Story by Manas Anand
Why isn’t crying the most significant emotion? In my understanding, crying is more than just a feeling. It symbolizes living, just like our heart beating or our lungs compressing. An infant marks their journey of life not with smiles but tears. And in these tears, we define living. So isn’t this life?
From a young age, I had to fit my little feet in my father’s shoes. I had to be the man of my family. I was expected to be the ideal masculine persona who was capable enough to fill in a void. Even before I could discover my own likes, preferences and choices, I already had my family and society dictating them for me. My mother, my paternal family and my cousins kept on burdening me with their expectations. I started to live my life in accordance to them.
‘Why are you so feminine?’, ‘Why don’t you play sports?’, ‘Why aren’t you buffed up like a man?’ were few of the questions I grew up with. I was teased and verbally abused in school because I wasn’t like the other boys. My self-esteem plummeted.
Nobody ever asked me if I even liked sports. Nobody ever asked me if I liked the color blue. As though my own preferences were obsolete if they didn’t fit into the definition of a man. I was living for others, not myself. I was doing all that made me unhappy. I was trying so hard to fit in at school and in my own family. But nobody asked me if I wanted to be the man that they wanted me to be. I pretended to be masculine to fit into their standards.
Years and years of lying to myself left me numb. I was so lost. I felt alienated and alone. I just wanted to live up to what was expected of me. I hoped that it would make me happy. But it did not. I was stuck in the vicious cycle of depression and anxiety.
I reached a point where I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I felt tears roll down my cheek and all I could do was feel elated deep inside. The tears made me feel alive! Dwindling with tears, I felt thankful and realized that my tears symbolized my life. Only when I let go of this internal suppression, I felt a sense of relief and comfort. I smiled once again.
It was one of my first steps outside of the box in which I had been trying to fit myself. I finally felt some of the burden just disappear. This moment kind of sparked a desire in me to finally be true to myself. I no longer wanted to lie to myself and deprive myself of happiness. I wanted to be alive.
I gradually started to accept who I am and redefined masculinity on my own terms. I discovered my preferences and my own personality. With the help of therapy and reliable friends, my mental health improved drastically. I was finally comfortable with accepting myself and I became the version of a man that I truly wanted to be. I finally understood that masculinity and femininity are relative, unique for each one of us. It’s something our society can’t dictate.
Today, I am proud to embrace who I really am. I am queer and I am as much of man as anyone else. I define myself, not societal constraints.