, because the character is the star of the show.

    Surely we should be against all domestic violence?

  10. My boyfriend linked me to this post, largely because we’ve had this same rant over and over. It frustrates me that a lot of women don’t get how rough men have it nowadays. But then, I always did get along with guys better than my own gender…

    I hate how this whole paedophile obsession has cropped up. My dad used to be an honorary girl scout so he could help chaperone out trips. Nobody thought anything of it at the time. Now I suppose they’d be all creeped out or something. Nevermind that he was our fierce protector if anybody actually *did* look at us that way.

    But you’ve hit on some of the points here that often get ignored in articles like this. It’s funny to me, among other things, how “girl’s night out” is expected to be granted now, yet in movies and tv we see “guy’s night out” as something perfectly acceptable to be forbidden by some catty wife, because of course when guys get together all they do is drink and complain about their wives and scope for other hot women, right? Couldn’t possibly be that they just want to hang out with their friends.

    I made some comments like this on a forum/blog/something of that nature years ago (also including that if somebody WANTS to be a housewife – my mother did – then they shouldn’t be looked down on for that) and actually got told that I’m a sexist (against women). I tried to correct them by saying I AM a woman and have nothing against women’s rights, just don’t think that should mean men get trampled in the process. Well gee, I learned that day that apparently I CAN be sexist against my own gender and I am a horrid awful insult to women. Well alrighty then.

    I actually find it a little annoying that you can’t have any male-only schools, since there are still women-only schools and, well, any struggles I had in life had NOTHING to do with me being female. We don’t have those same roadblocks anymore unless we create them for ourselves (I’m not talking about the occasional jerk you get – even men have to deal with those, my boyfriend has been sexually harassed in the past even though I NEVER have). But I do think there would be some benefit to that ability to fraternize. Because of the different pressures society puts on different genders, there are some attentions boys need that girls may not. Now, if their parents were like mine and didn’t try to pigeonhole they may not need it so much, but not everybody grew up with parents like mine. Just the way it goes.

    I’m sort of rambling on here. But since it seemed most of the comments were from other men I figured I’d toss a woman’s support your way too. 🙂

    • The idea behind not having men-only colleges/unis is that men don’t need extra support. I tend to think that’s bull, but I also feel like anyone who can’t perform well unless given special treatment (unrelated to cognitive or physical difficulties) doesn’t deserve whatever it is they’ve earned. I’m kind of an asshole that way.

      Heh. I got the “omg you’re a sexist woman!” crap before I came out. Now I get the “homophobic gay man” and “transphobic trans man” stuff instead. Funny how disagreeing with militants automatically makes you a bigot.

      I kind of expected that most of the comments would be from guys. Not many women have need to stumble on a blog for gay trans guys 😛

      • LOL Fair enough, yeah, I just know plenty of people who wander sites like this. 🙂

        But yeah if one group gets to have “specialized support” they ALL should, I think. But then, I kinda find affirmative action to be a bit insulting (like, oooh I’m a woman that automatically means I had it harder and need help – nevermind I scored above all the boys in EVERYTHING in school), so I’m a bit odd.

        I have… never heard of anybody getting the “homophobic gay man” label before. O.o Wowwwwwww. I daresay that’s worse than antifemale female. Gotta love that loud crazy subset of the world, eh? Just wish they’d shush long enough for people to realize they are not, in fact, wholly representative of what they claim to represent… they have a lovely habit of hurting their own causes. Like PETA but with human rights…

        • Oh don’t get me started on how insulting I find affirmative action. I’m a Latino who went to school in an affluent area until my late-teens. The white kid from a tiny mine town in West Virginia needs way more help than I do. Unfortunately, no one bothers to factor things like school location into affirmative action, it’s all about race and gender.

          The homophobic gay man thing is fairly new. I don’t like HRC and Neil Patrick Harris annoys me so I must be homophobic. Really I just don’t like people trying to force me to conform to some asexual, heterocentric ideal when I’m a poly queer who *likes* Pride and drag queens and OMG!Sex. It’s kind of funny when you think about it.

      • I always assumed that women-only colleges existed because back in the day parents would want to be able to send their precious dauger away to university knowing that she wouldn’t be in any danger of being harassed and led astray by randy college boys wanting to take away their innocense and lead them into a life of sin and shame. It seems far more likely to me to be honest.

    • I’m pretty sure there are still quite a few boys only schools around (Eaton being a high profile example in the UK)

      • ‘Schools’ here was being used to mean higher education, not the requisite 12 or so years as a child. Though there is something to be said for the collapse of all-boy schools outside of the higher income levels (at least in the US).

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  12. One thing you didn’t mention in your post is the higher suicide rate in men compared to women (some stats here: Women are also much more likely to see councelers/psychologists and get help for their mental health problems. It’s much more acceptable for women to ask for help, whereas men are expected to just deal with their problems.

    I actually have lots of feminist friends and would consider myself a feminist (though of course the word means many different things these days and covers a huge range of political standpoints). Most of the feminists I know are very much for improving things on all sides and recognise the damaging effects of patriachy on people of all genders. Though I guess I’ve just been lucky that I’ve mostly avoided the crazies.

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