Friday, January 29, 2010

A Contradiction

I can't make sense out of this--I guess each of us is little more than a series of contradictions--so I'll just put it out there and see what happens when the words are in front of me.

Readers who have followed my blog for a while know I believe my homosexuality--that is, my attraction to men--has something to do with insecure feelings related to my physical masculine identity, based on how I was teased about being so much like a girl when I was in grade school. Thus, I believe I'm attracted to men--or, let me qualify that, to men who appear physically masculine--because I perceive that to be lacking in me, and, through association with physically masculine men, I feel more secure about my own physical masculinity.  (My guess is that I'm not the only gay man who feels this way; I think there's lots of it going around, if gay men are honest with themselves).

Let me back up a little now, and say something about puberty for me.  Upon the first signs of physical masculinity manifesting itself on my body--that is, the growth of underarm hair, facial hair, and a few hairs in the center of my chest--I felt embarrassed and ashamed.  Of course, any teenager would feel this way if his father drew the rest of the family's attention at the dinner table to the few hairs growing out of his upper lip, chin, and cheeks, laughingly asking if they would amount to anything.  I remember feeling mortified when this happened, wondering why puberty was so messy, and why it couldn't be done and over with in a matter of minutes, so I didn't have to appear silly, gawky, and hopeless.

But, as I think about it now, something else was going on here.  There was good reason why I tried to keep my arms down when I wore sleeveless shirts during the hot summer months; why the razor my mother used to shave her armpits came in handy when she wasn't home to remove the unsightly stubble growing on my face; why I went out of my way to ensure my family didn't see the peach fuzz sprouting on my chest.  I was embarrassed about the changes on my body, but I was also embarrassed about becoming a man in a physical sense.  

Many of the young men I went to school with at the time couldn't wait to show off their newly masculine bodies.  The minute they had hair on their faces, in all the key areas, they grew tiny, sparse mustaches that were scarcely visible, or long, strangely kinky sideburns, that were too visible. And, at the first sight of a few hairs on their chests, their shirts plunged open, even in the middle of winter, to ensure everyone witnessed the men they were becoming.  Honestly, I admired them--I was even attracted to some of them, though I could never let on that I was--because they were becoming what I most wanted to be.

Only I wanted it, but I didn't.  Part of the problem was that I didn't want to attract any more attention to myself than I absolutely had to.  Because of all the bullying I took at school, I moved quickly through the hallways and kept my head down.  I didn't dare linger anywhere or walk with my head up for fear that I'd be noticed and the teasing would start all over again.  If I could get from one place to another without anyone seeing me, I stood a better chance of no one taunting me about how unusual I looked, with or without bizarre hair growing on my face, or of anyone calling me names.  The last thing I needed to do was provoke anyone.  

The other part of the problem was that I think I'd internalized all the taunting, believing I really was girly and effeminate, as my tormenters had said over and over, and, as such, it was inappropriate for me to show signs of growing into manhood.  In fact, I'll go so far as to say I probably didn't think I deserved to become a physical man, that I should continue to manifest the outward signs of effeminacy, because that's who I was--that's what others expected of me, that's what I expected of myself--and anything else would have been fake or fraudulent.  Biologically, I had some help with this too.  My body may have been changing, but it certainly didn't change near as fully or as rapidly as many of the other boys I went to school with.  By graduation day, I still appeared very boyish, or should I say girlish, and it would be a number of years yet before I'd end up with the physical masculine characteristics I have today.

So how does it make sense that the very reason I'm most attracted to men, and the very thing I wanted most for myself, is the very thing I downplayed in my physical being for as long as I could so I was able to maintain the image people had of me and that I had of myself?  I don't understand this at all.

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