[ 24 April 2019 ]
Hey, guys. I have… something I need to say. My palms are sweating. I don’t want you to think anything different of me for saying it – I’m still me, you know? My heart is beating so hard and fast I can barely hear myself think. But it’s been on my heart for a while so… I guess I’ll share it, so, here goes. Throat dry. I can hardly form the words. Ok. You may have guessed it. Maybe you could tell. I’m… Deep, shaky breath… kind of a nerd.
Though the account above is exaggerated (maybe not as much as I’d like it to be), it strikes true to the heart of my inner world: people finding out that I have nerdy interests draws out genuine feelings of fear, self-protection, and shame. Even today, I sat on this post for far too long, asking myself, Do I really want people to know that I’m
gay a nerd?
I never thought I’d be here – where that familiar stomach-curling, mind-blanking, defense-mechanism-activating feeling that I thought was exclusively reserved for coming out of the gay closet has been sequestered by an entirely separate experience: coming out of the nerd closet.
It’s a joke I’ve been saying recently: that I’ve gotten to a point in my life where it’s harder to tell people that I’m a nerd than it is to say that I’m gay. Strange, yes, but true; I am more likely to be open about the fact that I’m gay than I am to let them know that I wanted to name my first son Mace Windu when I was a child (it was a phase, ok?).
Being a nerd for me is now associated with many of the same questions and anxieties I had about being gay.
They were looking at me funny. Can they tell? Do I dress weird? Do I dress like a nerd?
They were looking at me funny. Can they tell? Do I walk weird? Do I walk like a gay guy?
If she knows that I play video games on the weekends, will she think less of me?
If she knows that I’m more likely to be into her brother than her, will she think less of me?
Did he notice that my eyes lit up when I saw the cute Pokémon poster?
Did he notice that my eyes lit up when I saw the cute boy walk by?
I mean, I like anime, but that doesn’t mean I’m a nerd, right?
I mean, I like boys and not really girls, but that doesn’t mean I’m gay, right?
It’s not a perfect analogy – it breaks down in a number of places, specifically when it comes to a question of ethics and morality; probably no matter which way you slice it, being a nerd is an amoral identity, but being gay, as we all know, depending on your worldview, does not get afforded this category. Therefore, being gay or seeming to be gay may, for seem people, provoke a genuine moral crisis whereas appearing to be a nerd can only provoke a genuine intrapersonal social crisis. However, realising this odd parallel between my sexuality and my personal interests has provided a lot of food for thought and personal reflection on what it means for me to be a queer person, especially how I see myself and how other people see me.
Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned more about love.
I’ve come to see that I’ve been particularly blessed on a number of fronts. With the exception of my family (which has not even been as bad as the stories of many), my coming out has been remarkably easy. I don’t think anyone was surprised, which probably smoothed the road.
But, more than that, I have been overwhelmed by how even my many friends who, for various reasons, do not affirm homosexuality have unilaterally (with two exceptions) loved and supported me throughout the process even while holding their doubts and questions. I think of my friends, some of whom didn’t believe homosexuality was okay, who loved me and my boyfriend enough to take us on double dates because they thought no-one else would.
I have been amazed by the amount of time and care and love and resources people have been willing to extend to me over the years as I have come to embrace my sexuality. I remember how many hours I’ve spent on the couch crying with my friends about boys and biblical texts and Aristotelian cosmology – trying to understand a way to make sense of what I felt and what I’d been taught.
Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned more about Love.
Yet, somewhere along the way, the grace and love that is shown me gets lost in translation. Because I’ve also learned more about how I see others, particularly other queer persons. This internal dialogue continues on in different forms, insidiously.
Yeah, ok, I’m a nerd, but at least I don’t go around shoving it in everyone’s face. I don’t wear Zelda t-shirts or Death Note novelty buttons and I’ve never been to Comic-Con or a Smash tournament.
Yeah, ok, I’m gay, but at least I don’t go around shoving it in everyone’s face. I don’t wear rainbow capes or equals sign pins and I’ve never been to Pride or a gay bar.
Yeah, ok, I guess I do play D&D on the weekends, so maybe I am a nerd. But I’m not like the other nerds. The ones who watch all the Marvel movies. That’s not me. I’m way more intelligent and attractive and well-adjusted.
Yeah, ok, I guess I do like other guys, so maybe I am gay. But I’m not like the other gays. The ones who don’t even try to pass for straight. That’s not me. I’m way more intelligent and well-adjusted (editor’s note: observe the glaring omission of “attractive” above).
I think this inner monologue, says a lot, too; a lot more than I want to admit. Somewhere along the line, pride has reared its ugly head. In the subtext: I may be a nerd, but I’m not that kind of nerd (I’m learning Japanese because I like it, not just for the anime, ok? 余計なお世話だ。) ; I may be gay, but I’m not that kind of gay.
Fundamentally, the part of me that should be proud of diversity and differences still feels threatened by it and feels threatened by people who are in my “camp” but are unlike me in some ways – ways that I scorn or look down upon.
But why should that threaten me? Why don’t I want to be associated with someone whose inclusion in my “camp” frustrates me? I wonder if it is because, at the heart of it all, a small voice is asking,
If I were that kind of nerd instead of this kind of nerd, would you still love me?
If I were that kind of gay instead of this kind of gay, would you still love me?
If I were that kind of person instead of this kind of person, would you still love me? Do you actually love me for me or am I just, by chance or design, the person you want to see?
The scary thing is that I don’t think there are answers to that final question. As much as I’d like to, we can’t deal in non-realities – we can’t know how things would be if things were different. The only thing we have before us is that which is before us. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. Perhaps you, dear reader, wouldn’t love me if circumstances were different.
And, though it is tempting to search for answers to these questions, the only thing we can know is that, in our own faulty ways, we are fumbling towards Love and towards Real Knowing. We are learning to see each other truly and to, by extension, see ourselves more truly, as well. Read Martin Buber if you don’t believe me.
But I haven’t yet fully internalized the unconditional regard and love and respect I have been shown throughout my journey, because, most fundamentally, what I’m asking is,
Am I actually lovable? Am I actually valuable?
And I think that’s what it comes down to. Love.
And I am learning, slowly. I am learning to love and to be loved. The more others see me and they don’t turn away, the more I have the courage to see myself. And the more courage and honesty I have to see myself, the more I can look on others with supernatural love – not needing them to be exactly like me so I can feel good about myself.
It’s a beautiful cycle. As we learn to see, we learn to be seen. As we are seen, we learn to see. As we love, we learn to love and learn to be loved. As we are loved, we learn to be loved and learn to love. And what is loving but seeing? And seeing but loving? Can we truly see another without loving them? And can we really love another without loving ourselves? The more I know Love, the more I see that the tent is broad and the table is full.
Love can most certainly never look like elevating self over others. Love is not a me-vs.-them comparison game. If we’re playing that game, we’re not seeing the person in front of us. And if we can’t see the person in front of us, we can’t truly see ourselves.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. I have a few more episodes of Naruto I need to catch up on before I turn in for the day.