"I came out of the closet last month as a gay male. Since then, I’ve heard nothing but positive words. However, I’ve come to feel very alienated around my male friends. It seems like every day they mention my sexuality in a lighthearted way. I mean, I appreciate being a hot topic, but I hate being objectified and viewed as "the gay guy" (which I have actually been called several times) Is this a phase or will I be dealing with this the rest of my life? And how can I prove to them that I’m normal?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Broderick Greer as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
Dear Very Alienated,
You are a courageous soul. Coming out of the closet as a gay man is one of the most important, life-altering claims you will ever make in your life. To claim your place as a sexual minority – especially when you don’t have to – sets you apart as a person of deep integrity and thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, this integration of self will not be appreciated by everyone. Whereas you have done the necessary work to disclose a reality you know to be true in your innermost being, many people you interact with on a daily basis have never done such intense self-evaluation. This difference in maturity might be at the root of your male friends’ “lighthearted” mention of your sexuality. If they can’t deal with your being gay, they need to grow up. The time is over for joking about sexual, racial, ethnic, and gender minorities, especially when we’re nothing but respectful of our majority counterparts.
When you made the bold step of coming out as a gay man, you sacrificed the privilege and convenience of being assumed as a straight man. As you know, straight male privilege is the comfort zone that keeps so many non-straight men from disclosing their sexual minority status. There are numerous gay men who marry women, become fathers, and settle into suffocating lives of closet-dwelling. You, however, have chosen a different path. You have the fortitude to be honest with yourself and the people you love about the beautifully complex person that you are and that is a true gift. Anyone, I mean anyone, who cannot accept you for who you are doesn’t deserve your time, attention, or thought. If the time comes to escort them to the exit door of your life, walk them there with all of the assertiveness and gentleness you can muster.
But before you escort them to the exit door of your life, tell them that you feel objectified when they mention your sexuality in a lighthearted way. Let them know that your sexual orientation is not something you are ready to make light of and that if they are your friends, they will respect your desire to be treated like a human being, not a sideshow. If they continue to belittle you, do just as this wise child did to his playmate: assert your needs. You cannot live your life pressed under the unrelenting, insensitive social urges of people who do not care about your emotional well-being. It doesn’t matter how you make your feelings known to them – a Facebook message, a handwritten letter, a face-to-face meeting – as long as you make your feelings known. Like Zora Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Will you have to deal with being called “the gay guy” the rest of your life? I do not know. I am an advice columnist, not a medium. I do know this, however: Being yourself is always the life-giving road to travel. Will there be unpredictable twists and turns on the path of authenticity? Yes. Will you find yourself, at times, unsure of your decision to disclose your sexual orientation to the world? Most assuredly. But there will also be moments when you can’t even remember what it was like to not be an out gay man. There will be moments when you know that the act of self-disclosure far outweighs an alternative of fear-based isolation. And through committing to being yourself, you are embodying a new kind of normalcy. A normalcy fed by transparency and genuineness. And that, my friend, is normal enough.