If I Could Choose, Str8 or Gay, What Would It Be?
I don’t think any post on my Facebook page pulled as many thought provoking responses as my video blog that posed the question: “If you could choose gay or str8, knowing what you know today about gay life, what would you choose?”
While most of you were firm about choosing gay, there were those who pointed out that in a world dominated by str8’s, being hetero is just easier and poses far less obstacles personally and professionally, and there were some who regretted not having children which just a few decades ago would be unheard of if you led a gay lifestyle.
When I was young growing up in the age before dinosaurs, I fell for the Freudian crap about dominating mothers and submissive fathers as the causative agent for getting hard-ons for men, and though my parents largely fit that mold, I realized, as I grew older and the research validated my own opinion, being gay is a genetic roll of the dice. Sure, family dynamics, peer ties, religious upbringings, even where and when you grew up can re-enforce or suppress sexual orientation – that’s why you got some str8 married guys with three kids looking for gay guys on the down low to fuck ‘em – but the elemental foundation for what we like sexually and emotionally is in our DNA.
So be it.
But how you would answer a question as I posed is, to some degree, generational. Even after Gay Liberation hit the deck forty years ago, if you knew in your heart and soul you liked men, not women, and, very important, did not want to deny yourself that part of your identity, you often had to choose, as Robert Frost put it, “the road not taken,” which, not always, but often meant compartmentalizing your life, often closeted at work and/or with family or str8 friends, cultivating a tight secret network of fellow brothers, sometimes leading a double life with a wife and kids, or blowing the hinges off the closet door and waiting for the shit to hit the fan. Which it usually did.
But an urban Millennial gay guy or one growing up in the upscale burbs, a twenty or thirtysomething, would probably respond, “Hey, what’s the problem, bro?” where today’s veneer of acceptance makes everything seem cool. Hell, there’s even members of the Pan Sexual Generation who have gay friends and str8 friends and gay lovers and str8 lovers and have no hang-ups or feel compelled to choose one side of the fence or the other.
All that aside, we can’t be that dumb not to realize discrimination and actual hatred against gays still, and will probably continue to exist everywhere (isn’t that always the way when somebody’s different? – or better put, threatening?). It’s particularly pronounced in working class Small Town, America, where the gay star high school quarterback even today ends up marrying his naïve or “I’ll change him” high school sweetheart, and the class “fairy” is bullied and tortured til he can get out of town and live in some urban gay ghetto.
(As I’ve said before, I think our growing acceptance is based not just on our numbers and perhaps changing social views, but on our discretionary spending – “liking” us just makes good business sense, from two guys buying a house together to having – fuck! – a wedding reception – cha-ching, cha-ching!)
Unlike many gay guys of my Baby Boom generation, I was never pressured by parents or ethnicity to marry when I was young, and I pretty much led a quiet, uneventful life as a solo gay guy and later a partnered one. In fact, neither my folks nor his folks when both were still alive ever questioned what was going on between us, and to this day, I am not just accepted but genuinely liked by G’s adult niece and nephew as he is by my sister and her hubby. We also realize not everyone in our shoes has been that lucky.
Yet yes, there were times I wish I had had kids, feeling like an outsider when I saw those who did, and yes, there were times in my closeted career, successful as it was, that I wondered if some gay glass ceiling where a spouse counted as much as brains stopped me from going further, or how I felt awkward when I went to job-related social functions stag, surrounded by stodgy str8 couples (a few of whom I knew were fuckin’ around on the side). As much as loved loving men, I questioned at times whether I should have settled for porn and followed the str8 script (marry by 25, 2.3 kids by 30).
I’ll never forget how a confidant at work, Charlie, brilliant but openly gay, was passed over for the Corporate Operating Officer’s position in our Catholic healthcare system solely because the Archbishop publicly said he didn’t want a “queer” running their hospital. Five years later, under “good old boy” str8 leadership, we were bankrupt.
And certainly, many if not most gay guys, by happenstance or choice, end up alone in old age, without the benefit
of a partner, spouse – or kids.
Okay, but now let’s take the “Leave it to Beaver/Father Knows Best” glasses off, shall we?
Sixty percent of American marriages end in divorce, and there are plenty of str8’s who “did the right thing” who are still left alone, widowed or divorced, and whose grown kids live on the other side of the country and are just waiting for the will to be read. Sure it’s great to have adult children to rely on later in life, and there are many who have been blessed with that plus. But there are also str8’s whose offspring were nothing but nightmares, either walking medical dictionaries or unrehabitable losers. Or worse.
And there are also a lot of gay men, not just of my generation, who cave into family or peer pressures, or think they can just “work things out,’ marry, then find themselves supremely frustrated and miserable. If they ultimately choose divorce as an out, the kids they thought would be understanding ostracize them and the wronged wives take them to the cleaners.
Sure, there’s a lot wrong with the stereotypical gay lifestyle that some of us lead by default or choice: its overemphasis on sex and physicality and superficiality. But hell, aren’t str8’s just as guilty?
And if you divorce the glitz from the real, isn’t all we want is to feel comfortable in our own skin with someone who feels comfortable with us? And if that’s a guy, however you define your guy, and not a gal, life is too short not to seek that.
Given all those pluses and minuses about gay and str8 life, let’s return to my question.
If I were thirteen again and knowing everything I know about gay – and str8 – life that I do today, and I walked into that voting booth to choose my sexual orientation, what would I choose?
Str8, of course, simply because it’s the path of least resistance. It’s got a script. Gay life is free fall.
But just then, as my finger was on the voting leaver, and I felt a tinge adventurous, well…
I might even write-in “bi.”
After all, why not have your cake AND eat it too?