It’s not easy being a boy in today’s world.
Every day, we’re bombarded by expectations and demands that sometimes seem to be more than any one person can handle. And if even one of us deviates from society’s ancient and rigid roles we become outcasts, ostracized from the rest of our peers; all because we made the mistake of accepting and allowing our differences.
While there are many places out there for girls to find… permission…to deviate from the “norm”, the same cannot be said for boys, which simply isn’t right.
We all need support at one time or another, especially when life gives you more questions than answers. While those of us born with a penis are expected to be all strong and stalwart and the unbending column of impenetrability, we’re a squishy-on-the-inside human with wants, needs, desires, fears, joys and all the other messy things emotion-filled beings deal with every day. When I went searching for something supportish, Google results were lacking and even the real good ones weren’t available in my area. This led me to create something for those who, like me, are a bit of a square hole/round peg sort of lad.
BroTalk was the answer.
Jake Goodman (@JakeGoodman9) October 08, 2015
Last year, I saw the above tweet from Canadian actor Jake Goodman (Shred, Max & Shred) about a Canadian helpline for boys primarily aged 14 to 18 called BroTalk. When I discovered this amazing site, I immediately imagined the kind of impact it would’ve made on so many of my friends’ lives; a place where boys could go, a place created just for them, where they could find someone who would listen and not judge them or call them weak or pathetic or… girly.
Boys are constantly told to “man up” and even Hollywood promotes violence over talking out problems so to find something so revolutionary (shocking how true that statement is), I felt a little bit giddy.
I sent the good folks across the border a message asking if they had an American counterpart and was quite dismayed to learn they did not. Damn. While we do have some of the best helplines around, none I’d seen were aimed at boys and the issues we deal with.
As I stared at this wide open hole in safe spaces, I wondered if there was something I could do; I don’t have the ability or funds to begin a helpline and it’s not as if I know anyone who does. What I do have is a way with words and, in that ridiculously optimistic spirit, I wrote what eventually became the first on my BroTalk series, Choose Life: You are Not Alone.
It proved to be a hit and in the following months I followed up with pieces about body issues, sex and sexuality, virginity, masturbation and coming out. With each new post both parents and boys sent me messages to tell me how much they appreciated my creating something like this; mothers were thrilled their sons could find answers to questions they were too embarrassed ask and boys were relieved they didn’t need to look their parents in the eyes and ask things they were too afraid to speak out loud. Reading those words made me feel as though I was making a positive difference in young peoples’ lives and that’s something I plan to continue doing in the same frank and honest manner that has been at the heart of every BroTalk.
The whole point of BroTalk is to let boys know that what they’ve been told about the meaning of their gender is pure bull and they can be whoever and whatever they want and are; the only thing stopping them from fulfilling their inner truths is an adherence to societal standards that should’ve been broken down like the Berlin Wall years ago. You can cry and scream and skip and dance ballet and wear that pretty pink dress and kiss boys and do all the other things that you’ve been taught only girls do and no one has the right to tell you you’re wrong.
I want to break down social roles and norms and live in a world where chromosomes don’t affect more than your sex organs. Everyone should be free to be themselves and embrace their every part, no matter how far from “normal” it might be deemed.
Another reason for not only writing about boys’ subjects but also using the #BroTalk hashtag was a funny little hope that the wonderful Canadian organization would notice it catching on over here and either extend their own network south or partner with someone in America and make a very important, useful and lifesaving service available to non-Canadians. That hasn’t happened yet but I’m just getting started; their attention is one of my big-time goals so if you share anything from my column, please be sure to include that hashtag. Really. It can and will happen. Eventually.
BROTALK: THE MISSION
In today’s ever-changing and confusing world, boys need somewhere to go where they can find answers, camaraderie and safety from the things that threaten them and their self-worth. Society has a long history of denying boys the right to feel and express emotions, question the ideas of manhood and explore parts of themselves that, if shown to the general public, would have them shamed or admonished for not sticking to what gender roles and puritanical ideals force upon them. If you’re born with a penis, you’re not supposed to cry when you hurt, feel your heart flutter at the sight of a cute boy or explore your sexuality when with friends or even alone. While we may hear how bad and awful those things are, the truth is they are all completely natural and shouldn’t be ignored or denied or mocked or punished. Boys should be encouraged to discover what makes them happy and whole; they should be encouraged to know who and what they are without fear of becoming the town pariah.
While everyone is invited to read and learn and question, the BroTalk pieces are meant for those 21 and under; I want to keep it a safe space for the younger generation but will take questions from anyone who asks. I want to help boys of all ages become who they know they’re meant to be, even when that conflicts with society’s unfair demands.
BROTALK: TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
Image Courtesy of Kristopher Allison via Unsplash
I have a number of topics I want to write about, many of them again and again, and I’m happy to say I’ll be continuing them not only on my website but here as well. Shareen has invited me to pen a monthly column that is sure to help spread the message that boys are more than their penis and all the ridiculous stereotypes that come with that particular set of plumbing.
Beyond the column, there are other things planned, such as a Facebook group and, if there’s demand for it, a weekly Twitter chat. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m super excited to start down this road with OTV and hope that what I do reaches those that needs to hear that they are good, normal and don’t need to go through the bad things alone. There is support out there and people who care.
If you need help right now, there are placed you can go in the United States (Teen Line & GLBT National Help Center) and Canada (LGBT Youth Line & BroTalk) and the United Kingdom (Support Line & LGBT Foundation) that will listen. There are more throughout the world; just hit up Google to find one in your country. You can also email me or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter; I may not be a professional but I will listen. And remember, you are strong and will make it through whatever is trying to drag you down.