Is This 34?

While I am glad my cousin has come out as gay and found a happy relationship – or good enough to move to a new state.  His actions mirror my own with Ben.  I’ve read that due to stunted social development, homosexuals truly enter identity development until they come out.  This means that learning to navigate relationship dynamics does not occur until the first relationship.  This explains the teenage behavior in grown men and women that I have seen.  What age am I behaving at?  Have I finally reach 34?

Life has been relatively quiet.  No drama – just work, and writing (which I need to do more of). There has been no emotional upheaval.  The most world changing event was moving apartments, otherwise it has been a plateau of slice-of-life.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  I do know it means when it all turns to shit, it will be a big heaping pile.

Verve (7/17-7/21)

As Joey and my correspondence broke down my romantic life became a deconstructed romantic-comedy.  Joey’s friend Ben swooped in and began talking to me.  we hung out and did dugs.  By the end of Spring Break, we were dating and by summer we were boyfriends.  Around Thanksgiving Ben wrote an email to my parents, telling them I was homosexual, and that he was in love with me.  I found out because my mother forwarded me the email.  I was destroyed.  I was humiliated.  Ben’s letter is a moment I have been internally living down.

I do not know why I continued to date Ben, and then drop out of college for him.  Ben was my first boyfriend.

One-night Ben had admitted that the only reason he had spoken to me was because he had a crush on Joey, and wanted to investigate who I was (what was appealing about me).  Ben had wanted me distracted so Joey would lose interest.  Then, he says, he began to like me and fall in love with me.  We were together for three years.

The relationship immediately after Ben was with Frank Maha.  I had met Frank through Ben, who was buying drugs from Frank.  In truth, Ben was cheating with Frank.  Later, Frank admitted to me that the reason for sleeping with Ben was so to break Ben and I up, so he could date me.

Ill-Equipped for Ethnography

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.

Meeting Joey

The winter break of my 20th birthday I met Joey Antinore.  It had been New Year’s Eve, at club Tilt.  I had been standing watching the drag show when I felt the back of my ear get flicked.  I turned around and said, “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.

For the longest time Joey Antinore was the elusive ideal; the 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.

What was it about the whole scenario that became #goals?  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.  I never fully understood how and why Joey could never just have faith that I’d know something, or respect my stance as having validity.

Identity in Separate Baubles

Art by Sachin Teng
Art by Sachin Teng

Being homosexual has consistently been present in my life, beginning when I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The original facts I had about homosexuality came to me through knowledge about AIDS, gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  With limited exposure to healthy examples of homosexuality I stumbled into a stagnate malleable inauthentic identity, designed for avoidance.

As I grew up I struggled with the idea that there was something false and untrue about my place in the world.  In reaction, I created a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed.  I diluted or ignored parts of myself that I thought would alienate me from those around me.  When a false-self was created I ceased to be an authentic human being.  The psychologist, the late Alice Miller calls this “soul-murder” – shame that leads to believing that I was a failure. Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that I was untrustworthy accompanied each other until I believed I was a failure. Shame became my core identity, shutting me down to human relationships, living in hopelessness, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs. Continue reading “Identity in Separate Baubles”

What Comics Mean to Me

avengers_youngbabyx_02It’s always been easier to say, “I enjoy comic books” then “I am gay.”  In school, comic books sheltered me from isolation growing because they offered a world to escape into that was more acceptable than homosexuality.  The differences I had from other boys was easily masked by the label “geek.”  I welcomed being considered a geek because it allowed me to avoid being ostracized as a “sissy.”  The popular boys were my superheroes, the ones that I modeled my failed mimicry after because they embodied acceptability, which I could not do on my own.

Away from school, comic books provided a space to explore my queer identity, which has allowed me to state my queerness with greater confidence.  Prior to comic books, queer experiences shown in TV mass-media were rooted in pain, neglected, and isolated.  Comic books offered the first examples of characters who took their uniqueness, and amplified them to create identities that were admired.  The loud personalities of super-heroes demonstrated to me that it was possible to be accepted for brashness.  Super-heroes, like myself, hid their true self behind mild-mannered civilian identities.  A world was opened to me where underneath the mask I created in school the true self was possible to be celebrated, and accepted, for its accomplishments.

School Homosexuality

Being homosexual has consistently been present in my life, beginning when I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The original facts I had about homosexuality came to me through knowledge about AIDS, gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  With limited exposure to healthy examples of homosexuality I stumbled into a stagnate malleable inauthentic identity, designed for avoidance.

Feeling distant from classmates and peers, particularly the boys, began in elementary school when I didn’t want to participate in the same games and activities.  Middle school proved to be a more complicated time because as boys were discovering girls, I had no interest in them.  What I did find more appealing were the boys in my grade, who became the subject of fantasy and infatuation.  The more popular the better.  I equated popular-by-association with acceptance into the societal norms.  There were no boys to roleplay intimacy or boundaries; everyone’s burgeoning masculinity was too fragile.  Back then ‘gay’ was a pejorative for ‘stupid,’ ‘sissy,’ ‘girly,’ or ‘less than.’  With group acceptance as the primary goal being labeled the outsider was unacceptable, so I kept any suspicious ‘gay’ buried through comic books.  For other students, their exploration didn’t have many venturing far from home, keeping them safely in the group.  My search for identity would have had me travelling far into the realm of gay-other, which at that time was predominately found in the character Jodie Dallas, from Soap reruns on Comedy Central.  Jodie Dallas was a sad sack that never was taken seriously by his family, and was unable to find happiness with another person that was similar, whom he could divulge his thoughts and feelings to.  Jodie Dallas was ridiculed and dismissed every time he came out.  He was also constantly alone, single, and nearly friendless because his homosexuality separated him from his family.  This was still a typical and normal portrayal of homosexuality in the early & mid-1990s, and Soap was from the late 1970s.

