Love. That’s how I interpret masculinity.
I remember secretly thrilling to Demi Moore’s biceps when I was about 11. Around the time G.I. Jane came out. It was a life-sized cardboard poster standing confidently in the corner of our local video store before everything became either Hollywood or Blockbuster to be busted later by Netflix.
It was one of those movies that I was not supposed to watch. The kind with a pretty pretty girl in it. Therefore off-limits. So I savored her every time we walked through, with me finding excuses to steal glances at her arms, at the way the sleeves of her olive t-shirt clung to her shoulders and neck, her muscular frame sticking out into the blue-grey slats of the wall.
And then there was her head. Shaved! With her brown eyes shining out at me.
I still think she’s a butch crush.
In my early life, I graduated from wearing a blue watch outfit that fit my gender perfectly at age five to wearing my brother’s black and red hand-me-downs in the third grade.
The feeling of hot shame in Big Lots after my soon-to-be sixth grade teacher caught me there in in a spider shirt and boy’s jeans like a ragamuffin. But then again, I had a feeling that she was like me.
She turned out to be an artist. And a mentor.
I still think of her when people mention the high school art studio where she used to work. She wasn’t a boy, but I sensed she understood.
From boy, I graduated to tomboy (go girl go!) to wallflower (leave me alone!) to andro (who the f*ck am I?) to the foppish, chubby, masculine queer boi I am today. Writing those last words make me smile.
I still see versions of myself that are in the stores, living, breathing mannequins of stages that I have gone through myself. For some, it’s a waypoint, and for others, it’s home. My friend Evy is andro to the max and wants to look like Tegan or Sara. She’s the toughest of the tough girly-boys when she has to be, but really a total softie at heart.
We share similar taste in bois.
What is a boi, you might ask.
It’s whatever you want him to be, darlin’.
Boi’s occupy the fluid space between female and male, and wear their identities with silent pride.
Sure, some try too hard, and like everything else, everybody can tell.
But most of us just quietly occupy the space we were given, taking pleasure in the buzz of the hair clipper, the fresh sheen of a towel against our neck like the clean feeling of newly-shaved legs that girls must adore.
Rachel Maddow without makeup. k.d. lang, also without makeup. Utterly masculine….
They sometimes look like gay boys, and it’s confusing!
Scoping out a hottie who turns out to be a…..guy is so homoerotic.
Adam Lambert would approve.
But for the most part they’re just like loveable, squishable me.
Sure, there are people (Vin Diesel, do you hear me?!) that I want to punch in the face.
And there are people who defy categorization. For them, gender expression is a playground….
but it’s mainly bois.