This episode, originally recorded as a DEI Community Call Takeover features speakers from the upcoming 2020 Virtual Better Man Conference, including call host Eduardo Placer, and guests Ray Arata, and Sean Coleman. Discover what healthy masculinity looks and sounds like, how we invite that into our work and community spaces, and what can be learned by further exploration the intersections of masculinity.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- A diversity story about intersectionality and masculinity (12:30)
- Our preconceived notions about the standard of maleness (15:00)
- How to move beyond performative masculinity (16:30)
- The connection between vulnerability and masculinity (19:00)
- How to move beyond internalized stereotypes (24:30)
- How to celebrate the variety of experiences of maleness (28:15)
- Why inclusive leaders cannot be silent (32:00)
- How to choose our own definition of our humanity (33:00)
- Why healthy masculinity is an inside job (37:00)
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
EDUARDO PLACER: Sean, it is my pleasure to pass it on to you as a form of an introduction. And, Sean, I’m going to allow you to introduce yourself. I know we have bios and all that other stuff, but I don’t want to extract that. I would love for you to give voice to who you are and your experience.
SEAN COLEMAN: Okay. First of all, thank you for allowing me to introduce myself, because I think when you sit down and you write it out, you want to be so professional and clinical and you want to hit all the right points. Doing it this way gives me an opportunity to be a bit more authentic.
So, Sean Coleman, I am the founder and executive director at Destination Tomorrow, the LGBT center of the Bronx. I also run a consulting company, Sean Ebony Coleman Consulting, identify as trans masculine, so a trans male. I’m a father, a husband, son. I love cigars.
My journey to masculinity has been eye-opening, scary at times, but ever changing, because I think the beauty that I enjoy is that I got an opportunity to define what masculinity was for me. And it’s incredible, because you have so many examples of what masculinity looks like. So in my transition, I got an opportunity to put something on and take it off and put something on and take it off and figure out what worked best for me. And in some way it’s conventional, and then in other ways it’s quirky and it’s like, “What black man is quirky?”
But it gives me the opportunity to try all of it out. Yeah. That’s the nuts and bolts of it. But I’m here to answer any questions and to speak to the intersections that I think the three of us have, and give rise to those intersections while also answering questions that folks are apprehensive about, especially in this climate, about asking a black trans male who they are and how they show up. Today was incredibly hard for me to even show up. I had to put this other face on, because you’re a man, you have to be strong, but the things that are happening in this world have me scared and disappointed in the country that I love. But you have to show up because you need to bring that voice to this discussion.
So, happy to be here, and I appreciate you all.
EDUARDO PLACER: Thank you so much for that, Sean. Ray, an opportunity now for you to introduce yourself.
RAY ARATA: Good morning, good afternoon, everybody. Thank you, Jennifer Brown team, for having me here. Wow. So, first off, I’m a white heterosexual cisgendered man who is a loving father of three adult children, two of which came back and lived here for a period of time during COVID, and that’s over.
EDUARDO PLACER: You’re an empty nester again, Ray. That’s something to celebrate. Yes.
RAY ARATA: And I’m an author of a book, with an upcoming book, The Ally’s Journey Playbook. I’m really excited about that. I’m a husband and partner to my wife, Ana, of almost 20 years. I’m a good partner, co-parent with the mother of my three children who I’m no longer married to. I’m Ray III; I’m one of three Rays, and what a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’m a healer, and that what’s really most important to me is taking my gifts and changing the planet by helping men move into their hearts and become more human. And so, I’m freaking blown away that this idea I had to bring healthy masculinity into the leadership conversation five years ago, and I got a lot of funny looks from a lot of corporates initially, that it’s taken hold and that there’s a deep exploration, of which I get to be a part of.
I live in Fairfax, California, and two other things: I’m a passionate cyclist. I love to cook. I have a pizza oven in my backyard that my friend and partner Kriz Bell is waiting for me to invite her up here. So, Kriz, I’m going to tell you right now, it’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks.
So, I’m happy to be here, and that’s enough for now.
EDUARDO PLACER: Maybe we’ll all be invited to pizza at your place, Ray. We’re all invited from all over the world to join you for pizza.
RAY ARATA: Oh, one other thing, Eduardo, and everybody, I’m really happy right now. I’m really happy, because this feels like my community, because as a white man doing this work, I wrote down on my paper, I feel an outlier. So when I’m around my jockey white friends … I feel alone in many respects. So that’s just another little piece.
EDUARDO PLACER: Well, thank you, Ray, and thank you for being here and thank you for the amazing work that you do with the Better Man Conference, and for being a man who’s having these conversations.
Sean, you keep moving on my screen, but I thought you brought up something that was really interesting, and, Ray, I’d love to explore this, because I think again, we do have three interesting intersectionalities around masculinity and the presenting of masculinity and the performance of masculinity, and perhaps a relationship to the failure in whatever that ideal is. And I know for myself as someone who is … My family’s Cuban, I’m also an identical twin, and my twin brother is straight. And growing up, I felt I failed the masculinity test, one, as displayed and performed and presented by my father, and then, two, by that of my identical twin brother.
