“Don’t be gay”

I’m back. It’s been a while. I have a kid now, blah blah, so forth and so on. About five years ago I wrote the following within my blog about Embracing White People Stuff:

“The code,” as I perceived it, was mostly defined by situational micro-judgments by the hoodest hood guy present at the time – whatever he deemed a code infraction was so. Because of this murky foundation ‘the code’ was difficult to accurately define but If I had to distill it down to its core elements, I’d say they were: 1. Don’t snitch, 2. Don’t be gay, and 3. Don’t act like a bitch.

“Don’t snitch” is a fairly well-known credo at this point and “don’t be gay” is a can of worms that I’ll save for another writing session. “Don’t act like a bitch,” of course, means do not engage in ho shit, bitchassness, punkassness, hoassness, markassness, duckassness (etc.), sucka-shit, trickness, soft-type shit or any such bitch-made activities.

I’ve had a few conversations recently about my personal growth from a young to a middle-aged man, with regard to my thoughts on homosexuality, and it made me think back to this worm can yet unopened. So here we go…

I was born into a fairly religious family. Though my parents weren’t super devout at the time, my grandparents were active members of the church. Many of my peers’ families had similar roots in the church. On top of that, I grew up in a generally lower income neighborhood in an urban setting, heavily influenced by “hood” and “hip hop” culture. What I’m getting at is that the idea of being gay was frowned upon on several fronts. Rather… being gay was not allowed. No… being gay was like the worst thing a person could be (specifically a gay man). There wasn’t a term for it at the time but I grew up very homophobic.

As a kid, it felt innocuous enough, devoid of any actual malintent. Essentially, it meant that if a boy visibly, accidentally grazed or came close to grazing another boy’s butt he was gay. He was loudly pronounced and ridiculed as gay for 12.35 minutes or until something else gay happened (whichever came last). Think Salem witch hunt – same kind of deal. Also, listening to the wrong type of music was gay. Also, telling a friend of the same sex you loved them was gay. As we got a little older, eating a lollipop, popsicle or banana was gay; as was licking an ice cream cone with too much zeal (the gay way). This ideology undertoned years and years of my emotional and moral development through childhood and adolescence. Sure, it was seemingly benign – what did we as children know about sexuality anyway – but those benign habits tend to weave into your consciousness as you begin to form more adult opinions. Not to mention, any young men in our atmosphere who may have been discovering themselves at the time, may not have found it so innocuous.

Thankfully, my mom has always instilled in me the value of my character and that, no matter how I felt about someone, I shouldn’t take license to do anyone harm unless provoked. That being the case, these thoughts I had about gay people never manifested into outward malice or disrespect, other than casually calling things “gay” out of context. Just as thankfully, after college, I casted out on my own to Atlanta for a job, and made friends with a crew with a diverse set of opinions from which to learn. One of whom, challenged me when I called something “gay” that had nothing to do with homosexuality. He was offended by it, which lead me to a very simple thought that I had for the very first time in my mid-20s: “have I been offending people this whole time?” Of course, the answer was yes and since that day 15+ years ago I haven’t used that phrasing in that way.

That being said, this is not me getting on my high-horse to castigate those who do call things “gay” without malintent – I know many of you don’t mean it maliciously, even though you still shouldn’t say it. I just used that mile marker to reference a fundamental change in my own perception and actions. I personally went from someone who didn’t want to be in proximity of a gay man for fear of someone else seeing me and assuming that I might be gay, to a person with the maturity and intelligence to understand that’s the dumbest shit ever.

First of all, it was important for me to learn not to care so much what folks thought. I’d struggled with my own self image for too long prior to that point in my life and it was time for me to realize there are so many people with piss-awful opinions on things to bother weeding through those which didn’t impact me directly. Secondly, so what if I was gay? What now? Do we fight? Or are you just really mad at me for conjuring images of me sexing on another man, so now you’re thinking about gay sex and hold up are you gay!? Lastly and most importantly, I’m not nice, cool or interesting enough to limit my potential friend pool to heterosexuals. If someone wants to continue speaking to me after the first five minutes of painfully awkward small talk, I’m very inclined to believe that person genuinely cares about me and have to strongly consider pursuing a friendship, regardless of the P to V ratio in their romantic life.

Of course, at the crux of these tensions always sits the nature vs. nurture argument, and I’ve struggled enough trying make this blog entertaining without having to climb that biological/psychological mountain. No thanks. All I’ll say is that I don’t get the persistence behind the belief that gay folks are choosing to be gay just out of spite or whatever. I just can’t imagine all these people having the thought: “You know, biologically I love the vagina, but that penis sure is intriguing. I’m going to go see what that’s about for the rest of my life and choose to be hated and ridiculed and marginalized and disowned and cast away by my religion and stuff. I just gotta get more of that penis.” (or vice versa for the vaginally inclined). I have a penis and let me tell you it’s not worth all the drama. No one is choosing that path any more than I’m choosing to be Black. Luckily, we weren’t given those choices before we were spawned, otherwise we’d all be heterosexual, white, Christian males in the United States to give ourselves the best chance at prosperity.

I’ll conclude with the thought I offered to my friend during my most recent conversation on this topic. He’d had a family rift surrounding his sexuality and was doubting the likelihood his nephew would ever come to accept him. I acknowledge there are those who will stubbornly stick to a belief, no matter what, so his worry was certainly a realistic possibility and maybe even a probability. However, I also can personally attest to the ability for someone’s beliefs to completely change given a new environment and/or a willingness to consider new information and perspectives. I surely was predisposed to a certain way of thinking, but have happily found my way to a train of thought more representative of my core values. Now that’s gay (trying to make positively connoted “that’s gay” a thing).

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