(asked by Anon.)
What a funny way to put it. I don’t think ‘realize’ is the right word; when I hear ‘realize,’ I think of suddenly understanding something that you weren’t aware of but was always there. Like, you realize that your glasses were on top of your head. You realize that you were making a mistake. I didn’t walk around wondering why girls didn’t make sense to me only to realize that, oh, I like dudes.
What I think you’re getting at is, at what point did I stop lying to myself and accept who I am? Because I was always attracted to other guys. When I was younger, sure, there were confusing moments when the culture I grew up in kept implying that I should like girls. But maybe I was a smart kid or, more likely, I was too arrogant to just accept that some day I would fall in love with a girl. I liked men, I knew it, and I knew it wouldn’t change.
What is true is that, growing up, I didn’t think that falling in love with a man and spending my life with him, raising a family, just being “normal” was a viable option. I did actually grow up around a lot of gay men and women; my sister worked for several years at Philadelphia Gay News. My great-uncle was openly gay back in the 50s, which is pretty fucking baller considering history. But I wasn’t like those men and women. I wasn’t sassy or flamboyant or well-dressed. I didn’t have a sibilant ‘s’. Culturally, I was (and still am) a straight man. I felt homeless, not gay enough to be gay, not straight enough to be straight.
I am not a stupid person, so I have to admit my own shock in reading the last paragraph. But it’s true. I didn’t see what I would call a happy life as remotely possible. So I tried to lie to myself, which was moot and drove me slightly insane. I absolutely lied to other people. I even tried dating a girl just to see if I had the patience to put up with faking heterosexuality. I was misguided.
Anyone who tells you that the homosexual lifestyle is ruining anything is, in fact, ruining someone’s homosexual life. Not their lifestyle; a lifestyle is a choice. A life is not. No one asks to be born and no one can ask to be born gay or straight; it just happens, and we have to deal with it. Once we’re here, generally, the best we can do is to try and be happy. That is a lifestyle choice. Unless your lifestyle choice specifically involves harming the mental and physical well-being of other people, you are not ruining a damn thing.
I accepted myself when I had a different, but related, realization. The realization was that I could make a home for myself. If I had confidence in myself, and I asserted that I am worth someone’s time, people would accept me. When I figured that out, I gave up faking and let everyone know that I unapologetically like men, even if it will ruin America.
While I’m on my soapbox, I’d like to throw in something on the side. I grew up watching movies where straight people fell in love and gay people said silly things while getting drunk. A lot of comedies, even modern ones, imply that it is funny for two men to kiss, for men to dress as women, that lesbians are hypersexual Amazonians, and on and on. It is an unfortunate and continual bias in entertainment that LGBT people are funny, not because of their human qualities but because they are not straight, gender-normative, “normal” people.
As a young man who is, at the moment, planning to fling himself mercilessly into the entertainment industry, I’m making it my imperative to stop that. The solution is simple: insert LGBT characters without making a big deal out of it. Normalcy is quiet. No one has ever made a big deal about my brother being straight, for example.
I try to do this in my own small way. In the sketch show I run, for example, I put a lesbian couple in a sketch. The sketch in no way focused on that aspect. It was just there, it wasn’t dwelled upon, and the sketch moved forward. Several people—including my writers—admitted that it threw them off for a moment. Why were there lesbians in a scene that wasn’t about lesbians? Because there are lesbians in all sorts of not-lesbian places. There are lesbians in libraries, grocery stores, gyms, in parks, and in all sorts of other places, because lesbians are people, and those are places that people go. It will never be normal for LGBT characters to show up in our entertainment without ceremony unless we put them in without ceremony.
And though you might think that it’s not such a big deal, not seeing gay characters in movies, on TV, in books, etc., contributed greatly to me not accepting myself. Growing up, it seemed that gay people didn’t pay taxes, eat breakfast, have boring morning commutes or jobs. They were drunk and fabulous, and I wasn’t, so I couldn’t be gay. That was the message I took away from something as innocuous as Will and Grace.
My point is, gay people are normal, and we need to demonstrate their normality.