Stitched Up

by Oliver Harling, Bellingen, NSW, (with a bit of help from my mum) 

Today I am a 14 year old boy, who against the odds, goes to a weekly ‘girls only’ sewing group after school called ‘Stitched Up’.

I love sewing, it’s heaps of fun and a lovely gentle activity, but for me to be attending this group is no small feat. Here I will write about how in my experience, from a very young age, boys in our society are totally ‘stitched up’.

Call it gender stereotyping, or whatever you like, but as a boy there is a narrow way of behaving that is seen as ‘OK’, all the rest and you’re ‘gay’, a ‘fag’, and other derogatory terms (that I’d rather not repeat) that mock any kind of natural tenderness.

My personal experiences have seen some pretty interesting examples of how this works.

Although from young at home my mum in particular, but also my dad, were pretty open (in their own way) to me not having to conform to the ways boys were supposed to be. But in the world outside, I was given constant messages that there was this small box of ways that were OK as a boy and a man and this whole spectrum of things and ways that were not.

At home my favourite toy from babyhood through to toddling and beyond was a knitted doll, called ‘Dolly’. Dolly had a pushchair and a cosy bed and I slept with her every night.

One of my favourite colours was purple, and I was often drawn to pink, depending how and what I was feeling. My parents weren’t perfect, far from it in many ways, but compared to other boys I was treated with more tenderness, which lasted longer.

My early years were spent in a small village in North Yorkshire, we had a wide and varied group of friends and so kids and families that I was exposed to and got to check out and wonder about. I used always to watch a lot. I remember as a boy of about 18 months with a group of friends around to play in the garden, (all of us walking by then) and seeing that already the boys were mostly being treated very differently to the girls. One ‘lad’ kept tearing round (“boys will be boys” apparently) and frequently falling over. His mum would get him to his feet and tell him pretty matter-of-factly, “you’ll be right, up you get, dry those tears”, whereas the girls might get a cuddle and maybe carried inside and certainly allowed to cry.

I remember other parents’ reactions to my choice of colours, toys, behaviour, etc. even in playgroup. Boys played with cars, tractors (which I loved too), they were expected to be rough, fast, ‘cheeky monkeys’, ‘little rascals’ and ‘little terrors’.

When I showed a painting with purple and pink in it, other parents notably cringed and struggled to say something like, “ooh that’s ‘nice’ Oliver, interesting colours”. Eyebrows would rise when I gravitated equally to the dolly corner (with the girls) and tenderly cuddled a baby doll, (though at that young age teddies were still slightly more acceptable).

I noticed even at this age that in winter (North Yorkshire) I did not always want to play outside in the cold, but the boys were already putting on a ‘tough act’ and dashing outside with not enough clothes on with their lips turning quickly blue.

I remember vividly when I was less than 2 and my mum was pregnant with my little brother. Straight after the scan when we found out ‘it’ was a boy, my new little brother, James, my relatives started to type cast him intensely. Whenever he kicked my Nan would say “ohh, he’s going to be a boxer, or a footballer”… and my mum would tease her back a little and say it felt like possibly a ballet move?!

Later I remember my brother’s favourite toy was a hammer (which he was pretty good at using)… but mum did not bat an eyelid when his favourite game with it was to wrap it in a pink fluffy blanket, cuddle it up close and sing it sweet lullabies!!! How our older relatives cringed.

These differences and expectations intensified as the years went by. For example, when I was little my dad was able to be fairly tender with me and gently supported me if I fell over, etc. Then came this magic (actually not so magic) line in the sand where this was no longer OK, and not just insinuated, but overtly stated. I love my dad dearly and I know he’s doing his best, he was raised to be tough and thinks he needs to do the same for us.

But it was a sad day for me when at about 12 years old, I fell hard and badly grazed my hand, I went to dad (by this age trying not to cry) and asked for help getting the gravel out. I was shocked when he told me to ‘man up’ and not be such a ‘p*ssy’!!! My own dad, OUCH!

Just the other day when we were being picked up by dad to go to his house, my brother had made a big effort to love his hair, styled it, etc., dad immediately went into this derogatory rant about how he’ll be “wanting a handbag next”, my brother simply replied that that was a lovely idea.

