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”

My Chronic Shame

Chronic shame developed from the best of intentions of my parents when raising two children.  They were good at it, striving to create balance for two radically different kids – providing food, shelter, and safety, but I still felt neglected if the parents do not bond emotionally with me.  I have few memories of being held, comforted, played with, or asked how I was doing; plenty questions about the events of a school-day, but not their impact.  When they didn’t live up to expectations they privately, and I’m sure to this day, scolded themselves; they failed less times than they believe they did.  My parents instilled in me the three F’s – family, food, and fun.  If there were two then the third would be automatically follow suit; should food be part of the family gathering then we’d have some fun; if there was food and fun, then one must be amongst family.

Most of their concern was aimed at my sister and her uncontrollable outbursts.  My sister’s (then undiagnosed bipolar) behavior drew my parents’ attention, exhausting them, resulting in an often-chaotic home life.  The chaos she created taught me that disruptions to a plan lead to eruptions of an77ger and violence.  I blamed myself for that distress, believing I was the reason I was left alone. I sought safety and closeness from their parent — yet my parents could not be close or safe. All I could feel was “unlovable,” creating the seed of shame. The feelings of my parents, whether expressly communicated or sensed by a child, become internalized and automatic. The state of being alone and powerless became pervasive.

I felt shame for being abnormal or wrong. During childhood, I leaned into my better ability to gloss-over my bad behavior, or just being generally more agreeable, to be the “good child.”  This also meant not being seen, in comparison to the spectacle that was my sister.  My parents did what they could at the time, so I created a compliant personality designed to make life far simpler; I didn’t want to be the reason for everything or have the spotlight on me.  This allowed me to get attention when my parents sought respite from my sister.  I became incapable of trusting my own emotions, so was unable to use them as a compass for living.  There was no developed skill to ground myself in the present, and being in the moment and staying observant without judgment of my own emotions.

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, my homosexuality never being addressed.  This self-imposed inability to say aloud that I was gay.  I had seen modelled on TV even how the most progressive of parents reacted, which was with tears of worry.  I was not going to add more concerns to their already full plate.  I vowed to not be the straw that broke any one’s back.

GWM ISO James Corden-Type

GWM ISO James Corden [2017.05]I learned early that existence was being in a state of constant heartbreak.  The gay domesticity templates of Jodie Dallas, Ellen, and other early homosexual representation demonstrated that life would never consist of a cozy weekend bubble with another, only the longing for one.  While Jodie Dallas was perpetually single, Ellen DeGeneres’ presentation of homosexual relationship was full of drama and bickering.  These examples of playing-house were a lacking perfect reflection of what I wanted, which was the bittersweet rom-com of When Harry Met Sally, or How to Marry a Millionaire; and later 13 Going on 30, What’s Your Number, Sex & the City.

In the past, I sunk under the weight of pursing others like a puppy only to not be selected.  The superficiality of idolized physicality in homosexuality was not me.  Perfect was the Abercrombie & Fitch model or Justin Timberlake; the pop-idol and the porn star got all the attention.  Not me, the queerly geek whose authenticity – the interests, experiences, and beliefs – existed on the peripheral of popular.  How could they not see how cool I was?  Continue reading “GWM ISO James Corden-Type”

Researching the Part

At SUNY @ Purchase, I freely made my homosexuality explicit and explore relationship dynamics.  I was no virgin before or during college, but a relationship continued to elude me.  I wasn’t laser focused on acquiring a boyfriend because the class load made it quickly clear that was not going to happen.  I was a child compared to my classmates who all seemed much worldlier than I.  Their world seemed so much bigger than the one I came from, filled with parties and adventures that I had only see in movies and television.  I desperately wanted to be like them, sophisticated, well-read, and so comfortable in their uniqueness that they could sell themselves.  This was something I couldn’t be, but I could pull forth a façade.

Hours were spent in the college’s library developing my cool gay cabinet, identity, and vocabulary; I read cultural writers to know what to think, and studied the writers and artists to know what to get away with.  I formed a cabinet of (famous or not; perfect or not; real or fictional) people of characteristics to emulate, to develop a crisper identity and world-view.  The cabinet that was selected had no root in the people and interests of my own, but in the interests of the people I wanted to impress; Kafka, architecture, Feminism, playwriting, and psychology.  I could converse deeply about their interests, and engrain myself into their graces.  They revealed themselves, exposing their interests and desires, while I continued behind a mask that reflected them back.  Everyone enjoys seeing themselves in others because it knocks down walls of isolationism, in favor attachment.

