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.
Authenticity’s exposure is informed by expectations, the measurement ruler that experiences are held against. Expectations color our how we present our authenticity, often diluting, covering up, or ignoring parts of myself that I would alienate me from those around me – the unique parts of an individual. Conversations expressing authenticity are collaborative dialogues. These interactions become cornerstones of authentic identity, informed by cooperative experiences.
Struggling with presenting authenticity is first, contradictorily, dealt with by creating facades that amplify the most acceptable of ourselves. The parts, believed, that would force support networks away are believed to be shadows of our true place in the world. Reinforcing social facades requires experiences go un-analyzed, unlived.
On the playground we are taught, as evolutionary survival, that it is important to be like everyone else, to find acceptance into the group dynamic. From pre-historic to ancient-times, and beyond, avoiding being ostracized meant avoiding death. This evolutionary hold-over is what pushes queer youth to hide our authenticity from others, keeping our interests, past-times, and loves from friends and families.
I grew up in a suburbia that was a nostalgic Mayberry: students walked to school, left campus to eat lunch in the village, and formed cliques based upon clothing labels; there was a dairy to buy milk fresh from the cow and boutiques that were hobbies for doctor wives. The school district heavily focused on academic success and rigor, not grit or character; children were taught to be students and not to interact with educators. We were academically prepared but street smarts were not taught between Great Expectations and chemistry. The few gay boys that were known easily fit the mainstream suburbia of backyard pools, in ways I never could. I sabotaged acceptance by defensively rejecting the labels and tokenism they appeared to willingly accept. I deliberately kept to myself, denying myself a confidante, by refusing anyone I could divulge to because I was scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.
I retreated into books, making the characters my friends. I found with Spyder from Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Silk, the characters of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Milkman from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and everyone in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, characters similar to myself – they struggled with authenticity in silence. The characters modeled authenticity as being politely selfish by connecting through known shared hardships and joys. Connecting through the simple failed-expectations of personal days deepening relationships with friends and family. Personalizing shared experiences allowed façades to be dropped, deeper connections are formed, resulting in an increased quality of life.
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.
The power went out on my block last night, delaying yesterday’s Vagabond Ways themed post.
Growing up I wanted a surprise birthday party a home filled with joy and people that wanted to be there – like what I saw in my mom and dad’s old blu-rays. That dream never come true, even in grade-school when it was mandatory to report to a classmate’s birthday. What I feared was not getting older, but that no one would come to a birthday for me. My parents’ constant migration following the Huxia Rejenys flotillas, based upon access to knowledge and culture that would help them in their accumulations, kept my social circle small and intimate to just myself and my books.
While in Huxia, my parents celebrated my sixteenth milestone two months late because they couldn’t be bothered to take time off from research and worship. I stopped sending invitations and chose to ignore celebration, taking enjoyment only from cards – and then settle for Facebook birthday posts. My birthday became where I learned to exist within the cracks, becoming the excuse for wanting to avoid any fuss that would draw attention.
Eventually, at 16 I left the flotillas and headed to the family estate in Pentapolis of the Valley, working my way across Bharat as an artist’s model; I never considered myself the prettiest, but I smiled deceptively locking myself in another mind. After Bharat, I took an ocean-liner back to Biell, in The Valley. Having graduated high school early I treated what would’ve been senior year as a skip year. During this time, I hung with the freaks and the wild ones, drank and got into drugs. I lived hard in every moment. I joined Blithedale, and met Michel Caillois, who I wanted to teach me how everything worked.
At Aerynd University I avoided most social circles, believing they’d peak beneath my mask and judge me inappropriate – or worse, inadequate. Around friends, I remained shy as if they were strangers because facades kept everyone at an arm’s length. It was simpler to cover my self-consciousness and inferiority beneath masks, that were fashioned for inclusion by adopting specific friend-interests, and sub-cultures, and abandoning my own.
For such a long-time Joey cast a constant shadow over my decisions and actions. My life was in a holding pattern as I hoped he’d come back in.
Joey seemed to be the first same-age guy that showed an interest in me. Prior to Joey, guys my age said was too geeky, too short, too thin, not thin enough, not gay enough.
Joey liked all those things about me. He was sweet to me. He was kind to me. College’s manic pixie boy façade had paid-off.
In my memory, he was the perfect straight-laced rebel. Edgy enough to be interesting, and clean enough to bring home.
