I first realized I was gay at the end of my junior year of high school. I came out to my family, one by one, that summer. I came out to friends in college during my senior year. I grew comfortable with it after college. Now, I'm completely comfortable with it, so believe me when I say this: being gay SUCKS.
There are so many articles and theories and whatnot regarding homosexuality that a person could read them all in a lifetime and still not have read half of them. One that was circulated a lot around the gay community was called "The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness" by Michael Hobbes. It examined the stressors of being a gay man and gave some theories. The picture it painted was, to put it lightly, bleak. It contained the usual suspects of such articles: constant cries of sin and what not by religious fundamentalists like Kim Davis and James Dobson, minority stress, the fact that social networking apps have been as much a hindrance to a guy's self-esteem as they are to meet other guys, and that men in general are culturally programmed to be shitty to each other.
That's all well and good, and probably true. The theory that the constant second-guessing of whether or not the way I moved my hand or inflected a word alerted someone that I was gay (even though they likely didn't notice anything) caused PTSD sounds eerily convincing. But I think the article missed some key things that I've noticed but the writer and psychologists didn't.
The sense of alienation in the gay community is omnipresent. I used to frequent gay bars. The sense of cliquishness and exclusivity was everywhere. Combined with the gossipy nature of the people there and the cattiness in which they interacted, it felt like middle school. No wonder I stopped going there. I go to straight bars now for a few reasons, not least of which is because I can't stand that crap. That my being groped by a drag queen before I even said hello to him is controversial is indicative of this.
Perhaps the LGBT community's best known quality, which is being lively and colorful, is also its Achille's Heel. Just about anything goes in the LGBT world, and I do mean anything. While that's all well and good for certain people, it becomes a little much for someone like me. Gay pride was fun for a while, but a parade of overly sexualized men and women dressed in ridiculous outfits (or skimpy ones) and singing mind-numbing showtunes has become part of the LGBT identity. I like musicals as much as anyone else, but in this world, there's no such thing as too much. And some people take it way too far. I think that people should do what they want, but I know I'm not the only one who isn't into guys who have colored hair, ear gauges and eyeliner. Or that talk and act like women. According to the article, that's because masculinity is viewed as being accepted or whatever. I disagree. There are plenty of feminine men who find partners, and more power to them. It's just not my thing. Straight guys and girls don't settle for people they aren't attracted to because of a subconscious reason. Why should I? Do you really think that every gay guy is into that sort of thing? Well, are you attracted to a member of the opposite sex who acts contrary to what you'd expect in every way possible? Or dresses up like a character from a punk rock band or an anime TV show? Didn't think so.
I go to straight bars now for a few reasons. One, my friends go there. Two, I'm so sick of the drama and trademark kitsch that the thought of going to a gay bar is enough to make me want to vomit. And three, the guys at straight bars act like...guys. Sure, they're straight, but at least I can see someone who is pleasant to look at rather than the walking definition of "quirky for the sake of being quirky."
People tell me all the time that not everyone who goes to a straight bar is straight. That's true, without a doubt. But that's the problem. People a lot of gay men (closeted or not) have become so adapted to blending in (through fear or personal style), that they're impossible to find. And I'm sure that a lot of closeted gay men are afraid to come out because they're not into drag shows and Madonna karaoke sessions.
Part of the problem is the media. Both LGBT and mainstream cinema are guilty of this. It makes sense; they want to cater to the interests of their target audience. That's what keeps the cash registers singing. But by doing so, they play to stereotypes. In fact, the more outrageous they make them, the more audiences love them. In both cases, gay men are portrayed as feminine and obsessed with shopping, make-up and sex. For women, it's acting masculine, and being obsessed with weight-lifting and sex. However, although they are meant as ironic comedy, the more we hear and see them, the more we believe them to be reality. Comedies these days, hugely popular with Millennials like me, are filled with "ironic" gay jokes. Meanwhile their movies exist only to sell the fantasy about being with your "bros." Where your life exists to get drunk/high and score with women while your friends look on. As for the other side of it, well I'm not a woman and contrary to the stereotype, I've never seen "Sex and the City." None of the gay characters, if there are any, have a lot of screen time and even less development. They exist long enough to gain LGBT cred but short enough that they can be edited out for certain markets. And when they do show up, they play to stereotypes and simply utter "cute" one-liners that reinforce what everyone believes about gay men and women. Since there's nothing else to go by, I'm sure plenty of men and women reflect that to fit in or "own" it, in some sense. Filmmakers think that they can get away with it by having LGBT characters in it, but when you have the two main characters repeating "I love you but in a totally hetero way" over and over again and then have a gay character come on as a stereotype offering socially acceptable sitcom punchlines, that doesn't cut it.
