I live in an odd world — being gay and married to a man, but 99% of my friends and colleagues at work are straight — or at least “not out.” Generally, I live life as any other married (straight) man, with a few exceptions…
… I do not have children, I do not watch or follow sports, and I do not go to restaurants or bars to socialize. But most everything else I do is within social norms: I wear regular men’s clothes, though I admit, I have a preference for boots and leather. I drive a truck and a Harley (not at the same time.) I work full-time in a professional position. I have a large and loving family of siblings, nieces, and nephews, with whom I am close. I look after a number of seniors who I take grocery shopping and for whom I do minor home repairs. I also remodel homes for older people and wounded veterans. Let’s say, “I keep busy.”
I have much less in common with social stereotypes of gay men accentuated by television media: I am not into fashion whatsoever; I strongly dislike dressing up. I do not socialize with other gay people; my world is “so straight” that I know very few gay people (comparatively speaking). I do not follow movies or popular television and do not admire any particular actors (male or female.) Generally, I don’t really care. If you listen to my voice, it sounds like any other guy’s voice. I do not have a “gay sound” to my vocal expressions.
When I do socialize, which is rare these days, it is usually with my motorcycle club. None of the members of my club are gay, or if any of them are, they live deeply in the closet. I am the only one whose sexual orientation is known. Further, my spouse and I are the only “married gay couple” that the members of my motorcycle club know (or that they have told me that they know.)
Generally, I live in my world of just being who I am — a happily married man who contributes to society, loves life, his family, and tries to make things better each day, both at work as well as at home.
In my motorcycle club, I am one of the appointed officers and a road captain, and am known for that — not as “that gay guy.” In my community, I am regarded as a long-term community sage inherited from having served in a minor elected office for one four-year term, yet “sage” emeritus status is honorably accepted. I am also regarded as “that guy who helps.” However I can — trip to the store, fix a broken light switch, write really good “kvetch” letters to fight the good fight when one of my friends has been wronged, and so forth. I am not “that gay guy who…” but am “that guy who does these helpful things. Is he gay? I don’t know, don’t care, or it doesn’t matter.”
But it is hard being the only out/open same-sex married couple in my sphere. For example, someone from my motorcycle club called me to try very hard to convince me to attend the annual state motorcycle rally which is a two or three-day event being held this year 170 miles away from my home (really long ride for me). I continued to hold firm and say “no,” but my friend did not want to hear that. She kept trying different ways to persuade me to attend.
My general answer always has been that due to my biorhythms, I can’t handle the hours. I can’t stay up late and sleep late the next morning. Plus, I don’t drink alcohol. When I am around people who do drink alcohol, I become uncomfortable because sometimes they say things that they ordinarily would not. While I generally think that most of my riding club members don’t really care if I am gay and married to a man, they also don’t think sometimes when they say things that are derogatory toward my sexual orientation or my marriage.
So rather than give non-committal excuses why I will not attend the state motorcycle rally, I carefully explained to my friend how hard it is for me to be in that kind of environment when straight people say things (thinking they are being funny or joking) that are hurtful, derogatory, and sad (sad that a few of them actually think that way.) My friend had little to say about that other than, “well, sorry…”. Because she is straight, has a husband, family, etc., she cannot identify with my feelings.
I admit, sometimes I am too sensitive. But at the same time, why subject myself to situations where this stuff comes up. If I’m not there to hear it, then I will not feel badly.
To be honest, these days the vast majority of my friends are supportive and defend me when they hear things that other people say that they think may be inappropriate. I see the support and “feel the love” my a huge response, once again, to a social media post about my spouse and I celebrating 22 years together. It is far easier today to be out and open with the fact that I love my man and we’re married. But it is also hard — at least within my social sphere — to be the only one.
Life is short: be the man you are.