I tried to live a heteronormative life. I really did.
Because I genuinely find women beautiful, I told myself I could date them and be happy. While I did harbor feelings, my first true love was actually with a man. (I know I would have taken a bullet for that man in a heartbeat.) Nothing I felt previously for any woman even came close to what I felt for that man, and the comparison revealed to me how in denial I had been all those years.
Gay people do not make the choice to love the same sex. Could we choose to be with the opposite sex? Absolutely. Many of us do. I certainly have. But we can’t quench our true desires. We can choose to silence them, which may help us assimilate into society, but at what cost?
The cost of personal happiness.
When I finally came out, I realized just how many preconceived notions of gay people there are. So, while I’m only one gay man, I can safely say these are three things I feel you should know about gay people.
1. We’re normal! I know, it’s mind-boggling! To emphasize my point, let me describe my daily life to you. I have two (biological) daughters, and together with my partner, we live in Indiana. We’ve got the big yard, house, and everything! I’ve cultivated a successful business career, and every day after I take my girls to school, I go to work. My days consist of meetings, phone calls, and spreadsheets. Then I come home to have dinner with my family.
To most, our lives may seem boring. The “flamboyant” gay man we all are used to seeing on television and at Pride parades is a caricature. While there are certainly flamboyant gay men out there, there is a vast spectrum of gayness. Because I rarely lead with my sexuality, as soon as I mention my daughters, people assume I have a wife. When they learn I have a male partner, they wrongly assume we adopted them. These assumptions are ignorant at best and harmful at worst. We are normal human beings; please treat us that way, not as a novelty.
2. We do not affect your life. I’m a big believer in staying in your lane — personally and professionally. Everyone is entitled to their opinions about all topics, but if your opinion is not based in fact, or if it’s a negative opinion about a topic that doesn’t impact your life at all, you don’t need to tell us. Friends of ours had major issues with gay marriage. Because of their religion, they staunchly believed that a marriage should be between a man and a woman and made their opinions loudly known. Now I’m sure you’re thinking: why would we be friends with them if they don’t support gay marriage? Well, like I’ve said before, I’m not here to judge. Their beliefs are theirs, and I 100 percent understand how religion can affect your belief system (just read my prior blogs). When gay marriage was legalized, I let them know I would be returning to our conversation in a few years to ask how gay marriage had impacted their lives.
Recently, I did just that. I asked them how gay marriage has impacted their lives. They conceded that it hadn’t. Well, of course it hasn’t! Gay marriage has nothing to do with them. If it doesn’t impact you, yet you still have something negative to say about it, I urge you to take a step back and reflect on what you really object to. The thing you’re objecting to likely doesn’t even impact your life, but your strong opinion may impact others. Words matter. Share value, not needless hate.
3. We can be religious. Listen, I know I’m a walking contradiction when it comes to religion. As humans, though, aren’t we all walking contradictions? At the end of the day, I believe in God, and that trumps what the church says about my sexuality, because theoretically, since I believe in God and God created mankind (including me), then I was made this way on purpose. Besides that, I have found community and solace in my Catholic communities, like when a parent complained about having a gay family at our Catholic school and the principal stood up for us by firmly letting her know that if she had a problem with it, she could leave the school. In that moment and in many others, I felt supported and valued by the community I’ve created for myself and my family. You see, what my religion taught me was to love everyone and treat others as I would want to be treated…and that is what I do.
This isn’t a plea to anyone to become religious. I couldn’t care less about your religious beliefs. I am, however, letting you know that there isn’t one right way to be gay. There are gay people in your business, in your church, and in your communities. We are just trying to live our lives too.
If we do choose to live our truth at the cost of acceptance, we’d better develop a pretty thick skin in order to survive and hopefully thrive in this society. There are so many misconceptions surrounding gayness. The danger in this reality is when people who are afraid of all the misconceptions that come with being gay in this society make the choice to lead a dishonest life. This breaks my heart. I know, because I used to be there.
To many, leading a dishonest life feels easier than ostracization. But at what cost? As humans, we can only live an inauthentic life for so long before we combust. If you are gay and looking for community, I promise — there are communities that exist for people like us. You have to learn to love and accept who you are. Be you, because the world needs people like you. Don’t let someone else dictate who you should be. It’s easy in society to fall prey to what everybody else thinks, but you shouldn’t.
If you aren’t gay and find yourself falling prey to these kinds of misconceptions, I urge you to check your assumptions at the door so this can become a more inviting world — for all of us.
There’s room for everyone.