What makes a man a man when ideas about masculinity change?

Four men tell how they perceive themselves and others. 

“Taking up space is typically male” – Gabriel, 30 years old

I lived in the female gender role until I was 24 and then I started my transition.

I've even heard sexist sayings at the transman regulars' table.

For me, sexism means when someone is denied treatment on an equal footing.

Unfortunately, the easiest way to constitute oneself as male is to distance oneself from women and homosexuals, for example through sexism.

Before that, my job reference once said that I was “resolute”.

The fact that I demanded eye level with men was a breach of the rules.

That's why I was credited with being a lesbian.

In any case, as a woman, I didn't behave "properly", for example when I repaired the printer that was on fire in the office myself instead of calling a man.

After I came out as a trans man, my job reference said: "Takes responsibility and works independently".

This is the same as "resolute".

The only difference is the scale you use.

I had sort of an Excel spreadsheet in my head of things that were good and not so good about me.

And what has changed along with gender is the table frame.

Resolute demeanor is viewed negatively in a woman, but as a man, I get praise for the same trait.

Growing up, I had a relatively large number of toxic masculinity role models, which may also be the reason why I couldn't identify with masculinity for a long time.

I didn't ask myself if I wanted to be a man, I just realized that I didn't want to live the kind of femininity I was raised to be.

In my upbringing, my parents made it a priority for me to conform to female norms.

For example, I've learned that I should take other people more seriously than myself. Only sit down after everyone else has been taken care of.

Demands on a good housewife and mother.

Men grow up with completely different standards, which are also not easy to meet.

There was a long period during my transition where I looked ambiguous.

Whether others see you as a man has a lot to do with body language.

I had to learn a lot first.

As a woman, I've often heard that I should smile more.

Now, as a man, I smile too much and am therefore perceived as gay.

When men stand, 50 percent of their weight rests on each leg.

For women, it's more of a 70-30 spread.

When women walk down the street, they tend to keep their eyes down and focus on the meter in front of them.

Men look 15 to 20 meters ahead and do not even notice that everyone is avoiding them.

In general: taking up space is typically male.

Power relations are embedded in gender.

I notice that, for example, when I'm walking home from the subway at night and there's a woman in front of me.

And I notice it's going faster and faster.

Then I stop and tap my phone because I know she might feel threatened.

I'm now perceived as a man, and that's how I want it.

But I also want to use body language to signal that I'm not a threat.

The privilege of not wasting a single thought on this power structure is only available to white, straight, able-bodied cis men.

"My father was a hard man" - Waseem, 32 years

In Syria, I could never be 100 percent myself.

At some point I knew that I was gay and that I was doing badly.

Even before the war started, I wanted to move to Europe.

I wanted to go somewhere else, somewhere where I could be myself.

I came to Germany in 2017.

To be honest: I was never myself until I moved to Berlin in 2020.