As a 14-year-old kid, I watched helplessly as I witnessed a grown man violently assault his pregnant ex-girlfriend, until she lost both consciousness and their unborn child. That was just one of any number of destructive acts I have seen by people with whom I shared the same gender. I have witnessed some deeply disturbing actions from men who struggled to balance an innate physical strength with fragile mentalities…but before I continue my path forward, I must take a step back… 

I was so negatively impacted by the cyclone of violence by men towards women; just like Dr. Bruce Banner, I remember feeling apprehensive that one day my skinny, fragile, frame would evolve over a period of adolescence and eventually unleash a full bodied, testosterone fuelled, hulk of a man. 

My exposure to positive male role models was paper thin, so at a young age, all I understood was men either abandoned their parental responsibilities or used their inherent physical strength to dominate, control or destroy. Without a regular paternal Jedi guide to help me make sense of the dark side, I thought my behavioural destiny was dictated by a predetermined biology. I unconsciously developed a tentative hesitance around adult males and that sense of caution extended to my first male primary school teacher; a humble and gracious man called… 

Mr Lavender.

The perfect name for a man who naturally made me feel as relaxed as being around Lavender of an organic kind. A man who spoke softly through the kindness of his eyes and I knew, even as an awkward shy kid my presence was always welcome in his classroom. 

It was a revelation to me that this human of the same gender had a completely different set of characteristics; gentle, kind, humble and nurturing. Mr Lavender didn’t know it but he was influencing me without even trying because for the first time I had regular, consistent access to a man who wasn’t afraid to openly show compassion, warmth, creativity and kindness without depending on words.  I don’t know if he could sense my slight apprehension as a child but he was somehow able to slowly dismantle my guard by using nothing but authenticity and patience…which I’m pretty sure was down to his character

No matter how you view gender the XY chromosome is essential for a hormone known as testosterone; the average man has 10 – 40% more testosterone than a woman. Testosterone is vital and influences everything in a man from muscle mass, aggression, strength and sexual desire. Although none of the aforementioned characteristics are exclusive to men, they are more commonly found within my gender, so men tend to share a commonality of characteristics and behaviours. 

But…  

Social and environmental factors play a vital role and I speak from experience here; I was raised by a single mother and was largely influenced by strong, nurturing women. I’ve never followed a sports team, I don’t like the taste of beer and openly cry when watching season two of This Is Us. That being said none of this makes me any less of a biological man than a more traditional understanding of the term.  I have seen what happens when a man hasn’t developed a mature understanding of their own biology, but despite the physical advantage that leans in favour of male masculinity… 

Men are not toxic.

Neither are my sons, my brother, my father, my father in law, my male cousins or friends. I don’t understand how the two words “Toxic Masculinity” have been so carelessly combined? The origins of the phrase were birthed from studies that looked at violent behaviours of men within abusive domestic relationships, mass shootings and acts of terrorism but none of those horrific acts should be used as a measuring gauge to define or understand masculinity. 

My opening paragraph revealed toxic behaviour at its extreme, but that has nothing to do with the gender of a person but rather the fragile psyche of the personalities involved and the bodies they happen to inhabit. I purposely avoided using examples of destructive female behaviour I have personally experienced because this isn’t about seeing which gender gains enough points to stay at the top of the scoreboard. 

Don’t let the media use its sleight of hand to make you believe there is an open season on men by undercover social justice warriors or guerrilla feminists hiding under plain sight…my real-world reality tells me my gender has worth. No matter what Liam Neeson did 30 years ago, the issue is not toxic masculinity but a toxic mentality that spawns a toxic behaviour; which has no direct connection to the body you happen to find yourself in. Masculinity is diverse and is anything a man wants it to be, it should never be hijacked by an attention seeking media so more Gillette razors can be sold. 

Until next time