Because you were born with male sex organs, Dad and I have used male pronouns since we adopted you with the full understanding that you may very well articulate a different gender identity when you are able. That being said, since there is a 97 to 99% chance that you do, in fact, identify as a boy I would like to talk with you about masculinity.
No doubt you will get a lot of mixed messages about what it means to “be a man”. While Dad and I have done our best to raise you in a gender neutral household where we split the housework and financial burdens as equals and are not afraid to speak our minds or show our emotions, you have probably noticed this is not “normal”. While you might enjoy playing house with your sister or helping Dad vacuum or helping me bake cookies, most of the other boys you’ve seen on TV are probably playing “war” or shooting guns or wrestling and rough-housing, you probably like playing those games too. While your father and I are pacifists, we understand that all of those things can be a lot of fun. We’ll probably even play video games with you when you’re older where the primary focus is to shoot things. We all play games like that because they’re fun, but it’s important to know that being manly has nothing to do with hurting people.
Being a man is complicated. There’s no wrong or right way to be a man or a woman or a girl or a boy or anything else. But a lot of people like to tell you there’s only one way to do something. Sometimes a teacher might tell you that a story means one thing, while you think it means something else. Being a man is a lot like that. Some people think being a “real man” means that you don’t tell people how you’re feeling, that you act tough and don’t cry even when you want to, but Dad isn’t afraid to tell me about his day or ask for help if he’s in trouble or even to cry if he’s having a rough time, and he’s a man. Some people think being a “real man” is about being angry or violent or rough, but that’s not what Martin Luther King Jr. or Harvey Milk or Bayard Rustin believed. They changed the world by standing against violence with love and peace, and they were all men. There’s no such thing as being a “real man”, son. Men come in all different shapes and colors and have different ideas and attitudes and none of them are any more or less “real” than the next one.
However you decide to act as a grown man will be up to you, but Dad and I sincerely hope that you remember the lessons we’ve tried to teach you. That each person is a human being that deserves respect and love no matter who they might be. That equality and rights should be extended to everybody and not just a select few. That most people are doing what they think is good, even if that doesn’t match with your idea of good. That families come in all different shapes and sizes, but what really matters is they love each other. That communication and non-violence can accomplish much more than war and violence. That emotions are normal to have and it’s okay to express them in healthy ways. That diversity and new ideas are what make the world interesting. That questioning ideas and authority is a good way to make sure you really believe what you say you do. That sex is a mutually consenting and enjoyable experience regardless of the number of partners or their genders and you should never feel ashamed about it. And, most importantly with this letter, the ways people “do” gender are all equally valid and that includes they way you decide to do your gender. It shows a lot more strength and courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially if it’s unpopular, than to just follow the crowd. No matter what you decide to do with your life or who you decide to love, as long as you keep these principles in your heart you will always be a “real man” to me.