Brohugs and other toxic masculinities in the trans community

My friend @pushupsandpoetry, AJ Ripley’s blog ( really is the highlight of my online week. Like my writing and reflecting, it keeps me conscious about what’s happening and shifting in this testosterone-fuelled journey. I can’t afford to be unconscious about what’s happening to me. I’ve done that so often before and that way lies complacency, inauthenticity and that limbo of angersaddepression. 

This screenshotted bit was one of the things that stood out for me in AJ’s blog this week, because suddenly being recognised and given the secret handshake has made me uncomfortable. While being gendered as ‘he’ and ‘sir’ feels good, that group mentality language of ‘bro’ and ‘man’ and ‘buddy’ (dude has always been gender neutral for me, but I’m realising it isn’t for others and so it leaves me increasingly uncomfortable) makes me cringe on a visceral level. Not only because of what AJ says, but because of the interactions it fosters between men and transmen. 
Suddenly a typed ‘hug’ is a bit gay and we have to say ‘brohug’ (wtf?!). And suddenly the interactions, especially online and on Instagram, begin to circle around three things: Dude! You look so good! (muscles or gym routine). Dude, that’s incredible! (muscles, gym routine or facial hair). Man, you really are an inspiration! (muscles, gym routine, macros or facial hair). Because when you’re a bro or a dude or a man or a buddy the interactions trickle down to the superficial markers of what makes a man. Anything outside of this, like, say feelings or life or how you’re struggling (god forbid) with your transition or testosterone or being trans is not spoken about. 
This has left me feeling exceedingly like a failure. As if I’m doing this all wrong. Because nobody else speaks about their struggles (apart from @transindustry, @samdylanfinch, @butchofwands, @becoming_heath and @king_caviar), I feel that by blogging about the emotional and physical difficulties I experience that I am having the worst transition ever and that I’ve missed the memo on How To Have a Happy and Successful Transition. 

And partly this sense of failure is due to the incredible pressure I feel to be good at this. This transition. This being transgender thing. Because of the handful of people who believe this isn’t the right path for me and who are waiting for me to wave the white flag. Because of the larger number of people who are rooting for me because I represent living my truth no matter the cost. Because part of me, no matter how much I know it’s just not plausible, expects testosterone to be a magic bullet that ‘fixes’ everything. Yeah… Just like that anti-depressant or this anti-depressant or this therapist or exercise or this or that religion or spirituality or atheism fixes everything… Why do I, no… why do we expect things to be magic bullets that make everything better? Who told us that living authentically would bypass the truth that life is hard?

So I remember that struggling is ok and to be expected and is ok, and I remind myself that the dudes and bros and guys are also struggling and that beneath the self-censorship there is a need to connect on an emotional level and beyond the muscles, gym routines, macros and facial hair. I just wish masculinity would give itself a fucking break sometimes. And then I thank my femininity for allowing me to be strong enough to do that. And I remind myself that by pointing out #masculinitysofragile I’m calling for a masculinity that embraces vulnerability as strength.


6 thoughts on “Brohugs and other toxic masculinities in the trans community

  1. Ironically male me has always rejected the ‘man, bro, buddy’ monikers but I have been happy with using dude…
    I am privileged in that I do not HAVE to use them but then I suspect male me is not exactly accepted into the macho uber masculine culture that is ‘manliness’… Nice piece. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really appreciated this post! And the link to AJ’s blog – now one of my new faves. I struggle with feeling like I’m doing it wrong too, especially when I’m around my transmasculine/trans man friends, because of that “bro” mentality that I just don’t have but have made use of in order to bond with cis and trans men and masculine folks. And I feel gross and dysphoric whenever I do. I love reading your blog precisely because you talk about ALL the aspects of transition, not just the positive ones. Love this: “I just wish masculinity would give itself a fucking break sometimes. And then I thank my femininity for allowing me to be strong enough to do that.”

    Liked by 1 person

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