This article originally appeared in the Burman University Chronicle. You can read it on page 17 here.
Gay men have it all.
Let me explain myself.
I used to feel that, as a gay man, I never fully fit in. I tend to naturally gravitate towards women for socialization, and I rarely find myself hanging out with a bunch of guys. No matter how much time I spend with my favorite girlfriends, I often don’t feel like “one of the girls.” The same goes for guys—I can sit around with them and roll my eyes at all the sports- and car-related humor for hours, but I usually won’t ever feel like “one of the guys.” This used to leave me feeling alone and without a group to which I belonged, but over the last few years my perspective has changed considerably.
As a kid, long before I was aware of my sexuality, I felt constrained by my expected gender performance. For the newbie, gender performance is a term used to express how people portray and fulfill their expected gender role. Typical masculine gender performance could involve thoroughly competent physical ability, mastering activities such as hunting or carpentry, or automotive know-how. Typical feminine gender performance would involve things such as emotional openness, colorful dress, cleanliness, or perhaps a fruity perfume. This is what we expect from different genders, and I felt constrained by it as a kid. I wanted to sew, but I knew that sewing wasn’t high on the list of boy activities. The same went for my other hobbies at the time, such as gymnastics, drawing, playing my cello, and theatre. These were things I enjoyed and was good at, but because I knew they were not what was expected from me, I felt nervous about pursuing them seriously.
In my second year of high school I finally admitted to myself that I was gay. This had nothing to do with my hobbies, but was simply a long and intense experience of allowing myself to be honest. Once I could be open about my sexuality, I found the previous stress over fulfilling my masculine requirements ease away. I no longer identified with your average guy, but instead saw myself as almost a new, third gender: the gay man. Because people didn’t expect me to act like a “normal guy,” I stopped caring about my gender performance and was liberated to pursue the topics and hobbies that I was passionate about. What resulted was me succeeding at what I was good at instead of scratching by at what I was expected to be good at.
Being gay—or any sexual minority—can give you the freedom to pick and choose what hobbies and skills attract you most, not what is expected of your gender. This freedom, however, should not be restricted to the LGBT. It thrills me to see more straight men and women pursuing careers that are not stereotypically associated with their gender, and I hope more people are beginning to feel free to do what they are naturally good at.
I appreciate and respect the role of gender in our society, but I can’t help and imagine what a world would be like in which people only pursued interests based off of what they’re adept at. I don’t think gender is necessarily confining, and I recognize that gender has done an effective job at helping humans organize society for years. However, the liberty that comes with defining your gender for yourself is exhilarating, and I hope everyone is able to feel that freedom when pursuing their interests. For now, however, it really is a gay man’s world.