Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Monday, February 4, 2013

Walk Like a Man

I typically have a very sound sense
of self-awareness.
I tend to be a very self-aware person. I am usually constantly in tune with my emotions and behavior, and there’s often no guess work for me in deciding “Why did I do that?” or “Why am I feeling this way?” There are exceptions, however, because I do believe that there is a subconscious place in our minds where various issues can dwell and play a part in affecting our moods. The key, I have found, is to not allow these issues a chance to fester. That is one reason why I write the way I do, and why I enjoy talking openly about personal things. 

I’ve had the chance on numerous occasions to participate in different types of clinical therapy and counseling. If you’ve never experienced therapy, you may have some misconceptions about it. Lots of people benefit from therapy, people from all sorts of different backgrounds and life experiences; therapy isn’t just for those who have experienced tragedy or hardship, either. For me, it’s not so much that there are a lot of forgotten underlying problems embedded deeply in my subconscious to where I need a professional to dig into my brain and help me to pluck them out. 

Most issues that I deal with I am already very aware of and I spend a great deal of time pondering them. At times, with my deep introspection, I can act as my own therapist. What I’ve found to be important, though, is to find a voice for the issues that bother you, and then to find someone you trust with whom you can share openly. The benefit of having a professional with whom you can share your voice is that they are trained to help you untangle the mental knots in your mind and then offer advice and encouragement on improving yourself.

I've benefited from numerous types of therapy and
counseling during my lifetime.
For others the most therapeutic part of talking to a counselor is just that—talking! In a few of my experiences my therapists were really just people who were paid to listen to me ramble on about myself. But I always went away feeling lighter and more at peace simply because I was no longer the only person who knew what I thought, what I felt, or what I was going through. It’s an opportunity for you voice to be heard, and it’s a strangely satisfying experience. Think of it as expensive venting.

As I’ve shared many times on this blog, one of my voices has always been writing. It’s something that comes very easily to me, especially at times when I’ve felt that talking was not an available or appropriate option. Many of my blog posts stem from very simple daily experiences that I come home and record in my journal or elsewhere. With intense introspection and retrospection, I ponder deeply upon these experiences and analyze every aspect of my emotions and behavior. Simple experiences soon become elaborate ideas, at which point my voice begs to be heard, and a new blog post is born. 

One main reason I write on this blog is to record my history. Readers may have noticed that I begin every post with a detailed memoir or applicable background information. I think that’s more for me than it is for the readers. To me, a message is not as powerful if you don’t include the history. It probably makes for a lot of detail that some will feel is unnecessary, but these are the stories of my life, and I write that I may remember them.

Finding an open voice for my personal issues,
particularly my same-sex attraction, has been a
positive journey for me thus far.
This past year or so has been one of discovery. I have found a voice for very personal issues that I have been openly sharing with others, both by talking and by writing. In previous posts I’ve addressed my homosexuality—it was probably the hardest voice for me to find. It is a stark contrast to go from being virtually silent to blasting your voice with a megaphone for all to hear. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has been the best therapy I have ever experienced. I feel like I am finally being heard. All of this has left me to think back on what it felt like, not so long ago, when I was compelled to be completely mute on the subject. 

I was aware of the attraction to my same sex from a very early age, just five or six years-old; yet I knew nothing about the concept of homosexuality. As I got older, I became more aware of how different I was, and while I didn’t understand my attractions to other boys, the feelings were overwhelming. I needed a voice, but I feared telling anyone about my attractions more than anything in the world. So to compensate for the psychological build-up, I found outlets for my feelings that were more tangibly pleasing. In my early teen years I found this temporary relief in things like pornography, where I think the thrill of the material was confused with some kind of comfort. Curiosity soon led to temptation, and temptation quickly escalated into an addiction that I still have to resist to this day. As a teen I harbored those two secrets that plagued my mind and soul more than anything I’ve ever experienced. 

I struggled to relate to other boys my age in
school, and I know they suspected I was gay.
Even the most graphic pornography couldn’t satisfy other cravings that I had for male bonding and acceptance. I wanted to be one of the “guys,” but I knew I would never fit in with them. I became awkward around other males as my same-sex attraction began to show more in my behavior around other boys my age. I would often flirt with the boys I found most attractive, and then we’d laugh about it like I was just kidding. They would sometimes flirt back in their own way, and my heart would flutter, but I had to fight to act like I didn’t love it. So often that was how I released the psychological pressure of my secret without giving myself away (so I thought). 