And what I say about my twin brother’s, we used to play with our toys GI Joes and the early 1980s, he played war and I played War (singing), the musical and my characters had songs and they danced and they had monologues. And I just always felt like I was a failure in being a man. And I feel there’s this way in which I’m consistently in the healing of that initial failure, and it was one as modeled, I remember, by patriarch, by father, by grandfather, and then by perceived ancestor beyond that, and in my own coming out process, just gaining greater confidence in expression of masculinity, as however that is manifested by me, but it continues to be something that I am in relationship to.
And I’m curious for you, Sean and Ray, what is that tension around performance, or what’s seen as performance or what you’ve seen, and then the wearing on, and then finding your own way through that expression in your journey?
SEAN COLEMAN: Oh, wow. As a black man, it feels different, because I’m constantly told how I’m supposed to behave, or how my masculinity is supposed to appear or show up. As a black trans man … I almost said gay, child, but whatever. As a black trans man, in certain spaces, I can’t be too loud or too demanding, because it comes off as aggression, or I’m trying to dominate, so I have to take a step back.
But in business and some spaces in business, those things are respected. Especially if you’re watching the climate, right now, and you’re seeing CIS white men have the luxury to do whatever it is they want to do, and that’s respected and it’s seen as powerful, and this is the standard of maleness, and then I try to put on that standard of maleness and it’s snatched away from me, because, “How dare you behave that?”
So, I think mine is trying to find a space that makes sense for me, that’s also safe for me. I think that I get the luxury of also having some experience on the other side of being socialized as female in the early ages, in my formative years, and what that actually means for how I show up now or how I’m over-protective and cognizant of how I come off when I’m in the presence of women, because I never want them to feel put upon, if that makes sense. So I don’t want to take up too much space when I’m in those spaces.
It’s just incredibly difficult right now to identify what performative masculinity is. I know what masculinity is for me. And for right now, it’s about doing what I need to do to keep myself and my family safe, and then figuring out what that is without coming off as aggressive, or some folks don’t want to have that conversation. So coming off like, “Oh, I’m trying to ram it down your throat. We’re going to discuss this.” No. It’s hard trying to navigate right now.
EDUARDO PLACER: I love, Sean, that we’re starting to make a distinction between performative masculinity and masculinity. And I think that it’s something interesting to mine and it’s something interesting to uncover. And I’m curious, Ray, what did you see modeled for you as masculine or masculinity, and what has been your journey in relationship to that to rebel against that, shift, edit, what’s been the tension for you around your own journey around identifying what masculinity means to you and what you feel like you’ve been taught to perform?
RAY ARATA: Couple things. The first place I’ll go is family of origin. And I’ve jokingly referred to me having a center court seat watching Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King go at it, namely my parents. And I saw a lot of this go on, but what I really saw at times was this attempt by my father to assert his intellectual dominance.
Now, here’s one problem. My mom is Southern Italian; she’s half Sicilian and half Calabrese. So even though it looked like this, she wasn’t going to have it. So metaphorically, they just banged the ball back and forth. But in that there was a lot of Italian culture. And so I saw that. I saw my grandfather and grandmother do the same thing minus the Italian flair. And then, because I was involved in sports, I saw the same thing.
And so, when I think back to the models, in truth, the man that I am right now, I really didn’t have any. And it was the models that I saw, that society indoctrinated me that caused a perfect storm, my wake up call in 1999, when the mother of my three children didn’t want to be married to me any more, and my business partner went to another firm in the middle of the night, and that was a form of betrayal.
Well, in that one-two punch, I didn’t have the skills to deal with that. So when I went and did a men’s weekend and got a chance to look inside, I reconnected to my heart, I healed some wounds, and that started my journey to be healthy and a masculine man, what that meant to me. And what it’s always meant to me is to come from the heart, to be in truth. It’s an inside job. Even though I’ve got the goods, I’m six three and a half, I’m tan, I’m in shape, all that stuff that gets projected on me, truth be told, that’s not who I am.
And so this whole notion of performance, when I started doing men’s weekends, which I’ve done like 55, that’s how I’ve amassed my almost 15,000 hours of working with men, I had to look at my performer. And what I remember learning very early on is I could lead from character within, or lead with persona, how I think you want to perceive me. And so I’m always looking. Am I performing? I’m a lovable guy. Can I seduce you? I used to be able to do that.
So, now, for me, it’s all about vulnerability. I’m going to show you who I am so that you can show me who you are. And so this whole performer thing, and as I’m hearing myself say this, I also can own that I’ve got privilege in the ability to do that, because the backlash that I would experience at that, that for most of you on this call, oh my goodness. If you tried to just live 24/7 the way I attempt to, I can’t even imagine. And I take the hits, but they’re verbal, and I can get over that.
I’ll stop there, because, I mean, I could go on and on on this topic, obviously.
