Memories of Failed Masculinity

Age 6. I start getting called a girl everyday. Kindergarten starts and so does the name calling. “Joey you’re in the wrong line. The girl’s line is over there.” It’s the mid 80’s and my classmates don’t know the word gay yet. Therefore a long tradition of getting called a girl begins. It will last for years.

Age 7. The name calling has become a regular occurrence at school however my home life is a much different story. I cover my bedroom walls with pictures of New Kids on the Block. Regardless of what my parents may think they support me in every way and never give me any indication that I should act differently. When I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up no one bats an eye at my answer of an interior decorator.

Age 8. Some adults start to ask me if I have any crushes on the girls in school. The question is stupid but I learn quickly that if I just say a name they’ll leave me alone. So begins my fake 3 year crush on Jamie Bennett. I choose her because I like her hair and she’s about to move away so I’ll never really have to deal with it.

Age 9. I routinely practice my runway walk on the way to the bus stop every morning. The trick is to cross one foot over the other and swing your hips.

Age 10. Puberty hits and I seek out porn. When no one is looking I snag a few glances at Playboy and it’s get me excited. With all these raging hormones anyone naked gets me excited. I start to wonder if the guys in Playgirl also get fully naked. Isn’t that what most 10 year old boys are curious about? Thinking nothing about my sexuality I go to Barnes and Noble to take a look. I like what I see as I flip through the page. This excites me a lot more than girls ever do. In this moment the light bulb goes on in my head. “Oh…. I’m gay!” The thought comes with a giant sense of relief. Like I’ve finally found the last clue in an escape room.

Age 11. I successfully steel a Playgirl magazine from Walden Books in the Meriden Mall. I get A LOT of use out of it.

Age 12. The (masculine) boys in school ask me out on dates trying and trick me into admitting I’m gay. With a heavy eye roll I decline their advances thinking what jerks they are. When I get home I fantasize about kissing them. This unfortunately plants the seeds of a long trend of being attracted to assholes.

Age 13. Being in the closet starts to feel claustrophobic. Making use of my sister’s old Seventeen magazines, I tear out and hang half naked pictures of Eric Nies (Real World season 1) on my bedroom wall as a passive aggressive way of forcing my mom to ask me if I’m gay. When I say yes she responds with “We already knew.”

Age 14. I’m looking forward to graduating and getting away from these kids. High school will bring hundreds of new faces and hopefully new opportunities. I’m getting to the point where the name calling is becoming more annoying rather than hurtful. The boys in my class start making fun of me for wearing corduroy pants. They are convinced that if the corduroy between my legs rubs together I’ll start a fire. (I swear I’m not making this up) I’m only 14 but even my young brain says “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me right?” It’s my first Ah-ha moment. Any lingering hurt and pain I have bottled up inside fizzles out with the realization that they’ve been full of shit the whole time.

Age 16. We have the internet at home and my favorite sites are PlanetOut and Chubnet. High school is going well. Amongst a larger class I’m able to blend in and largely go unbothered even while wearing my favorite electric blue Doc Martins. A small handful of friends know I’m gay but I don’t come out to the entire school. I’m less worried about the students’ reaction and more worried about the catholic school faculty’s reaction. The administration has already fired a teacher for marrying a divorced woman. While I don’t outwardly say that I’m gay I refuse to pretend to be straight.

Age 19. I start college at UMass Amherst and move directly into a dorm for queer students.

Age 20. I have my first kiss.

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