Thursday, 11 October 2012

5 Years of No Closet Door

The first person to whom I came out was myself, which is usually how it works. My whole life, I had struggled with the idea of being something other than straight. It came naturally to me, but I was always painfully aware of how difficult it would be if others knew. My father seemed a lot more hostile in those days - he was one of those people who used the word "queer" as a derogatory term instead of a simple, all-encompassing label for those who didn't identify with biologically normal sexual preferences.

It took quite some time for me to work up the courage to tell my friends, and even then it was only a few. They weren't even friends I saw often, or at all (internet friends, mostly) - I certainly didn't tell anyone who went to my all-male private prep (not boarding) school.

My mother did not take long to pick up on the fact she was driving me to a gay youth group. In fact, she asked me this the second time I'd gone, after we'd gotten home. She was very glad I was enjoying myself, since the previous month or so had been very difficult for me. I remember her exact words - "So, here's a question out of left field. Are you bi?" I wasn't expecting that, but I had had at that point fifteen years of learning that one cannot lie to my mother. So I said yes.

Even if I had said "no," there would have been something in the way I said it that gave the real answer away. She sees through everything and picks apart the fallacies in whatever people say, which is why we get along on things like politics and religion - we're both a bit disillusioned.

She went on to say how she was totally supportive and didn't really care, since I was still her son. Jokingly, perhaps, she added that if I end up with a guy, I'd have to adopt so she can have grandchildren. I pointed out that she has two other sons and a daughter.

She told my father, who probably had a hard time understanding for a bit. He had raised my three younger siblings and I to be Christian, specifically Presbyterian, and to adhere to the typical ideals of a modern gentleman (or in my sister's case, a polite and reserved, yet empowered young lady). We were taught to say grace before meals, to tuck in our shirts, to hold doors for people (especially ladies), and to respect our elders. We were taught to obey both of our parents regardless of our misgivings. We were taught that we were naive, ignorant children with an as-of-yet undeveloped worldview, but that if we listened and learned, we would be as successful as our parents were.

In retrospect, there was hardly anything old-fashioned about my upbringing. My father always listened to rock music, mainly classic rock and early psychedelic stuff like The Who, Fleetwood Mac, and the Moody Blues, all of whom to this day remain some of my all-time favorites as well. He loved technology, and still does. He is an Apple junkie. He has never once said anything is "of the Devil." And he's also the best teacher I've ever had. He never said anything to the effect of "you'll go to hell if you do/don't do this."

With all that in mind, I can understand if he was a bit conflicted. It took only a few months for him to temper his language. I have not heard the word "fag" come out of his mouth in years, not that he ever used it liberally (for example, my pants were "faggy"*). He also stopped using the word "queer," as did my mother, though I've informed them both that is in fact not an insult - it's a lot easier to say "queer" than to recite the alphabet soup that is the list of all "different" sexual identities and preferences. Come on, LGBTQIAAsomethingsomethingsomething - no.

He has not changed his views on things like marriage equality, although he also believes that abortion is murder. If I married a man, he might as well marry a cat, and a tree, and his car as well, because he really loves all of them. I informed him that he's allergic to the cat, his car will drain all his money, and the tree can't go with him to sign a civil union contract. In fact, none of those things have legal standing at all. But there are some things with which he just can't be reasoned. He always votes Republican, but gets downright mad when my brother asks for a cap gun - "We do not have guns in this house!"**

My mother didn't care then and doesn't care now. She doesn't understand why my dad feels the way he does, but she's the one who married him. Apparently he's this stubborn on everything, like upgrading our internet service or buying new cell phones. He is always right regardless. It's not even a misogynistic thing at all - he needs to win every argument with everyone. He doesn't try to tell my mother she's wrong to be in favor of civil rights for queer people, probably because deep down he knows it's right.

But, being me, I couldn't stop there. I couldn't just be "bi." Nope. I had to go and confuse everyone by saying I was gay, which started after I met a wonderful boy at OutFest on 13 October 2009. I am not ashamed to admit I fell in love with him after only a few hours of conversation. He was everything I'd been looking for - smart, introspective, somewhat cynical, and very attractive. I just didn't expect to find that all in a guy, but I realized I didn't care.

At that point, I'd only recently broken up with my first girlfriend. It had only lasted about seven months, and was quite turbulent. It was very high-schoolish. She was kind of big, though not at all unattractive, and had a beautiful smile and larger-than-life personality that, at times, drowned out mine entirely. She was also bisexual and a practitioner of Wicca, of which I was incredibly suspicious. I don't even remember why we broke up, though I do remember it was on September 11th, 2009.

When I met Gabriel, I had told myself I'd stay away from the dating scene, specifically girls. I wasn't even thinking about guys. It just wasn't on my radar. But over the next two months, we became closer and closer friends. I got the impression that he was very lonely and introverted, although his energetic Sicilian personality covered it up nicely.

I was working on initial planning for my senior project at that point in time. I intended to make biodiesel from used vegetable oil. Gabriel, who at the time was very into chemistry, was helping me figure out the initial stuff I'd need to do. He was very interested in it, and I wasn't used to my friends having a vested interest in what was going on in my life, so I went with it.

On 18 December 2009, I finally worked up the courage to actually ask him out. Prior to that, we'd seen each other only on Fridays, at the gay youth group, and always around other people. I sneakily passed him a note saying "we should go out sometime - just us." Not two minutes later, I got a text saying "I think that's a great idea." It's still saved in my old cell phone.

