Do you know how much easier life for me would have been if someone had sat me down when I was young and just said, “Hey, you’re going to grow up to be gay, and this is how you’re going to feel about it?" Years of repression and anger, self-loathing, and fear of being kicked out of the house—all of it would have been for nothing because everyone would have realized what was going to happen even before I did. Adolescence and going through four years of high school would have been easier on me mentally, I’m positive of that.
“But Kai, how does that relate to pop culture?”
Throughout my adolescent years, I was exposed to numerous outlets in cartoons and other forms of media where I noticed the...attractiveness of women without realizing what that meant. “I just want to be her friend because she seems nice!” Does that scream heterosexual to you? I didn’t realize that the closeness I wanted between myself and these other girls happened to be of a romantic nature until my freshman year of high school. After a lifetime of seeing “gal pals” on television and being forced to watch them end up with their princes and their knights in shining armor (seem familiar?), it became more clear. One instance I can recall, with some semblance of clarity, is from when I was ten or eleven, enamoured with a girl from a Nickelodeon television show, the name of which I can’t remember. I ended up jealous when she found happiness in the leading man, but at the time, I felt a heavy sense of self-hatred because I didn’t feel good enough; I was young, but under the impression that I was supposed to have already found some sort of lasting love that was going to give me my first heartbreak. Of course, it wasn’t until years later when I realized that maybe I wasn’t jealous of her, I was jealous of him and the attention he was getting. At the time though, all I felt was self-loathing and sadness for not looking like the type of girl to get some form of happiness from relationships (which, to a pre-teen is obviously the most important thing on one’s mind).
Music also had a tendency to affect my perception of myself and the world around me, because I never felt like any of the music applied to me. I never found pieces of myself in the songs that sang about love or admiration, and I usually found myself turning off the radio after mere minutes of acoustic guitars and men crooning about long lost high school sweethearts. For some reason, I couldn’t connect with any of the women that were singing about their sweet boys and their male pronouns, nor could I relate to the deep voices of men, but I never really understood why. Admittedly, I didn’t understand a lot of things about myself when I was younger. While my mom gushed about Toby Keith or Kenny Chesney, I just remember feeling confused and irritated because I never understood the reaction that she gave to these men; they were just men that she’d probably never meet, and they didn’t even look that good on their album covers. If only my fairy gay-mother had finally made her appearance then, whacking me over the head with her wand, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone and unwelcome even in my own skin.
Books were always the worst. Forcing two characters together just because they spent a lot of time together? That’s just shoddy writing. There was never any mention of gay people in the books that I spent hours reading, or when the word “gay” was mentioned, it was most often an insult and used to hurt the feelings of some bullied character. Hearing and seeing the word used as a slur only helped magnify the feelings of not belonging that I had, and they locked the closet door behind me so that I couldn’t find a way to express who I truly felt I was on the inside. Books, my only real escape, used people like me as a punchline to a joke. We were used as dispensable plot points to authors who didn’t even really know how we felt or who we were. Who was I supposed to be, the punching bag for people to ridicule? Was that the way that the real world worked when you came out of the closet?
I mean, obviously I outgrew the self-doubt and the anger, but sometimes I still wonder who I would have been comfortable becoming if I had been exposed to homosexuality in the media rather than hearing it denounced in the church pews every Sunday. Would I have found happiness within myself earlier if I had just embraced who I was and learned about who I wanted to be, rather than conforming to fit the views that society and God placed on me? I don’t know, and at this point in my life I can’t truly say that I care. I’m finally finding myself and loving whoever that person is, and I’ve found so many new outlets in the past few years that I’m sure will make up for the childhood that I lacked.