EDUARDO PLACER: And so, both Ray and Sean, I just love what we’re starting to uncover in this conversation as an inside job. And I think that it’s interesting that when we talk about healthy, inclusive masculinity, I think that part of the hurdle where my brain and my wiring goes is inherently that that has to do with men. And that’s actually not what this conversation is about. That healthy, inclusive masculinity is something that can be embodied in any gender representation. It doesn’t have to just be in a male identifying body. And I think that, however it is that you identify in this call, there’s a beautiful opportunity to locate ourselves in what is our relationship to what a healthy masculinity could possibly look like in the uncovering of that.
And I’m curious, both Ray and Sean, talking about the work that you do in the spaces that you’re in. And I remember I found myself at a … It was my first inclusive men’s retreat weekend, which was on in Bermuda. And half the men were gay and half the men were straight, but the straight people weren’t expecting the gay people and the gay people weren’t expecting the straight people. We found ourselves on a boat, and it was like, “Hi, I guess we’re doing it.”
And I did this exercise, where I was facilitating where people reflect on the moment that they most felt like a man. And I would love just to take a moment, and maybe the question is what is the moment that you felt most connected to your masculine, perhaps as opposed to getting away from male, female and gender binary, but what’s a moment in your life where you felt most connected to your masculine?
And I’m going to invite those of you who are in the chat to also reflect on that for yourself and possibly write that down or include that in the chat so we can see that. I see people who are already engaged in that, because I was really surprised, and I think there’s the stereotypical thing that we would imagine. So just as a point of reflection, Sean and Ray, I’m curious, if I were to pose that question to you, what was the moment that you feel in your life, in this moment, the first thing that came to mind, the moment that you felt most in connection to your masculine.
SEAN COLEMAN: What pops in mind, what’s top of mind, it is when I had my surgery, and it was freeing. So it wasn’t even about feeling masculine at that point. It was again about just feeling free, finally, and feeling connected to a body that I always envisioned. So that’s top of mind, and I know you only asked for one, but, hey.
EDUARDO PLACER: I’ll give you two, honey. I’m not going to limit you, honey.
SEAN COLEMAN: Give me a pass. And the second one was marrying my wife, because the first thing you think when you transition is that you’ll never find anybody that’s going to love you, and how are you doing that to yourself? No one’s ever, ever going to love you. And I felt so … accomplished is a bad word. Don’t tell my wife I said that, but I felt so like this is who I was meant to be. Right? Now I’m truly a husband and a provider. And she’s taking my last name type thing, all of the macho stuff that I tried to get away from is what I felt in that moment. So those are the two top of mind.
EDUARDO PLACER: Beautiful, Sean. How about you, Ray?
RAY ARATA: I’m going to answer your question and then I’m going to give you an answer to a different question. So, first of all, thanks for the question. My third child, Enzo. I was in the birth room for all three of my kids, but when my youngest was being born, the doctor looked at me and said, “Would you like to deliver your son?” And in that moment, when I participated in the process, oh my goodness. And I felt like a man.
Now, I know you asked this question about when you felt most masculine. But what I want to say is I feel most human when I have permission to connect to my feminine. And I’ve said my 15 or 20 years of men’s work has been a journey to my inner feminine on my way to being a whole human. And so I saw in chat, what I would love if I could wave my magic wand is that for the masculine traits that women can possess are welcomed, not labeled, and they can step into them freely, not trying to conform, so that their feminine can also be appreciated.
And so just like for me as a male identified man, for me to be able to say, “Oh my goodness, I feel so safe that I can connect to my feminine as a healthy masculine man,” that’s the stuff right there. So that’s the second answer I’m giving you, Eduardo.
EDUARDO PLACER: Thank you for that, Ray. Yeah. It’s interesting, as I was asking the question, what came up for me, and it’s interesting that when I feel like this is my personal journey around my identity as a gay identifying man, is that I feel like, it’s coming up for me, that what I’ve been at war with is my feminine, that my gayness has been always in association with femininity, and that’s what was wrong growing up as a kid, that that’s what was edited out of me, the bullying, the picking on, the micro and macro editing, was in all the ways that there was a perception from my community, that what I was doing or how I was behaving was not the way a man is supposed to behave.
And then looking at my relationship with my own internalized homophobia as a gay man is that what that is, is the ways in which I’m at war with my internal feminine and my external feminine. And what came up for me in this moment of what was the moment that I felt most in my masculine? And Sean, it was when you were speaking, it’s the moment that I came out to my father. And I was 18 years old, my twin brother was in the room, and I was afraid that he was going to be violent and created a space of safety and having allyship and my identical twin brother in the room who I’d come out to a couple of months before, and standing up to my father and speaking the truth. And then holding the space for my truth, as he continued to try to logically convince me that I wasn’t gay, or that maybe there was something to shift or change, or if there was any way to … And I remember in the conversation I finally got to my father, and my father said, “It’s an end biological, it’s an end genetically, you’ll never be happy.” This was 1995 when I came out.
