a sexual self-portrait
Oh God, here it comes, the moment I’ve been putting off for months, when I have to tell people that I’m not what they think I am, what I’ve been pretending to be. The worst part is afterwards, when they’ll feel like I’ve been hiding something from them for years, but I’ve just gotta grit my teeth, otherwise I’ll never do it. Here I go, what I’m trying to say is—I’m not gay. Alright?
This isn’t a joke, not really, although I appreciate the rhetorical effect of turning the coming-out process on its head like that. No, I meant my declaration literally: this really is me coming out to you as not gay.
You aren’t the only one who’s a little puzzled. My closest friends and family will probably be bewildered if/when they come across this article, as would be my coworkers, my healthcare providers, the teachers and administrators at my high school, my parents’ tennis partners, the people I have never personally met but who follow me on social media, and the advertising algorithms that know the best way to hold my interest is with pictures of shirtless men. No, your confusion is understandable, because in order for me to come out as not gay in our society, I must have come out as gay at some point. That is, in fact, the case. When I was eighteen, I stood up from my seat in my crowded high school auditorium and unevenly addressed the crowd. The atmosphere in the room stiffened suddenly when they realized what was coming, thought to themselves, “Is he about to say what I think he is?” and we all willed the horrible silence to end, and then I let it out: “I’m gay.” And I don’t remember how I ended my address, what incoherencies I was muttering when I noticed that everyone was standing up and clapping, relieved (in my perhaps ungracious recollection of that moment) that it was over and that they didn’t have to watch me struggle any more, anxious to show that they liked gay people, but that they weren’t gay, but that they liked gay people and were totally chill with it and had a gay uncle and their family only voted Republican for fiscal reasons.
That day was the first of May in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen. I’ve been gay ever since and been okay with that. I’ve learned a lot in my two years as a gay person and have no regrets about it. So, what exactly compels me to reject the label? Let’s unpack my sexuality a little, why don’t we.
Undoubtedly, I like guys. A lot. I’m what my friends call boy-crazy, meaning I’m always crushing on some guy from afar and love nothing more than to speculate about who they are, who they’re friends with, whether they’re seeing someone, and whether they’ve ever been with a guy. Often I don’t even know their names, so I call them things like Sci-Li Boy, Ratty Boy, and Tennis Boy. (If you think you may be Sci-Li Boy, please contact me.)
Furthermore, I have never been emotionally or sexually attracted to a girl. And I suspect that, for many people, that will settle the matter. I am obviously gay, and perhaps you feel I’ve lured you through the last 500 words under false pretenses. I’m a guy exclusively attracted to guys. What could I possibly say to convince you that I am other than gay? Well, let’s continue this whirlwind tour of my sexuality.
The thing is, I have no interest in anal sex. Really, the thought of putting a penis in a butthole doesn’t turn me on at all. I don’t dream about it or fantasize about it in my most private moments. It occupies about the same space among my sexual desires as “straight sex,” which is to say, none at all. It’s not that I’m worried it’ll be uncomfortable or that I’m holding out for the right guy or the right moment. Honestly—and I have no more direct way of expressing this—I have no interest in gay sex. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ve “gone all the way” with a bunch of guys without ever doing anal. This is a problem, because it places me in a no man’s land of sexuality under the prevailing paradigm: I don’t want to have sex with guys or girls. Does that make me asexual? If by asexual you mean an absence of sexual desire, then definitely not. It makes me nothing, an inscrutable entity, it makes me weird and upsets the easy hetero/homo binary in which people paint the world.
That’s all well and good, I hear you say, but he’s still gay in my book—I mean, he’s definitely not straight. But I can’t be properly gay either and not have anal sex, because gay society is curiously divided along another binary: top/bottom. If you are unaware of this phenomenon (I envy you), a bottom is a guy who habitually takes other guys’ penises up his butt, and a top is a guy who penetrates other guys. And you kinda have to be one or the other. You don’t get to choose based on your mood or the time of day or the current astrological phase of Mercury. You can say you’re vers, meaning you can go both ways, but this is a liminal space threatened by the relentless appeal of the nice, neat dichotomy, in much the same way as bisexuality. (You like both? But what do you prefer, if you had to choose?) The point is, I’m unintelligible in this scheme, too. I don’t do anal sex and don’t want to, so I can’t be a top or a bottom. The normal reaction when I tell guys this is confusion bordering on disbelief. Like, literal unwillingness to believe. They cannot understand that I don’t want anal, at least somewhere deep down inside me.
So that’s how we got here. Because there’s something about me that doesn’t fit people’s expectations, something queer about me, and rather than ignore it, I chose to submit a personal exposé of my sexuality for the general public to peruse at its leisure. So now you know my particular sexual idiosyncrasy, but what I don’t want you to do is finish reading this, say to yourself, Well, that all seems awfully complicated, lucky I don’t have to deal with that, and slip right back into your hetero/homo binary. Queerness is not just the cause of queer people; I think we all know the feeling, or at least the anxiety, that our sexual inclinations are not quite normal. So you know the drill: stop stereotyping, stop categorizing, stop labeling. Don’t call me weird for not being straight, but also don’t call me weird for not being properly gay; fuck heteronormativity, but also fuck homonormativity and fuck all the other normativities, I’m over them.