“This isn’t healthy for you, Paul,” all of my friends say to me when I tell them about yet another one of my straight boy crushes. “You really need to stop falling for boys who will never love you back.”
This has always been a problem for me ever since I came out at the ripe and tender age of twelve, as it probably was for many other young queer youth who were ahead of the curve. When you realize your sexuality that young, you’re usually riding solo. It seems like everyone else is straight, or just hasn’t figured out otherwise yet, so it’s inevitable to fall victim to the straight boy crush by virtue of the fact that all the other boys in your middle school class are all straight as an arrow.
I am no stranger to this. In the past decade, I have gone through numerous (as in mostly) unrequited loves which have left me a scared, frail, and nervous wreck whose emotions lie somewhere in the spectrum between Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” and Adele’s “Someone Like You.”
It’s been an ongoing joke throughout my college years that I only liked straight boys, which is not the truth, though I believed it for a bit. I even rationalized an explanation in my head.
I’m still quite self-conscious and insecure, as is any living, breathing human being with even the slightest trace of a soul, and I figured that if I were to like a straight boy and he didn’t like me back, it was because he simply didn’t like guys. Who knows? Maybe if he did, we’d hit it off, get married, and have two amazing sons who play catch in the backyard of or white-picket fence house in the suburbs. Unfortunately, he just digs chicks too much.
“No hard feelings, bro. I just don’t think of guys that way,” he’d say to me as he gave me a hug that didn’t linger too long as to not suggest anything. I’d pretend to be okay with it but still sulk in my bed crying into my pillow wishing that he would get some magical gay potion slipped into his drink that would turn him into a ‘mo and immediately dump his gorgeous model girlfriend to fall for me instead. At the end of the day, I’d get over it soon enough because it was his fault that it couldn’t work out.
On the other hand, if I were crushing on a gay boy and he didn’t like back, there is no excuse to hide behind. If I laid my feelings on the line, and he didn’t reciprocate, it was because he didn’t like me. Something about me as a person was deterring him from being interested, and the fact that we had the same parts was not cutting it. This was honest, unadulterated rejection, and that’s what scared me the most.
Instead, I found myself falling for straight boy after straight boy under the impression that their rejection was less heartbreaking and thus, it was easier to handle. I was expecting their rejection. I already knew the outcome. For gay boys, it was a toss-up, and that was a chance I was way too afraid to take.
If I were rejected by a gay boy, it would be full-on hysterics. Not just crying to sleep one night – more like staying in bed all day eating full boxes of Cheez-Its and a carton of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream coupled with binge watching “How I Met Your Mother” until the pain went away, which was anything between three episodes to three seasons. This extreme response was because I figured that, in this case, it was my fault it couldn’t work.
Then I came to the realization that I don’t exclusively like straight men. I just like men. And in the greater scheme of males, it just so happens that there is an overwhelming proportion of straight men in comparison to queer men. When I signed up to be a homosexual (just picture for a second if you had to register to be gay at the DMV or something), I declared that I was a man who was attracted to men. Nowhere in that declaration of gaydom did I ever say that I was a man attracted to men who are also attracted to men. Then addendum is not part of the description, however implied it may be. Of course, the life of a gay man falling for men who will never be attracted to him is a sad one, but when I meet a guy, I don’t filter out whether he might like dudes before I think that I might be attracted to him. It’s a primal response.
I like who I like regardless of how many chicks (or dudes) he’s banged because his perceived or actual sexual orientation is simply not a criteria I use to determine a good mate. I like a guy whose humor makes me laugh even though it doesn’t seem to entertain anybody else. I like a guy who challenges my ideas and allows me to challenge his. I like a guy whose smile could cheer me up on even my lowest of days. I like a guy who looks just as good in a pair of old jeans and a flannel as he does in a three-piece tailored suit because it doesn’t matter the clothes the man is wearing as much as the confidence radiating from the man wearing them. I like a man with the strength to pick me up and carry me down the block and the humility to admit that he has weaknesses. Never was being gay a requirement in attraction. Of course, it matters if I wanted to pursue a relationship, but that doesn’t take away from a man being worthy of my lustful gaze and inexplicable adoration. Really, I’m trying to find a guy who I would like to spend my time with, and whether that takes the form of a romantic relationship or an unbreakable brotherhood, I would be satisfied.
It’s taken me a while to figure this out, but I’m not attracted to a guy because he is gay or straight. I am attracted to a guy because I think he’s awesome. Statistically, the odds are not in my favor, as only one in ten of the guys I’d be interested in could possibly like me back, and the likelihood of that happening is not a guarantee. They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your Prince Charming, and as a gay man, I just might have to kiss a few more. At least I get to practice my kissing.