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Poet defies, redefines gender norms

| Monday, November 10, 2014

The Gender Relations Center kicked off its annual StaND Against Hate Week with the event “Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood with Carlos Andrés Gómez” in the Carey Auditorium on Monday.

Gómez, an award-winning poet, actor and writer, shared his confrontation with society’s rules of manhood through personal story and poetry.

According to his website, “Gómez urges men of all ages to break society’s rules of male conformity and reconsider not just what it means to be a man, but what it means to be a good man.”

Gómez said his initial awareness of society’s rules of masculinity came when he was told to “man up” by his soccer coach after falling during a game.

“If I’m running full speed in front of 200 people, I do a tooth plant in the middle of the field — it’s miraculous that I didn’t lose all of my top and bottom teeth — if I can’t cry there, when am I allowed to express any emotion?” Gómez said.

Gómez said he was sensitive as a child but strove to fit the mold of a masculine man after interpreting hints from those around him that valued men most when they acted hard and tough. He said the image was hard to keep up because it denied his natural self.

“If you ever try to act like someone you’re not, it’s like the worst feeling in the world,” Gómez said. “It’s exhausting. I was conflicted, I was in anguish, I was hurting. … I was screaming for a reprieve from this person I had built myself into.”

Gómez said there were two major turning points in his life that redefined masculinity for him. He said the first came in high school during an open mic night for poetry where he learned about the idea of a gender spectrum — a concept that transcended the traditionally perceived dichotomy of gender.

Gómez said the second crystallized moment of redefinition occurred when he accidently bumped up against another man as he exited a nightclub. The man initially incited a fight, but after tears welled in Gómez’s eyes, the man jumped away, Gómez said.

“What makes us live in a world where the narrative, the dominant narrative of masculinity, the one-dimension, toxic, patriarchal narrative of masculinity that so many of us … are familiar with in some way … when two men who don’t know each other [have] their bodies unexpectedly bump against each other, we all know that the next thing they have to do is to fight, and it’s over nothing,” Gómez said.

Gómez said that day he made a decision to spend the rest of his life challenging that toxic notion of masculinity.

“I started to practice breaking the conformity of how I learned to be a guy,” Gómez said. “It was action and it was written; it was rethinking the way I thought about relationships with women, with my other guy friends, with my family.”

To communicate his point, Gómez also performed several poems about masculinity, women and beauty.

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About Emma Borne

Emma Borne started as a news writer for the Observer in Fall 2013. She is a senior majoring in Sociology and Peace Studies. She loves writing for the Observer because it allows her to participate in campus life in a way that she otherwise wouldn't and because she gets to work with some super talented, awesome people!

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