Hi there, I’m Toby. I am eighteen years old and I am attending my last year at Kungsholmens Gymnasium. I like to eat, sleep, spend time with friends, cuddle with my dog and play computer games. So nothing out of the ordinary, really. The only thing out of the ordinary about me, perhaps, is that I happen to be homosexual. Now I know what you are thinking, and let me get one thing straight. I am not one of those stereotypical homosexuals. In fact, I kind of see myself as the opposite. For some reason though, whenever I tell someone I am gay for the first time I continually notice how many try to relate me to the stereotype anyway.
In the beginning when I started to come out, it was really tiring and insulting to hear pesky comments such as “You’re gay? Well, now that I think about it, your walk is way too practiced for you to not be gay”, or, “I knew you were gay all along, your hair is way too stylish” – as if these things somehow could affect my sexuality. The worst comment I have received is “You’re gay, then you’re practically like a girl”. Not only are such remarks ridiculously idiotic and false, but they also scar. And just as an interesting fact, I have predominantly received these comments from girls. You would think that since we live in Sweden, one of the least judgmental countries in the world, this kind of stuff wouldn’t be an issue. Yet, somehow when it comes to homosexuality in particular, so many people automatically judge every homosexual to be like the ones we annually see on Melodifestivalen. It is absurd, harassing and gravely insulting.
Who am I to blame though? I mean, with almost the entire western mainstream media and television constantly stereotyping male gays as effeminate, flamboyant, high-pitched boys -who only think about clothes and penises – it kind of sticks in people’s minds eventually. Why? Because the male gay stereotype is, to a certain degree, true. A lot of males, who do fall into the gay stereotype, are actually gay. In my experience however, a lot of gays do not fall into the stereotype, like me (though I do have a bit of an obsession with my hair, I’ll admit). But since almost only the stereotypical gays make themselves seen, the gays like me are almost completely underrepresented. I guess that kind of explains why whenever someone says they are gay, people automatically try to relate that person to the stereotype. Having said that though, this kind of homogenization of gays is extremely damaging to what it really means to be homosexual – which is: being romantically and/or sexually attracted to the same sex. That is all that being gay ever should be associated with, nothing else. That is the real problem with the gay stereotype, because it makes it so that people think that it is the sexuality (or homosexuality, rather) of an individual that defines them as a person. To add on, that is also one of the main reasons why I dislike certain bits of the pride festival. It is filled with too many drag queens and the stereotypical gays are ridiculously overrepresented. Sure, signs that say “God made my son gay so he can catwalk on a rainbow to heaven” are wonderful, but that kind of stuff just doesn’t represents the entire gay community – It definitively does not represent me. Having said all of this, I have absolutely nothing against the stereotypical gays or those who wish to walk in drag. I wish absolutely nothing more than to let people be whomever they want to be. All I am saying is that a large portion of the gay community is unhealthily underrepresented. It is as if the gays like me are under the radar. It is as if we don’t exist.
When I first realized I was gay I was terrified of coming out just because I thought that the only gays out there were those who fell into the stereotype. And after coming out, I learnt that a lot of other gays felt the exact same way when they were in the closet. I don’t know how many stories I have heard of young gays being afraid of coming out, just because they are afraid that they are alone or that they will be judged and labeled. And really, how many young gays are actually out of the closet? Let’s use KG as an example here. Multiple studies indicate that it is reasonable to assume that about five to ten percent of the world’s population is homosexual. So out of about 1.3k students, a reasonable guess would be that at least a hundred (a bit more perhaps)of the students at KG are gay. Yet, I personally only know of about a dozen, and I have kept my eyes and ears open. So what does that tell us? Well, even though there are plenty of reasons for students between the age of fifteen to nineteen to not yet have come out, it does still tell us that there are “statistically” a lot more gays at KG like me than you would think. That is, gays whom you wouldn’t assume to be gay unless they told you, and, whom are/have been afraid of coming out as a result of the fear of being labeled in addition to potential exposure to homophobia.
For the truth is that it is still a big deal to come out as homosexual, even in Sweden. I mean, it is not particularly encouraging to know that a vast majority of the world will never completely accept you for who you are, and it is definitively not encouraging to know that a lot of people in the world would rather see you dead than alive. The average life of a homosexual is harder than the average life of a heterosexual. It is unfair and sad, but true. These are among many things that every homosexual is forced to come to terms with. The only other alternatives that exist are to either live an entire life as a lie, or to commit suicide. In my case, I have always been quite the strong person and managed to get through this kind of stuff alone. However, a lot of young gays are not as strong. A lot of young gays cannot make it through alone, because the fear of being met with homophobia, stereotypical labeling and/or judgment based on either religious or ideological prejudices is too strong. Words can’t describe just how heartbreaking it is to read that, even in Sweden out of all countries, it is four times more likely for an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, trans) teen to commit suicide than what it is for their heterosexual counterparts. We have gotten far here in Sweden, but we still have a long way to go. Therefore, beside the fact that being homosexual doesn’t harm anything or anyone, it is vital that we start to realize that being homosexual only implies one thing: to be attracted to the same sex. It does not define who the individual is, because all homosexuals are not the same.
I don’t do the things I do because I am a homosexual. I do the things I do because I am Toby. So in other words, I am not actually gay. I am me, and I happen to like boys. What about you?
If you want to ask questions and/or ask me for advice on homosexuality related topics (such as coming out, coping with homophobia and how to deal with friends and family), I’d be more than happy to share what I know. Feel free to contact me, whether it be over Facebook, in person or over email. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jana Paegle | 18 Jun
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