Gender Expression and Friendship

I discuss sexuality and gender expression pretty frequently here, Gentle Reader, because they’re subjects close to my heart. When I came out at 16, I became absurdly feminine – I was campy, I was funny: I made myself into a caricature, a clown, because that’s what the gay role models at the time were. I thought that’s who I had to be, as an out gay man.

I’ve written, as well, about how Ms. Capere’s high school boyfriend, J., became for a time my best friend. In those days, he was decently accepting, open-minded. J. was supremely butch, a wannabe biker/cowboy who loved all things redneck. Under his influence, I learned to fish and shoot; I learned the rudiments of taxidermy; I learned to work on cars. My other friends thought I was faking an entire personality because I was trying as desperately to be manly as I’d tried to be a T. V. Stereotype before. At this point, the truth was more that I was searching for my own identity; I didn’t yet know that I lived somewhere between the two extremes.

I didn’t learn this for a few years. After high school, I continued palling around with J. He got me a job, working with him in construction – concrete, to be specific. In the rural world I was living in, I developed a protective hypermasculine shell; a construction site is no place for sensitivity. In this environment, under J.’s further tutelage, I learned more. Homophobia, sexism, even racism – these became inextricably tied to my ideas of manliness. I deeply regret the person I was at this point in time, and I have no excuse for it.

Eventually I realized how terrible this way of thinking is – and that not only did I not believe the things I’d been saying, those ideas actively disgusted me. As I started taking pride in being gay once more, and started calling J. on his bullshit, for some reason he stopped being so friendly, stopped calling. Once in a while, one of us would call the other – we were still on good terms, decent, but distant.

In the meantime, I continued exploring my identity. I came to stop defining myself by perceived “shoulds”. I didn’t really have anything to replace them with; my thoughts and feelings at the spur of the moment defined me instead. I became my whims, judiciously seasoned with my now passionate notions of right and wrong.

In the meantime, J. had become more insular, more conservative, and I’m sorry to say, more prejudiced. Honestly, I hardly knew the man anymore. The boy who would once don a feather boa in fun with his friends was now actively disgusted at the thought of a man wearing a pink shirt. The concepts of nonstandard gender expression, or alternate sexualities, or equality, threatened the straight white cis man’s dominance, and by extension, him personally.

I know this, because a year ago yesterday he told me so. It was election day; Washington State, where I live, had Marriage Equality on its ballot. He was against it, of course; I asked him how, after knowing and being very close friends with a gay man for many years, he could defend that position. He proceeded in no uncertain terms to tell me that my very existence threatened his children. If gay people could marry, the danger would explode exponentially. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, standing up to a man whose notions had so much sway over me – a man I once called brother – a man whose opinions I could no longer tolerate. We no longer speak.

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About Ty DeLyte

Madame DeLyte has suffered a grave disappointment - YET AGAIN - and still believes that freedom, beauty, and truth are what's valuable, rather than vulgar cash. He'd add love to that list - but, well, what can he say about love?
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22 Responses to Gender Expression and Friendship

  1. I’m really sorry to hear about you and J. Even though I only knew him for a short time, I remember how tight knit you two, along with the “group”, were. I hope he can do some inner reflection and eventually understand the real impact his comments had on you.

    Side note: Threatens the existence of his children?! ::throws hands in air and makes wtf face:: That’s pretty much what happened when I read this.

  2. Ouch. It’s so hard to discover these painful truths about people we once cared about. I wish I could snap my fingers and make this a better world.
    On another not-so-painful note, I like the way you describe finding your identity here. I’ve had a hard go at discovering who I am. Gender-expression wise, I went through a tomboy phase when I believed that “manly” things (sports, roughness) were superior to “girly” things (nail polish, dancing), and acted accordingly. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen how society may be constructed that way, but it does not at all reflect reality. And I realized I don’t care about things I pretended to care about back then. Sometimes it feels like my identity is still a flimsy, unconstructed thing, but I’m having fun piecing it all together.

    • Tyler J. Yoder says:

      Thanks, Natalie. I’m glad you picked up on the fact that this post is more about identity. The part about my former friend is really just for context.

      I don’t think that identity ever stops being nebulous, even if you stick to the established roles. I don’t know for certain, but I think it might be better that way – a sort of the-journey-not-the-destination scenario. Can we ever really find ourselves? All we can do is search, and grow, and try to be true to the little voice at the back of our head. I guess; no philosopher I, really.