And I told my father that for me, being in a heterosexual relationship would be an end, because I would never be happy. And he said, “Well, I don’t get that.” And it’s like, “Because you’re not gay.” And when I said that to him, he was like, “Oh, bingo.” And it’s interesting; the conversation that I had with my father was just two human beings having a conversation. It was not performative, there was no screaming, there was no chest pounding, it was just two human beings having a conversation.
And I say that because in relationship to my feminine or what I’ve been correcting in my life as a gay man, I always saw myself as a sissy, I saw myself as a weak, I saw myself as not strong, and then acknowledging the courage and the strength and the power of this 18-year-old boy standing up to his father and saying, “This is the truth. This is it.” And just being so clear, that that feels like a moment of unbelievable strength and power.
So thank you, Sean, for creating that association for me. And I just want to acknowledge that there’s been some great … like Ryan said, “I felt most in my masculine when I finally came out at 18.” Janice, “Oddly enough, when I went into labor and delivery of my kids.” Absolutely. Yes. 100%. To Valerie, “I have two grown sons. The emotional bandwidth allowed young men is so narrow: anger or robotic, but when you step out of line, they’re punished. And few acceptable activity or options when they were in school, mostly jocks.” So thank you so much for that.
I think that Ryan said that he’s felt most in his masculine in some of his gayest moments, the Gay Volleyball League. Yes! The point is that I think we can get stuck in rules about it, and rules aren’t real. They’re all made up. And instead of thinking narrow around it, I think we can just be curious and expansive in the welcoming of, and the celebration of, the variety of experience that comprise whatever that expression is.
And Sean, I’m curious because you do work with the trans community, and specifically trans persons of color, right?
SEAN COLEMAN: Yes.
EDUARDO PLACER: So, I mean, looking at this moment in the United States of America, right at the intersection of, one, a health pandemic that is impacting black and brown bodies, the … not that police brutality is new, but the way in which we are now, because of video cameras, present to generational violence and abuse on black and brown bodies, and then also a mental health pandemic that nobody’s talking about. I’m just curious how this conversation around healthy masculinity emerges within your community that you’re working with.
SEAN COLEMAN: I think it plays an incredibly important part. One of the things you didn’t mention was the murdering of black, particularly black trans women, but then also trans women of color. And I think a lot of it, from what we’ve seen is because they’ve had a partner or a husband or a lover or a secret date, or whatever you want to call it, that at some point harmed them or hurt them. And I think this discussion around healthy masculinity has to happen within our community, especially around those that are trans attracted, because I think it goes back to what you were speaking about, Eduardo, about them not being able to accept whatever the feminine side of them, or them not being able to accept the fact that they’re attracted to a trans identified female, and what that means, defining that for themselves before they harm someone else, because it happens.
So I think we have to come back. Ray earlier spoke about being able to be in tune with his heart. And for me, being in tune with my heart was a softness that I wasn’t supposed to display, because I’m not supposed to display that emotion. So kudos that you had the opportunity to really, really explore what it means in here. At 52, I’m just starting that, and just starting to really define, not just what healthy masculinity is for me, but how I can be emotional and show emotions and still be a healthy masculine person, and then taking it a step further and saying, “I can be a healthy masculine person and love who I love, and it doesn’t take away from who I am.”
So I think this plays directly into what’s happening within my community, because we have to figure out a way to have discussions with our boys and sons and cousins and whomever else, to make sure that they understand you loving who you love doesn’t take away from your masculinity. You choosing to hurt or harm someone else, that’s, because your humanity is at risk at that point. So we have to figure out a way how we begin to have those discussions.
EDUARDO PLACER: Beautiful. Thank you so much for that, Sean. And again, you’re getting a lot of shout outs from people in the chat.
SEAN COLEMAN: Thank you.
EDUARDO PLACER: And I’m curious, Ray, because you bring this conversation also into the corporate landscape, and I’m curious, and I think people were talking about, “How do we bring this into our workspaces as well?” So how does this conversation around healthy, inclusive, masculinity, how do you find that within the greater conversations that we’re having in this conversation. How do you find it resonating? Or how do you find people locating themselves in this conversation?
RAY ARATA: I recognize that when I came up with this commitment to bring a healthy masculinity into the leadership conversation, that there were plenty of examples of unhealthy masculinity, behavior was rampant. This was before Time’s Up and Me Too. And so, when I look at those words “healthy” and “masculinity,” and I think about, at least in the work that we do, it’s about meeting men where they’re at, because if we focus on the overrepresented and under leveraged group of men, we need to give them a positive light to step into, to walk into. Masculinity, that’s attractive, even though everyone has a different idea as to what it means.
So healthy masculinity, when I talk about it with leaders, I pose questions to them. And I created something called the Better Man Pledge that’s going to come out my new book, but I’ll say things like, “What kind of leader do you want to be? Do you want to be the leader that stands silent while guys are acting out, which has your silence message complicity, or do you want to be a healthy, masculine, inclusive leader that calls that out? Do you want to be the kind of leader that isolates and doesn’t ask for any help, or do you want to commit to doing your work with other men?”
