I was chatting with my friend Kylee last night. We talked about her new company, lovealoud, but mostly about being gay in Ohio. More specifically Toledo, Ohio. I left Toledo almost five years ago, spent a year dating a man, a year getting over a man, a year telling myself that I was label-less, a half year calling myself bi, and then finally 6 months ago going gay-all the way.
I’ve never been happier. Although, being out sooner would’ve been easier, in some aspects, I can’t imagine coming out all the way as a lesbian if I continued living in Toledo. The gay community in Toledo is very small to non-existent. I think there are possibly two gay bars? My friend Kylee and I have a mutual friend who’s still living in Toledo. He’s a gay guy from a giant, well-off family. His parents are Christian Republicans and while he’s told him that he was gay, they’ve either dismissed it or encouraged him to go to church a bit more to talk it out with God. As a result it feels, to me, that he’s in a sort of self-loathing place with his gayness.
For instance, I joked that for Pride my friend Mark and I were going to get T-shirts made that said “Heterophobic” to wear at the parade. Clearly, it’s funny, is it not? He didn’t think so. His response was, “How would you feel if someone was walking down the street with a shirt that said “homophobic”?” My thought was-it’s Gay Pride. It’s the ONE day where you feel a bit more comfortable in your skin, perhaps. A day where you can walk around and just be yourself-your entire gay self. True, I’d be pissed and annoyed to see a person walking around in a shirt that said Homophobic. People where those shirts all day, every day, 365 days of the year. Literally, no, but the entire world, as a whole-is very homophobic. That’s a fact. Clearly, I wouldn’t walk down my West Harlem neighborhood with the shirt on, and wouldn’t wear it visibly in the subway. I’m not looking for any trouble. But to take it off for laughs on the parade route-hell yeah!
Another instance I told him that Miriam and I were having a gay day. Before we started dating, Miriam and her friends would have days where they’d all go out and add the word gay to the day of the week. For instance, Metropolitan on Wednesgay. I told him, “we’re having a gay day.” And he was all, “what’s a gay day?” I responded, “every day is essentially straight day and on gay days we hang out with our other gay friends, go to a gay venue, and enjoy being gay with one another.”
I have a lot of straight friends, and I’m not about segregation at all but, sometimes you need to hang out with other gays. You need to be able to speak about things and issues that are meaningful to you in your life. People can talk all they want about the ridiculousness of equal rights and the necessity of gay marriage as a straight person, but do they really get it like we do? The ability to ask, “How do you wield a strap-on without throwing out your back?” comfortably without gasps or looks of shock.
I first thought that my dear best friend was a self-loathing homo and then I realized, he’s a homo living in Toledo, Ohio, that’s a very hard thing. On Sunday I was at Miriam’s in her bed, talking to my mom. Miriam started making the bed, with me still in it and my mother, ever the bed maker scolded, “Get out of bed so she can make it!” Later that day I was talking to her about my frustrations about my retail job preventing me from my writing passion. I told her I was looking into writing for some gay magazines or websites and she was all, “I don’t think you’re really gay, Erika”
It takes time, I know. My family is still licking the wounds from the first out gay relative and most are still passing off as a fad. Sorry-no luck, Big Homo Erika Davis, That’s me. Point is, that’s what Toledo does, or any other city that’s not Portland, San Francisco, Columbus, Chicago, etc. So what to do? Live you life as a lie, miserable or be the gay guy in the small town. I’m trying to lure my dear sweet friend back to the Big Apple for another grand ole time. His first experience was a bit dramatic. It’s seriously personal but involves The Cock, that’s all that needs to be said.
Being out is a big step. It took me 28 years. I get it, and sometimes your community isn’t the safest place to be gay all the way. Yet, not being your true self, not loving who you are has its consequences, mostly unhappiness, depression, and self-loathing.
You know how stupid people are always saying that you should ship group X to some island so they can all be together? Where is gay island? and where can I buy tickets to send my friend there?