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I'm Afraid of Men

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Shraya, Vivek
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17,95 $


"Emotional and painful but also layered with humour, I'm Afraid of Men will widen your lens on gender and challenge you to do better. This challenge is a necessary one--one we must all take up. It is a gift to dive into Vivek's heart and mind."
--Rupi Kaur, bestselling author of The Sun and Her Flowers and Milk and Honey

A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl--and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.

Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she's endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.

Now, with raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I'm Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of colour and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.“Emotional and painful but also layered with humour, I’m Afraid of Men will widen your lens on gender and challenge you to do better. This challenge is a necessary one—one we must all take up. It is a gift to dive into Vivek’s heart and mind.”
—Rupi Kaur, bestselling author of The Sun and Her Flowers and Milk and Honey
“In I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya owns and exposes her own history with masculinity and offers a way out of this harmful and old-fashioned binary we call gender. My head nodded along quietly in agreement any time I wasn’t wiping away rising tides of tears. Vivek Shraya is a superior voice, and this book is essential reading for everyone.”
—Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara

“Vivek Shraya’s writing is always empathetic but challenging, kind but sharp, and I’m Afraid of Men forces you to confront what you think you know about masculinity, privilege, and fear. Reading Shraya’s writing will make you a better person, through and through.”
—Scaachi Koul, author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

“Shraya crafts each of her memories in prose made poetic with touches of metaphor. She writes with honesty and vulnerability, all the while asking challenging and personal questions that inspire deeper reflection. This crucial addition to shelves offers the vital and often ignored perspective of a trans woman of color. A book to carry with you.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)Book Club Guide

1.     How do you understand the term 'toxic masculinity' and how do you see this represented in this book?

2.     How does I’m Afraid of Men point to the forms of toxic masculinity you see or have experienced in society? Do you think the book offers a potential solution to the problem of toxic masculinity? Provide examples, both from the book and your own experience, and discuss the potential impact of these ideas. 

3.     How does Shraya’s identity and experience as a trans girl provide additional insight into the manifestations of toxic masculinity in society? What passages and anecdotes from the book provide examples of this unique insight and viewpoint? 

4.     Shraya has argued that “there is an urgent need to reimagine traditional ideas about gender.” In your opinion, is this something that is underway in contemporary culture? If so, how? If not, how so? 

5.     The book discusses the pressures of masculinity that Shraya has experienced throughout her life. Consider and discuss the effects of societal norms of masculinity on Shraya personally, and then consider the pressure these norms exert on members of the trans community in its entirety. As a counterpoint, consider the pressures these norms of masculinity exert on cis heterosexual men and how these pressures and expectations can lead to toxic behaviour.

6.     In a particularly telling passage on page 30, Shraya writes “my brownness turns out to be a form of queerness in and of itself and makes me too queer for gay men.” I’m Afraid of Men is about Shraya’s experience as a trans girl but is also, importantly, about her experiences as a member of a racialized community. Using examples from the book, discuss how Shraya’s racial identity has informed her concept of what it means to be a man—and what it means to be ‘a good man.’ 

7.     Between pages 37 and 40, Shraya discusses a budding relationship with a fellow member of the trans community, who also happens to be an influential player in the music industry. The relationship, both personally and professionally, dissolves when the possibility of sex is taken out of the equation. Discuss the relationship between sex and power in this vignette. What does this section of the book tell us about sexuality and the workplace? About the prevalence—across gender communities—of sex and power imbalances? 

8.     Before coming out as trans, Shraya goes to significant personal lengths in pursuit of ‘masculinity,’ from attempting to change her body through exercise and diet to changing her gait and modulating the tone of her voice. What do these efforts tell us about the pervasiveness of particular notions of masculinity in society? What do these efforts tell us about the costs—personal and societal—of feeling compelled to conform to to these forms of masculinity? 

9.     Shraya reflects on how she was committed to the idea of ‘the good man,’ but ultimately determines that idea needs to be abandoned. How did Shraya’s evolving definition of ‘the good man’ impact your perspective on the idea? Do you think striving to be ‘the good man’ is a worthwhile quest?  

10.  On pages 59-61, Shraya describes her experiences as facilitator for anti-transphobia and anti-homophobia workshops. She notes her discomfort with “the reality that often the only way to capture someone’s attention and to encourage them to recognize their own internal biases (and to work to alter them) is to confront them with sensational stories of suffering.” Why is it so difficult, for so many people, to confront their own prejudice in the absence of violence and suffering? Why, as Shraya asks us, is her “humanity only seen or cared about” when she shares the ways in which she’s been “victimized and violated?” 

11.  In addition to being afraid of men, Shraya writes “I’m also afraid of women.” What is the source of this fear? And why does she believe that she “can’t fully rely upon other women for sisterhood, allyship, or protection from men? (page 82) What does this fear tell us about the relationship of women to the trans community? Does this fear confront the prospect of internalized misogyny? 

12.  On page 84, Shraya writes “unfortunately, any ambiguity or nonconformity, especially in relation to gender, conjures terror. This is precisely why men are afraid of me. Why women are afraid of me too. But your fear is not only hurting me, its hurting you, limiting you from everything you could be.” Discuss the nature of fear in relation to gender-nonconformity. What does this fear stem from? How do we overcome this fear of difference and learn to celebrate it? How does Shraya suggest we can start making this transition, this “surrender to sublime possibility”USVIVEK SHRAYA is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, poetry, fiction, visual art, and film. A Publishing Triangle Award winner, her books include even this page is white,The Boy & the Bindi, and She of the Mountains. Shraya is one half of the music duo Too Attached and founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books. She teaches creative writing at the University of Calgary.I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me fear.

I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the word girl by turning it into a weapon they used to hurt me. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to hate and eventually destroy my femininity. I’m afraid of men because it was men who taught me to fear the extraordinary parts of myself.

My fear was so acute that it took almost two decades to undo the damage of rejecting my femininity, to salvage and reclaim my girlhood. Even now, after coming out as a trans girl, I am more afraid than ever. This fear governs many of the choices I make, from the beginning of my day to the end.

In the morning, as I get ready for work, I avoid choosing clothes or accessories that will highlight my femininity and draw unwanted attention. On the hierarchy of harassment, staring is the least violent consequence for my gender nonconformity that I could hope for. And yet the experience of repeatedly being stared at has slowly mutated me into an alien.

If I decide to wear tight pants, I walk quickly to my bus stop to avoid being seen by the construction workers outside my building, who might shout at me as they have on other mornings.

When I’m on a packed bus or streetcar, I avoid making eye contact with men, so that no man will think I might be attracted to him and won’t be able to resist the urge to act upon this attraction. I squeeze my shoulders inward if a man sits next to me, so that I don’t accidentally touch him.

If I open Twitter or Facebook on the way to work, I brace myself for news reports of violence against women and gender-nonconforming people, whether it’s a story about another trans woman of colour who has been murdered, or the missing and murdered Indigenous women, or sexual assault. As important as it is to make these incidents visible by reporting them, sensationalizing and digesting these stories is also a form of social control, a reminder that I need to be afraid and to try to be as invisible as possible.