Exaggerated truth is what humor is all about. Because of my cynical but fun tongue-in-cheek piece on coming out I’m going to to pull back a bit and explore the other side of the truth.
I love being out and I love that I am gay.
The type of experiences and the type of guys I’ve described in that post are irritants to most gay friends I have too. Most of the guys I’ve met are truly top notch men. They tend to be creative, successful, interesting and fun to be around.
It’s just like a rash. When you have a rash, the majority of your skin may not be covered with it, but it’s the rashy part that makes you itch and demands your attention. It’s the rashy part that often gets described as “gay culture” but that’s actually the minority.
I’m equally baffled by men who let “gay culture” define them as I am amazed by the ones who absolutely refuse it wholesale. Both approaches are letting external forces restrict them rather than just being themselves… Hopefully that came out as I mocked the “straight-acting” idea. I’d definitely be cheating myself if I let such minor frustrations keep me from making gay friends and approaching a fully “out” lifestyle of my own making.
Some of the good stuff:
- For the most part I feel “at home” in many gay settings. I feel like I’m among my own people. Of course, when I don’t know anyone at a particular gathering and I’m the new one I feel awkward and alone, but that’s true about meeting new friends anytime and anywhere. For the most part the gay men I’ve met are people I enjoy spending my free time with because I feel like one of them. I feel welcome. That wasn’t always true before. I recall once at a stake priesthood meeting looking down from the stand and realizing I didn’t feel at home or welcome among any of the men in attendance. They were good people but I was exhausted trying to fit in to something that really held no attraction for me…being Peter Priesthood. That’s far lonelier than being out and just not partnered.
- Living authentically makes us all a little rough around the edges. Coming from an environment where being polite, maintaining a cheerful countenance and not “causing contention” are the ultimate values it can be disconcerting to rub shoulders with people who place truth-telling and honesty higher on their rank of values. They tend to not put up with shit like we’re used to doing. That’s not even a particularly gay trait, but certainly less of a Mormon one. Personally I prefer the rough rawness to the soft duplicity.
- Though I often feel out of sorts due to my past religious and family history, for the most part I’ve found that others are interested in me and accepting of the type of diversity I represent. The obsession over it making me different than them is almost entirely my doing. I once shared with a friend in my circle how intimidated I sometimes feel by others in the group. My confession was met with surprise, and the honest evaluation that no one he knows feels that I’m out of place at all.
- Friendship between genders is easier when there’s no hint of sexual tension. I love my girlfriends and they love me and coming out had a positive impact of those relationships….better still… there are no worries about pregnancies and no talk of periods.
- As much as I complained about attracting the wrong type of guys for my taste, it is pretty flattering to have another guy openly pursue me. That can’t happen when you’re closeted. Having to say “no” is a luxury. Also, being liked by the “wrong” type for you is a universal problem, not an especially gay frustration. I don’t care if you are gay or straight, until you find a partner it’s always frustrating to be liked only by those who do nothing for you or to like someone who doesn’t like you back in equal measure. I tend to attract super young boys and really old dudes. I’d rather meet someone my around my age. And in my former straight life it was easy to attract women…none of whom I am attracted to myself. That sucks for them as much as it does for me. That’s a human challenge and not a “gay culture” one.
- Whenever I’ve witnessed other gays or even straights ruminating over leaving the LDS Church, or coming out, or divorcing, or any of the myriad of difficult decisions such a drastic life change can present, I always say that the exit needs to be enough of a reward in and of itself. In other words, if leaving the LDS Church, or coming out, or divorcing are attractive choices NO MATTER WHAT IS ON THE OTHER SIDE, then it might be a wise decision. But if the wisdom of such a decision hinges on finding another mate, finding another church or establishing another “lifestyle” which is somehow better, then don’t do it. There may not be anything better for you.
No matter what frustrations I’m feeling now, leaving the LDS Church, and coming out, and divorcing were the rewards all their own for me and I’m glad for the decisions I made… Of course, I hope I’ll find a special someone and learn how to not be so anxious in my skin but I’m already happier without those rewards.
- Keep in mind that being gay like we speak about it in 2012 is a relatively recent social construct. Homosexual intimate coupling has always existed, of course, but there’s not a lot of precedence for the type of permanent hetero-like coupling that gay men are able to do these days…I mean taking it beyond just sexual encounters and into a socially valid long-term relationship between those of the same sex. Interracial coupling was fairly new and fairly recent as well. I like the fact that I’ve somehow been placed on the cutting edge of human experience. It makes me proud to be a part of it.
- I like being able to define a relationship for what fits me and him rather than into societal gender norms. In my marriage I was trapped by the gender expectations in the Mormon community. It didn’t fit me. That made it all the more freeing and exciting to not have to fall into those pre-determined roles. This even reaches down into the dating realm. There’s no predetermined roles to fall into (unless you buy into all those labels I joked about).
- I like the feeling of being understood. I have older gay friends who had it much worse than I do. I love their willingness to share their stories with me. I have younger friends who have no clue the extent of the angst and turmoil I went through to come out, but at the core we all get it.
- I love that there are many gay paths…it’s not all West Hollywood, Fire Island and Hamburger Mary’s. There’s more of a Mormon lifestyle than there is a gay lifestyle because there’s a wrong and a right way to do that. As a gay man or woman you get to choose your gay path whether it be as a gay cowboy, gay party boy or gay accounting professor in Atlanta. There’s no wrong way to go about it. It’s a logical fallacy to assume that the more vocal of a group get to define the group as a whole. March in a gay pride parade…or don’t. Neither choice will make you any more or any less gay.
- Last and not least, the best part about being gay is…gay sex…just saying. The first time I shared a kiss with another man I was attracted to was the first time I finally understood what all the hoopla over kissing was about anyway. Before then it always just felt like shaking hands. Don’t underestimate the value of some good sex.