Boys Like Flowers Too

*Disclaimer: I need to emphasise that this is my own story and experiences. I don’t want to see this used to campaign against the rights and lives of trans and non-binary people. Trans and non-binary rights are human rights; the right to self-expression, to self-creation, and most importantly, the right to personal safety.

I grew up in an extremely conservative Christian household. My family was heavily involved with the Church that was attached to the school I attended for 16 years. Every part of my life was bathed in the blood of Christ and his doctrine, from my baptism at age eight to my first sharing of testimony at age thirteen. My life revolved around the Church, around biblical manhood, around becoming a loving husband and disciple of Christ.

This was what my life looked like at the surface at least.

Underneath, I realised that I was gay around the age of ten. This started me on a long journey of delving into what my faith meant to me personally, including whether I even had a faith at all. Most important to this story is that it made me start to deeply analyse everything around me, particularly in the sphere of gender.

This was when my disillusionment with manhood, or manhood as I was taught, began. It was when I first became cognisant of the verbal and emotional abuse inflicted on me by the male figures in my life, particularly from within the Church. It was when I fully noticed that weekly youth sessions, held divided by sex of course, featured the girls going off to have meaningful conversations about their faith and personal lives, while the boys went off to play basketball for the remaining forty minutes. 

When I stopped and looked around at the different ‘role models’ present in my life, I not iced that all the men were angry, childish, and abusive, while the women were understanding, compassionate, and, in my eyes at least, truly powerful. I grew to despise being born a male, that I might be grouped with these neanderthals, forced to play basketball and only allow my emotions to show in outbursts of rage and aggression. I grew to see men as weak, allowing their emotions to overwhelm and control them. I hated being a man.

I worked to distance myself from manhood. I never attended the annual men’s camp as I grew up. I avoided using men’s bathrooms and changing rooms where possible. I distanced myself from everything with what men were shown to be to me.

One of my old youth group leaders wrote me a letter at the end of the year that I was in his group. “This is our prayer for you,” the letter declared, “You are a masculine man! May God strengthen your vision of who you are.”

When I came to Monash my vision of who I am did indeed strengthen. Whether it was through the providence of Jesus Christ of Nazareth or just the simple fact of being in a new environment is up for debate. Being exposed to so many people from diverse backgrounds did particularly strengthen my own view of myself and where I stood in the wider world.

For a time, before I entered Monash, I considered that I may be a transgender woman, so far removed from my birth gender did I feel. Being exposed to many different forms of masculinity, particularly of the healthy, non-stereotypical variety, challenged this for me though. While I no longer consider identifying as a trans-woman (instead preferring the non-label of non-binary), I no longer feel repulsed by men and being a man at an emotional level. 

I learnt that there was more to being a man than playing basketball and punching things, as obvious as that may sound. I no longer see men as the weaker of the binary sexes. I’ve seen men be as strong as the women I grew up around, as confident in their identity, as healthy in their emotional expressions. 

Now I have healthy role models in my life of all genders and sexes. Now I don’t feel that the body I was born into is something to despise and wish so desperately to escape. Now I enjoy going on boys’ trips. Now I know that boys can like flowers too.

John Sopar

The author John Sopar

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