(Non)Toxic Masculinity Columns

Non-Toxic Masculinity: A Fresh Start

Robert Monson

“Meditate and learn to be alone without being lonely…Learn to be quiet enough to hear the sound of the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in other people…A few minutes every hour, a half-hour every day, a day a month, a week a year-in dedicated silence-is a goal to pursue.”

Marian Wright Edelman 

Well,  here we are at the beginning of a new column that I will regularly be a contributor to entitled “Non-Toxic Masculinity.” With all of the messages out there in the world concerning masculinity, particularly within Christian spaces, I am well aware that this title is loaded. For many, the word “masculine” evokes thoughts ranging from dominance to fear to strength. It is not lost on me that some feel that the very nature of masculinity needs to be recovered. With all of that said, I want to take some time to tell you who I am, what I envision for this column, what it will be, and of course, what it won’t be. 

Who Am I? 

So… Non-Toxic. I suppose that is as good of an avenue to introduce myself as any. I am one of seven children, a byproduct of a home that couldn’t be described as healthy by any stretch of the imagination. Because of the brokenness that I witnessed in my own home and the subsequent life of brokenness that I chose over the course of my young adulthood and adulthood, I have entered into various levels of toxicity. Poverty, my adherence to atheism, rejection issues, my fear of being dominated, and social anxiety shaped me into the type of man who made it his mission to always make his way to the top.

With all of my broken behavior, flashes of who I am really began to emerge when I became a Christian in college (a very interesting story for another day). So here I am, an atheist turned Christian. A writer. A seminarian. A runner. A person plagued with chronic illness. 

What Can You Expect From This Column? 

I want to point you back to the opening quote from Marian Wright Edelman. This quote embodies how I go about living my life, writing, doing activism work, engaging in relationships, etc. This column will be the overflow of thoughts I have been mulling over for weeks or even months at a time. I tend to sit on thoughts and try to view them from every angle. This is how I go about introspection (as the quote indicates) and how I will go about writing this column. I want to engage masculinity and the conversation surrounding it from a variety of perspectives. This will be a column for thinking. 

This column will be for those seeking topics that aren’t typically covered in “manhood” conversations. We will talk about Christianity, our emotions, balancing the intersection of gender and race, advocating for a liberated society, mental health, and so much more. I believe that in order to become the man that I endeavor to be, I have to understand the world around me, and that world includes everyone. We will talk about gender issues here–even when that makes you uncomfortable. I would ask that when you feel uncomfortable, suspend judgment and try to think through what is causing you dissonance or discomfort. I will be writing from a Black, Christian, chronically ill, formerly atheist,  male perspective. Within that framework, you may notice that some of my views don’t align with yours–and that is perfectly okay. 

This Column Will Not…

Bash Women. If I can help it, I will try not to bash anyone. Even when I speak about white supremacy,  I am very specific. Women, particularly Black women, are usually on the chopping block when topics of masculinity are brought up. You will not find that in any of my writings for this column. Ever. If anything, you will find that I want to create ways to uplift, serve, protect, and understand Black women (and women in general) in a more generative way. We have let the discourse around women degenerate into discussions around submission for far too long. That will not be the topic of my writings.

Lastly, this column will not be a safe space for those who wish to remain in the same place. My goal is to create content that inspires, encourages, uplifts, and initiates conversations. I hope that as men and (women) read this column, we can talk one to another and be changed in tangible ways. I don’t want to talk at you as if I have arrived at Non-Toxic masculinity. I won’t approach this as an academic but rather as a brother who comes alongside you. Together, through dialogue, nerdy obsessions and idiosyncrasies, cultural anchor points, and other ethical frameworks, we will construct a better way forward in “masculinity.”