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TV/Media Commentary and Societal Insights. With a Beard.
After showing this conversation to a few of my friends, I’ve been told that my response might actually be beneficial to publish and share online, for people who a) Want to see how I handled someone hell-bent on believing homosexuality (or any non-straight orientation, I guess) is a choice; or b) Are legitimately interested in what the deal with gay people is, or something.
I normally save this blog for articles and keep personal insights to my Tumblr, but I thought people who enjoyed my very early piece, 4 Reasons I Would Never Choose to be a Gay Guy, might enjoy my response, which is basically a more mature, in-depth evolution of that comedy article.
I also figured, if I devoted the energy to craft such an in-depth response to someone really ignorant and undeserving, it might be worthwhile to share it with people who ARE worth putting that much time and effort into. So this one’s for all of you. Hopefully you’ll be enlightened or entertained.
Basically, I got a message from an older acquaintance I’ve known since high school, but have only talked to a few times in my life. We hadn’t spoken in quite a while, and out of the blue, I get a Facebook IM literally starting off “Ok, let me get this straight (no pun intended).”
I’d publish the message in its tactless entirety (all the wording was as awkward as that joke) but since it refers to other people who I don’t want to get roped into this, here’s a summary of the initial message instead:
Waaaaay back years ago in high school, I confessed to this person that I liked a girl. The person continued, “And now you’re professing homosexuality. But how can you be a homosexual when you had fallen in love with a girl?… They say being gay is something you’re born with, but I think for MOST gays it’s a behavioral choice. I think there are SOME folks who were born differently in that way, but people like you, who say they’re in love with a girl, and then a few years later say they’re gay…I have to question that.”
There were a couple of other things suggesting I should marry a girl anyway, regardless of my (apparently false) orientation because “a relationship and marriage has very little to do with sex.” And then the person ended the message with, “Enlighten me inside the head of a homosexual, please.”
After going back and forth between deciding to say “none of your business, fuck off” or just ignoring the person, I decided to take a third option and actuallyanswer the question. How can an alleged gay guy have dated girls in the past? Why don’t I just fess up and marry a girl? Here’s the explanation for me and my coming to terms and coming out experience.
(Keep in mind, I edited out specific references to certain people. This isn’t the full version, but it’s pretty much all of it.)
I didn’t even know how to respond to this at first. I empathize with the need to fulfill curiosity, but there’s so many things wrong here that I don’t even know where to begin.
I just want to get the marriage thing out of the way first, because that’s easy to explain: Sex definitely isn’t the most important part of a relationship, but neither is simply liking the person you’re with. You said it yourself, you have to love the person. I have dozens of friends, male and female, that I’d logically be totally compatible with; people I hang out with, have things in common with, and love to death. This perception that I could just marry people I “love” in the vaguest sense of the word and spend the rest of my life with them doesn’t make sense to me at all, and sounds more like an excuse.
But more importantly—and this is really the meat of this—you seem to be treating this like some long adult history. And as much as I would have loved being treated like an adult in high school, the truth of the matter is that I was sixteen years old. And I’m sure you already know that teenagers…don’t have a good head on their shoulders. Confused and conflicted by nature after exploding with hormones and body changes, topped with the world pulling you in a million different directions and inflating the importance of your life decisions, despite that being the worst time to make a decision on anything, plus that huge need to fit in. And that’s really what it boils down to—spending your whole life hearing things from your parents, from your relatives, from everyone you associated with in your society (whether it be church, school, the media, whatever) and hearing them so much since birth that you can’t even bring yourself to question them.
If everyone you associated with believed and told you since birth that horses eat people and you couldn’t ride them, and you’d never encountered a horse, you’d believe horses would eat you and you can’t ride them. Even if it didn’t really make sense that horses would eat people, and deep down you feel like you’d be really good at riding a horse, you’d constantly remind yourself “But horses will eat me if I ride them!” to ignore those thoughts.
Then you see other kids riding bikes, and you’re told kids are supposed to ride bikes, not horses. You don’t want to be weird, so of course you’re going to ride the bike. Even if the bike is uncomfortable and you’re really terrible at it, since you’ve never ridden anything else before, you’re just going to assume that’s what it’s like for everyone to ride a bike. And so you’ll tell people how much you love riding bikes, and how you have a favorite bike, because you believe you’re supposed to have a favorite bike.
And you’ll tell it to yourself, too, over and over and over again, hoping eventually you’ll get to a point when you don’t have to tell it to yourself anymore, and you’ll finally be normal.
But you never do, and it’s that point where you actually recognize that you haveto tell yourself “I like bikes” in order to like them—that’s when you realize you didn’t actually like riding bikes at all. And when you’re terrified of not being able to ride anything, you get on a horse, and realize you’re actually really, really good at riding horses. And even better, they won’t eat you, and you love riding them.
I thought I had a crush on every girl I got to be close friends with. Every single one of them, if I got to a point where I liked hanging out with them, or made a connection, I thought it was love. I just didn’t understand that friend love doesn’t equal love love. Meanwhile, I would constantly talk to some guys, buy them gifts, get jealous when they hung out with other people, think about them all the time and be more-or-less head over heels with them (remember, teenager = basically insane) but just figured since we were guys, it had to only mean we were really good friends. I had it backwards because I was constantly trying to fit into the mold I’d been taught was supposed to fit into. It was stupid, harmful to myself and others, and incredibly unhealthy, and I did it for two decades.
In college I literally forced myself to date women that, by all logic, should have been perfectly compatible with me in terms of interest and/or looks. There was about three of them, and in every situation, I led them on, telling myself we’d click eventually, and lying when people asked me if I liked them, because there was no reason I shouldn’t have liked them. And then I’d back out and not talk to them, but not actually break anything off because I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be around them all the time, or touch them, or even let them hold my hand without it feeling weird. It was after breaking people’s hearts for no reason that I fessed up, stopped pussyfooting around, and came to terms with it. And since then, I’ve been out with men, and I actually felt it, and totally recognized what I felt. There’s no way to describe the freeing feeling of knowing you aren’t actually lying to yourself, and losing a weight you’ve had your whole life that didn’t actually know you had to lose.
Would I have chosen all that or do it all over again? No. Fuck no. I’m normally okay with having bad experiences because you learn from them, but not that. As wonderful as my coming out experience was, I would never, ever wish that on my worst enemy. I wish I’d been able to not be afraid or live in a society where it’s not taboo or stigmatized. I’m totally cool with myself and my life now, and that’s all gravy, but no. I hate what I did to myself and I hate what I did to people, and I hate that me not being afraid somehow gives other people a sense of entitlement to question and pry into the most personal parts of my life, even for someone already as open as I am. Choosing to be gay would be the dumbest choice a person could make, at least if they were born into my family and my church in Caroline County in 1989.
That’s the best I can explain it. I don’t know why it’s important to have to explain it at all, and frankly I have every right not to. But I assumed you intended to go in with an open-mind, and it would be more beneficial to inform or educate someone than just say “none of your business.” So take it all however you will.
But for future reference, people don’t tend to take too kindly to suggestions of who to marry, or what their feelings should be, or how they should handle their own sexuality. Those are generally opinions worth keeping to yourself.
The response I got was a simple, “Yeah, I was pretty immature with my assumptions now that you informed me. But that’s because I can’t relate and am ignorant of it all. Thanks for answering.”
We haven’t been in contact since.