Now, I’m not reticent about my sexuality.
True, I don’t talk about it non-stop, and (contrary to how much I write about the subject) it isn’t the sole thing that defines me. But if asked or if I am in company where gender and sexuality are discussed, I am not shy about opening up about my experiences.
So it takes me aback when I have to come out to someone.
This episode happened following a gathering of friends in November as we were discussing a post-Thanksgiving get-together at my house. One of our newer attendees asked whether the decor would be Thanksgiving-themed.
“Decorating really isn’t my thing,” I said, and then joked, “I tend towards more of a sparse Scandinavian style, myself.”
She gave a look of mock surprise. “What kind of gay man are you?” she exclaimed. She was mostly joking (I think), but there was a hint of true incredulity in her tone.
I got this a lot in the first few years after coming out. Women would assume that I wanted to check out hot guys with them and provide brilliant, witty insights on the male psyche in between shopping breaks or redecorating their living room.
Sorry, heterosexuals. Your token queer I am not.
However, the episode got me contemplating the assumptions people might make about me as a gay man (specifically, what I’m interested in and who I have sex with), the various tropes and trappings of gay culture, and whether or not it was helpful to continue identifying that way.
Since the end of this past semester, I haven’t had much to occupy/distract my mind, so I’ve been mulling over what it means to be demisexual.
The common usage is to treat it as an adjective: you might only fuck people you have a close emotional bond with, but you’re still gay.
“You’re still one of us,” seems to be the subtext.
However, the fact that I experience sexual attraction but rarely, and then only with men with whom there is a strong emotional connection, indicates that I seem to fall more on the asexual spectrum rather than the homosexual.
It’s not that I’m seeking a label to define myself by, or a tribe to identify with, but rather to better understand myself (short-term goal) and hopefully develop strategies for managing friendships and finding a partner (long-term goal).
The challenge of dating is summed up in an article by Emma Lord:
… while you can generally tell on a first date whether or not you’d want to be friends with someone, it’s nearly impossible for a demisexual person to decide whether or not [they’d] be sexually attracted to [you] without the element of friendship and trust already in place… And you can’t exactly explain your feelings to someone you just met, particularly in an age when not engaging in romantic or affectionate activity on dates is considered a rejection.
While I have expressed frustration with the hypersexuality of large parts of the gay community, I am still cognizant of the history and significance that underlies its various communities and institutions.
Pride parades, for example, emerged shortly after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, and was a radical and political act of defiance in an age when being out was illegal. Although derided by many now as commercial and mainstream, they encouraged unity and solidarity in the face of oppression and later as friends and lovers were dying during the AIDS epidemic.
Gay clubs, too, served as safe spaces for self-expression, identity building, and community networking. Same for institutions such as white parties, drag shows, and leather bars.
Writers and activists encouraged LGBT people to reject the heteronormativity they had been raised with, to throw off the shackles of “traditional” models of sexuality and relationships, and express their liberation via total sexual freedom.
Kiyoshi Kuromiya wrote in the Philadelphia Free Press in 1970,
“Homosexuals have burst their chains and abandoned their closets… We come to challenge the incredible hypocrisy of your sexual monogamy, your oppressive sexual role-playing, your nuclear family, your Protestant ethic, apple pie and Mother.”
So, I get that all that silently informs, shapes, modern gay life.
Yet it doesn’t feel like my history, my institutions, ones that feel true to who I am.
Thus, when someone assumes I am mad for decorating, dress shopping, strapping on a leather harness, or running upstairs for a quick romp in the sheets, it feels like a denigration of my needs, values, and identity.
That the only way to be is to be a gay clone.
There’s another variable at play, however.
Yesterday, I learned that a friend of mine is randomly connected to Seth. (Yes, that Seth, of the 2011 birthday.) I noticed my friend had commented on a post of Seth’s, and asked how they knew each other. Turns out they’re in a gayming group.
My friend wrote: “There’s an inkling at the back of my head that I should be wary of him, though.”
Even though it’s been nearly six years, the shockwave of that night still ripples, supernova-like, through my life today.
Seeing that name again, catching a glimpse of his thumbnail profile picture, brought a sea of unwanted emotions and memories back.
That incident, and a handful of others (where I’ve experienced attraction, decided to open myself to the possibility, and been rejected), left me distrustful of my taste in men and ability to make healthy romantic decisions for myself.
I seem only to find myself attracted to impossible guys, or to guys who will end up using me for sex or to stroke their fragile male egos until they got what they came for.
I don’t know if other guys, the George Michaels etc, are simply satisfied with surface-level intimacy, if that’s all they want, or if they simply experience it in different ways.
Can any of us know?
Am I this way because of genes… Seth… my parents?
It is what it is.