Magnificat, April 2022
Four days after I had sex with him, two days after he sent me a text saying, ‘hey man whats up’, I called him to ask if we could just be friends (without the having sex part).
Six words. Six words he had waiting for me, sitting on the tip of his tongue. Although I couldn’t see his face, his next six words were bouncing excitedly inside his mouth as if they were dogs in a kennel and he was rushing to unlock the kennel door.
“Well. . .I was thinking. . .you were too feminine for me,” he responded.
Silence. I fell silent for about 20 seconds.
“Um. . .do you want to talk about it?” he asked, not to comfort me but to ease his own awkwardness.
“Nope. I’m good. I’ll go then.” I said, trying to recoup any amount of dignity I had left, and trying to hide how embarrassed I was. Before those six words, I had never—never—given any thought to my femininity. I simply existed. I was myself. And happily so.
The mental descent happened soon after. ‘If he thinks I’m too feminine,’ I would think to myself from time to time, ‘what other man would think I was too feminine for him?’ I wish I could say his six words were an isolated event. They weren’t. When I went a-perusing on dating and hook-up apps, many of the men whom I was attracted to, whose profiles I clicked on, stated very clearly, “NO FEMS”. (Yes, sometimes in all caps.) On a dating website—a real dating site, not Grindr—a man whom I was attracted to (and it was evident I was attracted to him because I clicked on his profile) used his profile to sermonize: “Why do gay men act so feminine? Are they trying to be like women? Or are they trying to outdo women? If I wanted to be with a woman, I’d just be with a woman.” Seeing men write ‘NO FEMS’ on their profiles, reminded me of the signs racist, white businesses used to put on their storefronts, saying things like, ‘NO COLOREDS’ or ‘NEGROES NOT WELCOME HERE’. But instead of the sentiment being, ‘Your black presence and your black money is not wanted here!’, the sentiment was, ‘Feminine men are not worthy of love—barely even worthy of sex—and this especially applies to feminine blacks!’ Because when I found black or white men on dating or hook-up sites who were interested in feminine men, they specified, ‘whites only’ or ‘white or Latino only’. It wasn’t long before I got the picture: Generally, femininity among gay men isn’t desired, but when it is, it’s only wanted in a white or Latino man.
Because I wanted to fall in love, get married, and build a life with a man someday, I tried to masculinize myself. I thought, ‘I’ll never attract a man being as feminine as I am.’ I trained my wrists not to be so limp. I hardened my walk. All of the feminine idiosyncrasies in my manner of speech, and the way I moved my hands—my hands were always a dead giveaway—I purposely weaned from myself. I became like Miss Trunchbull from Matilda: I was grossly harsh and unnecessarily punitive to how I carried myself.
* * * * *
The Lay of the Land
“Men are supposed to be masculine.” “Women are supposed to be feminine.” These social rules are codified into western society. The western view of sex, gender, and gender expression is defined by a static, rigid, this-or-that binary: a consequence of white supremacy, by way of Eurocentrism, Judeo-Christianity, and a patriarchal societal framework. Deviations from the norm (i.e., a masculine woman or a feminine man, gender non-conforming people), warrants outrage and elicits cries of a collapsing society.
But what if I told you that there is a principle that rejects this type of thinking? What if I told you that there is a universal, spiritual law that rebuts this erroneous simplicity of viewing human expression?
The principle is known as The Divine Energies. Well. . .actually, it’s not. If you were to Google the term ‘The Divine Energies’, the search results will present information about a theo-philosophical discussion about the distinction between divine essence and energies. I came upon the concept of The Divine Energies years ago, arbitrarily, when I was perusing blogs and Tumblr pages with no significant purpose. A woman made an audio slideshow talking about The Divine Energies from the perspective of the Adam and Eve myth. It must be said though that The Divine Energies are typically referred to singularly: the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine. For the purpose of this essay, when I refer to both of Them at once, I will use the term, The Divine Energies.
