By Julia Suddarth | Staff Reporter
SPU junior Camilo Castro distinctly remembers a time in elementary school that he was playing kickball with friends, when one boy pointed out that he was different from them, saying, “Should we put Camilo on the girl’s team or the boy’s team, since he’s half-girl anyway?”
“I remember that was really hurtful,” Castro said. “That stigma of not being enough of a man has been with me for a really long time.”
Growing up in the predominantly conservative Houston, Castro noticed a big difference in how masculinity was expressed when he moved to Seattle to attend school.
“The guys that I’ve met from the West Coast seem to be a lot tamer than the guys I grew up with,” he said. “I think, generally, guys in Texas are more aggressive or used to being dominant. But men here seem to be a bit more on the same playing field.”
Castro believes that this change is partly due to the fact that Seattle is more liberal. In Seattle, the mentality is that equality is really important, and Castro thinks that has an influence on how people perceive their role as a man.
Since moving to Seattle, Castro has had time for self-reflection and figuring out his identity.
Coming from a mixed-race family, Castro is half-white and half-Colombian, resulting in his ideas of masculinity being more Latino-influenced.
To him, from his father’s side, a “good Latino guy” is one who is macho and is a “player, smooth, sexy.” On his mother’s side, a good man is one who is educated and stays out of trouble.
“I was at the crossroads of both of those, and I’m also not straight, so I’m kind of the exception to the rule,” Castro explained.
Homeschooled and being very active in his church, which was full of predominantly white middle class people, Castro grew up within a micro-culture.
It was there when Castro realized that for most of them, “the man is the head of the home and the woman submits to him, so the man has the final say. There’s that expectation of men being dominant and women being submissive, which I don’t encounter here in Seattle,” he explained.
Growing up, he shared a room with his brother, which made him realize how different they were from each other, describing them as polar opposites.
“I wasn’t into “boy activities” like swords, guns, video games. And I felt like less of a man because of it,” Castro explained. “And not that I’m not confident in myself. I am a man … but I’m not that type of man, the type that seems to be prevalent or more expected.”
In Houston, Castro was constantly around men that he felt he could not related to. When he was in high school, he participated in all-male sports teams.
“When I was doing gymnastics, I was never good at ‘bro talk,’” he said. “All these boys that I went to gymnastics with each week, there was always this bro talk going on, and I could never participate and I never got the references. I just kind of did my thing.”
This “bro talk” made Castro feel out of place, like he had to try harder to become more like them in order to be accepted as a man. So it was encouraging for Castro when he made a male friend on his gymnastics team who liked the same things he did: low-key, indoor activities like playing Risk and Minecraft.
“I have sort of come to think of my masculinity as ‘No, I’m not less of a man because I’m in relationships with men sometimes, or because I don’t do the bro talk thing,’ because I think it’s stupid,” he said.
To Castro, being a man is being a gentleman, having self-control and respect for other people.
Being alone and living in a new city has been healthy for him, and forced him into difficult situations where he had to analyze who he was and who he was going to become.
“I really don’t know who I would have been if I stayed where I was [in Texas]. If I had continued to just sort of exist among these people who had this idea of masculinity — what you should be as a man — that was my entire life,” Castro explained. “Breaking free from that and being on my own was what caused me to have a shift in my mind.”
If he had continued living in Texas, he said he would not have changed; he would be the same person he was three years ago, and “the thought of that sucks,” he said. Taking time away from that pressure was healing to him on multiple levels.
Before, his family was not okay with his sexuality, but they have come to accept it.
“They’re fine, because they see that I respect myself,” Castro said.
“They see me as a man, as an adult, as someone who has his opinions and will stand by them, but who will be respectful enough to have a civil conversation with you. That’s what being a man is. Being tactful, figuring it out.”