Growing up, I struggled to reconcile the idea of masculinity I saw in culture with my own experience, and my experience of important men in my life. I tended to describe myself as a kind of “off-white”—a man, but not the most masculine man. Straight, but not, like, super straight.
I was more emotional, more sensitive, more gentle, more relationship oriented and cooperative than the stereotype. So were a lot of the other men I was close to.
I didn’t have a lot of places where I felt comfortable talking about these sorts of issues. And while I was able to have good one-on-one conversations with some male friends, there’s something special in feeling a sense of communal connection and understanding.
Around this time last year, I decided to start a men’s group.
I made a short list of friends of mine that I thought would be interested, and sent out an email. Six of them said they were interested, so we scheduled an initial meeting, and I made a mailing list for coordinating.
In our first meeting, we went around and shared what we were hoping to get out of the group, and I set one key expectation: regular attendance. We decided to meet for 90 minutes every two weeks; we start each week by going around and sharing what happened in the last two weeks, and then we move to an open-ended discussion.
The experience has been wonderful—I feel closer to each of the other men in the group, and I’ve shared parts of myself that I usually don’t with other men, and it’s become a regular habit of reflection, connection, community, and growth.