Vodka Tonics & Rainbows: A Column
Vodka Tonics & Rainbows
A Weekly Column from Matthew Hawkins
A girl in one of my classes told me my essays on gay dating weren't representative of the entire gay community. By saying this, she insinuated that the gay community is stereotypical and average enough to be appropriately portrayed via a single perspective. She defended her actions by announcing she was bisexual to the room, and stating her experience in the LGBTQ+ community had been nothing like mine. She hadn’t been bullied for it, she didn’t get an eating disorder due to unrealistic pressures, she hadn’t been abused in past relationships. And my response: good for her.
The only thing that separates the gay community—any minority—from the majority is the societal rejection from that majority. There is no right way to be gay, there is no right way to be an individual—although people will try to tell you otherwise. You can be a twink, bear, otter, cub, daddy, zaddy, etc. Gays trade categorical nicknames like straight boy’s trade baseball cards. It doesn’t matter what position you are. Everyone is something and everyone is into something. There are always new types of gays being immaculately conceived. There’s always a new nickname; the minority is always growing. However, when that girl told me that I didn’t represent the gay community, it shrank. I felt like I didn’t belong again. I felt like I did before I found the gay community.
Being gay has caused me to do a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I was straight—a lot of risky, impulsive, and scarring things. I can’t blame the girl in my class for not knowing this. They don’t show it on TV or Instagram. They show the successful coming out story, the happy sex-crazed relationships and club scenes—the good parts. They don’t show the hard parts: the societal rejection, the all-encompassing self-loathing, the never-ending confusion. By “they” I mean us—the artists, the writers, the filmmakers, the gays. She doesn’t know these things, because they are what I (we) don’t tell enough of.
She doesn’t know I used to pray to be straight when I lived in West Virginia.
She doesn’t know I make my voice deeper when I’m behind the register of my retail job, so customers don’t think I’m ditzy.
She doesn’t know I hit first boyfriend in a former abusive relationship because I didn’t know how to cope with losing a someone I loved.
She doesn’t know freshman year my roommate threatened to kill himself because he was jealous of my body—that I stopped eating in order to deal with it.
She doesn’t know I stopped eating in the first place because I didn’t understand myself or my body—that I wanted people to understand so I was subconsciously dying slowly and painfully so everyone had to watch me do it.
She doesn’t know I cried in the bathroom after her comments because her words made me think I didn’t belong to the only community I’ve ever belonged to.
She doesn’t know about my friend who used to have sex for money even though his family was rich.
She doesn’t know about the time he was with a huge man who started hitting him hard and he called me screaming and crying.
She doesn’t know how much time I spend staring into the mirror—that I can’t even tell what my body looks like, that my body dysmorphia and everything always looks wrong, like a different language I can’t comprehend.
She doesn’t know I wear oversized clothes because I want to forget that I actually have a body.
She doesn’t know I used to run a handheld steamer, intended for wrinkled clothes, up and down my torso just to cope with being alone.
She doesn’t know I started watching gay porn in college and mutilated my arms with a disposable razor for it.
She doesn’t know I fall in love too often.
She doesn’t know about the guy I slept with on the first date who never called me back—that I secretly hope I’m still sleeping and I’m going to wake up and he’ll be right there.
She doesn’t know that my Dad was absent for the majority of my childhood and wants to meet me now but I can’t because I’m worried that he’ll be ashamed I’m gay—that he’ll blame himself for my gayness—that I’ll blame my gayness for his absence.
She doesn’t know any of this, because this is what I don’t tell.
There is a false notion that gay men are flawless; I have so many flaws. I am so many different people: I am a different person at my job than I am on the street, than I am at a gay club, than I am with my boyfriend, than I am by myself, than I am in my essays. I constantly have to change who I am in order to cater to the majority’s comprehension of me. I have to write so the girl who doesn’t even like me will understand. However, I don’t think she could ever understand. I don’t think that anyone outside of a minority group can respectfully imagine what life would be like on the inside of that group.
I've dedicated my writing and existence to being so open and telling so much because it is a perspective from the outside that needs to be told. If I don’t tell, no one will. Although gay men reject a large part of the fragile masculinity complex, we still subconsciously suffer. We often hide our feelings with drinks or working out or other men. Through Vodka Tonics and Rainbows I intend to acknowledge all of the manners in which we’ve learned to cope.
I suspect that many gay men don’t share as much as I do because it is difficult. It is not all vodka tonics and rainbows. It is hard and it is painful. This community and this experience—my community and my experience—wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice.
The girl in my class basically called my work a fake portrayal of the gay community. She used flamboyant words like, “out of left field” and “jarring” to describe the un-believability my words. She told me that the partners in my essays come and go so fast that she “doesn’t care” about them. She said that she would like to get to know them more, that it’s annoying how little they share. And my final response to her: try living it.