Adult homosexuals from the internet were just as eager to meet as peers I interacted more with adults, but their eagerness to meet only reinforced my Jodie Dallas induced greatest fears of being queer. Still, though, I more quickly accepted an adult’s invitation to meet than a peers’. In adult companionship, I saw a greater possibility of the exciting homosexual adventures, like those in Queer as Folk; their adventures seemed like the safe juvenile antics I should be participating in. I had wanted big city Sex & the City adventures with Mr. Big, who’d take me to theatre and art openings. What I found instead was sneaking off to the backwoods of Upstate New York and trailer parks, where their own inauthenticity funhouse mirrored my own. They were adults trapped in adolescence, attempting to stay past their prime by hanging with the freshly prime. I was an adolescent playing adult, attempting to stay out past bedtime by hanging with those without a bedtime. The very nature of my game necessitated duplicity as I navigated the two worlds that I had begun inhabiting, as I tried on various masks and identities.
In homosexuality the superficiality of idolized physicality was not me – the queer geek who’s the interests, experiences, and beliefs existed on the peripheral of popular. I liked dressing in big sweatshirts and sweaters with oversized jeans; everything I wore was about disappearing my differences. The popular straight boys, who got all the attention, were pop-idols and porn stars who looked like Justin Timberlake in Abercrombie & Fitch. Not me.
Abandonment became engrained in middle school when everyone began pairing-off to experimenting with relationship dynamics, leaving me feeling alone. I couldn’t go to local gay youth groups because I wasn’t ready for an identity label, which was rooted in the denial that was needed in high school to survive. The homosexual teenagers I conversed with through the internet seemed so much braver than myself because they had found and proclaimed their inner authenticity. Their assured identity, confidence in their labels – which had already been presented to their parents – gave them the bravery to ask to meet immediately. I was incapable of reading other homosexual teenagers’ eagerness to meet as a shared isolation, and so made excuses as to why that couldn’t happen.
Life taught me early that existence was being in a state of constant heartbreak. The gay domesticity templates of Jodie Dallas, Ellen, and early representation demonstrated that life would never consist of a cozy bubble with another; only the longing for one. Jodie Dallas was perpetually single, and Ellen’s relationship was full of bickering. These examples of playing-house were a lacking perfect reflection of what I wanted, which was the bittersweet rom-com of How to Marry a Millionaire; 13 Going on 30, What’s Your Number, and Sex & the City.
In the past, I sunk under the weight of pursing others like a puppy only to not be selected. I frequently dream about my exes and crushes, wherein I omnisciently observed their typical day as they worked, then home to their husband. If it was an ex, I gave them kids or the home we had dreamt of together. A crush was bestowed the ideal life, where someone else filled the role that I had hoped to fill. In my fantasies I make other people happy in their relationships away from me. Dreaming or awake I have the believe that everyone is happy but me, who is overwhelmed with a feeling that I am incomplete.
The level of introspection needed in writing affords for occasions to forge new perspectives, by crystalizing events into formative moments to develop authenticity. Celebrating humanity as foundation analyzes to create an increased quality of life.
Authenticity comes from an ability to empathize, and to begin developing empathy – start with themselves. For everyone that route looks and will be different it won’t necessarily be the activity that translates into a career; unless you’re lucky. What it should do is bring life into focus and help navigate the day-to-day big and small interactions. It should deepen those back-and-forths, providing enriched social capital.
Writing arranges the experienced world in an analyzable narrative, exhuming and dissecting until authenticity becomes evident. A writer digs deeper into the scene or memory, imagination is invoked to develop details – evidence – into a stranger’s profile. As those around us become three-dimensional character’s in a narrative, the more appealing and relatable they become. Since people create social networks based upon shared interests, backgrounds, and experiences, recognizing shared personal moments. Recognizing shared details between people leads to connecting through mistakes and daily troubles that deep relationships with friends and family.
When the same shared details are identified in others outside the homogenous group empathy is extended, enlarging humanity.
Freedom came with undergrad life. I was away from home and finally near New York City, of a world that I had dreamed deeply about escaping to. At SUNY @ Purchase perfect was the antithesis of suburban high school, evolving to from machismo jock to artistic and eccentric. In college perfect was chased by girls and boys, and perfect boys were more likely to chase boys back. Perfect was still not the quietly humorous one who liked school and read in his dorm. He was cool though, which afforded me the opportunity to be entertained by a peer as a possible date. I freely made my homosexuality explicit and explore relationship dynamics.
