Student: That’s so gay.
Me: I don’t think that’s what you mean.
Student: Uh, yeah, I mean it.
Me: Gay? Really?
Student: See, this guy was hitting on this other guy.
Me: Well, then I guess that would be gay.
When I was in high school, there were several things the cool kids (and sometimes even the not so cool kids) would say recurringly to demean me. They would call me four eyes, which was okay because I wore glasses. They would call me Urkel, because I reminded them of that nerdy character from TV. I admit I did look somewhat like him. And they would call me gay. I never quite understood that one, though.
That was the one that made me introspective. I mean, maybe those kids saw something in me that I was too close to see. Maybe I was gay and I had just missed the signs. So I did what I do best when confronted with a conundrum. I made a list. If I were gay I would…
1. Like guys
2. Like musicals
3. Have fashion sense
4. Not find girls attractive
5. Like guys
That was about all my high school brain could wrap itself around when it came to a homosexual lifestyle. And the things on that list were culled from watching TV shows and movies for the most part. I had no idea that numbers 2 and 3 were simply stereotypes, or that number 4 is not necessarily always the case. I knew that numbers 1 and 5 were pretty much definites, though, and that’s where I always got hung up when considering if the “haters” could be right when they labeled me gay.
1. I liked guys as much as the next guy. That is to say if they weren’t burping in my ear or trying to “pants” me, they were okay. But if they smelled bad, there went that friendship. But yeah, that’s what it was, a friendship, if that, and that was all. So, no check there.
2. I liked musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Jesus Christ Superstar. I would even sing along with my favorite songs, sometimes loudly, or at least enough for my sister to scream for me to, as she put it, “Shut the Heck Up!” Check there.
3. I honestly had no fashion sense, short of wanting to wear everything baggy and backwards like MC Hammer and Kris Kross, or wanting to wear a clock around my neck like Flava Flav. No check there.
4. This is where it all seemed to fall apart for me as I found pretty much every girl I met attractive, or at least hot. I really didn’t even have a scale of hotness either. Puberty is not a boy’s best friend, especially since those girls I found attractive were also the ones who made fun of me, the ones who called me gay. No check there.
5. See 1.
Therefore, at the end of my checklist and introspection, I concluded that I liked musicals, but that by itself didn’t make me gay. So, if it wasn’t me, or some vibe I was putting off, then it had to be them, those self-proclaimed cool kids. Perhaps it was their fear of finding out one day that they themselves were gay, or the all too real homophobic tendencies that were circulating at the time, or even their ignorance of anything that didn’t insinuate itself into their neat little worlds. I’m not sure, but when I finally realized it wasn’t me, I just tuned it out when they called me gay after that.
I knew who I was, and I certainly wasn’t gay (“not that there’s anything wrong with that” – Jerry Seinfeld). But of course then I felt like a real nerd because I went through the whole checklist. I hadn’t just accepted it as fact, and I hadn’t given in to them. I felt empowered. Oh, and FYI, just because someone’s gay doesn’t mean they like every single person of the same sex. They have standards just like everybody else. Just saying.