I knew I was different. I thought that I might be gay or something
because I couldn’t identify with any of the guys at all.
None of them liked art or music.
They just wanted to fight and get laid.
It was many years ago but it gave me this real hatred
for the average American macho male.
I love many of the Humans of New York photos I find on my Facebook pages. I believe they give many people a voice. Their vulnerability allow us a peak into their individual stories. One of them specifically caught my attention Spring of 2015. The photo depicts a young (possibly teen or preteen) boy in tears.
My heart broke when reading his quote: “I’m homosexual and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me.” My heart immediately panged with compassion and my mind flooded with questions. I am profoundly anxious for him and others who experience the same angst and struggle with the hurts that come with inviting the world in to their story. I believe that this creative medium (like many of the HoNY photos) invites us toward crucial discussion. As a Christian, I believe it’s part of the beautiful tension between humanity and God’s grace.
When I searched my heart for chapter topics, I knew it would be imperative to ask the most difficult of questions. I also acknowledge that my thoughts and opinions might cause some controversy. I want to be very careful as to how I approach these sensitive themes because I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone. I truly want every page of this book to be filled with encouraging thoughts and heartfelt concern. And so, I remembered the constructs and stereotypes pushed my way as a child and teen. I felt emasculated by the cultural and Christian “masculinity” ideals. I questioned if I was a mistake because I didn’t fit into the “man box.” I even wondered if I might be gay.
So here is the tough question (and I’m not suggesting that I have the perfect answer): Is it possible that some men (young and old alike) may not be gay? Is it possible that the masculinity constructs we grew up with make us feel less than manly rather than empowering us to embrace our unique personalities, interests, and talents?
I remember as a young man yearning for and wanting to experience a few close and loving relationships with other boys. These thoughts stayed thoughts because the idea of trying to make a close friendship flourish came with the possible consequences of name-calling, bullying or disassociation. (I wanted to use the word intimate to describe these friendships but hesitated because we’ve even messed with that beautiful term.)
Whenever we played “cooties” in grade school to stay away from the girls, it wasn’t because we were gay but because we weren’t interested (or so we thought). Even my nine-year-old son said “I’m not interested” and that he plans to “not get married” in the future. (Side-note: he now has a girl flirting with him through my text messaging! LOL) After a few years went by, a cute little red head girl during sixth grade recess caught my attention and I began rethinking the idea of staying far away. Things changed when it came to my male friends as well. Somewhere between middle school and high school we learned the unsaid but well-kept rules of keeping our distance, our feelings, and our hugs from each other. We slowly were becoming the “monsters” we were told were men.
I am not discounting the young man’s story in the picture BUT I am asking us to consider the possibility that some of us may not be gay but rather unique and different from the stereotypical “macho” male. We are all a unique mix of both toughness and tenderness. It’s what makes the world go round. Our differences make us stand apart and our similarities draw us together. Is it possible that society told us that the loving feelings a man has toward another man is wrong and so when we crave those relationships, we fear that there might be something wrong? Instead of embracing our male relationships, do we keep each other at “arms-length” and miss out on something wholesome and strengthening?
I bravely encourage others like me to consider the possibility that you may not be gay. You are not a “male fail” just because you don’t fit within the “man box.” And if you are longing for male companionship, know that these feeling are normal.
I am saddened today. The young boy is mortified that others will not like him as he is. It’s a sad commentary on all of us including our churches. It then saddens me even more to think that he “might” consider himself gay because we’ve somehow made our men feel like there’s no other alternative when it comes to “true” masculinity. There’s a lot more to be said but I have shared my heartfelt thoughts for now. May the conversation continue and may many find love and a hopeful future.