Gather 'round the fireplace, kiddies, where it's nice and warm. Ol' Patrick here has a tale to tell...
It's neither long nor short -- not nice, nor mean. Perhaps there's even a message hidden in between. But Truth shall be told in this harrowing tale, And you might relate if you're a young, gay teen male. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride -- For the young man you're about to meet has sadly lost his "pride."
A closeted teen has recently graduated from high school, and has been checking around his region to find the perfect college. This attractive young man lives in the Great Plains, in which resides the Bible Belt. So, finding an open-minded mecca in a sea of conservatism will prove to be quite difficult. But this boy, we'll call Sam, has heard about a university nestled in a mid-sized community in his state. It is a public university with a diverse student population. And there are gays. Oh, yes. Thousands of them it seems from the stories Sam hears. Wonderful, open, accepting, normal gays and lesbians just like himself. Yes, Sam has found a place he can just be like everybody else. It doesn't matter that he just happens to like guys instead of girls. He will be accepted. He will make some wonderful friends in this college community. Sam breathes a sigh of relief.
So, full of excitement and enthusiasm, Sam goes off to college in the fall. In a very short time he learns of the campus gay, lesbian, and bisexual organization. He quietly marks his calendar for their first meeting. After growing up in a rural community where he could relate to no one, here now is his chance to finally meet people just like him. So, classes come and go one brisk autumn afternoon. That evening at seven o'clock Sam's life will change. The moment will arrive. Sam, of course, is nervous. He leaves his dorm at 6:45 and makes it to the meeting site at three minutes before seven. There are already a good twenty-or-so people there. With a hopeful deep breath, Sam walks into the room.
The room grows quieter. Many pairs of eyes are looking at him.... no... staring at him. They are sizing him up, apparently. A few smiles emerge. "Have a seat," Sam hears someone say. Sam graciously takes an empty chair about halfway back in the room. Who wants to sit in the front, anyway? A man in his twenties begins speaking at the front of the room. He requests an introduction from Sam, the newcomer. Sam reveals that he is a freshman, and that he's seventeen years old. A murmur of approval rumbles through the room from the males. The women just nod. Quickly, other names are recited and Sam forgets them just as quickly. The man in front moves on. There will be a welcome-back-to-the-university barbecue this upcoming weekend, and wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone could come? A few guys turn around and smile at Sam as the formalities go on. Sam nervously smiles back.
Suddenly, a man interrupts. He abruptly changes the topic to one concerning campus gay legislation. Then a woman pipes up in agreement. "We need to act now" is the feel in the room. "We've been ignored long enough," comes another voice. The moderator tries to explain that things take time -- changes will come. A few of the women start talking among themselves. Clearly, the men won't accomplish anything soon, they whisper. The lesbians may have to form their own organization and take gay rights matters into their own hands. As Sam watches these alarming developments, a guy in his mid-twenties taps him on the shoulder and informs him that he thinks Sam is cute, and would Sam like to go out somewhere after the meeting with him? Sam politely declines, blushing, and turns around just in time to hear one man say to another a man a few rows away, "Honey, just get OVER it. I'll help you look for a new dress for this weekend. I promise."
Sam is nauseated at this point. This is not at all what he expected. He expected normal, happy, accepting people just like him. These people were effeminate, argumentative, gossipy, horny, egotistical queens. And that's just describing the men.
Sam behaves and acts just like everyone else he knows in his life. Some might call it "acting straight". Only there is no acting involved. The awful people at this meeting (if you can call it that) seem to be right out of The Birdcage or perhaps The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. They conform to the horrible gay and lesbian stereotypes Sam thought only occur in movies and poorly rated sitcoms. Sam is not like that. And Sam feels alone.
Sam leaves the meeting suddenly wishing he weren't gay. He had hoped he would have been able to relate to the people at the meeting. Now, Sam wants desperately to become straight. Or to just die. He truly believes that he is the ONLY gay person in the world that is "normal" (as in, you couldn't pick the gay man out of a lineup of straight men). Clearly, there is no one he can truly relate to. There is no hope of a decent, happy gay life.
Sadly, the story about Sam is true. It is about a friend I met about three months ago. He is now a sophomore at the same university. He feels a bit of relief having met me. I've tried to explain to him that there are many "normal" (or "straight-acting", if you must,) people out there. It's just that they, too, are afraid that there is no one like them. That there are no other people they can truly relate to. That all gay guys are limp-wristed and have girlish voices. That all lesbians are "diesel-dykes". This simply is not true at all.
Personally, I've noticed that the more "out" someone is, or the more rebellious a gay person (especially a teen) is, the more "gay" their voice becomes. Why is that? Why do we do it? I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that it is a natural thing. I honestly believe I lapsed into the same queeniness when I originally came out (read my coming out story starting back in last June's issue), but then I eased back into my regular speaking patterns and body language once the "novelty" of being gay wore off. I've noticed this about other gays and lesbians, as well. Once the "novelty" of being gay wears off (for most people), they appear more like Sam. More "normal", if you will. Or for those of you in that rut, "straight-acting".
I'm certain that the responses to my column for this month will be rather interesting. Before you write a response in anger or agreement, think carefully about what you will write. Where are you in your coming out process? Have you thought about your actions and how they affect others? Do you act the way you do because others have influenced you? What do you have to lose in life? Are you worried about a career? Is a career so far off in your life that you could really give a shit about it? Are you showing off to friends? Do you REALIZE that you might be showing off to friends? Or have you (the most popular answer, I'm sure,) always "been this way"?
Think carefully, my friends. Then send your questions, comments, bitches, gripes, and complaints to me. Well-thought-out responses (either good or bad) will receive a complimentary CD from me in the US mail. Just in time for Christmas gift giving. CDs will be sent in plain packaging. Of course, you have to write down your snail mail address when you send me your e-mail, otherwise, I can't send you a gift! And I am very serious about hearing from my readers. A CD is a small price to pay for intelligent feedback. By the way, have a Happy Turkey Day!
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