Masculine ideal, feminine reality

I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”, and I knew I had to transition. But what is this “Man” I was rejecting? It was the idea of masculinity I had taken in from my family, the wider culture and individual interactions with people. Underneath it was a Real Me, rebelling and subverting it, so that I was at war with myself.

I imagined myself manly, and took action to develop that. I joined the territorial army. Why did they not send me to the District Assessment Board? Because I was “insufficiently military”. This does not mean that women could not be army officers. I told a female officer I would be attending, and then later that I would not, holding back tears. Tears would certainly not have been military, and she acknowledged that effort while distancing herself- I had been a possible friend, and was now a private.

What else? The army is the myth I picked on. Walking the Lairig Ghru, perhaps, and back by the Lairig an-Laoigh. I was at risk, and should not have done it alone: at the end, I was exhausted. I had to ford a stream where the plank bridge had been washed away, wading thigh deep in fast flowing, cold water; I did not know what the Ordnance Survey map symbol for “cliffs” meant, so clambered down rocks, twisting the frame of Trefor’s rucksack. I was OK, I managed. I feel that self-reliance is a good thing which need not be gendered, and I coped with the challenges I had not anticipated. I don’t know where I am with that: proud of doing it; not sure about the instinct which drove me to it, which could be an idea of manhood and my own failure to live up to it, bullying myself or developing myself.

Developing myself was good. I wanted to keep fit, and settled for swimming about a mile three times a week. I could enjoy the effort. Everyone should exercise.

Interactions with others- it is so instinctive. How could I know, now, or read from memory what was going on? What I thought at the time and what I would think now support my ideas and desires. When I started in Perthshire, I wrote in my diary: “I cannot endure this job. I must enjoy it.” I did not understand the world, any more than anyone else in his early twenties. I know more three decades on.

It seems that the “manhood” was one part of my being, who I thought I had to be to fit in with society, and my femininity was unconscious, manifesting itself in my behaviour despite attempts to control it but not acknowledged or valued, seen as weakness and failure. I have two models to understand this. Picking on two parts of the self oversimplifies, but the models do and I feel they map on to each other fairly well, and to my Masculine Ideal v Feminine Reality.

Richard Rohr, mystic contemplative, favours the unconscious self which comes into consciousness as we age, the Reality which I had to transition to unearth. Life and God ask us to let go of our false self—the passing, egoic identity we’ve manufactured in order to cope and survive. To be freed from self-preoccupation, we must be centered in the Real, our inherent and unbreakable identity as God’s beloved. Once we’re connected to our Source, we know that our isolated, seemingly inferior or superior individual self is not that big a deal. The more we cling to self-importance and ego, the more we are undoubtedly living outside of union.

Steve Peters favours the ideal self which you consciously imagine yourself to be. Unusually, he gives his academic title on his book cover- “Prof”- to give himself credibility. Do you sabotage your own happiness and success? Are you struggling to make sense of yourself? Do your emotions sometimes dictate your life? Yes, yes and yes; but I had to let them, as trying to impose that ideal which I came to consciously was torturing me. He wants to give the ideal the power to control the emotional, unconscious part underneath, which he calls the “Inner Chimp”.

The book cover quotes “Sir” Chris Hoy: The mind programme that helped me win my Olympic Golds. The Inner Chimp, laziness and the inability to defer gratification, gives way to an ideal of devotion to training and mastery.

Possibly making a crude identification- Feminine Reality equals God’s Beloved equals Inner Chimp- gets in the way. Rohr has seen the beauty and wonder of the Human part, which he finds underlying, and Peters the beauty and wonder of the conscious understanding, which he wants to develop. Peters wants the Chimp on board, and the person finding goals which the whole person supports.

Certainly some people find the negotiation between the two easier than others. I find it particularly difficult. I feel seeing the wonder, good and beauty in both parts would help. I need to understand, value and reconcile both.

2 thoughts on “Masculine ideal, feminine reality

  1. Perhaps it was my inability to recognise socially accepted norms regarding gender identity that (a) allowed me to escape the internal conflicts you experienced, and (b) resulted in being at the receiving end of violence and bullying.

    The thought of needing to prove to myself (or anyone else for that matter) that it was desirable to have specific traits never occurred to me, and by the time I realised it was important to many others, nearly half a century had passed by. Perhaps I was naive. Perhaps I was fortunate.

    Like

All comments welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.