Sixteen Things I Wish Someone Told My Fat Gay Teenaged Self
If you were unaware, it’s 2016; gay marriage has been legalized, we have LGBT characters on TV, Ellen has been on TV for almost 13 years, men’s shorts are getting shorter…It’s better than ever to be gay. At the risk of mimicking many other articles come before… it could still be better. Perhaps my statement earlier can be rephrased: It’s better than ever to be a gay adult. Lemme slap ya with some statistics: 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, compared to 5–10% of the entire nation’s youth population. Videos of pastors calling for the execution of homosexuals keep going viral. Republican presidential candidates promise to make gay marriage illegal again.
Breathe. As Dan Savage and thousands of other celebrities tell us, it gets better. (I’m going to assume this article’s reader is a teenaged gay male from here on out; if you’re not a teenaged gay male, bear with me. And thanks for sticking with me on this.) You’re going to graduate your dumb stupid high school where all the wrong people are popular. One day you’ll move out of your parents’ house, rebuild a new social circle, actually enjoy getting carded at the liquor store, and finally be comfortable coming out to every person who enters your life as a gay adult.
There really aren’t many guides out there to a typical gay existence. Those canons which do attempt this rarely manage to form a three-dimensional, “regular” character you might meet in real life. The gay guy on TV is either a theater kid, a labored closet-case story, a main female character’s sidekick, the sassy advice-giver, or is simply unrealistically, frustratingly perfect. (What I’m really asking for here is for Ryan Murphy to stop with the internally-homophobic, emotionally abusive, and constantly-bursting-into-song pretty-boy gays and maybe make a nonchalantly-gay character who is fat, pimply and plays video games all day). Why is this important? Because as we have all learned by now, even if we’ve never heard it said aloud, social environments in TV shows and film subtly affect real life. We the audience quickly attune to the slightly-off-but-somehow-familiar flow of the TV universe, and ideas about how people interact with each other begin to mirror dominant tropes appearing in fictional media. Duh.
Your high school sex education is probably not helping you out either. Very few high schools tackle LGBT issues at all. When that happens, it tends to be fraught with controversy.When you grow up, sure, you’ll start learning a thing or two about what being gay is really like. Adulthood may be full of trial and error, but it’s when you really start to grow into your true self if those awkward teenage years kept that shit on lockdown. Getting through those conceal-don’t-feel years, though - that can be tough. I know the internet is already full of advice for gay teenagers, but these are the very specific things someone had told a young, fat, weird gay me.
#1) Have Realistic Expectations for Losing Your Virginity. Some guys need to be in love before getting naked with anyone. Others want to get it over with as soon as possible. If you’ve already done the nasty, sorry this little tidbit comes too late. No matter who it’s with, the “first time” is always terrifying and awkward. Bear that in mind when deciding whether to give up that V-card to a certain someone. Speaking of which, make sure that certain someone is a guy you already know. Meaning, don’t lose your virginity to some dude from Grindr. (And be sober for it)
However, your deflowerer does not have to be in a specific type of relationship with you. If it feels right to you, do save yourself for “the right guy:” a loving, committed, written-in-the-stars romance. Then again, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re interested, a casual acquaintance is also interested, you both know the other is interested, you both know the other knows you’re interested and it just happens. You may also find some middle ground between these two scenarios, and do it with a close friend — you guys know each other well, and care for each other, but would never want them as your boyfriend.
For me, I wish I lost my virginity the third way, as fairytale-sweet as the first one sounds. The first time I ever S’ed the P, it was freshman year of college with the guy across the hall who looked like Hugo Chavez. He left an unnamable odor in my bed. It was over three years until I had a sexual experience with someone I could actually connect with. I’m not saying follow my lead — for the love of all that is holy, please don’t hook up with someone who looks like a Venezuelan dictator — I’m simply telling you that it’s going to be at least a little weird. Maybe everything before and during the act will seem to be going awesome, but when it’s over you don’t feel the way you expected to feel.
It’s okay to have a plan for losing your virginity, as long as it doesn’t involve pacts, band camp, and pie. Realize that the idea of “losing your virginity” is messed up in the first place, as it creates a whole ridiculous and heterosexist set of rules and politics concerning purity. Still, the first dabble with penetration is nerve-wracking. It’s good to make sure it’s with someone you trust, even if that person happens to be that guy Luke from your poetry class who you’ve maybe spoken to like four times before. There’s nothing wrong with that! Which brings me to my next point:
#2) Don’t Slut Shame. UrbanDictionary defines slut shaming as “An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.” Switch out the gendered words, and you’ll see this stigmatizing practice also occurs among gay men. Okay, so you only have sex when part of a committed relationship? Bully for you. It doesn’t give you the right to condescend to a friend who hooked up with some strange Grindr fellow. He knew what he was doing. He was, presumably, hopefully, careful and safe. The one night stands may be the marker of loneliness, or maybe he’s having a great time on these flings.
