I often find myself saying I’m not the typical “guy’s guy” and that could mean a lot of things. It’s probably more accurate and less confusing to just say this: I’m not the typical guy.
I shared this once before when explaining how wrong people can be when it comes to misunderstanding me. I also shared before that I do not identify myself based on my sexual attractions, interests, behaviors, etc.; I would not say that I am heterosexual, homosexual, or any of those labels.
I mention these two together because I think gender plays a major role in how people understand who people are, particularly when it comes to people’s perceptions and concepts of sexuality. This has definitely persisted as a reality for me; gender has impacted how I’m understood from my beginning.
As the youngest of three sons, I know that my mom really wanted a daughter. After having my two older brothers, my parents agreed to try for a third child. Hoping that I would be the girl she had always wanted, my mom did a lot of things in faith. She just believed that I was her baby girl. Not only did she have the name, she decorated my room with Baby Minnie Mouse and Baby Daisy Duck, purchased all kinds of pink stuff, and even prayed over me while in the womb as her daughter.
Clearly, my mom did not have a daughter. She did, however, have a son that behaved more like a daughter than might have been expected.
Throughout my childhood, the theme of “girl” persisted as I regularly conflicted with what was normal for a boy in my age group. I can remember feeling a lot more comfortable doing “girl” things like coloring, singing, and dancing than doing “boy” things like playing sports. I was also known for being one of the smallest and smartest kids, so in some ways, these things played into the notion that I was different.
Of course, this led to mixed reviews among my peers. A number of them, usually guys but girls too, would make fun of me sometimes, say that I acted like a girl, and call me “Jessica,” all reinforcing the theme that I was being perceived as girly and that that was worthy of reproach.
Among adults, it was much kinder, but the perception was parallel. I can recall several adults directly modeling gendered behavior for me, instructing me how to point or how to carry a bag or how to walk, all kinds of common things that would put me more on the masculine side of things and less on the feminine.
The experiences associated with my gender lead me to my initial point about my experiences associated with my sexuality.
I think that a lot of me being perceived and treated as gay stems from my atypical gender performance. Regardless of what I actually feel or do sexually, people often assume that I am gay based on the fact that I am more feminine and less masculine than what is considered culturally normal or appropriate for men. The perception that I am gay has almost been as common as the perception that I am Black; to many, it just seems obvious.
The trouble there for me is that I don’t identify as gay and never have. Even more, the fact that I deliberately chose to stop identifying as straight complicates this because it is often reasoned that if a person is not straight, the individual is gay. This just is not so for me. I say I am neither.
Here are some reasons why I specifically do not identify as straight.
I already stated that I want to identify primarily as a child of God and follower of Jesus Christ; this trumps all sexuality labels. Additionally, I don’t want to internalize or endorse the idea that being heterosexual makes a guy more of a man. I just wholeheartedly disagree with that idea. Sometimes, I deliberately resist and reject this and other constructed gender norms that define being a man.
As helpful as they can be, those norms and our cultural adherence to them can be harmful. Take a look at the level of violence and abuse committed by the heterosexual men being “manly”; it is dreadfully obvious, and I digress.
Taken together, I have become more secure in knowing that a man is not limited to being rational, watching sports, avoiding all emotions except anger, showing strength, and so on. I don’t have problems with men shedding tears, showing weakness, expressing love to other men, or doing other things that may seem a bit atypical for men.
And as I follow the model of Jesus, I see multiple examples of a man using weakness to demonstrate strength, breaking plenty of guy codes and man laws, and doing all kinds of things that were just countercultural in terms of gender, sexuality, and beyond.
That being said, I reason that I can give myself room to be myself authentically and unapologetically so and defy cultural norms that say what a man cannot or should not do, especially when I know it’s in the name of love.
Love Love Love,