Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Therapish Musings

I think I'm off exploring some of the byways of my mental makeup, a topic that is probably of little outside interest (where outside=outside my own head). This is perilously close to memes and surveys and dreamtales in the boredom rankings. Feel free to page on by. But yesterday's entry about the guy I met seven years ago at a technical conference has set me thinking.

I have been saying since I was 17 -- and I have found no reason to alter this conclusion -- that growing up gay (35 years ago and probably still) trains you to erect some pretty strong barriers to wall off your emotional/sexual desires. You get really really good not just at hiding your feelings, but at not letting yourself have some feelings in the first place. (Some might claim that's not possible; I believe it is.) I suspect many people in my cultural environment would metaphoricize their emotional makeup with the image of a wall, so this may not seem like particular insight into gay people or into anyone at all. It's how we protect ourselves emotionally. It's basic survival, really; it's like children learning that not all adults love them like their parents. The self-protective barriers of growing up gay, however, are not just barriers against letting your desires for particular individuals blossom or, once blooming, be known, but barriers against letting the idea that you even have desires in the first place (that is, your homosexual desires) be known. Because you just KNOW, for one thing, that anybody you might have interest in couldn't POSSIBLY reciprocate (by definition!) and would probably be DISGUSTED. And so would everybody else. You know this and you believe this and this underlies the mental structures you build. These structures, unfortunately, outlast the reasons for their construction. They are pretty solid things.

The sad thing is that I still think it's true that gay and lesbian kids feel this, despite the many decades of public evidence to the contrary.

No two people build the identical self-protective structures, or manifest them in the same way, but I still find this a useful metaphor in understanding a lot of gay people I've met over the years. In fact, really advanced Gadar is the ability to recognize when somebody seems to be operating with Hide Your Sexuality at All Costs underpinnings, even if they are not particularly closeted.

How this works for me: It is a great and consuming pleasure for me to meet people, to make connections with them, to enjoy them (men, women, gay, straight, geeks, Morris dancers, whoever). And certainly it's an exciting thing to meet gay guys, to acknowledge and encourage the sexual and flirtatious underpinnings (recent years have brought a lot more of the flirtatious thing into play). But really, honestly, at the absolute core of it all I hardly ever feel the boyfriend-desire want-to-date thing. The point of yesterday's anecdote was how exciting and unusual it felt just to experience this. Mostly, though, I don't buy into this at all.

But when I do? Well, as a general thing you might say that I have enthusiasms. You also might say, as a general thing, that I'm a little obsessive. So that's a steamrolling combination. Over the years I've decided that this is a good thing, or in any case it's not something I can suppress so why should I want to? Now try to imagine this aspect of my persona applied to, oh, a particular individual. With a way, hey, blow the man down.

So I've got these barriers. We keep this in check. But what happens sometimes is that somebody finds a way to get under these barriers, to make me feel safe enough to reveal what's behind them. At this point I could even tell you the specific ways to do this, to map out the secret entrances and unencrypt the password -- I could, but I won't. When the person who sneaks in like this is somebody I have the sort of desire for I rarely even feel and even more rarely admit to, the result can be pretty powerful. This doesn't happen often, but when it does I find myself saying that at least I know I'm a member of the human race after all.

And then afterwards I find myself singing "Twas on one April Morning":

..Young men are false and full of all deceiving;
Young men are false and seldom do prove true,
For they're roving and they're ranging and their minds are always changing;
And they're always looking out for some other one that's new.

Oh, if I had but mine own heart in keeping;
Oh, if I had mine own heart back again;
Close to my bosom I would lock it up for ever,
And it would wander never so far from me again.

Fortunately it's a really great song.
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