One Christian gay guy’s thoughts and experiences along this whirlwind journey called life.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Mind Your Manners
When I was younger people often asked me if I were gay. Or, rather than ask, people would just assume it and go about making sure everyone else assumed it as well. I've even had friends confess that when they first met me they thought I was gay. Because of that, I've often wondered what it is about me that makes people think that. Is it my looks? Is it the way I talk, or the way I carry myself or move? Is it my expressions? Is it because I've never had a girlfriend, and haven't really shown any interest in having one? Is it all of these things, or more?
I remember it used to really bother me when people would ask me about my sexuality. When I was in middle school, I mostly just took any questions or accusations as a form of insult from people who didn't really like me, and I'd usually just brush it off as no big deal. At that age, I don't think it was really about people thinking I was gay so much as it was meant to be a put down. At the time though, I honestly had wondered about my sexuality. I wasn't really sure how to respond to that question, or insult. I just didn't know. However, during my first semester in high school, a discussion came up one day during health class about homosexuality. The teacher explained to the class certain aspects of that, and I remember sitting there—probably wide-eyed—thinking, I have those thoughts, I've done those things. Maybe I am gay. Even after thinking that though, I didn't want to be gay. I fought very hard against thinking of myself that way. I always have. But after that time, when older students who barely knew me at all began asking me about my sexuality, or calling me gay—sometimes even publicly—and making fun of me, it was hard for me to brush that off as I'd done before as just insult. It became clear that people really did think I was gay, and that bothered me. I didn't want people thinking that about me, and I took it very personally when they did.
A few times, I've felt comfortable enough with the person bringing the subject up to ask them why they thought that about me. Two thirds of the time the answer has been the way I talk and my mannerisms. The other third is usually due to the fact that I've never pursued any romantic relationships with girls. Not that I've pursued a relationship with any guys in the last ten years, but I suppose that doesn't matter. No girlfriend must equal gay to some people. But the three biggest reasons I've been given by people thinking I was gay is the way I talk, my mannerisms, and the fact that I've had no girlfriend.
I'll admit, sometimes I can see why other people would think that I'm gay. I look at myself sometimes and I see such a feminine, non-masculine person. I don't feel very masculine at all most of the time. I try to be though, and I like how it feels when I am, but most of the time it's just not there. I seem to get a boost of self-esteem whenever I'm able to do something particularly masculine, and I guess that's just because my male body rejoices over the fact that I'm doing something it's meant to be used for. I like hard work that actually requires some physical strength. I know I'm not the strongest of persons, but when I am able to use my muscles in such a way I get a shot of masculinity to my system. I feel a little less gay, I suppose.
I've had people at different times in my life question some of the ways in which I present myself. I've had people tell me that I walk like a girl. I've noticed that most guys sort of have a particular stride or swagger to the way that they walk. They typically walk, for a lack of a better choice of words, straight. To be blunt, most men walk as though they have something between their legs, and yet, according to others, I don't walk like that. I tend to cross one leg in front of the other just a bit as I move forward, which is the way I've been told only women walk. I actually don't think I walk too dissimilarly from other guys, but maybe I do. It is a bit hard to see for myself. I've been told that I shouldn't walk like that, but it's nothing I do intentionally. It's just how I walk. There's not one thing deliberate about it. When I've tried to walk differently, it just feels wrong. I feel stiff-legged and fake.
I've also been told that I have a “gay” voice, or a unique way of speaking. Last winter a kid at my church noticed. He asked me, “Where do you get your vocabulary?” I was a little dumbfounded on how to respond to him, because I wasn't sure if he meant the way I sound or my choice of words. I know sometimes I can talk somewhat intellectually, or a bit wordy, but I really got the sense that he meant my sound. I dumbly replied something like, “I don't know. It's just how I've always talked.” And then that was that. But I know my voice is soft, and it's not nearly as low as most other guys. I've actually been confused for a girl at various times during phone conversation or at drive-through windows and the like, mostly when I was in my teens though—and believe me, it's an embarrassing thing when the person on the other end does that and realizes their mistake. But it's usually been the way I talk that has given myself away to people the most in the past. I used to be incredibly shy. I still am, but not anything at all like I used to be. And being shy, I'd often not speak up when I talked. I talked quietly, or sort of sheepishly. In recent years, my voice has deepened some, and I try to speak more confidently when I talk. Because of that, I know I don't sound near as effeminate as I used to sound, but I still have sort of a soft voice. Add that to the mannerisms and hand gestures I typically use when I talk, and I must still come across as “gay” to a lot of people. Most of the time, I don't even realize I'm doing those things. When I do, I try to tone it down a bit, usually, but there again, that's just one of the unconscious things about me. I talk with my hands, my voice is soft, and I evidently walk and move as a girl, none of which is intentional on my part.
Some people would say that all that's wrong. They'd say that because I come across effeminate at times, that I'm sinning because I'm not acting like a man. Thing is, I'm not acting one way or another. I'm not trying to act like a woman. I'm just being myself. If I do any acting, it's to come across more masculine than I actually am. I don't want to think of myself as womanly, and I don't want others thinking that way about me either. I like to think of myself as being manly or masculine. After all, I am a man. But just because I may not always fit all of the social norms that define man or masculinity, that doesn't mean that I'm sinning, or in the wrong, does it? I don't think so.
I think it's okay for people to just be themselves—to be who you are and to be comfortable with yourself. God makes us to be unique individuals. No two people will ever completely be alike. The thing is, just because someone doesn't meet all social norms or requirements for being either masculine or feminine, doesn't mean there is something wrong with them. A guy who doesn't like football or chasing the ladies, or who has a soft voice doesn't mean there is something wrong with him. A girl who likes sports and hates playing with dolls doesn't mean there is something wrong with her. It's okay that there are differences like that. I just wish people would accept the fact that not everybody fits into a perfect mold for either masculinity or femininity—whether gay or straight—and that they shouldn't go around questioning and making accusations against people all the time as they do just because of that. But, speaking of ones sexuality, if a person wants you to know that they're gay, it's their choice. Not yours. If they want to tell you they'll do so when they're good and ready on their own time. If not, don't make any self-assumptions, and definitely don't be so disrespectful to back them into a corner or to go around calling them names or making fun of them.
Acquaintance: “Are you gay?”
Me: (Nervous) “No.”
Acquaintance: “I was just wondering.”
Me: “Well, I'm not. Why would you even think that?”
Acquaintance: “I don't know. You just sort of act and sound gay sometimes.”
Me: (Self-conscious) “Well, I'm not, so just drop it.”
Good Friend: (Nonchalantly) “You know, I actually thought you were gay too the first time I met you.”
Me: (Crushed, speechless, and wanting to crawl into a hole and cry, thinking to myself, I can't escape this).