Gay Man Walking

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    Oct 11, 2011 6:00 PM GMT
    A question I’m frequently asked by gay people is whether I’ve felt the need to “closet” myself as I walk through the South. Well, I have not. Anyone who cares enough to google me will find, on the first page of results, that I did an It Gets Better video. And some of the articles published about my walk mention the fact that I am gay. To me, it’s a non-issue.

    I don’t introduce myself as a gay man, but that doesn’t mean I hide it. If it comes up, I acknowledge it. I act like I always act. I talk like I always talk. I walk like I always walk--ok, not always; I walk a lot slower when I have that damn backpack on. The point is, I am simply being myself.

    A couple of days ago, I went to a gay bar in Birmingham. My host, who is openly gay, and active in local politics, took me there. I talked to a lot of people--they had many questions about my walk. I was wearing a gay-tight t-shirt, and drinking my usual bourbon. Then, after a couple of hours, someone asked me if I was gay--apparently he and his buddies were wondering and they weren’t sure if they should ask. It baffled me. Even the jeans I was wearing were kinda tight! How could these fellow gay men even doubt that I was gay too? As far as I’m concerned, it should have been obvious.

    That got me thinking. How many of my hosts, and by now hundreds of people I’ve met in the last three months, realize I’m gay? If the only ones who do are the ones with whom I have specifically talked about it, I suppose the answer is not many.

    I never talked about it with the Baptist minister whose wife still follows me on Facebook and sends me kind words of encouragement on a regular basis. Do they know? I guess I assumed they did, but now I wonder. And would they have really been less nice to me if they had known? I’m not sure, but I doubt it.

    Should I be more vocal about my sexuality? Should I proactively tell people I’m gay, rather than just be myself and let it just come up? What would the purpose of this be? I am not activist, I am a journalist. I am not walking to preach, I am walking to ask questions. I am not promoting a cause, I am simply observing.

    The fact that I am gay will certainly be included in my book. I can’t divorce myself from my journey, and being gay is part of who I am. Will many of the people I’ve stayed with and socialized with be surprised? Maybe. Will this change their perception of me? Perhaps. Will it change their perception of gay people? I guess I hope so.
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    Oct 11, 2011 6:34 PM GMT
    Follow your gut instinct, friend. By meeting these people and getting to know them and them getting to know you, you are breaking down the barriers and preconceived notions straight people have towards gay people. And that, in the end, is perhaps far greater than you coming into town saying or wearing a button that says, "I'm gay."
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    Oct 11, 2011 6:41 PM GMT
    Yeah, if that bowtie doesnt give it away....lol! icon_wink.gif
  • hawkeye7

    Posts: 565

    Oct 11, 2011 6:43 PM GMT
    welcome to the south
    I have friends who go every week to a baptist church in Chattanooga and sit silently as the listen to the anti-gay retoric. They ask me to join them and I just say...... Really?
    I am not really shocked by your questions just sad that anybody had to ask them
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    Oct 11, 2011 7:28 PM GMT
    You are who you are, and the fact that you are gay it is just a fraction of who you are, in my opinion, you shouldn't change the way you are doing your stuff.

    I'm not saying that being openly gay is a bad thing, actually I am, but I'm not telling or introducing myself to new people as a gay guy... it will come up sooner o later.
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    Oct 11, 2011 7:36 PM GMT
    icon_rolleyes.gif Some people don't get it.

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    Oct 11, 2011 7:38 PM GMT
    No need to speak about your sexual orientation unless it is brought up specifically. You're not technically deceiving people since you are not really telling them you are straight either, they are assuming that. I mean I understand if you would want to if hosted by a religious organization that doesn't exactly see eye to eye with our lifestyle, which in that case, I would willingly vocalize it, since you wouldn't want to be housed by those people anyway...however remember, this walk is about something bigger (possibly) than your sexuality, and if you wish it to remain that way and not become contorted into something influenced by your sexuality as well, by the media most likely, I would just keep it to yourself unless inquired.

    However, that is only my opinion, I have nothing to back it up with other than what I assume can/may/will happen if you do.

