By Daksha Salam
As a gay man, growing up in a patriarchal society you are subjected to hypermasculinity. Even crying is associated with being feminine and scorned by members of society.
I would say I am more expressive of my emotions than most. My household was more female dominant. The only people I could idolize or model were my mothers, sisters, and aunts. Even though my behavior as a young boy was constantly checked, my mother was more receptive to change and did not believe in social norms of how a young boy or girl should behave. For example, I was allowed to play with barbie dolls and action figures ( playing with barbies would later instill in me the seed of creativity). I was never reprimanded for playing with a feminine toy. This had a positive effect on me and my expression of emotionality as a young man.
It was only till I went to a boarding school in my middle school that I became aware of how there is a strong need for men to adhere to social norms of masculinity. This was a tough phase for me; I would try to rewire myself and all my social skills and learn from my younger days to fit into the masculine world. For example, I would try out for the hockey team to prove myself to be more of a man. I would teach myself to walk more manly. I even fell under the pressure of finding a girlfriend despite being very self-aware of my attraction toward the same sex. Art at that time became a medium for me to express myself. I would use my art as a form to express what I was able to communicate naturally as a young boy. The emotions that were suppressed surfaced through my art. these were a few years of a very heteronormative lifestyle of trying to fit in with my peers.
It was only much later in college, eight years ago when I finally came to terms with myself and my sexuality. I amalgamated the idea of femininity and masculinity to find my version of it.
In retrospect, I can see how I behave and how I emote myself as a product of not solely my biology but through several social and psychosocial frameworks. This did not conform to the stereotype of how emotional expression develops in men and women. For a child to tap into their true self and to grow into a healthy functional adulthood one must learn to emote their feelings and experiences without inhibiting or restricting the freedom of emotional expression. This problem is especially addressed by men.