What is masculinity? Or, What is a boy?

This week’s guest contributor, Tim, writes eloquently about the impact of gender and discrimination; inviting us to think about “societal norms”.

What is masculinity? Or, what is a boy?

If we go simply by genitalia, the answer is clear. So, it seems, if we listen to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, peddlers of original sin, purgatory and the sale of Indulgences, is religion. Boy’s genitals, you are a boy, Girl’s? You are a girl.

It ain’t necessarily so.

If we go by toys, well, frankly, give me a break. Boys and girls have teddy bears (dolls), boys have (had?) Action Man (dolls), girls have dolls.

Ok, that fails.

Ah, boys do manly things, girls do womanly things. Anyone else old enough to remember Watch with Mother and The Woodentops at the end of each episode? “And there we must leave them. Willy Woodentop doing manly things with Daddy Woodentop, and Jenny doing womanly tasks with Mummy Woodentop.” I preferred The Biggest Spotty Dog You Ever Did See.

Maybe it’s down to nurture, then?

She Who Must Be Obeyed used to teach primary school at Key Stage 1. One little lad, whom we will call Peter, when asked by the other boys to come and play football, often said “No, I’m being a fairy!” And no-one minded. His parents, very proper African accountants, sent him to school in Mary Jane shoes and frilly lacy socks, yet were absolutely clear that he was a boy.

I’m confused, too.

And the three of you who said “Well, he must be a fairy then!” and felt self righteous, you three need to stop giggling in corners and wake up.


Why? Because being a boy, being a man, is some and all and none of these.


Men dominate fine dining as chefs. Women are catching up. Each is as good as the other, each is as good to work for or as bad, as gentle and as bitchy. Cooking at home seems to be the woman’s job.

Wait. It must be to do with Wedding Tackle, surely? The man has the penis, the woman the vagina, they mate and she gives birth.

Biology is straightforward and also complex. At a very simplistic level that is correct. Delve deeper, actually study brains, look at the living brain’s response to various stimuli and you’ll see amazing things. Transgender folk have subtly different brain makeup from Cisgender folk. Nature or nurture? You tell me. I have no idea. Nor, yet, do scientists.


Out of all of this, society has placed norms upon us that we certainly used to have to follow.


Here’s a simple one… Women wear skirts and dresses (yes, and now trousers, but not when I was born). Men wear trousers. But look at the design of the upper thigh and start to wonder why. Male tackle is not designed to be imprisoned in trousers. The Scots have this correct. Female intimate geography is well suited to the trouser. Women have nothing for the tailor to ask “Do you dress to the left or the right, sir?” about. Men do.

So that norm is bizarre.

There is a logic to the old concept than the male hunts, gathers, and so forth and the woman breeds and nurtures. We have felled that logic with the brutal axe of equality. Today’s woman seems to be obliged to work, whether she wants to or not. Today’s man, as ever in history, seems fated to be hunter and gatherer whether the distaff side works or no. What if he truly wishes to be at home nurturing and she is far better suited to a go-getting role at work?

I wonder if you’ve noticed that I have questions but no answers. That’s precisely what you ought to have, too.

I have a question for those whose ideas of male and female are rooted in religion. “If your god never makes a mistake, why are there so many Transgendered folk insisting that they are in the wrong body?”

Don’t give me the facile answer. Think it out. If the deity is real and is infallible, then their being in the wrong body is, surely, not a mistake, but intended by that deity. Instead of stamping in these individuals, made by your deity, treat their very existence with awe, for it proves, surely, that there are more things in existence than your clergy understand.

How should a boy, a man, behave? How should a girl, a woman? Each by being true to their inner selves. Each by hurting no-one else, and not by hurting themselves either. The requirement to conform to societal heteronormative forms of behaviour is in your head.

I don’t mean, Mr Smith should go to work tomorrow in a pretty floral cretonne frock, but you, if you are Mr Smith, should start to learn how to become comfortable in your own skin.

Sometimes that means seeking the ear of a good counsellor.

I haven’t even scratched the surface on this topic. We could go off and discuss heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, pansexuality, any sexuality, and get mired into who does what and with which and to whom. Religion will turn up again, of course it will. And, if you are a member of the Abrahamic religions perhaps a read of a difficult paper by a now deceased and sadly missed friend of mine, Dear David, will start to help with the Leviticus prohibitions. It’s quite technical, but opens eyes.

As I wish I said near the start, you need to open your eyes, ears, mind and heart. What you have known as a certainty all your life about gender roles may not be correct. The question is, do you dare learn more?

To find out more about 13-year-old Tim, his older self has published Queer Me! Halfway between Flying and Crying


About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).