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    Oct 11, 2011 10:21 PM GMT
    GigoloAssassin said Yeah, if that bowtie doesnt give it away....lol! icon_wink.gif
    Hahah. A lot of southern gentlemen wear bow ties.
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    Oct 12, 2011 2:37 AM GMT
    jpBITCHva said
    19c79 said. I talk like I always talk.

    Dorothy Parker, on her mother-in-law who was from Richmond, Virginia:

    "Like all Southern women, Hortense can make the word 'egg' into three syllables."
    Hah! Love it.
  • nv7_

    Posts: 1453

    Oct 12, 2011 2:48 AM GMT
    You're hispanic, I mean gay? Who knew? icon_cool.gif
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    Oct 12, 2011 3:44 AM GMT
    What is most important to you?: Being gay OR having people identify you as being gay? And why?

    Some people define their identity by things they can't control: (race, gender, orientation, nationality, genetics, birthplace, history, height, born rich/poor etc)

    I define identity by what you did with the cards you were dealt. Why is being gay so important to you if you have no control over your orientation? What do you deserve credit for? Maybe the true source of pride is not in being gay but in the fact that you're not a pussy and don't care if people know or not. To me, you get way more street credit by letting what you've achieved become who you are. Makes you even hotter too. Be safe man.



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    Oct 12, 2011 3:48 AM GMT
    You handle "outing" yourself the same way I do....in a matter of fact kind of way. I was born and raised in the South and I find this is the best way as it doesn't make a big issue out of it, but at the same time gets it out there.
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    Oct 12, 2011 3:55 AM GMT
    Scruffypup saidYou handle "outing" yourself the same way I do....in a matter of fact kind of way. I was born and raised in the South and I find this is the best way as it doesn't make a big issue out of it, but at the same time gets it out there.
    Hmmm. Me too.

  • JP85257

    Posts: 3284

    Oct 12, 2011 6:23 AM GMT
    I dont look at you as gay or even as an immigrant. You are an American just like me.

    The fact that you are gay is inconsequential to what you are doing. Tell them or do not tell them.
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    Oct 12, 2011 6:38 AM GMT
    There's no need to tell them unless they specifically ask or the subject comes up. You may never know if the people that you've met earlier in your journey would have treated you differently had they known, but you shouldn't go out of your way to find out.

    If anything, you coming out and saying it at the end in your book could be a great wake up call for those people who never knew but might have a problem with it. The fact that they interacted with someone gay without any problem and didn't even know it might change their perspective.

    Stay safe.
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    Oct 12, 2011 6:44 AM GMT
    People see what they want to see and think what they want to think about you.

    If you are secure in who you are and confident with yourself, I don't think you have to confirm or justify who you are to anyone - but you.

    Others can accept, deny, or remain oblivious as they see fit because they will anyway.
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    Oct 12, 2011 7:26 AM GMT
    I think the tone of your trip would change drastically if you you were to be "the gay guy" traveling across the U.S. That wasn't the purpose of your trip. I think you're handling people just right who ask about being gay. I don't think you have to feel guilty you didn't tell someone.
    I guess for me it goes back to that the intent on why you started your trip.
    I like your short updates on your trip you've done on the early morning news. Please keep doing them. If you find the time, a progress report to RJ every couple weeks would be great to.

    A safe journey and Good Luck on your trip.
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    Oct 12, 2011 7:50 AM GMT
    I would say yes - you should be more vocal about being gay.

    You're not just any guy, you're someone trekking across the country and trying to understand what it means to be American.

    To a lot of people you would be a role model.

    It's kind of your responsibility to be vocally out. You can still be yourself. But people should be aware that you're gay.

    *It shows that gay people can do cool things to.
    *It provides a role model for the gays in the towns you're walking through
    *It normalises being gay. The more normal it is, the less people will oppose it. If you arent vocal about it, then you're contributing toward its non-normality and not helping anyone except yourself.

    That's my view anyway. And the more visible your role in society the more important this is, and being a journo is about as visible as it gets.
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    Oct 12, 2011 7:52 AM GMT
    PS: I should've added. The fact that this trip has nothing to do with a gay cause makes it even more important that you're vocal. Its when gays contribute to non-gay causes that affect others I think people really start to go, wow they're alright. Again, just what I think.
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    Oct 12, 2011 8:50 PM GMT
    Thanks, everyone. You've confirmed what I thought. Maybe I don't act the way most people think gay men act, and maybe I'm doing something most people wouldn't list under "things gay men do," but I'm not pretending, and I'm not acting any differently than I normally act.

