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Hi,

I'm having a hard time finding a place with people. I'm a male, but far from being a traditional male. I've actually taken several quizzes, both official and unofficial, to test my "mental gender" and I am about 90% feminine mentally. I don't know what to do about this, because I want to be like other guys. I feel like an outcast because I know nothing about sports or cars (nor do I want to), I don't drink or smoke and I prefer home design, art, shopping, etc... as fun activities and topics.

However, at the same time I'm very distanced with girls because most of them don't want to hang out with some guy that isn't up to their "standard." I don't think I have low-self esteem, but I do realize I'm far from being good looking and I know it is because of genes from my father. I'm only 20 but I already look like I'm in my late twenties, I'm only 5'6" tall and I have facial physically unattractive features (big forehead, big nose, weak chin, etc..). Girls my age don't really want to be around me because of these aspects and I've also had girls call me the ugliest guy they've ever seen in their whole life on their livejournals, behind my back and in clubs.

I don't know what to do, because I do have a handful of friends... all of which I am close to, but feel distant mentally from them because they are "typical guys" and want to do things I don't really want to do. The thing that makes it even worse is a lot of the girls I've known in both highschool and college weren't even very feminine like I am, most are very masculine.. even more so then some men.

Sometimes I can't help but think that girls just don't care about guys who aren't good looking... like they see guys like us as being "less" human. I've had many experiences that would suggest this, not just by me but by guys I know who are ugly and are also automatically treated bad by women. Some girls don't even seem to realize they have a deep double standard. At least the guys I've known act equally nice to average Jane's and I've never seen guys act cold or even refuse a non-attractive girl.

I'm hoping I'm wrong about girls. I'm hoping girls are a lot more caring than I've seen in the last five to eight years of my life throughout my teenage and young adult years. In books and on television girls/women seem so much different then the ones I see in real life. Fictional girls seem caring whereas the girls I've known seem just as bad as men or worse. I don't have specific question of all of this except asking if you were in my position what would you do? Please reply.

-Brian

Dear Brian --

I think that there are many people who find themselves in a situation similar to yours -- not masculine enough for the guys and not feminine enough for the girls.

The comforting news is that some of it is age -- I feel like I know a lot of people who really struggled with this when they were in their teens and early twenties, but by their late twenties people gain more confidence in who they are and therefore stop making these strict binary distinctions. I have talked to many men who particularly feel conflicted because they are aware of the punishing aspects of not be masculine, but yet neither feel strong enough to reject it or unable to naturally embrace it.

The equivalent on the female side is the number of women who are naturally drawn to the more sensitive men -- the ones they want to be friends with rather than date -- but they feel like they have to make a more stereotypical choice and choice a guy who is more status quo. There is actually a fairly funny Budweiser ad that sums this up. There is this really nice guy and all the girls love talking to him, then his asshole friend walks into the bar -- he's rude to him and to the girls -- but that doesn't matter -- they all want his number. I don't know what the psychology is behind that for women -- a fear that they will be defeminized if the man they are with isn't hyper-masculine.

Women talk about this a lot -- why can't they just date the nice guy? In the end, however, I would say that women do choose the nice guy, though it make take them years to come to this conclusion. I know it's not comforting to hear -- just wait -- but I do believe that time and maturity of the part of others will begin to solve your dilemma. I also think that you are probably beyond your years in thinking about this -- I know that many people talk about trying on different identities before they find one that fits. I think that what you are doing is a version of that -- and you will probably get an answer before most others.

There is also an entire transgender movement -- one that rejects the entire notion that there are only two genders. Perhaps some of what you are struggling with fits into that explanation. There are several groups -- national and local -- that are tackling it -- most are through existing gay and lesbian groups -- which is odd since gender and sexuality aren't mutually exclusive.

I hope that helps -- good luck,

- Amy