Tips From A Queer Man About Living Your Most Authentic Life
It’s 2018. The old ways of looking at queer culture are crumbling and fading away. We’re not all the way there yet: there are still plenty of haters out there, and some, well, weird portrayals of queer men and queer culture out there in the media. But the world’s most fabulous alternative lifestyle is giving all that noise a quick up-down, and moving on. Despite the odd stragglers, a lot of true queer culture is getting mainstreamed and a clearer picture of the culture is emerging. LGBT culture is being recognized as creative, devoted, hard-working, hard-playing, courageous, and just utterly fabulous. Ally or enemy, curious or furious, there are a lot of things about gay culture that can help the straight man be way more fabulous. Read on for advice, from gay men to straight men, that will enrich your life, make you more secure, improve your communication, and grow.
Be Your Truest, Most Authentic Self
Be your truest and most authentic self. Many gay men know what it’s like to live a lie, to pretend to be something you’re not, or pretend not to be something you are. For most, the journey out of the closet was a ceaseless uphill struggle against obstacles outside and in. We’ll never forget the time we spent rejecting who we really are, and will never ever go back. And coming out is only half the battle: portrayals in the media, even positive ones, make it difficult to embrace an authentic identity: promiscuous, feminine, educated, creative, loud: these aren’t true of the queer community in general, but, as with many stereotypes, are true of some. How to separate the wheat from the chaff? Easy: Be the definition of yourself, and reject all other definitions.
Be That Self in All Your Relationships
Be your true and authentic self in all your relationships, especially romantic relationships. Most people, gay or straight, give and give early in relationships. That giving is usually returned. But it’s not unusual for one or both of the partners to fall into a role that isn’t authentic, to be a satellite to the other person, and to abandon much of their truest self. Don’t let that happen: it’s destructive to your identity and destructive to your relationship. The healthiest relationships grow and see each partner grow as well. Be sure that you have everything you need in yourself. That’s not to say that a relationship shouldn’t be a source of support and stimulation; just make sure that other other person isn’t rounding out your identity for you, because it won’t really be your identity.
Be Around People Who Care
Be around people who care. About you, obviously, but also about something, anything. Be with warriors, with knife-fighters for what’s right. Be with the fearless, people who have your back not just because they need but because you’re doing what’s right, and so will they. Gay men don’t associate with the apathetic too much. No time for that.
Define Your Relationships
I see this with my straight friends much too often: a relationship that isn’t defined, or where one partner wants something very different from what the other wants. One wants a long-term relationship, the other just wants some one-and-dones. Or neither knows what the other really wants. If it’s just sex, there’s nothing wrong with that. If the idea is to build something that will last and grow, that’s great, too. But you’ve got to be clear, and be kind. Gay men tend to be pretty upfront about what they’re looking for, and it saves a lot of time and grief.
Don’t Lock Anyone Out, Don’t Burn Any Bridges
This doesn’t really apply with haters, but straight men have to deal with them a lot less than gay men. You don’t have to let everyone in–in fact you’re better off not to; but make sure there’s room in your life, even on the surface, for everyone. For gay men, this hasn’t really been a choice: most people are not gay, and even some of our closest friends don’t agree with some parts of our lifestyles. We can cut off very few people without ending up totally homogeneous, or even isolated. And don’t forget that people can change: don’t burn a bridge that someone will want to get back across someday.
Talk to Women Like They’re Friends
The derisive terms for women who are close to gay men come from how threatened straight men can be by those friendships. It doesn’t have to be that way. The reason gay men are so close to straight women is that we don’t distinguish them from our male friends. They’re just friends: we have great laughter, companionship, and support with them. We want to tell them about us and we want to hear about them. I find many straight men struggling to have these kinds of relationships. Don’t focus on the one thing you want: you might not get it. Your chances are better if you actively pursue a friendship.
