Like most gay boys, I went through a period of prolonged confusion during adolescence. I would hook up with girls and try be one of the boys but neither felt right. What troubled me the most was that I didn’t fit perfectly within the gay stereotypes by which I was measuring my own sexuality. Constantly I would debate back and forth as to whether or not I was actually gay. My process went something like this:
I love acting which means I’m gay but Brad Pitt is an actor and he’s not gay.
I play right-mid on the school soccer team and I’m on the swim team which means I’m straight. Gay guys don’t like sports.
I think about other boys on the swim team which means I’m gay but everyone has feelings about the same sex at one point in their lives. Right?
I like fashion but I don’t wear tight shirts or short shorts.
At the time the only gay men that I had access to were those on television; the men of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, Stanford from “Sex and the City” and that hairy guy who won the first season of Survivor. But I couldn’t relate to any of these men. There was nobody to look up to. I had no gay role models.
In the ’90s the limited gay characters that were portrayed in movies and television always seemed to fit similar molds; the flamboyant and fabulous gay, the bitchy gay, the promiscuous gay, the confused gay or the gay dying from AIDS. There were no positive examples of well rounded, happy gays who just got on with their lives. I never wanted to be like of any of these men nor could I relate to any of them which made my process of self acceptance that little bit more difficult. Beyond the movies there were no gay figures in pop music, business, politics or sport (other than Ian Roberts) or at least none that were actively discussing their sexuality.
Now is the time for the positive gay role model. I believe it is the duty of my generation to show the next generation of young men, struggling with their sexuality, how to be well rounded gay men in the modern world. I am grateful for the generations of men who came before me who fought for gay rights but the next fight wont be political or social but personal. It will be an internal fight. We will need to ask ourselves “now that I have rights, now that the stigma around homosexuality has been somewhat lifted, what does it mean to me to be a gay man?”.
We need as many role models as possible to lead this fight so that young gay boys have positive examples of homosexuality, men from whom they can learn so that eventually there will be less and less boys struggling with their sexuality.
Who are gay men that you look up to?
Photo Credit: Judgment Day by Troy Dunham & Jeff Eason