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A transgender TikToker’s tips on how to embrace masculinity without the toxicity

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The Advocate spoke with viral TikTok star Leo Macallan on transitioning, masculinity, and just being yourself.

As a transgender man, Leo Macallan is deeply in tune with his behavior, and how he presents himself. As a former steel mill worker, the social media figure also has experience in male-dominated, conservative-leaning work environments.

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The actor, writer, and model has been using his TikTok account to offer advice to other transgender people as they transition that goes beyond just physical appearance changes. While his tips are often aimed at trans men, Macallan’s unique perspective provides insight to behavior that many don’t usually consider, but that plays a large role in how people perceive us, transgender or cisgender.

Some of these behaviors are gendered, and can be recognized and adopted by trans people to better project their gender identity, Macallan explains. In one video, Macallan offers advice on “how you carry yourself around a group of men that feel intimidating and uncomfortable and unsafe to you.”

“One: GO SLOW. Walking fast, fast hand movements, they just read nervous,” he says. “Say I was at the supermarket and I dropped [an item] … I would lean down very, very slowly, very casually, like the laziest lion in the den."

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some advice from papa bear #ftm #transgender #fyp #transman #beard

Another tip for looking “carefree and unperturbed” is to bring a book to places, because “it is a way to deny access and create nonverbal boundaries,” he says in a follow-up video.

Macallan tells The Advocate that after coming out and transitioning physically, he desired to explore his behavioral traits, as “I found myself finally ‘looking the part,’ but unable to carry myself in a way that felt true to my gender expression because I was so afraid of male interaction.”

This led him to seek work among blue-collar men to truly immerse himself.

Macallan says that the experience was “entirely terrifying, but equally fascinating.” While he did have to “conceal who I really was” by being vigilant about using the bathroom and sharing personal details, he describes his time at the steel mill as “eye-opening.”

“My male peers were no longer caricatures composed of my own fear and assumption,” he explains.

While behaviors projecting confidence are often associated with men, there are other traits linked to masculinity that instead stunt them socially, which Macallan says he witnessed in his coworkers. But by recognizing these behaviors, the social media star believes that men can make their social spaces healthier.

“Were they consistently insecure, brutal, and immature? Yes. But at times, they were also kind, earnest, and helpful,” he says. “By studying their behavior I realized that male social spaces simply don’t have enough positive or healthy containment. They don’t know how to hold space for one another emotionally, and have created so many negative pseudo behaviors to cope around one another as a result. I saw how heavily affected they were by toxic patriarchal values. They were co-victims, you know?”

Recognizing and rejecting these toxic behaviors doesn’t make someone less masculine, but can instead make one’s ties to masculinity much stronger, as Macallan feels that’s what happened to him.

“Men don’t know how to navigate their pain. This realization shifted my perception of them, and also of myself,” he explains. “I learned that not only was I a man, I was a good one. And there was work that I could do to help.”

While his TikToks focus on emulating male behavior, “the practices mentioned are ways to alleviate discomfort and establish confidence in environments where toxic masculinity is hyper present.” Macallan adds that he “would never want to teach others to emulate or mirror harmful male behavior.”

He also emphasizes that there is not a one-size-fits-all method of gender presentation, as his own journey has been “very personal to me.” That’s “the beauty of it,” he says: “It is yours, and only yours.”

“Embrace the traits that deepen your sense of being, those that nurture your connection to yourself,” Macallan says. “Regardless of the gender assignment, what makes you feel healed? What makes you feel confident? What makes you feel worthy? As long as it’s not hurting anyone, do that.”

He continues: “The most important thing I’ve learned as a transgender person, and what I’m going to extend to those who are just beginning their journey is this: You are entitled to happiness. It is your birthright. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are sacred, and I love you. Keep going.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.