So, I mean, again, we don’t have enough time today, but the idea where this came from was I want to shift, instead of the attention being on the negative, let’s put it on the positive and start to give men examples of what that could look like.
Now, here, inside this container, everyone’s going to have a different idea as to what healthy masculinity means. And I’ll just echo again, it’s an inside job. It’s not about how you look, it’s about heart, emotions, truth, values, things of that nature. So I’ll stop there, because I just want to give Sean time to comment if you want to say something there, Sean.
SEAN COLEMAN: I want us to shift from healthy masculinity to healthy humanity, especially where we are right now. And someone in the chat keeps asking how are we defining masculinity?
EDUARDO PLACER: I was about to double click on that, so thank you for bringing it up, Sean.
SEAN COLEMAN: Yeah. I’m sorry. I jumped the gun on that. I’m sorry.
EDUARDO PLACER: No, please. Absolutely. Yeah.
SEAN COLEMAN: Masculinity is how you define it. Humanity is who you are. So if we look for the humanity and we begin to build upon that, I think you naturally fall into who you are, what definition you choose to leave to use. For too long we’ve allowed folks to describe who we are and then put the rules in place to tell us how to perform and the ways in which they want us to. So I don’t want to do healthy masculinity any more. I just want to be healthy Sean. And what does healthy Sean look like? And how can healthy Sean benefit everybody else, benefit the community and still grow as a person? That’s where I’m at with it.
EDUARDO PLACER: And I’m going to celebrate that, Sean. I think sometimes when we get to definitions, we try to lock in, and I think that the opportunity is to not lock in, but instead to expand, and to be really curious about what emerges. I know somebody shared that the moment that they felt most connected to their masculinity was giving birth. Why not? And I know that sometimes we can be either/or, and I think to be in a conversation with and, I think is beautiful medicine in the various ways that so many of us have felt locked by binary, either/or, to think of it is and. And this, and this, I think just creates more breath and space, and we are all human beings on this planet doing the best that we can. Do you know what I mean?
I feel like at the end of the day, and the more curious I can be in what somebody sees or how somebody describes their experience of their personhood or their power or their emotion or their vulnerability, then I think we stop building barriers and we just start connecting to heart and soul and person.
I want to create some space, we have about 10 minutes left. If someone has a question that they want to ask directly to Sean or Ray, if you want to raise your hand, I think, Veronica, we can be in a direct question. And I know it’s this chat, this has been on fire. I mean, I acknowledge all of you for being like … I’ve been trying to track that, or while I’m trying to engage with you, Sean and Ray, and know that all three of us Ray, Sean and myself will be in the Better Man Conference that’s coming up very soon. So that’ll be a space to engage in the richness of this conversation. It’s a full day opportunity to really dig in, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, really, of the conversation.
So do we want to have someone raise their hand and see … How do you want to handle the …
VERONICA PIRILLO: Yeah, sure. This is Veronica. Anyone who’d like to ask a question, feel free to unmute yourself and we welcome your questions and your thoughts.
ANN DIVINE: Hi, Veronica. This is Ann. How do we get more information about this topic, because this is very new to me and I’m fascinated by it?
RAY ARATA: There’s a lot of places that you can go. If you go to the bettermanconference.com website, there are a whole host of blogs to give you some perspective. There’s an anti-racism resources section there, and if you start typing into Google “healthy masculinity and allyship,” you’ll start to see some topics come up.
There was one question in chat that I wanted to address, and I think Valerie asked this when Ray was speaking, when one of the-
EDUARDO PLACER: Ray, just one second. Ann, I just want to make sure that your question was answered before we move on. Ann, did that complete that question for you?
ANN DIVINE: Yes. The other part of the question is can we get a recording of this?
EDUARDO PLACER: Veronica can speak to that.
VERONICA PIRILLO: Yes. Yes, definitely. Following the call today, typically tomorrow by email, we’ll share an email with the link to the chat and the replay recording. And, Ann, I just sent you a private message. I just want to make sure I have your email address, so I’ll ensure you’re registered to receive that.
EDUARDO PLACER: Awesome.
ANN DIVINE: Thanks ever so much, Veronica.
EDUARDO PLACER: Okay, thank you, Ann. Okay, Ray. You wanted to speak to another question?
RAY ARATA: Yeah. Valerie said, in terms of healthy masculinity, does it address internalized racism? And so, one of our learnings, given that we’re striving to put attention to men in power to combat sexism, our belief and our position is why not do the same thing to combat racism? So everything that we do doesn’t change, but it’s going to require people that look like me to initially do work with other people that look like me, and there’s a recording on our website, How White Allies Can Show Up To Combat Racism. All of us are on different places in the journey.
So I just wanted to address that, because healthy masculinity includes me using my power, position and privilege for good to be an ally to black, indigenous people of color.
EDUARDO PLACER: Thank you for that, Ray. Maria, it seems you have your hand raised? Maria Cherjovsky.
MARIA CHERJOVSKY: Hi, there.