When it comes to this principle, it must be said that those who speak on it—myself included—are speaking from speculation, theory, or belief. The Divine Energies is a spiritual principle in which I am not the final nor the ultimate authority—no one is. It’s similar to the concept of ‘love’: Everybody’s definitions are slightly different but our definitions should run around the same orbit. If what I say makes sense and speaks to your spirit (if you believe in such matters), then only consider what I say. If what I say sounds like poppycock and balderdash, simply toss what I say in a pile of cow manure. The concept of The Divine Energies is not a visible, tangible thing that can be studied, scientifically examined or measured. The most one can do is extrapolate their take on the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine by observing human behavior and comparing it to and studying different beliefs, religions, and spiritualities.
There was once a time when the words sex and gender were used interchangeably. And if a person was born male, it followed that they must identify as ‘man’, and if they were a man, they had to be masculine. Very masculine. If a person was born female, it followed that they must identify as ‘woman’, and if they were a woman, they had to be feminine. Anything outside of this binary was disregarded or left to their own devices. Please refer to fig. 1, a visual aid I produced to help readers understand what scholars mean when they say gender binary.
Advancements in gender education teaches us that sex and gender denote two different things. Sex, also known as biological sex:
refers to anatomical, physiological, genetic, or physical attributes that determine if a person is male, female, or intersex. These include both primary and secondary sex characteristics, including genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, and genes (PFLAG).
Based on this understanding of sex, I produced fig. 2 to help us visualize or conceptualize how we should look at sex.
Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct (Kari). What does that mean? A social construct is “an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society” (“Social construct”). PFLAG explains gender as that which determines the set of expectations of attitudes, roles, behaviors, and activities of people (PFLAG).
Gender, or gender identity, exists on a continuum (Ourisman): an arrangement in which related topics, ideas, subjects or concepts within a given field exist, naturally and objectively, within a range in which they relate to each other and the varying degrees that exist between different points. Thomas’s Visual Representation of the Continuum of Gender Identities recognizes 4 main poles: man, woman, bigender, and agender. However, infinite gender possibilities can be conceived. People can situate themselves wheresoever on the continuum they feel comfortable and, if they so choose, can relocate themselves as often as they deem necessary. Why? Because every human being possesses agency of self—or should. And, as Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus declared, life is flux (Mark); almost never is any aspect of life static. Despite what western ideologies claim, man and woman are not the only gender possibilities. I’ve produced an illustration (fig. 3) to help us conceptualize or visualize the gender possibilities.
So, what brings on gender identities? Gender expression. And what is gender expression? It is the acceptance or rejection (or an individualized mixture of the two) of social or—most importantly—self-expectations of how one is supposed to dress, behave, talk, walk, and present one’s self. PFLAG asserts that gender expression may be “conscious and subconscious” and relates to “countless combinations of masculine and feminine expressions” (PFLAG). People can identify mostly one with one expression, mostly with the other, a near-perfect blend of the two, or they can oscillate at will between the two.
Plato’s Realm of Forms
The principle of The Divine Energies is not regarded as a philosophical topic, but to understand The Divine Energies, a brief, simplified overview of Plato’s Realm of Forms is, in my opinion, a perfect foundation to understand Them. Plato’s Theory of Forms goes a little something like this: The physical realm in which we dwell is temporary, imperfect and in a constant state of change, and logically, it follows, there is a spiritual, invisible, and permanent realm. In this spiritual realm, there exists perfect representations, or Forms, of abstract and concrete things that exist in our physical realm (Macintosh).
