This is a guest post by Damian Ray, a trans masculine, bi-racial/white-passing graphic designer.
Read more stories from Ravishly's special Conversation series on men and feminism here. Have your own perspective to add? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The trouble with being a man is that it’s so much work.
No, that's not true.
The trouble with being a trans man is that you know how much work there is left to do, and we have to be part of that work.
I grew up afraid of dark doorways, slow moving cars too close to the sidewalk, of parking lots, of being alone at night—because of strangers. Because of men. The hardest lesson of my transition is that it's on me to keep others safe now. It's on me to demonstrate that I'm not a threat, to speak up, to interrupt, to educate and to lead by example.
And that shit is hard work. Is it harder than learning to look over your shoulder without looking or to make mental notes of every exit when you enter a building? Probably not, but I've had less time to practice.
For me, day-to-day feminism in action is creating safer spaces for women—the ones I know and especially the ones I do not. With women I don’t know I avoid eye contact, and when I can't avoid it I give a polite nod and then busy myself with something in the opposite direction. I make my body language say, "uninterested." I make my face a careful construction of passive and placid. I never stand too close. I never walk too fast behind. I'm mindful to not let my body take up more room than I absolutely need. I speak up less, or not at all, in groups where women are trying to be heard.
I choose words carefully, because creating safe space with my speech is literally the least I can do—and that means not letting sexism infiltrate the things I say to other people, of any gender.
I don't have to. There was certainly a point, newly out and newly passing when I didn't. It was amazing to take all the space, to be loud and demanding, to separate myself from women. To be accepted by other men, to walk among them unseen.
I felt powerful, and guilty. When I began passing, men began talking to me about women in truly sexist ways. I'm sure I tried to laugh it off, desperate to stay invisible. There is a tangible pressure to laugh, to co-sign that bullshit, and it perpetuates forever. Well fuck it, I’m the dude not laughing at your rape joke now. I’m the dude saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t get it, explain to me why that’s funny,” until you stare at your shoes and awkwardly change the subject.
Patriarchy is not a pattern women can interrupt (by themselves). It is not their job to fix, to interrupt, to educate—they do because they have the biggest stake in the outcome.
Listen to women. Keep them safe, be their silent ally, use your privilege for good. Be thoughtful with your speech, and kind with your actions. It’s almost 2015 and it’s high fucking time we let go of our archaic models of masculinity.
Isn’t it time for something new?