"What does it mean to be gay?" A seemingly simple question, but one that's not often asked. With Los Angeles Gay Pride starting today, various gay folks have been giving us their answers in a weeklong series
I can't remember the last time I was asked -- or even considered -- the question, "What does it mean to be gay?" I don't really think much about being gay any more. I just am gay. My sexuality is an essential part of who I am, but it doesn't define my existence...
I take it for granted that others know. As a result, I am occasionally surprised when women interpret my friendly interest as a romantic (or sexual) advance. Ever hopeful that men I find attractive will find me attractive, I often forget that woman too can be drawn to me.
After all, most people in our society seek romantic/sexual attachments with members of the opposite sex. It's only natural that then a woman would take an interest in a single man. And when one does, her interest serves to remind me of the difference created by my emotional/sexual orientation and the journey required to find myself where I now stand -- taking that difference for granted.
Unlike our straight peers, gay individuals must distinguish ourselves from the social norm in order to be true to -- and live out -- some of our deepest feelings.
When we come to terms with our longings for same-sex connection, we find we have to differentiate ourselves to a certain degree from those around us. And to avoid that differentiation, sometimes we all (I sure did) attempt to repress that aspect -- our emotional/sexual attraction to those of the same sex -- which makes that differentiation necessary.
Very often, we go through a great struggle just to acknowledge our difference. And even after we have acknowledged -- and accepted -- it, occasionally we continue to wrestle with the moral and ethical ramifications of our emotional/sexual longings for same-sex intimacy.
Finally, however, when we do come to terms with those longings, accept them, embrace them even, we experience in that embrace a certain glow, quite similar to that we feel in a real embrace with a beloved friend or romantic partner. Or that after a wonderful dream. The world feels more alive. We feel more connected to those around us.
When the process starts, when we first sense that we differ from our peers, it's almost as if we are sitting in the back of an auditorium watching a black-and-white movie which tells the story of a life we want to live.
As we become increasingly conscious of our feelings for our own sex and start accepting them, it's as if a force pulls us closer and closer to the screen.
And as we embrace our difference, the grayish shades on screen gradually gain subtle hues of color, becoming increasingly vibrant, more life-like. And soon we are no longer watching the movie. There is no movie. It's life. And we're part of it.
That's what being gay means to me.
Accepting that to find our place in the world, we don't need to conform to those around us. It means being true to ourselves, taking things as they are and seeing the world in all its incredible hues, the light as well as the shadow, the darkness as well as light.
As we come to accept, acknowledge and appreciate our own differences, we also become better able to relate to those of others. Or so we should.
Being gay should allow us to sympathize with any individual who realizes that to beat his own path, he must part company with his peers.
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Being gay thus means more than just accepting our own difference, it also means, well, it should mean, being open to the stories of others - being better able to acknowledge their struggles and better able to appreciate the great variety of human experiences.
Some of us neglect that gift of our difference. We should always remember our own struggles such that those memories, painful though they may be, help us relate to those of others.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.