The Divine Energies
Theoretically, The Divine Energies are spiritual representations, forms, or prototypes. They are archetypes (Ourisman; Regan), that some say are based on Gods and Goddesses from differing beliefs (Khu-Akaru; Regan). The Masculine and the Feminine don’t exist in the spiritual realm because they exist in the physical realm. The Masculine and the Feminine manifest in the physical realm because they exist preeminently in the spiritual realm, objectively and independently from their existence in the physical realm. What makes young girls want to play football, or gives her that wild, outdoorsy nature, or makes her feel more comfortable hanging “with the bros” and “acting like one of the bros” is a manifestation of the Divine Masculine. What makes young boys want to play with Barbies and doll babies, or inspires him to want to wear make-up, or makes him feel more comfortable jumping rope and playing Double Dutch with the girls is a manifestation of the Divine Feminine.
For a brief and noncomprehensive list of behavioral traits that is expressed by the Masculine and the Feminine, please refer to Table 1. (The manifestation of the Energies goes beyond behavioral traits to include Their existence within the universe itself, but that lies outside of the scope of this conversation.)
|The Divine Energies|
|Divine Masculine||Divine Feminine|
|hardened bodily movements||soft or softened bodily movements|
|tendency to be hardy, solid, rigid||tendency to be delicate/sensitive/dainty|
|combative (as a defensive reaction)||peaceful/pacifistic/diplomatic/concerned with healing|
|drawn to the wild or outdoors||drawn to the domestic space or indoors|
|marked by roughness, rough-and-tumbleness||marked by gentility|
|prefers a more athletic, high-energy, rowdy atmosphere||prefers a more social, intimate atmosphere|
|associated with logical thinking||associated with emotional feeling|
|Adapted from: A synthetization based on information from articles such as “What The Divine Masculine Is All About (And How To Balance It With The Divine Feminine)”, “Here’s The Difference Between The Divine Feminine And The Divine Masculine”, “Dating and the divine masculine and feminine energies”, the YouTube video “African Spirituality: The Divine Masculine And Divine Feminine Explained”, and self-observation.|
Some who believe in the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine, believe the Source of the Energies might be one of many things. Some believe that one God embodies both the Masculine and the Feminine, or that the main Gods and Goddesses of their respective religions embody the Masculine and the Feminine, and thus, those Gods and/or Goddesses serve as models for masculinity and femininity. Some claim that we exist in the spiritual realm before we’re born. If that’s true, maybe our expressions of the Energies are predetermined before we emerge in the physical realm. Some, like energy healer Amy Parmar, suggest that our past lives influence which Energy we “lead with” (Parmar).
Balance or “Tempering”
The beauty about the Energies and what is believed to be Their inherent inseparability, is how they can manifest or be expressed in an individual. The Masculine is not another word for males or men, and the Feminine is not another word for females or women; anyone can express both Energies in individualized proportions. Uniquely. Another way of saying that is, The Divine Energies are not exclusive to any one sex nor any one gender (Davenport; Khu-Akaru; Mitchell; Ourisman; Regan). Twitter user @__Divineskye said as much in a tweet she published on December 29, 2020, “We have both energies within us. Divine masculine and divine feminine. Nothings [sic] gender specific. You can be a female and be in your masculine energy you can be a man and be in your feminine energy” (Divine Skye Tweet). Anyone who wants to embrace the Energies in Their fullness, must unsubscribe from the western doctrine that says “masculinity is exclusive to men, and femininity is exclusive to women”.
Many spiritualists who profess that everyone possesses both Energies, advise people to balance one Energy with the other (Davenport; Mitchell; Ourisman; Parmar; Regan). Balance, however, shouldn’t be the only word used when talking about the Energies because it connotes “having weight spread equally”, “having an even distribution of weight on each side”, and “equality between the totals of the two sides of an account” (“Balance”). Balance evokes images of equal parts of two things or a 1:1 ratio, when, regarding the Energies however, we all don’t express the same measure of the Masculine or Feminine. The term tempering should be added to the conversation because tempering denotes “to dilute, qualify, or soften by the addition or influence of something else: to moderate (“Temper”). If a person is mostly masculine or mostly feminine, they should temper their primary Energy with the Other.