EDUARDO PLACER: Hi.
MARIA CHERJOVSKY: How are you?
EDUARDO PLACER: Great.
MARIA CHERJOVSKY: I’ll go straight to my question. I posted it on the chat as well. I do a lot of work with D&I, like just about everybody on the call today. I used to lead for seven years the Florida Diversity Council, and I have found throughout the years, so many topics left off the table, and that list just keeps on growing every year, every day, it seems. So now I have learned to specialize in an area that was never really talked about or hardly ever, which is disability inclusion. And so I posted a question about masculinity for individuals with disabilities, because it just creates a whole new layer of the conversation. There seems to be a loss of masculinity. This is, again, in my impression, my research, my work with men in this space, there’s a sense of loss of masculinity if you have to ask for help or assistance to play fully in life, because you may need some assistance. And there’s a pride that comes with that.
The exception, however, seems to be, I have found, with individuals who are veterans. So people who have been in the military have been perceived by society as the GI Joes, and whether they are pretending to still remain in that persona, that character, or whether they have internalized it and it gives them a strength that allows them to move forward, but I certainly see a distinction when you look at the cross section of masculinity and disability, that there is a clear distinction in the approach, the style and the conversation, if it is veteran versus non-veteran. So I wonder if you guys had any thoughts as they pertain to that.
EDUARDO PLACER: Maria, thank you for highlighting that. And I think it’s, yet again, one of those spaces where we can continue to locate our own privileges, and what we consider and what we don’t consider. So thank you, Maria, for giving voice to that experience.
So Ray and Sean, anything top of mind that emerged for you?
RAY ARATA: Sean?
SEAN COLEMAN: Just that, again, it has to do with weakness, which leads us right back to redefining what masculinity is. In your example with the veteran is this GI Joe image. And his disability may not be the same as the other person’s disability. However, that person is immediately seen as weak. So it knocks away from his masculinity. We have to do more to have these discussions around reframing what masculinity looks like, and it’s celebrated because those images are the ones that are celebrated. So I think we have to do a better job in having these discussions to debunk those things around what masculinity actually looks like.
EDUARDO PLACER: And I think, Sean, I also feel trapped. Whenever we’re having conversations about masculinity and femininity, I feel like we’re locked in the binary again. And I always feel so … even saying the word, or when people say, “I’m in my strong masculine, or my feminine,” we’re stuck again in these rigid definitions that have us in the binary in the first place that I think is what there is for us to uncover. What else is there beyond that frame? I feel like that frame itself just doesn’t work. It’s never worked, and it definitely doesn’t work as people start emerging to speak to the truth of their experiences, because they’ve been outside of the parameters of those laws.
SEAN COLEMAN: But that’s not saying it’s never worked, because it’s still working for those that…
STACIE MARTIN: Hi. I thought you were coming next week.
SEAN COLEMAN: Oh, sorry.
EDUARDO PLACER: Hi. Oh, Stacie, we had a little conversation. Yeah. Sean, thank you for clarifying that. And now Kelly has her hand raised, so Sean, I’m going to allow you to let-
SEAN COLEMAN: No, that was it.
EDUARDO PLACER: No, but just to highlight that, because we had that, the voice came in, but just for you to repeat that point, because I don’t want to miss it because I think it’s important, about it working. You said that it’s always worked …
SEAN COLEMAN: It has always worked for those who it was intended to work for.
EDUARDO PLACER: Correct. Yes.
SEAN COLEMAN: I don’t want to say it’s not working, and that’s what we’re fighting against, because to dismantle any system that was put in place for very specific reasons, it’s immediately going to be a challenge. So we have to call it for what it is and address it as such.
EDUARDO PLACER: I mean to say … Sean, I’m going to give you some shimmy to that. Yes. I am so feeling that. I felt that right in my body, Sean. My heart was like, “Ooh, yes.”
Kelly, I wanted to acknowledge you because you’re raising your hand in the screen and I can see you right there. Yeah.
KELLY HARRIS: Hi. Did Ray want to answer first, because I think that he had a comment?
RAY ARATA: Yeah, real quickly, to address Maria’s question, there’s two sides of this coin. There’s able-bodied folk to raise their awareness in their language so that we create a safe space, a welcoming space, an inclusive space for people that are other abled. And as an aside, if you go to the www.mankindproject.org, they held a barrier free weekend for all people with a variety of disabilities in their own pursuit of healthy masculinity and to be a man.
RAY ARATA: And so there’s work that’s being done, and you can reach me offline and I can steer you to the right place. But there’s two parts of this.
MARIA CHERJOVSKY: I will. Thank you. And I didn’t mean to stump any one of you. It was just a matter of, again, one of those topics that seems to be more obscure, not always talked about openly, and because of all of you working in this space, I was just curious, have you come across that? Have you seen any research? Have you seen any discussions? I’d love to learn more about it. I only know what I’ve seen, what I’ve heard, but I would love to expand beyond that.
RAY ARATA: A lot of those veterans suffer from PTSD and they need to come to heal. So we see a lot of them as well.
