I was trying to fit into the mould and be the gay that everyone expected: Mark’s story

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I had a hard time fitting into the gay mould of circuit parties and pride parades.  Coming out at 16, I thought the world was going to open up; how wrong I was.  I was born at the cusp of the HIV epidemic, survived the 90s (mostly unharmed) and fought for the right to marry in California, and eventually, the United States.  

I met so many other gay men who only wanted me for the sex I could give them.  Not saying that I haven’t made friends, some long-lasting, over the past three decades, but that sense of loneliness in a crowded bar was a close companion of mine.

I’ve had my fair share of one-night stands, being the “other woman” and, generally making fairly bad choices.  I tried desperately to fit in, in any way I could, but was always thwarted by my looks.  I was not the chiselled Andrew Christian model, nor was I the burly bear type.  Coming from a mixed-race family, I was neither white enough, nor exotic enough to fit prospective dates ideas of either.  I was me: slightly overweight, insecure me.  However, no matter how bad I felt about myself, I always put up a positive front.  All the while, deriding myself for that extra slice of pizza I ate at lunch, or that my hair wouldn’t set into the current popular style.

Fast forward a few years to find me meeting up with and, eventually in a relationship with someone whom I thought I was in love with.  Hell, I flat out proposed to him at one point.  Come to find out, I should have been reading the red flags that were practically streaming past me during our time together.  My family tolerated him, my sister flat out said she didn’t like him.  None of my friends were keen to hang out if he was coming along.  He spent the majority of his time with me on his phone.  I took this to be attributed to his being 10 years younger than me, and being part of that generation that could not be separated from their technology. 

Turns out, he was on almost every hook up app available at the time.  We would go out, I would pay.  Vacations, on my tab.  I even broke down to him one night that I couldn’t afford to go out every evening, unless I went without basic essentials during the rest of the week.  He said he understood, then turned it right around and suckered me into going to the city to “hang out” with friends…I didn’t eat for three days after.  Yes, I caught myself a narcissist.  

Looking back on our time together, all the signs were there, but I was blinded by what he stood for and my insecurity that I was good enough.  He even tried to convince me to open the relationship, going so far as to suggest we both get on PrEP (which we did).  Things went downhill from there, culminating in a pretty nasty break up.  I was broken, he had stomped on what little self-respect I had and crushed it into a fine powder.   When I said goodbye to him the last time, I knew that our paths would never cross again.  

The next couple of years were difficult, I had a lot of sex, but none of it was meaningful.  One-night stands, fuck buddies … you name it.  Again, I was trying to fit into the mould and be the gay that everyone expected.  I had pretty much given up hope that I would meet anyone who would want me and not just for a quickie.  

Then, as if a switch had been flipped, my perception of self-worth changed.  I started taking pride in myself, probably for the first time.  I didn’t care that I wasn’t part of the “A-gays” (now InstaGays).  I was me, and I was happy with that, overweight and all. 

I had just turned 40 and was about to cancel all my dating/hook up app accounts.  When I received a ping from this guy. He was a bit older than me, quiet, not into partying, and generally decent sounding.  I agreed to a date, thinking that it would lead nowhere.  Boy was I wrong.  We met and it wasn’t fireworks, but more of a slow smoulder that built as time went on.  We’re getting married next summer.  

It took me to hit lower than my lowest moment to get to this point.  I agree that a lot of it has to do with the general toxicity of the gay community.  We talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, we are more apt to look the other way, than to extend a hand to help, or wave hello, or hand someone a bunch of flowers from our (or our neighbour’s) garden.  We can talk all we want, but it is our actions that speak volumes.  I love the idea of using the #nicegay on social media, more importantly, acting out the nice gay that we hope to be.  I may not be Instagram famous, but I have lived a good life. 

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