I’m not gay.
At 34 years old, after living 17 years “out of the closet” I just realized that I lied.
Confused yet? Imagine how I feel…
Ever since I can remember, I have always been attracted to men.
I spent a lot of time in the hospital due to my heart condition that I was born with. I have had 8 surgeries in total, so you can imagine how many total days I have spent in hospital rooms around the world. The first time I can consciously remember being attracted to a man was when I was 6.
I had a crush on my doctor. He was tall, masculine, and stern, yet spoke to me so delicately. I used to get nervous to make direct eye contact with him and the other attractive male nurses. At 6...
Let’s fast forward 17 years.
There is much that happened in between, but in an effort to not make you feel you are reading a book, let’s just shift forward; I was in high school and had my first boyfriend.
I never actually “came out of the closet” for a couple of reasons.
One of those reasons is that I simply never felt the need to. I was comfortable with who I was as a human and didn’t ever feel the need to change the way I spoke or how I acted due to what people around me would think or say. I distinctly remember my dad over the years trying to get me to drop my hands because they rested like I was sitting at a chair with my arm on an armrest only I was standing up. It was just natural to me.
The second reason I didn’t have to come out is because my sister did it for me.
She got wind that I was dating a man and asked if I was going to do drag and become a drag queen. She told my mom, dad, aunt and anyone else was nearby.
I began to be questioned by those around me who asked so directly, “Are you gay?”
I don’t quite remember my response because I never felt the need to provide a label for how I lived my life though I do eventually remember having one-on-one conversations with family members regarding my sexuality in the weeks following my outing.
My mom tried to convince me to see a Catholic priest because, after all, he of all people would totally get it. She repeatedly asked me “Are you sure you that you like men?” and I kept saying “I am certain that I like men”.
After a few family members felt the need to repeatedly ask questions and infuse their distaste in me for being so unbothered by my lifestyle, I quickly changed my tune to “You are the one who seems to have a problem with who I am, not me. I am fine, happy and free. Sounds to me like YOU need to seek out guidance from someone. I’m good”.
This has been my motto ever since. So you see, I never actually technically “came out”.
Now here is where things begin to get tricky.
I don’t find myself in many relationships.
In fact not only have I only been in 3 total relationships, when I have been in them I have ended them rather quickly due to things getting too serious. A lot of this had to do with the sexual stigma of a relationship meaning: if you are in a relationship with someone, you are probably having sex.
Without divulging too much information but still feeling that it is important that you understand where I am coming from, it’s not that I don’t like sex, it’s just that it means something very different to me. On top of that, I created unrealistic boundaries with my boyfriends in order to protect myself from having sex. Not that we didn’t fool around, but I am referring to going all the way. For some reason I just rarely found myself connecting enough to an individual to want to.
My friends over the years found themselves questioning me in so many areas.
“Why don’t you like him?”
“Why did you break up? He’s great!"
“Why don’t you ever really date?”
“What exactly IS your type?”
“Are you ever going to settle down and find something?”
“Oh you are just going to get over him in 2 months, I know you.”
There were more questions than that but you get the idea...
On the flip side to that were conversations also had by close friends where they would say things like…
“I just have no idea who you will wind up with. He is going to have to be a unicorn, like someone that is just so different and unique.”
“I feel like you are going to find someone on your travels. You certainly aren’t going to find someone like you in the states.”
“You’re just Barry. Maybe you're just happy being alone.”
“You are just so different from other gay guys."
“I think maybe you are asexual.”
These are all very valid points and statements that have extreme validity and I understand where they are coming from. Not only that but in some circumstances I have probably answered people with forms of these statements throughout the years, sometimes realizing it and sometimes not.
Fast forward 17 more years. I am now 34.
Those around me are in long term committed relationships.
Some are straight, some are gay, some are neither. Neither you ask? Well, here she is….
I very rarely get hit on by gay men. It’s kind of a running joke with some of my closest friends and I. I certainly put myself smack dab in the middle of the gay community with my events, after all I have created several experiences that take place within the gay community in several cities.
The "Bedlam Presents" parties that were started in 2010.
The concept was having themed events so that people of all walks of life would come together into one space to dance and enjoy each other’s company all the while not seeing race, orientation or gender.
To remove that stigma of “gay” and “straight” people can’t mix and enjoy each other’s company.
Etcetera! A weekly art party where I featured local artists from around the city of Atlanta to display and showcase their work. The underlying hope of the event? To have people from all walks of life come together to enjoy art, hear good music, and not see race, sexual orientation or gender. To remove that stigma of “gay” and “straight” people can’t mix and enjoy each other’s company.
Sing For Your Life, a seasonal and weekly singing competition reminiscent of The Voice and X-Factor where we hold auditions and bring together a group of 12 fantastic singers and have them compete until we have a winner. The point? To gather a diverse group of 12 artists to bring people in the space to enjoy great music and not see race, sexual orientation or gender.
To remove that stigma of “gay” and “straight” people can’t mix and enjoy each other’s company.
I worked alongside Elliott Alexzander to produce his “Genderflux” line.
The point of the brand was not only to educate people on gender identity so that people from all walks of life would see and understand that there are more options than straight, gay, bisexual or transgender and to shine a light on the reality that there is more than straight, gay and/or bisexual lifestyle.