Some boys would take things too far, I think because they suspected I really was gay and they wanted to try to prove it. They would act like they were interested in me, hug me and try to hold my hand, or ask me odd questions; I got asked out to dances by a few boys who likely just wanted to see how I would react. When I would join in the fun by reciprocating just to try to fit in, it would backfire. I would too often take things to a level that they were suddenly uncomfortable with, and I was accused several times of sexual harassment by other students. I only wanted so badly for them to like me; I wanted to be a part of their groups. 

When I was 16, I was forced to take a psycho-
sexual evaluation, which I blatantly lied through.
Having Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder didn’t help the situation, and sometimes my most intimate thoughts would come blurting out of my mouth, a result of the vocal tics of my disorder. Admiration for certain boys turned into crushes, crushes turned into obsessions, and obsessions turned into fantasies. The boys I admired and liked the most became sexual objects, and my pornography addiction only fueled the fire. At some points I could hardly spend a minute in the presence of one of my crushes without getting into trouble, because I just couldn’t leave them alone. 

As my emotions and behavior took a downward plunge, my parents and school leaders thought a psychologist could get to the bottom of my problems; but I still hadn’t found a way to tell anyone that I liked boys, and I wasn’t planning to. By that time (I was about 16) I had made a connection with what being “gay” was, and the feelings I had experienced all my life, but that didn’t make things better. All the concepts of homosexuality that I had seen—and they were few—were associated with so much negativity and pain that I feared even thinking about it, let alone telling someone else. 

The psychologists conducted all sorts of evaluations. I filled out hundreds of pages of revealing paperwork about myself. The extent to which I was studied included a sexual evaluation with very intimate questions. One question left no room for mistake: “Do you consider your sexual orientation (sexual attraction) to be mainly heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual?” I’m pretty certain I knew then that I was most likely homosexual, but I knew I couldn’t leave any room for speculation—I circled “Heterosexual.” 

Immense fear kept me from disclosing my
sexuality to anyone, even my family.
I remember how difficult it was to describe how and why I was attracted to girls when they asked that question. But I knew what was socially and psychologically acceptable and appropriate for a sixteen year-old boy to think about girls—mostly because I envied the other boys’ ability to be attracted to the opposite sex—and so that’s what I wrote down. It was all very forced and elusive, and I didn’t like it. Some part of me wanted desperately just to scream, “I’m gay! I like boys! I don’t know what to do! Help me!” but I was driven by the fear of what repercussions might come from it.

My evaluations didn’t seem to reveal anything terribly abnormal about me, except that my relationship with my father was of concern (my parents had recently divorced) and that I needed better ways to get the positive attention that I needed at the time. And of course, they took me at my word that nothing was seriously wrong (even though I blatantly lied) and I was confident that there was no lasting suspicion that I might be gay. So of course, the psychologists hit a dead end. I think they knew that I was hiding something, but I tried my best to put on a fa├žade of normalcy, one of absolute heterosexuality. In later years I learned that my parents and siblings have suspected that I was gay since I was a child. I have since told my mother and step-father about my homosexuality. I know that my father and brothers think I am gay, but they have never heard a confession from my own lips, and I don’t plan on that changing anytime soon.

This is an example of Realtree camouflage; I
see only the most masculine men sporting it.
I return now to the topic of self-awareness that began this post. I have attempted to tie in my ability to be self-aware with my past experiences of hiding my sexuality from the world. As I’ve pondered my teenage struggles of a decade ago, I can still feel the emotion of those trials. Coming to terms with my homosexuality for the past several years has been a personal, internal process—a journey, really. And I find myself thankful that, even though I am not completely out of the figurative closet yet, there is so much relief in removing all the masks, tearing down the walls, and finally being honest with everyone else about my whole self; I feel the two halves have at last come together, and I am more complete than I have ever been. But a recent experience (which fueled this whole musing) has helped me realize that there is still room for improvement.

I went shopping the other night to grab a few things. It was late, and there weren’t many people around, and I was relaxed and enjoying wandering through the store. As I proceeded to the checkout, I spotted a man who looked familiar. He was wearing Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, and a Realtree™ camouflage jacket. He was the epitome of a masculine, straight man. He had a long, full beard, and I couldn’t see much of his face until he started walking towards me. I finally recognized him; we had gone to school together. At that very second I noticed I had changed my pace and deliberately took slower, looser steps, trying to match his manliness. “Hey, bud,” he said as he walked by. “Hey,” I replied, calling him by name, and then he was gone.
I am often concerned that my
walk is too feminine.

I purchased my items, and left the store. But as I walked back to my car, I noticed I was quite anxious to make sure that I wasn’t walking in a “gay” way. After all, he still might see me. There were cars around me, and other people walking, and what if they were people that I knew, too? I wasn’t expecting that night to see someone from almost ten years past, even though it was so brief. My mind was flooded with worries. What did he remember about me? What if he was one of the guys I had flirted with? Did he still think I was that awkward, possibly-gay kid from high school? 