EDUARDO PLACER: And thank you, Maria, for that work, and thank you for giving voice to that experience. Kelly? And we’re winding down, so this will be an ellipsis, so we’re going to be here with you and then we will end there.
KELLY HARRIS: It’s an interesting and short and easy question, of course. Having read White Fragility, as many people have, I really am curious about male fragility and how those of us can get past that. As a woman, I must admit I don’t have a lot of sympathy for how men are feeling right now. I do have a lot of empathy, because as a woman I’ve been in painful situations for so very long when it comes to work and all these different things. So I have so much empathy. White fragility, male fragility, any thoughts?
RAY ARATA: I got something. I was just talking about this yesterday. I have impatience for white fragility and impatience for male fragility. I can say that as a white man, because if the worst thing that’s going to happen to me is that my feelings are going to get hurt, not to invalidate my feelings, but if I’m a person of color walking around and my life is in jeopardy, it’s not even an issue we’re talking about.
Now, with that said, we want to meet men where they are, acknowledge their experience, get them out of their little boy and into their adult masculine, dare I use that word, male energy to be a good ally and a good leader. That’s what I got. Over to you, Sean.
SEAN COLEMAN: Well, of course that’s a difficult question for me for obvious reasons.
EDUARDO PLACER: Hashtag that. Hashtag that.
SEAN COLEMAN: But, shit, this is my everyday life, having to navigate white fragility and male fragility, and when it’s in the same body, how frightening it can be, but still wanting to be able to show up as my authentic self. It’s difficult because as an executive director, I’m in spaces with other folks. And a lot of them don’t necessarily look like me, and in that space, there’s a certain level of fragility, that almost wants to see me do well, but not better than them and keep me in this box. So, yeah, I think one hand washes the other when it comes to white fragility and male fragility, white male fragility.
EDUARDO PLACER: Kelly, thank you for that question, and I acknowledge your courage in saying that, I felt you feeling through naming that and saying that, and that really resonated with me and that felt so powerful, and I acknowledge you for the courage of saying that. And, yeah, I feel like one of the things that’s been emerging for me is in the past, I’ve been very quick to do external work, and I feel like what this moment has called is for deep internal work.
And I think, sometimes, what I’m choosing is responsibility and accountability as an opportunity to break the cycle. And there’s power in my taking responsibility for the ways, as a Cuban immigrant person, my family also benefited from racism and benefited from white supremacy and benefited from colonialism and all that other stuff. So the responsibility and the breaking the cycle, it’s not out there. I’m not blaming, I’m not projecting, I’m stopping it here in this moment, and that it’s a personal inside job, and then that manifests itself externally is where I’m locating myself in that. And I agree, Kelly, my taste and my, my flavor of both that white fragility and the white male fragility is very bitter. So thank you for sharing that.
Thank you all so much for being on this call. I know it’s 1:02, so we’ve passed the time. This is really literally just the tip of the iceberg of this conversation. I acknowledge all of you in everything that it took for you to be here for the hour and change that we’ve been together. I know you lead big lives. There are lots of things that you were up to in your life, and to join us in this virtual landscape to engage in this conversation as a queer, Latinx gay man, I just want to say thank you for all the work that you do in your allyship, in your advocacy to inclusion, diversity and equity. Thank you so much for all of that. Veronica, I’m going to pass it to you.
VERONICA PIRILLO: Yes. Thank you. There’s never enough time. Thank you so much, Eduardo, for facilitating such incredible conversation, and Ray and Sean for sharing so much. Let’s end this how Jennifer loves to. Everyone, come off mute and say goodbye and show our gratitude for our guests today.
EDUARDO PLACER: Veronica, we’re going to do two goodbyes. Okay? I’m Cuban, and it’s the opposite of the Irish goodbye. The Irish goodbye, they disappear. Cubans, we linger for like 45 minutes. And then it’s like, “Oh, my God, bye. Oh, my God, I love you. Bye. Oh, my God. I saw you five minutes ago. Bye.” I get that people have to run and people have to go, so if you have to go, we’ll do the goodbye. And if people can stay for an extra five minutes or so there’s this ritual that we do to complete our events at Fearless Communicators that I would love to invite all of us to consider as a little finale. So, we’ll do the goodbye and then we’ll do the Cuban goodbye.
VERONICA PIRILLO: Oh, great. Sounds good. So, thanks everyone for joining.
EDUARDO PLACER: So, one, two, three. Goodbye.
Okay. Now, if you can stay, if you can stay, we’re going to let people filter out, and then for this, it’s helpful to at least be able to acknowledge that we’re here in space together. We’re going to continue. I think there’s some people who are joining us via audio.