Swing the Bat
That said, I find many straight men hesitating to talk to women at all. That’s a tough field to cross. Consider this: before a gay man approaches a man they’re interested in, they have to know or guess whether they’re gay or straight. That can be pretty scary. Swing the bat: you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. Chances are she will be polite and kind, willing to talk and learn more about you, and won’t reject you outright unless there’s a really good reason, like a current relationship or a different sexual identity.
Value the Circumstances and People Around You Right Now
It’s okay to strive for more in life, work, and relationships, but don’t lose track of what you do have. You worked hard for it. Many gay men grew up with their very identities at stake, and continue to face the prospects of losing friends and opportunities because of who we are. So we value the friends, the life, the work that we have right now.
Style: Make Some Decisions (or at least look like you have)
Style is intimidating. It can be costly (but doesn’t need to be), and it opens you up to judgment. But making decisions is easy and free. Many of the cultural role models for gay men, plus our mothers and sisters and aunts, have shown us what it’s like to make decisions. So if you’re heading out to a job interview or a matinee of La Boheme with your double-breasted navy suit jacket with the gold buttons, wearing khaki pants, a black belt, and brown shoes, you haven’t made any decisions. If you’re throwing a lavender comforter on the bed in the room with the powder blue walls, you haven’t made any decisions. Design some color schemes and stick with them. Just make it clear that you’ve tried, and haven’t just thrown around whatever is available.
Learn a Little About Food and Wine and Non-Pop Music
It’s a stereotype, for sure: not all gay men are educated, cultured, and refined. But many are. We expose ourselves to new and better things, refine our tastes as much as we can, and strive to learn about the finer things in life. It doesn’t take much effort to slowly introduce a little bit of that kind of finery. It’s really just a lot of very pleasant experimenting. There is so much more to life beyond the boundaries we grow up with.
Beards Yes; Moustaches, Goatees, Sideburns No
Very few men, straight or queer, can make moustaches, goatees, or sideburns work for them. If you don’t know if you are one of them (it’s unlikely), err on the side of caution and try a full beard: it makes up for a lot. A beard can hide blemishes and scars, help to shape your face and define cheekbones, and add a little maturity to even a very young man. Just keep it neat. And clean. Remember, though, that if your partner doesn’t like it, all bets are probably off.
Design Your Life
Don’t settle, and, if you can help it, don’t build your life around your work, relationships, or social connections. It should be the other way around. This is pretty much Life 101 for gay men, who can’t be in a place that rejects them. We do our best to be in situations where we can grow. This includes everything from work to relationships to the part of the world you live in and more. You don’t often find gay men settling for anything, but always making things work for them and fit into their lives.
Develop Positivity and Positive Habits
There’s a lot of noise in being gay, both in person and from the media: the endless stereotypes, even the best-intentioned ones, can drag you down and leave you feeling negative. Gay men try to block it out as much as possible, and straight men should, too. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum: negativity is everywhere. Trying to limit exposure to negative people and situations only goes so far. It’s important to learn to be positive in a negative situation and with negative people. Develop your own positivity about things, and positive habits. Learn to see challenges as opportunities. The positivity you earn this way feels better, goes deeper, and lasts longer than simply cutting negativity out of your life.
It’s getting better now, but there was a time when a gay man was taking a risk every time he stepped outside. Giving in to that kind of fear would have been worse than death. It’s a lesson learned, but not easily: Be intimidated, be anxious, be frightened, be worried, but don’t let those things stop you. Courage is retroactive: you get the bravery to do the crazy-scary thing after you’ve done it. I know it should be other way around, but that’s how it works. Trust me. You’ve just got to be made out of something more than flesh and bone. Something that can’t be broken.
Be Honest with Yourself
Lies are a currency that too many people pay with. Lying can seem inevitable, but it’s not. Learning to accept yourself no matter what society thinks is a key to being an honest person and it’s a step most gay men have had to take at some point. Be honest with yourself in all things. Don’t deceive yourself about who you are, about the people around you, or about what you want. Find the truth and live it fully.
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