What Makes You Different

I knew I cannot come out to my college friends. At least not in some formal revelations that I would initiate. They were homophobic, some of them proudly so. I remember having conversations with them, of their other friends telling them they're gay and them being all nice and okay about it, until backs are turned and their real opinions come out. No matter what they say, I'll never be comfortable with them, a friend remarked. They have this image of gays: fairies, sissies and pansies. If women were the weaker sex, gays were the weakest.

I had wondered--and sometimes laughed in my head--how they would react if they had found out I was of the fairy kind. I who can outrun them, outbox them and out-drink them. Nobody had an inkling, nobody suspected because I didn't fit the image of their stereotypes.

But I knew at some point, they will wonder. And I knew it, too. I know I have to eventually stop being friends with them. When I started working, I began to put some distance between us. I started seeing them a lot less. When they would ask me to join them for a drinking session or some other things, I join them on very few occasions. Until those few occasions became even fewer as I moved from one job to another. If I matter a lot less to them, then who I am wouldn't matter so much anymore.

I know I would have to leave that life one day, embrace my inner fairy, so to speak. But I realized I don't fit quite well in it, too. Once, I told a friend I was gay (who was gay, too) he fell out of his seat. We went out for a drinks that weekend because he wanted to make sure that I wasn't messing with him. Okay, you have experiences with guys, so what else is gay about you?

I listen to diva songs? I said. Shouldn't that be enough, me with guys?

Baka kasi confused ka lang o tripper.

Confused, at my age? I laughed.

So sinong crush mo sa office?

Um, babae e.

I've thought about it too, before, whether I was one or simply confused. Like a beauty pageant question, I had wondered what the essence of being gay is. It should suffice that I could fall in love with a guy; that I can think of a future with a guy and not with a girl. The other characteristics that are attached to being gay are, I think, superfluous. For a time, in my metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly, I wondered if it was necessary to become all those. To have a change in behavior and lifestyle. To want shopping; to gawk, drool and mentally disrobe a guy; to oooh and aaah at every ripped body parading in the gym; to gossip about guys, rate them based on their desirability; to be vainer than women and be more preoccupied with appearances.

It took awhile for me to sort of settle down to being who I am. I've learned to accept my differences, between a straight man and that of a gay man. I've realized that human beings are complex. While it's easy to generalize and stereotype, there are inflections that differentiate people from each other. Just because someone is gay, it doesn't mean he should be effeminate or milquetoast. Or that he should love shopping and be obsessed with guys. Or he should be treated any less human, subject to ridicule and even persecution.


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