Thursday, February 20, 2014

Am I gay enough?

You may remember a couple of weeks ago Sam was talking about going to that make-up party with Brad. He talked about some of his anxieties since Brad said all the guys going were gay. 

Sam explained that he's had very limited experience being around groups of other gay guys and he started worrying about whether he would fit in. He used an expression I hadn't heard before, which I thought captured one of his anxieties perfectly. He wondered if they were going to see him as "gay enough," or as he put it, "Are they going to think I am not gay enough?"

I talked to Sam about wanting to write a post about "identity" and "fitting in" and asked him if I could highlight his question. He said it was perfectly fine and even seemed a little puzzled that I thought his question had any value. (Sam, anything you talk about has value, because you have value.)

But his question got me to thinking about how I felt about all the different identities I carry. I know there's that expression about how useless labels are to some people. We've all probably heard something like, "Why do we even need labels at all? Why can't we all just use 'human being" as the one and only label?" 

Well, I think that's a valid point because it's the one "label" we all have in common. But I think we're a little more complicated than that and I'm beginning to think it does a disservice to our individuality to pretend we're all the same. We're not.

And I like my identity as a "gay man." I actually like how that sets me apart from the vast majority of men. I know that some of my perspective on the world is similar to other men -- regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. But being a gay man gives me one lens to see and experience the world that's different, and I love that lens.

For me it was a very powerful and liberating thing to embrace my identity as a gay man, or gay teen. But believe me, when I was 16 years old and started using this label to publicly identify myself, I didn't have too many role models to help me understand how to be in the world, or how to fit in. How do you make yourself a part of a world where some people think you're disgusting and don't even deserve to exist? And on the other hand, where do you get support and acceptance and encouragement and guidance for being all of who you are?

At age 16 I knew some other gay teens, and I was familiar with some gay TV characters, but I didn't have access to the larger "gay male community" that I could connect with. There was a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in my high school, and I joined that, but all of us were sort of at the beginning of trying to solidify what all that meant.

While I hate Sam had his anxiety, I really like the idea behind his question about whether he will be seen as "gay enough." Because behind that question is a yearning to be seen and accepted and valued for who you are by others just like you.

Last summer I wrote a post about the positive power of labels. I wrote, "Using the label "gay" means I have understood something very essential about myself. And speaking the word "gay" is one way to celebrate something essential about myself."

Sam's question got me to thinking about how important it is for all of us to find our place in the larger world we inhabit. But like Sam was suggesting, it's also important to find our place in the smaller worlds we're part of -- the worlds where we are validated and celebrated by others just like us -- who see the larger world through some of the same lenses we do.

And just for the record, my sweet, sweet Sam, Brad and I feel so lucky to be part of your world and for you to be part of ours. Whether you realize it or not, our world is bigger and brighter because you're there. 

And, yes, you are more than gay enough. 

15 comments:

  1. A wonderfully eloquent and thoughtful post, Matty.

    I think you have the way of it. Labels are only negative when we view them that way. We can certainly use them to empower ourselves. That's not always easy, of course. But there is no doubt you are well on your way.

    Hugs to you, Brad, and Sam. Thanks to the three of you for allowing us to be part of your world.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would like to think as gays, we are kinder, gentler, more empathetic and more sensitive. That we also have a superior purpose, to love other men, rather than to compete with (and often destroy) other men in order to gain sex (with women), power, domination and wealth.

    Of course, like any other generalization or stereotype, that is not true in every case. Not all straight men are insensitive ogres. But the "traditional" culture does send very strong messages that leads people to believe that is so. Also strongly discourages boys from doing anything that could even remotely be interpreted as artistic or feminine.

    Due to those "gay" characteristics, we may lack the machismo that many straight men possess and in general be more expressive of our emotions. But as far as other aspects of our personailities, I believe we are pretty much like everyone else.

    Sam is perfect just the way he is and need not worry if he is gay enough. With the important stuff, he has the exact right values. The fact that he is good enough for Rick is all that matters.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I second Kris' opening statement, Matty. I loved everything you said and the way you said it.

