I didn’t realize how much men policed other men until I came out as male. And once men started policing me, then I really started to police myself. I stopped sitting with my legs crossed because my brother-in-law told me, “Guys don’t sit that way.” 

I changed the way I waved hello after a male friend of mine told me I waved “gay.” My brother made fun of my swim shorts for being too short. I think all these cisgender men were telling me these things because they were teaching me how to be a man. 

But, really, it just made me neurotic about all of my actions. I started policing myself incessantly. It was emotionally exhausting to constantly be thinking about my every move. 

Then I started to question my gender all over again. If sitting with my legs crossed or waving “gay” came naturally to me, does that mean I’m not really a guy? But then I remembered that I was socialized female for 24 years. It would take time for “manly” things to come naturally to me. And even if they didn’t or never did, I wasn’t any less male for it. I’m a guy because I say I am, no matter how I sit or how short my shorts are. 

I actually feel bad for many cisgender, straight men that feel so boxed in by the rules society set forth for their gender that they can’t wear shorts above the knee or pink socks without their very sex being called into question. 

When my grandmother passed away, I wrote a eulogy for her with input from my siblings. When I asked my brother what he thought of it, he said he didn’t know if I should mention my pink socks. When my grandmother was alive, she gave us socks for every holiday - Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, etc. 

 One of those socks was pink with frogs on them. I believe it was a Valentine’s Day pair. She gifted them to me when I was still identifying as female. In the eulogy, I wrote about this tradition my grandmother had and how I owned a pair of pink socks with frogs on them as a gift from her. What my brother is really trying to tell me when he says I shouldn’t mention the pink socks is that he could be embarrassed by me, embarrassed for me, trying to protect me from ridicule, or that he’s trying to teach me how to be a man by telling me what society deems is or is not appropriate for someone of my age and gender. 

I’m not mad at these guys, though. They live in a world which has rigid rules for men and how they should express their masculinity. Besides, growth is possible. 

For our wedding, my wife and I wanted my three nieces and one nephew involved. When we asked my oldest niece to be the ringbearer, my 6-year-old niece said she also wanted to throw flowers like the rest of her siblings and her cousin. So we let her be both a ring bearer and a flowerkid. When we told my brother that his son would be a flowerkid along with his female cousin and sister and we showed him the outfit we wanted my nephew to wear (burgundy shirt, blue pants, suspenders and a bow tie), he said, “Well we do love the outfit and I can’t say it’s not out of my comfort zone, but usually stepping out of your comfort zone is an opportunity to grow. So we’ll embrace it. And he’ll look too cute not to do it.” 

 Progress, not perfection.