Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Queer

Part One: My Lifestyle

I've danced around this topic numerous times, and while I don't want this blog go the way of the Ellen sitcom, (as I mentioned in a previous entry), I think it's time I tackle this one head on, and then be done with it. I was inspired by a fellow blogger I follow. You should really pay him a visit, his blog is both interesting and entertaining, as well as insightful and well-written. I intend this to be my part of a conversation I would like to start with him.

To some, and especially to those who don't know me, this might sound like a pity-party, a woe-is-me, my-life-is-harder-than-yours sorrow piece. It's not. I had a hard time growing up, but many children have had far harder. I experienced pain, but I also had a loving family who tried to help. Not everyone has that much. I also know be grateful for running water, heat, air conditioning, and a roof over my head. I didn't want for much, so I'm not looking for anybody to feel sorry for me. I sure has hell don't. So as I write about whatever struggles I may have had, please know that I realize how much better I had it than the majority of the world.

I'm not doing this to prove a point, but rather to disprove a few. I'm probably not going to say anything you haven't heard before, but maybe I will. I hope just to say it from the perspective of someone who grew up gay, and who spent the majority of his adult life convincing himself that it was not an affliction, not a curse, and not a thing over which I should feel guilty.

I'm going to write this in three parts. This first entry is about the notion that homosexuality is a lifestyle - or worse, a lifestyle choice. In my second part I'll discuss my thoughts on gay marriage, and lastly I'll discuss my stance on homosexuals raising children. I feel that each of these topics lends itself to the next. I intend to point out how in the desires to live a productive life, get married, and finally to pass on one's knowledge and experience on to offspring are not desires that exist solely within those who find the opposite sex attractive. To think otherwise is nothing short of dehumanizing.

With that said, let's begin with this lifestyle I've chosen.

Let's begin with the assumption this was my choice, my decision to make. I was a male growing up in the South, who spent two years in a Southern Baptist school, and heard derogatory gay jokes from my closest family and friends on a regular basis. What would my reaction be? Logically, I would chose a gay lifestyle, right? Surely this wouldn't affect (or cause me to fear an effect on) my relationships with everyone I love. No, of course not - I could expect this thing happening to me that doesn't appear to be happening to anyone else around me to be understood and accepted immediately and universally. Why not chose this? It's fun to be different!

Unfortunately, no. I was years and years away from discovering that my being gay was for no one else to accept but me. The desire to fit in to society and be accepted is a basic human need. For some of us, the painful illusion is that acceptance will be denied us by everyone we hold dear. We believe our family may disown us and our friends may disappear. Sadly enough, for many it's not at all an illusion. I've known more than one gay person who has lost nearly everyone he or she has loved because they did not approve of their "lifestyle choice." For them, the unimaginably difficult, noble act of self-acceptance and honesty earned them the pain and isolation of late-onset orphanage.

I've lived with depression my entire life, and have learned to not let it interfere, not let it drag me back into those dark places I knew growing up. I've learned to stay above the water, and I've become an adept swimmer. But I wasn't born with those skills. As a teenager, I had no idea how to cope. I was learning to live with that nagging fear and doubt that seems to infest everything you do or think, that doubt that anyone who has lived with depression truly understands. I also had to struggle with the dread of one day telling my family that I would never get married, I would never have children, that I was a faggot. (While I believe marriage and children are a possibility, I didn't believe so at the time). I wondered for many years if I would simply remain single, let the truth remain unspoken, even though most would suspect. I thought that might just be easier and less painful for all involved.

At the age of 13 I was hospitalized for depression. I knew at this point that I was attracted to members of the same sex. I knew I was queer. And while wrestling with wondering why I was even put on this earth, I had the added weight of knowing that the basic animal function of reproduction was denied me. I can't fully describe here the feeling of believing you are a walking aberration, an accident, a flamboyant lispy "oops" of nature.

I was asked in the hospital if I was gay. Of course I said no. I was trying to learn to be happy, and if that meant putting this struggle on a shelf in the back of a dank closet somewhere, I was more than willing to do so.

