The Self-Repressed Heterosexual
Whenever asked what I like best about being openly gay, a curious example pops into my head: the ability to comfortably order girly drinks. Now, before answering this aloud, I almost always interpret and correct this ridiculous thought to mean “freedom,” though I rarely elaborate on what that’s supposed to mean. I may not have understood it myself.
I came to Alberta last week to defend my master’s thesis, and I think being re-exposed to Alberta’s artificial machoism helped me clarify things a little better. First, it’s exhausting playing a heterosexual male; I remember this from my closet days. The male image is particularly sexually charged in popular culture, and this clashes with the immense social pressure to not appear even remotely gay. So, sure enough, while looking around for a nice belt for my thesis defense, I overheard a young man as he passed through the store’s underwear section: “I like this brand, but what’s with the packaging? Ugh. I did not need to see that dude’s man package!”
Now, frankly, if a shopper is at all interested in the cut and style of the underwear he’s purchasing, then yes, he needs to see the model’s “man package.” Declaring otherwise has no purpose other than to annoyingly re-assert one’s manliness and heterosexuality, but—among young men—this must be done constantly.
Of course, I don’t suppose it was that many years ago when I might have stated something similar (despite being fascinated by models’ “man packages” for more than just the underwear’s cut and style). Simply put, pretending to be fundamentally bothered by any reminder of male sexuality is a cultural norm. That’s why Dove can run ads with happy women of all shapes, hugging and laughing and acting chummy in nothing but their underwear, but the same ad featuring men would be unairable—or, at the very least, unsuccessful.
So, in my closet days, I would pretend and announce—as everyone else would—to mind anything that could remotely challenge my (admittedly completely non-existent) heterosexuality. There was only one exception. A particular action that, when performed in the company of all-around heterosexual men, is destined to be judged as unmanly by any common definition. You see, having never acquired a taste for malt liquor (and, frankly, not being much of a drinker overall), there was nothing quite as embarrassing, but as tasty, as receiving a tall glass filled with fruit juices and schnapps, complete with umbrellas and orange slices.
So, what do I enjoy best about being openly gay? The freedom. To order girly drinks, yes, but more specifically from the ridiculous self-repression and scrutiny of my own actions.