Friday, September 07, 2007


It was bound to happen.

After months of not-so-patiently listening to the Goat ride me about my internalized homophobia, and my own defense that it was not so much internalized as pretty external and obvious, the other day, I had a little "aha" moment:

There I was, wringing my hands again about the loss of self-respect that went with finally giving up on my forty-year project of trying to become a man, and I saw it:

why was being a "man" better
than being what I was?

I had pretty decided ideas of what a "man" did, and I did them: I married, raised and supported a family, and generally tried to do the right thing by the woman I loved. This was not entirely a "role" imposed, it really did well up from what I understood my job, my father's job, my grandfather's job, to have been. That is internalized, of course, but not necessarily homophobic.

Or if it is, you have to ask what "homo" stands for.

Whatever happened to "ecce homo," for instance?

What riled me past all sense, however, was the definite sense I got that I "got no points" for doing all of this. One of the mantras of my marriage, after all, was "you get no points for doing what's right," and it was said both as sad acknowledgment and as an attempt to cover that acknowledgment with humor. But I really felt that I didn't. Yes, I traveled a lot, and yes, I was mostly away from home when things hit the fan, and yes, commuter marriages are hell for everyone involved. Isis did the most amazing job of holding it all together under very trying circumstances, as became only too clear when the shoe shifted to the other foot, and I was the one left behind for some five years or so... I grant all of that.

But what dawned on me was not just that I was not "getting any points" for what I was doing, but that my emotional reaction was to the fact that I was doing all of this more or less against my own nature, that I had made myself conform to the ideal of what a husband and father did, and was beginning to crumble under the pressure from outside and the dissatisfaction building from within. Mind you, it only got hopeless when the work that had fueled my ability to maintain that image, what you might even call a "graven image," of what I was meant to be, dried up and left me without even the outer form of what I was supposed to be. After all, when I was having my nervous breakdown, I was in the throes of a major project with huge responsibilities and looming deadlines, and what appeared to be an end to the Marital Compact about who did what.

But, back to "aha":

What I was saying to myself all those years, on some level, was that I-as-I-was was not worth much, but that I could redeem myself if I did the things that my father and grandfather had done. Now, it never occurred to me that neither of those internalized ideals would have lifted up their work or personal life as ideals for others to follow, to say nothing of their marital life. In fact, I think all involved would have said, as I say now and even said then, that everyone has to find his own way, and there is no right way. But it's one thing to know it and another thing to set aside the preconceptions that are laid down in early observation and act on it...

So, if I-as-I-was wasn't worth much, I would say it was largely my peers rather than my parents who let me know that, my parents always having been almost idiotically supportive of my various plans and dreams — or in the extreme case, when disapproval was unavoidable, studiously avoiding saying anything that would let me know they worried or disapproved.

So, if I-as-I-was wasn't worth much, who was that? Well, on some level it was our old friend the Inner Girl, who had to suffer decades of conscious and complete denial and oppression. Now what does it mean now that she has the upper hand and I can no longer stand in her way, but can only stand back and watch in horrified fascination while she plays my hand? Well, one thing it means is that I have to admit that my self-respect was bound up in being what I was meant to be rather than what I was. I'm not proud of that.

But then, I am not particularly proud to have turned out, forty years down the road, and after all the hand-wringing about never finding anyone who wanted to be dominated by a complete wuss, to turn out to be a butt boy after all.

Once a faggot, always a faggot, said my friend John; I guess I have to buy that.

But "once a twink, always a twink"?
God help me

That was what stuck in my craw the other day, and led to the "aha" moment. I had never really had any problem with the fact that almost all of my fantasies were "male-oriented," but I distinctly remember the moment when I said to myself, "You can't fantasize about the great, dark, looming MAN anymore." I could be gay as long as long as I wasn't that kind of gay.

In short, as long as I wasn't myself.



Here we go again.

The sticking-in-my-craw also had something to do with bringing the Goat and my family life together. There, suddenly in the open, was something I had made my private peace with long before; it was the open nature of it that bothered me so much. Anyone looking at Isis and the Goat could see clearly that while they were different in more than the distribution of hair and body fat, the real difference was the role I played in each relationship.

And that was something I could live with for myself, but cost me a huge amount to take into the "public domain." Because it is practically painfully obvious to anyone who sees me with the Goat who is doing what to whom. To my mother. To my son. Coming out, again.

It never ends, does it?

Maybe I'm crazy — no, I am crazy, but — maybe I'm wrong, and it isn't as obvious to other people as it is to me. But I have been well known throughout my life for letting my emotions surface on my face for all to see, which is why some well-meaning people thought I had a chance at a career as an actor [ha!]. Well, I can't help feeling that this exposure is just that: exposure. Another @#$%-ing thing that a very old German friend of mine used to call "good for one's humility." God knows the last year or so has been really good for my humility; I don't really need any additional build-up in that department just now, thank you...

So there we are. The Troll's internalized homophobia turns up after all.

My recognition of it may have been partly triggered by the realization I had the other day when the Goat and I were discussing my dislike of drag [based on my appreciation of women, of and for whom I see only the most superficial resemblance or affection, in it]. Now the Goat would be hopeless in drag, but he did spend formative years of his early gay life living with in a community of drag queens. So he takes my suspicion of it personally. Fair enough.

My recognition was that leather was the equal and opposite fetishization of masculine identity. Now it all looked different. The drag queens and the leather men were just gay men of the Famous Middle Ground setting their sights on the extremes at either end of the spectrum, and neither one of them really resembled their models much. MHey, that's OK. MEven with ME.

It does leave me wondering, though, why I am so enamored of one drag at the expense of the other. Maybe there are wigs and gowns ahead for me after all...

I think I would be more likely to take on the role of "dame" in pantomime, where there's no particular disguising of the facts, but just the level delivery of the put-down. Maybe what I prefer about that is the overt as opposed to the covert hostility.

I guess I can chew on that one for a while.

Hang in there all.


  1. I'm not exactly sure what all this means (I always seem to have a hard time with metaphors), but are we saying that the man has become the wuss?

    Not that there's anything wrong with that ...

  2. Paul:

    well, maybe. The point was that I was so sure what I was looking for [a submissive member of the Chinese Olypmic gymnastics team, say] and was quite sure that noone was going to look at such a non-macho type as a top.

    So there is a certain logic to all but my own eye that I have wound up as a bottom after all. It just wasn't where I thought I was going.

    Having gotten here, it's OK for now, though of course, the Chinese gymnastics team still has its appeal.

    However, since they are extremely unlikely to show up EITHER in Nowheresville or in the Big Woods, it doesn't really signify, does it?

    What goes on between my ears STAYS between my ears, as they say in Las Vegas.

    Does that make any more sense? Never sure where the problems lie, but I do know that what I think is clear seldom is as clear on the receiving end...

    Let me know if further, ahem, elucidation is required.