December 9, 2010

Freedom


Queer, gay, bi, not straight, whatever I feel like saying, it’s obvious that I’m indicating abnormalcy. In a statement she probably regrets—but that I take pride in—my mother told me, "You used to be generic, but not anymore."

Hallelujah for that. Pet Shop Boys captured the ethos pretty well (do yourself a favor) and it’s something I need to avoid: being normal, being boring, because what could be worse? Status quo is never a bar set high. But then I got older, and certain factors precluded that fate. I became a music obsessive, an art obsessive. Post-mod lit, too. Developed some OCD traits. Even worse ADHD. (Instead of listening in class, I write meticulously compiled lists, or sections of imaginary novels that are too embarrassingly bad to ever even look at again.) I am actually allergic to cold weather. And I have a peculiar BMI that's earned me the nickname "Thickums," though I promise I'm not fat.

Yeah, and so then I also turned out queer. All in all it’s one of my least compelling traits, but still a great teacher. And it's liberated me from a lot of things: false expectations on the part of my parents; undue self-consciousness in social settings; and perhaps, most frightening of all, a conventional life path.

The other day, a French family of four, two small boys maybe 6-8 years-old, stood near me on a train. There was one open seat next to me, and though they both scrambled to climb up to it, the bigger kid won. The smaller child asked, "Puis-je m'asseoir ici, s'il vous plaît?" and, after receiving a shrill, affirmative "Oui!" in response, climbed up to share the seat with his brother. It was the cutest fucking thing I've ever seen. They were tiny, heads swimming in enormous matching knitted scarves, but still too large to fit entirely into one seat, such that the younger boy was basically halfway on my lap. I wanted to pet his head, but instead I leaned back and choked on my own spit, swallowing back something gut-wrenching and sad.

This sexual coming of age absolutely shattered my marriage-kids-back to the burbs-life plan. And though that's totally not right for me where does the path go without convention? Autonomy is scary. How can I have children? I probably can’t do it alone. I don’t see myself ever “settling." I won’t settle, I’ve promised myself. So then, how does bisexuality work? Vicky Christina Barcelona didn't offer any answers, and just left me with a filmic version of blue balls instead.

I did fall in love once—on Manroulette. He was supposedly a graduate student of psychology, twenty-four years old. Definitely a strawberry blond, and definitely a devilish grin and body that—when he removed his UChicago sweatshirt on request—made me swoon. Someone came through a door to whatever room he was in and suddenly, I'm nexted to some grotesque image of hirsute skin folds and penis, and I was angry and disgusted and, well, what did I expect from Manroulette? And who came into the room anyway? Really, general life experience tells me it could have been anyone—roommate, girlfriend, boyfriend, wife...Such are the shaky politics of anonymity, when etiquette is totally unnecessary, and self-gratification wins the day, even when it lives among subterfuge. On the one hand, I would have never met this guy, but on the other, real life would've given me a real chance.

In Costa Rica, I slept with a technically-still-married man. He was separated only recently, fortunately childless, and had consistently broken a woman’s heart for approximately six years. I met him in a resort town at a gay bar near his new construction high rise luxury apartment, in the kind of building whose very existence on otherwise-pristine beaches makes me angry. This guy: real winner in bed, but what had he done with his life?—cashed out on some assets to flee the country and his wife. Maybe friends and family too, we didn't really cover everything.

Point being, even though I have no interest in morals, it’s still hard to make ethical decisions regarding sex. Irrationality is Roger Federer in the sex game. Still, I would never do that. The first girl I told about my queerness became my girlfriend a few days post-divulgence. We broke up about two months after due in large thanks to my burgeoning sexuality, and I'm pretty sure I broke her heart. But I love her so much and we’re still best friends. I could never do that to a wife, a fellow child-rearer, anyone. Plus, I have ridiculous separation anxiety from the twenty-some people I love whom I left behind in the States this semester.

There's a quote scribbled in silver sharpie on the neon orange walls of the Coffeehouse men's room that always catches my eye: Where do we go from here? Up! I’m trying my best. I’m trying to orient myself, to go in the right direction, to be a good person, even though I don’t know if I really am. It’s hard to know what to do with all this freedom.

16 comments:

  1. A well written article, but you used your language to cover up the fact that nothing you have written here is in fact original. What point are you trying to make here? because what i've read is what i've read a million times over - there's nothing new here it's just every gay man or woman's fears for the future because nobody not even straight people know what path they're gonna take...

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  2. @4:53 - So what? Does that make what he has to say any less meaningful? Do what you do, EF. I'm reading, and I know others are, too.

