We all remember when we first came out, to ourselves and then to the world. We struggled a lot from the age of nine or ten knowing we were same-sex attracted (SSA). We did not know why we had these deep feelings, but we did. It felt powerful and natural, but we felt different to others and maybe even flawed. But slowly and surely the penny dropped and we accepted we were same-sex attracted. It was a very important understanding that blended all our personal thoughts about life, family, community and the world with our own sexuality. We accepted we were SSA!
Being gay is different. Being gay has a totally different identity understanding than accepting being SSA. I think a lot of men know they are same-sex attracted but don’t want to recognise themselves as gay. ‘Gayness’ has a whole new framework of concepts within it. Accepting ‘gayness’ can now be seen as being part of a club, a community of like-minded individuals, sharing bars, clubs, gyms, music, fashion, body culture, drugs, life attitudes, internet sex, and all the rest.
So some of us might be perfectly happy to explore life knowing we are SSA but not wanting to accept we have a gay identity. I also call the gay identity the ‘homosexual landscape’, and it is something we can either choose to be involved in or not. It is that ‘choice’ that allows us to keep a sense of ourselves as a same-sex attracted individual, rather than just being dragged along unconsciously into the ‘homosexual landscape’.
There is nothing wrong with aspects of having a gay identity; it is just a different semantic understanding about being SSA. For those men who have an adverse and angry response to their own sexual orientation, by hating gayness, they will probably write things like ‘straight acting’, ‘no fems’, ‘no fats’ and other disparaging remarks about cultures. This is bordering on self-loathing and is dangerous country for all men, young or old.
Know the difference in having and accepting a gay identity. You can keep a sense of your own unique individuality with the former and enter and explore the gay identity when you choose. You do not have to give one up for the sake of the other.
The last thing I want to say to men who have an adverse reaction to the gay identity is this: you don’t have to be gay and you don’t have to fight against it to the point of self-loathing. It is perfectly normal for you to love men. It is your choice and others to do gay things if they wish and it is not necessary to write things like ‘straight acting’.
Gerry North is a gay couples counsellor and treats depression, anxiety, sexual identity matters and addictions. Email: [email protected] or www gaycounselling.vpweb.com.au