— Alexander Chee (@alexanderchee) March 4, 2023
*Author’s note: This article was written before the allegations against Jonathan Majors became public. That said, the message and intention behind this piece still matter.
These images made me stop scrolling.
These images made me emotional.
And the caption, from Facebook user Jess Searcy, spoke so much truth.
Growing up, I regularly saw men (and particularly men of color) in my life showing each other affection.
My grandpa was an openly emotional man who would hug and kiss my uncle, my dad, my brother, and my male cousins with the same gentleness and care he’d use toward the women in our family. I saw him cry when talking about his past, about losing his parents, about the struggles he’d been through in life.
Seeing the men around me say “I love you” to each other with ease didn’t feel strange when I was young because it was all I knew.
But as I got older, I realized how rare this actually is. How rare it is to see men show each other physical and verbal affection with ease. And how rare it is to see these displays of affection accepted by society without subtle or overt messages of over-sexualization, misogyny, and homophobia creeping in.
I found myself wondering how many people encourage men to be more vulnerable, more emotionally intelligent, and then view these same images with discomfort and criticism.
How many men don’t feel safe enough within themselves, within their friends or family, or within the world to be this affectionate without worrying about the ramifications. And how this toxic, outdated cultural mindset is killing the men we love.
Personally, I hope we see more of this. I hope we finally begin to normalize the idea of men, and particularly men of color, physically and emotionally supporting each other, both in private and out in the open.
More men hugging, please.
A powerful message:
View this post on Instagram
“Ive been seeing the comments on this pic of my brothers Mike and Jonathan. It seems like the tenderness makes some of y’all uncomfortable.
Let me tell a little story. I had an epic panic attack in 2004. I’ve told this to y’all in the past. Me and my oldest friend Ryan were on our way to a basketball game. And my body just started punishing itself. We stopped, and I went into a convenience store. They called paramedics, I actually had to be airlifted. I, and they, thought I was going to die. My friend who was with me, was what y’all would call a ‘street Nigga’ at the time. Doing his thing, and pretty emotionless about it.
When I was spiraling, hyperventilating, and breathless, I turned around and saw him. He was crying. He didn’t know what to do, and he thought his friend was about to go He put his arm around me, ‘Van, you okay? Van I love you bruh, Cmon man breathe.’ The closeness of moment, the touch, the words, helped balance me (I was also scared to ride in the helicopter lol). My friend, my brother, who is not at all what any of you would call ‘woke’ or ‘evolved’ even still, had to show up for me with affection. He had to hold me.
Im begging y’all, stop adding to the emotional castration of Black men. Stop sexualizing every bit of vulnerability we show, including to each other. It’s hurting us, and it’s hurting those around us too. @michaelbjordan and Jonathan, appreciate y’all.” ~ Van Lathan
And a few comments that stood out to me:
“Another thing black men can’t do.. love our brothers … if more black men got hugs from another black man… we’d see a whole different level of how we value one another’s life …”
“great post ! i loathe how ppl are trying to make it seem like a man can’t hold emotional space and capacity and gentleness for another man with out it being warped … it’s these same men that we would want to hold gentleness and capacity and hold our emotions safely it’s gotta be taught and shown it’s ok ! … as a woman who dates men i want a soft place to land … and it’s good seeing other men saying to their boys you can take your ‘cool’ off my dude”
“ALL the way with you on this Van! And the emotional castration is a toxic export of the US because globally it is very common to see men (especially boys) walking and holding hands and being affectionately supportive of each other with NO sexual undertone assigned to it”
“thank you for sharing.. we need to normalize tenderness between black men. Little boys need to grow up seeing tenderness and knowing that their emotions are valid.”
“Well said! Enough is enough. Lets normalize Love, Vulnerability, Compassion, Normal Human Touch amongst men. Hypermasculinity is toxic and destroying our community.”