A couple weeks back was National Coming Out Day, where various people are encouraged to come out of the closet with their homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgenderism and to foster dialogue on these issues. I’ve been aware of it the last few years, though this is the first year that people I know took the opportunity. One I had been informed of through backchannels, the other I had no idea. It involves someone I knew in Deseret. The child of a Good Mormon Family who had himself had a falling out with the faith some time ago and left Deseret some time after I did. He has apparently determined that he is, at the core, a she.

I am, broadly speaking, pretty liberal when it comes to sexual identity issues. My views on sexual promiscuity, the sexual revolution, and the family tend more to the center (or maybe slightly to the right), but on the subject of homosexuality and related issues I am (depending on the issue) center-left or hard-left. Not only do I support gay marriage and the like, but I believe they should be held to the same standard (more or less) as heterosexual couples in terms of public displays of affection and public affirmation of their relationships. I part ways with the left in that I believe there is a certain amount of flexibility involved (ie it’s not entirely innate), but there are enough for whom there is no flexibility that I believe it wrong to discriminate against the latter so that we can “win back” those somewhere near the fence. I know that some of you disagree with that, but I needed to go into it a bit for the sake of context for this next part.

My views have historically been belied by my actual experiences with homosexuals. In short, they have generally not been all that good. The ones I knew until the last few years had the tendency to have unrelated (I think) personality traits that gave me an unfavorable impression. My earliest exposure was when I was in high school. It was on the BBSes and involved a guy named Vertigo:

Vertigo was a kid of 14 or 15 when I met him that believed that deep down, everybody is bisexual. For a kid his age, he was remarkably charismatic and manipulative. I’m not sure I’ve seen anybody as adept at manipulation before or since I knew him. His crusade to prove the bisexuality of the world was basically to turn earstwhile straight people bisexual one at a time.

He was remarkably good. He had a really good eye for emotional vulnerability. He got the help of the more attractive people in his arsenal to seduce guys and girls not used to getting much (positive) attention. He took the confusion of puberty and adolescence and worked it for his own benefit. And perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that he didn’t really do all this for his own sexual pleasure. He was perhaps most convincing because he was not trying to seduce them personally. He had romantic partners (male and female – mostly male), but it wasn’t all about him getting laid.

From the perspective of a BBS moderator, he was a real pain the ass. Regardless of sexuality, manipulating 14 year olds is pretty uncool as far as I am concerned. And from a practical perspective, we didn’t want to be the BBS to be a sexspot of any sort, much less for behavior that many parents considered deviant (with many underage users, parental opinion was important to us). Vertigo’s targets were also often insufferable for the same reasons they were amongst Vertigo’s easiest marks: they lacked self-esteem, couldn’t talk about anything but how difficult their life was, and were just drags even for somebody that was as downcast as I often was. There was one that went to my high school that Vertigo asked me to look out for because some kids were giving him a tough time (the poor guy was in ROTC). He was a nice guy, but miserable and misery is contagious.

I knew a couple from my real high school who essentially lived up to every gay stereotype as though they were getting it from a book. I’m not convinced that they were actually gay. My exposure in college and several years beyond had limited exposure to gays and lesbians but a fair amount of exposure to bisexuals. Now, I can’t say that I didn’t like them because I disproportionately dated them and attracted them as platonic friends, but they are among some of my more serious regrets. They were either people desperately in search of an identity or people that used bisexuality (and gothism and paganism) in an effort to pump up their mystique. Not bad people, but often people that were in a place where I wasn’t and thus our time together was wasted (when we dated) or would have been. Complicated further by the fact that I usually saw this first and in one case the other never saw it at all.

I went round and round as to what my experiences actually meant. Are gays abnormally obnoxious? Or is it just the ones that are quickest to let you know that they are gay (or bisexual)? Or for all of my liberal gobblygook talk about tolerance, was I just finding reasons not to like them. Things actually turned around a bit when I was invited to my first gay “wedding” (I use the quotes because gay marriage was not legal in the state in question). It involved a college friend of Clancy’s. The ceremony was… nice. With the exception of the obvious (two mentions of husband, no mention of wife, no mention of “By the power invested in me by the State of…”) it was like any other wedding, except with lots of men holding hands in addition to the heterosexual couples doing the same. It was a nice slice of normalcy that was enough to make me feel comfortable that my previous experiences were actually the product of an incompatibility of one sort or another and not just (entirely) a manifestation of the “ick factor”.