Dating Templates

I learned early that existence was being in a state of constant heartbreak, longing to be within a cozy weekend bubble with another.  In the past I sunk under the weight of pursing others like a puppy only to not be selected.  The superficiality of idolized physicality in homosexuality was not me.  Perfect was the Abercrombie & Fitch model or Justin Timberlake; the pop-idol and the porn star got all the attention.  Not me, the queerly geek whose authenticity – the interests, experiences, and beliefs –existed on the peripheral of popular.  How could they not see how cool I was?

I didn’t go to local gay youth groups to meet peers 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 gave them the bravery to ask to meet immediately.  To me they had already labeled themselves and claimed to have said as much to their parents.  Being exceedingly reluctant of labels, I was intimidated, fearing their permanence.  I wasn’t ready to be placed in any box, let alone the wrong one; and then go through the embarrassment of changing labels.  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.

There were homosexual adults whom I interacted with through the internet, and 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 entertained ideas of big city adventures like Sex & the City, and meeting Mr. Big, who’d take me to the theatre and art openings.  What I instead found was sneaking off to the backwoods of Upstate New York and trailer parks, where their own inauthenticity funhouse mirrored my own.

I was in college by that time and finally saw healthier homosexual relationships, through Will Graham, Will & Grace, was single through the majority of the show’s run, having serious relationships after the show found success.  The domesticity on Will & Grace was not perfection, but the characters created a bubble of playing house.  I wanted to emulate the relationships by running errands, sharing chores, and cooking together.  Our existence would be dictated by shared calendars and outings.  It would be teamwork and comradery.

I crafted doctored acceptable variations of myself, believing my exposed self would not be good enough.  The knowledge my authenticity was deferred to others in an effort to avoid insult and derision.  Receding behind partners’ goals I built up their hopes, while exploring how to play with the truth, creating chaos that would ultimately result in implosion.

Playground Inauthenticity as Survival

Playground Inauthenticity as SurvivalOn 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. Doing so stagnates the formation of a queer identity, rooted in beliefs, attitudes, and values.

I grew up in a suburbia that wasn’t ticky-tacky little boxes, but 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 was different and I knew it, but didn’t wish to be separated from the herd.  By exaggerating what didn’t fit homogeneity I created a smokescreen of descriptors against isolation, hoping no one would the gay.  I allowed peers to silence my identity and interests – a little for all but not everything to one; and no one to me.

Authentic Wants in a Mate

If “funny” or “sense of humor” is wanted, then what kind of sense of humor/funny? Sarcastic? Dry? Goofy? Everyone wants someone that’s intelligent – who wants to talk to a bag of rocks?  There are different intelligences; emotional, scientific, inter/intrapersonal, etc. Are you emotionally strong and don’t need someone to consistently ask “what’s wrong” because doing so would drive you insane? Every preference is valid and worthy, appealing to Each of those senses of humor appeal to personal preferences and a personalized way through life that would make them (and oneself) more appealing to go through life’s hardships together. A relationship is more likely to implode when personalities don’t click because one, or both, do not know what it is that makes them comfortable, happy, and synchronicity.

Knowing traits are specifically wanted in a mate, removing the broad fantasy of idealized traits, and knowing specifically what balances or engages oneself will help avoid dating or marrying someone else’s mate.  One way to do this in modernity is to think deeply and critically about the media and experiences that are engaged in.  What about that TV show or song brought the emotional response?  What memories are triggered?  Connecting pass-time enjoyments to memories enables authentic and vibrant emotional responses, that inform decisions leading to agency in life.  Critically learning the triggered responses from accumulated experiences and cultivated media-preferences, it is possible to lean on our authentic selves and not imposed idealized expectations to find fulfillment.

Verve (5/08-5/12)

NERDSI exist in a state of constant heartbreak, longing to be within a cozy weekend bubble with another.  In the past I sunk under the weight of pursing others like a puppy only to not be selected; my authenticity – the interests, experiences, and beliefs – has always existed on the peripheral of popular.

