Last week I went to Auckland for a conference on the education of boys.
Aside from the fact that my colleague Hamish and I cast our eyes around the room with discomfort at all the ‘schoolteacher’ types that surrounded us, it was a really worthwhile event. We spent three days being regaled with definitions of masculinity and statistics defining the challenges boys face in the school education system and naming the characteristics that make boys great (but which are all-too-often named as the ones that make boys such a ‘problem’). All this talk of boys made me think a lot about the boy in me.
As adults, for boys, more than anything, we carry the hope. We see the man they will become. We know they will turn out okay. We show them we know.
I am thinking about the ideas about what a boy is, the degree to which I am a boy, and the things about me that made me feel ashamed because they didn’t match what a boy was meant to be… and now finally i’m reclaiming them and realising they’re some of my greatest strengths. Boys are purposeful. Boys avoid shame. Boys are emotional. Boys are wonderful dreamers. Boys focus. Boys are practical. Boys enjoy boundaries… and pushing them.
Like my desires as a gay man. I’m probably the baddest kind of gay guy in that my desires are so much about men and masculinity that they undermine every historically-conceived definition of masculinity we can access. And yet at the same time I make not such a bad bloke. I know enough about machines.. I’m a reasonable athlete. My voice is deep enough, my body masculine enough. I can all-too-easily be mistaken for an ordinary man.
Wanting to be liked, accepted, wanted, I once suppressed some of the most important parts of myself – my desires.
These days I carry my own hope; I am very excited about the man that I will become…