Bending the expectations of masculinity for the sake of free expression of the self
Recently I joined a very special club, formed by some of the most influential young male celebrities in the planet, including Harry Styles, Machine Gun Kelly, Ansel Elgort and my personal favorite Lil Nas X. And I’m not talking about a multimillionaire contract with Universal or the list for the Met Gala. I’m talking bout the nail polishing group.
When I was a kid, my dad told me three groups of people would paint their nails in color: women, gothics and trans people. All of which were outcasts in society, he would say. And yet, I’ve always found it fascinating. But as with many of my life choices in the past, I never even tried it, so I wouldn’t embarace my dad. Among those decisions, being openly gay and pursuing a life as an artist were some of the most crucial ones. Well, I’m almost twenty-seven now, and just came out to my parents officially two years ago, pretty recently. And even so, I got to hear some of my dad’s worst remarks around three weeks ago. Those remarks includes his desire that I would be more likely in the closet about being gay, in a way that, his words, “people would not know just by looking at me”. That’s the opposite direction I’m taking.
Even though, society has attached unfair stigmas to men who wear nail polish. People tend to jump to conclusions when they see a man with painted nails, assuming that they are either gay or transgender — conjectures that are only offensive in that neither gender identity nor sexual orientation can be indicated based on appearance and personal aesthetic tastes.
I’m a cisgender gay man. Even if I am gender conformed, my people comes in all shapes, colors and pride. In this past few months, I’ve been relating a lot more to the gay community around me. I’ve been listening to people’s stories. Their struggles and successes. Their abilities and miss opportunities. Their oppression, but also their freedom. Being a cis white man in Brazil of all places gives me some leverage over my peers who represents a minority that’s even stronger in their fight. Then why, being a privileged man in society, wouldn’t I join the party to bend the expectations of masculinity in our patriarchal society for the sake of free expression of someone’s identity?
Why wouldn’t I? Specially if it’s possible for me to express my true self through it.
What is interesting though is that nail polishing for cis men is slowly breaking as a tabu. It’s perfectly fine that a man would have their nails done in a colorful fashion way. Not only that, it does represent a very important twist on what it means to be a man, every single time a guy like me and many others comes up with a new way to embody creativity and fluidity.
Gender conforming norms are falling apart in society, and there’s a reason why. The new generation of young adults want to have the freedom to express their ideas and convictions on how to live life in an harmonic, respectful and inclusive way. And that’s where example comes in handy. When I joked about joining a celebrity club it’s not only because they do polish their nails, but also because they represent this catharsis, the change we all long to see but only some will take action. Sometimes a small thing like a set of colorful nails on a boy or a girl who doesn’t want to wear extremely tight clothes as society tends to expect, can reek havoc in a very life altering way.
But don’t fool yourself. I’m not doing it to fight about the topic forever, because dispite what you think, the “gay agenda” is not about sassy comments, it’s about being able to live a full life, expressing love, diversity and authenticity as it is rightful, while presenting a beautiful form of artistic expression.
By expressing identity publicly and proud, one is able to cause disruption in the status quo, questioning normality and its lack of care for inclusion and its many forms.