Kimmel, who gave a keynote address at the summit, doesn't see anything oxymoronic about healthy masculinity. "I think the ideology of masculinity is Whitman-esque: it's complex, it embrace multitudes. And of the multitudes that it embraces, some of them contradict others. Once you create a dialogue between those parts that are really unhealthy and those parts that are in fact a lot healthier, you have a very different kind of conversation."
The toxic narratives of unhealthy masculinity are often unquestioned, and they start very young. "There are no four more depressing words in educational policy circles then 'boys will be boys,' " Kimmel says. "Because when do we say that? We say that when we throw up our hands in resignation that we can't do anything. Why don't we say 'boys will be boys' when a man wins the Noble Peace Prize?"
But violence against women, and violence in general, disproportionately happens at the hands of men. So how to balance the countering of negative narratives (men are inevitably violent) with the reality that men need to take responsibility for male violence, and work to end it?
Compassion might be a place to start, for yourself and others. "Trying to hold men accountable connects to unhealthy masculinity," McGann says. "I've said for years that one of the things about unhealthy masculinity, or dominant stories of masculinity, is that men are socialized to push past pain, ignore pain, like it doesn't harm you in any kind of way, you're not vulnerable. If you can't really recognize and experience your own pain, then how can you do it with anybody else?"
Gomez has seen this divide on the book tour for Man Up, where men will often argue with him during the Q&A and then pull him aside after to say that they relate to his message. "The self that we project publically is at war with its private self, and you're asking them to align those two things, and that's a scary thing," he says.
"You're a man," he tells me. "You know."
Like a lot of guys, I had a shitty dad. He was uneasy in himself, abusive, shut down. Being a guy to me seemed located in his hamstrung emotions, his uncomfortable displays of drunken vulnerability. I remember him singing Frank Sinatra in this mournful voice, how I pitied and hated him, how I never wanted to become him.
I guess you could call me a late bloomer. I was 30 when I transitioned from female to male, when I began my weekly testosterone shots, when suddenly the men at barbeques turned to me with a steady stream of information to exchange, when violence became a hot reality at odd moments in dark bars, when everyone but my wife stopped touching me.
"I'm a hugger," I learned to warn people, gingerly giving a back pat, intimately aware of the violence assigned to my body, of the reason why the distance between us existed, the stories of what makes a man.