    When I first read that question in Sam's post, I initially thought it amusing because I couldn't imagine a gay person thinking or worrying about something like that. But then I realized, everyone is concerned about fitting in with their common group.

    I am glad you found your way to embracing this part of your identity. You, Bradley and Sam are inspirations to all of us on how to live our lives regardless of our labels. Thank you so very much for sharing these beautiful thoughts. Hugs to the three of you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think you are on point that anything Sam (or anyone else, for that matter) says has value because he and every human being has value. Some just need to be taught that they are loved and valued because they have never had a loving parent teach them how important and perfect and loved they are just because they exist. All children deserve this and too few receive it.

    I personally don't place any importance on labels. They can be hurtful if used inappropriately or important in an individual's self identity when used appropriately. For me they are SELF identifiers. The only one who has the right to label you, Matt, or Sam or anyone else, is you or Sam or the individual applying the label to him or herself. No one else is inside you and know how you see yourself. Any label that they apply to you without living in your skin isn't accurate because only you know what you truly are.

    Gay is gay. Any person who identifies themselves as gay is "gay enough". There are varying degrees of personality, which include how "masculine" of "feminine" the world sees a person, but I don't think there are varying degrees of gay. If you like to have sex with someone who identifies as the same gender as you, that's gay in my eyes. I think using describers like"so" gay or "so not" gay are offensive.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bless. Sam is wonderful just the way he is. Is he gay enough? Of course he is. He is as he is, and he is a gay man. That makes him the perfect and unique rainbow hued boy known as Sam.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sam's quote makes me think of Bein' Green. <3 Kermie <3

    I hope we get to hear about the make-up party. I'd love to know how it went!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fantastic post. Labels are tricky little things, aren't they? As a bisexual woman I've struggled with them myself. Do people think of me as less bi because I'm married to a man? (Yes) Do I believe that about myself? (No) At this point I suppose all I can do is be myself, label myself in a way I feel comfortable, and try to never label anyone else unless they tell me they want it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Why is he asking you Matt? You should have told him to ask his boyfriend :)!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love these thought provoking posts. And Tina's last paragraph is bang on. Label, identifier, whatever - each individual has their preference. It's interesting to me that not only did I not need to come it as het, I've never wondered if I was "het enough" or "too het". I think gay people should have that same freedom. You're gay because you say are.

    I wonder if this is something only LGBT people question? Because they come out to themselves first, then gradually to others I wonder if reactions like "you don't seem gay" are at the core of this? I know that if you asked me for my identifier, het would not be at the top. Matty, I love that you wrote this and you're so sure of where you fit into this world. Thanks for sharing this and giving my brain some exercise. ((Hugs))

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ditto what Mary said, I've never understood the "am I gay enough/ too gay" question. Great post Matt I can't think of anything to add except I love your penquin. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a thought-provoking, insightful post, Matty. Thank you so much for sharing it. Labels, for me, are broad brush strokes. They give the general idea, and that's all they need to do. Therefore, the label 'gay' means just that; gay. Qualifiers such as 'too gay' or 'not gay enough' become meaningless when the concept of labels as broad brush strokes is applied. I also agree with Tina and Mary, that labels are self identifiers and should only have any meaning when applied by yourself, not by other people, because you are the only one living in your skin.

    ReplyDelete
  12. These are subjects that we deal with all the time at ROSMY. With the new 11-13 year olds, 10 of them (!!!!), it is a central issue. If you think at 16 you were trying to figure it out, imagine being 13 and out to your parents. So yeah, labels can mean a lot of things. And the same label can have very positive or very negative connotations. It seems that you have a grip on your labels, and I hope Sam is getting there!

    Peace <3
    Jay

    ReplyDelete
  13. Love the post <3 Pamela

    ReplyDelete
  14. 'anything you talk about has value, because you have value' Matt! What an absolutely perfect thing to say. I want to stick it on a huge banner for every single person in the world to see and hold in their hearts. So wise. Whatever labels you want to own, make sure 'beautiful soul' is one of them. Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  15. To be "validated and celebrated by others just like us". You are so right, Matt, this is what we look for, isn't it? Beautiful post, Matt. And I love your last three sentences to Sam. *hugs*

    ReplyDelete