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Toxic culture makes coming out even harder for boys

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Toxic culture makes coming out even harder for boys

Walker Price

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My coming out experience was a strange one because I’d been struggling to understand my sexuality since sixth grade. That was when I realized I was attracted to boys as well as girls, so I came out as bisexual to a few close friends and my family.

From there, I realized that I was attracted to people regardless of their gender, and I learned that there was a word for that: Pansexual, and that’s how I identified up until about three weeks into this school year, when, while dating a girl, I realized that I’m gay. I’m fairly open about it, but coming out is still a tough experience—any LGBT+ person can tell you that. But it’s also a different experience for men than for women.

In society, femininity is seen as an inherently bad thing, whereas masculinity is lauded as the epitome of good traits. When a man identifies as anything but straight, often the assumption is that he is feminine, because that is the stereotype society has forced people to perpetuate for years.

I’m not saying that a lot of gay men are not feminine, just that it’s not reflective of our entire community. In entertainment, gay men are frequently portrayed as the sassy best friend, the accessory to the main character, stripped of their entire personality except for their gayness. Though queer women deal with their own stereotypes, there is far less rigidity and judgement, often making the process easier.

“I haven’t gotten any specific hate about it. I think Wilson in general is a pretty accepting school,” Kate Lenegan, a bisexual senior, said regarding her experience as a member of the LGBT+ community at Wilson. Adding that, as a woman in the community, it’s easier because, “people feel the need to protect [women], where men have to protect themselves.”

Jamie Steinman, however, an openly gay junior, said that he has, on multiple occasions, “seen too many straight guys use a certain slur that I think we as a community are far too familiar with.” Steinman also spoke to his experience being openly gay around straight men, saying that he “was always effeminate, and didn’t fit into the mold” that straight men had, and that “around straight men, its harder to find a place to be yourself.”

That isn’t to say there aren’t struggles being out as a woman. But women have, as senior Sammy Solomon, another openly gay men at Wilson, puts it, “a very complimentary nature that doesn’t really exist when you’re a guy.” They seem to remain that way even after they come out as queer.

In general, men have it far better in society than women, but in this specific area, that pattern doesn’t hold true. Because of the constant environment of toxic masculinity that exists in our society, men aren’t supposed to show any emotion but anger, especially towards other men, or else they’re seen as weak. This of course reflects the fact that women are still seen as inferior to men in many ways. Equating gay men to women, which is what makes them “worse” than straight men, shows that we see women as less than men.

Wilson is a very accepting community, and those who are not accepting are generally looked down upon. But this isn’t always the case. Many of my friends and I have experienced homophobia at Wilson, such as being called an offensive homophobic slur, or being told by a peer that their father doesn’t approve of gay people, so why should they? But I have never seen anything done about it.

So why are there so many more openly queer girls than boys at Wilson? The simple answer is this: gay men are seen as lesser in the eyes of the majority of straight men, and reduced to their sexuality and relegated to the role of “gay best friend” in the eyes of the media (think Will and Grace) and a good number of straight girls. Gay women, however, do not change much in the eyes of the majority of straight women and are instead sexually fetishized by the media and straight men.

The experience is different for men and women, and undeniably a hard time for both. Still, it seems to be harder for men.

No one shows this better than Lenegan, who said, “It’s been pretty lit” about being openly bisexual at Wilson. That is rarely the experience for boys like me.

If you’re queer and looking for a place to be accepted at Wilson but haven’t found it yet, try coming to Gender-Sexuality Alliance that meets every Thursday at STEP in room 204.

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Toxic culture makes coming out even harder for boys