And then there is the boys’ clothing department, have you ever checked it out? In all the Target and similar stores there is always about twice the floor area for girls’ clothes as boys! And trying to find an item without a scull on it is pretty near impossible. If not sculls it’s surfing, ‘sk8ing’, etc. This too gets worse with age, whilst you’d never dress a baby boy in pink, though might put a girl in blue, toddler boys get ‘cheeky monkey’, ‘I eat worms for breakfast’, and ‘If I can reach it I can wreck it’ (to name just a few of the highlights from our UK relatives), but by the time you’re a teenager you might be blessed (cursed) like my dad was with a Bart Simpson shirt of ‘underachiever and proud’ right through to the very foul logo I saw on a 16 year old guy the other day ‘suck my d**k b**ch’. Really guys, the world is getting out of control. How are we raising our boys?

Even when people recognise that there is an issue, the solution is often worse than the ill. For example all the year 5 and 6 boys at my old primary school (and apparently many primary school across Australia) got made to do this ‘great new initiative’ called ‘rock and water’ that was meant to show boys how to become adult men. The ‘rock’ standing for being hard… So hard that one activity was to punch our big male teacher as hard as we could in the stomach!!! And this is helping us to become better men?

So against the odds, me and my brothers are finding our way in a world which is telling us to be tough, hard, unfeeling, rough, violent, dishonouring of women and girls and ourselves, into football, porn, etc. etc.

The ‘tough act’ I mention earlier that from a young age I saw boys going into to survive had gathered such pace over the years, till today, at high school it’s pretty awful. I see the new year 7 boys trying to speak with a put on deep, hard, ‘tough’ voice; walk tough and make sure they look like they just do not care; swear constantly; say foul things about girls; and generally be as naughty as possible. Most boys in my year only have one broken lead pencil to do their work for fear of being seen to be ‘taking care’ and being called gay. Heaps of coping strategies come in: some get right into sport (football etc.) to hide, others choose the ‘nerdy’ path and get into the academics and their study, high-balling the A grades, others just find it all too much and get super fat on multiple daily custard tubs and mammoth iced coffee, anything to not be seen and numb the pain, others choose sex and drugs. We have a cannabis dealer and grower in year 7. Guys are bragging from younger ages about their sexual ‘conquests’, there are even cases of ‘splitting’, cos sex is meant to be like porn these days, ‘hard’ and ‘fast’ and to be a ‘man’ you’re meant to actually make the girl bleed!!!!

And then, there is ME.

Most of my friends are girls who I admire and respect and we all love each other. I love taking care with my work and using stacks of different colours, a sure definition of being gay! I talk ‘normally’ in the true sense, not in the most common sense, but just as me. I walk as me, no tough guy act. Apparently when I bring a pasta salad to school that I made myself with broccoli and olives, that’s a ‘gay lunch’. In cooking class I was the only boy who could cook (quite well) and was brave enough to show it. Most boys made as big a messes as they could and behaved like idiots for fear of being called gay, (which I clearly was). I always make eye contact with people and this is definitely ‘gay behaviour’. Just for clarity, I’m not actually gay, but I am choosing to just be me as much as I’m able. In short, having me around, just bucking the trend and being myself is pretty threatening. I get flack constantly for my way of being me. I don’t pay much attention to what people call me at school and I am finding ways to support myself to be what is actually ‘normal’, but just incredibly uncommon. In this Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon have been the hugest support and inspiration and I can’t thank them enough for showing me how possible it is to just be me, that men are naturally tender and that there is a strength in gentleness.

And so the sewing group?…

Well it went like this. I saw the sewing group advertised and thought, “great I’d love to go to that”, but then read it was ‘girls only’ and felt pretty bummed, but frankly by now was not into being told what I should and shouldn’t do as a boy. So I wrote a loving letter to the group of older ladies that went something like this:

“Dear Ladies,

I was sorry to read that you do not allow boys into your group, as I would love to come along and have fun sewing. Please consider that I’m sure you’d all like your daughters, grand daughters and great grand daughters to be able to have true ‘gentle’men in their lives, but by excluding boys you are in effect telling boys they ought not grow up to be the ‘gentle’men you would like to know….

In view of this: Please let me know if you might be prepared to make an exception and let me join the group?”

And so, after reflecting on this, I was warmly welcomed into the group as the first and only boy.

