Men are Irrelevant

To take a break from engaging with the anti-Asian hate going on in the United States, I wanted to write a blog post about my gender identity and men’s irrelevance. Over the past several months, I have started to go by any and all pronouns. This change does not feel major to me because while I have always felt comfortable in my male body, I have also always had a femme side which I cherish a lot. However, I have caught myself thinking at times: will men feel less attracted to me if I go by any/all pronouns instead of only he/him pronouns?

Whenever I notice this thought, I remind myself: I literally do not care what any man thinks of me and never will. As I tell my close friends, therapist, and more casual friends all the time, literally every man on this planet could think of me as the ugliest, most undesirable person who ever existed and I would not care at all. This lack of care about men’s opinions of me saves me from the insecurities many other queer men face, especially queer men of color and femme queer men. I wanted to use this blog post to reflect on how this strength came into existence so I can continue to cultivate it for years to come.

I grew up in an abusive household. Because of my mother’s constant emotional abuse and my father’s absence, I dedicated most of my mental energy to studying hard so I could get into college and escape my home. I also tried to figure out how to create a meaningful life in the face of what felt like complete meaninglessness: if people could be born into households like mine what was the point of life at all? I remember feeling so distant from my middle school and high school peers who cared about popularity, dating, and getting good grades as a way to measure their self-worth. While I enjoyed queer books like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz and What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson, I had my eyes set on getting out of my home and making a difference in the lives of others. Boys did not matter.

Speaking of books’ superiority to men, here is a picture of Matter bookstore in Denver CO, where I visited with a good friend last month! The only Black-owned bookstore in CO. A splendorous space.

I started getting crushes in college soon after getting into therapy for the first time. These crushes felt pretty intense, less so because of the men’s quality – they were not that high quality, looking at you Harvard boy #1 whose lack of emotional availability should have warned me about Harvard boy #2’s similar emotional unavailability several years later – and more so because I have always felt emotions in a deep way. While I still focused on my community service, close friendships with fellow femmes, and academics, the idea of dating men flitted into my mind a little more often.

During that period of my life, I also began my dive into feminist texts, which saved me from obsessing over men. For example, I read Appetites by Caroline Knapp which taught me about how society conditions women and femmes to search for external validation from men, thinness, and jobs instead of uncovering our inner self-worth and self-compassion. I then read The Will to Change by bell hooks which explained to me why the men I encountered were so unexciting, non-self-aware, and lacking in any ability to practice thorough active listening or even active self-awareness. These feminist texts taught me that my love for myself and my close friends will always come before love from any man, especially because of how patriarchy socializes men to reek of mediocrity, unanswered text and email messages, and fancy LinkedIn profiles and job titles with no interpersonal follow through.

The past few years have followed that same route. Since moving back to the Washington D.C. area in 2017, I have gone on a few dates with some nice guys who did not excite me much. And I met at least one guy who did excite me and then turned out not to have his life together. These men all remain in the background though, because so many more beautiful and meaningful things occupy the foreground of my life: hundreds of hours talking, laughing, and processing with close friends, my growth as a clinician and researcher and mentor, many miles spent jogging to BlackPink, dozens of dramatic and vulnerable blog posts, and a ton of books both read and reviewed.

I do not consider myself against romance as much as I am against how systems of patriarchy and capitalism construct romance. I dislike how I know folks who feel incomplete without their romantic partner or consider them “their other half,” how the wedding industrial complex profits from romance when those funds could serve more social justice-oriented purposes, and how I have seen women and femmes settle for pretty subpar men so they could have a romantic partner over not having one at all. But, I have seen a few folks do romance differently. In part because of these rare models of romance, I could envision myself in a romantic relationship with a man of color where we both know and love ourselves, are engaged in therapy or are willing to engage in therapy or a related form of help-seeking, and have deep and rich lives outside of our relationship with one another. Otherwise I view men as a distraction. Though I feel sad very occasionally about not having had a romantic partner, most of the time I feel proud of myself for getting this far in life without settling for someone below my standards. I feel great about identifying as a gender flexible man and in honoring my femininity. Though heteronormativity and patriarchy promote the monogamous romantic couple and the nuclear family as the most desirable path, I’m stomping my own way forward, a romantic partner be damned.

Speaking of things that both taste good and don’t come with unresolved emotional baggage unlike men, this ice cream from Smith and Cannon in Denver blew my mind! My friend and I got Foxy Brown and Peanut Butter, both of which I’d highly recommend.

How do you view the relevancy of men and/or romance in your own life, especially in the context of systems like patriarchy and capitalism? How do you cultivate your own self-worth and self-compassion regardless of what others think of you, or not? General reactions to this post? Also, in light of the recent horrendous hate crime against Asian American women, please consider supporting Red Canary Song or Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta, if you are able. Until next post.

13 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

13 responses to “Men are Irrelevant

  1. The anti Asian hate going on has been rough on me mentally. I had to take a break from the news.

    You’re so strong and I admire that. I also respect the journey you have taken to develop that necessary strength.

    I was listening to a webinar the other day. The guy talked about unresolved trauma in people’s lives and how they can become problems later on if they aren’t addressed. It affects how you view yourself (self worth), how you treat others and so on. You have a very strong awareness of who you are, what is affecting you and you address them head on.

    Two other things. First – I clicked on your Goodreads. I was stunned at how many books you’ve read. The book industry should honour you. Second – the ice cream looks amazing. Then I noticed the package of soy sauce and other condiments. I cringed at the thought of you adding that to the ice cream. Pls tell me they were part of a take out meal.

    Have a great week!

