Let’s talk about the G of the acronym LGBTQI+.
I’ve regularly asked people what they think of when they think of gay men. I’ve heard “Anal sex”, “Faggots” and a fair bit of mocking apparently referring to their “friends”, but very few people have been able to give me any kind of relevant insight.
What does it actually mean to be “gay”?
Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual. The term was originally used to describe someone as “carefree”, “happy”, or “bright and showy”. Are gay men actually always so carefree, happy and showy?
I talked to Richard, a 45 year old sound technician. A tough, confident man with a beard and a love of metal music.
At first you’d never think twice about his identity as a straight male. Nevertheless he came out of the closet as a gay man when he was 17 years old. His first time coming out wasn’t taken particularly seriously; even his mother thought it was just a phase.
That same year, he got hit by a drunk driver and became a paraplegic, suddenly having a disabled identity to deal with as well as his gay one. Because of the changes in his life his mental health worsened and he eventually got diagnosed with ADHD and symptoms of Borderline personality disorder.
During and after his recovery he struggled with his feelings and attraction towards women. The lines between sexuality, friendship and intimacy blurred.
Were these feelings true? Was his mother right? Was it just a phase?
Another unfortunate accident happened when Richard was 30. He fell from some scaffolding at work, shattering his left leg and eventually leading to his new role as a sound technician.
A year later he had grown tired of being closeted by his surroundings and decided to take a different approach. Richard decided to be overly open; visiting gay websites and leaving it on display, dating stereotype feminine gay men and bringing a boyfriend home for the first time.
His boyfriend at that time was an androgynous model, Mitchell, who he invited to a metal show where he had to do the sound. Backstage, Richard kissed Mitchell, thinking nobody could see them…
The band stopped playing and the performers and audience all looked at them. Richard was afraid that they’d all be so angry. Against all odds the lead singer congratulated him, thought it was awesome and invited them personally to attend the afterparty.
For Richard, ‘gay’ did eventually mean homosexual AND carefree, but the fight for that identity took many years to come to fruition.