Defying Gender Norms

Updated: May 25

Coming out later in life as a CIS gendered queer man in a community of fundamental Christian and heteronormative expectations was challenging to say the least. Well on the other side of that journey, I’m still growing and more than anything learning. Not only learning about me, but other folks that fall under the colorful LGBTQ+ umbrella that covers me. To say I’m the same person with the same views that I had newly out is so far from the truth! I have had to challenge every one of my belief systems from faith to sexuality, and I’ve been amazed at things I believed in or held strong to were really not my own and were put on me by my environment. It’s important to understand that each of our journeys to true authentic living is different and unique. The key is to open your mind to understanding who you truly are and how you live your life being the best you there is!

Gender norms have been one that I’ve been wrestling with for some time. And I think that goes back to the protections that I put on myself as a deeply closeted man to not “act gay”. Think about it…Hollywood’s depiction of gay men through the years has been overtly flamboyant men. To not be ridiculed or teased, I did my best to not act girly or flamboyant. What a crock of bull that whole narrative is! One of the terms you hear often these days is “toxic masculinity”. This cultural norm isn’t something new; however, it is being called out by prominent voices to help move the societal needle past misogyny and homophobia. What most don’t realize is these toxic behaviors play a key role in the promotion of violence that include domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as depression and suicide. In this traditionally patriarchal society, there is an unrealistic expectation of men, that has for many years perpetuated irreparable behaviors and the repression of women and the queer community alike.

So why am I talking about this today? Well, first as a testament to not being closed-minded or even adhering to internalized homophobic narratives that Joey talked about in a previous blog post. Secondly, talking out and encouraging others, whether you fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella or a friend or ally, to think differently and openly. As you know, we both have children from our first marriages to women. These nuggets are so very different in many ways. Our older kids are teenagers and really trying to discover themselves. We are both very proud of the two of them. We know that their lives can be very difficult to navigate as they grapple with two different life narratives. Their dads are gay, and their mom is a fundamentally conservative Christian. We’ve been very deliberate in making sure they understand that we would never tell them that the other perspective is wrong, that’s a horrible place to put your kids, but to always encourage them to seek out their own truths with what they have around them. They’ve both done such a good job at that!

Our daughter is such a bright gem of a human. She’s demure but strong, patient yet stern in her convictions, and what we admire most is she’s a fierce ally to humanity! We get the fun opportunities to talk with her about pop culture, most of which we share a mutual affection. She loves Ariana Grande, and we can’t wait for the world to open up to take her to her concert, ponytails in toe! She’s a strong supporter of queer culture. Oh, the conversations we had about this year’s Met Gala runway! She loves Harry Styles, Troy Sivan and Timothée Chalamet…and so does her dads – LOL!!! So, we’ve had many “spill the tea” discussions about male fashion and trends, like any gay dad would have with their teenage daughter! She’s definitely challenged me to think outside the box as it relates to my own thoughts on gender identity. Recent fun we’ve had is going to get pedicures together, something I would have never in a million years thought I’d do. While I was more reserved and went with the clear coat polish, Laney and Joey decided to go with a big pop of color, a shade of teal and a bright pink….guess who got the pink on their toes? I do have to admit, walking around in public with him was somewhat of a challenge for me as I thought, what are people thinking? Well hell, I’m holding his hand while we’re walking in public, everybody is already thinking something…and really who gives a flying flip? But it really did cause me to think through some things. Did I not want to get color on my toes because “I” didn’t like it or because I worried what other people would think?

So, fast forward a few months and I find myself having gone through some things personally that I’ll likely share more openly in the future, in a new city, trying to reinvent myself. But am I trying to reinvent myself or am I yet again peeling off another layer, discovering who I really am?

Self-discovery can be a fun thing to navigate, but I’m certainly enjoying the ride! Being in an environment that is inclusive and progressive, definitely makes things a whole lot easier, not to mention having an extremely supportive husband. So, I find myself in this new big city, now going by my middle name Christopher, standing in the local CVS next to our apartment choosing nail polish! Ironically, the idea of painting my toes hasn’t really fit my fancy…right? That would be obvious because I could always just put on socks and shoes to cover it up. Nope, I went for the gusto and painted my fingernails. Now, I didn’t go for some outlandish bright color but chose a nice “Curfew” black, but hey it’s a start…and I actually really like it. The real test was going out in public, something our friend Tyler said could be a challenge. At first, I found myself cuffing my fingers or putting my hands in my pocket, but when I finally embraced it, goodness, you just don’t understand how empowered I felt. When I showed Laney on our FaceTime call, she was like, “OOOO I like it!” And when I further said, “I suck at painting my nails”, she said, “Daddy, I’ll paint them for you!” Who knows…maybe I’ll have my face painted up in drag one day!

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