Most of my life has been a quest of learning how to live in my own skin. This is, of course, due in large part to growing up in a very religious environment that promoted a homophobic culture of misunderstanding and blind hatred leading to my own discomfort with myself, with my inmost feelings. Now, I believe in holistically approaching identity and my identity does not begin and end with my sexual orientation, BUT I will also say this. When you live in an environment that is telling you that this core piece of your identity is shameful and nasty and an abomination or maybe it’s just a huge joke, that leads you to a place where you tend to see all of yourself in this light.
As I’ve grown up and moved on, I have been trying to surpass those stereotypes learned in high school; we were told (in the classroom – in an “academic” context) that gay men are all HIV positive and hang out in bars waiting to prey on someone too naive and unsuspecting to prevent themselves from being “recruited” into the club. I’m not hung up on these same stereotypes the way I used to be, even into my time doing undergrad, but I see that they gradually morph into new stereotypes that I fear.
My discomfort got pretty well exposed when I had to watch a video of myself teaching my French 106 section and I spent the first 10 minutes watching the video laughing at myself for “looking like a queer” (my own, private thought). Maybe this is some latent homophobia from my days as a Baptist. I would like to make a few clarifying points before pursuing this thought :
1) I do not believe in gender roles as prescriptive things. I don’t think that your genitals should dictate the way that you carry yourself. I was not reacting adversely because I wasn’t sufficiently acting out male gender stereotypes.
2) I somewhat privately but very fervently consider myself gender queer. I don’t identify very strongly as a masculine personality or a feminine personality.
This is what I don’t like about myself when I say that I was acting “like a queer” : It’s behaviour that’s rooted in me feeling uncomfortable and nervous. I saw this a lot when I first started teaching lycee with a bunch of teenage boys. I was uncomfortable so it resulted in me acting in a way that betrayed my discomfort through nervous excitability; I started acting clownish.
I see this in myself to a lesser extent when I’m in a one-on-one situation where I’m uncomfortable, most often it is a situation that will involve me feeling guilty, like I owe the other person something and I start saying stupid things or offering to do things for them out of my guilt (guilt often generated by the simple fact that maybe I don’t even like the person).
In the end, I don’t mind a little flamboyancy in myself or others. I don’t mind bending gender rules – in fact I love bending gender rules. I don’t mind people knowing that I’m gay so long as I don’t let myself become a joke to others. I don’t mind people knowing so long as it’s a neutral fact and not gossip, not people laughing at my nervousness, at me being uncomfortable in front of them.
If I had readers I would probably have made most of them angry with this post. Or confused. My apologies. I’m just trying to work myself out and the only person I’m criticising here is myself. Words can be wholly insufficient to convey the deepest feelings of your being – and these feelings go pretty deep down.