In my sophomore year of college, one of my roommates came out as gay. It took some time as he struggled with everything that comes with being out to society, but unfortunately for him, some members of our little circle are intrusive by nature. The discovery of Playgirl magazines finally tipped us all off, after his joining the university Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Alliance (I think T’s were tacked on in later years), pink shorts, and having a boyfriend failed. I never said we were collection of junior Sherlock’s. I found this process incredibly threatening.
If you read some of my earlier posts, you are aware that I struggled long and hard not to be me, and often won for even years at a time. In college, with roommates, it was almost impossible to dress and the lull by necessity looked like a cure for my condition. I would try many such cures in subsequent years, but that is a story for another day. When my roommate was sexually ambiguous, I felt a little uncomfortable around him. When he was full blown out, and quite flaming at the time, my alarm bells were going off big time. Young and ignorant, I had no idea that trans and gay were different things. One cause of alarm then was that although he was gay, as I suspected I might be, he also exhibited behavior and tendencies that didn’t quite match up to my own self identity. This was confusing and produced big old bucket loads of anxiety.
My anxiety came out in unfortunate ways. I always had a bit of a blushing issue with LGBT issues, but it had never actually been a problem. After my roommate came out, I had my first big “episode”. I was taking a poetry class where the professor had us all sit in a giant circle to facilitate everyone seeing each other. I detested this arrangement, but loved the class and didn’t drop. One morning he launched into a discussion about Walt Whitman being secretly gay. I felt my face begin to flush, triggering profound panic, which led to exacerbated sweating. I was certain everyone was looking at me, and remained seated to avoid drawing further attention to myself. After that class a girl I had a small crush on suddenly became much more chummy and stopped with the constant references to her boyfriend every time we talked. I was no rocket scientist, but had a really good idea what that meant.
It got worse, leading to some real problems. Come to think of it, I’m amazed I graduated at all. I took a Psychology of Sexuality class and determined I would suffer though. I hid in the back corner where I could blush my prudish flushes in relative anonymity. When we started the chapter on gay and transgender issues I was unable to force myself to go and never returned to the class. Hooray for my only incomplete! Then it happened again in late spring when I was applying to be a Resident Advisor to score a single room, rent free. It was a group interview and sure enough, the question came up “how would you advise someone complaining of a gay roommate?” They had to be kidding me. My face turned as red as a Looney Tunes character who just ate a hot tamale, and my Secret was neither strong enough for a man or woman that day. Needless to day, I didn’t get the job.
It was time to explore this gay thing just a little bit more. My now former roommate liked to frequent the area gay friendly clubs like Underground, Cathode Ray and the long gone Buddies, and we took to going with him. I needed to get a better feel, as it occurred to me maybe my experience was “normal gay” and he was an outlier of some sort. I was comfortable enough going; at least these were people I didn’t worry about blushing in front of. If they thought I was gay, all the better. I didn’t get hit on much, although I once had a guy chat me up for a while and finally tell me I had beautiful eyes. I thought it was sweet, but it didn’t do anything for me. Apparently I wasn’t a gay man, so what the hell was I supposed to be anyway?
It took me a number of years to come up with the right answer, in spite of all signs that seem really, really obvious in hindsight. For all the tortuous freak outs his presence caused me, I’m very grateful for the experiences that helped move me forward toward an answer, even if it took a really, really long time. Since then we have stayed in touch more or less, and he has been immensely supportive since I came out, even though I was kind of an asshole back in day, super gluing spare change to his dresser and whatnot. I could not be more grateful that he let it go.
… OK, I just realized he might read this, so… by “big” I do not mean out of shape. In fact, he has better legs than I do. Seriously, he’s a “too bad he’s gay” gay. 🙂