Updated: Nov 24, 2022
I know what type of gay I am.
How about you?
My wife and I separated in 2019 and I came out to live life as a gay man. The resulting feeling was both exciting and terrifying. I was excited to be out of the closet and terrified that I was single for the first time in 20 years and experiencing this without my biggest supporter. I was terrified about what living life as 100 per cent me would mean for my children. I recall using the word ‘exhilarated’ a number of times when asked how I was feeling. It seemed to capture both feelings of exhilaration and terror.
I remember wondering about how I could meet other gay men and join the community. I wanted the gay men around me to have little symbols above their heads so I could see if they were gay. You know, like those symbols in The Sims (see gif).
I did the next best thing: I downloaded Grindr.
I found some photos that I was happy to post on my profile. I filled out details about myself so I had just the right mix of mystery and allure.
What body type am I? Is saying that I'm muscular too much?
What tribe was I?
What was I looking for?
Where would I meet?
All these questions seemed so simple. But what they felt like they were asking me, a freshly out but self-aware gay man was: what type of gay am I?
I answered honestly. I was looking for friends, dates and networking. And then my profile went live.
What I saw was a revelation. There were gay men less than a hundred metres from me. There were men sending the type of photos for which Grindr is famous and guys began tapping me. It was like being chump in a pool full of hungry sharks.
It’s easy to get lost in Grindr, isn’t it? It’s a heady mix of gay men all looking for a hook-up. It’s also easy to get swept up in it all, and reading profiles seems so needless when there are pics to look at and racing minds to keep up with as we imagine the sex we can have together.
And then there were more questions:
Was I a top? A bottom? Or versatile?
Was I masculine, straight-acting or was I effeminate?
What was I into?
Was I scene/non-scene?
We all ask these questions. We want to know if we’ll be a good match when we have sex or if we're remotely interested in the same things and could hang out and get to know each other.
I felt like a hungry man sizing up a buffet, only the buffet was sizing me up, too.
Something within me held me back. I often do this in new social situations; I sit back and observe and then jump in. Online isn’t an exception.
But there was something beyond my usual response to new social situations. It was the thought that I had only just emerged into a life where I was taking my masks off and engaging in the world as authentically me. I had spent years taking off masks and becoming myself. This was a hard-fought battle within myself and I was finally being 100 per cent me. Almost immediately, I was being asked to put myself into different boxes so other gay men could place me.
With great effort (remember, I was the starving man at the buffet), I stopped and took a moment to listen to myself and reflect on my values.
I knew that I wasn’t prepared to put on and try out other masks to see if they fit and helped me meet other gays. That felt inauthentic.
The words of the immortal Dr Maya Angelou echoed in my mind: “You are only free when you realize that you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
I knew that I needed to continue to belong to me. I needed to be me.
I used Grindr as a tool to help with real connection. I established boundaries so I would feel that I was using Grindr, rather than it using me. I communicated these boundaries to any guys from whom I got a good feeling. This wasn't easy, but I knew that I was being true to myself. Some dropped away, but others understood.
One of those who understood was a man who turned out to be my wonderful partner, Jeff.
What type of gay am I? I’m me.
What type of gay are you? Are you being authentically yourself? What labels – sexual preferences or otherwise – have been attached to you? What labels have you placed on yourself? Are they accurate? Or are they holding you back?
How do you show up in the world? Can you be authentically yourself in all situations? What price are you paying for not being authentically yourself?
Isn’t there a lot of stuff to think about in this post? It dealt with my key themes of connection and authenticity.
Remember, you don’t need to process these questions alone. I have created a private space on Facebook where we can go deeper in a safe space online in a chat with me and others. It’s a space where you can give and get support as you work to connect authentically with yourself, those in your life and your communities. This space is available for paid premium subscribers only. You can become a premium subscriber by hitting the 'subscribe and stay connected' link below. A basic subscription is free and is also available through the link below.
Also, I have a list of organisations here with whom you can talk to trained mental health professionals if you feel you need that.
Where to now?
Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Subscribe to my website and let’s stay connected as we work to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men.
Thank you for reading this post. I hope that you’ve found it helpful.
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Important notice: All views expressed above are my own and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.
Stay tuned for my podcast on this topic!