  3. Cutler says:

    Tyler, dearest Tyler, I am so sorry you and J. had such a falling out. I remember how close you two were. Alas people change. I for one, voted yes for Marriage Equality. Everyone, irregardless of sexual preference and such, should be allowed to be happy, or miserable, depending. You, my dearest and most trusted friend, are always in my thoughts and I do hope we get to spend some time together, once again.

    • Tyler J. Yoder says:

      Thanks, Cutler. This post was hard to write, but I wanted my readers to have a little context about J. I’m going to be doing a post about our trip to Kentucky, soon, and I had to get this painful thing out before I could do that.

      I’m of two minds about Marriage Equality. I think everyone has the right to try their hand at marriage with the person they love, if so they decide, but I also think the queer community has developed other models of love, and going full-tilt for heteronormativity paints those other models and identities in a bad light – the queer community, distancing itself from a lot of things that has brought it so far, really demonstrates that. Especially with the whole “We’re just like you!” attitude the ads display.

      I don’t fly out until March, Cutler. I’m sure I’ll see you before then. If nothing else, I’ll be having a going-away party, I’m sure.

  4. That is such a difficult thing to go through; I appreciate your grace as you relate your experience. Too often, that fear of losing loved ones keeps us silent, so I also appreciate your bravery in speaking up.

    • Tyler J. Yoder says:

      Thank you. That fear – even after I was out – put me back in the closet for quite some time, at least behaviorally. I delighted when straight dudes would tell me that “you don’t seem gay” or “you’re not one of ‘those’ gay dudes who act like faggots.” I’m ashamed of the pleasure I took in that. This current desire amongst we gay men for the “straight-acting” type reminds me of that. These days, I couldn’t hide who I am if I wanted to – and I don’t.

  5. linnetmoss says:

    Good for you! I am sad about what happened to your friendship with J., but glad that you shared that experience. The biggest danger to that man’s children is that they will learn to be bigots.

  6. Reanna Perez says:

    Thank you for this post, Tyler. I struggled much the same way in my youth. Jumping wildly from girly to butch and back again until I realized it’s okay to fall somewhere in the middle.

    I’m sorry J lodged his head somewhere deep within his ass. I still have hope that someday he will pull it out, but it’s probably not in the cards. It’s hard losing those we love due to their choices, but it’s better than having a toxic presence dragging us down with them.

    Hugs from afar. ❤

    • Tyler J. Yoder says:

      Very true. Keeping influences like that in one’s life can be so damaging. We all change; I guess only some of us grow.

  7. There is a fair amount I still have to learn from you. There are those who have displayed behaviors of judgement that I still need to separate myself from but am unsure how. What more I am still at times “defining myself by perceived “shoulds”,” something that has likely done the most harm to my self image and life choices.

    • Tyler J. Yoder says:

      I can tell you from experience, my dear, that confrontation – while rewarding – is usually a bad idea. Apart from that, altering your behaviour to be truer to your ideal, and trying to provide an example, if you can’t distance yourself.

  8. Well.

    Aside from J becoming more, and more, dickish – I wanted to say a few short somethings.

    I am ever so proud of you. To be able to gain such knowledge about ones self – is not a task everyone acomplishes. Especially when so young.

    Your candid talk about your ups and downs, as you discover/ed yourself, makes me have hope for the human race. (Kinda. Well… parts of it. Fuck it. I think humans suck but that you’re swell)

    I can identify/relate with a lot of what you talk about – which is nice. Sometimes I think there is no one else out there who gets what I feel/deal with. Then I read things like this – and remember that my tribe is out there. Knowing. Accepting. Inspiring.

    Also? You have a way with the written word that gives me the warm fuzzies. Which should make you feel all special. Not everything gives me warm fuzzies. You’re welcome for the feeling of specialness.

    (I need sleep. Because I apparently cannot shut up.)

    Xxoo
    Robyn

    • Tyler J. Yoder says:

      I really want to deny that J became dickish – but I really can’t. There’s no help for it. If you differ at all from his preconceived notions –

      Sorry. Not getting back into it. Thank you very much. This particular drama played out over the course of years.

      It’s good to be able to find people we can relate to. Isn’t that the REAL point of the internet? Besides information and lolcats and porn and Zynga, I mean. Connecting, and sharing, and giving someone else the feels – seeing someone else’s world view.

      Also, ❤

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