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Growing up, I was told by certain nice, well-intentioned people who went to my church that the problem with homosexuals is that they like to rub it in your face. It’s not enough for them to have gay sex, they have to tell you about having gay sex. Naturally, this predisposition for oversharing scared the hell out of me. I was eleven and terrified about people finding out I’d never seen boobs before. The last thing I needed was some chatty gay guy talking my ear off with long-winded stories about the strangest penises he’d ever seen. I mean, honestly, why can’t some things just be private?
Not long after, I met my first live gay dude, and true to form, he a) told me he was gay, b) talked to me about fooling around with his boyfriend and c) bothered me with his oversharing. The chat was everything I hoped it wouldn’t be. It was uncomfortable, awkward, pushy and gross. I didn’t appreciate it, and it solidified everything I’d been told as a child. After all, some of us just want to have normal conversations, not be inundated with bedroom information about someone’s personal life.
A few years later, after I’d actually kissed a girl and gotten comfortable with my place in the world, I met another gay guy, and this conversation was completely different. Rather than pushing me to talk about things I was uncomfortable with, our chat was completely normal. We related to each other like decent, honest human beings without any agendas, and had he not referred to a “boyfriend”, I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea he was gay. It was a sensible way to chat and significantly better than the talk I’d had with the first guy, or at least that’s what I thought at the time.
About a year or so after I had the second conversation, I started thinking about the two exchanges, and I realized something pretty troubling. The two chats really weren’t very different at all. The first guy who so aggressively overshared had actually only mentioned “going for a walk” with his “boyfriend” and later “hanging out” with that same boy in his room. There was no sex mention, but since my eleven-year-old self was grossed out by the idea of gay sex and so convinced he’d mention it, I’d assumed his story was more graphic than it actually was. I’d mentally filled in the gay sex part of his totally normal, run-of-the-mill and quietly frankly, boring story.
You see, the thing about thinking gay people are out to rub their gayness in your face is that it dupes you into thinking you’re getting bombarded with gayness, regardless of what’s actually happening. It makes you think the person is referring to his or her sexuality repeatedly when really, they’re just talking exactly like everyone else does. In fact, people don’t realize the incredible number of times straight people reference sex and relationships during ordinary conversation.
For example: have you ever heard a woman say she and her husband wanted to have more children but it just wasn’t in the cards? Using just that statement, I can tell you the woman a) is straight, b) is past her childbearing years, c) let her husband have sex with her a lot without a condom on. She’s not trying to rub her straightness in my face, and she’s not trying to be dirty. If I’m on the lookout for that sort of thing, however, I could find traces of both of those things embedded in her statement, just as I found both embedded in the statements of that first gay guy who merely said boyfriend and bedroom in the same statement.
Last week, the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow underage gay scouting members. Response from various parties has been mixed, but not surprisingly, the more conservative members of the Scouts have largely disagreed with the decision, routinely falling back on the same argument that allowing gays and lesbians to be open will sexualize an organization that, by its very nature, is supposed to be asexual. That all sounds logical enough in a brief statement, but the fact of the matter is it’s not. It doesn’t make any sense because straight people sexualize themselves almost every time they have a conversation. The world is an incredibly sexual place, and we all order ourselves based on gender, attraction and sexuality, even when we’re not trying to.
In college, I knew some gay dudes who couldn’t turn around twice without diving into an explicit and shocking story about who or what they did the previous weekend. Then again, I also knew plenty of straight dudes who would gladly brag to the entire world with tales of every single woman they ever bedded. Within the Scouts, there’s no place for that type of thing, but there’s sure as hell a place for homosexuals to be allowed to be the same level of open as everyone else about their lives. When a man like Jason Collins comes out without offering any details about his personal life, that’s not rubbing it in anyone’s face. When a teenager casually mentioned to me that he had a boyfriend after I’d mentioned my own girlfriend, that wasn’t an attempt to rub it in my face, and if you think back in your own life, I bet the majority of the times gay people were rubbing their sexuality in your face, they were really only behaving like everyone else.