I have an almost preternatural affinity for getting into situations that make my relationships fantastically and needlessly complicated, and in particular, falling for guy friends who turn out to be unavailable in one way or another. They’re either straight (and therefore not interested), gay and simply not interested in me, or gay and already partnered.
At Northwestern College, most of the guys I had a yen for were (presumably) heterosexual, and while there were apparently Talmudic discussions over whether I was or not, for all intensive purposes I was functionally heterosexual as far as anyone was concerned. I never made advances on any guys, flirted, or did anything besides do a lot of jerking off (admittedly to the mental pictures of some of my painfully gorgeous classmates). But who knows how many guys were jonesing for me from afar as well, stuck in the closet and unable to confess their feelings for me liked the horned up twentysomethings we were.
Most of the guys I’ve fallen for since entering the gay dating scene have fallen into the second category—gay and not interested for one reason or another. And there have been many, many disappointments. I was crushed when this incredibly hot, sweet guy named Chris turned me down, even though we were very attracted to each other. I don’t think he wasn’t out to his family and that might’ve been a mitigating factor. Or maybe he just wasn’t into me as a potential partner. Most infamously in this set is Seth, the only guy I’ve ever been in love with, who only saw me as a friend and whose rejection basically catapulted me into atheism, and has since led to the dissolving of a number of mutual friendships.
This past weekend I was helping a guy in the a capella group I’m in move out of his apartment in Uptown in Minneapolis to his new apartment in downtown Saint Paul. We weren’t 100% sure whether or not he was gay, and he wasn’t disclosing anything so we left it alone, but that didn’t stop me from developing a huge crush on this poor unsuspecting guy. There were a lot of things that I liked about him, many of which are things that I’m looking for in a potential boyfriend/husband.
Long, tortured, angst-ridden story short, I learned this weekend while moving him out of his apartment that not only is he gay but he was moving into his new apartment with his partner of two years. I’d seen the guy several times after practice, and he’d always been referred to as a “friend,” and I kind of suspected that they might be together, but wasn’t sure. Thus on Saturday when he introduced himself to me as “the partner” was my heart was broken for the umpteenth time.
There’s an aggravating, weird, awkward male social etiquette about asking a guy about his sexuality, the only analogy to which I can think of is asking a woman about her age or weight. You wait for a guy to drop a hint or proffer information, but as a rule you don’t ask. There are some guys who don’t fit into the rigid gender boxes our culture has constructed, but are 100%, vagina-loving heterosexuals. And there are burly lumberjack-esque guys who are totally gay and who you’d never guess were into guys. So it’s likely that there were manly über men at Northwestern who might’ve been in love with me who thought that I was just another one of those unattainable straight guys they’d never have a chance with.
It’s not so much the disappointment of finding out that he was single as it is the mounting frustration of feeling like I’m that hopelessly far behind everyone else, or missing something obvious that everyone else automatically gets. I feel like the kid who suddenly finds himself stuck by some fantastical clerical error in an advanced physics class when he was just starting to learn pre-algebra, with no clue what’s going on or how everyone just jumps on a problem regarding eigenmodes of a vibrating tetrahedron.
As Cecily quips in Oscar Wilde’s play, “I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”
The other day my friend Matt and I were discussing his coming out to his family as an atheist and how that went over. He and I come from very similar home circumstances, having been raised in the church and with people firmly committed to their religious beliefs. In Matt’s case, his family took the news well and it sounds like they’re so far respecting his non-belief and refraining from emotional blackmail or trying to re-convert him. Which is not how it went for me.
We’d talked about his coming out to his family, and to his dad in particular, who is a pastor. While I understand all too well how difficult it is to hand your parents’ religion back to them, at the same time, what kind of a relationship is it where you can’t share something so deeply personal without worrying about being attacked, threatened or disowned?
Part of what keeps many of us in the closet is that fear of being isolated from the herd, especially those of us that grew up in Christian fundamentalist communities. They have us believing that there is no community outside of the church. The only people who truly care about you are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Harvey Milk said in 1978: “You must come out … Once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.”
I’m very “out” as both a gay man and as an atheist. I try not to be obnoxious about it, and it’s mainly to people I have relationships with. But if we stay in our closets and don’t share who we really are with people, things will stay as they are.
And gay boys like me will keep falling for guys who are already taken.