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.