Despite the advances gay rights and visibility have made, homosexual intercourse still remains majorly taboo. Even as we become independent-thinking adults, this notion continues to subtly eat away at your thoughts, inducing that special kind of post-coital shame that only a gay person can feel. It’s that feeling that what you did was dirty. That it’s now a secret you must carry. Talking about your sex life, no matter how liberal your environment is, can still feel like you’re confessing a sin. Slut shaming fuels those thoughts. When you call another gay guy a slut, it sends a message that his enjoyment and active pursuit of sex is somehow wrong. That it’s fine to be gay, as long as you don’t shove your sexuality in people’s faces. Sound familiar?
As long as someone is being safe, not intentionally toying with people’s feelings, or isn’t simply trying to fill an emotional void, there’s nothing wrong about having a lot of sex.
#3) Develop your own music tastes. I personally don’t understand gays who only like pop stars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce. There is a specific current of “acceptable” musical talents one may enjoy to be considered mainstream. Please realize that these types of musicians are commodities, and their songs are merely products being sold to you. These giant pop moguls -or at least their labels -monopolize the airwaves, their canned beats and autotuned voices hypnotizing millions. Various media outlets will exemplify these specific artists as the pinnacle of current music because they’re paid to.
Even as an adult, people still judge your music taste. Hell, I do it constantly, if you haven’t already gathered that. Whenever someone doesn’t have an open mind about music, it really bums me out. I’ve heard people actually say that while they tire of their beloved Britney Spears (blech) and Ke$ha (*dry heave*), they actually worry that listening to less popular bands will get them teased. This ridiculous, sophomoric unspoken social code, when spoken aloud, is alarming. Music is one more method to encourage conformity.
I’m not saying you can’t enjoy mainstream pop artists. Personally, I get upset whenever someone talks smack on Lady Gaga because she’s a genius performing artist, guys! I was also way more into Tay-tay’s “Shake it Off” than I wanted to be. Chart-toppers are inescapable so liking them just makes them easier to cope with. But please, for Christ’s sake, just explore the vast sea of recorded music we have at our fingertips thanks to Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc. Listen to music from throughout the ages. Get into some classic rock, or at least try to. Listen to some songs that were popular the year you were born. Marvel at how different it is from music that is popular today. Browse music blogs and listen to music that literally none of your friends have listened to. The point is to make sure that your musical tastes are truly you, not what this weird journey called identity imposes on you.
#4) Never wear a vest over a t-shirt. You’re not in One Direction. If you do this you’ll look like a freshman musical theatre major named Tyler brimming with unearned confidence on his first audition, and the audition is for The Addams Family Musical. And if you do wear this to a musical theatre audition take a look in the mirror, and reflect upon your life choices.
#5) Try to have straight male friends who like you for you. In high school, several straight guys enjoyed my company. However I was like Little Richard — somewhat pulled from the closet but desperately trying to run back in. Do you, or have you ever, denied being gay so you wouldn’t lose a friend? Boy, I did. It’s tough when you have a friend who makes you laugh, likes the same music as you, but thinks liking other boys is disgusting.
Then college came around and I realized how open-minded a lot of people are. It didn’t phase almost anyone when I disclosed my sexuality. This made me wonder, how many opportunities for genuine friendship did I squander by being ashamed of myself?
But NEVER try to hook up with one of your straight guy friends. It’s actually very hard. I know there are videos out there that make it look easy. Well, the Internet is lying.
#6) Bar culture is definitely not the only way. Gay bars can be a lot of fun, but a lot of the time they’re dark, crowded, sticky-floored, loud places at which to waste money. Yes, the modern gay rights movement began at a bar, but that was forty-six years ago, babe! Maybe it’s time we stop going out every weekend.
Drinking is definitely a big part of gay culture. Alcohol manufacturers sponsor pride events, as well as other events like Rupaul’s Drag Race. For a long time, bars were some of the only types of establishments where queer people could meet (besides the woods or public parks — speaking of which DON’T CRUISE). Yet many of us become alcoholics who base our social lives upon drinking and bar culture. We like to engage with substances that make us forget the self and make us numb to reality. You don’t want this practice to become entwined with the process of forming your identity which happens in your twenties.
Moreover, some gay bars, especially large ones with dance floors, can get frat-party-level sloppy. I’ve brushed shoulders with some pretty atrocious characters at gay bars. Once, a thirty-something man stood very close to me at a bar, glaring right into my face when I sheepishly turned him down. At another gay bar, a guy cut in line right as I was about to enter the bathroom childishly yelling, “It’s my turn!” and slammed the door shut. At this same place which shall go unnamed (Okay, it was Woody’s in Philadelphia), a young woman vomited on my stylish pineapple Vans. But we were all there for the same purpose: to funnel mildly poisonous fluid into our bloodstreams so we could have fun.
