Kòktèl: Exploring Black Masculinity

Kòktèl: Exploring Black Masculinity

Kòktèl (cocktail in Haitian Creole) is about exploring the diversity of masculinity. This project by Zarita Zevallos consists of portraits and a series of interviews exploring modern black masculinity.

“When you think of a cocktail it brings the idea of color, flavor and the experience of different elements blended together for a tasteful experience. I wanted to visually express that with colors and movement. The thread bending, crossing and extending around and over his body sometimes express the turmoil in which different men find themselves, other times it represents the way men spin the web of their individuality. Who am I to speak on behalf of a gender that I do not identify as? Therefore, I let those who do speak. *don’t deny them of freedom because they are different than you.”

” Hypermasculinity prevents us men from being our true selves:
‘To be a real man, you can’t be vulnerable, both emotionally and physically. You have to be this flying, combusting ball of raw Angus beef, 24/7’.
As men, we tell each other the lie that there’s only one way to function as human beings, for the sake of bullshit societal norms that only persist because we let them, hurting everyone else on the gender spectrum in the process.
What a shitty, boring life that must be. “
Mutatayi, 22 (@tshizimba)
” What I do know is that society categorizes men as the dominant male and I am against thinking that men are dominant. There is no dominant gender for me, just equal beings to whom different tasks are attributed. Let’s consider for example the prototype of the family : men are the head of the family. I consider that normal, but that doesn’t mean that our word is holy. What I mean is that society has made men an instrument of authority, that must behave in a certain way, in order to meet the requirements of the needs of the system. ” Glenn, 23
” The thing is I can never understand how does a guy decides to go gay, like how? In my belief, God did not create man to have a relationship with the same sex, so that right there already disturbs me. Example: I know certain men that tell you that the reason they decided to turn gay is because they are not sexually active with females. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow because i can never understand how, no matter how much I try . To go to a subway, bar or wherever for two guys to feel comfortable holding hands Kissing etc., that’s very disrespectful to me. My thoughts on that community of men who don’t follow the norms of what a man should be, are that i don’t believe in gay marriage or couples. To me that doesn’t exist and it shouldn’t be legal. Making it legal messes up our future kids brains. I mean, nowadays look at the shows, movies, cartoons etc. now on tv if there’s not a gay flick on it it’s not normal. It’s like your telling the child it’s ok to be gay, it’s normal, when clearly it’s not. At the rate we are going, by the time we reach 2030 we will all be surrounded by gays, so to me something has to be done about that. ” Stephan, 29
” As a Black Man of Transition, (I say this instead of Black Transman because I identify as a man: being transgender is simply a part of that identity just like in addition to me being 5’8″, tatted, having long hair, etc. Yes I identity as both a Black man and as a Black Transman for transgender advocacy purposes but that’s not all that I am so I prefer to be known as a simply a man of transition. I mean after all, all humans are in transition.) Due to all parts of my whole I am often confronted with this ideology of not being perceived or respected as a man and/or not being included in the black fight for equality simply because I am a man of transition. It troubles me that often the black community is unable to accept persons of difference especially when it comes to people in the LGBTQI community when we’re all fighting for the same things; freedom and equality under the umbrella of human rights. This is something I grapple over daily because the black community cannot progress and get the rights that ALL BLACK PEOPLE deserve if LGBTQI persons are not respected as crucial members of the fight. Take for example PRIDE events : a lot of black people are ignorant to the fact that it’s actually a celebration of black history just as much as it is about a person’s gender/sexuality freedom. If it weren’t for Black Transwomen there would be no PRIDE celebrations across the nation as they were the ones who fought the police and risked their lives for the freedom of LGBTQI persons but indeed this is a crucial part of black history as well that is not noted or mentioned simply because of their identity. The black community often refuses to accept the true identities of even prominent Black writers and authors such as Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, etc. because there is a notion that what they did for the black community is more significant then their sexuality when indeed it’s both very relevant for why they felt the need to be authentic and share their stories with the world. Overall there is a beautiful diverse spectrum of identities for black men to choose from. Black men don’t all have to be aggressive and hyper masculine nor do they have to be emotionally sensitive or soft but I think it’s time that the full spectrum of masculine identities are fully embraced so that our black men can simply be who they are and not live up to any rigid ideals of what it means to be a Black Man especially in the rigid confine of what it means to be an American man which is just as limiting and toxic. It’s important for ALL MEN regardless of their difference to define their own manhood and their own masculinity. It’s not up to society or the black community to define what it means to be a man or a black man. Every individual is different and that’s what makes the world a beautiful place. If every man were the same there’d be a major problem. Although a lot of men are ignorant to the fact of even what it means to be a man. This is a question that I often ask many cisgender heterosexual men that I encounter that have a hard time grasping my identity as if they must in order to respect me. It’s funny because when asked WHAT IS A MAN they are like “well I really don’t know I mean I just am so I don’t think about it” and I’m like precisely I JUST AM TOO the only difference I wasn’t assigned male at birth and they were. In a well balanced human masculinity and femininity are married together perfectly. We often get caught up in thinking that masculinity has one meaning or one purpose when in reality how masculinity is perceived and expressed is as unique as the individual. To be masculine does not mean you are a man. To be a man does not mean that you are masculine. It’s extremely important that men embrace their true selves and live authentically. This is how we slowly begin to weed away toxic and hyper masculine characters in society. Even the strongest biggest looking men in the world are often the sweetest kindest men you’ll ever meet. The perception of an individual is not the end all be all. Humans are extremely complex and must be seen and respected as such. There can be beautiful harmony between myself a Black Man of transition and other Black Men if this notion can be expected. Also I just wanted to note that I’m never misgendered or disrespected by white men in American society. I often think it’s because although they too have limiting ideals when it comes to masculinity they are way more open and progressive to accepting differences in masculinity than the black community which definitely would rather separate blackness from the LGBTQI community than realize we’re one in the same and we’re fighting for the same things. ” Sir Knight, 29 (@BlackTransTV)
” Embodiment of true masculine energy is not and will never be how it’s been portrayed by any men on this planet. Being a male is vast and not limited to just one way of being. We all exist here to add something to it, channel something different or mirroring a type that has been already anchored in our society. What type of man you get to be is a choice or a combination of choices and ideals, a process of finding the perfect version of self as you become different variations of “male” throughout the years. All of us aren’t meant to fit the same criteria. A lion can’t just come and say to a snake that it needs to be a lion-snake. They don’t share the same genes, therefore they cannot be the same. Same goes for us men, the good thing with our psyche and physiology is that it’s all programmable we can be very flexible in our way of being, picking up notions from the good and even from the worse form of criticisms. I am very aware of my hyper-masculinity but that doesn’t stop me from feeling sexy, being calm, creative and relaxed at all time, all that just by tapping in the feminine part of my soul. We’re all magnificent beings and I think that as long one is not faking it, his polarities will be felt by all and respected anyway, even if they’re unbalanced his authenticity is all that matters. ” Jerry, 26 (@jerryxxwolf)