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  3. Yeah, I'm with Ryan on this one. I don't think that anything anyone's written on the blog really has any sentiment that hasn't been expressed before in TIME AND HISTORY. Or even that week. I don't think that's the point (actually I know that's not the point).

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  4. @4:53: I can certainly understand your point that this struggle for direction and identity is not something unique to LGBTQ individuals.

    That said, he spoke of something I think is largely unique to LGBTQ people--the realization that the wife-and-kids cookie-cutter life that has been laid out for us--is something we can scarcely aspire to. Perhaps an even bigger question is whether it is the good thing we've been told it is our whole lives.

    As a result, this has led, personally, to a considerable reevaluation of ethics and how I'll determine my moral system. This has been a considerable challenge, specifically as regards having children and comparing one's happiness and dreams to a greater good.

    I think this post does a decent job laying out the sense of swimming, morally speaking, that I and assumedly many other LGBTQ individuals encounter upon realizing either that religion, upon its possible rejection, or that many modern "common sense" ethical arguments don't directly apply to us.

    For example, one of the major religious arguments against promiscuity or (!) birth control is that it closes the sexual act to the gift of life. But when a person engages in sexual acts directed toward their own gender, said creation of life isn't a natural consequence, which to many extents negates many of the guidelines for a moral sexuality.

    Is the goal, 4:53, to write something that's unique every time? Personally, I don't scour the world for literature on my own topic to ensure that I'm not saying anything which has been said before. Should I? Is there nothing which bears repeating? Do two pieces of writing on similar topics not contain unique ways of presenting the information or unique anecdotal or emotional content? I would argue that it does, and that criticizing writing for not being entirely unique overlooks this and seems not to be constructive.

    E.F, it is meaningful to me to hear of your experiences and struggles. As someone a bit scarred from fear and from religious admonitions in my youth, I've really done little sexual exploration, which works almost certainly to my detriment. For what it's worth, thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  5. (also, though I'm not switching accounts for it, I'm sorry for slightly misrepresenting your point in my first sentence, 4:53. I do understand what you're saying; I just didn't rewrite.)

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  6. "but instead I leaned back and choked on my own spit, swallowing back something gut-wrenching and sad."


    I get these all the time...sometimes I wonder if they will ever stop. Please keep writing.

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  7. Beautiful. Keep writing. I look forward to your posts.

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  8. @4:53: I don't think the fact that his personal anecdotes don't provide anything fresh for you is particularly relevant to his intentions. Moreover, I'd say that this kind of post becomes most useful through its resonance with more people, not less. You want to talk about not adding anything to the discussion, perhaps reread your own post.

    @Eric: I think a lot of the anxiety over this newfound ‘freedom’ is in the conversation of expectation (what you think you want, what you think others want of you and necessarily consequently what you deem good and bad). Don’t tie yourself down to the conceptual ambiguities of the 'good' and 'bad' person, as neither could properly exist. I mean that in two senses, the first being that a person cannot be inherently good or bad; even if we had some rigid definition for the two terms, which definition is rightly a nebulous task, the consideration of a person by either of these qualities is wholly an evaluation of that person’s actions and not their being. That is to say, even if there are things you have done that you consider bad, even to such an extent that you would consider yourself a bad person, this doesn’t tether you to some evil balloon (read: you’re not floating endlessly into your presumed ‘badness’). Besides, the people who truly care about you would forgive genuine regret (this of course avoids the idea of doing something ‘bad’ to people from whom you don’t seek forgiveness, in which instance this conversation is kind of null anyway). Conversely, you can live your whole life and at the end consider yourself a 'good' person, but simply thinking it doesn't make it so. There is no correct life for you to live, checking off all the correct choices you were supposed to make, to give you some correct, finally whole, Eric at the end.

    The second sense being that neither good nor bad exist proper, either. In that way, perhaps it can become easier in time to separate your fulfillment (or the process by which you achieve some internal satisfaction or happiness, which is my assumption for your goal) from these unnecessarily polarized expectations.

    Obviously this doesn’t help too much in your own personal process of orientation and resolution, but further obviously no one else can decide that for you. Just trying to alleviate some of the pressure of this seemingly voiding ethical deciding process. I hope you’re taking care of yourself, chin up kid.

    -rpb

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  9. Well, E.F, once again you've got me thinking. I had forgotten you entitled this "Freedom" until I reaches the last line. This is not a typical freedom story; I'm still trying to decide what it is you have been liberated from. Freedom is good...isn't it? I suppose in order to be free one must be conscious of what it is not to be free. Ignorance is bliss? So your assertion is that freedom is being "violently thrust out of the mainstream." Okay, I understand this, but I'm not sure if it is a positive definition of freedom. If the product of this freedom is the following: "but instead I leaned back and choked on my own spit, swallowing back something gut-wrenching and sad.", I am not sure it is so good. What are you to do with this freedom? Are you actually free, or are you excluded this paradigm our society has created? I am not trying to refute you're point, I am just trying to understand it better. I guess I have just never though of freedom in this light. You are free and perhaps I am on my way to be free. I'm not sure what exactly I was trying to say here, but keep writing and keep challenging my understand of the world, Eric.

