Seriously. I’m 21 years old, and I’ve been out since I was 14. I’ve known stereotyping for as long as I can remember, and, generally, I’m over it. I will say that it’s certainly diminished in frequency and severity since I was in high school, but ultimately it’s just something I learned to ignore/deal with. Being gay is such a catch 22, in that I have always, as long as I can remember, had such impeding awkwardness and general discomfort talking to men, heterosexual or otherwise. This is predominantly so in the workplace, which is where (let’s face it) I have 99.9% of my social interactions. It’s herein that the problem lies: because I grew up in a time during which the general, “hetero,” male population “feared” gay men (either due to general insecurities or the belief that every gay man wanted to convert or seduce them), I’ve always trained myself to ensure that I don’t convey that hetero-stereotypical vibe as a defense mechanism to evade degradation and/or confrontation. Because of this, I find myself disturbingly aware of any and all conversation/communication with any man, every single time.
Does he think I’m flirting with him? I hope I’m not coming off too gay. Does my facial expression differ too much from the male norm? Is he weirded out by our interaction?
Every. Single. Time.
I just… Okay, so, in my social interactions (with anybody) I’m an incredibly confident, optimistic person (I am, for the most part). People at work know I’m gay…again, for the most part. I don’t parade it around, but at the same time I certainly have no reservation in hiding it. Realistically, though, when you’re working in a corporate office housing several thousand people, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s, there’s not many gay men who feel comfortable with having their sexuality known in the workplace.
But when a male manager or peer talks to me, I always alter myself (speaking in a lower, quieter tone, speaking slowly, not using my hands much when I talk) to ensure that they are comfortable in their interaction(s) with me.
This takes another turn when it comes to a point where I find myself romantically interested in someone at work. Because he (hypothetical guy) is doing the same thing: making sure he doesn’t come off gay and offend. It’s work. You can’t just ask someone if they’re gay. I was recently interested in a guy at work, and I’m 90% positive that there was a spark between us that was more than just friendship. But there was really nothing I could do to pursue him, nor he me. He very well could have been gay, and could have been interested. But had I advanced, and he weren’t, the consequences would have far outweighed the advantages.
I just feel stuck.
Maybe it’s an Arizona thing.
Maybe it’s a sign that there needs to be some discreet, homosexual mating call that isn’t too farfetched.
…but maybe at the same time, it’s a sign that I’m not as comfortable in my own skin as I should be.