Guest Post: Ryan Liberty Megan on Toxic Masculinity
I'm a very lucky person who had great parents. They divorced early because my father was a Vietnam vet and police officer, and my mother is a radical feminist lesbian. How they ever hooked up, I don't know, but that's why my middle name is Liberty.
Even my father, who was a police officer and a Vietnam vet, was not macho. He wasn't macho at all. I'm blessed that he wasn't macho. Somehow this lovely, beautiful, passive man decided to become a cop and a guy that went to war. How? Why? I don't know. But I know that I was not raised by toxic masculinity.
I grew up surrounded by it because my brothers were and my friends were. But my parents worked which helped a lot. And you know, maybe it helps that I'm bisexual.
Most of my friends growing up were women and girls. I always felt more comfortable, more trusted and trusting of women.
I find masculinity in general, and how it’s defined by culture writ large, to be bullshit. how I value presenting myself as a cisgender, whatever. It's completely alien and different from most men that I know to the point that I identify as a man, but I don't enjoy it. Because it doesn't mean to me what it means to other people, right? And I hate that it's limiting. It's ugly. It's violent.
I want masculinity to be what my dad was: just loving, providing, caring, nurturing. I know that's reflected in my music, rejecting any lurch towards macho.
As a parent, you start to see things that your kids are doing, that you yourself have had to cope with and fight through.
But in my case it goes deeper than that: I have to observe the traits that I gave my son being expressed while also dealing with those same problems, inhibiting my ability to address those same traits that I gave him and knowing it, and being somewhat of a prisoner to it.
Knowing that in one aspect I can relate to him in ways that no one else can, and I've been able to help him in ways that no one else can. But on the other hand, it affects him in other ways - I'm a scatterbrained guy that needs reminders, that has trouble explaining things.
Yet I still have general optimism (for the time being) in the general trajectory of humanity, as much as it's been challenged in the last 5 - 6 years. And as cheesy and cliché as it sounds, I have hope in kids.
It was very, very important to me to have a feminine perspective on this album. I knew that my perspective alone in this world could not produce quality music. I needed to bring in other perspectives. To shine their lights on everything that I'm doing in order for it to glow properly.
I can't glow by myself. I need lights around me. I'm not gonna use the same fucking light over and over again.
I'm a parent raising a kid. Raising a son in this culture and trying to make him into a good person or a good man, whatever that means, is really hard. Because he comes home every day full of this “Run like a girl, hit like a girl, oh, that's for girls, that's girls things,’ you know, or being told by a school dress code that what girls wear could be distracting to you, and all this shit that I have to deprogram and destigmatize out of them.
I scoff at masculinity. Generally speaking, other than the fact that I'm kind of lazy, so I don't shave very often, so it looks somewhat manly that way, I guess. But
My dad hit me once. He had been searching for me all day, and I was 8 years old, out looking for frogs. I was 6 hours late. and he thought something had happened to me. When he finally found me he gave me a smack, and I was so shocked because he'd never spanked me or anything before, and he immediately started crying. He said, ‘I don't regret that, but I'll never do it again.’
And it was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever seen, you know. Even at that time, I have so much empathy for that, to be in that situation, to feel that urge of ‘this is what I'm supposed to do here.’ But no, it's not wrong. And finding virtues and bucking what you're supposed to do as a man. and what you're not supposed to do as a man is something that's been modeled for me from an early age by both my mother and my father. And they both gave me half of what it means to be a good human, and I focus on that.
I have no time or energy to focus on what being a good man means.
And he was a cop, so I'm sure that was all he was thinking about, just the worst possible shit. He was always paranoid about people that he arrested coming to get me and doing something, which really, I could understand.
I mean, I could write a book on my feelings about my father as a police officer. Let me tell you, I've got complicated feelings.
Ryan Liberty Megan has just released his latest album 'El Songo'. Listen below