January 4, 2012

Taking A Step Back

I’m going to stop identifying as gay for a while. No, this does not mean I am straight. It doesn’t mean I’m bisexual, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I am NOT gay. What it does mean is that I am unsure of a lot of things in my life right now, and am questioning my sexuality. This also does not mean that I am going to stop going to the LGBT center, or delight in having life changing conversations about sexuality and all the ramifications thereof with Megan in the hallway between our rooms. It does not mean that I will fight any less hard for the LGBT rights and it does not mean that I will not go to the ballot box and vote down amendment one. It DOES mean that, for me, right now, identifying as gay man gives me more pain than happiness in my life. I am 100% secure in my male gender identity, and everything else by which I identify. In fact, the only identity about which I am insecure is my sexual identity.

There is so much that gives me joy in life right now. I love my friends, my family, going to basketball games, the band, hanging out with Round Table, etc. I am so excited to start my classes for second semester, so thrilled to learn more about engineering and get back into the Perkins grind. The only real source of anguish in my life right now is in my sexuality. I have yet to have any type of meaningful, loving romantic relationship with a man or a woman, and this lack of experience only heightens my insecurity. I am aware of the pettiness of this statement, but the lack of romantic love in my life hinders my ability to embrace all the love that is around me. This may not make sense to every reader, but in identifying as gay, I feel an inherent pressure to find a partner, a boyfriend, a lover. Because I have so many issues with my own sexuality identity at the moment, engaging in one of the aforementioned relationships wouldn’t be fair for my future partner, and wouldn’t be healthy for me. I have a lot to figure out before I am ready to accept romantic love into my life. And while I figure all of that out, I am going to stop identifying as gay so that I do not feel the pressure to find a partner, and so that I can fully embrace the love of my friends and family.

Now, I know that not identifying as gay might hinder the movement towards LGBT equality. Having one less member of the community who is secure and actively fighting for Our rights might hinder progress. I may be the only LGBT identified individual that any number of my friends know, and by no longer identifying as gay, I am severing any ties that these friends have to the LGBT community. I am aware that not identifying as gay is inherently selfish, which is why I intend to get my identity sorted out with haste. By taking this (hopefully) shortened leave, I can come back a healthier and stronger member of the community. I give a lot of myself to a lot of different people and different groups and communities, and this is going to be the first holistically selfish thing I have done in a while. For that I hope you readers can forgive me.

I don't want this to sound like I am throwing myself a pity party. I am consciously thankful for all of the blessings and people I have in my life. I am simply trying to step back, get some perspective, and resolve an issue in my life that is causing me pain. My purpose in sharing this with you all is to convey that someone like me, who has been out for a while, still can have questions about his sexuality. I hope that knowing you are not alone in your process of questioning gives you some sort of comfort.


  1. I know what it's like to feel as though you require a relationship to function as a queer man. Finding yourself can take a lifetime. I don't say this to scare you, but to say that it's okay to be single and it's okay to question yourself. Your insecurity at never having a deep, romantic connection with someone is normal, but don't blame that on yourself. Straight and gay people alike have troubles finding love, and, since Duke's gay population is rather small, it only makes sense that you may be lacking that connection. I thoroughly support you in your quest for self-understanding. Good luck, Dan.

  2. Dan, you speak to my soul. I very rarely read a post on this blog and think, "Hey, this person right here, he/she really understand me and I can relate 100% with what was written". But I definitely just did that and I admire your courage to admit these feelings. I wish you luck.

  3. This is pretty breathtaking, DW. I just wish you wouldn't have spent so much time apologizing - what do you take us for? :P

  4. Idk i struggle with this as well. But I feel like I can't really just be like, "Okay, I don't feel like being gay today." I mean, I don't ever wake and say, ya know what, I don't feel like being black today. I feel like we fight so hard to convince ppl that we don't choose to be gay, that saying you are going to relinquish that identifier plays into their hands that we choose to do so. You don't have to reject the LGBT community, you don't have to identify with all or any specific part of it, but you don't have to leave it.

