A week or so ago I learned that I was the topic of conversation at a neighbor’s dinner. Apparently the son (who I had been “friends” with as a child and preteen) muttered: “So that Connor kid. Is he gay yet?” To provide some context, I need to say that I have not spoken to this “friend” in at least seven years. And I say “friend” in quotations because our friendship was entirely based on convenience. Our houses were within walking distance and we found ourselves playing together simply because there was nothing better to do. I also say “friend” like this because he was never much of a friend to me. He was a bully, someone who got pleasure from tormenting me because he knew I wouldn’t fight back. Essentially he was an uglier Regina George and I was Gretchen Wieners, mistreated but afraid to be excluded. It’s important to note that I really don’t think about any friendships I had before high school. Before high school, I was a very confused outcast struggling to come to terms with himself. As a result, the only people I think about are the ones who took the time to get to know me as the person I am now. Chances are if the only things we had in common were playing video games and our love of flinging dog poop at other kids that I don’t really ever think about you.
What bothered me most about this situation is the way the question was framed. While I cannot entirely know what tone it was expressed in, I can’t help but feel that it was meant to be some kind of insult. It’s almost like gay could be replaced with anything: “Oh has he dropped out of college yet?” “Is he a crack addict yet?” It’s as if he was implying that being gay was something I should have been ashamed to end up being. What got me even more agitated was the idea that he knew that I was gay before he did. As if me being gay was some big joke I hadn’t been filled in on yet.
People need to know that those of us who are gay have some idea that we are well before we come out. It’s not as if gay is written on our foreheads and everyone can see it but us. People also need to know that it takes us longer to process the whole “gay” thing because we’re the ones it actually impacts! So you know that I’m most likely gay? CONGRATULATIONS! What does that mean for you? Nothing. What does that mean for me? It means that I may be passed up or fired for my sexual orientation. It means that I won’t be able to get married in certain states and it means that I could get rejected by my family or be a victim of a hate crime. See, it’s so easy to run around saying “OMG he’s totally gay and doesn’t know it.” It wasn’t so easy for me to tell certain family members without feeling like I had somehow disappointed them (which I totally didn’t because I’m #flawless)
Coming out is a long road to self acceptance. But just because it may take some people longer than others to come to terms with it doesn’t mean that those some people are dumber or more oblivious to who they are as people. It just means that these people have a lot more factors weighing on them. So please don’t act as if you are some prophet because you guessed that I’d turn out gay…because I didn’t turn out gay. I was always gay. And you were always an asshole.
It used to bother me- the idea that my neighbors would one day have some gossipy conversation about how that Connor Doherty kid turned out being gay just as they had expected. I hated the idea of former friends’ parents saying things like “I always knew something was off about that one” or those friends making a joke about how they had used to be friends me. But then I came to a realization: 90% of the women in my neighborhood are stay at home moms with no hobbies or sex life to occupy them and their spawn are pretty much as useless as they are! And then I thought about how little some of my peers have changed since middle school, and as it turns out I’m actually kind of relieved that I’m gay. Because if I wasn’t maybe I wouldn’t have ended up so creative or been bullied so much- and if I hadn’t been bullied maybe I wouldn’t be as motivated as I am now. And if anything at least it makes me a minority in a sea of terrible heterosexual white people.
Sometimes I miss what it’s like to be a child. I miss being able to entertain myself for hours in my garden and I miss being able to go on adventures with my neighbors. I miss the ability to be friends with everyone because there were no differences to separate us yet. But then I realize that knowing who you are is such an invaluable thing that we can only learn with age. I mean being able to play “make-believe” for hours is great, but so is looking into a mirror and seeing the reflection of a person with a lot more strength and tenacity than you thought was possible. So in conclusion, suck on that bitches (*Cue Janis Ian sound effect as she dives into a pile of girls*)