When I began law school, I read a Supreme Court case, concerning the inclusion of women in a military college, which, prior to the case, only admitted men (US. v Virgina, 518 U.S. 515 (1996)). In his dissent, Scalia (whose political and moral convictions I thoroughly disagree with in all ways possible) included a “Code of Gentleman.” For the sake of completeness, I’m including a link to the case, and his quote, here (the “Code” is towards the bottom, before the footnotes). The code, which Scalia included, was adapted from the military school’s handbook; interestingly, this code originated from etiquette guru, Emily Post. You can read Post’s chapter on being a gentleman here.
Clearly, reviewing this reading put me in a thoughtful and philosophical mood. A great deal of the material I discussed above has a largely paternalistic and misogynistic tone. Both Scalia and Post speak of protecting women as if they are helpless, and not terribly bright individuals, who must rely on men to protect them from the world. I want to begin by saying: I, in no way, agree with this. I am a proud feminist, and do not tolerate inequality in any form.
However, the concept of a “Code” inspires me. As Post says: “more important than any mere dictum of etiquette is the fundamental code of honor, without strict observance of which no man, no matter how “polished,” can be considered a gentleman.” A code is a guide, a reminder of what we consider important, and, when we slip up, it brings us back to the roots of our ideals. Being a gentleman is not about style, careers, money, education, or anything. Being a gentleman is about actions, and the ideals and morals those actions convey.
Several months ago, I posted about being a Man versus a man. With that post, as well as the “Code” above in mind, I would like to being (but, by no means, finish) my own Code of a Gentleman. This is my own Code, and includes lessons learned from my own personal experiences. I encourage each of you to take some time, consider your own ideals, and write your own personal Code. Furthermore, I encourage you to share your own codes (or portions of them) in the comments below. This is a great opportunity to discuss our own perspectives and experiences, and learn from each other.
Without further adieu, here are the beginnings of my own Code:
A Code of a Gentleman
- Respect all people and perspectives, regardless of the disrespect they may show others.
- Never force your perspectives or ideals on others. You may share your perspective, but never force others, unwilling, to adopt your views.
- Never speak poorly of others in public.
- Never laugh at the misfortunes or mistakes of others.
- Have compassion for all living things, no matter how small they may seem to others.
- Recognize the needs of others, and do your best to accommodate those needs, when asked.
- Be prompt and punctual: tardiness shows disregard for other’s time.
- Never flaunt your assets or privilege in front of others.
- Do your best to use proper grammar in public.
- Respect your elders and superiors, but never bend your own morals to suit their needs or demands.
- Help others, whenever possible.
- Never make decisions when angry, upset, fearful, or in pain.
- Violence is never the answer. Appreciate the value of non-violence.
- Speak up for your friends and family, even when they are not present. But never assume to speak for them. There is a difference between defending others and putting words in their mouths.
- Always strive to better yourself.
- Pursue justice and truth in everything you do.
- Make the happiness and comfort of your wife and family a priority, the needs of your community shall follow that closely after that.
- Understand the importance of self-care. Self-care ensures you’re emotionally and physically healthy.
- There is no shame in asking for help, but don’t do so lightly.
- Never lose sight of your goals, aspirations, ideals, or morals.
- Never lose sight of hope.
Considerations for Transmen
Many of us are new to the world of masculinity and being a gentleman. We grow up imagining the men we want to be, despite what the world tells us we “should” be. Sometimes, however, as we begin our journeys, we forget: it’s human nature, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We forget the image of the men we wanted to be. Wherever you are in your journey, I suggest taking a moment to remember the man you imagined yourself as, and use that as the inspiration for your own Code.
Additionally, don’t just think about it. Sit down and write out your Code by hand. Keep this handwritten Code in a place that you can find it easily, edit it when need be, and reference it when you feel lost. Personally, I keep mine in my journal.
Take this seriously. By writing and adhering to a Code, you are following in the footsteps of knights, leaders, kings, presidents, and other great men in history. It wasn’t silly when they wrote and followed a code, and it’s not silly for you to do so either.
As I said before, I encourage you to share your Code in the comments below. Let’s learn from each other! Thanks everyone, and I look forward to reading your own contributions.
Cheers – Mason