I cop heaps of flack from other guys and some girls too, but ignore it. Even though the old ladies are always trying to choose masculine ‘boyish’ fabrics for me with sculls on etc., (thinking they are being considerate), they love having me there and are beginning to embrace my own choice of floral or otherwise fabrics. The group loves having me and my tenderness along, I am a true asset to the group and I have heaps of fun too, I even made a gorgeous floral dress for my 3 year old sister.

Thanks Universal Medicine. I might go to ‘Stitched Up’, but I’m sure not ‘Stitched up’ like the majority of the other boys I know and meet!

370 thoughts on “Stitched Up

  1. Oliver it was so refreshing to read this. I loved how you presented this image that probably many around the world think how boys and girls need to be/behave. Last year I observed an altercation on a maternity ward, where a father was verbally abusing another mother. Worst of all was the fact that his 4-5 year old son was witnessing this. Understandably the boy became distressed and started to cry, to which his father yelled, “why are you crying?, boys don’t cry”. It was disturbing to hear and his mother allowed this to occur too.

    So as a society, we have a responsibility to allow boys and girls to equally be tender. Equally like any colours of the rainbow, equally be in the kitchen and so forth. Because at the end of the day, when we injury ourselves, the pain senses/responses haven’t been switched off for boys/men.

    We have so much to learn from what you have shared here Oliver, and I hope more and more boys/men will continue to express their tenderness, no matter what comes at them, but also, how it is received. You are reflecting to others there is another way for others to be in their tenderness too.

  2. To stay steady with who we are and what we feel despite all that comes at us to say that is not what we can be is a feat indeed and something to be so deeply celebrated.

  3. It is interesting how it is OK for girls to wear blue or to do ‘boyish’ things such as play with tools or trucks but when a boy chooses ‘girlish’ things such as dolls and dressing, it is seen as being strange. The message here is certainly pointing towards the fact that it is best to shut down your vulnerability and tenderness and instead adopt a hardness and toughness on all counts.

    1. When a girl plays with trucks etc, then she is labelled a tom boy. I observe more and more girls hardening and moving away from their tenderness too.

      So at a gym, a woman lifting more kilos than a man is saying what?…She’s stronger!…Wow. Where is the world at and going to?…

  4. Oliver, this blog is a fantastic read – and though it has been a few years since I first read it and am re-reading it now I can share it still holds the same spunk and joy and openness and tenderness as before. Thank again for your sharing that shows that there is a way to be yourself no matter what others might say or do.

  5. Being ourselves is threatening to those who are trying to be something they are not. But it is so needed as all those roles that are not truly us aren’t working and have never worked.

  6. How beautiful your blog is, Oliver. I absolutely love the way you honour who you truly are despite the continuous pressure that you as a young boy are under. This is really brave in these times and generous for the great reflection you are offering to other guys, for them to know that they can be themselves as well.

  7. Oliver Harling…what a foundation you’ve set up for yourself and what a reflection you are and have been over the years since you’ve written this. Truly graceful and super powerfully written. Never underestimate the role you played at school showing the world around you what’s naturally within us all.

  8. It’s a huge “Wow” from me because of how gorgeous your expression is, and also for being yourself in a world that very abusively expects us to be someone else. What I was reflecting on when you described the fabrics you liked to work with in the sewing class was how so many people go through life without knowing at all what they truly like or enjoy, and the exhaustion and tension of having to live to a stereotype and be someone we aren’t naturally.

  9. You are inspiring in what you are bringing, being true to yourself, and your natural tenderness. The world needs to embrace men and boys in their tenderness.

  10. It is a sad reality that so many of us give up our innate tenderness in order to fit into a small box society has set up, to feel safe being in the world, only for that ‘safety’ to bite us back in the bum later on in life, as we will inevitably feel the agony of not being who we truly are.

  11. Six years on, Oliver’s sharing is still showing us that the world needs to release the knots of stereotypes as to what boys should be interested in so they are free to express in whatever way feels true for them. How precious would the dress he made for his sister have been!

  12. There are a couple of comments that talk about the training boys receive for being fit for life and I hadn’t considered it this way. Some of the foundational skills they need to have are how to be themselves and unapologetically so because from that space they can decide for themselves what they do, where they go and who they hang with.

  13. Thank you for sharing your experience of growing up and the pressure you face. I feel ashamed that I have been part and parcel of the society that has looked the other way so what we see today is our normal and you are verbally abused for being you. We have it all upside down.

    1. Well said Lucy and so many of us have certainly enabled this in society without realizing the damage that we have inflicted in the process.