Fearing the concept of isolation, I steered far from the queer identity, and built a wall safely hidden beneath goofball.  A lack of interest in sports was chalked up to geek, safely hiding within the group.  I ignored the adventure of exploring a gay identity, and embraced the descriptions that avoided me being ostracized into the group with the more flamboyant homosexual boys – the ones labeled “sissy.”  So, when a girl asked me to be their boyfriend I said yes, lacking the vocabulary and experiences to know that it would be an ill-fit.  I withdrew and couldn’t muster the interest to mimic boyfriends I saw modeled on TV, and waited for the inevitable implosion.  When she did call to break-up I didn’t feel relieved, or even numb – I simply went about my afternoon watching cartoons.

When I left school, I spent the rest of my life un-learning the group mentality.  I wondered what about who I was that was unacceptable.  My identity was separated into different baubles, guised with adjective-derived masks to fit in, and denying myself a confidante.  By refusing anyone I could divulge to because I am scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.  And that there is no possibility for repair. I felt punishment was warranted. 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.  My not being seen combined with its created a spiral of neglect and ignored are bound with being loved.  Compliance allowed me to go unseen, a self-imposed inability to label that I was homosexual.

Break Through in Shame

When I left school, I spent the rest of my life un-learning the group mentality.  I wondered what about who I was that was unacceptable.  My identity was separated into different baubles, guised with adjective-derived masks to fit in, and denying myself a confidante.  By refusing anyone I could divulge to because I am scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.  And that there is no possibility for repair. I felt punishment was warranted.

Over time I learned to express feelings and practice self-compassion, by putting a strong spotlight on the dried and cracking leather hid of my baggage.  I embraced my uniqueness – shown self without a mask.  Rather, I am a historical queer, existing outside rigid associations of mainstream acceptable.  Being queer is being liberated from essentialist identity politics, instead focusing on how numerous sciences, histories, and legalities to examine the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer.  Avoiding traditional social theory, and taking a critical theory approach to queerness enriches the discussion around the vulnerabilities and suppression faced by societal outliers, those whose identities further remove them from society because of association with more than one group.  Queer requires the ability to empathize with and perceive the world through the experiences of fringe and minority groups.

Queer exists as a counter to homonormative, white homosexual privilege that pushes heteronormativity onto LGBITQ+ culture and identity, which creates hierarchies of worthiness.  Those that most closely resemble heteronormative are at the top, while the rest are less worthy and dangerous to homonormative individuals receiving privilege.  Homonormative is the rejection of any group that endangers the privilege that comes with assimilation from emphasizing commonalities to heteronormative: marriage, monogamy, and procreation.  Viewing mainstream as the ideal dangerously suppresses the more radically different, silencing voices for radical inclusion in favor of acceptable goals like marriage equality and adoption rights, but also commercializing and mainstreaming queer subcultures.

Queer 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.  Queer includes all gender and identity-variant individuals to find civic participation by engaging in complex dialogues that emphasize diversity in history and experiences.

Chronic Shame Creates Masks

I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The facts that I knew of AIDS came from what was gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  This opposed the previous generation of the 1960s and 70s, who found a footing after Stonewall pushed back underground and took on a seedy 8mm feel.  In the pre-internet era, there was limited ability to connect to others in the homosexual subculture, which could counter my first impressions.  These circumstances led to low queer acculturation particularly if someone lived away from gay neighborhoods in urban areas.  Growing up independent of a greater knowledge of homosexuality, I never became interested in homosexual culture, liberation/movement, camp, or fashion.  With limited exposure to homosexuality my development stagnated with a malleable inauthentic identity, designed for avoidance.

As I grew up I struggled with the idea that there was something false and untrue about my place in the world, only to realize that those feelings come from the fact that I was not living with authenticity.  In reaction to this I created a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed.  I diluted or ignored the parts of myself that I thought would alienate me from those around me.  When a false-self was created I ceased to be an authentic human being.  The psychologist, the late Alice Miller calls this “soul-murder” – toxic that leads to believing that they are a failure. Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that they are untrustworthy are also feelings which accompany those who believe themselves failures. Shame became my core identity, shutting me down to human relationships, living in hopelessness, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs.

Verve (February 2017)

When I dream of ex-boyfriends, I omnisciently observe what I imagine is a typical day: wake up, go to work (nurse, hair stylist, sales), then home to their husbands.  In my dreams, I give them the happy relationship that wasn’t possible with me.  They were good boyfriends, just not good for me; they were someone else’s happy relationship.

All male friendship I’ve attempted has been with unattainable straight men, which quickly fizzled.  It didn’t need to be the most attractive guy, but the man most girls circled.  I relied on being an exaggerated clown, flirting in hopes to win over the guy to have validation-sex.  Do straight women flirt to begin male friendships?  Regardless, the speed of the friendship’s lifespan was dictated by the quality time spent together.  Homosexual or queer friendships have been very rare.  The homosexuals I met for friendship, found through my standby outlet – the internet.  The bonds that were attempted consistently had an expectation of friend with benefit situation.  Friendship or old-fashioned dating was off the table.  I found those that took that route to be overbearing, as shallow as I pretended to be, or what I used for a mask was their true personality.