A friend recently said that being trans doesn't exempt you from misogyny. That embracing masculinity also means embracing the hard work that comes with undoing the toxic elements as well. I absolutely agree and am so grateful to them for these simple, yet poignant words. They gave voice to a process my own behavior pushes me into: I identify as transmasculine and, though a staunch feminist, I, too, have to deal with toxic masculinity in myself! It's such a shocker!
When I first realized who I really am--genderqueer and transmasculine--and got into the experience of letting my masculine self out, I went through a phase of being explicitly uncommunicative, terse, uncompassionate, hard and closed off--all stereotypically male behaviors. To be honest, I especially enjoyed the freedom and simplicity of no longer having to explain myself.
My poor partner. He was patient, as he always is, but it sucked for him, as he put it. He compassionately reminded me of all the work he had done to eliminate his own toxicity in our relationship LONG before I discovered that I'm nonbinary/transmasculine.
Though I have taken his words to heart, I frequently bristle at having to do emotional labor to a degree I did not when I still thought of myself as a woman (however poorly performed). Perhaps, because as an empath I did so much heavy lifting for 40 years, a part of me is just sick and tired of it. Thankfully, in my relationship with my partner, we share the labor. And when I feel like it should be OK for me to be a dick or, absurdly, that it isn't fair that I don't get to be the dick for a change after decades of being on the receiving end of toxic masculinity, I remember how much I appreciate that he did the hard work of replacing his own toxic behavior, what little there was of it.
It's confusing and challenging to navigate transmasculinity but not imitate the toxic behavior of many cis men. As my transmasculinity comes more into the foreground, I sometimes unconsciously behave in toxic ways by being less compassionate, tender, kind, and comforting than I used to be.
And yet, a spiritual love for all that is living is more defining of me than my gender journey. These days, masculinity, as expressed in our culture, and my deeply seated spiritual imperative to be an agent of healing vie with each other for primacy. The latter takes the win 99% of the time, but these wins are not without cost. A cost that has to do with understanding who I am. A cost that I have yet to fathom.