It’s 2018, I’m sitting around a friend’s kitchen table, and the two of us are sharing a pot of sweet jasmine tea. We briefly discuss around the table, trans men are real men, and as men, they are capable and responsible for displaying misogynistic behaviour and
upholding patriarchal patterns of behaviour that can cause great harm.

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Some years later, this conversation echoes through my head as I stand in front of my full-length mirror and try to envision how strangers perceive me. It’s quite late at night, and moments earlier, I had stepped off the bus mindless with headphones on.

A few steps later, I overtake someone who had also gotten off the bus with me, and whose small figure I tower over. As I approach behind them, they nervously step off the curb, and I hear a small sigh of terror or relief as I walk ahead.

This experience is jarring for many reasons. It reminds me of instances of racism where strangers had clutched their bags as I approached, it reminds me of all the times I had jumped as a man had approached me from behind, and how guilty I felt some of the time when they were dark-skinned and being considered scary wasn’t just gender-related for them. But it mostly connected me to the very familiar feeling of being terrified, walking in the dark, late at night, phone in hand, key in hand, ready to fight or flee at a tap on the shoulder.

I Decided To Be More Mindful

At that moment in my mirror, I decided to be more mindful, I am capable of causing that same feeling of fright, and I refuse to be a mindless man, walking around accidentally terrifying people late at night.

Gender dysphoria, internalised transphobia, and simply forgetting that I am a being with flesh that is perceived by others and that perception is shaped by their experiences and biases, means that I often forget that me being a trans person, sometimes a trans-
man, is not simply a feeling, an ideology, an spiritual belief, but it is real. It is manifested in the way I look, the way I think and feel, and the way I interact with the world around me and the people in it.

Accepting myself as a trans man means accepting that I, like other trans men, am capable of causing harm, capable of portraying sexist traits which hurt the women around me. This understanding of myself has also helped me deeply analyse and unpick my deep-rooted all or nothing, either end of the spectrum, good or bad binary lens of seeing the world.

Punitive Measures Never Lead To Meaningful Change

As a man, I am capable of hurting those around me simply through mindlessness and the misogyny I have been deeply entrenched in my whole life. The only way to address and unlearn these behaviours is through addressing them within myself without shame, judgment and punishment, it is through love and understanding that we grow; punitive measures never lead to meaningful change. Maybe this same framework can be applied to the other men in my life, maybe not all men are Bad (#notallmen).

I am not the first to have these thoughts. Many great authors, such as Audre Lorde, have written extensively on this topic, but to live in the world from the side of the Bad Man, is a truly confrontational experience I could never empathise with through reading or conversation, and an experience that stretches me and forces me to grow every day.

I am left questioning every facet of my being; I often struggle to show emotions to those outside of my immediate, trusted circle, is this because I’ve been taught that, to be a man, I need to hide my emotions? Being outwardly emotional is an inferior female characteristic?

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Does this mean I have judgment for all the emotionally intuitive women around me who can access their emotions and really feel them so freely? Did I previously consider myself superior for not being an ~hysterical ~ emotional~ woman? I now analyse character traits that I previously saw as girl-boss-power-moves from the lens of a cis man portraying such traits.

My Words and Actions Can Have Deep and Long-Lasting Effects

If I manspread on the train, I’m not girl-boss-power- move carving out space for myself, but I am simply manspreading. It’s hard because I was not socialised as a man, I was not taught that I have the right to interrupt and to take up space the way cis men have been brought up to take, so I am constantly floating in this middle space. Trying to unlearn how small the world has wanted me to present myself as an Iranian woman, but also learning when to step back and lend space to those around me as a man.

All in all, this journey forces me to be more mindful of my words, and my actions. It repeatedly reminds me of my power, not the power given to me by virtue of being a man, but simply by reminding me that my words and actions can have deep and long-lasting effects on those around me and I need to take responsibility for that.

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