  5. omg Dan hallway/gym conversations (well more like looking and doing the head nod from across the gym) are something I totally treasure with you. (ONLY ONE MORE SEMESTER.)

    and okay-I know I texted you after I read this but just to throw this out there again-as someone who just wrote openly about experiences with men on the blog, I can totally echo the sentiment (or I think I'm echo-ing yours) when I say that labels that don't fit are stifling and to be honest, very unattractive. I think it'd be really scary to label yourself as something you're not.

    to be honest, while I'm going through this perspective this past semester where I really dislike labels, I can see both arguments for labels-the pro-arugment being that they're neccesary to move the "movement" ahead, and for people who these labels work, great! Ellen and Don Lemon, as two media examples, coming out as "gay" and "lesbian" and embracing those labels helpeda lot of people I'm sure, particularly women and black men. that's helpful in that context. but if they don't work for you? ewh! I think any group/community you're a part of would also hopefully understand that YOU come first-your identity, your experiences, etc., and any community that didn't understand that...well...I don't think I'd want to be a part of that community. to be honest, the only community I'd ever want to be a part of would be one that is completely nonjudgemental, and open to fluidity, whether that's sexuality, gender identity, etc. Which means these experiences of yours (ours?) should fit right home :)

    Someone wrote on this blog once, "Questioning is awesome! I question all the time!" And this came from someone who I always had viewed as being "really sure" about their sexuality. So I think you (we) are not alone, and I think it's awesome.

    Lots of hallway/door love,

  6. I don't get it- how will not identifying as gay help your situation?

  7. @anon 11:09. I'll try to explain with a story. At the beginning of the semester, all of the band first years did not know my sexual orientation. Why would they? It's not exactly something that comes up in a discussion about music and marching band. And at the beginning of the semester, I was the happiest I've been for a long time. I literally could not stop smiling; I loved life.

    As I got to know these first years on a more personal level come October and November, I had "come out" to a few of them, and the majority of the rest of them heard through word of mouth. I'm not sure why, but being somewhat of a sexual enigma gave me comfort. As I've mentioned before, my sexuality and the insecurity thereof is one of the few sources of pain in my life at the moment. Once it permeated into marching band, I found it was more difficult to enjoy everything that, at the beginning of the semester, I enjoyed so thoroughly.

    There are few places in my life where my sexuality is completely irrelevant (the gym, at my lab, and in my classes, to name a few). These are the places where I have recently found the most joy. While I am trying to figure out my own sexuality, I hope that by no longer identifying as gay, I can once again enigmatize myself, and find myself in a happy and healthy emotional state, akin to the start of the semester.

    I have a feeling that it will be much healthier for me to discover my own sexuality if I am once again in a harmonious state. Which is why I hope that not identifying as gay will help my situation. I hope this answers your question...

  8. “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it?
    What is true for writing and for love relationships is true also for life. The game is worthwhile insofar as we don’t know where it will end.”

    - michel foucault

  9. Dan, Megan your posts have been timely to say the least. I identify/identified as a gay woman. I've been having casual sex with a man for a couple weeks. This freaks me out. I've worked hard to come out especially to my family that don't quite get it. You're ability to be open about your sexuality - despite maybe not having a perfect little box - is quite inspiring. Perhaps I will reach similar levels of comfort one day though that's a little unthinkable at the moment. Risa I feel like I should thank you too for being open about questioning. It really means a lot as I read this blog reflecting on my identity and relationship to things. Again, i really can't say how thankful i am to all of you.

  10. Dan: I love that you feel comfortable enough to talk about this (because not enough people do it). Agree with Chris though, stop apologizing for who you are! <3

    Anon @ 12:43: I feel like the black comparison isn't very good since race is significantly less fluid than sexuality. It's not that he's choosing "not to be gay today" but he has put much thought in to this and rather than identifying as something he's not comfortable in, he's embracing the way he truly feels. It's not that he's playing in to the "gay is a choice" people's hands, anyone who is versed in SGM (sexuality and gender minority) folks knows that it is fluid and that you can't just pick one first and stay in it forever sometimes. It's not like he's flip flopping between gay and straight or something like that.

  11. Dan, none of the band freshmen care that you're gay. In fact, we all adore you.

    -A female ally