One of the sad things about western, American society is that, in our culture, we don’t teach nor emphasize the concept of balance or tempering. Our culture conditions us to think, act, and indulge in the excessive, the superfluous, the over-the-top, and the extreme. We are unfamiliar with concepts like measured. A feminine woman who tempers her femininity with the Masculine, sets clear, healthy boundaries in all of her relationships, be they familial, romantic, social or professional. A masculine man who tempers his masculinity with the Feminine, has emotional maturity, knows to inflict no harm on another unprovoked, and doesn’t consider cooking and cleaning as “a woman’s job”—it’s the man who washes dishes when his wife cooks, or the man who cooks fried chicken and black-eyed peas for Family Night on Sundays. Why should we strive to reach some state of equilibrium between the Energies? We’ve all heard the adage: Too much of anything is never a good thing. This applies to masculinity and femininity as well. Spiritual imbalance of the Energies leads to toxic masculinity and toxic femininity (fig. 4).
Toxic Masculinity & Toxic Femininity
Residing on the outskirts of the Visual Representation of the Spectrum of Gender Expression, are many, many men (and some women) who subscribe to a radical version of masculinity called toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is a grotesque view and enactment of masculinity that is a result of denying traits, qualities or behaviors traditionally associated with femininity (Johnson; Salam; White). Spiritually speaking, toxic masculinity results from denying the expression of the Divine Feminine. It would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t explicitly say: Toxic masculinity has absolutely nothing to do with healthy or positive masculinity. Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Twitter user @BeeBalan explains toxic masculinity best, stating:
Lmao “toxic masculinity” does not mean masculinity is inherently toxic. It is referring to a specific TYPE of masculinity that has been skewed and warped into something harmful.
Poison apple = a specific apple that has been poisoned. Poison apple ≠ apples are always poison (Doh Nyawen Tweet).
Masculinity, just like femininity, has the ability to become toxic if a person doesn’t temper their Energy with the Other, thus causing a spiritual imbalance within themselves. It is within human nature to take any good thing, abstract or concrete, and distort it. Toxic masculinity looks like:
- The belief and endorsement that “men aren’t allowed to express feelings or emotions” (unless anger or apathy)
- The belief that, as a man, if you’ve experienced trauma, you don’t need therapy nor do you need to seek healing because you can drown yourself in alcohol, drugs, sex, and other dangerous, high-adrenaline activities (activities that anesthetize mental and emotional sufferings)
- The attempt to enforce one’s beliefs onto others
- The evangelization and indoctrination of gender roles, especially towards women
- The policing of women, men, and people in the way they’re supposed to dress, behave, walk, talk, act (their mannerisms), etc.
- The use of violence (in the offensive) and use of abuse as the preferred, and oftentimes, initial way of interacting with others, especially towards women
- Restricting one’s self and others from acting within the parameters of their own self-agency especially if it does no harm to self or others
- Misogyny, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia: hatred of anything that exists outside of heteronormativity
- The objectification of women: regarding women as or comparing women to objects (e.g., cars) and disregarding their humanity and self-agency
- Subscribing to the belief that women must submit or be subservient to men (because that is “their place” in relation to men), instead of seeing women as equals or partners; the belief that “men are supposed to dominate women”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, sitting also at the outskirts, are women who enact toxic femininity. Granted, toxic femininity is not as known nor as validated in public opinion as toxic masculinity is (Singh). That probably has to do with the fact that women tend to be more mature than men and are more willing to seek healing from trauma. Toxic femininity is using female characteristics or extreme emotional actions to manipulate others, or subscription to the view that feminine individuals (mainly women) must be passive and allow the exploitation or degradation of themselves and others (Singh; Shi; Savin-Williams). Toxic femininity upholds, supports, and furthers toxic masculinity; it provides the undergirding for toxic masculinity to