How can I present more masc while avoiding harmful stereotypes about what it means to “be a man?

Woah, that’s such a good and important question. I think it starts with recognizing what toxic masculinity actually is and actively making conscious decisions everyday to not fall into that pressure. Presenting masculine as a way to affirm one’s gender expression doesn’t need to include the toxic traits that society can associate with “being a man.”

When I’m getting dressed or cutting my hair, I’m looking at those things as surface level as I can. The clothes are just fabric that affirm my gender expression. I don’t take on any new persona or qualities or traits when I put those clothes on. I just feel comfortable in my skin and identity and that’s the extent of it.

I can understand why some masc-presenting queer people can find themselves stuck in the stereotypes of “manhood.”

I know from firsthand experience that sometimes it feels like it’s the only way to be taken seriously. Sometimes, it feels safer to portray a version of masculinity that you’ve seen before.

Unpack what masculinity means to you. The answer to that question might help you uncover some subconscious ideas while also bringing you a better understanding of your own gender expression.

This question makes me think about who I was growing up—how I acted, how I moved. I didn’t know how to present myself through clothing, so I often felt restricted in my expression. Not knowing how to dress made trips to the mall hard. Standing between sections at stores felt like I was literally being asked to decide—to choose who I wanted to be. I didn’t know how to (or want to) handle that. By the time I got to high school, my masc side manifested itself in this like, almost “agro” way of walking and talking.

When I moved away for college and started meeting people and dating, there was kind of this moment when I started really seeking out who I wanted to be, clothing wise, instead of just doing what I thought I was supposed to.

Picking what I wanted to wear became a daily ceremony. “What am I going to put on this body to make myself feel okay?”

As I started to accept that I could present as masculine, my femininity emerged. And that had entirely to do with being more playful through clothing. My friends and I would get together and play dress up, putting on whatever felt right. It showed me that dressing like a boy doesn’t mean you have to act like a fool. I’ve been very lucky to have a community of like, straight and queer people who get that.

The tea is that this world is hard, and we’re all just trying to figure things out. When it comes to gender and dating, it gets even harder. Clothes can be your armor. So, If you’re someone who’s stuck between aisles hoping they don’t get it wrong: embrace play within companionship. Find people who don’t judge you for not knowing who you are yet and ask them to play dress up—literally! For me, dressing up counteracted that toxic masculinity that all butch non-binary, and trans people have to fight against. Besides, isn’t this presentation thing all dress up and drag, anyway.

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