Part of my learning to be happy was learning to embrace the inner freak. This was part of what lead me to self-acceptance later in life. I pierced my face, I dyed my hair, I sought out music that was different than everyone else's. Had I known swishing gay man during those formative years, I may have become one of the walking stereotypes I strain not to loathe. (As I know they're people too - and while I take no issue with effeminate men, if that is truly who they are, I do take issue with those who have adopted a persona in order to fit in to something - anything - while alienating others and making life more difficult for the quiet minority). I want to stress that people should be who they are, that gender and sexual preference are often mutually exclusive - but to pretend you're someone you're not helps no one - isn't that the point? I digress.

Embracing other subcultures and casting out anything top-40 or carrying the label as trendy enabled me to feel better about being different. I met other gay friends, I even helped a few come out, though I was not out to my family and lived under the flimsy but common guise of "bisexual." Bisexuality is easier to claim, because those who know you as bisexual believe that one day you may settle into a more mainstream life - marriage, with children. Through their eyes, you find comfort in that idea, you experience vicariously the possibility of normalcy. But it's just another lie.

In my late teens became a far left-wing liberal. (I'm a liberal still, but with a marked conservative streak). I embraced anything that would embrace me, and discarded anything that wouldn't. I avoided the church. I laughed at the notion of 2.3 kids and a lawn. Secretly, it was a thing that I wanted, but didn't think I could ever have, and therefore cast aside.

As I got older I was exposed to the gay clubs, drag shows and pink culture that for a while threatened to send me back into the closet with a baseball bat and an NRA membership. I once again wore the badge of "bi" as a defense mechanism. I didn't know who I was, but I was pretty sure by then I knew what I didn't want to be.

While I was in England I found a people who were far more accepting of gays and lesbians. It was simply a non-issue. It was then that I began to find peace with my - "lifestyle choice." When I came back to the U.S. I was on the road to not only accepting, but embracing who I was. No, I did not choose this. I fought it most of my life. And now I'm paying for it, in years lost and wasted in denying myself the experience of living life openly and freely. No one denied it for me but me. I wish I'd learned that when I was younger, but I was too busy wallowing in self-pity to realize I was wallowing in self-pity.

So this entry was supposed to be about my lifestyle. Why was that not the focus? Because there is no gay lifestyle. It does not exist. Just as there is no lifestyle for blonde people, or a lifestyle for people who like pork shops. There is no more gay lifetsyle than there is a single gay community or some clandestine gay agenda I keep hearing about. If there is one, I've been excluded. Maybe I should check my secret decoder ring.

We have those, you know.

16 comments:

Mandy said...

Well said, baby brother.

It's funny, when you talk about your battle with depression I remember all those fights and struggles we had with each other growing up. Yet, somehow, in the darkest times you wanted me by your side and I wanted you. I always think of that when I think of your hospitalization. I think it speaks volumes about our relationship.

I love you and am so very proud of you for speaking your heart.

Will Shealy said...

Thanks sis, I feel the same way. I wish we'd become friends far sooner.

Darkwulfe said...

Will, My compliments to you my friend. I believe we all have a road to self discovery, for some it is much harder than others. For some it is more of a risk. I admire your strength and the way you have come to accept yourself. You said it well...nobody has to accept you other than yourself. I am struggling with learning the right...terminology...as the case may be...and learning to evolve beyond the preconceived ideals and ideologies I was raised with. I look forward to conversation on the subject in the future and look forward to the posts to follow.

Will Shealy said...

The best way to find the right terminology is to stop trying. I chose the title of that post because I don't think it's a bad word. I'm queer. I'm strange. I'm a little different, but I'm still human. Political correctness has its place - and it should stay there. Say what you feel, it's the only way any of us can have an honest conversation. And thank you for the comment. I look forward to this conversation as well.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

Growing up, I was always a misfit. I never acted like or thought like other kids. So, I befriended the gays and the punks - and had a blast. I still have my very best gay friend from high school in my life. The great thing about having him as my friend is that we tease each other. I'll say "Hey there, Nellie." and he calls me a "breeder". LOL. You're dead right - it's NOT a choice. It's just who you are, just like I am who I am. I tell straights to imagine we were in the minority and reviled for choosing the opposite sex, how would they feel being pressured to "fit in" by choosing the same sex for a relationship? That usually makes my point VERY clear.

