One of the longest debates of my life, since I had come out at 12 years old in 5th grade, being very young what being gay actually meant. Many have tried to define for me what that has been, being no better than the religious fundamentalists who preach against my rights, along with many within the Republican Party, every single day.
In order to encapsulate this, before we discuss what it doesn’t mean.
What It Doesn’t Mean
Sex: You don’t need to be homosexual to take part in gay sex. Having sex, by itself, with any gender has little to do with sexual orientation, and this has strong recognition within the scientific community. I am, most certainly, sexually attracted to those of the same-sex, but this is not within a broad context, and in similar confines as any other heterosexual person.
Money: LGBT Americans are not wealthier than their heterosexual counterparts. Is this to say, then, that money doesn’t matter? Well, does food, clothing, shelter and resources matter? Money really matters, but it’s not everything.
Popularity: Although, gay marriage has consistently won in states across America. That doesn’t make one popular or even protected from all forms of harm. Getting a job and discrimination still exist for many out there.
This quote, from this link, also encapsulates what it doesn’t mean to be gay:
Initially I came to this community searching for love, intimacy and brotherhood. In return, I got shade, infidelity, loneliness and disunity. The self-loathing in this community forces you to encounter a series of broken men who are self-destructive, hurtful, cruel and vindictive towards one another. I have struggled to adapt my moral code to fit the behaviors concomitant with the lifestyle but it seems that the lifestyle is forcing me too far away from everything I love and value. No matter how many times I try to purge my perception of its firmly held beliefs and skewed biases, the same classic stereotypes of gay men keep rearing their ugly heads. The indiscriminate sex, superficiality, unstable relationships, self-hatred, peter pan syndrome, closeted connections, ageism, shade, loneliness, preoccupation with sex, prejudice, aversion to intimacy all seem to come out of the ground I thought they were buried under. Gay men just seem to find it difficult to transcend the stereotypes and clichés attached to the life and it is becoming disheartening.
It has been seven years since I decided to live my life as an openly gay male and it has not been an easy road. It has been fraught with much pain and misery that I initially tried to mask with alcohol, drugs, sex and parties. In the beginning it was hard to admit that I liked other men. But I did and it was a very freeing experience. It gave me the opportunity to assert my identity when for years I struggled with this. It gave me a chance to be my own activist and stand up in the face of opposition from family, friends and society as a whole. I took pride in my gay pride and felt as though I were apart of something greater than myself, a movement of men who loved other men and who were unafraid to show it. Our love was supposed to be a revolutionary act. But the truth is, we didn’t love each other; we were just infatuated with the idea of belonging and going against the grain. We loved the freedom and taboo of rebelling against societal mores. The love that we thought was intricate to the spelling of our revolution was just a knife that we turned in on ourselves under the guise of fun and good times.
Personally I believe that love is sacrifice and not many gay men are willing to sacrifice for their brethren nowadays. Initially this spirit of self-sacrifice was salient during the AIDS crisis in the early 80’s and 90’s when resources were scarce and people were afraid. But now, there seems to be a preoccupation with the seduction of risk, as gay men play with matches, hoping to ignite meaningful connections in their never ending self-discovery. The grand prize of intimacy is often forfeited for the immediate gratification of a casual encounter on craigslist or a geo-social hook up on Grindr. Cars have become the new bedrooms and sex is not followed with pillow talk but rather phrases such as: “Blo and Go,” “Pump and Dump” and “Skeet and Leave”. The life is starting to look a lot like a slow death simmering on low heat and it doesn’t hold the same appeal that it once did to me. It is a life in serious need of renovations.
Men also used to be men and approached you with a modicum of chivalrous courage. Now they hide behind electronic masks or position themselves in close proximity to you at clubs hoping you initiate contact only to arrogantly dismiss your advances in an attempt to project their own discomfort. I have noticed that a lot of gay men seem to only want a challenge and live for the elusive. They want men who do not want them, men who resemble the emotional distance or absence of their fathers.
What It Does Mean
Love: The most important thing to have and express is love. Not shade, prejudice, and nasty attitudes. You get what you give. You really get what you give.
Equality: Equal rights is very, very important. Being out of the closet means defending our rights as Americans and foreigners on a frequent basis. Most importantly, we need each other when confronting this prejudice. We have strength in numbers. A single person by themselves cannot stop or call out all the prejudice in the world: We have to do this together. We are nothing without each other. Without each other, we stand for nothing.
Intimacy: Not sex. Sex isn’t intimate, it’s only sexual. Sex isn’t warm or inviting either. It’s cold, distant, and unsatisfying with someone you don’t have a close connection with. Having been there, I know. I’m talking about romance, and relationship building. Discovering each other in all the little ways that exist. The simple little things that really matter in relationships and to people. Our close connections allow us to display the very best in us that the world needs to see. Make love, not sex.
We Define Ourselves, Not Each Other
“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.” – Actress Cynthia Nixon in a New York Times interview, 2012
One of the issues I have faced within my own community, has been receiving criticisms that in order to be gay I must fit within very specific parameters, which thoroughly fails in any logical way. Being gay should be about experiencing freedom to be one’s self, not a manner for others to entrap you for their mechanizations. That’s entirely absurd and not a community-supporting practice.
“Normal is a very relative term, especially when it comes to relationships. And today’s normal is really just about happiness. It’s about creating a life that feels right and honest and authentic to you. It’s about creating your own rules for love because you and your partner(s) have never existed before. There’s no example of how to do this because you and your relationship are completely unique.
Labels are absolutely useful for helping people feel connected, relatable, even understood. But there comes a point where the label starts holding you back. And you have to decide if you’re willing to take life in with each moment, or if you’re going to stick so stubbornly to a decision you made about yourself and the way love is supposed to be long ago.” – Mike Iamele, How a Straight Man in a Gay Relationship Made it Work (referring to I’m An Otherwise Straight Man (Who Fell In Love With His Best Friend))