Capturing Impact

Our Recap of A Gathering of Leaders 2014

Expanding Understanding of Masculinity as a Tool to Build Opportunity Structures for Boys and Men of Color This session provided insight into how generational shifts might complicate contemporary thinking of masculinity, and offered examples of successful initiatives rooted in an expanded understanding of masculinity.


Vincent Jones Reinvent Communications
Juan Gomez National Compadres Network

Main Points

  • We can’t have a movement that is so rigid that all parts of the masculinity spectrum can’t be part of it. The movement has to have space for all notions of masculinity.
  • Society has changed. Millennial men are less defined by their work, and they don’t believe in traditional gender roles like they used to.
  • We want to have an open conversation about how we can talk about masculinity in more honest ways. We need to take these conversations a little bit further.
  • How do we put our ignorance out there as a learning experience? Is there a space to be ignorant but also to learn?
  • How can we get gender-conforming and gender-nonconforming youth to work together in the same space to start to influence these outcomes and challenge notions of masculinity and sexuality?
  • What kind of example do bullies have in the community? We need to think about the trauma and the importance of doing healing work. The trauma is so toxic that kids react with violence.

LGBT Community and Gender-Nonconforming People

  • Gender-nonconforming people are often assumed to be LGBT, but that’s not always the case.
  • Gender identity and expression start early. The levels of victimization of gender-nonconforming kids in preschool is through the roof. We need to talk about this issue as it applies to two- and three-year-olds.
  • Three out of four students bullied for perceived sexual orientation are not identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
  • Four out of five LGBT students report not knowing ANY supportive adults at their school.

Key Strategies

  • Be ready to call homophobia out, but also let people be honest about their own identities.
  • Expand your view of masculinity, which will make you think about what you advocate for and how you talk about, with, and to young men.
  • Create a space—especially a sacred space—to encourage boys to open up. Allow them to express their identity at young ages.
  • Disseminate tools to allow elders to work through their conflict in a safe space—but make the safety of young men of color the first priority.

Action Steps

  • Train your staff.
  • Keep young men first.
  • Create space for people to open up about their identity.
  • Ask funders to fund more on this issue.

Standout Quotes

"We have to challenge what has become the status quo rite of passage for our boys." Juan Gomez
"This isn’t a silo-ed thing. Masculinity and gender themes can be spread across the conversation and portfolio of work. This work is a central part of the BMOC conversation. It needs to be at the center of everything we do around this issue." Vincent Jones
"Even through chaos we can teach young people to go deeply into their own being and find happiness and joy. " Audience member