I kiss your hand…and in kissing your hand I bless myself. (Khalil Gibran)
We’ve all been there. We’ve become emotionally vulnerable to people with too many wounds that couldn’t possibly reciprocate the love we offered. We’ve done the emotional labor for them, held their heads on our laps, paid their rent, went to every music show, attempting to love them, attempting to heal them.
And maybe we’ve done it too. Maybe we fronted when we really wanted to break down and cry. Maybe we let her walk away rather than acknowledge our fuck up. Maybe we’ve even been the one that #hurtbae.
Living under patriarchy, we’ve all have had to navigate how we interact with masculinity. We all hold a level of masculinity, regardless of gender. And although not all masculinity is toxic, it almost always goes unchecked.
Dominican Bruja Princess, Crystal, is a cartoon artist that has created a comic series that we’ve always needed. In “These are My Confessions”, she draws masculine people of color saying vulnerable confessions with poetry by Kahlil Gibran, famous LGBTQ love letters, and her own poetry.By drawing masculine people of color, she also acknowledges fragmented realities the intersection of marginalization creates for masculine people of color. She states, “no matter how assimilated a person of color becomes we, will never access American masculinity or American identity. We will always be Dominican – American, African – American, Asian – American – hyphenated identities!”
Through her comic series, Dominican Bruja Princess provides closure. For you. For them. For us and our collective healing. We can begin to reimagine masculinity.
Because, when the patriarchy demands for hyper-masculinity, she offers refuge.
When the patriarchy demands for stoic men who can’t be open and vulnerable, she offers healing.
When the patriarchy demands for masculine people to deny and make excuses or refuse to talk things out, she offers worship and praise.
When the patriarchy restricts masculine people from confessing their love to their beloved, she offers poetry.
“I hope anyone who identifies as “masculine” finds hope in the intimacy. (( I can feel that you are exhausted – trapped in the silences of masculinity. I see how it circles around your neck, strangling your voice right when your heart threatens to burst from you with love, hurt, insecurity, passion. I am drawing these confessions to light a small flame, send you sacred smoke signals, it is time to dismantle masculinity, I am with you. However you identify, I know in the darkness you have traced the confines of gender, running your fingers around the borderlines keeping us apart. If you need someone to kiss your closed eyes, if you need to place your hand over my heart to steady your shaking body – I am here.We are here to free ourselves together))- Dominican Bruja Princess
How is drawing cartoons of masculine people saying vulnerable things a way to decolonize masculinity?
Hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy mutually construct and reinforce each other. When we try to conform to the norms of the hegemonic masculinity we participate in reinforcing the legitimacy of the patriarchy. So, when we yell, ‘DOWN WITH THE PATRIARCHY’ we also mean ‘DOWN WITH THE NORMS OF MASCULINITY’. These cartoon portraits are my rallying cries. I hope people identify with these confessions and redefine masculinity in their life for themselves.
How is decolonizing masculinity more than just about gender?
My approach for the recalling of masculinity as we know it (forced and conditioned to know it) is to depict the more nuanced and complex experiences of masculine identified people of color. When I am drawing a (masculine identified) Dominican, he is privileged in his relation to women and other subordinated groups but it’s important to note how being a man of color, gay, working class, poor, or differently abled, creates intersecting obstacles to accessing the full range of male privilege. And I’m definitely not ignoring the privilege of those that align with or identify as having a “masculine identity”. But I wanted to focus on the complex intersection of privilege and marginalization of being a masculine identified person of color.
These are my confessions Pt 2. : For so long I've dreamed of the possibility of you, of us – that I became frozen in my own fantasy. Years passed like this. // "There has to be at some point in a man's life a time when he will trust where love takes him, where he fears more being trapped in some dry cracked riverbed of a psyche than being out in much but uncharted territory" #regret #unrequitedlove #wounded #exiled #love #confessions
What advice would you give to masculine people that are struggling with the confines gender can present?
The bottom line is this: give up. Yes give it the fuck up; it is impossible for Dominican-Americans in the U.S. to consolidate their manhood. It’s an impossible toxic ideal and if we keep trying we will be stuck in a process of perpetual unattainable assimilation. No matter how assimilated a person of color becomes we, will never access American masculinity or American identity. We will always be Dominican – American, African – American, Asian – American – hyphenated identities!
And even when you go back to DR or “home” you still can’t access Dominican masculinity either. You always have to use a qualifier like “de Nueva York” or “Americano”. The masculinities of people of color are in a constant state of flux due to the intersection of their transnational identity in relation to the overarching hegemonic masculinity. We can’t fit the ideal of the American cowboy man’s man or the Rico Suave macho. Its unnatural for us to try to consolidate our manhood/masculinity at all when we were always meant to exist fluidly.
Fuck the unitary subject of western ideology. That is not how we operate. We aren’t suffering because our gender identity never seems completely formed; we are suffering because our gender identities have never been solid, unitary, and fixable. We pick up our identities from place to space and try to shove it in the appropriate box, pero nunca will you fit the bill. Nunca will you be the hombre perfecto because recuerda que the hegemonic masculinity was created to legitimize your subordination.
These are my confessions Pt. 3 : I'm tired of having to perform hyper-masculinity to conform to the concept of what a man is or isn't supposed to be. At times I lose myself in the charade. But that's just it, I'll only ever be a shitty pantomime of a "man". And even when I'm really good at pretending I'm afraid of it becoming so normalized I lose the person I really am. #confessions #masculinity #gender #exiled
Why is the poetry of Kahlil Gibran an integral part of this cartoon series? Why do you use your own poetry as well?
So far I have used Gibran’s love letters, quotes from famous LGBTQ love letters, my own poetry and asked people to contribute confessions as well. I have all my drawings stacked up together and as I draw more and more I feel like the portraits themselves are sharing love letters to each other…Like this portrait is telling that portrait “you are my star” or “I worship you” and it’s this big conversation between and within masculinity. These masculine identified people loving each other and healing each other is so beautiful to me.
How else can we dismantle masculinity?
I don’t have an answer to this question but I would like to share some books that have informed my understanding of gender. I like to be honest and say I didn’t just wake up like “Aha! Hegemonic masculinity! Blah blah blah this theory and that theory” but I had this feeling and I followed it to these books/articles. They all helped me articulate what I didn’t have words for before.
Anzaldúa, G. E. (1999). Borderlands/la frontera: The new mestiza. (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.
Barvosa, Edwina. Wealth of Selves: Multiple Identities, Mestiza Consciousness, and the Subject of Politics. College Station: Texas A & M UP, 2008. Print.
Cornwall, A., & Lindisfarne, N. (1994). Dislocating masculinity: Comparative ethnographies. Taylor and Francis.
Díaz, J. (2012). This is how you lose her. New York: Riverhead Books.
Hurtado, A., & Sinha, M. (2008). More than men: Latino feminist masculinities and intersectionality. Sex Roles, 59(5-6), 337-349. doi:10.1007/s11199-008-9405-7
Judith Butler. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.
Levitt, Peggy. The Transnational Villagers. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001. Print.
Moraga, C., & Anzaldúa, G. (1983). This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color. (2nd ed.). New York: Women of Color Press.
Park, J. E. S. (2011). Hermeneutic on dislocation as experience: Creating a borderland, constructing a hybrid identity. Studies in Biblical Literature, 146,
Sandoval, Chela. Methodology of the oppressed. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2000. Web.
AND EVERYTHING PATRICIA HILL COLLINS HAS WRITTEN.