It was our last class before exams when one of my fellow students – a cute, straight guy I’d been eyeing all semester – briefly spoke to the professor after class ended. They chatted about the exam, and the student parted with a cheery, “Cheers!”
As I stuffed my textbook into my backpack, I overheard one woman remark to one of her friends, “You know, I don’t mean to stereotype” – always an intro to a killer pigeonhole – “but don’t you know only gay guys and women ever use that expression.”
Then she turned to me: “Jeremy, do you say ‘Cheers’ when you mean ‘Goodbye’?”
Not knowing how my answer would implicate me in her warped theory, I replied with the truth.
“It makes me cringe, actually. ‘Cheers’ should only be said when your glass is full of beer and clinking against someone else’s.”
She turned to her friend with a definite “see?”
She turned back to me. “Because you’re a straight boy.”
Pardon moi? Was this girl for real? I asked her to repeat herself, partly to see if she was serious, but mostly to have the pleasure of hearing it again.
She told me once again, and I nodded in numb silent concurrence.
Friends who know me might want to slap this girl silly for her foolish gaydar, but I left the classroom leaving her uncorrected, thinking how cool it all was. I could actually pass for hetero and this seemed impressive to me.
While the incident played to my ego (it was inflated for a whole five minutes anyway), I’d never think of handing in my gay card the way Dave (not his real name) did. Dave – an old friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken with in a year – sent me an e-mail last week with some unexpected news at the postscript.
Verbatim, here it is.
“Something interesting you might note, Jeremy. I’m not gay anymore! Sounds weird, but it’s true! So much has changed. What an amazing feeling!”
I couldn’t have been more surprised if he told me he was carrying twins. After all, this was the same guy who last year confessed he was in love with me, and backed it up with daily e-mails and an obscene amount of Christmas gifts.
Now I know Dave faced enormous pressure from his tight knit Czech community (and a mother who refused to believe her son was gay even months after he had come out to her), but I always thought he was making such stellar progress dealing with his homosexuality. So what was I to make of this new admission? In truth, my first thought was the standard: “what-ever.”
But after talking about it with some friends, I realized (besides it being none of my business) that I don’t have a problem with him shifting gears. That’s his choice.
(Or was it? I can’t help wondering if his religion, heavily Catholic, had something to do with it. Hmmm. Nah, couldn’t be.)
It was the “amazing feeling” part that ticked me off. Like a cokehead who had finally quit his filthy, corrupt habit, talking down to a fellow addict in desperate need of salvation.
Or was I just a wee bit jealous that he had found such joy in turning ostensibly straight? I’ve been out for about eight years, and I’ve accepted being gay. But sometimes I think that I’m missing something: the wife, the kids, the minivan. And I realize how much I liked being mistaken for straight.
But that’s not the same as not wanting to be gay.
“It’s not like the switch was flicked from gay to straight in one night.” Dave’s e-mail went on. “A light went on, and it was one of those amazing ah-ha moments. I’m taking everyday as it comes, and my feelings are changing. I’m looking to pursue a relationship with a female. It’s weird, but neat.”
This is what Dave called his “healing” process. Implicit in this, of course, is that all gay folk are somehow broken. But I think Dave’s off his rocker. For most of us, healing begins when you come out, not when you go back in.
That’s why – walking home from my class the day of the “Cheers” discussion – I berated myself for my weak-kneed reaction to my classmate.
That I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I was gay, I suppose I was just caught up in the flattery of a girl finding me masculine enough to be considered straight. My silence was just as much a form of denial as Dave’s swift venture back in the closet.
The next time I’m in a similar situation, I vow to speak out, announce I’m gay, and do it with confidence, even if I’m just a little bit trembling inside.
That will prove to myself that my gay life is the “amazing feeling” I’m going for. Nothing weird or neat about it.