International Men's Day, diverse group of men

Article provided by Philip Baldwin

International Men’s Day takes place annually on 19 November. This year’s theme is Better Health for Men & Boys.

International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March, is more well-known than International Men’s Day. The first International Women’s Day took place in New York, on 28 February 1909 and was organised by the Socialist Party of America in response to the movement for women’s rights and universal suffrage. The feminist movement adopted the day around 1967 and from 1977 the United Nations added it to their global calendar.

It was not until 1999 that International Men’s Day was first celebrated. Why does a world which has been dominated by men – usually straight, white and old – need an International Men’s Day? Although I would have been at the barricades for the feminist movement, the answer is implicit in the question.

The purpose of International Men’s Day is both to challenge stereotypes around masculinity and also explore its diversity. Mental health is a major challenge for men and one that many have been reluctant to talk about – we feel we have to “man-up” or maintain a “stiff upper lip”. As the organisers of International Men’s Day highlight, three in four suicides involve men.

Another important facet to International Men’s Day is that it is scheduled the day before International Children’s Day (20 November). Many men are also fathers and International Men’s Day seeks to celebrate fatherhood and good parenting skills as boys become young men.

The awareness day is also about improving gender relations and promoting gender equality. My identity was a journey from a bullied introvert at school to an out and proud gay man. All this was then threatened when I was diagnosed with HIV – a dark time from which I emerged stronger, as the outspoken writer and activist I am today.

There is clearly no stereotypical male (or female). Whatever your gender or sexuality – male, female, non-binary, intersex, trans, gay, straight, bi, pan, the list goes on – we are all human. We should treat each other with respect and decency. We each have unique voices which deserve to be heard. International Men’s Day is a call for solidarity across all genders and an opportunity to listen and learn.

Philip BaldwinAbout the author

Philip Baldwin is a human rights activist.

He was diagnosed with HIV in 2010, at the age of 24. Philip is healthy, happy and successful. Christianity is an important part of his life. He attends St John’s in Waterloo and is a Church of England altar servant. For many years Philip defined himself as an atheist or an agnostic. He began to reappraise the role Christianity could have in his life at the end of 2013. There are four main strands to Philip’s activism: HIV awareness; Hep C; youth homelessness; and faith for LGBT people.

From 2009 to 2015 Philip worked in financial services in London and New York. His career in the City followed on from an undergraduate degree in Modern History from Oriel College, Oxford, an M.Phil in History of Art and Architecture from Peterhouse College, Cambridge and a law conversion in London. Philip’s activism, charitable work and faith are now the main focus of his life.

Charities Philip supports and campaigns for include Stonewall, the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Terrence Higgins Trust, Positively UK and the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. Philip is a Stonewall Role Model. Philip has a column in Gay Times. He has a gay rights and HIV awareness blog on the Huffington Post. He has contributed a chapter to a book on faith called The Power of My Faith. He is currently finalising a semi-autobiographical book on stigma entitled Positive Damage. Everyone has the right to live with dignity, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, disability, age or creed.

Follow Philip on Twitter: @philipcbaldwin

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