Refreshed by a gust of attention, I set my sights on who was deemed the most desired boy on campus: Marc. He wasn’t a student, but was the friend of students on the floor below me, and visited every weekend. Luckily, the friends I had made on my floor knew the people down stairs through a mutual friend from Long Island; guess New York City isn’t that big of a city.
Mutual friends who knew of my crush arranged for a chance encounter with Marc. While nothing came of the meet, I did gain wonderful new friends who are cherished deeply. Marc, also, knew of my crush on him; apparently, subtlety was not in my repertoire. His rejection of me (I wasn’t his type; he preferred guys more seasoned than I was) dissipated my attraction. His friends felt sympathy for me, revealing that Marc gets crushed on a lot. I thought how if I wasn’t special or a first to Marc I’d move on and I was over him. We hung out after and it was clear we had nothing in common other than our mutual friends. During that friendship, I saw that beneath bravado, was a desperate want for stability with a boyfriend, just as I did.
As college goes relationships were fleeting but sexual encounters were not, with my attention no longer fixated on one person. The relationship that I had dreamt of, had hoped for during the college experience, eluded me. I was good enough for a lay, but not to spend time with. I was no wallflower, but I was unable to break the habit of isolating in my room and studying. I didn’t go to the campus’ LGBTQ Union to meet peers because the members I conversed with assuredly proclaimed their identity to everyone. Despite my sexual escapades during this time I continued to rebel from any identity label, that I had no history with.
With a false identity in place, I adventured beyond campus-boys to older gay males. I turned, again, to the internet to dominate my acquisition of homosexual dynamics. I quickly accepted invitations, hoping that I’d be a step closer to NYC-escape, that I had expected from Oliver & Company and Tales of the City. Behind my more sophisticated and cool mask older men seemed more worldly and attractive. The Jodie Dallas specter faded from the peripheral of my concept of homosexuality, Sex & the City experiences that I had dreamed of seemed a greater possibility. Instead of the Manhattan fantasy – theatre, dinners, and art galleries – I repeated my suburban youth in reverse. This version though didn’t synchronize with the ticky-tacky boxes. Now I saw behind the neighbors’ curtains, and I didn’t like it. Calling them dates is using the term at its loosest. The men that I went home with would close their curtains, citing their need for privacy. As my perceptions grew I came to see “privacy” as a bent mirror to my rejection of the homosexual label.
For the longest time Joey was the elusive ideal. Joey was sthe one ex that all potential suitors were measured against. In attempting to write down our first encounter I came to the realization that there was nothing epic, template worthy, about the encounter. There was nothing grandiose or particularly outstanding about the relationship’s arc. In fact, the mental glorification of that relationship and its beginning is rather obsessive.
I met Joey just as I was turning 20 years old. It had been New Year’s Eve, at club Tilt, during the celebratory drag show. I felt the back of my ear get flicked. I turned around, “Hi.”
Joey explained he was following an impulse and immediately knew the type of person I was dealing with.
“Alright.” And turned back around.
Joey got my attention again by asking if wanted to roll.
“Okay,” I answered.
While we dated, I believed I was not complex enough for him because all that he was appeared brave and loud. Two things that I was not. I was scared the whole time that he’d find out that beneath the image I had designed wasn’t someone worthy. I feared his rejection, and so created chaos to deflect from being a cypher. I covered up my exuberance, believing that a demeanor of cold detachment decision making would be impressive, because in my fantasy of you I saw strong and decisive; weighed down by another’s gushing emotion; a man that saw devotion as a flaw. Instead I became frigid and distracted with constant repair on my ice-walls. I never learned to thaw for those I care about.
We broke up in 2011 on a Sunday in mid-January. Thank you for being polite until after my birthday, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. We hadn’t seen one another the previous night – I had worked late, so was all puppy-dog tails to see him. When I arrived, I was greeted by a friend of his unceremoniously handing me my things. I was numb; I needed to understand, so putting my belongings down took out my phone. Joey’s response was a generic text stating the official dissolution.
I should have predicted the break-up because of the distance for three-and-a-quarter-months. I persisted by being better at playing house as a new year’s resolution, but it was all too little, too late, and now suspiciously out of character. His apprehensive glances telegraphed the to end our relationship.
Years later, when I looked backed on the relationship I know I wasn’t particularly happy. When I recall the relationship with Joey, what comes to mind is his habit of telling him something, then he vehemently disagrees. These weren’t ideological differences, or rooted in arcane knowledge. Rather, disagreements came over individual rights and basic operations of politics and humanism. We’d part in the morning for our separate work, and then return to each other that evening with Joey’s mind changed. This change of mind arose because he had talked to his co-workers, who told him that he was in the wrong; that I was correct. That was the routine of our relationship: Joey respected only his friends and their opinions, and not mine. The chaos that I had sewn had seeped into every aspect of our relationship, leaving Joey unable to have faith that I’d be saying the truth, or respect my stance as having validity.
