Some Truths are Not Subjective: Being Gay is NOT a Choice!
I just cannot get over the number of straight people who believe that being gay is a choice. Really? And what is that belief based on? Personal experience? We need to start challenging these misguided souls. Because unless they are a gay person who chose to be straight - and if they are, I would love to hear their story – then their belief is baseless. Unless they are a gay person who chose to be straight their belief is based on… what? An innate knowledge of all universal truths as provided by faith? Where I come from, we call that bigotry.
Bigotry happens when you start making assumptions about people you know nothing about. You know that old saying… walk a mile in my shoes? Well, I wish every straight person could. Because, you see, I, like many gay folk, did my level best to be straight. It was made very clear to me from the get-go that it was in my best interest (if I planned to thrive and survive) to be straight. So I tried. For 28 years I did my level best. I had girlfriends, contemplated getting married, planned on bringing children into the world… and I could have done just that, except for one thing… I was gay. And I knew I was gay. And ultimately I had to come to accept the fact that being gay was not something I could wish away or pray away. It was something that was not going away. It was who I was.
You see, the truth has a way of winning out – of coming out, if you will. No matter how much you try to hide it, no matter how good you become at pretending otherwise, the truth will eventually make itself evident. And the more you try to deny it, the more it festers and pokes at you. It will not rest until you acknowledge its innate right to be (you know, kind of like those pushy gay folk).
As a straight person? I was miserable. Have you ever tried tap dancing in a pair of tap shoes that are a size and a half too small? I have. It hurts like hell. It messes up your timing and precision. It messes with your head. That’s what it feels like to be a gay person trying to pass as a straight man. Have you ever worn clothing that still had that stuff that new clothing has in it called sizing? Icky feeling, huh? And maybe that clothing isn’t quite the right size, so you start to sweat, and you feel like crap wearing what you are wearing. Yeah, that’s what choosing to be straight feels like for a gay person. It’s awful, that feeling. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It makes you despise the skin you’re in. It makes you feel like you are dirty and that you stink and that other people can smell you. It stinks to feel like you stink.
It makes you wish you were dead.
I only tried to kill myself once.
During my first year in college. I was a theatre major at a small college – and the message I received loud and clear from everyone – other actors, directors, teachers, parents, even the guidance counselor at the college – was don’t be gay. I kept thinking all throughout high school that once I went to college things would be different… that I would be different, that other people would be different, that the world would be different, but that wasn’t the case. So I struggled. And then I met an actor from New York. I fell in love. And then I spent six months living a double existence until I just couldn’t anymore. I decided I would rather be dead. So, I tried to kill myself, and, like so many things that I have attempted in my lifetime, it turned out I wasn’t very good at it, because (surprise) I lived. You see, I forgot that I had an 8:00 am call for a 10:00 am children’s show I was in (I played a court jester with a full face of paint). When I didn’t show up at the theatre, the stage manager came, broke in and found me. I threw up all the pills, she dragged my ass to the theatre, and threw me on-stage. Everyone was mad at me for being late. They had to hold the curtain because of me. I was a mess. No one understood, because no one knew the whole truth, because I could not tell them. I remember standing on the edge of the stage at curtain call yelling inappropriate things at the audience. They were applauding so they couldn’t hear me… but my fellow actors sure could. It was surreal. And so it would remain for the next ten years.
So, having done that, having tried, however ineptly, to off myself, you would think I would have come out of it realizing that I could not escape from who I was. But, no. Instead, I went further into denial – further into the surreal. I ended my affair with the actor in New York and cancelled my plans to move to New York to be with him – plans I had made secretively. .. only the actor and I knew. I broke his heart. I broke my heart, too. It would take ten more years of self-hatred, bitterness, inner-conflict, denial, bad self-image, poor self-esteem, being marginalized, criticized, and ostracized, living in fear and isolation before I would finally come to realize that I was what I was… I was gay.
And I was not a great gay - still am not a great gay – for like most people, I am horribly flawed. But I have come a long way… I never hide who I am these days. Everybody knows. And what they think? Well, it’s not always my business. I can’t change who they are – but I will also not allow them to treat me badly or differently because of what I am.
I now like the skin I’m in. My clothes fit better, too. And I now know better than to try to tap dance in shoes a size and a half too small. In fact, I don’t tap dance around anyone anymore. I just tell people my truth. That this is who I am. I am a gay man. And not by choice. Like greatness for some, this – being gay - has been thrust upon me. And I now wear it like a crown.
Because it looks good up there on my head.
And the fit is to die for!