- Jason Wood
I have battled with internalized homophobia since coming to terms with my sexuality twelve years ago. I viewed being gay as an embarrassment and have oftentimes taken drastic measures to conceal my sexuality.
I grew up in a conservative, religious family. My parents were loving people. I never once heard them speak ill of gay people, but some other family members made it known that being gay was wrong. My family labeled them as sinners and horrible people simply because they were gay. For a long time, when I found out someone was gay that would be the only thing I could remember about them. I forgot they had a personality; they were nothing more than their sexuality.
At school, being gay was often used as an insult. Heck, I even used it myself. You didn’t want to be called gay because that meant you were inferior, you were weak or there was just something wrong with you. This mindset lingered even after realizing I was gay.
I went above and beyond to distance myself from the gay community. I refused to make gay friends, attend events that could be perceived as gay, even the rainbow flag made me uncomfortable. I feared that any association with being gay would rob me of being known as Jason; instead, I would just be another “gay guy”. Or in my mind, a disappointing, immoral embarrassment.
I saw this first-hand when I came out to several of my family members. They stopped talking to me and acted like the thirty years of memories we made together vanished overnight. Suddenly my sexuality trumped everything else about me.
When meeting new people, I often lowered my voice and stuck to “straight” topics like beer and sports. I paid close attention to my mannerisms, my responses, and the way I dressed. Nearly every single social interaction was scripted.
On numerous occasions, I would just go along with the flow when someone asked about my wife or girlfriend. Each time, my heart hurt because I hated lying about my relationship with Matt. He deserved better.
Still to this day, however, I catch myself hesitating to refer to my husband in social situations. Partner felt like a safe cop-out for so long, but now I am challenging myself to say husband and be proud no matter how far out of the comfort zone it takes me.
I often say that I wore a mask long before COVID-19. I guess I could also add I practiced social distancing. My body was physically present in social situations, but I was often putting on a charade to mask my insecurities and sexuality.
I put myself on the tightrope between being the flamboyant straight guy or the conservative gay guy. I am not straight but I still try to act straight in certain situations to try and fit in. In encounters with other gay men, I act uptight and reserved to avoid being stereotyped.
I've always identified as being a little gayer than most straight people and a little straighter than most gay people, which can be lonely when you don't feel comfortable or like you belong with either "community."
Stereotypes run rampant in our society. The day I stopped listening to those stereotypes is the day I embraced my uniqueness and grew more comfortable in my skin. We're all unique and that deserves to be celebrated! Huh, how about that! I've never really understood the point of Pride Month until I wrote that last sentence. Therapy in progress!
I am now working on seeing people for who they are rather than who they love. Our sexuality should just be a part of us but should never define us.
If I’m completely honest, this post is one of the hardest for me to type yet. I am comfortable with sharing my battle with mental illness and orthorexia; however, my sexuality still remains a topic that I am guarded about. I’ve feared talking about being gay in my blog because I want to expand the conversation around men’s mental health and men with eating disorders. I worry that some will just assume I am just another “gay” guy with an eating disorder and not realize that mental illness could care less about your sexuality.
I am done running away from the authentic me. I am PROUD of who I am, even if someone else wants to try and stereotype me into a box.