Monday, January 08, 2007

The Fear Of Becoming Big Gay Al

Cas, here, brought up the fear that being out would mean being the gay and nothing but the gay, and it got me thinking back on what the issues are/were in comming out.

Such is a reasonable fear. It certainly happens to some gay men, who, once out are all about who’s gay, gay events, gay bars, gay culture… They want only gay friends, to live in the gay area of town, and so on. I’ve no problem with them or that. It’s a practical response to the culture’s treatment, to the rejection of friends and family. Or it simply may be people’s common tendency to surround themselves with what’s similar. All groups, when singled out by the majority, seem to do this and build a defining identity, mannerisms, culture, and so on, to build unity.

Still, while it’s not choice to be gay or no, being GAY is totally up to what the individual wants. Being gay need mean nothing else than being attracted to a particular sex. My culture, my lifestyle, for example, the one in which I’m most comfortable, is the one in which I grew up; it’s a suburban LDS culture. That is our choice, and, as I’ve said, we’ve gone years hardly realizing we were gay. Today, in our private life (yes, even in Utah :-)), it’s still not an overt issue. At home and work, with family, friends, and neighbors, it’s barely mentioned and almost never a problem.

Close acquaintances, sure, are generally shocked when a loved one first comes out, and that becomes near all that interests them with regards to the gay man. How does it change things, what does that mean to the relationship, and so on. If the choice of path seems in flux, that can last, but once a decision is made and stated that’s all temporary, in my experience. Bear it for a while and it’s done, measured in months. People get over it, see it doesn’t really change much, become bored of it, and soon being gay is just another fact about you, akin to many others.

Still, strangers will sometimes, if they come by the information, think of a gay man as “the gay guy”. It will happen through out your life and you can’t help it. It’s not your problem; it’s theirs, and I’d not change my life for that. “He’s gay” is simply a sensational fact to many, though less and less so as the years tick by. But it’s not a limitation. In fact gays do quite well professionally, on average, and, once people know you, that generally slips away.

Still, there is some reason to worry, and that should be made clear to any gay man coming out. These more constant issues with being gay come on two fronts, at least for me.

First, as a gay man, with the experiences I’ve had, I’ll always identify with the gay man, just coming out. Every story I hear, blog entry I read, will affect me in a personal way, as a repeated reminder that I was similarly there. It will remind me of the joy of getting by that past, and it will remind me of the anxiety, and the failures. Both those emotions will always be there, compelling, and moving me to some sort of action in this arena. In that way, I’ll never be in the straight world, but, as I’ve said, I’m not ungrateful for that difference, and I guess a gay man can’t escape it, being out or no.

Secondly and most importantly, when you come out, the politics will make being gay important whether you want it to be or not, whether you care about being gay or no. I’m as into and proud of personally being gay as I am about my handedness, but that fact, nevertheless, causes others to affect my spouse and my kids, and therefore the anti-gay movement has become a significant part of my life and, by extension, being gay, from the genetics to the faith around it, has as well. If they did it by handedness, I’d be equally as interested in that ;-).

All those coming out should know these political and cultural issues will affect them, though less and less each year (you gay kids these days, you have it easy ;-)). Sometimes, you will have a fight on your hands, and you will have to be forceful and take on extra burdens. To defend yourself and those you love, you may have to be the lone voice at times, or you may have to take the helm or band together at others. Sure, it’s a pain, but it’s the right thing to do and it’s easily worth it… to me (your mileage may vary).

Finally, like many bothers, I have to say being an out gay man can be a significant blessing. I sometimes think on how my life would have been if I were not out or gay, not placed into the associated ordeals. Unbearably, I’d not be my boys’ father. On top of that I’d not have known what it’s like to have my culture single me out. I’d likely not have had any significant difficulty in my life, and likely not much reason to question anything. Would I have had enough reason to think of the less fortunate, or to consider a minority’s point? Would I still volunteer time and money to people who aren’t in “my group”? Would I be as good of a father, husband? I’d like to think so, but I fear being out and treated like a gay man has changed me, taught me some valuable lesions in life I’d not otherwise have learned as a straight man on my personality alone. And that’s nothings I’d give back, admittedly, even to stop the legislature, the voting public, and various strangers from sometimes treating us as cartoonish 2-D gays.


Master Fob said...

Wow. Extremely well thought out and articulated post. Thanks for your thoughts.

Scot said...

Thanks Master Fob (and, a bit late, but thank you John, from the last post.). It’s not always easy for me to know whether I’m rambling or thinking ;-), and I certainly appreciate the feedback.

Anonymous said...

thought provoking; thanks. although on occasion i wonder what if i weren't [my profession]; but I don't go around thinking what if i weren't... mormon, or american, or... gay.

Arissa said...

People should read this.

Paul said...

Thanks arissa, and welcome!