No one teaches you to be gay the same way the world strives to beat you straight.
There’s no religion in which Anderson Cooper descends from on high to save my soul, and then date me. Shakespeare never wrote Romeo and Jonathan, and even if he did, they probably wouldn’t have lived fabulously ever after. And however androgynous the name Taylor is, Ms. Swift is still a woman in spite of her classically “gay” lyrics.
For 20 years, I’ve worked with what I had around me: mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. After all those years of passive cultural training, you’d better believe I’d make one hell of a husband. I know the tropes like the back of my flawless gay hand: a buxom blonde with a big smile, a hefty 401k, 2.5 kids, a black lab, a white picket fence—the whole all-American 9 yards.
And yet, here I am, left to tread water in the big, gay, blind spot of contemporary, American, mainstream media with little but hand-me-down sashaying stereotypes to keep me afloat.
Popular culture, media and music alike, seldom showcases gay men as anything more than humorous (read: humiliating) caricatures. My gay role models are who, exactly? Kurt Hummel, from Glee? Will, from Will and Grace? The uncles from Modern Family? Where’s the dynamism? And who’s left when I don’t fit the mold?
I’m a Bruins fan with the softest soft spot for puppies. I’ve got a mile-wide competitive streak and I will argue until I’m blue in the face that Wicked is the best musical in existence. The way I walk, the way I talk, the way I do every little thing down to holding a can of soda can be critiqued until the end of time.
But, I stopped having to impress anyone the day I came out and abjured myself from the “bro-dious” practice of posturing.
That’s the secret blessing to living in a stifling, heteronormative world—I’m already cast aside. Out of the hypermasculine American limelight, no one cares if I like football. I decide.
If manliness is the rebuke of everything remotely “feminine,” I’ll take my love and be on my way. If the worst thing someone can do to denounce my masculinity is call me gay, I’ve already won.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” and if that kind of reckless bravery isn’t integral to what it means to be a man, to be a human being, I couldn’t tell you what is.
So call it gay intuition or just plain old intuition, but I think we’re starting to shrug off the cultural shackles of the past millennia. We’re passed the age of the 1950s housewife, the Jim Crowe laws, the Stonewall Riots. My peers and I, gay, straight, and everything in between are like the frontiersmen of yore, the Lewis and Clarks at the dawn of a new age of personhood.
Come and stay a while in the blind spot of gender roles and labels. It’s a beautiful place full of beautiful people. You might be treading water, but the water’s fine.
Maybe in a hundred, or a thousand years from now, humanity will laugh at us all the way from New Earth. I can only hope that I’ll be laughing along with them—in my newly bedazzled, immortal robot body.
For now, come try the taste of exile.
David Riemer: In a world where pithy, comprehensive biographies span only one sentence, this one suffices. Dream on. @WickedDriemy
Editor: Nikki Di Virgilio
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