Monday, August 9, 2010

Straight Validation

Today, it happened again.

T. arrived at my door just after eight this morning to perform annual servicing on our natural gas furnace.  On Friday, I'd made arrangements with the company he works for to have this done, but, this morning, when I woke up, I'd completely forgotten about it.  I heard the loud knock.  I scrambled to find something to wear.  I ran down the stairs, into the kitchen to turn off the alarm, then to the front door.

T. was a young man, about twenty-eight, five or six inches taller than me, with thick, dark hair, long, square sideburns, and a long and wiry chin beard.  In other words, he was attractive in a heterosexual sort of way (which, to me, is often more appealing than in a homosexual sort of way).

"I forgot you were supposed to be here this morning," I said to T. after I let him in.  "I haven't had time to shower yet," I continued.  "I'm sure my hair is a mess."  I finger combed it without seeing if I was making it better or worse.

Why did I say that?  For the next hour, I kicked myself repeatedly while T. was here, doing his work, answering my questions, for making such a pointless comment.  What straight guy would ever apologize to another guy because he still had bed head?  None that I know of. T. was here to work on the furnace, not to look at my hair.  How could I have been so stupid?

As I prepared breakfast and ate, I asked myself if T. knew I'm gay because of the hair comment.  Or had anything else given it away, like how particular everything in our house is, or my appearance overall, or any of the questions I asked--because, after all, I know nothing about furnaces, and most straight men would, right?  The more pertinent question I should have asked myself is, why was it so important to me that he not know I'm gay?  

Despite hashing out subjects like this on my blog for the past year and a half, and even deciding I've settled many of the outstanding issues I have related to being gay and how I feel about myself as a result, apparently, I can still find myself discombobulated if I think a straight fellow, in my house to provide a service, knows I'm gay.  What the hell is that about?

If I'm honest with myself, I believe I didn't want T. to know I'm gay this morning because I must believe, deep inside, I'm somehow less than a straight man having his furnace serviced.  I must think I'll be taken advantage of, because I'm clueless about furnaces, and he could tell me something needs to be fixed, how expensive it will be to repair it, and I wouldn't know if he's giving me a line or not.  Or perhaps I feel I'll receive a lower level of service because T., in his straight estimation, doesn't think I, as a gay man, deserve his usual high level, or because I've creeped him out, and he can't wait to get the hell out of my house, performing a shoddy job as a result.    

Should it matter in the least that I'm gay, or that I don't know the first thing about natural gas furnaces, when a straight, young man comes to the door to service it?  Not in the least, of course, and I realize that now that he's gone.  So why was it so important when he was here?  Why did I not want him to be able to tell I'm gay?  Was I trying to impress him for some reason, and, if so, why?

Straight men confound me, probably because I don't have a good relationship with a straight man in my life.  Possibly because, for that very reason, I struggle to see myself on a par with straight men.  I don't want to be somehow perceived as less than, in their eyes (or in mine, for that matter), just because I'm gay.  In other words, perhaps every time I have an encounter with a straight man, I look at it as an opportunity to be validated as a man, period, which, for me, can only be done by a straight man.  

I suppose if you didn't receive that validation from a straight man in your life, particularly when you were a kid, whether that man was your father, or an older relative, or a teacher, you continue to seek it in your life as an adult.  Although, I admit, this is ridiculous, because I'll be fifty-one years old in October, and I'm still looking for validation from a straight man because I didn't get it forty or more years ago?  Makes about as much sense to me as I'm sure it does to you.        


  1. I find this amazing, as I witness it in my own daily interactions as well. Unless I am close to a straight man, I don't feel the desire to come out to them. I'm beginning to convince to myself that this is because I don't have to answer to any of them for who I am, regardless of whether or not they think I am gay or straight. They don't have the responsibility of knowing.

    But that doesn't explain why I am slow to warm up to them, I drop my voice, I chuckle instead of laugh.

    I don't want straight men to think that, as a gay man my only goal in life is to spend my time looking at them. I don't want them to think that this is true, or know how close it is to being almost true.

    Many of my best friends are straight. I can't count amongst my close friends any gay men - only a few lesbians fit into the messy pit of heterosexuality.

    Beyond that, I feel like men are damned hard to come out to. Admittedly, at times I feel like the most attractive ones are also the ones who are most likely to beat me up.

    And I've never enjoyed being beaten up...

  2. You raise some intriguing points here, Neal, which was the reason why I wrote this post: To show my willingness to admit vulnerability in this area and to provoke discussion in case anyone had similar experiences.
    You're absolutely right, straight men in your life don't need to know you're gay if you don't want them to. That's your decision (sounds like you're fortunate enough not to look or act gay, so you have this option).
    But you also acknowledge that you are somewhat of a different person around them, too. Does this mean you seek the same thing from straight men as I do--namely, friendship, acceptance, validation?
    Do you think you're missing out on anything by having no gay male friends?
    In general, do you find straight men more attractive than gay men (this is not unusual)? If so, why do you think that's so?
    Why do you think the most attractive straight men are the hardest to come out to--because they might think you're interested in them, and that's why you want them to know you're gay? If this is the case, yet you're really good friends (hope I'm not confusing issues here), then it sounds to me like they're pretty insecure.
    Thanks for your insightful comments. I appreciate your contribution to my blog.