be perpetuated (Gilmore; Price). Spiritually speaking, toxic femininity results from denying the expression of the Divine Masculine. Dr. Ritch C. Savin-Williams asserted that one of the many ways toxic femininity manifests is when women are overly passive to the point of being consumed with taking care of others; it’s the woman who overexerts and exhausts herself taking care of others, while neglecting her own self-care and well-being (Savin-Williams). Some people use their femininity or their female characteristics (i.e., breasts, buttocks, shape, etc.) as a means to manipulate or to “play” men. (I’m not talking about the sugar daddy/sugar baby relationship; the terms and conditions of that type of relationship are very clear and defined.) I used to have a friend who told me that she would use men (her words, not mine) to take her out to eat at fancy restaurants. She would purposely order lobster, filet mignon, premium steak, caviar, champagne or whatever was the most expensive food item on the menu. She did this knowing that she wasn’t attracted to them, and expressed that she would drop them as soon as they were no longer useful. Now this certainly is not indicative of the majority of women, as toxic masculinity is in the case with men, but we can’t ignore that there are a number of women who behave like this; who know that because they have certain features, they can use those features to manipulate and take advantage of men. White women using real, believable tears or screams to intentionally cause undue harm to black people, especially black men, is a perfect example of manipulative toxic femininity. (Let’s never forget New York City’s Amy Cooper whose remarkably believable screeches were caught on camera by black bird-watcher, Christian Cooper [Radford]. Or Carolyn Bryant Donham, who, according to The New York Times, admitted to lying about 14-year-old Emmett Till [Perez-Peña; Shi].) These examples do not account for all the ways toxic femininity manifests itself in individuals. Social psychologist, Dr. Devon Price, said in an article on Medium that toxic femininity “like toxic masculinity. . .comprises countless idiosyncratic rules and manipulative insecurities” (Price). In an article published on Vice, Dr. Price continued to explain how, culturally or societally, toxic femininity imposes restrictive standards on individuals regarding how they’re supposed to express their femininity, especially their womanhood (Alao).
So what? What does this all mean?
Universal principles are: For light, there is dark; for good, there is evil; for positive, there is negative; for the sun, there is the moon; and for the Divine Masculine, there is the Divine Feminine.
Western ideologies such as white supremacy, patriarchy, and Christianity have institutionalized a static view of sex, gender, and gender expression. Yet, many indigenous peoples around the world, prior to European colonization, held fluid, culture- and religion-based views of The Divine Energies. Look at the Samoans, for example. Prior to the introduction of Christianity and presently, they have recognized four genders: men, women, fa’afafines (“in the manner of women”), and fa’afatamas (“in the manner of man”) (Samuels). Fa’afafines and fa’afatamas are genderfluid individuals “who move between male and female worlds” (Beyond Gender.) Some Native American and some African ethnic groups, despite being separated by the Atlantic Ocean, recognized dual- or two-spirited people and assigned some to spiritual leadership positions within their communities (Asanti; Sweet; Two-Spirit). But, as Dr. James H. Sweet, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said, African and Native Americans groups didn’t share cultural practices; there were cultural similarities in how they viewed gender and gender expression (192). Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health, describes a two-spirit, Native American person as an individual who has “[combined] activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as a two-spirit person, and in some cases [aren’t] considered as men or women but as third and/or fourth genders” (Two-Spirit). Prior to European interference, a number of African tribes or ethnic groups not only affirmed masculine females and feminine males in their communities (Asanti 25), but some African groups did not assign gender identities (i.e., boy or girl) to their children, but waited until later in their lives, or they assigned a gender identity to children based on their dominant Energy rather than their sex (Buckle). Despite being called savages and backwards, it appears that indigenous peoples around the world held more complex and more fluid ways of looking at gender and gender expression.
