Last week for the first time I caused the breakup of a relationship that wasn’t my own.
Well, that might not be true. It was the first one I was aware of. Who knew how many times my inappropriate comments, questionable dance moves, or roadie-like fandom of Cinnabon had strained the relationships around me? My money was on five, minimum.
But shockingly this was for none of those reasons. It was for being gay, or rather “too gay.”
The offended party’s name was Jason. I didn’t know his last name, but I presumed it wasn’t Derulo because I figured he would’ve entered every room with some slightly different, though always autotuned version of “It’s Jason Derulo,” followed immediately by an ominous, unidentified voice proclaiming, “Belluca Heights.”
I was never Jason (not Derulo)’s biggest fan.
Jason was the equivalent of a jar of mayonnaise. I hated mayonnaise, but I could understand hypothetically how one wouldn’t mind occasionally incorporating mayo into a meal—as long as there were other ingredients. But what I couldn’t fathom was why anyone would want to eat and hang out with a jar of mayonnaise by itself? It was so dull. It couldn’t even hold a conversation unless you were both drunk.
For the past couple of months, my best friend Shannon had been spending a lot of time alone with said jar of mayonnaise. On-again, off-again for six months. Within two weeks of being relationship-official, they were already broken-up. Such was the dating life of a 21st century girl.
After the initial sadness wore off, we had now entered the self-loathing phase during which the friend realizes how horrible the significant other was and begins to berate herself over her love-blindness.
“I feel so stupid. Like I’m making the same mistakes again and again,” Shannon bemoaned as we sat in a bar following a day of drinking. “He never cared about me.”
I tried to tipsily console her. “No. Stop it. He was very nice at the beginning. Don’t beat yourself up.”
She stayed quiet for a while, but then looked back at me.
“You don’t know everything. He’s not a good guy.”
Yikes. I already didn’t like him. I was just trying to pretend he had redeemable qualities. What else was this dark, twisted human hiding that would shatter my already-wrecked foundational perception of him—bodies in the basement, a still-active MySpace account, a vinyl Nickelback album? The potential horrors were endless.
“One of the things we fought about most was you.”
Shannon said, “He wouldn’t come to things if you were going to be there. He said it made him so uncomfortable to be around someone so flamboyant…I couldn’t let you defend him without you knowing that.”
Two years after coming out, information like this could still devastate me.
Through my teary eyes, I wondered if I really was “too much” and needed to reign things in so as not to offset other people.
Shannon continued, “Yeah, it was disgusting. He kept saying he had gay friends that he was comfortable around because they acted straight. You acting feminine and flamboyant made him not want to come hang with us most weekends.”
A well-educated, self-proclaimed “non-homophobic,” Boston-based 37-year-old businessman could still miss the point. I guess the mayonnaise was actually spiked with arsenic.
It turned out Shannon and Jason had fought about me on the day they broke up.
As Pride month begins, it’s important to take stock in the progress as a culture that we’ve made towards acceptance of LGBT individuals. But if folks like Jason believe that support in the ideological sense for gay marriage and comfort with gay people who fit traditional gender types is the end goal, they are sadly mistaken.
The reason I immediately felt like shit when Shannon told me was that I wondered if I should’ve said a few less “yasss kweens” while drunk or danced a little less vigorously to Taylor Swift when “Shake It Off” came on in the club. Maybe then Jason and Shannon wouldn’t have fought. Maybe they’d be together and maybe I wouldn’t be a problem. Why couldn’t I just be “normal?”
But it didn’t take long to realize how misguided and unnecessary that train of thought was.
Nobody asks why stereotypically straight guys like to sit on the couch so much and talk about sports, or grab their crotch, or drink shitty beer. Those are unquestioned facets of their personalities and personal choices. But the LGBT community is not always allocated the same dignity and respect when it comes to freedom of expression. We face a bit more scrutiny because we’re already coloring outside the lines so why do we have to push the boundaries even further?
I’ve heard this logic before when I came out a few years back. Someone said, “Okay, no problem, man. As long as I don’t see you dressed in pink boas at the next pride parade, cause then I’m gonna be making fun of you.”
It’s okay to be gay just don’t act “gay.” I’ll support your gay marriage, but don’t act fuckin’ weird.
If someone dresses in drag or leather or glitter, how does that impact your existence? It doesn’t, or it shouldn’t, unless it triggers deep-seated insecurities and internal concerns about your own life, sexuality, and self-expression. Homosexuality isn’t contagious, but subtle bigotry is.
Pride month is about acceptance, and the focus should remain on the LGBT community. However, I encourage all straight folk to accept themselves and feel more secure in their own identities. Maybe if they did, they wouldn’t need to judge us to feel better about themselves. They might realize our choices have no impact on theirs and prejudice might become less frequent, more Shannons in the world and less Jasons.