How soaking up too much of the wrong type of gay culture cues jaded one Atlanta guy before his time and turned him into someone he didn’t like.
By Michael Chisholm
I’VE ALWAYS WONDERED WHEN it is that people finally resist the impression or influence of society upon their own psyche and think for themselves. Some say it’s when puberty ends and you become an “adult,” while others say when you have your first traumatic experience and learn when too much is too much.
Experience has shown me that outside influences never end; they simply change form. We are constantly molded and altered by our desires to feel accepted, loved, popular, unique – or a multitude of other motivators. And it never stops.
I grew up in a southern Catholic family with strong conservative values and a relatively dismissive attitude towards gay culture. I developed a fragile moral structure and was deeply involved in the parish youth group for a while.
My father was the leader of the youth ministry and decided he wanted to bang a youth leader, who was my age, 18 at the time, and abandon everything. He wanted to live like a teenager again and have his midlife crisis. Devastated, I took a similar path and abandoned the church, but embraced a new voice I had previously silenced with a heavy cross.
I FINALLY CAME OUT IN college, and like a sponge in the juices, I inhaled gay culture. The exposure was like taking your first drink, bitter but filled like a flame that burns all the way down.
Drag shows, nightclubs and strip joints, and dates with guys became my little divine escapes into a whole other life lived outside my work and family life. Submersion into the rainbow world resulted in a shift from a gentle, good natured Christian boy to a snarky, sassy, whiskey infused man.
By all the gods above and below I lived for this life. I was able to, as one infamous queen said, “Let my lady out.”
But like when the weather changes too fast, people got a little sick from the climate shift. The sass and snark devolved into snippy, arrogant, almost spiteful mentality. This lingered for a few years, and I trudged on blindly and proudly up until a few weeks ago.
MY BEST FRIEND OF 15 YEARS was the one who finally knocked me off my throne. Two or three drinks in, and seven or eight shots deep, we were talking about a girl he’s been dating or starting to date. Like any true drunk queen, I layed into her.
Naturally, I thought, you meet your best friend’s potential new fling or lover and you know when your BBF is selling himself too short. He didn’t take it that way.
Finally, at one point he said, “Listen, I know you’re trying to look out for me and protect me, but I feel like you’re being really harsh, man.”
Offended at first, I tried to defend the harsh words I had been spouting about her, but then his disappointed gaze silenced me. He went on and pointed out the many times recently that I showed just how judgmental I was, either in public or in private.
He was right.
HERE I THOUGHT I FOUND MY NICHE and matured to a point where I was finished growing or becoming an adult. In actuality, all I had done was reach a new kind of adult puberty. Overwhelmed, I had let the niche of culture I chose to adopt had almost changed me entirely.
Now I see: You have to moderate yourself in any new experience. I’m learning to pick out the best parts of gay culture that suit me, and add them to my overall wardrobe of personality.
The influence was not a negative one, but it’s important that sometimes the sweetness of the fruit fades and lets you decide if it fits into your diet.
Michael Chisholm is a freelance writer in Atlanta. Reach him via this magazine.