  14. Very beautiful Oliver Harling. Your my type of man tender and sweet. I see this as normal these days too and whole-heartedly encourage it from any man. What always catches my interest is when I see a very hard man or one that is totally disregarding themselves as being tender and intimate. This only interests me because I was once this and proof that under that intensity there is a stillness and sacredness equal to a woman.

  15. Moving free provokes countless emotional reactions in others who ae totally shut down in their movements copying each other and celebrating how cool are their movements.

  16. Oliver it is very beautiful and inspiring to read how you are so observant of what is playing out in life around you, and how you are breaking the mould and challenging the stereotypical model of how boys should be and how they should act.

  17. This is a great observation of the gender inequality we have created, showing us how very hard and unloving we have made life through the idea that boys are different to girls and thus need to be treated differently. And all the while we are all suffering dearly. Simple observation and our own experiences tell us that the ideals we follow are not true to our natural being, so we all know the truth of it and simply need to start to act upon it by expressing how we truly feel, like you do here Oliver.

  18. You are so right, boys and men are certainly stitched up in the way they are forced into male stereotypes from an early age, whether that be colours to wear, toys to play with, the way to walk, how to cop it on the chin, etc.etc. Is it any surprise there are so many seemingly tough and exteriorly insensitive guys around? These same men were young boys once, tender and open, but raised to fit a certain image and parental expectation.

  19. Boys and girls are equally tender, delicate and super sensitive. And no human being, regardless of their gender and age actually loves to punch another human being. How far from our true nature have we gone and how many pictures, ideals and beliefs do we allow to devastate our boys and girls? Great to have examples of true young and old gentlemen.

  20. What an amazing blog and insight into how we treat boys in our society today. And what an inspiration that you are bucking the trend and living the life that feels true to you. Great stuff!

    1. It is an amazing insight of what boys receive when they choose to be true to themselves, and to honour their natural tenderness. It is very sad at how our society is in respect of what is described in this blog.

  21. How inspiring to read, Oliver. What a difference the world will be when we, boys/men, are no longer stitched up.

  22. All the odds are against boys/men being and expressing from their own beauty. Instead, it is about learning to walk through a very narrow path, dressed in a peculiar way, acting and talking tough, in the name of getting fit for life. The fact that people generally buy into this, reveals that they have accepted that the only way to avoid feeling horrible in a horrible/cruel environment is to learn to live horribly and simply cope with it. After all, what are men for and what are men all about if they are not up to that?

    1. So true Eduardo. It’s a very confronting state of affairs in which we all miss out on the otherwise natural sensitive ways of our boys and men.

    2. What kind of ‘fit for life’ are we actually teaching our children when you have to fit into a small box instead of being the amazing stupendous gorgeous grandness that you are. No wonder we end up with a society with so much addiction and truly unhappy people.

    3. Fit for life, but what kind of life? One that suits the ideals and beliefs of parents, relatives and a society that has lost its true foundation and is insanely adrift.

  23. Society has very stern fixed rules about how things should be, what fits and does not fit and people get shaken when someone questions it or lives differently; they most likely realise that their tenets and beliefs don’t have a solid foundation and find that deeply disturbing. And from this disbelief and reaction can then come scorn, ridicule and lack of support. And at times worse than that.

    1. Yes, people can get very frightened when the generally accepted norm is challenged and the response is most often to react defensively and to protect their foundation.

    2. And so it takes true strength to stand amidst such storms of scorn and live and breath the authority of who we are with no compromise.

  24. This is simply amazing. What really shines out for me is the amazing wisdom, and the authority and confidence you express yourself with. So many people, children and adults alike, seem to be trying very hard to be like everyone else and have no confidence.

  25. My gosh. Today you would be 19 years old, and I can’t believe you wrote this at 14. This is one of the most amazing things I’ve read. You are an incredible role model for absolutely everyone you meet Oliver. I would absolutely love to hear how you’re getting on, 5 years later!!

  26. Sometimes it takes one who is willing to step out of the box to show the others that they are in a box in the first place. Otherwise we just carry on accepting gender stereotypes and social ‘norms’ that hold no truth to who we really are, without questioning if they are harmful or not.

  27. Wow Oliver, what a great blog! It is no surprise that being yourself is causing such a stir as the whole world is designed to have you abandon yourself and become a victim of the media, marketing, current trends, etc. This is a very inspirational piece of writing.

