So often I lament my lifelong disconnect from the male species and my own innate lack of manhood, I tend to neglect or even forget the numerous times I have felt like a man. And, though often fleeting, it’s these precious moments when I grow more convinced of this path I’m walking — away from a gay identity and toward a, well, male one.

1. I felt like a man when I played catch with my dad.

When I was a kid, baseball was everything. While there was the unfortunate weeping incident when my dad first took me to Little League signups (a lovely event you can read about in my book), I didn’t let that downfall deter me from a childhood of absolute baseball fandom.

I grew up outside Philadelphia, bleeding Phillies red through and through, and I’ll never forget those numerous occasions in my backyard or the park across the street, playing with my dad. Our father-son bond was strong from the start, and with all that’s transpired in the two decades since, I’m grateful for our foundation all these years later: that my dad played with me like the boy I was and I saw in him a man who would take the time to build me up.

2. I felt like a man when I worked out regularly and saw biceps and abs in the mirror.

Growing up a pale, wiry, acne-ridden kid, I simply presumed I could never be good-looking or muscley or remotely desirable. Wouldn’t it be narcissism to yearn for that anyway?

I’m grateful for Matt’s post this week. It’s not wrong to want to look good. It’s not a bad thing to want to be attractive and strong and even thought desirable. To have a healthy self-image.

In recent years I’ve gone through seasons of solid physical regimens and, well, some other seasons that could stand for improvement. On the whole though, my self-image today is far healthier than the days of neglect and verbal abuse in middle school.

I’ll never be Arnold Schwarzenegger (nor do I ever want to be), but it feels good to look in the mirror today and look good and feel strong.

3. I felt like a man when I moved across the country to live with other men.

I’m still astounded that I did this, but I did it. Six years ago, I actually moved cross-country without ever having been further west than the Mississippi, and I took a gamble on a life three time zones away. I lived with a guy I’d only met twice in my life along with his merry friends, and for the next year I lived in a house of seven college-aged dudes.

The fridge was always stuffed.

The house was always full.

The learning moments never ended.

It was among the most stressful years of my life, I’ll admit, but at the end of each day I never questioned who I was. A man living among men.

4. I felt like a man when I opened my heart to another man and he hugged me back.

A few years ago I reached a pivotal point in my journey. I was quite aware how pivotal it was even as it was happening, only adding to the emotions of that morning.

“Hey, first, can you hug me?” I asked him before saying what could never be unsaid.

“Yeah dude,” he replied, and he came over to me with arms stretched wide, wrapped around me.

To this day it’s probably the greatest hug of my life, and I’ll never forget our walk around the park as I told him I was attracted to men and that I often felt less than a man.

“You’re a warrior, Tom,” he later prayed over me. “The armor you’re wearing is too big and too heavy for you, but you’re doing it, you’re putting it on, you’re going into battle, and you’re a warrior.”

5. I felt like a man when I started this blog along with my other brothers.

I wrote a bit about this at YOB’s inception, but for a while I was “done” with this whole “SSA community” or whatever you want to call it. I hated having to dissect my life into online and offline, and my disconnect with “straight guys” reached a fever pitch.

How could running back to all these SSA guys possibly help me?

Well, after four months of running this blog and hearing more of my brothers’ stories, I’m learning that my brothers here are among the most manly men I’ve ever met. They are wise, and sincere, and honest, and blunt, and true, and hilarious, and loving, and they inspire me daily.

Some are married, and some are not; some have kids, and some are childless.

Many are single and still walking a road similar to my own; some older and some younger; and yet all of them remind me of this road we all share, a road of manhood and brotherhood.

Truthfully, if I had to struggle with something on this earth, I’m kinda glad it’s same-sex attraction.

Because this struggle and my brothers who share it have shown me what true masculinity looks like, denying one’s self and picking up his cross to follow the Man we’ve all surrendered our stories to.

I’m grateful for a God who has supernaturally surrounded me with these brothers to journey alongside.

We’re grateful to have you along, too.

What are some specific times you’ve felt like a man? What steps can you take to increase the frequency and longevity of such moments?

* Photo courtesy dabonguyen, Creative Commons.

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