Since the day I knew I was different, I wished I were like everyone else. Gay. Being raised in a Baptist church, it was engraved in my head for 18 years that being gay was a one-way ticket to hell. The whole idea of repenting never made sense to me, seeing how gay was a lifestyle and not something you could just “do” and ask for forgiveness for and not do again. And for those 18 years I prayed that one day my feelings would change. I convinced myself that it was only a phase. I took on extra masculine things, like sports (which I hate) and sleeping with lots of women. That’s what all the straight boys did, so that’s what I did. I even kept a girlfriend for four years, whose heart I ended up breaking. But practice never made perfect. My prayers were never answered.
Now, as a grown black gay man who isn’t in the closet – but isn’t “obviously” gay – I’m stuck with many other struggles in this life. We, gay men don’t have any books or movies to guide us through dating and other life lessons. We don’t have many examples of how to maneuver through this lifestyle. Nothing prepared us for this life. We’re just thrown out there to the wolves of hate and judgment. I go through things that I know heterosexuals would never have to go through; things that I shouldn’t have to go through – but living in this world, I have no choice.
I sat in a bad relationship for six years. Looking back, I know I should have left three years into it, but I stayed because I had nobody to talk to about what I was going through. I was alienated from my gay friends because some of them had made sexual advances toward me, so my boyfriend wouldn’t let me hang around them anymore. If I were straight, I would just be hanging with my guy friends. I wouldn’t have to worry about one of them trying to hit on me halfway through a night filled with shots of vodka and partying. I wouldn’t have to go through the anxiety of lying to my mother every Christmas about why I don’t have a girlfriend to bring to the family gathering. I wouldn’t be subjected to the pain in my father’s eyes when he mentions how he may not have any grandchildren who will keep the family name alive because I’m the only boy.
Disappointment. Every time someone finds out this “evil” truth about me, disappointment is what lingers in his or her mind. Or at least that’s what I think. As I get closer to my 30th birthday, it gets harder for people to not notice as I get older. The few and far in-between times I go to church, I’m bombarded with questions like:
“So who’s the special lady in your life?”
“Why are you single?”
“Don’t you want kids?”
I eventually stopped going.
When meeting new people, you never know how they will receive you. With religion and Republicans everywhere, you don’t know if someone will hug or hit you. Building friendships can be awkward when you’re not “clockable.” Girls think you could possibly be hitting on them, but when they realize I’m not, they become Inspector Gadget. When I confirm why… more disappointment.
“You’re too cute to be gay.”
“Why do all the good black men have to be gay or in jail?” (Oh, how I love that line.)
Befriending straight guys in my experience actually goes better. Probably because upon first seeing me, they have no intentions to make me their husband. They normally don’t care. I’ve never hit on them, so they’re cool. But you have your few who immediately grow distant, who are grossed out and who don’t understand. I guess I can’t blame them.
I want to tell myself the world is changing. And it is. But it still has a long way to go. The anxiety before letting the words “I’m gay” come out of my mouth never gets any lighter. It never gets easier. Receiving judgment for something I never chose- and can’t change- is even harder. I’m not allowed the simple things in life that so many other people take for granted. I can’t get married, no matter how much I love that person. I can’t walk down the street holding my partner’s hand without someone passing by with a disgruntled look. And as much as I would want to, I can’t seem to stop caring.
What a lucky life heterosexuals must have, to grow up “normal.” Not having to force yourself to do things you don’t want to in order to hide your identity, and not having to lie about who you are every day constantly praying someone doesn’t notice you. They don’t have to be so very conscious of how their voices sound and not using their hands too much. They are able to love with no boundaries, to walk down the aisle with their husbands or wives. They can start a family without mountains of paperwork and a two-year waiting list. Oh, what a beautiful life that would be! I guess I’ll never know.