I Think I Came Out Early Online

To some degree, there’s always been a certain internal inconsistency to the ramblings on this blog. On the one hand I have occasionally insisted that I would hate to live up to gay stereotypes, and even that I don’t want readers to believe that this is some sort of introspective effort on my part. I suppose that mission statement was starting to fade away as the blog’s subtitle changed to “Introspection masked as culture criticism“, and the Sexiest Males List and Early Gay Crushes definitely betrayed a willingness to engage with what kind of a gay I am, on both a shallow and a deeper level, or at least in a longer view. By now, when I even have a subcategory on the blog named The Gay I Am, I guess it’s time to discard any pretense that this is not first and foremost a forum for introspection.

One of the things that have run as something of an unacknowledged undercurrent on the blog for years, is what kind of a guy I was before I realized I was gay. The Early Gay Crushes pieces have touched upon it briefly; when did I really understand that those crushes meant that I was gay? For the early ones, like Jonathan Taylor Thomas or Zac Hanson, the answer is simple: It didn’t. To the extent that I perceived them as gay crushes at all, I don’t think that made me think of myself as a potential homosexual. For one, I didn’t think of them as sexual at all. Later, I simply rationalized them into a heterosexual framework. For later crushes, like Jesse McCartney and Jesse Eisenberg, that became harder to do. By now I was old enough to understand that the feelings I had toward them might mean I was gay, but I wasn’t ready to admit it yet, neither publicly nor even to myself.

Which brings me to the real topic of today’s post. In my near constant narcissistic quest to gain a deeper understanding of my own recent past, I was lazingly reading through some old posts I made on the forums of the website tv.com. For a brief time, I was near obsessively interested in the machinations of the American television industry – to a far greater extent than I was interested in any particular TV show, with the possible exception of 7th Heaven, of course – and I posted regularly to the site. What surprised me, however, was that on January 23, 2006, I replied to the question of who I thought was the cutest guy in a television drama. My answer (“Adam Brody – The O.C., David Gallagher – 7th Heaven) didn’t surprise me – they have been staples on all SMAs of all time – but the important thing here is the date. I didn’t come out until August 2006, and from the way I usually tell the story of my coming out, I didn’t really admit it to myself until almost immediately before I came out.

Granted, this doesn’t have to mean much. One, the fine print on the timeline of my gay self-realization is not important, for anyone other than myself, if even to me. Second, the word “cute” leaves a certain room for heterosexual post-rationalization. There’s a qualitative difference between the words “cute” and “sexy”, for instance. While the first could arguably connote some sense of emotional attraction (like, say, that a person is “likable”, or “funny”, or “the kind of person I’d like to be”, or something like that), “sexy” is harder to misinterpret, it connotes sexual attraction (even though I have later tried to merge the two traits, per my Sexiest Males Alive, Twenty Over 30 edition), That said, I also know myself well enough to know that when I answered that question, I was actually interpreting it to mean “attractive”. So maybe, by January 2006, I was sending out small signals that I would eventually ease out of the closet. It wasn’t that the thought of homosexual attractions hadn’t crossed my mind – like I’ve said numerous times, my first thought when my brother came out to me was that this complicated my sorting out of my own sexuality – but as far as I know, it was the first time I had put it in writing.

Also, I was a little surprised by the venue. My brother was a frequent tv.com poster as well, and there was a decent chance that he could in fact stumble upon my comment. Continuing down the psychoanalytical path, I can only speculate that I kind of wanted him to. If somebody had asked me directly at the time if I was gay, there is a slight chance I would actually have admitted it, depending on the questioner and the context of the question. But my brother never asked me, and even though the gradual realization that I was gay continued to burn inside me for several more months, I didn’t tell him until late summer. When I finally did, though, he said he had suspected for some time.

On a related note, I remember in the early summer of 2006, when I was slowly opening up to the idea that I might at least be bisexual – I quickly abandoned it after I realized that how deep my gay feelings really ran – I responded to a blog post (since deleted, I think) asking for the hottest players of the Euro 2006 soccer championships. Remember, this was before the concept of the bromance had really taken hold, and for a man to call another man “hot”, in my opinion it had to mean there was some gayness involved. I don’t remember exactly which players I mentioned (maybe Cesc Fabregas? Fernando Torres? Lukas Podolski?), but by that time, I think it was starting to sink in that this pretty much had to mean I was gay. It was something of a breakthrough moment, I think, even though it came less than two months before I finally came out.

The important context of both of these internet postings, however, is that they were written semi-anonymously. For both I used a pseudonym, and if I was reluctant to reflect on their possible gay connotations, the guise of anonymity may have lowered the bar for answering the question. After all, in some sense, everything you do on the Internet is role-playing and edited self-presentation. Maybe I felt it was easier to admit to same-sex attractions because the anonymity somehow made it feel less real and by extension less definitive? Of course, all of this is partly contradicted by the aforementioned fact that there was some risk it might be read by someone I knew. If I wasn’t yet ready to own up to it, why didn’t I put in a diary instead, or at the very least behind the protection of a less recognizable pseudonym?

I don’t know. But I suspect this won’t be the last time I dig into my past for early clues of latent homosexuality, or of homosexual self-awareness. You be the judge of whether this makes me a sad person in desperate need of a boyfriend.

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