” Well first of all masculinity is promoted differently amongst different race groups. White people are “allowed” to be sensible or vulnerable and are allowed to be strong and tough : nerds/nopeless romantics or machos/soldiers. But with black men, we are expected to be strong, not express too much emotions, be aggressive, mean, big and bad. The thug/criminal/bully. Reasons to that come from the Jim Crow era with slavery and to how we are represented in day to day media. We have “masculinity molds” that we have to fit in too and get demonized if we happen to not fit the role. If we happen to be in touch with our femininity more. Hypermasculinity deems anything “feminine” as below or inferior. This idea that black men are being emasculated by an imaginary gay agenda is extremely ignorant and homophobic. Gender identity and gender expression are two different things but aren’t mutually exclusive. A man who identifies as a man can express femininely and comfortably and still be secure with their sexuality. But that is a reality that isn’t promoted enough and in result confuses people. Black men aren’t allowed to be children for a very long time. They are seen as men as early as like 9-10 years old. To relate it to my experience with masculinity and gender, I’ve always liked putting towels on my head when I was kid and pretending I was shakira belly dancing. But when I learned that this type of behavior would get me fucked up I reserved that type of expression for the bedroom or the shower. Thankfully I’ve deconditioned my mind and now know better than to give a fuck. ” Terry, 18 (@chivengi)
” I feel complaining only worsens the situation by lowering our energy.
I wish we could focus instead on how far we’ve come, and solutions for the future.
It seems to be a healthy approach to overcome the problems we don’t need to dwell on anymore if we really want to see a change.
I don’t want to ponder on past difficulties, that’s too easy to do.
The real challenge is to turn this mess into a message of hope.
I would only be hurting myself if I carried everyone’s perception of me all the time.
I cant do that.
Anytime you go against the grain, you must be ready to overcome opposition.
We can decide to be limited by them or chose to free ourselves.
I’m not going to pretend it’s always been easy, and that others don’t have strong opposing views, but I had to shake them off long ago so I could clear up the space to be who I was meant to be.
What breaks me more than what people would say or the way they would treat me is watching my mother suffer from her lack of understanding of her son.
That’s ok too because I believe it serves a greater purpose for the future over her current fear.
The idea of machoism is what really crushed men today.
Our society’s view of masculinity has always been broken.
We were raised to denigrate characteristics associated with the feminine.
The only emotion I grew up seeing most men openly express was anger.
We were taught to be driven by the domination of others where we can control them based on gender, sexual preference, religion, culture or race.
I became liberated the moment I declared that I am strong, and sensitive, and everything in between.
I am guided by my genderless soul, not driven by my male ego.
I can be compassionate, and loving, and still maintain a strong sense of who I am as man.
The rise of the empowered woman is not a threat.
If we could redefine what it is to be a man, women would never be used emotionally, and physically to validate masculine insecurity. It’s time every man becomes aware of their inner femininity that nurtures us all.
It starts with me.
I am man enough. “
Karl-Eric, 26 (@kvertil)
” Man has evolved and has gone through many steps to become untouchable : a leader, the most important and ask others to submit to him as supplements.
We have come to a situation where the ideal man, at this moment of intellectual and social evolution, must look at others as his equals.
The man who wants to reach a level of plenitude must ask for social justice.
The man who sees himself as untouchable, can only be compared to a gorilla, as he considers brutality and pressure as the only way to gain personal authority and does not use ethical moral reflection, that is a human value embraced by an evolved, clever man.
A man cooking, taking care of others, doing household chores or any other activities considered for women doesn’t take away his masculinity from him.
Whoever thinks otherwise, humbly lacks maturity, has remained in lost times and has not yet evolved.
Unfortunately, the influence of certain beliefs and lines of thoughts puts the brake on the evolution of the homo-sapiens.
It prevents us from looking at reality in its totality, and especially in total objectivity. “
Arturo, 72


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