I would like to advise a few trigger warnings in this post to my readers. This has to do with sexual assault and harassment. If you’re tuning in to this post in hopes of some reading silly jokes, I’m sorry. What I want to write about concerns an incident that happened over a week ago here in my Atelier. I feel the need to get this off my chest because it’s been eating me up inside. Let’s not forget it is International Men’s Day where the whole point is to bring awareness to these issues because it happens to all genders.

An older man came into the atelier and introduced himself as a gallery owner. Nothing odd in the way he spoke or how he examined my work. Just another visitor on a Wednesday afternoon. It’s when he approached me and proceeded to follow me closely that I began to feel uncomfortable. His eyes fixed on me like I was no longer a human but an object. Every time he’d position himself centimetres away from my face, I’d instinctively move away and politely carry on the conversation. What got to me was when he reached for my belt and asked me what my price was with a smirk across his face. The gradual tugging to pull me in. Feeling vulnerable and frozen under his gaze. I pulled away I have no idea why I remained polite and tried to ignore it. He finally came to shake my hand and I he wouldn’t let me go. My fingers were caressed by an enormous hand trying to instil trust and comfort as he could see I was distancing myself. After this 10 minute long encounter, he finally left but kept asking “When do you close? When do you leave here? I’ll come back then”.

Maybe some of you are reading this wondering “Well Armando, why didn’t you knock him out?” Gender doesn’t define your actions. It doesn’t matter what form of combat I know or that I’m physically able to do so. You’re flooded with so many emotions you lock up. Please don’t think that because this happened to a white straight male that all of a sudden it’s a new issue. It’s been around for ages and continues to happen every single moment around the world. It can happen to anybody. Words can’t express how used and unsafe I felt after. People unfortunately deal with this horrid behaviour on the daily.

Due toxic masculinity, most of these events go unreported. “Doesn’t happen to men. Men are strong. Man up and get over it”. I grew up in a private all boy elementary and high school. The amount of negative mindsets and habits promoted among the students is unreal. I’ve been unlearning ever since I stepped out into the real world.

Talking about your issues doesn’t make you less of a man.

Crying doesn’t make you less of a man.

Your mental illness doesn’t make you less of a man.

Your disability doesn’t make you less of a man.

Asking for help and support doesn’t make you less of man.

So please if you need to talk to someone, go right ahead and do it. You are so strong and brave. If someone wants to talk to you about it, please listen. Support them. Silence and sweeping these issues under the rug are not helping anything. The first step to tackling any problem is to talk about it. If we are going to celebrate International Men’s Day, this is one of things we need to address. Not the friend zone or your crappy opinion of how your favourite franchise is ruined because there’s a female lead.

For all the boys out there, you matter and you are so loved.