  28. Oliver what a seriously awesome sharing. I realised that while I consider myself very open minded it wasn’t until I read your story that I realised how much I put men and boys in boxes , and how little support there is for boys to just be themselves. What stands out is your strength and courage in just being you – this is deeply inspiring.

  29. With such high levels of bullying in our schools and subsequently high incidents of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, self harm and violence that we now experience in our society, do we not need the sensitivity, integrity and steadiness that our boys and men are capable of when they choose to live their truth?

    1. We need girls and boys who hold steady against the onslaught of ideals and beliefs and we need parents who raise their children, not just let them grow up.

  30. This is huge Oliver. THANK YOU. No words can describe how blessed we are to have you in our world — and to have this blog written. Pure truth. And so, at least one more man is not accepting the lies and illusions we as a majority have accepted, that is only taking us further away from who we are, as men and women — absolutely tender. Let’s make this a new standard, just like you are living. The world should study you.

  31. Amazing blog Oliver and I can relate to much of what you have written. Living natural as a man with all our tenderness, sensitivity, sweetness and caring ways is definitely not what we are expected to be in this world, instead we have a very narrow definition of what it apparently is to be a man today which is tough, insensitive etc. Great that you have shared here Oliver, a true inspiration for other boys and men alike. True courage lies in living true when everyone else around you lives the opposite, there is no true courage in just going along with what everyone else is doing.

  32. Fantastic blog Oliver, breaking the mould of what society thinks is normal, I loved reading your blog, to feel the delicateness of you and your brother, is a great reminder that we should never stereotype children, because if we allow children to find their own natural way, boys will keep their tenderness and not become hard unable to connect to who they truly are.

  33. So great that your parents didn’t reinforce the societal stereo typing that is everywhere and so great that you have the courage to be who you are and not feel you have to be what others expect you to be. Totally awesome Oliver. You being you helps so many others to be themselves.

  34. “And then, there is ME.” There is a powerful and unassailable strength in claiming and being who you naturally are.

  35. Absolutely beautiful Oliver – this is incredibly inspiring. What you are reflecting is the true strength in a man, the strength that comes from him being in touch with who he is, from his tenderness and deep care, and how that is what he will naturally then extend to others with the lightness and joy you have expressed in this blog. Keep being you…. the world so needs this amazing reflection.

  36. I would LOVE a gorgeous dress made by a tender, loving and considerate young man. You are a very needed reflection in this Oliver, as we are wasting away further into hardness, competition, self-abuse and abuse to others – what we need is true tenderness and for our natural qualities to be lived rather than denied.

  37. Oliver this is so incredibly inspiring, a boy your age to be walking his truth is not an easy feat. Your impact on many peoples lives would be immense. Offering a reflection many would rather shut down.

  38. Just keep choosing you Oliver and don’t ever let those layers of protection build so that we all get to keep seeing the beautiful man you already are.

  39. Thank you for leading the way. The true way to do it is to be what you truly feel no matter how the world chooses to respond and react. Men in tenderness is a very beautiful thing that is my forever testimony as a woman. But because men are trained to be hard, when expressing the deepest feelings it may still come out as hard, as this is the only way they have been taught and it has been liked or praised. Men are all very tender inside and this is very apparent when they deeply trust someone and yet the ideals and habits that have run for so long is something that takes time to realise with the support of women to express how we truly feel when we experience the hardness and tenderness of men.

  40. I think it’s so important to be talking about the amount of gender stereotyping that goes on for boys (as well as girls) – thank you Oliver for all that you’ve shared here and for showing us that there is a different way.

  41. Thank you Oliver for going against the trend. Reading this has been such an eye opener and highlights how lost our boys and young men are.

  42. I have just come back to this blog after a few years. It is just as fresh and inspiring as the first time I read it. Oliver what you bring through is so needed. Through your totally delicious living way you are giving other boys and men permission to be just who they are too. It is still great to know you are out there doing your thing, lighting the way for others!

  43. Your blog and how you are in the world is really gorgeous Oliver, and yes we do need more boys and men in the world who stay true to themselves, ‘that men are naturally tender and that there is a strength in gentleness.’

  44. Having spent my early years growing up in North Yorkshire, my dad having lived in Yorkshire all his life I would say the men in this area generally portray an outer toughness. You were and are such an inspiration to men, boys and even us females.