Speaking of gender expression, if feminine men are trying to “be like women” or trying to “outdo women”, how does one explain feminine little boys or masculine little girls? Could it be?—Is it possible that there exists in the spiritual realm Energies that children are generally drawn towards? Feminine boys have nothing to do with the presence of a father, or the lack thereof. Many feminine boys and men exist even with the presence of a father—even the presence of a loving, involved father. Masculine girls have nothing to do with. . .what? Motherlessness? Growing up around all boys doesn’t make a little girl masculine. Maybe, just maybe, gravitation towards the Energies lie somewhere between predetermined and self-determined.
Western, American attitudes towards femininity (and women) need to be reexamined. I say this, not because a man rejected me because of my femininity, but because femininity itself—not my character, not an unattraction to me, not something I’ve said—but femininity itself was the insult. Dr. Leigh Johnson, coordinator of the Gender Studies minor at Marymount University, asserted that this attitude exists in the west’s patriarchal culture because it stems from the denigration of the feminine. (And since there is a denigration of the feminine within patriarchy, there is a celebration of the masculine.) Prevailing attitudes are, “‘Of course a woman wants to be like a man!’ Society and patriarchy understand that women want to be like men because a man is always ascribed more value.” She cited Freud’s Penis Envy Theory to support her claim. “‘Why wouldn’t women try to be masculine since masculinity is rewarded?’” Femininity is disrespected because people—not just men—believe that the emulation of men is the goal: power, wealth, status, privilege, behavior, etc. “It also goes back to early language acquisition,” Dr. Johnson continued, “The word for girls who behave in boyish ways—as problematic as that construction is—is tomboy. It’s not a great word but people are willing to accept that label. Often, college-aged women would say, “I was a tomboy as a kid.’ Whereas sissy, our word for a boy who adopts girlish behavior, is much worse. Almost no young man would say, ‘I was a sissy as a child.’” Dr. Johnson explained the reason why femininity in boys and men is reprimanded while masculinity in girls and women is allowed. While personifying the patriarchal consciousness, Dr. Johnson answered, “Since masculinity is the desired norm, we can excuse girls for trying to model masculinity even though they’ll never succeed at it. We can understand why they would want to. Whereas for boys, we can’t understand why they would willingly give up their claims to masculinity.” Finally, she didn’t highlight any one power structure as the reason people believe that masculinity is exclusive to men and femininity to women; Dr. Johnson argues that white supremacy, patriarchy, Christianity, and Eurocentrism are all dependent upon and reinforce each other.
I must admit that my impetus for writing this essay is mostly selfish. I am healing from what he said to me and how I responded to his harshness. How unnecessarily cruel I was to myself. I am in the process of healing my wounded Feminine. I am deprogramming and decolonizing my mind from western ideologies and prior religious trauma. There is a part of me, however, that hopes that another feminine male might read this and reject the “you’re too feminine” insult. May they bask in their feminine glory!
Traditionally, pseudo-spiritualists and many half-informed people peddled the principle of The Divine Energies to men and women separately: exhorting men to awaken their Divine Masculine, and encouraging women to awaken their Divine Feminine. However, the Energies work together. A sound spiritualist will tell men to tap into their Divine Feminine as they awaken their Masculine—or, to temper their masculinity with the Feminine. A sound spiritualist will tell women to tap into their Divine Masculine as they awaken their Feminine—or, to temper their femininity with the Masculine. And, for far too long, I have observed spiritualists speak to two genders solely—men and women—about the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine, respectively, as if men can’t be feminine, women can’t be masculine, and as if there aren’t other genders. Any teachings about the Divine Feminine are relevant to men also and all other genders. Any teachings about the Divine Masculine are relevant to women also and all other genders. Since neither the Divine Feminine nor the Divine Masculine are gender-specific, that means that all genders have full rights and access to both femininity and masculinity. A man can be feminine and a woman can be masculine. Any gender may express both Energies according to the nature of their essences. And if we believe this is true, then, what he said to me, “You’re too feminine for me”, was unnecessary, and a flagrant display of toxic masculinity and what Dr. Johnson describes as “the denigration of the feminine”.
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