    • Awwww thanks so much Matt for honoring my strength and yes, I agree about the importance of addressing issues head on! Yay for self-awareness and affirming our self-worth. Haha @ the Goodreads thing yep I read a ton of books, mostly because I don’t watch TV and doing so helps me recharge. And yeah omg the soy sauce is for Asian takeout my friend and I got def not for the ice cream that would be cringe and gross! Hope your weekend and upcoming week go well. (:

  2. Thank you for those links – I found some people to donate to via Daisybutter’s blog in the week, but always grateful for the work people like you do to help pass on funds and care.

    I am really really pissed off about men at the moment, all the “Not all men” crap that is coming out in the UK at the moment. Sharing with my husband all the times I and female friends get harassed while out running and then having to explain again that it’s an output of patriarchy. He is good at learning but arghhh having to always teach him. Ahem. Also my best friend is going through divorce and wishing she had not let her husband pressure her into changing her surname when they got married, which has made me sad and angry (I changed mine but at my own decision, my husband wasn’t bothered. I still refer to myself as “Ms” but will readily admit to being his wife).

    I wonder if I’d have identified as gender-neutral if that was a phrase available when I was a lot younger. But then I know I have hidden my femininity due to gender-related abuse from family and others, so that doesn’t feel entirely authentic to me. I would have embraced Mx had it existed when I was setting up bank accounts, etc., now it seems too much of a pain.

    You are so strong and marvellous. That’s all, really!

    • Ugh at the “not all men” crap coming from the UK as well as the various gender-related struggles you and those around you are engaging with. I’m sending a lot of warmth to your best friend in particular and I hope that her divorce goes as well as possible and that she has space to heal, grow, and thrive once that process is further along or completed.

      That’s a great point re: identifying as gender-neutral if it had been available younger. Thanks for your vulnerability re: gender-related abuse, that sucks that that happened. I’m glad that whether for ourselves or others now we can continue to promote more expansive ideas about gender.

      So appreciate you supporting my strength and sharing and sending lots of warmth this weekend!

  3. I am always so in awe of your self-love and confidence, and reading your posts always inspires me to try to love myself better. Currently (and maybe always) working on my ideas of self-worth and meaning via EMDR right now, where I don’t necessarily care about what other people think of me but undermine myself from the start so I don’t care about myself in the first place.

    Sending support and warmth always, and love and safety especially during this time ❤

    • Thank you so much! I hope these posts show that I’m in the process and probably always will be of trying to bestow self-love and confidence upon myself, and writing these posts out are a way to help me do so. I would love to hear about how EMDR goes for you as I don’t think I’ve heard about any of my friends doing it, though I’ve definitely read empirical support of its efficacy and one of my clinical supervisors is an EMDR therapist.

      Sending support, warmth, love and safety to you too! Grateful for our e-bond!

  4. priya

    It’s posts like this that remind me why I admire you so much. Hopefully this doesn’t sound weird coming from a stranger on the internet, but seeing how much compassion you have for yourself and value you place on building positive emotionally available relationships with people makes me so happy and genuinely gives me hope. Thanks for sharing your thoughts -it’s actually really helpful to see how consciously you worked on being a caring and confident person!

    Personally, I don’t feel too much pressure in terms of seeking male approval, but so many other aspects of the patriarchy seem to control my life. Also, it can get lonely as a queer person – even as a partially out queer person with queer friends – and I just love reading about how you embrace your sexuality and gender so wholly.

    • Awwww thanks so much priya, not weird at all and I appreciate weirdness anyway as well as you being so kind in response to this post! Being a caring and confident person is definitely a continual work in progress and I hope these posts illustrate the tangible efforts I take to achieve those attributes. (: Also ugh at the patriarchy controlling other areas of your life, sending strength in your way as you navigate that, and also warmth about the queer loneliness. I am curious if you feel that that sense of loneliness may shift as you get older/have more access to opportunities to form community. In the mean time I’m glad my blog can help if even just a little.

  5. Manaal Siddiqui

    Hi Thomas, it’s so inspiring how you can articulate your growth and development in such as insightful way. I’m wondering whether you may have a pdf of “Appetites”? I’d love to check it out!
    my email address is manaalsiddiqui@hotmail.com

    • Aw thanks so much for saying that Manaal and for taking the time to read and to comment! I unfortunately do not have a pdf copy, I googled “appetite caroline knapp pdf” and maybe there are some links that may eventually work (not like I’m encouraging digital piracy if any surveillance folks are out here reading this, I do think the book is worth buying if you have the funds/access!) However I did find this excerpt from the book that shows off some of her critical thinking skills, though it doesn’t get to the more hopeful parts of her narrative necessarily: http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/composition/fall2008exampt1.pdf

  6. Manaal Siddiqui

    Thank you for taking the time to look for the pdf, Thomas.
    Looks like a pdf copy is not readily available. I’ll buy the book, and let you know my thoughts when I’ve read it!

  7. Hey Thomas,
    I identify myself as a straight girl and whatever you wrote was so touching because even I come from similar set of background where parents are not emotionally available which in turn made me question my self worth and led in search for acceptance from boys . I am glad someone who voiced out the manipulation of industries which tricks us by creating an image of ” better half” are the only way for happiness and this is absurd. Today after getting scarred deeply I realized if a guy doesn’t respect my feelings he is not worth my time and attention. I loved your post and second your opinion that ” Men indeed are irrelevant”. Wish you only Real happiness and peace in future. 🙂

    • Wow thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a vulnerable and real comment on this post! Appreciate you sharing about how you come from a similar parental background and I’m glad to hear that you are recognizing the importance of creating your own self worth and not settling for guys who don’t respect your feelings. I feel like someone respecting your feelings is the bare minimum for any type of relationship, platonic or romantic or familial, a guy would have to bring much more than that to be worthy of you! Grateful for your encouragement and hope to hear from you again some point in the future!

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