  45. Wow Oliver, you are a brave tender man. There is so much in this world fighting against what you are doing. A complete set up for men like yourself to not express what true tenderness is. When we look and step outside the box’s that have been created we see infinite space to be all we are.

  46. Wow, Oliver, this is so beautiful to read. Thank you for your absolute honesty, openness, and vulnerability that you’re bringing to the world. The strength and power that you must have inside you to be able to withstand all of the conformities and pressures of the outside world is truly remarkable and incredibly inspiring. I cannot imagine having brought this level of integrity and self-confidence into my teenage years. Your peers and everyone who you come into contact with are so blessed to have you as a reflection for them of what it means to be a true man; strength in sensitivity, power in sacredness, and the embodiment of maleness and femaleness in one. I absolutely love your expression in the blog, in the letter to the sewing group and the way you just stay true to you in the face of everything that tells you to be the opposite. Long may you continue to shine your light for the world. P.s. Your girlfriend is a very lucky girl! 😉

  47. I have two boys ages 8 and 7 years old. For sometime now the boys especially the 8 year old have been aware of some of the things boys are up against. They are aware of the pressure to toughen up, to not cry otherwise you’re a girl and you have to do boy things otherwise you get made fun of. I also have a daughter aged 10 and she said last night that whenever she heard a man saying to a boy ‘are you a girl?’ or ‘girls do that’ it made her feel uncomfortable, that there was something wrong with her and what she was doing. Children know and feel everything and as a parent I feel it is paramount to make space daily to communicate and express with them and to give them opportunities to share with me how they are feeling and what is going on for them. Thank you Oliver for sharing with us your experience of what boys are up against in society.

      1. I agree Doug it is vile manipulation to say to a boy “are you a girl?” or “girls do that” but it’s like as if it has become the norm and we’re to accept it! We don’t talk in this way to adults so why talk like this to children. I am becoming much more aware of when and how we bring children and adults down even in the most subtlest of ways. Some of things said or done may seem petty to some but to me when I am able to read a situation that is not loving it is always necessary to call it out.

      2. The thing is we can all feel these things such as when someone is taken down by another, its just that we have all been conspiring together to not feel it so we don’t have to speak up against it.

  48. Finding your own way and choosing your own path is a wonderfully admirable quality.

  49. How utterly exposing of the state of our world, that you being you Oliver, is so drastically challenged – from seemingly every quarter.
    Hats off for being the trailblazer that you are, that others may be liberated from the intensity of diminishment they – and we – live in every day.

  50. I love this blog Oliver! Having just re-visited it for the first time since it was published, it is an absolute joy to feel the tenderness you bring and how deeply honouring of this quality you are within yourself. You are indeed an asset to the group and the world. It would be lovely to have a follow up blog now – 4 years down the line.

  51. We certainly need more young men like yourself who are willing to step out of the box and be themselves, showing their tender gentle selves and not allowing the jibes and comments from others stop them from expressing truly.

  52. You write with such wisdom, authority, tenderness and so so so engaging. I learnt a lot from reading this today and felt such a mixture of feelings – a deep sadness of how we as a society are raising our boys and an incredible joy in how you are choosing to raise yourself (with the support of your family). Amazing work Olivier.

  53. It is so great to hear from an ‘insider’ at school with all the things you spoke about and sharing so real and openly. What stands out is that parents and general ‘grown up’ people view kids as like they are not aware of what is going on yet your blog and your experiences show that we do notice everything when we are young and know very well what is going on – maybe even more so than most adults.

  54. Your account is consciousness breaking; often we are not even aware of the images and stereotypes we are imbued with until someone simply stops complying with them. Then we get a chance to stop in our tracks and reflect on what actually is true or not.

  55. Oliver you are a super sweet example of how awesome it is to bring all of us into every moment of our day. Truly inspiring. Thank you.

  56. Oliver, you are such an inspiration to not only boys at your age but men in general. When men start to recognize and honour their ‘feminine side’ or natural tender, sensitive and caring qualities they realize how wrong and damaging all the gender stereotypes are. The future will show that many diseases men suffer from will become less when they live their tenderness and know it to be a true strength.