Forgive me, I'm dawdling. No, what no one mentions is not fitting in anywhere. As I've clearly established, I avoid the traditional gay scene. It's not my style and it's toxic. But the alternative, hanging out with straight friends, has its downsides as well, and in some ways, they're even worse.
Yes, it's pleasing to see a guy that's good looking and gives me heart palpitations. If I have enough courage, I'll say hello. But that's risky. Rarely, he'll be cool enough to have a conversation with me. Usually, I'm ignored in favor of them scouting out girls and hoping they can look cool and disaffected enough to "magically" attract them to come over and flirt (as opposed to doing the hard thing, which is to go over and talk to them). About a quarter of the time, they're hostile. Either their passive-aggressive, or they assume I'm trying to get in their pants and tell me to back off. Speaking from experience, it's hard to blame them. "Converting" attractive men and women to gay sex is an inside joke, and while I'm sure it's funny to a certain few assholes, I don't. It's creepy and it makes guys like me, who are just trying to be nice, look bad. I remember one time I was with my ex-best friend, and we had to go to a few different bars to avoid a couple of guys who were all but stalking him.
So yes, that sucks, since by the influence of the fat ginger with glasses (aka Seth Rogen) and his "bros" and the reputations of a certain few creeps and losers, I have that reputation by default since I "might" be one of those people. And god forbid that a "chick" thinks a guy is gay simply because he's talking to another guy. Never mind that, with every single girl I've talked to, they think such an assumption is so absurd that they're legitimately shocked when I bring it up.
Another reason it sucks is that it makes it impossible to fit in anywhere. I don't fit into the traditional LGBT community by choice, if I didn't establish that clearly enough. But I also don't fit in with straight guys either. When they talk about girls they think are hot or sexual escapades they've had, I nod and laugh appreciatively and in support, but I can't relate. No matter how badly I want to or how hard I try, I'm never one of the guys in that oh-so-crucial "bro-ish" sense.
I certainly can't bring it up with my friends. My friends know I'm gay and are totally fine with, which believe me, means a shit ton. But at the same time, I can't talk about it with them. It's not that they can't relate. It's that, for them, it's like taboo or something. Or weird. I don't know, you'll have to ask them. But they get all stiff and awkward when I bring it up. Even if I mention that a certain guy is gorgeous or even just my type, they get all weird. I mean, hell, my ex-best friend would say "I love you, bro" and then desperately add "No homo" repeatedly. Even after seven fucking years. It's more than a little insulting.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, girls have absolutely no problem talking about guys with me. The obvious suggestion is to have more girlfriends (my mom has talked my ear off about this), but despite what pop culture tells you, I'm not a Casanova. When it comes to flirting with women, I'm more clueless than most straight guys. I'm dead serious.
So what was the point of this self-indulgent little essay? Hell if I know. I'm sure I've touched a few nerves and will get a lot of indignant comments on Facebook, but to be honest, I'm long past caring. Gay culture holds no appeal for it and those who view it as a way of life and are threatened by what I've written have no interest for me. That's not who I am. I'm attracted to the traditional man's man. A bro. A jock. Whatever you want to call it.
I guess I just hope that I can tell people who are like me that you're not the only one. And the "bros" who think I'm "flirting" with them that I have no interest in "converting them to the other side" or something. That I'm just being a nice, social guy. That's who I am. Not a queen, a flamer, a hipster, a bear, an otter, a pansexual or demisexual (whatever those are), or any other clique/stereotype I haven't heard of yet. I'm just a normal guy who happens to like dudes. THAT is par for the course.