Perhaps watching a movie with a friend or two would have been more fulfilling.
#7) There are people out there who will find you attractive. Are you fat? Skinny? Hairy as Chewbacca? Maybe you have a three-inch penis? Don’t worry. The world is vast. Someone out there will look at you and get instantly turned on.
I didn’t try to engage in sexy time in high school at all. The only other gay guys around were on a different level in interests, personality, and appearance. It took a while before another gay guy complimented my looks. The first time someone told me I was sexy, I didn’t believe them. Nah, I thought, look at this gut, this lack of hair, this baby face. To this man, I was jerkoff material. I still don’t understand it, but I’m trying to take his word for it.
But if you don’t feel attractive, don’t worry. Your body doesn’t really stop changing until your early to mid-twenties, so changes to your physical appearance will start happening naturally. And when you’re a bit older, you just may be approached by some cutie in a bar who also thinks you’re pretty cute. You’ll think he’s blind. But no. He just sees value that you can’t see yourself, stupid.
#8) Don’t be like Hamlet. It doesn’t matter that he’s got a play written about him. it’s still a tragedy, Hamlet being its tragically flawed hero. In other words, the guy died because he procrastinated making an important decision, so things ended in worse circumstances than they would have otherwise. Here’s what your guidance counselor isn’t telling you: Any decision you make will leave you feeling uncertain. Looking back, the lack of doubt I possessed that I’d chosen the right college disturbs me. At the time, I was only looking forward to hanging out with friends that attended that school. Knowing I could have had more opportunities going to a cheaper school has taught me that the best decision is often the one that feels unsafe or uncomfortable. Had I chosen to go to the bigger, cheaper school in an unfamiliar city, I’d probably have graduated with a much clearer five year plan.
It’s sexy to have resolve, to have lofty goals, to know what you want. Don’t tell me you don’t want to be sexy.
#9) Looks aren’t everything. You’re probably saying, “Um, I have actually heard that before. MANY TIMES JOSH.” I know. As the motion picture masterpiece Shrek has taught us, and as I said above, someone will probably find you attractive no matter what. Gays obsess over physical appearance to the nth degree. Hair, physique, and clothes must be perfect to certain men. For some, in order to fit in, you have to wear the right type of outfit, have the right haircut, and boast the perfect physique in order to fit in (it may behoove you to go back and re-read #6). Yet some of these perfect-looking queens have cold black hearts and read at a fifth-grade level.
I know this has been a familiar trope in pop culture ever since the concept of the teenager emerged. But it bears repeating because for many people, it doesn’t always sink in until you see a contrast of looks vs. personality manifest in a particularly ugly way. For example, I knew a gay guy we’ll call Paul. We weren’t close. Paul didn’t eat much. He exercised a lot. His hair was flawless and always looked like a Banana Republic mannequin. Physically, he was the type of guy I really wish I could be. However, when his personality got ugly… it could get really ugly. For example, once he and his friends invited over a guy from Grindr as a joke. This poor horny kid thought he was up for some bukkake, only to find this group of boozy dudes with the same haircut simultaneously mocking him and ignoring him. Determining him to be too boring, they fled to Paul’s bedroom when the college boy’s back was turned and locked him out. Defeated, rejected, and toyed with, the poor lad left after that. Paul and his friends considered all of this very funny.
The moral of this story is, being classically hot won’t stop you from being the type of person who’ll invite over a stranger just to make fun of him.
#10) Go to therapy. Introspection can hurt, but never looking inside yourself will only lead to more pain. If you’re prone to irrational anger, sadness, or anxiety, see a therapist. Even if you feel fine and mentally sound, see a therapist for just a few sessions. They can teach you coping skills, help you solidify personal or career goals, and assure you that the way you feel and think is totally fine.
#11) If you don’t know already, find out who Oscar Isaac is. I can’t believe it took me until seeing him play the CANONICALLY-QUEER-AND-I-REFUSE-TO-BELIEVE-OTHERWISE Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens to know who Oscar Isaac is. Search him on Google Images and get ready to drool.
#12) Cut way back on the porn. Porn creates unrealistic expectations of sex and places unneeded pressure on people to have a specific body type. When we’re immersed in an idea of gay sex that involves only sculpted, gorgeous guys with huge dongs, where bottoming requires no foreplay and some guy is off-camera talking to the participants, partaking in real-life intercourse can’t satisfy you completely. It never feels like enough. So turn off the Sean Cody and use your imagination when you jerk it. Neither of those scenarios — the filmed one or the scene you invent in your mind — will probably come true anyway.