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  10. Eric, Could it be that maybe you have made a wrong decision? Every choice comes with a price. Will giving up your gut desire to father and raise a child be worth a sexual desire? Lots of "straight" women give up having a child to have a career and later live to regret this. Don't know how old you are, but fortunatly for you, you're male and have a lot more years to reconsider. Lots of gay women don't want to deceive a partner into parenting a child or cheat a child out of 2 parents. You sound rather confused about what you really want.

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  11. Just wanted to say that fortunately today it is not absolutely necessary to choose between one's sexuality and being a parent. Two men can effectively and lovingly parent a child, one man can, same goes for one or two women. In fact, it was recently shown that children of lesbian parents do quite well and none of those studied were subjected to abuse. Yay lesbian mamas!

    You may want to check out some of Dan Savage's books (such as The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant and The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family).

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  12. I was thinking the same thing "anonymous said" Are you really gay or just a horney young guy that will fuck anything that is in front of you? Once your done fucking guys, girls and youtube you might make a nice dad or husband. This currently gay chick would love to be a mommy some day. Wondering if you have had past problems dating, most straight attractive chicks would HATE you if you told them you were gay.

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  13. I see Alecs point. Freedom shouldn't make you have to miss out on what what you really what. I know it's too soon, but maybe you are cut out to be a great father and husband. Did you not have a father in your life?

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  14. The previous posts sound to me like they are coming from a mother who is awfully uncomfortable with her son’s sexual orientation. I could be wrong, but in the slight chance that I am not, I feel like this is a good time to remind you (anonymous 3:42) of something. There are several unequivocal duties that you have as a MOTHER, regardless of your religion or political beliefs, that I think you have completely disregarded.  When you decide to have a child, you are effectively entering into a contract in which you promise to love your child unconditionally, to always put your children before yourself, and to always be there for your child if ever they are in need. It is your responsibility and obligation to continue to love your son wholeheartedly, even if you find it difficult to completely accept him as a gay man. It is also your responsibility to try and become more comfortable with the concept of being gay, because, after all, it is not a “choice” as you so wrongly stated in your post. It breaks my heart to think that you would love your son any less for something like this. It would be to your benefit to read #2 on this page http://www.bluedevilsunited.com/2010/12/anonymous-posts-112810-12510.html . Hopefully that will give you something to think about. Remember what it means to be a mother, and maybe, instead of trying to “fix” your child, you will realize that you are the one who needs some fixing.

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  15. It can be a little awkward, biologically, for gay men to become parents, but they still can. My mother was a surrogate mother for a friend of hers. It happens. And you can always adopt.

    What's confusing me in these disapproving anonymous comments is the weird idea that lesbians have trouble being parents. All you need is sperm! The uterus is still working! There's... kind of a lot of sperm out there!

    So I am really baffled by statements like "Lots of gay women don't want to deceive a partner into parenting a child or cheat a child out of 2 parents." Those... really aren't the only options. I can't even figure out what you mean by "deceiving a partner."

    And if you are a "currently gay chick [who] would love to be a mommy some day," you really don't need the word "currently." Gay chicks become mommies all the time.

    It's true that the path to potential parenthood changes when you realize you're gay. But when it changes, it gives you a moment to actually think about whether you want to be on that path. I always appreciated that being gay gave me freedom from others' expectations. I could still choose to have children if I wanted, but it was no longer societally mandatory. I loved that, because I never wanted kids, ever, and no one would accept that choice until I told them I was a lesbian. Even I kind of assumed that I'd get browbeaten into popping one out, until my perspective shifted, and I realized that I didn't have to.

    Eric seems to be feeling the same thing. He says that he kids-in-the-suburbs life is "totally not right for me" -- so being gay has nudged him off the path of convention, and decide what he wants independent of others' expectations. Tiny French kids are fucking adorable for a twenty minute bus ride, but having kids of your own is a lot more work.

    The whole point of the post is about having freedom. So Eric, I hope you do whatever makes you happiest.

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  16. I think you should stop trying so hard to be different from all those around you and just be yourself.

    The goal of this blog is not to embrace your divergence from all stereotypes, but to embrace your identity, regardless of how close or far it is from the groups that you are part of.

    Don't worry so much about what we think. Don't read these comments. Live your life the way you want to, and not to build a reputation for rebelliousness.

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