  57. If there were a ‘love’ button rather than ‘like’ on this website, I would certainly press love for this blog. How awesome and what an inspiration you are Oliver in the absoluteness of your obvious love for your self and your claiming of who you are. I took the sporting option when I was a young man – to get through school and then get accepted as a man in life. One of the sadnesses for me in what you share here is that the term ‘gay’ is used as a weapon to manipulate young men into being hard and tough. Apart from the obvious impact this has on anyone who is naturally gay, there is the secondary affect on a mans’ innate sensitivity, which is in fact a blessing not a failing. We tell boys to toughen up and then when they are older and getting into relationships they are criticised for being insensitive. We can’t have it both ways. Sensitivity is very natural and a gift we all share. Our ability to deeply feel what is going on in our world is something to be nurtured and appreciated for it is how we know truth and our connections with each other. We reject it at our peril.

  58. Oliver what an eloquent young man you are, I loved reading this. There is so much to discuss here and I notice that this was written over 4 years ago when you were 14 so you will be 18 now. I would love to hear more from you with regards to growing up, what you encountered and mostly how you stayed true to yourself. This is inspiring for children, young people and also adults and it asks us as adults to sincerely look at comments or ill-beliefs and ideals that we have with regards to both boys and girls. I loved the comment your mum made here ‘Whenever he kicked my Nan would say “ohh, he’s going to be a boxer, or a footballer”… and my mum would tease her back a little and say it felt like possibly a ballet move?!’ We absolutely need to de-base and break ill images and stereotypes that we have both around boys and girls.

  59. Oliver- this is such a beautiful sharing, it is inspiring to meet a young man like you hold such a strength in himself to be able to withstand the onslaught that comes at you for honouring your sensitivity. We need more men like you in the world.

  60. This was such a pleasure to read. There is nothing more inspiring that a boy choosing to embrace everything he wants to regardless of what the world will say. People are quick to label what they are not prepared to understand or feel and it is only at the detriment of a society that in truth needs a whole lot more of you in it to reflect that they’ve doing it all wrong.

  61. Unbelievable Oliver! I’m so inspired by you! I have just sent this link off to a friend who is currently raising a young boy and has been feeling the pressure around how to truly raise and support her son. This will no doubt remind her that all you have to do, is allow everyone to be who they are, and support them in all that they choose.

  62. This is just gorgeous. First of all I am amazed how much you can remember being as little as 18 month old! It is so beautiful to feel how you have been supported by your mother to just be who you are, and how confident you are being you. Such an inspiring sharing. Thank you, Oliver.

  63. Oliver you have given great insight into how we mould boys away from their true, natural sensitive nature and then wonder how come there is so much violence, domestic violence, sports injuries, porn use, sexual assault, and male suicide etc in the world. To socialise boys away from their true sensitive, caring and tender nature is very harmful to both individuals and communities.

  64. What a refreshing blog to read Oliver. You are an inspiration for all and a role model for your peers. A young man living his tenderness. How fantastic that you have stayed true to yourself not conforming to fit in or be affected by the names/comments made, such strength and power in being you. Thank you for sharing your blog and your love of sewing.

  65. Truly awesome, Oliver. You are an amazing living example that being able to maintain ‘being oneself’ is the greatest and most powerful way to be yet at the same time so gentle and loving. This is so contrary to the norm, it is no wonder that others find it threatening as it challenges all the false beliefs and ideals so fiercely held.

  66. Oliver you are amazing, this blog and you blew me away. What you are offering the entire world, both women, men, boys and girls of every generation and age is huge and I mean huge! I work in schools and it is sad to see how boys and girls I may have to say, after around primary 3, start to harden and toughen up and react, feel it’s not okay to show affection to other male / friends, This is not always the case, as I observed the other day, two boys who were so openly caring in their friendship and had no issue with hugging one another. Even reading your blog I have dropped the hardness in my body. I love what you, your brothers and mum reflect to the world and the great confirmation that this is bringing change by the way people react to you.

  67. You’re leading the way Oliver, and you choosing to stay as you in a system and a world that is very clearly demanding you don’t, is not only for you but all those that meet you, know you and observe you. Even if at this stage they don’t choose the same for themselves your reflection will always stay with them.

  68. This is awesome Oliver, good on you for blazing a trail for other boys who would like to be their sensitive selves but can’t bear the repercussions when they do. There is so much pressure from all directions on boys to conform to the narrow choices that have been deemed manly. Who decided that the only choice for men for grand occasions was a suit? This is an indication of the way we will ask men to be…rigid, unfeeling and ready to do the dirty jobs. Thank god for men like you and Serge Benhayon, making it ok to be yourselves, and the more this happens, the more it will become normal.