Stitched Up. a photography series I am working on that aims to remove the stigma surrounding scars and to show their beauty. The series aims to highlight people from around the world who have physical scars due to an array or reasons. An underlying hope is that people see people as people. Humans. Nothing more an nothing less. And seeing beauty in strength of course.
Are you catching a theme here?
The removal of stigmas, differences, boxes and stereotypes. Any way that I can. I choose to produce experiences that further this notion because I do believe that one day it will be possible that people see people as people. Not labels.
Here is where things get really tricky… I am producing all of these experiences but not knowing why I am so passionate about what it all really means or why I feel so strongly.
In the meantime I am starting to feel more and more different from those around me.
I am pulling away into somewhat of an internal shell because the reality that I am unlike those in my closest circle is beginning to impact me. I’m not being approached by gay men asking me on dates and they do and I mostly am not interested. And if I am interested and go on a date it’s like going through the motions of what I think the date is supposed to be.
I used to say “I’m not really interested in gay guys” or “I’m not attracted to any of these gay guys at this bar”. How could that be? 300+ attractive gay men around me and I am sipping on a glass of wine enjoying my time with friends, laughing, and shooting the shit while my friends are all the while gearing up to eventually bring someone home with them. Not me. I’m good. Why? Here we go.
I have come to the realization that I am neither gay nor straight. I am neither male nor female.
I am both, but more so, I am neither. I’m not interested in meeting a random gay man and trying to date him, get to know him or sleep with him.
Are you confused? Because I was for so long but it all makes perfect sense to me now.
Now maybe you can understand when I say “I’m not gay”.
Believe it or not, I don’t believe that I ever was. The notion that a man who is attracted to another man has to be gay, has been thrown out of my mind by understanding gender further and realizing that there are so many options for people who feel confined and trapped to identify as straight, gay or bisexual.
Reality: I am heavily attracted to pansexual and bisexual men.
The fact that they are still attracted to women in and of itself has an attachment to masculinity. Those masculine qualities are generally present but then you have the attraction to men which carries some possibly female or feminine characteristics. The attraction to this kind of male figure, without being able to verbalize it, has always been my attraction.
When I get hit on by “straight men”, because it happens often enough, I never know how to process it. I was never able to understand why I was approached from a straight guy and then I wind up having a connection and then break the connection when I realize that he isn’t gay because I have currently been able to process that he is not in fact straight and is seeing the same qualities in me that I am seeing him in but perhaps opposite.
I have also been known to be extremely attracted to androgynous women. Not straight girls, Not lesbians. Not butch women. I am attracted to women that have masculine and feminine qualities and I have realized that it is essentially the same attraction that I have to pansexual and bisexual men. They are born biologically female but identity as pansexual, bisexual or agender. This combination of masculine and feminine qualities are extremely attractive to me. And trust me when I tell you. this forbidden attraction of mine began over a decade ago, I just wasn’t able to process of getting past the anatomy of a female because after all, I identified as gay.
To circle back around to the boyfriend and sex thing, now that I have explained a bit more about the way I feel and see things, this may make more sense as to why I was subconsciously making it impossible for gay men that I dated to become long term boyfriends with me. It also explains, at least to me, why I didn’t feel comfortable having sex with them. I was setting unrealistic parameters for them in order for me to feel protected and guarded and to not feel pressured to do anything I didn’t want to do.
Why? Because I am not gay and the idea that I had to find a partner who was gay stressed me out.
Now let me clear up a few things that may be misconstrued.
I am not saying that I will never date a gay man. I am not saying that I am not attracted to gay men at all. What I am attempting to convey is that previously, due to the fact that I had placed myself in a bubble of “because I am attracted to men I must be gay”, I was trapped. Now that I understand myself more, I kind of feel like anything is possible.
Heck, I may even end up with a biological female, who even knows.
I have to also touch base on the “label” aspect of this entire piece. I, as much as many humans, less than love labels. I find them to be stifling and unnecessary but at the same time, in this specific circumstance, I feel the need to understand why I feel the way that I do before no longer need the label to be attached. In other words, the reality that I am in fact not gay and that I am agender was quite frankly the largest a-ha moment I have ever had. It put all of the pieces together. Now that I understand what that means, in a very short amount of time, I can rid myself of all labels. For now I rid myself as identifying as “gay”.
I know that some people aren’t too familiar with all of the gender binaries, after all I was only exposed to all of the terminology within the past year through Elliott.
I posted a very quick status update stating:
"Ok world I have an announcement to make.
I came out as gay at the age of 17 but I just finally realized at 34, I month before my 35 birthday, that I am not in fact gay. I'm agender.
Anyone who really knows me will completely understand and realize that it all just makes sense."
In doing so I immediately received texts like
“I always knew! So proud of you”
“I loved what you posted. This is monumental. This makes sense to me. Well makes more sense than what I was trying to make sense of with you. Just always wondered where you sat. Proud of you BB. This is truly a moment"
“I loved the big reveal today. Full person. You are 100%. But, can the world handle?"
I also received some immediate questions below the post like...
“What is agender?"
"I'm curious.. Does mean you're not sexually attracted to anyone? Help me understand this."
"Michael has been saying this for years. He will feel so validated."
I feel like I want to address some of the questions and dive deeper into all of this but let’s save that for part 2. I’ll leave you with this.
Maybe my mom was right after all...