In the LGBTQ community, privileged are those who can pass as “straight”. This ability to conceal our identities often times distinguishes many members of my community from our peers that belong to other historically marginalized groups. However, this privilege is not uniform across all LGBTQ individuals. In junior high school, many of my male classmates paid particularly close attention to my every move. Because I spent more time around my female friends and enjoyed listening to Miley Cyrus, an overwhelming suspicion over my sexual orientation began to take shape.
Suddenly, my nicknames of “Dan” and “Danny” were replaced by “fag” and “queer”. I felt that my entire class always believed that I was the weirdo in the room, and that I was too effeminate and flamboyant to be around others. I began to cry to my mom on the car rides home from school because of the never-ending and morale-crushing insults and slurs directed my way several times every day. I tried my best to give my bullies and classmates fewer reasons to believe that I might be gay, but it turned out to be a lost cause. This bullying and social marginalization made me depressed, and I frequently stayed home from school out of sadness and fear. I was deep in the closet, and I could not see a way out.
When I switched schools for high school, I was eager to dispel suspicion over my interest in men. I quickly entered a relationship with a female classmate that lasted for two years. While this relationship certainly removed me and my sexual orientation from the spotlight, I was emotionally dissatisfied. We ended our relationship after I expressed my intention to follow through on my interest in men.
After I came out to my classmates and parents during the last month of high school, many expressed their surprise and confusion to me. While I had successfully concealed my identity, I had done so at the expense of my personal sanity. Eager to explore my new identity, I quickly became involved in Duke’s LGBTQ organization when I arrived at college.
I am now going on my second year as president of that organization, and I have never felt more comfortable with myself as a gay man. That being said, my leadership and dedication to the community comes into question for some of my peers in the LGBTQ community. I have been asked on more than one occasion, “Why do you care so much about your identity?”
Throughout my life, “acting straight” has been my defense mechanism against bullying and gossip. To this day, I am haunted by my own mannerisms that I fear many might deem flamboyant. However, I am slowly winning this struggle against my social anxiety. Though I am insecure about my flamboyance, I am proud of the journey on which it has taken me.