  69. Wow Oliver. What an inspiration you are. To know yourself so well and honour what you feel, not caring what others think or say is so wonderful to hear. You are leading the way and supporting us older folk who have given ourselves away to ‘fit in’, to claim who we truly are and honour ourselves too. Thank You.

  70. Oliver – how amazing (and shocking) to read about your experience in growing up as ‘a boy’. It is like a curse. Interesting how we push kids into roles and behaviors we and up to suffer under. I as a woman love to have tender men around me, but did I support the boys who did grow up with me in their ‘being themselves’ whatever? How much are we subordinate our natural way of being to be ‘safe’ and recognised, I wonder? Is this worth it? No! Everyone who shows us that there is another way, by just living it, is a blessing for all of us. So: thank you!

  71. There is no holding back in you Oliver… love the self confidence to just be yourself. Its that which changes the world and the acceptance of what is ‘normal’ and not working for us men up till now!

  72. Oliver, I love the confidence honesty and playfulness with which you relate your story of how life is for you, growing up. It is deeply inspiring to read how you observe those around you, and their reactions to how you choose to live and in spite of this, how you continue to live your life your way, and now by the dictates of society.

  73. Oliver, it is all the other boys who are stitched up by the ‘norm’ of the stereotyped perceptions of gender. You are demonstrating a strength and power to be who you truly are that is not going un-noticed. You are an inspiration to your peers, all parents and everyone that there is another way and for a young man to embrace and live his tenderness is available to all.

  74. Telling it how it is left right and spherical. Spherical meaning including all context of the story while also incorporating understand of negative events.

    More so than just being yourself Oliver you are allowing the choice of other boys to take the same road.

    Well done!

  75. This is brilliant. It’s a tough world out there for men and I’m sure it’s gotten a whole lot tougher for Oliver since he wrote this. Even if it is difficult to hold ourselves and sometimes we wobble or fall, there is no need to punish or criticise ourself and as long as we always know we can instantly come back and we remember who we truly are this is what matters most!

    1. Thank you Danielle for the warmth of understanding shown in this comment. The understanding that it is a tough world for men growing up (and the late teen years are certainly no exception – they are tough – especially for someone who stands out more than most – as Olivers mum – or anyone he met knows – his eyes at the time he wrote this were like bright blue pure beacons of light) and the understanding that things have likely got a whole lot tougher for Oliver since he wrote this – which is very true. And the understanding that even someone who knows them self very well at one point can certainly trip – but that underneath there is a knowing of all there is to come back to – if one dares. And the understanding that there is no place for self bashing – only for understanding and just re-reading Olivers blog highlights the life long pressures – even til that point in life.
      Thank you Danielle for tuning in in this very warm holding comment.

  76. Wow Oliver how truly inspiring this blog is to read, your going against the pack mentality and choosing to remain true to yourself, this is indeed true power. I wonder how many other boys would really like to be able to express their tenderness but are fearful of the repercussions they think might occur. Keep on shining your amazing light Oliver, showing another way of being through your livingness.

  77. What an awesome blog Oliver and what an amazing model and true example you are to other young men. Any sewing group, in fact any group, would be blessed by your presence.

  78. ‘..having me around, just bucking the trend and being myself is pretty threatening’. Yes, but also hugely, massively inspiring. This is a totally refreshing blog about someone just following their own impulses in the face of peer pressure to conform to a certain way. Long may it continue, Oliver. We can never have joy from copying everyone else and losing ourselves in the process.

  79. Thank you for writing this Oliver Harling. I am sure there are thousands of men who would love to have the respect and love for themselves and for others such as you have shown in this blog. People like yourself that do not just cower to the dictates of the day and the bullyish behaviour of their peers and/or even parents are sorely needed in the world today.

  80. We need more men like you in this world Oliver. If this is the state of how our next generation is being raised into this world, every reflection of truth, love, tenderness and deep care is needed

  81. Simply awesome Oliver in every way. I wish you well in whatever you choose to do in life and I am confident that there has been a lot of eyes on you quietly observing and learning through what you reflect to everyone around you. You may never know the full impact you are having on the lives of others of all ages, but I have no doubt it is quite remarkable and considerable.

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