I annoyingly tagged along on my mother’s weekly grocery trips, using them to routinely see if the magazine spinner rack contained a new super-hero adventure. As a youth, I connected with every aspect of the superhero genre: the ordinary persona was a cover for the true fascinating life away from restrictions. The grocery store’s spinner rack held many A-list superheroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Captain America, but was overwhelmingly mostly C-list, Ex-Mutants or SleepWalker; others were B-list or cult heroes like the growing Dark Horse line, Ghost or X. I flipped through each title, sitting on the ground, sampling their plots and characters, but their struggles felt too distant from my own. It took months for me to find the title that was my life, that reflected everything that I was feeling – the X-Men. These were heroes that instinctually understood me and I them. Their world was my world. I was a mutant and that’s why I didn’t fit in!
The X-Men family of titles when I discovered them were polybagged because they were amid the “X-Cutioner’s Song” storyline, and each issue contained a trading card. The X-Men’s founder and mentor Professor X had been shot. Searching for the would-be assassin the X-Men discover the attacker was a clone of Cable, time travelling son from the future of founding member Cyclops. Before being defeated Cable’s clone, Stryfe, gave a mysterious canister of mutant DNA to the X-Men’s enemy Mr. Sinister, who opened the container to discover it open. Rather than receiving the genetic code to Cyclops and Jean Grey, another founding X-Men member, Mr. Sinister released the Legacy Virus, a disease created by Stryfe that targeted mutants and disrupted their necessary RNA replication, making the body incapable of creating healthy cells, which resulted in the mutant’s death. In the final moments of life, the Legacy Virus caused a mutant’s power to flare violently, in effect turning the mutant’s ability – what made them unique amongst other mutants – into the cause of their own destruction.
Underneath the garish early 1990s costumes the X-Men had pathos. The Avengers and Fantastic Four were friendly clubs occupied by those who found being a super-hero an adventure. The characters were chums and friends who spent their down time around a pool or squabbling over used condiments. The X-Men were a found family because there were no other heroes that understood their position in society. The X-Men didn’t want to save the world, they wanted to live and be left alone. The villains of other teams wanted their opponents subdued so that victory could be achieved. Down time for the X-Men was spent training to control their powers, running through numerous survival scenarios because their antagonists were actively attempting to kill and commit genocide. Still the X-Men believed in showing compassion and empathy to their opponents, believing in finding a common ground to move forward. The X-Men taught me that exposure to similar experiences has the potential to bring about understanding.
Jodie Dallas of Soap had loomed over my concept of homosexuality until Stanford Blatch of Sex & the City. The show populated New York city with playful high fashion, single-life experiences, and a found family that I seemed tailored to me as a glamorous adult. Sex & the City made the goals I had longed for myself seem a greater possibility.
Stanford Blatch was the primary gay character on the series, riddled with insecurities about not being gay-perfect just as I was, but Carrie Bradshaw was who I had wanted to be. It wasn’t having all the dates, but her love of style, being a writer, and out partying with literati. Seeing Carrie’s brownstone apartment made me long for my own, where I could look out a window and watch the world, inspiring my writing. She started as a columnist and grew into an New York Times Bestseller List author. Her humor was self-deprecating and her friendship unconditional, while being self-absorbed.
The four women – Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha – were a glamorous and carefree version of the found family. Where Tales of the City had been realistic working-class San Francisco, Sex & the City was a high-class Manhattan fantasy of friends, weeknight art shows, and weekend Broadway theatre. The Sex & the City women found each other through shared dating experiences, creating a strong bond between one another that anchored them through hardships.
Behind my manic-pixie-boy mask older men seemed more worldly and attractive, I adventured beyond SUNY Purchase boys to older gay males, hoping to be a step closer to NYC escape. Instead of a Sex & the City fantasy – theatre, dinners, and art galleries – I reversed my escape from ticky-tacky suburbia, to be behind the neighbors’ curtains. And I didn’t like it. Behind closed curtains, by men citing an appreciation for privacy, my perception grew to see “privacy” as a bent mirror to myself. The growth of Carrie and Jodie only moved smoothly because they had the benefit of writers who ensured their progress. This does not accurately reflect real-world journeys, which are filled with starts and stops. When I left for college I believed I was leaving behind childhood for adulthood. College to me was the floor of maturity and not another step towards growth. The growth of Carrie and Jodie only moved smoothly because they had the benefit of writers who ensured their progress. This does not accurately reflect real-world journeys, which are filled with starts and stops. When I left for college I believed I was leaving behind childhood for adulthood. College to me was the floor of maturity and not another step towards growth.
