Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Do I want to be Gay?

Do I really want to be gay? If I did have a say in the matter, would I really choose to be gay? I'm often plagued with this question, and I've never come across a good answer for it. It is easy for those of us who find real meaning in our sexual identities, usually in the form of a relationship and an expanded network of gay friends, to say, bursting with pride, that we do really want to be gay. Yet at the same time, these individuals often vehemently defend the idea that homosexuality is NOT a choice, i.e., not something that we could choose for ourselves. What does that say about how we feel about our identity, that we would never choose to be gay, that it sneaked up on us, an undeniable 'natural instinct,' from outside of our own free will? Why do we victimize ourselves by using biology to defend the circumstances of our 'situation'? Within this context, it is clear that even for people who purportedly possess gay pride, the deeper question remains: do we really want to be gay?

I must admit that the answer is probably more often than not an uneasy 'no' for me. It's not that I don't like certain aspects of being gay (explained below), but it does make life a lot more complicated. Furthermore, I've never really fit into the gay community, and I often find myself in disagreement with the popular movements in queer culture. Understandably, those gays who have meaningful relationships evolving from their homosexuality are more likely to think positively about their sexual identity. But it equally stands to reason that for someone like me, who has gained very little from the experience (except personal hardships), the whole prospect of enjoying being gay remains a bit dubious.

It's also hard not to imagine what our lives would be like if we were on the other side. In my case, I've often experienced close relationships with various women (although obviously never a romantic one). Some of these women showed a certain level of interest, and had I returned the sentiment, the friendship may have readily evolved into something more (by contrast, never has a man shown any real interest in me). In fact, even though I grew up as 'one of the boys,' I also always had close female friendships as a child, and as I aged I often felt like I could emotionally relate to women better than men. At many times, it seemed like women provided more fulfilling friendships. On the same note, I think it is very possible, both in terms of opportunity and personality, that a relationship with a woman would actually be more satisfying for me than one with a man. Sometimes I feel a special connection or commonality with a female friend, and in these situations I often think that, had I been heterosexual, I would have really liked to date her. It's around that point I often felt so frustrated: Why did I have to be this way? Why did I have to be gay?

The strange thing is, and this is a wonderful thing, heterosexuals sometimes ask themselves the same question. I was sitting inside a patisserie/café once, drinking my hot chocolate and reading a book, when I heard a most intriguing conversation being carried out by a large group of people gathered around a nearby table. One of the men in the group, who was heterosexual but single, told his companions (both men and women) that he sometimes wonders what it would be like if he were gay, and if he might get more action if he were gay. He started asking himself this question after a gay man hit on him at a party. No one in the group seemed to have an answer, but they talked about it in a very open-minded fashion for a while. What amazed me most of all was the question itself, that in this country and in today's environment, heterosexuals feel open to question their own sexual identity and wonder what it's like on the other side.

So, do I really want to be gay? In my case the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no, and it often depends on the day. Some days I feel good about it, about how quirky, freaky, and wonderfully unique it all is. On bad days, and during times of the year I feel more depressed (like winter), I often think 'quelle galère!', what an awful drag the whole thing is! Depending on my mood, being gay can be a personal excuse to celebrate my eccentric diversity or bemoan my misfortunes and loneliness. And then there are plenty of occasions that the answer to my fundamental question seems to be both yes and no simultaneously.

The only time I was ever really sure of myself on this issue was when I first came out to myself, the moment when I first realized (in college) that I had a diverse sexual orientation. His name was Brent: I sat next to him in one of my classes and interacted with him occasionally, and suddenly I found myself having something of crush on him. I had been sexually attracted to men before that moment, but this was the first time in my life that both my physical and emotional attractions were moving at the same wavelength. I couldn't avoid it; I had to face what was in front of me: I liked a guy. It was such a wonderful feeling, like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. All the uncertainty about this issue from ages past now seemed to vanish into thin air. I called it "the revelation," as I suddenly understood what I was, and it was such an exhilarating relief. Honestly, I did have some passing feelings toward women (during my late teenage years) after meeting Brent, and the prospect that I might, after all, be heterosexual honestly disappointed me. There was something inherently comforting about 'the revelation'; I liked the new, quirky me, the me where suddenly my world made sense and I could let hopes and dreams for the future form around my new identity. I could now see myself loving and being loved by a man. Thus, in the spirit of this experience, I was really, truly happy to know and feel that I was gay. I would still be very much disappointed if I were to wake up tomorrow to find myself heterosexual, especially after the personal hardships I overcame to get to this point. For most of us, it may not be our choice to be homosexual, but it is our choice to make the best of it.

One thing that I do think can give us a real sense of pride about being gay is that our sexual identity, and the formation of it, forces us to think about these things. In experiencing sexual diversity and the difficulties that come with it, we simply have no choice but to become deep, introspective beings. The LGBT individual must always question himself or herself in the face of adversity, and in doing so he or she can never abandon that epic quest prescribed by Socrates (in works by Plato) to 'know thyself.' We probably won't succeed on this mission (few people do), but at the end of the day, as Socrates also suggests in Plato's Apologia, it is "the unexamined life [that] is not worth living." And if anything, our diversity, by constantly informing us of our lives, gives us that existence which is truly worthwhile.

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