“’20 Years Strong’ means Atlanta Black Gay Pride is about more than just a party. It's about expanding the mind for the true meaning of Black Gay Pride; affirmation, advocacy, unity and educatioRead More Read More
A: The date was Thursday, September 27, 2012. I was in Atlanta, a place I called home for 10 years of my life, for a Social Branding & Marketing Conference and to visit family and friends because, as a southerner, the north can wear on a bois’ emotions and sometimes you just need to come home. On this day, I attended the Friends with Benefits Single’s Auction to support a friend that was hosting and because, well, I’m single! And I mean there are fewer things better for a single boi’s beat down emotions than a potential friend with benefits. Right? Right!
While at the event, a gentleman grabbed my eye because of his amazing style. Dude was rockin’ tangerine-colored flat fronts! Now, you know they made me quite happy! At one point during the event, he spoke and shared that his name was Rameses Frederick and mentioned that he was part of a quarterly printed & online magazine called, Urban Socialites. Hmm…I’m urban. I’m a socialite. Let me Google this mag. As it turns out, Urban Socialites focuses on changing the negative stereotypes associated with the LGBT African American Male community and engaging change and conversation on health disparities and other social topics they are affected by. ‘LookaJesus. I had just told the universe that I’d like to make some business connections while on vacay. By degree, I am an Epidemiologist and have worked at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in the Office of Health Disparities. I am also a Social & Cultural Critic and spend a great deal of my time travelling the country challenging norms and stereotypes around issues within communities at large, including LGBTQ communities. This ain’t nobody BUT Jesus. Snap! It seems that this magazine caters to the Black Gay Male perspective. How would my voice fit? I approached Rameses after the event was over and began to engage him in conversation. We discussed the fact that I am a published writer and I noticed that his magazine does not appear to implicitly cater to the broader spectrum of masculinity, including Female Masculinity and Trans Masculine communities (two communities that I represent), and that I would love to speak with him further about how we can merge our two brands…our two voices in a way that would more fully encompass Masculine spectrums. So, I got his card and followed up! Bonus Tip #1: Your destiny is in the follow up. And that is how Urban Socialites met The Ignant Intellectual.
Q: What do you plan to bring to Urban Socialites that may not currently exist?
A: Simply put, I desire bring to the Urban Socialites brand a more expanded view of Masculinity(ies). One that includes Female Masculinities and Trans Masculinities. As a person that identifies as both, I see great value in allowing Male Masculine voices to talk to Female Masculine voices to talk to Trans Masculine voices. Without these conversations, we will reach a glass ceiling and wonder why certain communities are not next to us at the Table of Change.
Q: How do you identify and what do you typically write about?
A: While I do not enjoy divisions like social identifications and political badges, if I must, I will identify as masculine-of-center, female-bodied, gender non-conforming, and/or trans-masculine. In my opinion, the concept of Masculinity is a most amazing one and as a Social & Cultural Critic, my writings (both personal and public) often focus on topics such as Female Masculinity, Challenging Social Norms, specifically around Gender Expression, Queer Thought, and Non-traditional ideas around Trans-gender Identification. Essentially, my goal in writing, performing, hosting, and existing is to deconstruct the many unconscious social constructions that guide our mental processes and ultimately our actions, to influence youth and elders to re-imagine what is and how to push/pull the collective into living up to our full potential. I aim to ‘Un-taboo the Taboo to convey that, “Life really is good enough to be true.” My desire is to bring this type of thought leadership to Urban Socialites. I hope that you all enjoy my contributions.
Q: How did you learn to be masculine? When did you meet your masculinity?
A: As weird as it is for me to think about ‘learning to be masculine’ like it’s some sort of lesson plan in a teacher’s guide, it’s funny you should ask as this question has popped into my head more than once lately. I’ve often pushed it aside because I just didn’t feel like giving thought to it or because I knew that it would require me to delve and dissect and like most, I sometimes run from the reflective work. GASP! Yes, even me…A Social/Cultural Critic running from doing the work. So I finally sat down and thought it through after watching Episode 2 of The Peculiar Kind. And so far (as this thought process is in its infancy), I am realizing that, for once, the absence of a plethora of male role models in my life has actually been an enormous gift. I was raised in a single parent home with my mother. Next door lived my grandmother and uncle. And he was so busy chasing a bottle of Pepto Bismol with a pint of Wild Irish Rose, he hardly had time to notice anything. Sure there were some men at church and a male family member here and there, but like many of us, I had few males in my everyday life (outside of church). In analyzing ‘how I learned to be masculine’, I’ve realized that the absence of males in my life was of great benefit and was key in me meeting my masculinities. For, it allowed me to create versus model. I really have no clue ‘how to be masculine’ in the socially, stereotypically defined way. I am far from hard. My ‘doing gender’ is an amalgam of perhaps television and myself; moreso myself. I’ve always viewed masculinity quite differently than most and I never understood why until recently. A) I don’t view it as a singular concept. I view it, like gender…like sexuality…like race, along a spectrum. Therefore, I prefer it be referred to it in its plural form—masculinities. I recall conflations of and expansions of masculinity described in ways that I just did not connect with. I wondered if it was because I was raised in a single parent home or because I just had never peeled apart the layers of gender presentation/expression in a way that revealed to me just where I learned to ‘be masculine’. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But unlike the crux of most conversations, I felt something positive in my connection with masculinity and its creation and ultimate expression.
I’ve been having these thoughts surrounding the concept of choice and its intersection with being masculine/doing masculinity, I am noticing that in that space, I felt like I had choice. I didn’t have the language to say that then, but at 33, I realize that I’ve pretty much always created my ebb and flow inside and outside of gender. Sure there were moments where I tried to fit in, but they lasted ‘bout as long as a pizza in a boys’ locker room. I think it took me so long to pinpoint this benefit of having limited examples of men in my life because I am human and I am conditioned. And some of that conditioning can be found within the framework of what’s been coined as ‘doing gender’. I knew that I was always ‘weird’ about gender expression. I knew that I never felt much pressure to be like everyone else. But I didn’t know where I got my masculine aura from and how I ‘did’ it. I’m often told that I’m inspiring because I’m very unapologetic in who I am which is humbling. I am glad that I devoted thought to this finally. I am also glad that for once ‘not having a positive male role model’ was actually of benefit. As I am typing I am also seeing that being from a ‘broken home’ has been of benefit as well as it provides me the blank canvas that allows me to ‘create my dream relationship’. I don’t have a (jacked up) blue print by which I’m expected to model. YEAH FOR BROKEN HOMES!!
So it seems that I learned how to be masculine by learning how to be me. By watching my world around me and picking up what works and leaving behind what didn’t. By creating and failing and succeeding and ebbing and flowing and growing.