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By Shane Gilreath
New age Colombian poet, Carlos Andres Gomez, wrote that “I am tired of men hurting women and each other and themselves.” If I may be so bold as to use a modern word, I was triggered. It is a particularly noxious trait to assume that male-ness is universally toxic and mindlessly excuse the rest of the world. I’m no psychologist, but not only is the idea of toxic masculinity a myth, it’s destroying an entire gender for the future. Studies have shown that boys, particularly, are heavily affected by the idea of their alleged toxicity. Ironically, what could be done about it was a question I was asked last week by HUMEN, a British-based global initiative seeking to improve and maintain men’s mental health. The organization and its mission are particularly notable as we move into September, the month of World Suicide Day and recognized in the United States as National Suicide Prevention Month, where statistically men make up 80% of the nation’s suicide deaths. River Hawkins, the HUMEN founder, with whom I often disagree, has publicly said, “we really need to stop just pulling people out of the river. It’s long overdue to go upstream and help to prevent people from falling in.” It’s a powerful truth. It sounds simple, but the simplicity of his rhetoric, by which he lives, shoots straight to the heart of many issues facing society, for both men and women.
If the idea for society is true equality – and I agree it should be – then society itself cannot act like exorcisms are required for half the population. As I initially told HUMEN, “millions of little boys are being told something is wrong with them.” Despite the BBC’s insistence that there are over 100 genders, that’s not okay with me. As a society, we should safeguard all children and give each of them, boys and girls, the equal opportunity to grow into productive adults. We cannot become a society that rails against misogyny while embracing misandry. Where is the logic in that? There’s a bad apple in every cart, and society shouldn’t paint with such large brushstrokes. The danger of that and pounding on the idea of toxicity as a trait in boys leads us back to where that trigger began. Life is hard. Uplift each other. Be the change you want to see in the world. Negativity leads to negativity. We are better than that.