Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Homosexual But Not Gay?

Why do so many people who are homosexual not want to identify or be identified as gay? Murray.

Historically there have always been people who were open about their homosexuality, even in the days before the modern-day Gay Rights movement, and I think that today a much higher percentage of gay people than ever before are out of the closet and proudly identify themselves as gay. But you're right that there are still a lot of people who don't, and there are various reasons. The biggest reason is internalized homophobia, a basic shame in being homosexual that can be deeply ingrained in a person's psyche (sadly, even some out-of-the-closet gays can be victimized by self-hatred). These people may be essentially homosexual but they more or less live "straight" lives, getting married and having kids, anything to keep the world at large from knowing the truth about their sexuality. This is certainly true of the many men of all ethnic backgrounds who are on the "down low." They desire men sexually but simply aren't secure and confident enough to think of themselves as gay. One study suggested that married homosexuals have a lack of self-esteem that prevents them from coming out and challenging society's mores.

Then we have people who are bisexually active (sleeping or somehow involved with both sexes) or who at least think of themselves -- rightly or wrongly -- as being bisexual. Despite their same-sex attraction, they don't think of themselves as gay because they are also attracted to -- or are at least sexually, or in some other way, involved -- with the opposite gender. Some of these people are very pro-gay, however, feeling a unity with gays, while others (hypocritically) think of gay men as "fags."

Then we have homosexual men who don't identify as "gay" because they feel they don't conform to the public perception -- or stereotype -- of homosexual men. They are masculine and have no interest in the kinds of things that are supposed to fascinate gay men. They don't relate to "Madonna-loving queens" or have an interest in fashion. Many feel as I do that these men -- rather than saying they don't consider themselves "gay" (although they don't necessarily deny their homosexuality) -- would be better off being "gay" and challenging the stereotypes, helping to make clear that there is a great deal of diversity in the gay community.

Then we have homosexuals who simply prefer other labels because they somehow see themselves as being different from gays who have come before. "Post-gays," or what-not. Some are dealing with gender-identification issues that aren't easily summed up under the word "gay."

And some people just don't like the word "gay" and the frivolousness it implies. But the word, as a code for homosexual, has been around even longer than most people think and seems to be here to stay.

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