02/21/2012 03:57 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The Flake Factor

As a boy I feared coming out because I dreaded (rightly so) that I would be labeled "Gary the Fairy" (it rhymes in some pronunciations); this was before the word "gay" became popularized. Quickly I realized I wasn't "just" gay, because I was attracted to certain females as well as certain males, so I quickly knew I was (for lack of a better word) "bi." Jump ahead a few years and I'm an accidental bi activist -- it just sort of happened -- and voilà, there you are: a flake by definition. That is to say: I didn't conform. Except...

A funny thing happened on the way to continuing to be a bi activist -- actually, two things. One: just as a matter of semantics, "bi" is rather narrow, restrictive, rigid, and conforming; it doesn't seem to take into account attractions for others besides "male" and "female." So I wanted to rebel against "just" being a "bi" activist. And, two: I was getting older, so did I really want to be seen as a (pick your favorites) flighty, inconsequential, anachronistic, "aging" crusader for an (at best) inconsequential "movement" whose impact on the body politic and culture seems to have either been absorbed and assimilated or so off the general radar as to seem meaningless? That is, did I want to be seen as -- or continue to be seen as -- a "flake"?

Part of the logic was this: cute, young things can get away with being flakes because, well, they're cute, young things, and instead of seeming flaky, they are seen as (take your pick) colorful, preciously eccentric, delightful, or dynamic. I was almost never cute (actually, I was obnoxiously whiney, to the point of being irritatingly adolescent, at least to my own ears -- not unlike a lot of NPR reporters these days, but I digress), and I was old when I was born, so I was never a "young" anything. But now I truly was becoming older -- yet still in the business world. Whatever else people might think of me -- the people who hire and keep me employed -- I began to think: hmm, maybe I should finally become more urbane, adult (whatever that means), suave (sigh... that wasn't going to happen), less whiney (or, what-ever!) and in all ways more "legitimate"-sounding. That is to say, if I was going to continue to be a bi activist, I needed to be one that wasn't also seen as a "flake."

But finally, after several tries at this, I realized: hey, the folks who don't countenance bi activism will see me and my ilk as "flakes" no matter what. I could speak as well as Sir John Gielgud or any number of other Shakespearean thesps, and I would still be seen as a flake, not because of my presentation, demeanor, dress, or any other manifestation, but because of my "cause": freedom to pursue relationships regardless of gender.

And, so, at last, I consoled myself that as long as I championed an unpopular cause, I might very well be seen as a "flake," even among those who might otherwise like me. Oh, there's still that old hangup of mine ("You really shouldn't be on a child's crusade for bi inclusion and legitimacy -- it's so age-inappropriate"), the vestiges of wanting to be taken "seriously," and the recurring (if lessened) urge to please and be accepted. But then I look about the social landscape today: inhumanities still abound at home, atrocities still run rampant abroad, demagogues are out on the hustings and might even get elected, personal financial disaster and worse are still running amok -- and I'm afraid that people might think I'm a flake? For supporting individual rights? Really? And that's when I kicked myself and gave myself a stern lecture/pep talk: I'm not the flake; the flakes are the ones who don't support individual freedom and don't respect those who practice it. Conformity has its place -- but rarely should it be in our own personal lives and politics. That's not being flaky. That's being free.