These past few years, I have seen more and more men experimenting with wearing makeup and feminine clothing. Even though many of them are supported by their peers for making that decision, there is still a huge stigma surrounding the idea of men being anything less than 100 percent masculine.
One of the most common comments made towards men that have chosen to embrace a more feminine style is that they are gay. This is extremely harmful because not only is that man being shamed for his style choices, but gay people are disrespected by being used as insults.
You cannot tell what someone's sexuality is based on the way they present themselves. Stereotypes are not accurate and reinforcing them only further oppresses a marginalized group. The stereotypes of being gay are what caused many men in my life to become hypermasculine as a way to prevent themselves from coinciding with any of those stereotypes. It is also led to them bullying men that were gay as a final attempt to solidify that they were straight.
It is ridiculous that when a man cares about his appearance he is called gay because wanting to look like the best version of yourself is just practicing self-care. Men are taught that engaging in activities that require you to spend more time in front of the mirror, such as caring for your skin, putting on makeup, and styling your hair, is something that only a gay man would do.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a man wanting to look presentable. Of course, looks are not everything and should by no means be what you focus on the most, but it is still important to make sure you take the time to take care of yourself. Men should not feel that they need to look like slobs that never give their appearance a second thought. If you seriously believe that that is what a "true man" would do, then I pity you. While your skin is breaking out and your hair looks like it has not been combed in months, the supposed "gay men" you are taunting for looking put together are actually having their appearance complimented.
I have also seen way too many men falling into a rut of wearing gym shorts with a t-shirt because of the same idea that it is gay to care about your looks. Your fashion choices do not dictate your sexuality. You can be a straight man that decides to wear a skirt and heels and still be just as straight as a man in jeans and sneakers.
Clothing is just a way to express one's individuality and men should not shy away from trying trends that are considered feminine out of fear of being seen as less of a man. Fashion does not follow the gender constructs that our society has created. We should be inspired by the environment that the fashion industry has created that promotes being unique and creative and apply that to our daily lives. Instead of trying to force men into a box of what society expects them to look like, we should encourage them to experiment with both masculine and feminine styles.
I understand that there are also men that are not interested in makeup or feminine clothing, and that is completely fine. I just want men to keep an open mind when it comes to their own appearance or the appearances of other men. I am tired of the word gay being thrown around as an insult or as a threat to what a man could become if he was not careful about how he presents himself. Leave your toxic masculinity behind and learn to embrace your inner femininity.