    I'll say, there have been instances when I have "volunteered" the information, but that's when it comes up organically. For example, there have been two couples with daughters "of marrying age" who have hinted at introducing me to them. icon_redface.gif I have, of course, cut the matchmaking attempts at the root. One of them, a couple in Pennsylvania, turned out to have a gay son who the mom immediately brought up, but that was before I separated from my partner and, well, the kid is 20. icon_lol.gif

    To answer some of theantijock's concerns, I must say that I do think I can hope that some of the people I've met open their minds towards gay people at least a little, while not claiming to be an activist. I'm not actively trying to change people's minds, and as I said in my original post, I'm not preaching. As to your analogy to a hypothetical homophobe being housed by gay people, I don't think it holds. A homophobe would, by definition not want to stay with gay people; if he went into their home and pretended to be ok with them, and to be grateful, he would be doing exactly that--pretending to be someone else. I, again, am not pretending to be anything or anyone but myself. Plus, again, anyone who googles me (and I guess I tend to assume that most people would google someone before letting him into their home) will see plain as day that I'm gay. And as Evan87 pointed out, I wouldn't want to stay with blatantly homophobic people to begin with.
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    Nov 07, 2011 3:58 PM GMT
    19c79 saidThanks, everyone. You've confirmed what I thought. Maybe I don't act the way most people think gay men act, and maybe I'm doing something most people wouldn't list under "things gay men do," but I'm not pretending, and I'm not acting any differently than I normally act..


    I say carry on Tino; without even having to reveal yourself, you're making the single strong point that, there's more to a person than his sexuality. Our sexuality is a part of us, but it's not the Whole of us.
    Just be how you are. Carry on.... icon_wink.gif
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    Nov 07, 2011 4:24 PM GMT
    19c79 said
    I have, of course, cut the matchmaking attempts at the root. One of them, a couple in Pennsylvania, turned out to have a gay son who the mom immediately brought up, but that was before I separated from my partner and, well, the kid is 20. icon_lol.gif
    Tino, I find this interesting. If I'm reading this right then the mother mentioned her daughter before you even knew there was a gay son in the family.

    This sort of shoots to the heart of what some are saying, that your appearance, demeanor, traveling and your goals don't fit the stereotypical gay perceptions that others have and that by acknowledging your sexuality you are showing that those perceptions are inaccurate within our society. Here's a mother that didn't mention her son's sexuality until after she found out you were gay. Do you think that her perception might have changed by the role model that you provided her with by simply being yourself? I'm guessing it did, but it wouldn't have made that impact if you hadn't shared your sexuality. It's unfortunate that you didn't get a chance to meet her son, it might very well have helped him to see that positive role model exist in the gay community and that it's not all about what the media likes to portray a gay man as being.

    Change starts one person at a time and you're finding many opportunities to help make those changes in a very positive way. Seize those moments.
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    Nov 07, 2011 5:03 PM GMT
    eb925guy said
    19c79 saidI have, of course, cut the matchmaking attempts at the root. One of them, a couple in Pennsylvania, turned out to have a gay son who the mom immediately brought up, but that was before I separated from my partner and, well, the kid is 20.

    Change starts one person at a time and you're finding many opportunities to help make those changes in a very positive way. Seize those moments.

    You're right. It's part of what has made this a rewarding experience. Just to be clear, though, this couple in PA are not the same people I mention in that other thread about the mom who has been incessant in her matchmaking attempts. The guy in DC is 26. And I forgot that I had mentioned this PA family already in this old post. Now I'm embarrassed. I'm not trying to make it seem like everyone wants me. I know there's a lot of people whose cup of tea I am not.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Nov 07, 2011 5:09 PM GMT
    Constantino, I think you should do or say what is natural for you to do,
    given who you are, what you are trying to accomplish and in sharing who you are. I won't conceil or broadcast your sexuality. They need to embrace who you are, your sexuality is a part of who you are... a "building block" so to speak. Sounds like you have been doing what is comfortable for you.

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