Monday, July 29, 2013

I would cuddle you so hard.

So says a shirt frequenting the local gay watering holes nowadays. So much for the hankies in the back pocket advertising what wild (or not-so-wild but still sexual) things you were into. Of course, those largely died out as guys became more open and willing to say what they wanted. Props to the interwebs and such for that.

But really? CUDDLE? That's all you would do? I'd hope for something more. Something more animal, something more feral, something more bestial than just a warm fuzzy cuddle.

Unfortunately, it seems like that's what guys are resorting to more and more. Or at least advertising. Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe guys are using that as a ruse to actually bed other guys. I hope I'm wrong. But it's almost like we men are becoming emasculated. (BTW...there is a significant and really depressing amount of scientific evidence to support this hypothesis, too...just search around.)

One of my good friends wrote last night about this very topic. He started out as a kid much like me (and much like millions of other gay men out there), having that dream, then waking in fright and dread about what it meant, and how it went against everything that he heard and was taught. For him, it was even worse, growing up a devout member of the Catholic church, right alongside the rest of his Italian family.

So he learned to hide it, to be one of the guys, to be a hard-partying womanizing frat boy by college. Only in his last year of college (again, much like me), did he finally come out, much to his family's consternation and his friends' confusion. Stereotypes die hard, and a brutally masculine, non-swishy man just cannot be gay, right?

As the years passed and he became more comfortable with himself, he realized at some point that he was not just this butch gay guy, but a full-out leatherman, with all the serious role-playing and heavy sex that culture entails. And it hit him hard, in the best way possible. So not only was there a place for the non-swishy gay men, but the hypermasculine ones who were as far from that stereotype as possible.

Now, years later, he's seeing evidence of...well, at least for himself, some dying down of the testosterone-laden past he's had. It happens as you grow older. But he's beginning to rage against that dying of the light. Getting a full-sleeve tattoo, hitting the gym again in earnest, and doing what he can to ensure that he remains as queer and true to himself as possible. He exults in living the life that few dare to, in being that wild man. He laughs a bit too loud. He rides his motorcycle a bit too fast. He wears his pants a size too small to show off his impressive package (accentuated with a PA). He occasionally wears his full Tom of Finland leather gear to choir rehearsals, and even to church, where he works as the music director and organist. And he loves every last bit of it.

And I love him for it. Guys like him, with so much passion, pushing at the bounds of propriety and acceptability, are too few and far between in this world of beige and cubicles and suburbs and long commutes.

My life has taken me in a decidedly less wild trajectory than his. No leather in my past, I was nowhere near as butch as this guy was. My personal revolution was largely internal; aside from temporarily dyeing part of my hair green, you wouldn't have guessed I was subversive in any way. I wasn't swishy, but you could have justifiably called me effete back in the day. You could have blown me over with a breeze. And I was terribly shy.

Some things don't change. I'm still pretty shy when it comes to meeting guys I'm attracted to. Not the butchest guy to come down the pike, either (though I'm also not FAAAAbulous). But at least I look and feel more substantial. Every day, I live a bit closer into what is truly who I feel I was meant to be.

And I think this may be why I have such admiration for my queer brothers and sisters. We were dealt a hand that forced us to suppress ourselves for a long time - especially during the time that would ordinarily be the most transformative. The act of being true to ourselves in the face of a society that disapproves of such a thing becomes exponentially more meaningful and urgent than it otherwise would.

In particular, I have tremendous admiration for those whose need to be completely true to themselves takes them on the most extreme journeys. Drag queens are among them. It takes some real courage to engage in the transformation into some of the most fabulously dressed and made-up creatures on the planet. This is not in small part because we live in a society in which women are, unfortunately, construed in many ways as inferior to men. But among me and my friends, drag queens are deserving of the highest adulation possible. In fact, for many of us, RuPaul's Drag Race is a ritual during the first third of each year. Many straight guys have their football or basketball or baseball. We have our Drag Race.

Recently, I've also begun to admire - much more than in the past - the trans folk of our culture. One of my best friends from college came out to me in a very low-key manner at a bar in Minneapolis, simply saying that she really was jealous of Chaz Bono. (I assume it was because Chaz was able to afford and undergo breast removal surgery.) The bit of exposure I had for the trans community suddenly was directly in front of me and a significant part of my life. Although she - to my knowledge - hasn't acted on anything since that time, she was the only trans man I'd known -- until about a month ago.

Just a few weeks ago, another college friend posted on FB that she was trans, and that from here on forward, she requested that we call him by his new chosen man's name, that he was taking testosterone, and that he was about to get his breasts removed. Wow. What balls. (Check out his blog "So that others may follow", which I have a link to on the right.) His partner, who is a lesbian, is staying with him and supporting him throughout his journey, too. (Update: Just found out right now that they just got engaged! Cue the tears of joy to my eyes.)

Then another college friend said that she was about ready to come out to her new workplace, and asked us all for support and prayers. This confused me, since she was a lesbian, and well, if you can't come out in Minneapolis, where can you come out? Then it hit me...this was why she had turned her FB name into two men's names. So he was trans, too! Pretty wild, this: three trans FTM guys within the span of two years of college. Whoda thunk? (Update: He was fully accepted, no issues whatsoever. What a huge blessing.)

These are the people who are true to themselves, who lend vivid, unignorable color to an increasingly beige world of people who would cuddle you so hard, who may seem weird and off-putting. But they're inevitably the most interesting, wild, and passionate people I know. They will be among the ones who help transform this world into a better, more tolerant, loving, and celebratory place. I'm glad to call them my sisters and brothers, and to count myself among them.

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