It’s odd how our childhood memories pop-up and invade our thoughts when we least expect it. For the last few weeks, I have been trying to figure out what it means to be a real man. As an African-American gay man the definition has changed and has taken on different meanings over the years.
My first definition of a man began when I was very young. I imagine I was about 7 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. My grandmother pulled me aside to talk to me about a close friend of hers. She respected and admired this person. He was a nice man. However, when you’re 7 years old what do you really know. My grandmother spoke highly of him. However, it’s when she made it a point to mention that he was gay that I began to seek the answer to the question, what makes a man a man. It was in the moment she told me the reason she liked him. She said it was because he was a man first but with different desires. How profound!
Recently I have begun to re-examine my own definition of a man because I have been on a journey to be a better person. But when I think about it more closely, I’ve been working on becoming a better man.
Growing up without a father figure around, I believe it’s been a challenge to figure it out until I started to look beyond the superficial definition of a man. Through my own personal search and re-examination, I believe my grandmother was right; a real man can not be defined simply by his desires.
A real man is someone who is confident enough to cry, is honest, is the protector of loved ones, believes in the truth, will come to the aid of those in need, but most importantly is not afraid to say two valuable life statements, “I Love You” and “I am Sorry…I was Wrong.” These are what truly defines the essence of manhood.