Being Gay: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Well, you know me. I am a bit counter-culture. To that end, as a guy who tried his hardest to do everything to escape a gay identity (minus the Hinudini tricks), I think I'm a great voice as to the pluses and minuses of being out. Let me give you the scoop on both ends (woops! did I just create a sexual pun?).
I often like to do "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" in my movie reviews so I'm going to do that here too! (didn't know I did movie reviews? Click here)
Disclaimer: *This is from an exclusively gay male perspective. I cannot speak for Lesbians or Transgenders or Gender Queers who have a whole slew of other items to address*
Hello mental and emotional sanity! When you are closeted, trust me, you aren't even aware of the pretzel you are of nerves, angst and defensive postures. If you were aware, you would be out already. There is also the freedom to become fully who you were afraid to be. You get to re-discover your identity. Some mock the elderly coming out, but speaking as someone who came out in my late 30's, you get to re-live your youth. Who wouldn't want to relive their youthful sexuality with the wisdom they have as an adult? There is a plus to those more mature gays even if the younger gay crowd would look down on us!
You also change the life of others as your new identity forces deeper conversations and the people around you to face things and stereotypes they haven't before. For all the fear that goes with the notion of coming out, this is an often big, overlooked positive.
Additionally, there is the joy of exploring a certain sense of non-shaming sexual experimenting in various forms--whatever you choose. This is something not even straight couples often give themselves permission to do. However, the gay community is not bashful about this but actually step it up by being encouraging and helpful with this. It is a necessary thing for us after many years of repression and there's support around it within the community. It is always good to talk someone and most LGBT community centers have groups where you can meet someone to talk with about your concerns and sexual safety too.
Additionally, no matter where you fall on the LGBT spectrum, you encounter people who are even further on the spectrum than from where you are. If you are a gay male, you learn about bi-sexuals, lesbians and transgenders, asexuals, gender queers, bears etc. etc. You face your inner demons of judgments and what identity means on deeper levels than most people do in a lifetime by facing the differences in others within your own diverse group. I can you tell that if I remained as a straight, white, very religious guy, I wouldn't have a clue nor would I have accepted some very beautiful people in my life that make me a much better person.
There is also the community. There isn't a sense of community everywhere but you can usually find it somewhere; An LGBT community center, perhaps some group like a gay choir, gay bowling, gay reading club etc. and people can really have your back like a home grown church all it's own, a band of brothers or sisters. Not that any of this isn't found in other straight circles but you can find it here too. Also, there are different kinds of groups of gays that will congregate and do things together if you like. For example, where gays have by and large been secluded to the arts, now a number of sports enthusiasts have risen. There are more gay churches or gay accepting churches. There are businesses that are "out" and gay professional groups. You have those who like particular lifestyles like leather and bear communities and on the list goes. There is a growing list that provides something for everyone.
Within the community, there is a lot of humor. "Laughter is the best medicine" and our community thrives on this as a source for survival and support. In addition, there is a terrific amount of talent that would literally put shows like American Idol to shame. Most people don't know of it or get to experience it because even though gays are more accepted there is still a lot of work to be done.
There is a great excitement in forging new paths. I remember when my generation was identified as Generation X for the first time. It was a strange feeling to hear that the culture at large didn't know what to do with us and so they had labeled us with an "X". An X signifies nothing, a sort of ominous cloud of being seen as "last", a "zero". After all X comes at the end of the alphabet. There was indeed excitement of being an explorer of sorts, but also all the risk and costs laid on us. We were on our own without much guidance or help.
It is pretty much the same thing when you accept the mantle of being gay. We are fortunate today for all those who forged paths in a society that was much more hostile against them than they are of us in today's culture. Even so, we are still riddled with a gay culture that isn't always healthy as much as it stinks of old cigarettes, poppers, vomit, and the spilled liquor of the underground world in which it once was forced to go to survive and thrive in. People still cling tightly to this world because there is community there that has a long tradition. It is much less an underground today but still contains a lot of the same vibe to it minus the numbers. A lot of gay bars have closed up now and even places like Chicago's infamous Boys Town is going the way of the dodo bird.
Still, gay bars can be an easy place to walk into and find a huge group of your own kind. However, it has been different for those of us who don't fit in this arena or are completely comfortable in it without a set group friends you meet there. Bars give me the same comfortably as urinals. I use urinals but I prefer stalls than letting everything hang out. In much the same way, I feel vulnerable to rejection at bars like I'm in the high school cafeteria again. I will still go, especially if I know a friend is there or there is some entertainment I want to see, but it is not my preference. Clubs can be fun, especially if you have friend to go with and the very next time it can be quite depressing if you don't know how to handle yourself going in alone.
Thrown out of churches and various social/professional establishments, gays have learned to live in the underground. Yet ironically, they can reject their own in these places. This underground has taught many to live a lifestyle of throwing their inhibitions to the wind and embracing a hyper sexualized, drug riddled, and cliquey world of the bar and club scenes. This has perpetuated a stereotype that gays have thrown their morality and boundaries in the dumpster and thus we should keep them away from ______. You can fill in the blank. Thank goodness our option of social venues are rising above the fray of the past and we have better role models out there even on the media. When I came out, the bar and club scene held an excitement primarily because it was taboo. Once that mystery wore off, I was slammed to the wall by the rejection of shallow standards I wasn't comfortable adopting. For a very long time, I longed for social outlets and connections elsewhere and the choices were minimal. I found them but it took a lot of work, and patience.
As the straight world of men has limited itself to sports, cars and sex to bond over, it seems the gay world of men have taken to Broadway and or Hollywood, Drag Queens/fashion and...well sex. We are still guys after all so sex remains a priority, what can I say! The problem is that you can still find yourself excluded if you aren't a perfectly stylized, walking Vaudeville entertainer and/or someone who could appear in a Hollywood movie. At the very minimum, just like people who frequent most straight gay bars, you have to prove yourself by how you look, how much liquor you can take and how dirty you can act and talk. This is changing as more social venues open to us, thank goodness, but as it stands, the measures are so high in these social venues that we often reject our own. This, to me, is the saddest of the sad because that is the very thing we get from society as it is-- just for being gay. Still, to add complexity to this, this has perpetuated many a desperate man who stalk and leech on others to meet their needs with a sense of entitlement rather than authentic relationship. It is understandable as they find themselves confined to an isolation beyond the isolation of society, but it is still disturbing. I've had to sadly cut out relationships where the person could not respect boundaries.
The other "bad" thing I find is the fear of being out, affectionate, and the dreaded word "relationship". I think because we as a community get to forge our own way in this LGBT universe, there is a certain amount of resistance which is characteristic of many males toward the idea of a committed relationship. There are a lot of "open relationships" that many men are defining themselves. The problem is that when you have "men seeking men" you then have a great deal of self-serving going on and it is an issue for many of us to find a guy who really is ready to settle down. There is very little calling for restraint or things like commitment so if, for example, you look hot and are popular, what a drug it must be to have everyone wanting you. How do you ever settle down? Certainly not quickly for many! Many guys want to keep doors open, even secret back doors open to other guys. A sort of having your cake and eating it too because again, we are creating our own rules. This makes it hard to find guys who enjoy stable relationships.
The Ugly--I don't want to dwell on negatives by having only one "good" section and two rather negative sections of "bad" and "ugly". After all, there is really only one significant ugly point to be made here. That is, the social and professional stigma that comes with being gay. We all know about this one so I don't need say much about it except that thank goodness things are getting better and hopefully continue to.
What are the good, bad, & uglies for you in your world, gay or straight? Comment below