Part of the experience of being a man is to ask, “Am I a real man?”
Chris Mosier, the trans man in this new Nike ad, doesn’t have the answer, but it doesn’t matter. What the ad suggests, is that being a man is not dependent on having what it takes, but rather it is simply a matter of “just doing it.”
What makes the message in his commercial so powerful and relatable, is the idea that trans men have the same anxiety over the discrepancy between their subjective gender and perceived gender presentation as any other person. Conversations on masculinity have always revolved around "acting like a man", from being told to “Man-up” to “Don’t be a girl.” Judith Butler is right in that gender is indeed a performance, and it must be performed well. When one experiences a break in character or forgetting of their lines, panic can ensue.
In cases of stage fright, the actor stands uncomfortably frozen in place without any idea of who they are supposed to be in front of the audience. Compare that feeling to the advertisement, where we watch Chris continuously moving through the world on high speed, without stopping to be afraid of not knowing if he was fast enough, or strong enough, to compete with other men. His ability to move without knowing is an illustration of masculinity itself.
How is Chris so brave and self-assured? Well, without having ever met him, I can only assume he didn’t start moving without once stopping to examine his fears. And I’m certain he still experiences anxiety now-off camera of course.
I suspect Chris Mosier is just like you: A man who does not quite know what it means to be a man, and doing it anyway.