That New Year’s Eve, through Joey and his friends, I was fully introduced to seedy and drug-fueled as normal. I was introduced to the concept of frenemies by how Joey and his circle behaved toward one another. A world where my façade got me accepted in and insulated me from; my silence and listening-skills gave the illusion of emotional investment. In truth, my carefully designed masks had kept me the constant observe of life and not the actor, leaving me ill-equipped for ethnography. I began seeing the catty duplicitous behavior and normalized it. I gave myself permission to replicate their naughty behavior.
Eventually, I went back to school and Joey and my correspondence petered out, as he was always too busy to answer a phone. As I waited for Joey to re-enter my life, I created disruption in my relationships, making myself always available but never alone.
Life is a sedentary treadmill. I am paralyzed by intense feelings of shame, that my existence is brought into question should I open myself, to create a bond through self-expression, leads to being ignored and thrown away. Life requires experiences that provide a potpourri of emotions, and not the safe experiences that fall into the lap when home and being at work and exercising and reading. Instead I created discord between routine and goals, which breeds familiarity as a crutch – an exhausting a platform that lack of change. The intention of structure is to create a framework for risks, avoiding repeating past cycles of self-abandonment, bending backwards to create a new personality that is more accommodating. What didn’t lead to being ignored was compliance to the needs of others. It is easier to serve another than to assert myself. Overtime I have made the masks I wear for acceptance the expectation others have who I am, in relation to them. Should that mask be revealed to be false there is a second me underneath with different wants and needs; I will be seen as duplicitous. I am terrified that my masks will be seen not as made for survival, which has grown into a core fear that my identity would bring about rejection from others.
I dreamed of super-powers to be like the mutant X-Men, just as I had dreamed about being like the other boys in school. I didn’t understand why I had to feel alienated and alone from everyone in my school and home; why couldn’t what made me different be celebrated the way athleticism and super-powers were? The character, Felix, I created was originally purely escapism, a way to join my favorite mutants as I read their new issues. Over time he developed as I grew, becoming a character that I armored myself with in new and boundary-pushing situations.
The original power I grafted onto Felix were my wish fulfillment, liberating me from the conflicts I had with homosexuality’s shame. Originally, I gave Felix shapeshifting abilities because I’d be able to become anyone other than myself. With shapeshifting, I’d reflect the popular students throughout middle and most of high school, avoiding the lonely and isolation prophesized by television and movies. Changing my appearance, Felix could literally become or match anyone’s desire, gaining the perfection that I had desired. Being able to shapeshift I’d have more tools at my disposal to make my goals and fantasies match my outside.
Felix was eventually given telepathy as I struggled to juggle the various facades I had created to navigate interactions. Telepathy ensured that the forms I took would be ideal for whom I was interacting with, removing the guess work about how to be part of the group. I’d know exactly what to say, be prepared for what others would say, and always have a funny quip to keep grace. Having the correct words, I’d be able to give the illusion that I was known without having to go through the painful experience of not exposing my queerness.
As I began to fully explore what differentiated me from others, I added the final super-power: teleportation. Felix would be able to truly escape any situation that was uncomfortable; I’d be free to be away from ticky-tacky suburbia and be where the different, foreign, and unique are celebrated – New York City, home to many of Marvel’s superheroes and faraway from the mundane. By this time Felix stopped becoming escapism and became the armor for every day, designed to masquerade as popular and fleeting. Felix had become the mysterious character whose silent smile spoke, so that I didn’t have to expose myself to isolation and alienation.
I have felt I don’t belong at the adult table – adulating, relationships, and work, comes so much easier to everyone else. Their lives, and without actively comparing, are filled contentment, belonging, and legacy. If I could just get a roadmap to eat, pray, love my way to those things I know the rest would fall into place, emotional security would follow.
Everything outside my goals feels foreign to me, as if I’m faking everything until I can be home and secluded. The real word doesn’t hurt but it increasingly feels like something I’m not a part of. There is a dissonance between how I perceive the world, how I want the world, and the way the world truly is. I am more comfortable going through life seeing the fantastical and the speculative. For example, when I am walking to the store and it is twilight and the lights are just turning on, and there is a warmth as the sky turns purple with twinkling stars. To see that as less than a magical experience, and the opportunities that arise, saddens, and removes me from my neighbors.
I began feeling the greatest distance between myself in elementary school. It was during this time that I began noticing that I was different from the world and the rest of the kids, particularly the boys. Children are acutely aware of the differences amongst each other, particularly when there’s one who doesn’t participate in the same activities and games. I imitated to the expectations of others when I should have been fostering an identity to grow into. Inclusion was predicated upon adopting various skins that brought me affection and attention.