To look at me you would never guess that I played with My Little Ponies and Barbie as a child or that my favorite thing to do was move all the furniture in our living and practice fake tumbling passes like Shannon Miller and Kim Zymeskal. I suppose I'm just another example of a mismatch between external and internal. As a dancer and a member of my high school color guard I was ridiculed for my choice to participate in an activity that, according to my peers, was off limits to men. Though time and time again it was the men who were the ones judging me. While I found refuge in dancing, when I stopped to look around time and time again I was still the only male. Even in the dance world I still manage to break the mold of what a male dancer is supposed to look like. I'm short, I'm muscular and I move the way my body moves without the need to impose some perceived 'feminine' element to choreography.
My passion for 'womanly' activities has nothing to do with the fact that I'm gay nor the why. I think being gay allowed me the permission to break the rules that determine what men can or can't do. In high school I broke the rules of men by spinning a flag and loving every minute of it. I broke the rules by developing deep and lasting relationships with women that had nothing to do with their bodies. And I continue to break the rules I suppose by not giving a damn what people think about my passions. I do the things that bring me joy regardless.
I'm a dude who knits. I have a beard, I wear boots, I have big hairy arms and I sit on the subway and I love to make stuff out of yarn and two needles. When I first moved to New York I was convinced that I would be judged for this, stared at and scrutinized. And at first it felt that way. I would look up periodically and see eyes cast my way and my PTSD from all the high school judgement would creep back with the belief that these eyes disapproved. I'm now going on my 3rd year of subway knitting and I've made some discoveries. The more I put my knitting out in the open the more was revealed to me. Over those 3 years my knitting had facilitated discussions or turned a 30 minutes subway ride into a community. But more often then that, my eyes would look up from my busy hands and no one was looking back. It was the not noticing that made me realize my gender had absolutely nothing to do with the activity. No one cared. And if the were watching me they were watching my hands. They were watching me create. It was liberating to realize that. The real icing on the cake was the day I entered a subway car with a fellow male knitter. It was proof that not only was the acceptance growing but it had facilitated a growth in our visibility as male knitters defying this previously viewed female past time.
I feel as if more of us, men and women alike are making that choice to cast off the traditional image of man and woman. Women are wrestling and fighting in our military. Men are designing clothes, cooking and styling hair. The performances of male and female seem to be slowly fading away. We are the the precipice of an age where we will not be defined by a fake idea of happiness but that of true joy without judgement. So the next time you see a man knitting on the subway, watch him living his joy and smile back. And hey, if I can get my eyes out of my hands long enough I might smile back!