Observations of a Young Man / Adam Takar
I hate getting a haircut. I always have. And I’ve never really known why. But as I entered today, bracing myself for the traditional question from the barber, ‘Which team do you support?’ (in fact, I know nothing about football at all), I thought I had realised why. My hair is not particularly a complex style, yet whenever I go to have my haircut, it is almost never in the style I asked. I realised that I don’t like the barber’s because the style I want is assumed, my individuality is ignored and instead I leave, without fail, with the same short sides and stuck-up front that most men seem to have. I realised that they assumed my gender and instantly passed a judgement based on what was conventionally masculine. I realised that they cut my hair to have no frills, no quirks, no peculiarities – just to be clean-cut and functional like a gentleman.
Except, that is not what I am, that is not who I am.
I have always found masculinity (and gender in general) hard to pin down exactly. What is masculinity, and what is femininity? And when you do define them, is that really how you see yourself? Notice how other genders are ignored? How are they defined? It is often in these moments that I turn to write in a journal in the early hours of the morning, trying to figure out the anomie (my favourite word) I feel upon returning home from the liberal bubble of my Oxford college.
The following, therefore, is a collection of entries from my journal, written over the past year, in which I have explored my own anomie, and perhaps where it might stem from. I don’t limit myself on gender either; in fact, I have created characters, who, whilst not always identifying as a cis and gay male like myself, nevertheless occupy a space in how I see my world. What I have found, though, is that the two recurrent characters are Tobias, a gay cis-male, and Lea, a queer cis-female.
I find it hard to gender my characters; the very concept of gender, and particularly masculinity and femininity are so concretely ingrained in our society that, when I see them in everyday life, I find it difficult to see how they fit in as their genders. They don’t conform to ‘normal’ and when they think about it, ‘normal’ is equally as hard to pin down as ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ and ‘transgender’. They wonder if they really belong to their gender at all. The genders appear as a set of expectations rather than a state of being.
His Conversation and His Silence
I love and I am. The world has yet to accept that love, now, has a restricted fluidity. Why do we campaign for freedom, yet do not allow the expression of millions in everyday life as they are the very embodiment of individuality and freedom?
When I, Tobias, was with him, I loved his silence, now that he is gone, all I can hear is the truth and deception behind his conversation.
Now it is he who inhibits himself through his silence, which only serves to make him withdraw into himself. He strives actively to separate a truth of the self from the ‘truth’ laid down in the blind days of his youth; that the man will find his woman. What he has been taught is thrown into doubt, thus self-degradation and fear now rule over his speech, his gait, his body image, his demeanour, his relationships, his love, his lust; his fear is exactly that which constitutes what others believe to be normality. Being both aware and unaware of this, one of the greatest betrayals of our society is laid bare: Can you truly be authentically yourself when the weight of social convention is so great?
The answer is simple, yet the cries of outrage from those who must make them are, for the main part, silent because the conversation does not want to be heard.
“Your comfort is my silence.” – Barbara Kruger
By contrast the girl garnered much undesired attention. She was, for all intents and purposes, the very embodiment of the ideology which had grown up to love and into which to assimilate; that she must become the woman the world wants her to be. However, she found herself confessing that the societal conformity which she had been conditioned to adhere to was unexpectedly bland, and not at all representative of her.
It could be said that the conditioning that she, like all others, experienced in her youth gave her that sense of inadequacy, of disappointment with herself, as if subliminally she was aware that how she was becoming a woman was in fact not at all as it should be. She was almost a woman because to the eyes of her world she could not be; put bluntly, her true self could never be accepted at this moment, because it was not a self that conformed. Conformity thus governed her everyday conscience but its ramifications were not quite visible yet.
At heart, the girl is a rebel, or, more likely, just being a woman, and her name is Lea. What is true and evident from her masquerade is that she is not quite a liberated woman. And she is only just beginning to comprehend fully what ‘Femininity’ really is in this world.
The Sculpture – A Response to a Woman seen in a Nightclub
It was sorrowful that the girl felt she must act in such a way: put on a nice dress or outfit, artificially tan her skin, put on a nice pair of heels, do her hair, meet up with her ‘girls’, and latch on to her boyfriend’s arm as if he were some piece of wreckage onto which she clung so as not to vanish beneath the waters of true authenticity and total independence. The girl believed she was being authentic, being a strong and independent woman for being so external, yet she had been fooled fundamentally by the world she lived in. She had suddenly – perhaps some time in her adolescence – realised that in order to be valued and admired as a woman, she must wallow in a desire to be seductive; ultimately sex with men is what gave her her feminine validation.
Why should this be so? A woman can love whomever of whatever gender she likes, but there is a flaw. If the young woman is never educated about the true nature of patriarchy then why wouldn’t she be under the impression that the liberated woman must constantly allure the heterosexual male gaze? In being freed it seems she wishes, without realising, to use her subservience ultimately as a means to control men.
She was playing the sculpture, who would forever be admired for her delicacy and her elegance, the flawlessness and the curvature of her figure, creating a standard that would be passed down and that without education, would never change.
It was devastating; he wondered if he could even write at all. What he wanted, all he wanted, was to write so that others could learn. He wanted others to feel as he had done, to understand as he did, to realise that there must be a change in mentality. He saw the world as overcome with a subtle and barely visible injustice: why should the gay, the lesbian and also those between and non-binary, be forgotten, be treated by the poster, the placard, the film, the advert, the political broadcast as if they were rare and indeed almost non-existent.
Never underestimate the danger in portraying the family. Is the family really quite as you imagine it? Do you imagine the matriarch and/or the patriarch, the son and the daughter, the son-in-law with the daughter, and the daughter-in-law with the son? Think! You know this is not the rule! You know that this is not everyone! Why pretend it is? What have you to fear by being realistic?
Therefore, he feared for his writing. Was it too much? Was it too self-indulgent? Was it interesting? Who even cared? Would the people who most needed to learn ever learn at all? There was a vast and violent sea of questions in his mind which may never be answered. He wanted people to see, to understand their world more clearly, because, in the end he believed that they could change if they had the conversations they so desperately needed.
He wondered where the ignorance he saw in those around him had sprung from. Within him, his own ignorance and lowered self-esteem had come from the classroom itself. How harmful it is to educate children on sex and gender through the macho, cis-male, heteronormative gaze as he had experienced. Be careful of the certainty of the phrase, “When you meet a girl,” for you are actively distorting and propagating the expectations that run in tandem with gender, no matter what kind.
Acknowledge. All he wanted was to be acknowledged, and for those who were helplessly ignorant, and unaware of it, to acknowledge him.
It is a human.
It jumped into the lake and, for the first time in its life, it and the body were both united and separate the soul was drifting separately from the entity of the body on the water.
Words and Photographs from Adam Takar