On 23 December 2009, we went to his favorite sushi restaurant. This is indicative of the rest of our relationship, actually - we frequented Mexican grills, Indian buffets, and a fantastic Persian kebab place, all within five minutes of his house. Our first anniversary was spent at Hunan, a flawlessly authentic and upscale Chinese restaurant run by some old friends of my Chinese teacher. Gabriel was always quite impressed with my ability to speak Chinese, not to mention the doors it opened.

We were initially very shy together. It took almost two years for that to end. It's hard enough to be out at an all-male private school. Even though most people I told just kind of shrugged it off and didn't seem to care ("I mean it's not like you look at me in the locker room or anything, so whatever"), there was still a heavily ingrained homophobia stemming from the unrealistic ideals of masculinity a large portion of the students strived towards. I never got made fun of for the way I dressed or acted, though it was definitely questioned. I frequently countered with "why do you wear sweatpants and sports jerseys? Because you like it? Okay, well this is my thing."

It took me a long time to actually introduce Gabriel to anyone outside my immediate family, especially people at my school. In retrospect, I think it was more him than me. I think he was uncomfortable with me introducing him as my boyfriend when to his family and friends, I was "Gabriel's friend."

I should probably clarify that Gabriel's parents are sort of grown-up hippies - they kept the mentality of freedom and liberation but also got jobs and a mature worldview. They aren't incredibly vocal gay-rights activists - they just don't care. It doesn't matter one bit that their son is dating another guy. They actually like me a lot, probably because they are both computer programmers and his dad is a musician.

I said I was gay until August of 2011. Things got very complicated when I met a girl at college and tried my hardest not to fall for her. If you've ever seen a bad movie, or a good movie, or read a book, or studied basic psychology, you know that's a futile effort to make. The difference in real life is that the other person has no obligation to respond in kind. Long story short, nothing happened, but I took away the realization that perhaps I did like girls all along.

I guess, in retrospect, saying I was gay was just easier when I was dating a boy. I certainly didn't feel attracted to girls while I was with Gabriel, and frankly I still don't. I'm very picky. I don't like feminine girls, the ditzy blondes and slutty brunettes of the world; I look at their eyes when we talk, not their chests, and frankly I don't like the herd mentality of your average female. But wait, there's more. I like girls with short hair, or tattoos, or facial piercings, or a totally unique fashion sense. Or all of the above. I think I may have just described every biker girl ever, but at least they exist.

I also had an odd experience where I realized I was very attracted to a good friend of mine who happened to be transgender and planning to have operations and hormone therapy. He turned out to be a terrible friend and treated me like dirt when I last saw him, causing me to waste a lot of bus fare and an entire weekend, and that was that - but it started as something more than just wanting to be friends.

I realized that this makes me pansexual, or omnisexual, or polysexual (take your pick). In the end, I don't care about how a person identifies in terms of gender. I don't care about the particular group to whom they are attracted (as long as I'm potentially in that group). I don't even really care what they look like. I'm a lot more attracted to what makes that person a person than what makes that person a homo sapiens, if you know what I mean.

I also realized that I don't like the term "bisexual," since it implies there are only two. Two what?

I believe in science, and science says there are only two biological sexes: male and female. That is nature. Life would not work if there were any more or any less. Males need a female in order to reproduce. That's it. That is evolution. Two sexes. So, I suppose "bisexual" is a perfectly okay label for someone who determines their attraction based on the other person's genitals...but come on, does anyone really think that way?

Science also says that "gender" is not a biological concept at all, and is entirely psychological. Of course I'm not one of those people who claims that "gender doesn't exist" - that's almost as naive as saying "I don't see race." When I see someone, I instantly apply labels to them. That's a black man. There's an Asian woman. And I'm a white (not Caucasian, please, I'm from Saxony!***) guy. But they're all just people. The black guy might be a flaming homosexual and the Asian woman might have been born male. So what?

I don't care about someone's gender identity either. I'm sure there are people who could never be with anyone who was transgender. That doesn't make them terrible people. I could never be with a very or even somewhat religious person. It's called "attraction," and absolutely no one understands how it works.

In fact, I don't care about my own gender identity. I certainly don't see myself as masculine. Let's be honest - I'm really not. I also don't think I'm particularly feminine. I'm just kind of in between. If I had my way, I would pass off as completely androgynous, but I have a male body and facial structure and fat distribution and, at the end of the day, a male brain. I'm fine with my body on a basic level (I mean, I could be in better shape and I have a lot of back problems), and I don't care if people see me as male. I can't really avoid that, and I can't present femininity very well, so I give up. I'm genderqueer. I don't really have a gender identity, but I am a male. Just not a man's man, you know?

It is National Coming Out Day - three years to the day since I met Gabriel, in fact - so there, I've said it - I am pansexual and genderqueer, but I'm far too many other things for that to make any difference.

* In his defense, I used to and still do wear very tight jeans. They may not be "faggy," but they're definitely pretty gay.

** Discharging firearms is illegal in our township unless you have a hunting permit that's in-season. Plus, there's nothing to shoot at besides skinny, sickly deer that would yield no meat.

*** My dad's family originates in Lower Saxony, and my mother's in Ireland and Prussia. I suppose this makes me an average Anglo-Saxon, making my family the least-waspy WASPS ever.

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