How I learned to be the “Best Gay I can Be”
When I first came out to my family, I defended my orientation by explaining that I wasn’t a drag queen with fake eyelashes and an over-the-top dress or a man in a leather harness and chaps dancing on a Pride float.
You know, I wasn’t one of those people.
As a 21 year old, those were legitimate arguments supporting my newly shared sexual orientation—and something akin to, “Hey mom and dad, I’m gay, but I could be a worse kind of gay.” It’s one of those times in my life that I look back on and cringe. It’s a time-machine moment. If I could go back, I’d confront myself and convince the younger me to just shut up for a minute.
Until technology allows me to do that, I have to live with the mistake. My old argument represented my own ignorance so closely related to my age and further damaged—however slightly—my parents’ already skewed view of the LGBT community. I stood by that defense as my parents adjusted to my big reveal. They eventually learned to partially accept that, considering the alternatives, I was the best kind of gay they could have got.
To express support for your orientation by explaining how it could be worse is a ridiculous argument. I know that now, but unfortunately my so-called reasoning isn’t as uncommon as I would hope. I’ve heard countless young men explain what kind of gay they are while throwing their other gay brothers under the bus.
Not too long ago, I actually heard a young man explain, “It’s not like I’m in Pride parades or anything.” Like that is a repulsive, awful activity. (Mom, Dad: I should go ahead and admit right here that I’ve been in several of those parades.)
As a community that preaches diversity, it’s difficult for many of us to accept it. Our ideas of what makes a man attractive or a woman beautiful vary so widely it proves the theory that there is somebody for everyone.
How we choose to define ourselves differs. We have leathermen and twinks. Fems and butch. F2Ms and M2Fs, bears and jocks. There are even Facebook apps to help us with this organizational chaos.
If you need verification of your “musclebear” status, simply enter some info into the app and you’ll find out if you truly fit that stereotype. If you’re committed to being a butch lesbian, a similar app can verify that your love of flannel isn’t in vain. We can joke about stereotypes all we want, but the truth is they exist, and not everyone is comfortable with them.
Watermark has the challenging yet very fulfilling task of covering a large swath of cultures. While we all share similar sexual orientations, we are subdivided into so many smaller communities that it’s easy to recognize our differences before we see our similarities.
Whether a group of men put on their best leather and compete for a sash, or decide to bead a gown to match their heels and vie for a tiara, they are part of the LGBT community. When a young lesbian decides to join a woman’s group with a healthy affection for motorcycles, she’s still part our world.
And, believe it or not, when a committed, same-sex couple decides to bring a third person into their relationship and become a polyamorous unit, they are still under our LGBT umbrella.
We don’t have to understand every segment of our population and I can admit that I don’t. But avoiding those we don’t appreciate or ignoring the groups with activities we don’t understand is just like distancing yourself from a softball game simply because you don’t like the sport.
That activity is going to exist, whether you appreciate and accept it or not.
Our “standard” LGBT affiliation, which admittedly encompasses a vast majority of us, reaches even further than the groups included in the abbreviation. Rather than pointing a condescending finger at those we see as so obviously different than us, we should encourage their involvement, whether we decide to experience it first hand or not.
And that is the right kind of gay to be.