The other day my friend and I were talking about the ridiculous notion that being gay is a choice rather than a biological disposition. He asked, "What man would choose to be gay? Being straight is so much easier!"
I thought about it for a moment. Is it? Knowing what I know now, I realized that if we did get to pick the team for which to play, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the team that I am on now.
When you're gay, you're like an outsider from day one, before you admit it to the world or even to yourself. You are outside society, looking in, and that particular vantage point is not to be dismissed. It changes your outlook on everything. You don't buy the party line. You question convention. You're allowed to react instead of being the stoic straight guy.
You accept all the shades of gray in society with little to no judgment, because you know that most societal misconceptions are just that: misconceptions.
When I was younger, growing up on the farm, it was assumed that I would get married shortly after high school, take over the farm from my father, move into one of the houses on the farm, and have kids to help me on the farm, and that would be that.
Once I came out of the closet to my parents, those expectations died a very quick death.
Suddenly I no longer experienced pressure to buy into the "American dream." There were no expectations for me to get married, have 2.5 kids, and support my family. I didn't have to follow all the rules society imposes on straight guys.
Yes, there was bullying and name calling. But that gave me a thick skin and a talent for enduring conflict. I also realized very early on that the taunts were more about the bullies than about me. In fact, I wondered whether it was possible that these bullies were actually, in a subconscious way, envious that I could opt out of the "gender games" so easily.
In fact, I could access my feminine side with little or no conflict and understand concepts that most straight guys dismiss as nonsense.
I also question whether things are truly easier for straight men in our society. Most gay men, sooner or later, get over worrying about what others think. Straight men, on the whole, seem to spend their entire lives worrying about it.
Consider this: Yes, straight men rule the world, but it isn't all beer and pretzels. Society projects expectations onto straight men to be strong, silent and long-suffering. You're supposed to put your own life on hold while you have kids (whether your want them or not) and labor to support your family. You're supposed to dress simply, without imagination. Straight men aren't supposed to show emotion. Yet their wives want them to do just that.
They're expected to follow sports. Love cars. Know how to fix everything around the house. They're expected to kill the spider in the bathroom. Want kids. Open the jars. Shovel the snow. But if you actually enjoy spending time with children, if you cry, you are suspect.
And if you don't get married, you're selfish. You're a player. You're a Peter Pan who refuses to grow up.
Yet for some reason, people don't expect gay men to "grow up." We're allowed, if not expected, to be unconventional, creative, artistic, well-spoken, well-groomed, well-dressed. We can be artists. And nowadays we can even be so butch that folks wouldn't guess we're gay. In fact, now even the more conventional among us can follow straight folks' lead and get married and have children.
There's also more freedom in terms of career choices. I worked as a male secretary in my 20s in San Francisco, and it didn't raise an eyebrow. We aren't surprised to see gay men in professions that used to be reserved just for the ladies 50 years ago: teacher, flight attendant, nurse, nanny. It seems totally acceptable for us to be in those roles, yet I'd bet straight male nurses still get some crap from their straight buddies!
Yes, we still have our own set of challenges. But save your pity for straight men. I'm happy. I'm gay. I'm happy I'm gay. And I wouldn't have it any other way.