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Confronting Men's Issues From A Transgender Perspective

When I began transitioning from female to male, everything I understood about male privilege was turned on its head.

I've always called myself a feminist, and I've always been proud of it. Having known so many strong women in my time, how could I not be a feminist?

My Oma came to Australia from Russian occupied West Germany, with very little money, only to obtain a Bachelor of Science and become a scientific librarian. My mum was a lawyer and university lecturer. My older sisters were big-shots, one working in arts administration and the other a practicing speech pathologist. I was always encouraged by my family to be proud of who I am, to learn as much as I could and take as many chances as I could. By the time I was seven years old I was taking a ballet class and had joined the under-10's football team.

But when I came out as a transgender man in my late teens, I began to question how relevant feminism really was, especially third wave feminism.

Don't get me wrong, here. We as a society still have a long way to go in order to achieve true gender equality. Women still aren't getting equal pay for equal work, some are still afraid to walk home alone at night and the current President of the United States was elected into office even after the leak of a recording which caught him boasting about sexually assaulting a woman.

But being a man isn't always so easy as it seems, either.

Now that I'm taking testosterone and passing as a cisgender man most of the time, other men aren't so shy to challenge me, physically and emotionally, when they disagree with me. The other day I was thrown to the ground at a train station, because I was "too slow" touching on my Myki card, whereas a few years ago I might have just gotten a disgruntled "excuse me!".

I am no longer "bossy", but I am "cocky". I am no longer patronised for speaking my mind, but I've been yelled at, shoved, and physically threatened. Often by total strangers.

And it isn't only other men that are the problem.

When a young woman whispered to me that I have a "nice arse" as she walked past me on campus, I was told not to complain, and just to take it as a compliment. Because I'm a man, I suppose.

(And it's not even all that fantastic in comparison to other arses - like, say, Bruce Springsteen's - but I digress).

The problem feminism has when it comes to discussing men's issues is blaming it all on the patriarchy itself. I have a problem with the phrase "toxic masculinity," for example. Too often it is used to connote traditional masculinity, regardless of whether any harm is caused, rather than examining the emotional needs of men, regardless of how masculine or feminine they are.

Discussion of issues like men's mental health and the pressure we often face to suppress our emotions doesn't only belong in a sociology course. Footballers and veterans and businessmen and tradesmen all need emotional support, too; and they aren't always getting it. The more traditionally masculine you are, the more likely your brand of masculinity will be labeled as 'toxic'. And that's a problem.

Nobody should have to commit to radical gender non-conformance in order to benefit from discussion of emotional vulnerability. And with approximately 75% of Australian suicide deaths being men, alienating so many of us seems like kind of a dick move.

And could we get rid of those stupid "male tears" mugs, too?

Don't be misconstrued. I'm so glad I transitioned. I'm so much happier and healthier and more confident in myself now than I've ever been before, and I wouldn't deny my manhood for the world.

But the way feminism is talking about men's issues is problematic. As a young man in the 21st century, I've never had less agency over my own masculinity. This needs to change, and it needs to change fast.

I don't want to silence women's voices on women's issues. I wish more women felt the same way about men.

Kieran Atkins
Kieran Atkins

Kieran Atkins is a 19 year old Arts student and novice writer from Melbourne, Australia. He has a keen interest in sociology, philosophy and British comedy. He also plays Dungeons and Dragons in his spare time, because he has no life.

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