It Gets Better…Or Not

For awhile now, I’ve watched a number of the videos people have been making and posting for the It Gets Better campaign to discourage suicide among LGBTQ youth. The better angels of my nature tell me there’s hope for the world because of such kindness and outreach.

You see, when I was struggling to deal with my sexuality and the big secret it was in my teenage years, there were none of the resources available today. No Internet to provide access to any helpful information, much less a wave of videos telling kids to hang out.

In moments like those, I feel an urge to contribute to that effort by making a video of my own. I’ve even tried a time or two to organize some thoughts for what I might say. Shortly after that, I stop working on it. I abandon the effort. Why? Because of a conviction that’s so strong it keeps me from continuing.

I can’t make one of those “it gets better” videos for one simple reason. I can’t make myself write the words, much less speak them into a camera, when down deep one message drowns out the whole idea.

It’s a lie.

Yeah, that’s how I feel. No matter how trendy or politically correct it is to tell kids that if they just hang tight until they get a chance to become gay adults and suddenly their lives will be wonderful, my own experience is that it ain’t necessarily so.

Did I survive the straight, gay-hating bullies in my high school? Yes, I did. Was my life suddenly liberated from judgment, condemnation, harsh words, and biting unkindness?

No.

You see, I out ran all the straight bullies of my youth only to run smack into all the gay bullies of my adulthood. All the body fascists who wouldn’t date fat boys with less than stellar skin or perfect teeth or a full head of hair. Or who didn’t have muscles with cuts so deep Charlie Sheen could drive into those ditches. Or the monster endowments.

In truth, my life really hasn’t gotten that much better for having survived life as a gay teen. I feel just as cut off, just as isolated and alone. If I’m not a freak in my own “community” for not being on top of all the latest fashions, fads, pop icons, and trash culture, I’m a freak for actually expecting a man claiming to love me to be focused on me and not thumbing through his text messages while having a conversation with me to see when he might arrange a hookup on the side.

To be sure, the bullying that happens now has a much slicker packaging than the crude insults of the unsophisticated haters I knew as a teen. Other gay people rarely go out of their way to yell at me to tell me I’m fat or ugly, although I’ve more than once expressed interest in someone only to have gotten damn close to that kind of response. No, the attacks are more subtle, more nuanced. You see it in profiles in online meeting sites that boast how they’re HWP, DDF and that UB2 and looking for guys around their age. Unless of course they’re my age in which case they’re looking for younger.

How nice 4U.

My ex once said to me, by e-mail, that while he had the most deeply connected sexual experiences of his life with me that he couldn’t resist the desire for sex with men who were closer to his own age (a.k.a “you’re old”) who have better builds (a.k.a. “you’re fat”) and who have bigger cocks (a.k.a. “you’re dick’s too little”). And this from a man who had the chance to learn and know all about the many qualities that are supposed to be more valuable than all this superficial shit.

Now you may dismiss that experience because my ex was a dishonest, manipulative ass. Fair enough. But, you see, I’ve taken that experience and done some experimenting.

There are lots of sites where guys put up profiles looking to date or hook up or find love. I’ve got profiles on a number of them. I post recent photos of myself and where possible go into a good bit of detail about all my qualities, what interests matter to me, what books and movies and music I like and what I’m looking for. And I get responses, to be sure. Rarely from anybody who is available (either physically or emotionally) or with whom there is even a small degree of chemistry in common.

One thing I have learned is that unless someone is quite explicit about ages or physical traits they will exclude, you never know what might happen with someone who interests you unless you make an effort. So when I run across someone who looks interesting (and not just physically), I say hi and make an effort to engage in conversation and hope to get to the point to see if they’d like to meet. Especially guys who seem to be smart, thoughtful, articulate, and might well appreciate the same from someone.

A lot of the time, those efforts just go entirely ignored. I’ve even had a few guys respond to a simple “hello” introductory message by putting me on their block list! Really?! For saying hello?!

But even when there have been replies, you can tell pretty quickly who is being minimally polite while trying to see if you’ll get the hint they’re not interested.

So I’m supposed to be this great guy. That’s what my friends all tell me. That’s what I believe about myself, at least when it comes to the qualities that I’ve always been told are supposed to really count more than all that superficial and fleeting shallow beauty….qualities like honesty, openness, intelligence, heart, compassion, caring, patience, a desire to grow and evolve, affection, generosity, kindness. And my friends all tell me that if I just let those “superior” qualities shine through that a great guy will spot me and my lonely days will come to an end.

Yeah.

Here’s how I know that’s just not how it goes down. Because on a couple of these sites, I’ve created an alter ego. And this alter ego is a man of few words so there’s little to draw upon to get a handle on the kind of human being this guy might be. But the photos? Oh yeah. The photos are top notch meat. Young. Handsome. Fit. Furry. Hung. All the shallow shiny baubles that aren’t supposed to matter to “quality” men.

Know what I’ve found? That while the same human being is on the other side of the keyboard for both of those profiles, the real me….the one with the honest pictures and the detailed look into my inner self gets passed over or the polite brush off over and over. But the pretty boy with all the trimmings? He gets a lot of attention. Not just from the vapid, empty-headed, shallow masses. But from the so-called “quality” men as well. They trip all over themselves to talk to him and if he remotely suggests interest in return, they just about have seizures to have a chance to spend time with him. All without knowing the first freaking thing about what kind of human being might be beneath that pretty exterior.

Hell, my ex, in one of the more entertaining series of interactions I’ve ever had online by someone hitting on “me”, said he’d do things with the alter ego that would never have been on the table with me.

Guys I couldn’t talk into having coffee with the real me would volunteer to throw their legs in the air or have even given signs of falling in freaking love with the alter ego. Someone with whom they have not spoken one word in reality or met in person.

So you see, I know what counts and what doesn’t. And what doesn’t count is what’s supposed to count in this fairy tale we all tell each other about this world in which it gets better.

Does it ever get better? I’m sure it does. If you’re Dan Savage. Or if you’re one of those hot muscled guys so many of you keep posting photos of here in Facebook, drooling over what amazing men they are. How many of you post links to the profiles of men you admire for something other than a ripped torso, a bubble butt, or a schlong the size of an infant’s arm? How many of you share links to guys who impress you with how smart they are or how creative they are or how funny they are or how kind they are?

I’ll tell you what I’ve seen. None. None of you do. If they aren’t one of those Atlas Men or Rough Gods or someone of that ilk, they don’t get held up to your universe of friends as phenomenal men.

The message is pretty unmistakable. A worthwhile man is young, built, and endowed. No others get considered. So if you happen to be self-aware enough when taking stock in the mirror just how far removed you are from those paragons of male admiration, you just sink deeper into the realization that what you have to offer someone, no matter what the world tells you about how worthwhile all that stuff is supposed to be, just doesn’t count.

I think it’s great that so many people are concerned for gay youth, lifting them up so they don’t take their lives out of despair. But I wonder how many people even bother to find out how many gay adults commit suicide out of despair that is much more of a kind with what pushes young people to the brink than we’d like to imagine.  Isolation and rejection and the pain of those wounds is no different when it comes from aggressive straight bullies than when it comes in the passive and implicit judgment from other gay people.

It gets better? Maybe. If you’ve got the right genes or are devoted to spending loads of time in the gym.

But as you get older or if you happen to not be porn-star-built or model pretty, it don’t get no better.

Not at all.

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