The “I’m Not Gay” Homosexual

“I’m not gay” homosexuals turn up in my stories from time to time. Readers — especially women (do straight men read my books?) — question how he can be in denial about being gay when he’s having sex with men. Openly gay men know exactly who I’m talking about because these guys hit on us all the time.

The “I’m not gay” homosexual doesn’t deny enjoying sex with men. Misperceptions about “the gay lifestyle” and what it means to be gay blind him to the truth. That he might be gay is just too horrifying to even consider. What would his family say?

Growing up, that I might be gay never occurred to me. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Everyone else knew, but I had no idea.

Why not?

That I’m sometimes a little slow on the uptake is well established and no doubt played a role. But I blame society. Before I could walk or talk, disdain for feminine behavior in boys, including and especially physical attraction to other boys, came through loud and clear.

As far as I knew, nobody in real life, movies, or on television was homosexual. Being queer was the worst thing that could happen to a guy. Sex with another man wasn’t just a sin. The love that dare not speak its name was also a mental illness and against the law. Those who engaged in such behavior were perverts to scorn and ridicule.

Where did those thoughts come from? Religion is only partly to blame for an attitude that pervaded society in the 50s and 60s and persists among some even today. Don’t believe me? Check out this 1961 public service announcement warning against the homosexual predator.

Like every other kid in America anywhere near my age, I grew up believing homosexuals were either drag queens or pedophiles. With no place to put my feelings for other boys, I repressed them, shoving them deep into the recesses of my mind where I didn’t have to think about them.

When I was 21, a friend dragged me kicking and screaming to my first gay bar. I had absolutely no desire to be around a bunch of pervs. But the second I saw handsome young men dancing together — guys I could identify with — I knew.

Coming out opened a floodgate of repressed memories and feelings. Looking back, that I’d always been gay was clear. Undoing twenty years of socialization so I could own the label with pride rather than shame took years — a painful, self-destructive decade I wouldn’t go through again for all the money in the world.

Coming out is easier now. Even so, “I’m not gay” homosexuals are everywhere. My favorite example came on Jerry Springer a few years ago. The guy was sleeping with his son’s best friend, but they weren’t gay or anything like that. Dad and his boyfriend said so, over and over again, freely admitting they loved each other, but unable to say they were gay. Talk about a stigma.

More than anything, I feel sorry for “I’m not gay” homosexuals and the women they marry. I understand the fear and self-loathing lurking beneath their denial. Been there, done that. Dealing with the repercussions from coming out was rough. But living a lie and hating the person inside for the rest of my life would have been worse — a lot worse.

Once the cat was out of the bag, I didn’t feel I had much choice about whether or not to own my gayness. I can’t pretend to be something I’m not. Coming to terms took some time, but once I did, I never looked back. Nearly forty years later, I couldn’t be happier, and I’m proud of myself for having the courage to be me all those years ago.

18 responses to “The “I’m Not Gay” Homosexual”

  1. Gay people even still are unduly burdened and have to crawl out from underneath the rubble of other people’s perceptions of them. Personally, shaking off religious doctrine, other people’s dogma, politics, etc. is so freaking difficult and in this age where its all being challenged, is a little tougher, in my opinion.
    Gay people put up with a lot, from straight men hitting on them, their straight girlfriends/ wives being insecure about their men’s sexuality (been there, over and over and over), and other static that comes our way because of our sexuality and some bullshit that comes right out of the gay community itself. You have to learn to tune them out. Shut them out to get any real sense of self.
    What you describe here is a little different than ‘gay for you’, which is a fantasy a lot of gay men have, but in a reality is not true. If a straight man has sex with a gay man, he is not gay for you, he’s gay for gay and just deeply closeted. Thanks for adding these characters in your books.

    • You’re welcome. I long ago stopped worrying about other peoples’ perceptions. By and large, I think most people would be surprised to see how damn normal we are. Straight colleagues who’ve stayed with me and my partners when they came to town always say something along those lines, and I wonder what the hell they were expecting. Thanks for stopping by, sharing your thoughts, and for re-blogging my post!

  2. A close friend (male) in college way back when was gay. He was terrified of being gay and of being beaten up. It broke my heart. We hung out a lot so he could “look normal”. About 30 years ago he was in a committed, gay relationship and seemed so very happy. I lost touch with him, but he is always in my thoughts. He was a great friend and a great person.

  3. I went through something similar as a teenager. I knew I was attracted to men, but the idea that I might be “gay” was simply impossible. My church taught me that good people couldn’t be gay, and I believed it. I knew I was (basically) a good person and I loved God. Therefore, I must just be “confused” or maybe my faith was being tested. I didn’t discuss this with anyone in my church, of course – I wasn’t insane. I simply prayed a lot.

  4. Reblogged this on Jamie Fessenden's Blog and commented:
    Worth a read. I went through something similar as a teenager. I knew I was attracted to men, but the idea that I might be “gay” was simply impossible. My church taught me that good people couldn’t be gay, and I believed it. Therefore, I must just be “confused” or maybe my faith was being tested. (I didn’t discuss this with anyone in my church, of course – I wasn’t insane. I simply prayed a lot.) But this isn’t a

  5. ……. surprised at How damn normal we are……. Who is to say what’s normal? We are who we are. Glad you are you!

  6. I very much appreciated this essay–being a straight girl who reads way too much and thinks way too much, I always wonder about the veracity of what I’m reading. I draw conclusions based on common sense and a certain understanding of life, but it’s always nice to hear about things from those who really know. I want to read about real people living real lives, so I question what I read. I put down two books today — maybe will never pick them up, because they read like soap operas with very silly people in them. One is insta-attraction, gfy, jump into bed and have amazing sex…yeah right. I guess it can happen, but I’d rather read a slower, more measured, thoughtful story and then sex can happen. Or not. The relationship’s the thing for me. And maybe normal should read instead as “ordinary.” And certainly not in a bad way. Perhaps people are disappointed to find that not all gay folks live like the guys in La Cage aux Folles.
    Anyway, enough late night rambling. Thanks again for an informative, generous post.