Recently I’ve been thinking about some of the many social blunders I’ve done. In college I avoided certain people that I felt would incriminated me by association. My social circle consisted of some buddies who were manly men. One of my best friends was a high school all star football player (and the reason he didn’t play college ball was because of his ambitions to rise the corporate ladder). My buddies were not effeminate by any means, even when they jokingly imitated their girlfriends or the sorority gals who drooled when they flexed their muscles.
I was extremely afraid that a small gesture or action would cause them to question my sexual orientation. It had never been brought up. I had been accepted into their group without question because of an alphabetical seating chart that positioned me beside one of their roommates. So I had been introduced at first as a lab partner, a study partner which then led to a few beers on Friday and finally to become a roommate. I was a Homo In The Mist. If they had known I was gay, they gave no indication of knowing.
One year, an acquaintance of mine came out. I had only known him through several biology classes, but I remember being told by another classmate that he had come out. The thing was, when he came out, he did it with sparklers and by jumping through a hoop of fire. When the “outing” had been whispered to me over lunch, a little bit of paranoia had set in. My first thought was this messenger was trying to get a confession from me. I asked her why she was telling me and then I said “I don’t even really know him. How would this affect me?”. She smiled and said, “I just had to tell someone”.
Later that year, this same guy was walking across campus on his way to some sort of costume party. He was dressed in a toga (but was using a gold sparkly belt and a sparkly gold leaf crown).I was on my way to quarter beers with my buddy at a nearby pub. I immediately tried to engage one of my buddies in conversation, so that they wouldn’t notice this guy’s outfit. I don’t know why I didn’t want them to notice him. And I was also trying to avoid him seeing me. He was a social butterfly and always said hello to anyone he knew.
Of course, he noticed me immediately and yelled my name–running through traffic to get to me and my friends. One of my buddies jaw dropped and he literally came flitting through a crowd to get to us. He elaborately used his hands to talk to us and even asked us “How do I look? Fantastic right?”. I told him that he needed to change his clothes. I said that we had some beers to gulp and excused all of us. I did it quite rudely.
My buddy turned around to get one more look at the guy and then said “What the heck was that thing?”.
I said “A freak in mine and Chris’s class”.
The conversation moved onto who was meeting us at the pub. And I breathed a sigh of relief that I could remain undetected in the closet. Today I breathe a sigh of exhaust. Having to pretend, having been rude, and knowing that when I do get the courage to come out the closet that I’ll be the person avoided and cut off from conversation. I also hope that wherever this guy is, he’s happy because he gets to live life the way he wants to live it.
I think about how in this situation I was the weak link. Instead of standing up for another gay man, I showed weakness, a lack of backbone. I think our group can only be strong if people like me won’t be afraid to say everyone should be able to live their lives. If I only had a strong enough character to accept myself, then I wouldn’t project this lack of acceptance on anyone else. I don’t like being that bendable link in this social chain.