Jay said...

Excellent post Will!

I've recently gotten back in contact with someone I went to high school with through Facebook. He's gay and now living in Cali. We grew up in a really small town in Arkansas and I think his experience is much like yours.

I wish that I could go back now and be more understanding of his situation and more helpful to him, even though I didn't know he was gay at the time, because he never told any of us.

lesleehorner said...

Hi Will! I found your blog through Darkwulfe's post comments. Thank you for sharing this story...but surprisingly I got tears in my eyes reading your comment exchange with your sister! So sweet... I need to tap the two of you (I've visited Mandy's blog too) to write "click stories" for my blog. (If that peaks your curiosity click on the "writers wanted" page on my blog.)

Anyway, I look forward to reading parts 2 and 3.

Leslee

Aunt Becky said...

What a perfect post. For all of us who have felt on the other side, looking in, this speaks to us. I'm not gay, but I have spent my life like you, wanting something I never had.

Beautiful, Will. I'm so proud to know you. Genuinely.

Mrs Soup said...

This is amazingly brilliant. There is no gay lifestyle, just as there is no straight lifestyle. We as humans try so hard to "characterize" and "categorize" everyone....that's what makes it so difficult for someone who may feel pulled to live a life that isn't the same as their neighbors.

Found you from the lovely Aunt Becky and am proud to have done so.

Thank you.

Wink said...

What a thoughtful post.........I have two gay siblings, and I will never forget what my sister said, long ago. Why would she CHOOSE to be persecuted, discriminated against, reviled, ridiculed and hated because she loved a woman. My brother has echoed those thoughts, as a gay man. Being gay is not a choice. You are who you are, plain and simple. I am enormously proud of them and love and admire them both. After early struggles, they have both found peace, happiness and loving relationships. Isn't that really what life is all about? Thank you for your honesty. I look forward to your thoughts on gay marriage and raising children with gay parents!

yummysushipajamas said...

I don't know you... found this link through a friend's Twitter. Thank you for this post. It is beautifully written.

Miranda said...

As I was reading this, it reminded me of a post I saw on another blog, and I think you'd like to see it.

http://questionableconduct.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/too-gay-for-god/

Way to go for taking a deep breath and speaking your heart. You are an inspiration!
~Miranda

Kristin Craig Lai said...

Great post Will. It kills me that we're still having to explain these things. I've seen friends abandoned by their families, ex-communicated by the 'gay community' and everything in between. It's funny that you talk about embracing freak culture as a way of getting closer to your queerness. I was a freak my whole life and took a lot of bullying for it. When I came out as bi (in my case a very apt description) it felt so much more comfortable to identify with my queerness because of my life of freakdom. And I'm totally with you on being saddened by those who wind up adopting yet another persona to try to fit in with their new community. I look forward to your next post.

Sally Moon said...

I hate that idea of choice. My daughter, my cousin, my niece, my aunts all describe the realization as more like,"I'm What?", and then the glory and relief set in. I love them. Great post

Doc said...

I have always thought that I didn't choose to be straight it just kind of happened that way so it must be the same for people who are gay. And why would straight people ever try and assume it was any different for gay people. Probably out of a sense of fear or ignorance.

Suzy said...

I too clung to that "bisexual" tag for so long. SO many of my friends claimed the same tag, and now have settled into the heterosexual straight laced marriages with 2.3 kids and a picket fence.

I learned to embrace my gayness - it took a few friends pointing out that I truly never was Bi, I was always gay...but eventually I just came out and said it.

Life from there was a whirlwind which has ended with me in the same place as my heterosexual counterparts - with the kids and the picket fence...but I have a wife by my side, not a husband.

I look forward to reading your opinions on your next two topics.