And use an incognito window or private browsing when you do watch porn.
#13) There are more important LGBT issues than marriage. In the 2000’s, the fight for gay marriage rallied millions of left-thinking individuals, who mourned collectively when Prop. 8 passed in California and marched on Washington, DC with rainbow flags aplenty. This movement felt like the legal battle of our time. Several years later, gay marriage suddenly becomes law of the land, and everything is fixed, right? Of course not. You can still be denied housing or fired for your sexuality or gender identity in many states. The word “faggot” still leaves many people’s mouths on a daily basis. While we’re winning media representation, remember that being on TV doesn’t mean equality — or safety. Late last night tragic news spread out of Orlando, Florida, of a shooting at an LGBT nightclub. This hate-fueled act of terrorism left around 20 dead. Marriage equality and burgeoning pop culture visibility alone won’t stop some people from thinking we — you, me, our closest friends — should die for who we are.
Furthermore, we on the LGB side of the acronym should all be fierce allies for the T — the trans community. Last year, more trans people were killed than any other previous year on record. Most of these victims were trans women of color. Some states that have anti-gay discrimination laws on the books lack the same protections for gender non-conforming individuals. These are just two ways trans rights are denied in America — the list could go on.
To bring the question of representation to the forefront, yes, you could probably name at least one trans celebrity, the easiest being Caitlyn Jenner. People like her, Chaz Bono, and Laverne Cox certainly raise awareness of these issues, but even Cox’s captivating performance in OITNB couldn’t stop last year’s violence. The only way issues like trans rights and #TransLivesMatter will be solved is for allies to speak out, raise awareness, and fight.
And also sometimes there are issues more pertinent than LGBT ones. Do your research on candidates before voting, and don’t vote for a candidate merely based on their support for the LGBT community. Some of our “allies” in the political sphere are still shitty people.
#14) Everyone is insecure. There’s a great quote from Steven Furtick: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” No one is going to criticize you like you. Being insecure is the one thing that each living person has in common; it’s what makes us human. The degree to which we doubt ourselves varies from person to person, but everyone goes through at least one point in their life if they wonder if they’re the ugliest, stupidest, least talented person alive. Self-help gurus sometimes feel like fakes. Sexy people sometimes think they’re ugly. Psychologists have a name for this: Imposter syndrome. It’s a fear of being “found out” or “discovered.” Ultimately, imposter syndrome convinces you that the “real” you is nowhere near as good as people think, and that at any moment, the “truth” will out and people will “know” you’re a “fraud.” This is completely illogical but for some people, still easier to wrap their head around than a solid sense of self-worth.
We tend to view others’ lives as perfect, when juxtaposed to our messy but bland existences. Social media definitely feeds into this. The Internet is a canvas on which to paint the most flattering and “awesome” portrait of your life. Your friend tagged you in an ugly photo? Remove tag. That cute selfie just not cute enough? Just add Hefe, or maybe Kelvin. Eventually you’re lying around in sweatpants comparing yourself to some person you hardly know rocking a tanned beach bod in Hawaii. You may not even know, however, all the shit that person has been through. Maybe his parents disowned him, or he struggled with an eating disorder.
So, you think you’re literally the worst person ever? Well, that lady who just made you coffee at [insert coffee shop name here] may also think the very same thing. And perhaps so does your boss. If so many people are going through the same exact mental battle, doesn’t that really speak to the deceptive nature of the human mind? So stop worrying and like yourself, dammit. Log off Facebook for a while, too. Which leads me to my last nugget of wisdom:
#16) Limit your use of technology. Namely, smart phones, computers, tablets… anything with a screen. The Internet is a surrogate world where we view reality through a distorted lens. What’s more, we all participate in building this fabrication. We do it by sharing posts on Facebook before fact-checking. We do it by taking shirtless selfies sucking in our beer guts. Our online persona shouts louder, looks hotter, is happier, is cooler than our real-life selves. Through social media, we must convince the world that we’re having fun. Living life. All that shit. And how? By photographing each experience, from vacations, weddings, raising kids, to completely mundane things like eating cereal. Or posting each thought that flickers through our mind. We must constantly remind the world that we exist. I recall a great St. Vincent lyric: “if I can’t show it, if you can’t see me, what’s the point of doing anything?” Nothing fits our social media obsession — nay, addiction — better.
So shut it down, turn it off, whatever — put away the screen and do something else. Anything else. Meditate. Read a book. Go for a run. Write in a journal. You can take up blacksmithing for all I care — as long as you find stuff you enjoy that does not involve LED.
Well, what are you waiting for? Go kick some ass.