Boy! you hit a nerve with this one!!
I grew up in a steel mill/ coal mining culture in Pennsylvania and machismo was the only parameter used to define a man. I was a whimpy kid who loved books, Shakespeare, poetry, ballet, classical music, and art. From the time I entered kindergarten until I entered grad school I was ridiculed, beaten up, and made to feel inferior and less than a man. When I reached the age of 14 I couldn't take it anymore and started working out and learning to fight. After being suspended from school three times for fighting (in which I beat the crap out of the poor guys that attacked me), the males decided I was crazy and left me alone. That was all I wanted. I was still laughed at, of course, but I could endure that. Now, looking back on that time and all the pain, I am thankful for all the so called men made me endure because it made me morally and physically strong. I didn't follow the fads that most of the kids followed; I thought for myself, and I continued to work out and I started to test myself by doing things that people think require courage. If I were to tell you all the things I've done, I'm sure you'd think I was lying, but let me name a few. I climbed some of the highest mountains in the world; I bicycled 4250 miles, alone, across the United States and I climbed every damn hill and mountain on my bike. I didn't walk up one. I climbed some impressive rock walls like Devils Tower in Wyoming. I sky dived and I bungee jumped off of what was at the time the highest natural bungee jump in the world. It was an ice covered railroad bridge built during the gold rush in New Zealand. It was 4 degrees below zero......I could go on but let me end with what was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life and has left me with permanent PTSD. I worked with Mother Teresa helping the poorest of the poor die in the slums of Calcutta.
I told you you wouldn't believe me and I won't be surprised if you don't, but when you tell the truth it doesn't matter whether anyone believes you or not.
All of this was to prove to myself that you could be a man and not be macho; not love violence or so called "manly sports like American football where men do their best to kill each other to get some ball across a goal line. GENTLENESS IS NOT WEAKNESS!!! All this I did to prove that to all the men who tormented me for so many years. Now when some Neanderthal brags about some accomplishment that required courage or physical strength, I just smile and say nothing...they wouldn't believe me if I told them some of the things I've done, and what's much more important, I don't care what they think of me or if they would believe me or not.
So I prefer the company of women. I love to cook and bake. I've been accused of being gay; I'm not but I find that most gay men are far more intellectual and artistically gifted than strait men. So am I a man? Do I have courage? Let me end with another true experience. I climbed an 18,000 foot volcano in Mexico in the summer which, normally isn't done because the snow conditions are very unstable and it's dangerous. When I entered the Chalet run by the government at the base off the mountain, there was no one staying there. It was dark and the three caretakers were playing dominos by the light of a kerosine lamp. They looked at me in surprise and one of them said something in Spanish and pointed up. I said si. Then he asked, "Solo?" and I said si. Then he turned to his companions and said with a smile, "Ah muy macho!"