Tuesday, November 25, 2014

4 (of 4) A Very Fixed Idea of What It Means To Be A Man. Why I'll Do Movember Every Year.

Part Four: A Very Fixed Idea of What it Means To Be A Man

This is the fourth post after 'An Inarticulate Bunch of Neanderthals. Sponsor me for Movember'.

If you're reading this, the bottom line is that I want you to sponsor me for Movember. To raise awareness of men's fertility.

After discovering the fertility issue with me, then the fertility issue with Davina and then two rounds of IVF that failed we were somewhat bereft.

It made us reflect on what was important to us. We spoke, discussed, argued and debated.

We also discovered for ourselves that creating a family is what’s important for us. We began to realise that there is no set form to what family is. It can be created in many ways: adoption, surrogacy, and donor eggs/ sperm to name three. Family means many things and we have energy and love to give.

January 2014 then, we began to look into adoption. We attended an information evening, had a call with a social worker and then a visit from one.

All the way through, I felt a certain trepidation and nervousness amongst the couples. But there seemed to be a greater sense of partnership. In beginning to examine adoption, the differences between men and women were less apparent. With fertility treatment it was much more stark.

Was it resignation on the part of men?

As it happened, we didn't choose to start the adoption process: they requested we use contraception for two years as it started. This is to protect the children being adopted. Many come from an already traumatic background and coming into an adopted family - only to be playing second best to a new baby - would likely be too much for them to handle.

And too much for the adopted family to handle.

The request to use contraception and commit to adoption felt like a door slamming on the possibility of conceiving another way.

So, we took our attention off all of it.

Perhaps it was resignation on our part.

Throughout last year, I found myself less and less willing to share with people what I was dealing with. Through this year, it's been the opposite. I've become more and more willing to share, culminating in my participation in Movember.

This year, I also discovered I had a very fixed idea of what it means to be a man.

It was a standard. An ideal.

I had to be strong. I had to be a provider. I had to have chiselled features. A lean body. A rock.


I was meant to be a father.

And I decided that it was unreachable.

Through this year, I've realised all I've done in my life is rebel against that made-up, inherited, 'standard' of masculinity. It's informed so many of my actions: the way I prefer the company of women; the way I find it hard to be around lots of 'traditional' male-macho-nonsense; the way I feel I have to stand out in order to get attention; the way I'm perfectly at home expressing my feelings; the way I don't enjoy participating in competitive sport.

If there was nothing to rebel against, what then?

A new thought presented itself to me: perhaps masculinity could be my ongoing creation.

Growing my moustache has been a reminder of my frustration, sadness, and anger at not demonstrating my masculinity by having children.

The issue is constantly in my face. Literally.

However, there could be a more empowering way to look at it.

Growing my moustache has been a reminder of the possibility of men sharing, communicating and supporting each other.

Perhaps that's what Movember is really about.

A biology teacher called Sam at the school where I teach told me that women learn about the symptoms of testicular cancer and how to spot it.

Because men avoid the issue and don't want to talk about it. The women nag, push and make the appointments.

It's the same with men's mental health.

It's the same with men's fertility.

So please, sponsor me.

Thanks for reading.

Click here for the beginning of the story: Part One: It Doesn't Happen To Us

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