So the way this is going to work, and again, we’re winding down, we’re going to consider the people who we can see visually, and then if you are in this space and you’re still listening, my request is if you raise your hand or do a thumbs up, just so that we know to acknowledge you, what we’re going to do is we’re going to raise our hands in physical space, and then we’re going to acknowledge the person. And you’re going to say, “I see you and I thank you.” And then you’re going to pass it on to somebody else. And that way we’re going to complete in a seeing and thanking and acknowledgement of everyone who is on this call. And the invitation again is to either raise your hand physically, or if not, use the little key. And then we’re just going to make our way around through everybody. And then as someone has said, your name and acknowledge you, you lower your hand so we know that we can pick somebody else.
Okay? I’m going to start with Sue Carter Collins. I see you, you are radiating, and I thank you.
Sue Carter Collins: Thank you, Eduardo. I see you, Sean, and I acknowledge you.
SEAN COLEMAN: Thank you, Sue. I see you, Lois, and I acknowledge you.
LOIS COBURN: Thank you, Sean. And I see you, Veronica, and I acknowledge you.
VERONICA PIRILLO: Thank you, Lois. I see you, Phyllis, and I acknowledge you.
PHYLLIS RHODES: Thank you, Veronica. I see you, Kelly, and I thank you. And my dog thanks you too.
KELLY HARRIS: Well, I wanted to say, is it Nativita? I see you, and I recognize you, and I thank you, and my dog does, but she’s not barking right now.
NATIVITA KAMINSKI: Kristin Goetze, I see you, I recognize you, thank you.
KRISTIN GOETZE: Thank you. Diane, I see you, and I thank you.
DIANE: Thank you. Sivu? Is that how you pronounce it? Sivu?
SIVU PRUSENT: Yes.
DIANE: I see you, and I recognize you.
SIVU PRUSENT: Thank you, Diane. Sean, I see you, and I recognize you.
SEAN COLEMAN: Thank you, Sivu. Janice, I see you and I recognize you.
JANICE O’ROURKE: Thank you, Sean. Lila, I see you and I recognize you.
LILA DOCKEN BAUMEN: Thank you, Janice. Zoe, I see you, I acknowledge you, and I thank you.
ZOE M: Thank you, Lila. Sue, I see you and recognize you.
SUE CARTER COLLINS: Thank you, Zoe. Kayt, I see you, I recognize you and I acknowledge you.
KAYT TISKUS: Thank you, Sue. Let me see. Yeah. Yeah. Rachel, I see you, I recognize you, and I acknowledge you.
RACHEL MUNYARADZI: Thank you. Ray, I see you, and I acknowledge you, and I thank you.
RAY ARATA: Thank you. Zoe, I see you, I acknowledge you, and I thank you.
RACHEL MUNYARADZI: Should we put our hands down once we’ve been acknowledged?
EDUARDO PLACER: Once you’ve been acknowledged, you lower your hand so that we see that you’ve already gone.
ZOE M: Okay. Is it Mette?
METTE CHARIS BUCHMAN: Yeah.
ZOE M: I see you and I recognize you.
METTE CHARIS BUCHMAN: Thank you, and thank you for this amazing call to everybody, and I acknowledge Jen. And thank you, Jen.
JEN O’RYAN: Lisa, I recognize you, and I see you, and I acknowledge you, and I thank you.
LISA KOHN: Thank you, Jen. And thank you, Morgan. I see you, I recognize you, and I acknowledge you.
MORGAN WILLIAMS: I need to come off mute. Thank you. Alicia, I see you, I acknowledge you, and I thank you.
ALICIA SILVA: Thank you. My name is Alicia, and I know that’s why I might not get called first, but there are Alicias too. So thank you for recognizing.
MORGAN WILLIAMS: I love that.
ALICIA SILVA: No, no. As long as you try, I always love it. So, let’s see. Is it Andrea or Andrea Payne?
ANDREA PAYNE: Yes, Andrea.
ALICIA SILVA: Thank you.
ANDREA PAYNE: Andrea, thank you. Kriz Bell. I see you, I acknowledge you, and I thank you.
KRIZ BELL: Thank you, Andrea. Ryan Kenny, I see you, I acknowledge you, and I thank you.
RYAN KENNY: Thank you, Kriz. I’m on a phone, so I’m scrolling here. It looks like Eduardo, thank you. I see you, I recognize you, and I thank you.
EDUARDO PLACER: Awesome. So I don’t know about the other people who we don’t have video, so we are going to all come off mute and just thank and acknowledge everybody. So on the count of three, we’re going to say, “Thank you. I acknowledge you. Goodbye.”
EDUARDO PLACER: Okay. Ready? One, two, three.
EVERYONE: Thank you. I acknowledge you. Goodbye.
EDUARDO PLACER: Thank you all so much.
- Understanding our Evolution: Why an Adult Development Lens is Critical to Inclusivity, with co-authors Christopher McCormick and Aman Gohal
- Second Chance Hiring with Fifth Third Bank’s Chief Economist, Jeff Korzenik
- Speaking from Lived and Learned Experiences: Insights on DEI Storytelling with Carin Taylor
- The Legacy of Belonging: Jennifer Joins the BE the CHANGE Podcast
- Activating Our Allyship Meter: A Senior Leader's Journey Towards Advancing LGBTQ Equality with Erik Day