It’s an interesting concept for gay men. We spend our entire lives ostracized—tormented – for some intrinsic (and biological) trait that we’re told will send us straight to Hell. Thankfully, modern culture is out of the Dark Ages and gay is widely accepted, and, in many ways, somewhat “in”.
So, we come out of the closet. We shout out to the world, “I’m gay! I’m gay!” and society tells us this is the key to happiness. Apparently, it’s supposed to get better.
And for many, this is the case. You start to date. Dress better. Feel better. But for others (like me), it just doesn’t.
I look back at my college years and I have to say I was the happiest in my freshman year, when I was inside the closet. Granted, I was a lot thinner then (damn you, university union and cheap beer!), but I don’t think I was happy because I was thin.
I was happy because I was myself: jovial, inquisitive, fun-loving, care free. Just happy. When I met people, I’m sure they questioned my sexuality, but it was never a topic. We were just people, talking about our hopes, dreams and whatever crazy thing was happening in the news. There was no pressure to be a certain way or act a certain way. I dressed really well then too, simply because I wanted to.
I came out of the closet 100 percent my sophomore year, and attended my first gay-straight alliance meeting and instantly—instantly—felt bad. I’d never been more aware of my flabby figure, awkwardness and all around un-coolness. I was surrounded by a group of impeccably dressed, well-groomed, tanned and taut guys. And here I was: fat, vulnerable and wanting to revert back into the closet.
Stick it out, I told myself. It gets better. Right?
I immersed myself in gay culture. I attended every GSA meeting like clockwork, at the encouragement of my straight friends.
“You’ll love it, I think you’re going to feel better if you go,” one friend said.
But I didn’t. Ever. Week after week, I would squeeze into preppy clothes and attempt to mirror the effortless bravado of the boys around me. Sadly, I’m still trying to do that.
I dieted. Then relapsed. And dieted. And relapsed. That’s still happening, too.
Now in my junior year, I still feel the same way. I don’t pick up on a lot of “gay” references, I don’t say “YAAAAAS” and, truthfully, I’m still heavy.
When I go to a “gay” bar, I’m stared at. Sneered and snickered at by group of tanned and trim male “Plastics.” I feel self-conscious, unworthy and alone.
When I go out with my straight friends, this doesn’t happen. I’m welcomed with open arms and appreciated for my thoughts, ideas and jokes—not my ability to command a room with my flamboyant gravitas and never-ending knowledge of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
As a gay man, I just don’t make the cut. In a straight group, I have a sort of “token” status.
So here’s the question: Which one is better? Was I truly happier in the closet? A time when there wasn’t a “gay card” to be revoked, slang to learn, bread not to eat and a Grindr profile not to update?
A time when I felt like people weren’t so shallow. A time when a person’s determinant of status wasn’t their waist size and ability to “throw shade.” When people didn’t cackle at the 250-pound guy with Walmart pants and a baggy shirt.
Is the solution to this just shedding the weight (again) and attempting to fit into this group? I’m still going to be awkward as Hell. I will still never say “YAAAAAS” out loud and I probably won’t be able to rattle off “RuPaul” references like I can “Friends” quotes.
Then…maybe then…will I be happy?