My steps were forced and fake, and as heterosexual as I could make them, just like filling out those forms when I was sixteen. I suddenly realized how silly I was being. I also noticed that the cars and people were gone. So I relaxed, and my walk went back to normal (whatever that looks like). I shuffled quickly and daintily stepped over ice patches, more worried about being careful than having any kind of straight-guy swagger. I tried to act like I didn’t care if my walk was a little feminine, but as I drove home, the introspection began and I was reminded of how concerned I can be sometimes about being perceived as straight. Once again my ability to be self-aware had gotten me into a mental pickle.

I often find myself changing the way I walk or
talk around certain people to mask my stereo-
typical gay characteristics.
Since those teenage years a decade ago, and even before, I have been concerned about my walk, because I feel like I have a bit of what I call the “gay sashay.” I hate seeing a reflection of myself walking in a glass door or window, and I will try to change my pace so that I look manlier. I also have a higher-pitched speaking (and singing) voice, but again, I compare it to the low voice that a normal man (whatever that is) is “supposed” to have, and I am often self-conscious about it. I have found myself stopping mid-conversation to change the tone or lower the pitch of my voice my around certain people. I also notice that when I’m standing in place I position my feet and body in a feminine way, something like a counterpoise female sculpture of the Classical-period. Often I become suddenly aware of my pose, and immediately jerk into a new one as I try to stand more like a straight man would (whatever that looks like).

I don't even know what a "straight" man's walk is
supposed to look like; so why do I care so much?
I can positively declare how great coming out has been for me this past year; it is a far cry from the silent despair of secrecy and the longing to be normal (whatever that is). It has also added much greater dimension to my relationships, even with the people from high school whom I haven’t seen in years. Yet I still cling to this odd rationale that I must make an effort to not make people suspect that I am gay. I suppose there isn’t really anything subconscious about it; I know that it’s something that bothers me. But I am stumped as to why it’s such a concern. 

It might be because I like to be able to tell people face-to-face whenever I can—yet I love the appeal of having this blog and not knowing who is reading it. It might be because I don’t want to be stereotyped as a homosexual—yet I understand that there is sometimes strong basis for many stereotypes, and that I fit many of them. Or it might just be that I’m too self-conscious. I know, though, that there is no reason to hide my sexuality the way I used to because being gay is not as dark and terrible of a secret as I once thought it was. Moreover, I know that others’ opinions of me are not as scary as I thought they would be, and even if people still judge harshly at times, I need to be willing to inform and forgive.

Variety and difference make us all unique, and
I've learned to value that within myself, with my
"gay sashay" and all.
Even though my blog is public, and I include the post updates on my Facebook page, I still get a little embarrassed when a friend or family member whom I don’t think would ever read it says, “Hey, I love your blog.” It happened just a few weeks ago with my uncle whom I haven’t seen in over five years. I just laughed nervously, and asked “Really?” I love the kind compliments I get, and I feel like I don’t deserve most of them, because I think I get more out of this blog than anybody else. Telling my story here has been some of the best therapy I’ve ever had, and it doesn’t cost me a cent. And I tell my story hoping that someone, somewhere, who might be conflicted in their homosexual attractions, can benefit from my honest experiences until they can find a voice of their own.

Also, I find these posts as a way to connect my past and my present, as I have done with this post. It’s something I will always be able to read and think back on as a reminder of how blessed I have been to be able to improve myself with every new life experience. Once again, the message isn’t as powerful without the history. But I don’t suppose there is a message in this post, not that I can see. I’m sure that, for a while longer, I’ll continue to be concerned about my inability to walk like a man. But looking back on the past ten years, including the rough patches of road, at least I can see that I’ve completed this much of the journey successfully, even if I did so with a little gay sashay in my step. And for now I’m just enjoying that feeling of lightness, that peace that comes after a sharing my voice and being heard.

4 comments:

  1. Another great post!:) It's nice to hear an "Insiders" point of view...as we "straight" people don't know what it's like to be gay and the battles that go on in your head.

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  2. Thanks for reading, Brindy! The issues are so complex, I think. I'm just glad I can give voice to them. :-)

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  3. I've had experiences like that, seeing an old acquaintance and worrying about whether my "gay" was showing. I'm OK with people knowing, but I want to tell them with words, not have them discover it by observation.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Rex! I like how you say it, worrying if my gay was “showing.” But you’ve hit the nail on the head, and you phrased it just precisely. I want them to know because I tell them, not because they assume, even when mannerisms can be a good indicator. :-)

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