I am a gay man and proud of it. I have qualms though. I have come to realize that I was told by society to accept myself, when in reality I was being told who I was supposed to be and to accept that version of myself.
This is my story and it’s not just for gay men. It is for any human being that has ever felt labeled by society and felt any expectation to behave or look a certain way. The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging it’s there.
I remember the first time I was told I was gay by an adult. I was 11 and I was a child actor. I had just turned 11 in fact, and boys (or girls) were not on my radar. Hello, pre-puberty. What was on my radar was theater. While this adult cast member of a professional Actors Equity Production used stereotypes to correctly assume my eventual sexuality, it was extraordinarily inappropriate for an adult to make such a comment to a child; A child that had not yet come to the conclusion for himself.
When I said “No I’m not — I don’t think so at least,” a group of adult chorus men laughed at me with pity, saying “that’s cute” among other condescending remarks. I went home that night after the show feeling confused and embarrassed. Hence, this is the first problem in the community that I’ve encountered: LGBTQIA+ youth MUST feel confused, sad and vulnerable about their budding sexuality; it’s an initiation.
Two years later when I came to the conclusion that I liked boys, I liked all kinds of boys. I liked boys that were taller than me, shorter than me, fatter than me and thinner than me. I wasn’t dating but, like most early teens, I had a vivid and exciting love life in my head.
When I reached the dating age, I discovered that I couldn’t like just anyone. I had to like a certain “type,” and the first step of knowing which guys to go for was knowing which “type” I was — excuse me, which “type of gay” I was (eyeroll).
Well, I was five foot four and I was skinny. Actually, I had just gotten out of treatment for anorexia nervosa (a column for a different day) and I weighed 105 pounds soaking wet. So, I’m sure you’ve guessed by now — I was a “twink!” Does that word make you uncomfortable? That’s ok. Me too. For the record this was told to me by an older “gay” in my highschool. I hope you’re starting to see the trend here.
With my newfound category based on the way I looked, I had my license to go on the prowl. I knew exactly the kind of man I was supposed to want and exactly the kind of man that was supposed to want me. I wouldn’t dare try to romantically talk to another “twink.” In fact, the one time I did, I was rejected as he laughed and said “wait — you’re not joking? Girl, we’re the same! How would that even work?” Embarrassed, I forced a chuckle and said “Oh, I guess you’re right.”
Don’t pity me here. Think about it.
However, I did now have a “tribe.” Any other short, skinny gay man was now an automatic friend. A “friendship” complete with unspoken competition of who was the bitchiest, who did the best make up, who was the thinnest and who has had sex with the most men that “seemed straight,” or were above the age of 25. Oh yeah — I’m putting it all out on the table.
I’m a perfectionist and as I mentioned, though I don’t act anymore, I’m an actor at heart. And I was going to play my new role well. The sad part was, I didn’t really know it was a role. It was more of a “method” performance as I believed this is who I was.
So I went through the motions. I called all of my girl friends “girl,” I remained fixated on my body, I dressed the way I was supposed to and I was intimate with the “right” type of men. I was so blinded by needing to be the “best twink” that I was intimate with one particular older man that, in the same situation, would have been shamed if he slept with a young girl. This being due to his age AND due to the authority position he was in. However, everyone I told said “good for you.” I wore this disgraceful encounter like a badge of honor.
I woke up after this. I saw how toxic this was becoming and I said “no more.” It started with weight gain. I honored myself for the first time and started eating food again that wasn’t salad and grilled chicken. I gained about 30 pounds and have never loved MY body more. I started dressing the way I want to dress and usually that means like a soccer dad. I stopped calling my friends that were smart young women “girls.” I took myself out of the running for best twink, and I only identify as a gay man with no subcategories needed. In other words, I swipe right on whoever the f*ck I want.
Society told me who it thought I was supposed to be. I listened for a while. Then, I stopped listening.
You always have the choice to stop listening to society and be true to yourself.