I had careened from one fantasy depiction of homosexuality to another, from Jodie Dallas to Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. Both characters found their lives conflicted and dramatic as they learned who they were. They both did deal with natural consequences and problems rooted in emotional authenticity, their journeys were routed in entertainment and fantasy. Their experiences were heightened for viewership and broad appeal, a fantasy where internal and external hardwork are glossed by in favor of the end goal. In Sex & the City Carrie is rarely seen actively writing (beyond the episode’s hook), skipping over the day-to-day difficulties and grit needed to reach the Bestseller List, just as Jodie Dallas’ emotional journey is truncated by emotional swings that skip closure. The sweeping storytelling of television leaves daily details on the editing floor.
My passionate love for all things New York City began with the rollicking technicolor adventure of Disney’s Oliver & Company. While it can’t be possible because I was born in 1983, but I recall seeing Oliver & Company on the big screen movie; but I still maintain that The Little Mermaid was my first big screen Disney movie. The pop-songs of Billy Joel and the bright colors of New York City were candy to me. Oliver & Company had it all, as far as I was concerned: quick, hand-drawn animation; various styles of humor; a lesson about family; and the pop-songs of Billy Joel. The Disney film’s Manhattan adventures helped lay the foundation that created the landscape that fueled my queer escape fantasies.
Oliver, the remaining free-to-adopt kitten in the box, reflects the emotional isolation queer students feel throughout middle and high school, watching other students pair off to experiment with the opposite sex. Oliver is separated from his peers. Abandoned, Oliver falls into friendship with the thief Fagin and his dogs – Dodger, Tito, Francis, and Rita – paralleling the found family friends that homosexuals find in similar people; either because of disapproval or knowing how difficult life would be for the child. During his time with Fagin’s crew, Oliver meets a similarly abandoned young rich girl, Jenny. Upon meeting Jenny, Oliver is offered an opportunity of acceptance; and vice-versa for Jenny, who is consistently left with only a butler while her parents travel. The basis of that acceptance is that Jenny doesn’t truly know Oliver, or his life as a thief, which eventually catches up with him. For queer identity development Jenny represents the dreams and goals that are imposed by the majority. Oliver, like young queers, has mixed feelings about owning the newly discovered world or the normative from which they came. Choosing neither endangers the clarity of life’s path. Only at the end when both worlds, that Oliver doesn’t want to meet, do meet is he able to find happiness in his identity and create unique goals for himself.
Oliver & Company painted the picture of New York City with the experiences and people I wanted. The characters kept a sunny view towards the world, despite the hardships that were thrown at them, regardless of the collar-color of the problem. While they scrounged for food scrapes the dogs made playful games of their thievery to alleviate. The cast of Oliver & Company took their lumps, learned, and then tried again with new vigor. They had grit, ambition, and motivation to make steps. No matter how many knocks life gave them, Fagin & Crew dreamed of a utopian life, nurtured with their communal domestic routine. As in the found family, Fagin & Crew, shared their spoils and comforted through their failures. They were early models of friendship and family in its purest forms. A New York City of bohemian friendship, where there wasn’t much, but what was had was shared willingly.
Beginning when I was 9 years old homosexuality entered my consciousness with the AIDS epidemic, putting a dark stigma to gay. With the AIDS epidemic dispersing large homosexual centers, stigmatizing and ghetto-izing homosexuality, the homo-culture’s mainstream gains, while stereotyped, were undone by constant images of death. The Sassy Gay Friend was replaced by the Honorably Suffering Gay, aka AIDS-stricken. Technicolor dreams became 8mm dungeons.
I have no formed homosexual identity, rooted in beliefs, attitudes, and values. Homosexual culture is a set of shared perceptions that take heteronormative practices, beliefs, and arts, to repurpose for identification. Self-classification as any one sexual category, such as heterosexual, does not eliminate one from participating in queer culture. Rather, participation requires the ability to empathize with and perceive the world through the experiences of fringe and minority groups.
Growing up, homosexuality was a dark existence of hospital rooms and basements. It was a life to not be emulated; a culture to avoid by any means necessary. Being away from gay neighborhoods in urban areas meant no support network to explore gay culture and icons without derision. These circumstances led to low homosexual and queer acculturation, with newer generations cultivating alternative set of gay icons for consult and support.