Openly gender fluid and LGBT+-identifying artist and writer Reki* recently released an inspiring anthology of prose and poetry, providing an intimate insight into the power of femininity.
Providing a very much-needed voice for feminine men and boys in the LGBT+ community, ‘A Boy Like Me’ (available here: USA / UK) is a collection distilled from Reki*’s firsthand experiences with love, heartbreak and loss.
A thought-provoking and empowering examination of issues faced by femme men and boys, the anthology presents an unflinchingly empowering message about learning to love oneself, finding self-worth in personal expression regardless of societal expectations and, ultimately, thriving through life’s greatest emotional highs and lows.
Below, Reki* shares an insight into the suppression of men being feminine and how he came to embrace his true self.
My femininity is sacred. My femininity is pure. My femininity is the strongest thing about me.
It took 24 of the 28 years of my life to honor this. And even now, somehow I have my days where I still wrestle with it. The four years that have amassed from then to now have been full of deprogramming and unpacking all the trauma I absorbed and thus, internalized, growing up and even experiencing as a young adult.
In this quest to heal my heart, I’ve found that the issue is rooted in almost every corner of my existence, since birth, living in a world set out to destroy everything in my liking and every boy out there who is just like me.
Society has long since told me I am something that needs fixing. It has dictated to others that I am something worth hating. What are you to do at such a meek and impressionable age but believe it?
Femininity, as many know, has what appears to be an inexhaustible history of systematic suppression and oppression, even sometimes by women themselves and those like myself, simply because we are indoctrinated to uphold such institutions: that concerning man, he should be immovable and somewhat cold; that he should readily express and exert aggression and angst; that elation is to be conveyed in mitigated and monitored amounts.
Because of this, what has been coined “toxic masculinity”, too many boys and men grow up somewhat emotionally castrated, which causes such a slew of problems we can see with our own eyes playing out in the world from then to now. Me? I BARELY dodged that bullet.
The first of many figures to condition me to believe this was my father. And while he is a very different man today, I’ve made peace with the past and who he was when I was growing up. Through him, I was to repudiate all things resembling femininity, from the way that I walk to some of the interests I have that can easily be attributed to the gender construct.
I was taught to reject some of the most fundamental parts of who I am.
Needless to say, it did such an undeniable number on my psyche, constantly wondering as a little boy why I wasn’t good enough for my father as I was, pushing so hard against the grain to be like my three older brothers, so much so that as I matured, repressed so much of myself in an attempt to appeal to more men who I was sexually and romantically interested in, because they subscribed to the same beliefs too.
They say that people are a product of their environment and, many times, of their circumstances. And while I definitely believe that to be true, I also think that sometimes people find their way out of said conditions that would keep them that way otherwise.
I suppose I was one of the lucky ones, in that, early enough in my life I found the fortitude to love and honor such substantial parts of who I am, because hating oneself from birth to death is a fate worse than most. I don’t know entirely where it came from, but I knew there was a light inside of me burning brighter than any hatred could ever extinguish.
I knew that life as myself, wholeheartedly embracing my femininity, would continue to present some of the biggest challenges of my being. But I’m smart enough now to know that maybe it’s not about me, that maybe it’s supposed to be this way, so that boys like me who are to come long after can begin life at its inception, rather than at a later point after its already been lived.