Growing up in fairly closeted community (*) I didn’t really have access to a lot of gay culture – in fact, I had zero access to it. I came out during the very early stages of homosexuality becoming more tolerated in everyday society. As such most of what I ‘learned’ about being gay came from myths conjured up by the people in my school and in my town. And because the only gays I saw were from sitcoms, which often perpetuated stereotypes, I was left feeling dazed and confused as to why I didn’t quite measure up to the screaming level of gayness expected of me. As such I used to summarise gay traits, abilities and skills by calling them ‘gay superpowers.’ These superpowers ranged from the remarkable ability to style your hair, to flawless dress sense to dishing advice that even Oprah couldn’t refuse. Here are a list of said superpowers and how I lacked them.
Gay Superpower number one: The ability to make anyone’s hair on fleek (How to turn a pube into a bouffant.) A doo so incredibly well styled that it sparked awe-filled glances from even the most repugnant of townsfolk. I did not possess such an ability and I hated myself for it every day. I would stand for ages trying to fix my hair, willing it to look perfect; but nine times out of ten I wound up using too much product and the end result was a greasy catastrophe. You could fry an egg on my head. This continued for over a decade until the revolutionary and life changing discovery of YouTube tutorials, which saw my ignorance on how to style this nest that resides on top of my head swiftly educated.
Gay Superpower number 2: The ability to wield and control the powers of Fashion. (No hand-me-down style advice was given to me.) During my later teen years I met a boy, who shall remain nameless, that embodied the majority of stereotypes that I had based my Gay Superpowers theory on. He strutted around with immaculate hair and pristine attire. He shopped at places like River Island and Topman – brands I had never, ever indulged. People would comment on how well he dressed, how good he looked – how adorable he was. And I’d hang around by his side, like some monstrosity dragged up from the bottom of a swamp. Why didn’t I have this ability? No matter how hard I tried, I always looked as though I’d been stomped on relentlessly in a mosh pit. Eventually, after years of turmoil and self-loathing, I began to have a clue about fashion. This was because I started working for a popular high street brand and through getting to know the business, and the visual/creative aspects of it, I gained insight on how to dress ‘well.’ And that insight was: If you like it? Wear it.
Gay Superpower number three: The ability to be ‘such fun’ on a night out (and an amazing dancer.) Sorry to disappoint, but I lack the pizazz to be great fun on a night out and half the time when I dance I look like a starfish having an embolism. I have a certain amount of sass I dish out, sure, but the general upbeat camp-spirit and high energy levels that this stereotype consists off? Nope. I’m a dour bastard. When I was younger (and admittedly probably, occasionally now) on nights out the majority of the time I just took too many shots and dished out scorching looks of disapproval – then proceeded to throw up on a neighbour’s lawn. This wasn’t high-flying gay fun?! My hetero-counterparts assured me I was meant to be lively and enjoyable? Another superpower had escaped me.
Gay Superpower number four: The Fagony Aunt Ability (Gays give the best advice and have an uncanny insight into the mind-boggling ways of the male species.) Wrong, fucking wrong. Balls against the wall wrong. I would tell people they’d rather be sodomized by cutlery than take any form of relationship, or life, advice from me. It would be infinitely less painful. I’ve only ever constructed one theory involving guys and it goes as follows: If you’re into nice guys and settle down easy, you are content with the simple, functional and probably a lot easier kind of life. If you are creative or in any way emotionally unbalanced, you will gravitate towards jerks, much like I do. I have always been attracted to jerks. From articulate weirdos, to pretentious painters; to guys with sociopathic sexual urges. I am that guy who, no matter how strongly I feel for someone, will pretend that platonic bed sharing with a love interest is enough (*).
Gay Superpower number 5: Gaydar Ability (With great power comes great responsibility.) So, this ability I do possess but since day one my gaydar has been on the fritz. Sometimes it functions with pinpoint accuracy, but other times its found me spread-eagled on a bed of bad decisions. I have always been able to spot the slightest sprinkle of curiosity in someone. A skill that, whilst growing up, served me well in terms of sexual satisfaction, but quite often caused more damage than good. The amount of straight guys I have fooled around with and/or had sex with is gargantuan. There wasn’t a litany of fellow gays back in my home town, so I took what I could get (so to speak.) I always knew at parties when a guy was interested, even though sometimes they had girlfriends. I can see now that this was very morally ambiguous behaviour on my part, but at time I was being navigated by a longing to be loved, and lust-driven hormones. I’d sneak off with the guy to the bathroom or go back and stay at his. Sometimes it only happened once, other times the sexcapades extended intermittently over years.
It’s only over the last couple of years I’ve learned sexuality isn’t tantamount to sexual acts. Just because someone sleeps with a guy, doesn’t mean he is gay. And simply because I gave someone who had a girlfriend head and he liked it, doesn’t mean he was into me. My gaydar didn’t help me distinguish lust and love. As such I’d form emotional attachments to guys that really in hindsight just wanted to get off.
I’ve since laid rest to my Gay Superpowers theory. It was based on negative stereotypes born from my own ignorance. I wasn’t educated in ‘gay life’ as a teen, as I had no experience in it nor did I have anyone to teach me. So, let the debunking begin:
1) Hair styling? I taught myself. A combination of blood, sweat and hairspray. Eventually through trial and error, finding the right barbers and a plethora of hats for those bad hair days, I am now confident with my hair.
2.) Fashion? I am quite branded in terms of my style – as in dress like my employer styles their clientele. Some people are naturally fluent in the art of style and fashion, others have to work harder. Do gay men dress better? Personal experience says no. Camp gays aren’t always gurus or know-hows when it comes to dressing well, just as ‘straight acting’ guys don’t always wear miss-matching clothes, let their nose hair grow and are all out of shape. The majority of straight guys I see dress in a way that would be previously be deemed as ‘gay.’ So what does that tell you?
3.) Funny ha-ha or funny like avoid him? I’d like to think my friends would vouch for me with this one. I may not be the perceived stereotype of fun, but I make my social circle laugh (albeit mostly at me, rather than with me) and that to me is what matters.
4.) Give you advice? Although my love-life is currently curled in a quivering ball of depression, I have survived a lot of heartache and hurt. So in a way by handing out advice based on the opposite of my past actions, I can help people. In regards to life problems, or health ones, I will always listen and sometimes that is the best thing you can do for a person.
5.) The Gaydar. About a year ago I decided to shut down my gaydar. I have no use for it anymore. People are who they are, like what they like or who they like. And although I prefer to be able to label someone gay or bi, purely for my own comfort, it isn’t always possible. There is no prescribed way to be gay. Sexuality extends far beyond the realm of indulging in same-sex acts.
* Pun intended
*Platonic bed sharing is for people who hate themselves.