Attitude's editor on why masculinity doesn't have to turn you into a d**k

Cliff Joannou reveals why he wants to ditch the labels and expectations


This article first appeared in Attitude issue 290, December 2017.

This month, an entire issue dedicated to the most toxic thing to happen to the planet. Masculinity has given us genocide, war, religion, corruption, oppression, the nuclear arms race and Donald Trump.

Ever since the earliest communities of Homo Sapiens formed — evolving into villages, towns, cities, empires, Coca-Cola and Google — fragile male egos have let testosterone run riot, arrogantly calling the shots. Men have raped, pillaged, destroyed and plundered. They have favoured male heirs to the throne, passing their frustrated sperm to wife after wife, seeking to propagate a conceited lineage.

Countless social commentators criticise gender as an illusion. But what does that mean? People are born with cocks or fannies, aren’t they? Well, technically, yes. And sometimes, people have both, if they’re intersex.

Yet primitive humanity divided itself in two: those with external genital organs (to quote the great David Hoyle) or internal ones. Why? Well, for a start they were a lot less evolved and a lot more basic than us. To supposedly more civilised humans today, what should the distinction mean? Fuck all, really.

Stereotypes tell us men are strong and emotionless, women meek and emotional. And to place value on the physical difference between male and female is to say our place on this planet is dictated by our breeding potential. It’s why LGBT+ rights have always stood on the side of challenging gender stereotypes, and why I get angry when gay men show misogyny.

Gender division is the most violent thing to ever happen to humanity. It’s suppressed the voices of millions of queer and gay people for millennia. Anybody who challenged the binary was silenced, often violently: from the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, to the recent purge of LGBT+ people in Chechnya, and barbaric Islamic State executions.

Encouraging outdated ideas of masculine/feminine is buying into the ideals of murderers who believe that a man loving another man should be punishable by death. To them, gay love is unnatural and against God. Male dominance is born of violence and oppression, not anything remotely biological or "natural." What many understand as masculinity is too often a regressive by-product of this desire to dominate. Maybe we should aspire to be matriarchal by nature, like elephants, bees and ants.

All this is why I have, on occasion, donned a wig and thrown on a dress for a mad night out with my sistas. It’s why drag is so powerful; it’s not about men ridiculing women, it’s about men undermining the oppressiveness of masculinity.

I’d love to do away with all the labels and expectations of how a man should act and dress. Imagine having a conversation with another gay man and not worrying if they think you’re masc enough, or if that straight guy is judging the way you talk. What if men could stop being such dicks about so many things?

This is the root of my frustration with the idea of gender differences. You see, I despise what men have done to this planet. But, then again, I absolutely love cock.

The December issue of Attitude is out now – buy in printsubscribe or download.