The “ick factor” however, is in full force with me when it comes to transgenderism, transsexuality, and simply transvestitude. I really have no idea why that viscerally and conceptually bugs me in a way that homosexuality does not (especially since one of my favorite movies of all times involves a transsexual). Maybe it’s just the “J” part of my personality that likes things in nice, clean, and distinct categories and this trifecta is a challenge to that. Maybe it’s because the men who cross over so often tend to wear nail polish and other gawdy female things that I don’t like on actual females. Back when I was working at Mindstorm, there was a (him-to-her) cross-dresser of some level that I shared the smoking area with. Took me a while (months, though I only saw her periodically) before I became comfortable with her (and… sigh… I never took a real liking to her, again for unrelated reasons and despite my best efforts and eventual comfort). And then, when I was, another one showed up, and none of the comfort I had built up was transferrable at all. I had to start from scratch, though I left not too long after.

This left me a bit not sure what to do about the friend, who basically announced his conversion in a Facebook message and created a new account to migrate to if you were comfortable with the conversion (he was very respectful of those he knew that wouldn’t keep in touch). To be honest, I wasn’t hugely, hugely surprised. I mean, nobody expects that but if I had been told that one of my acquaintances in Deseret would make such a discovery, he probably would have been near, at, or the only person on the list. This was a guy that I was on good terms with but never overly fond of. To be honest, I often felt uncomfortable around him before. Maybe the discomfort he felt with his male identity was actually the source of that or maybe it’s my gay problem all over again. In any event, this is someone that I would otherwise probably see when she makes his way back to Deseret since I live not far now from where he lived back then. I also realized that given his Mormon background and the like, support could be something that she is in need of, and that she was not the type of person to make grand pronouncements like this merely for attention or to stand out.

Ultimately, I determined that the discomfort is my own problem and immediately added him as a friend. Interestingly enough, the female thing actually works for him. If it weren’t for the adams apple, I’m not sure I would even be able to tell from the picture. And the more I think about it, the more I think “You know, this could explain a lot.” I had the same feeling when I discovered a good friend in high school had come out as gay several years ago (yeah, I held a couple back from the above rundown). After suffering through precal together our junior year, he moved away from his senior year. He came back for prom, though, the date of a smoking hot girl. The whole prom he essentially ignored her in order to hang out with us. I attributed it at the time to seeing people that he hadn’t seen in a while, but even when she got flustered he didn’t really care. I don’t think he knew he was gay at that point, but for him to ignore her he must have been.

There’s one more case I held back. An ex-fling of sorts that I have mentioned here a few times that determined she was a lesbian at some point between then and now. I hold it back because I think it gets its own post and also because I think I am actually somewhat in denial about it.


Category: Coffeehouse

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6 Responses to Outness

  1. web says:

    To be honest, much of the “problem factor” for me regarding homosexuality is what you describe as the “ick factor”, but it gets a bit more personal.

    There is an unavoidable and worse “ick factor” when determining – even when nothing has happened – that one may have been the target of a “Vertigo” type.

    There is a bad-enough ick factor amongst the militant “try it you’ll like it, what are you scared? In the closet?” types.

    And then there’s the “militant” types, such as the ones who insist that you are evil, mean, racist, homophobe, and a dozen other insults if, perchance, you disagree with the notion of sending a bunch of boys in the 10-16-year-old age range out into the woods to go camping with a “Vertigo” type in a leadership position.

    As for the rest, there is a definitive line between harassment, tolerance, and promotion. I don’t see the supreme court decision in Lawrence v. Texas as out-of-line, because quite frankly what people do behind closed doors (so long as they are of age to consent, the acts are consensual, not in violation of other laws against harm, mutilation, abuse, involving illegal substances, abuse of animals, etc) ought to be their own business. At the same time, I’m not for “gay marriage”, because therein crosses the line from tolerance into actual promotion – I have yet to see a good enough argument for extending the tax benefits and other societal benefits is worth the cost of promoting behavior that a vast majority of the population sees as immoral, and the fiscal conservative in me does not accept “well why not” as a valid argument.

    The reasonably frequent studies – none of which are discredited – showing a correlation with homosexual acts and the spread of AIDS also give me pause regarding the idea of anything resembling promotion.

  2. Nanani says:

    It sounds like you’ve been nothing short of exceptionally decent. And that beats tolerance any day.

    Really, it does come down to the individual. If you don’t get along with an indvidual, you just don’t. It’s probably not the gayness. And with such a small group as the trans-gendered, the sample size is going to be far too limited to get a good picture of “the group” for whatever meaning that may have.

    That normalness you describe at the wedding would be nice to see in more places.

  3. stone says:

    Part of me feels like they’re just trying to be difficult. The same way I feel about people with special dietary needs.

  4. rob says:

    Trumwill, what is the “J part” of a personality?

  5. Maria says:

    3.Part of me feels like they’re just trying to be difficult. The same way I feel about people with special dietary needs.

    Yeah, it’s the “Look at me, I’m special” ‘tude which is off-putting.

    4.Trumwill, what is the “J part” of a personality?

    Judgemental, responds this INTJ.

  6. rob says:

    Thanks Maria. I thoughty “imaginary, except it was capitalized, so mayb Jacobian?” Neither of which made much sense.

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