When I was growing up, I thought every single person was intrinsically similar. People who dressed a certain way, or act a certain way, must automatically mean that they’re *insert type of person*.
Boy was I completely wrong.
Being gay has further helped me realize the deep divide of stereotypes, and, in particular, how much in some cases they can hurt. There’s the common ones of being fashionable, worshipping Beyonce, loving Starbucks, and so on. And then there’s the deeper ones of people assuming you’re a slut, that you have sex with anything that moves, you’re in love with every single guy, and so on.
And those, too, are severely incorrect.
But the sad thing is that so many people are extremely close-minded when it comes to differentiating between people. With two heterosexual guys, one can love sports and the other can hate it. Okay, people are able to comprehend that. But with two gay guys, the thought of one of them liking something other than pop music isn’t something a lot of people realize is possible, because regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, and so on, every single person is unique.
But the assumptions are still commonplace. People hold you to a certain standard without bothering to get to know you first, and those standards are more than often what prevent you from becoming friends with them, from them talking to you, and so on.
Have I done this to other people? Yes, I have, and it’s not something I’m particularly proud of. It takes a heavy bit of thinking to not readily judge someone without at least talking to them first.
Prior to my coming-out, I also assumed gay guys were the same. The lisp, the voice, even the look, all of that was what I thought were unchangeable. But making my anon account was probably one of the best decisions of my life, one of the many reasons being that it’s helped me realize how every single gay guy is different and has their own set of interests.
Here’s the plot twist, folks. Yes, there are gay guys who love sports. Yes, not every gay guy worships Beyonce. Yes, not every gay guy loves Starbucks (or in my case, has even had it). They exist. They’re out there. There is no universal standard we’re held to, or even should be in the first place. And anyone who tries to or believes we should be a certain way is not someone that needs to be in our life. When you begin to put people into categories and boxes, you miss out on the potential to actually get to know them, or figure out why they are the way they are.
Sometime last year, I was hanging out with one of my roommates and one of his friends, both of which are straight. His friend, who coincidentally doesn’t live that far from my house, is the type of guy that’s…I guess you could say weary of gay guys. Not in the sense that he hates them or anything, but rather, he’s not the type that appreciates anything viewed even remotely as trying to hit on him, which I can completely understand. He, though not directly, brought up another, major valid point of how so many gay guys covet and desire straight guys and attempt to have them for themselves, which is the least-constructive thing out there. Wanting someone who will never have the same feelings as you is a one-way ticket to self-destruction and unneeded stress, and it doesn’t put you, and gays in general, in the best light. If someone attempted to win you over that you knew you would never have the same feelings for, it wouldn’t be all that fantastic being on the receiving end.
The heart may want what it wants, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best thing for you.
He was, however, cool with me, because I didn’t shove my sexuality in his face or force myself on him or any of that. I will say he’s a pretty attractive guy, but that doesn’t mean I spend my time dreaming about him. One question he asked me was an interesting yet common one: How do I know I’m gay if I’ve never been with a girl?
In some cases, it’s a pretty valid question, because I’ve never been with a girl (much less anyone). Although in that sense I can’t know for sure if I’m 100% gay, I definitely know a thing or two about the people I’m interested in, and all of them have turned out to be guys, so I’m pretty positive that guys are the only people I’m attracted to. Still, it’s just the same if I had asked him. He wouldn’t necessarily have to be with a guy to know if he’s only attracted to women.
Another of my favorites going off of that is that gay guys cannot have straight guys as friends. This is completely untrue. My three roommates last year knew I was gay, but didn’t care in the slightest. I didn’t have to hide anything from them. They didn’t have to feel awkward around me. One of their good friends also knew I was gay, and he was a cool guy to hang out with. Did it matter he usually talked about sports and whatnot? No, because he chose to accept me, as did my roommates. I haven’t seen them in awhile, yes. We’ve kind of drifted apart. But those are for reasons beyond my sexuality. The thing that tied me to them was our mutual love of video games. There was no pressure to try and avoid certain subjects or worry about whether talking about *insert topic* would be a bad idea. When you have things in common with someone, you can definitely overlook various other details that may drive you two apart.
Stereotypes and assumptions are always out there, no matter where you look. Some people fear and hate what isn’t normal, and are scared of those that are different. But the crucial thing is that every single person is different. I’m actually glad I don’t fit what most consider to be the typical gay stereotype. I can listen to whatever music I want and not worry about people judging me for it. I can dress however I want without being concerned over what people think of me. I can enjoy alcohol now and then without the side comments from people who assume I’m a hardcore, alcoholic drunk, which I’m not.
It all depends on how much you get to know someone, because what may seem apparent on the outside may not in fact be how it is on the inside. And how willing you are to dig deep and find those kind of answers is one of the many things that defines what kind of person you are.
Most of all, not allowing yourself to be pressured into what the typical stereotype is for whoever you are is just as important, because just the same as I believe you should be free to love who you love, you should also be free to be exactly whoever you are. Nobody should act a certain way or believe a certain way. What’s important is whatever you’re doing with your life to make yourself happy. Anything less than that is doing yourself a very great disservice.
I only wish I fully realized all that sooner.
Something not a significant number of people know about me is that, back in my freshman year of high school, I was dangerously close to committing suicide. People now probably would be second-guessing themselves with how much I love making people laugh and dropping as many puns as possible, but it happened. Going into high school, I felt like I was on the outskirts of everything, struggling to reclaim a social life I lost going into middle school.
And the one thing I had, the only thing I had, was myself. Just me and my music. And by listening to music, through tales of other people struggling, I learned that I definitely wasn’t the only one, and, more importantly, I could pull through this. I came so close to killing myself, but I never actually did, because I found the will to live more inviting than the will to not at all.
A significant portion of my strength came from my involvement in my high school’s band program. I was in the percussion section, playing the xylophone, marimba, and whatnot during the marching season as part of the pit, and then general percussion stuff during the concert season. Through all the amazing people I met through band, that’s what kept me going. For one of those rare times in my life, I had friends. I felt like I belonged to something.
A song that reminds me of that struggle, and of those people, is 100 Years by Five for Fighting. Every year at band camp, we would have a dance, which was actually really fun. Towards the end of the hoedown, that year’s graduating seniors would each get a chance at the mic to recall fond stories of band, their friendships, and everything in-between as the remainder of us would form in a circle, swaying back and forth to a meaningful song (also chosen by the seniors) playing in the background. My senior year, our song was the aforementioned, so it holds a special meaning.
Every year since, on the eve of my birthday, I listen to that song alone, by myself, in the dark if at all possible, and think, for just a moment, on where my life is heading. How far I’ve come. Who I’ve met. And I can honestly say now, on my birthday once again, that I’m beyond thankful I didn’t kill myself back then. I’ve made some huge steps in regaining my confidence. I’ve met some amazing people, both online and offline. And despite my wish that a few things were different, I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Everyone has their stories. People can make assumptions. But you never really know about someone until you take the time to get to know them and see what’s on the inside.