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I have more than a few male patients who have issues about their status in life. Some are ‘stay at home dads’ who are raising the children while their wives work. Some are disabled from physical or mental illnesses; they can’t work or play sports with their son or pals. This sort of sadness is unique to men as they have a problem women do not: they have to “prove” they are a man.

Throughout time men have had to prove their masculinity. They have rituals and tests to show they are ‘real men’. Masculinity is continually questioned and never once and for all settled.When men can’t do traditional things (work, sports, etc.) they feel a deficit and their peers think less of them. In comparison women have never had to prove their womanliness. I don’t mean to say it’s easy being a woman. I mean it’s tough being a man.

Same sex couples have an advantage they have no traditional husband/wife roles, so what each man does is often determined by competency. If Henrik is the better cook while Harold is better at accounting, then Henrik makes dinner while Harold pays the bills. In a straight couple when Joyce is better at mowing the lawn than Joe (who is the wiz in the kitchen) Joe is not usually comfortable in letting Joyce mow the grass while he makes supper. After all, what would Joe’s peers think of him? If there is a flat tire, Joe had better change the tire. Imagine the thoughts of drivers seeing Joyce changing the puncture while her spouse looks on?

Gay men are often ridiculed for not being ‘real men’ but I suspect some of the antipathy is unconscious jealousy of the break from the yoke of custom and convention of being a ‘real man’. It’s no surprise the queers often start something (like ear rings) which is initially despised but later imitated. Gay men are more free of needing to prove themselves and they are less concerned about what other men think or them. I hope in time men become less vain about proving their masculinity and feel more at ease with their interests and merits.

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June 2015
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