An element of fear of abandonment became engrained in middle school when everyone began experimenting with relationship dynamics.  Every student appeared to pair-off, leaving me feeling alone.  During this delicate time, I turned to the people around me as models of domesticity, which did not perfectly reflect what felt natural to me.  In culture role-models were Ellen DeGeneres when she came out while I was in high school, but unfortunately her breezy character became heavy, angry, and hurt  The relationship her character presented was full of drama and bickering.  Queer as Folk on Showtime presented more of the same, but this time heavy drug use was included.  I was in college by that time and finally saw healthier homosexual relationships, through Will Graham, Will & Grace, was single through the majority of the show’s run, having serious relationships after the show found success.

The domesticity on Will & Grace was not perfection, but the characters created a bubble of playing house.  I wanted to emulate the relationships by running errands, sharing chores, and cooking together.  Our existence would be dictated by shared calendars and outings.  It would be teamwork and comradery.  I crafted doctored acceptable variations of myself, believing my exposed self would not be good enough.  The knowledge my authenticity granted was deferred to others in an effort to avoid insult and derision.  Receding behind partners’ goals I built up their hopes, while exploring how to play with the truth, creating chaos that would ultimately result in the relationship imploding.

Mindy Project’s Road to Authentic Expectations

The Mindy ProjectMindy Kaling and her show The Mindy Project is the Tuesday show that has kept me afloat through its 5 years; I will miss the show after it ends with the upcoming sixth season.  Mindy Kaling has crafted a model of modern dating and goal achieving for the Twenty-First Century.  Dr. Mindy Lahiri, Kaling’s character, was raised on romantic comedies with dreams of a Sex & the City life.  As Mindy experienced dating and professional life in the 21st Century was met with equal success and zany; Mindy was not the female lead that was successful at work and unlucky in love.  The Mindy Project traces Mindy’s dating adventures and mishaps and success moving away from imposed celebrity-rom-com fantasy world to realistic expectations based upon her own experiences.

Dr. Lahiri’s dating life reflected the process that many single adults must go through as they seek their ideal mate.  Throughout the course of the series Mindy begins her dating life with big eyes and rose-tinted glasses – she was Carrie searching for her Mr. Big, and nothing less would do.  As adults go through dating our list of traits wanted in another is extremely generic, stating broad character traits such as “attractive”, “funny”, “smart”.  In her unique way Mindy, also, is specific in her list-of-wants by associating each desired trait with a celebrity.  Mindy learns to create specificity in her desirable trait-list, through the boyfriends, and husband (then ex), as she travels through the show’s run.  Mindy began the show searching for her Bradley Cooper/Ryan Gosling-idealized, an old school alpha-male that would make the decisions in the relationship, and she ended up with Danny Castellano – who manipulated the relationship to push Mindy to abandon her work goals to be a stay at home mother.  Danny’s actions acted counter to the experiences that strengthened Mindy’s character, pushing her to remain a static character.  When she learned of Danny’s manipulations, rather than shrink and lean on her fantasies, Mindy chose to lean on herself and the goals she had developed through her experiences.  She chose to leave Danny based upon the cultivated, and critically examined, experiences she accumulated in The Mindy Project‘s acclaimed run, leading to a happier, more fulfilling and honest relationship with geeky, modern, and accepting fiancé Ben; whose personality and needs better balanced Mindy than Danny.

Why We Need To Be Unapologetically Authentic

 

Art by Malika Favre
Art by Malika Favre

Authenticity is something I struggle with, so much so that I have made it my resolution for 2017.  I realized towards the end of 2016 that I covered up, diluted, or ignored the parts of myself that I thought would alienate me from those around me.  In truth, those aspects of my identity (which I am still peeling away to discover) are what make me unique and an individual.  For years 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 – I was going to events to celebrate people I didn’t like, putting time into covering up my true ideas, and putting myself in places that I didn’t want to be.  Exhuming personalized experiences and exposing to others my personalized allows for facades to be dropped. As masks are dropped deeper connections are formed.  As I have worked through this by analyzing my past, celebrating my interests and what they mean to me, and connecting through failures, I have deepened my relationships with friends and family, resulting in an increased quality of life.  Authenticity is being politely selfish by connecting through shared hardships and joys.

 

Check out: Why We Need To Be Unapologetically Authentic