On The Subject Of The Meaning Of Being Gay

In 1960’s it was not acceptable even to be “a little gay/queer or bent”, in this day and age when being “a little gay” seems okay, society asks one not to be “too gay”.


I often hear people say,

“Don’t make your whole life about your being gay”

“Oh I’m one of those people whose life doesn’t revolve around their sexuality”

“I am too gay”

or “I’m not too gay”

…and I’m left wondering what they mean. When asked to explain themselves a variety of answers come forth,

“I don’t get too involved in the ‘gay lifestyle’”

“I don’t sleep around too much”

“I sleep around too much”

“I focus on other goals in my life as well and not just my sexuality”.

Does anyone say the same to straight people?

The focus on these “other goals” and every other response that is given above is in someway or another implicit in what it what it means to live life; it doesn’t have to be mentioned in the context of one’s sexuality.

I think these statements have an element of denial to them – where the individual on the surface appears to be accepting of the ‘self’ and seems to be at peace with the identity of the self, but subconsciously considers himself taboo and this gives rise to immense internal conflict and unrest. To me, these statements sound almost as banal and ridiculous as saying, “Oh! Your height is 5’ 10’’, that’s okay, but just make sure your life doesn’t revolve around the fact that your height is 5’ 10’’”!

When terms like “the gay lifestyle”, “being too gay”, “straight acting”, “acting too feminine” or equivalents of the same are used, the individual saying them simply objectivizes what it means to be gay to him/her based only on personal experience. Also, the use of the verbs like “being”, “acting” etc. provides a notion that sexuality is something one “does” and in doing so, one becomes and belongs. But my opinion is that sexuality is a part of the self and there is no element of “doing” to it. We may act and behave by virtue of our sexuality, but the actions themselves don’t generate one’s sexuality.

Similar notions are seen even with respect to gender, where words like “being a man” or “being a woman” are used. Gender is again viewed as something one “does”. What it means to be a man is taught by society to someone who is born with male external genitalia; and what it means to be a woman is taught and wrought into someone born with female genitalia. Gender and sexuality are viewed as rigid constructs by society, with no tolerance for personal definitions.

In 1960’s it was not acceptable even to be “a little gay/queer or bent”, in this day and age when being “a little gay” seems okay (Eg: concepts like metrosexuality being considered part of mainstream society), society asks one not to be “too gay”. This demonstrates the influence of time, on what is considered allowable and what isn’t. Hence to do anything against ones wishes, simply to fulfill some societal ideals is futile. To ask someone to treat their sexuality as something separate from day to day experience can lead to immense internal conflicts. In doing so, one actively tries to wall off a part of the self from a particular experience and this seems to be a regression and a step back into the closet.

So what does being Gay mean to me? Being gay to me is not about wearing a pink shirt, skinny jeans, lip gloss and prancing around; neither is it about wearing a flannel shirt and going to gym and “manning up”. It is simply about being me and remaining to true to the ‘self’ at a particular moment.

…Knowing full well that this notion of the ‘self’ is subject to change with each passing moment.

About the author

John Q

Who is John Q Public? He wonders this himself, more often than he'd like. When he's not doing what he's supposed to be doing - he thinks and when these thoughts have found their words, he writes them down, wreathing his experience to paper, almost wishing his reality were more 'real'. He loves the smell of new books, as well as the musty and trusty scent of the old. He spends too much on books, and more books. Besides that he wishes to be a short story writer and a poet someday (Oh! and he also wishes to get a little leaner, probably because society has warped, destroyed and remade his perception of beauty, while he remains blissfully oblivious).