Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Matt Bomer Discusses Growing Up In the Closet...



Are kids gay? Do they realize they are gay at a young age? In yesterday's post I talked about how people get horny at weddings, which is not at all related to Matt Bomer discussing how he grew up in the closet. But there is a small connection between this post and yesterdays wedding post I think is important to talk about that deals with gay kids, the way they hide it, and the topic of bullying. And how gay men like me, as adults, are often targeted in ways most people wouldn't even expect.

I'm one of those people who can listen to six conversations at one time and absorb what everyone is saying without missing a word. As a writer, I've learned to observe people...their actions, their expressions, and even the tones in their voices. And weddings are great places to sit back and watch how people behave and react.

There are always a few kids at weddings. At the one I went to on Sunday there were about six or seven that ranged in ages from six years old to fourteen years old. I immediately focused in on one kid from the bride's side I didn't know anything about. He must have been around ten or eleven years old. He was wearing a small black straw hat, tilted to the side, and he stood out from the other kids without having to even try hard at it. As noticed him throughout the evening, I quietly watched how friendly he got with another boy who was probably about twelve. I even mentioned it to Tony, and then to my sister, and we all exchanged a glance. At one point, those two boys were having such a good time with each other I was sure they were going to dance together. I was hoping they would. They acted as if there was no one else in the room except them.

Were they both gay? I couldn't say for certain. But I would bet they were because I rarely see two boys look at each other they way they were. They never actually danced with each other, and they maintained that invisible line all young gay people learn how to draw and they never crossed it. But they way they looked at each other, and the way they seemed so into each other was fascinating to watch. And a little sad, too. Both kids come from families where they have gay relatives like Tony and me, and yet they were still terrified to actually show how they felt about each other.

And that's because gay kids still don't talk about being gay, at least not most. I never did and I knew it at three years old. Thankfully, Matt Bomer talked about it recently and what he said backs up anything I could say in this post about how gay kids hide who they are, and about how they grow up with a set of extra baggage straight kids don't have to deal with. I hate to make Matt Bomer sound like the spokesperson for gay men on topics like this, but so far he's the only one honest enough who WILL talk about it openly.

"When I was in high school, there was no safe haven, there was no outlet for you to speak your mind. So I did what any self-preserving 14-year-old would do—I signed up for the school play and also the football team to cover my tracks."

I don't think there's a gay man alive who can't identify with that. I'm sure those two boys at the wedding would know exactly what he's talking about. I even wrote about a young gay man in "An Officer and his Gentleman," who was a victim of his circumstances and one reviewer said it wasn't realistic. I let her get away with it at the time without making a fuss. She obviously didn't like the book and she had something against my publisher, and I can live with that. But the comment about it not being realistic will bother me until the day I die. I think if she were do to this today, I would confront her in a different way. Why didn't I confront her with more force at the time? Because I've been taught and conditioned as a gay man to keep it quiet, let it go, and pretend it doesn't exist. In other words, join the school play and the football team to keep everyone else happy. This is a quote from that review:

 He’s reasonably bright. He’s a hard worker. How am I expected to believe this is his only alternative? There’s never enough reason or depth provided to make this situation plausible in the slightest. Its only purpose seems to be to put Chance in the most awful circumstances possible and then show him a man who can save him from all that.

At the time, I didn't realize I had to go into detailed over-kill back story about a young gay man's experience. Since then, I've had letters from gay men all over the world who could identify with that story. The gay men all got it. I said his family threw him out and that, I thought, was good enough in order to move the story forward. This reviewer asks how she's supposed to believe this. Well she's supposed to believe this because I am the gay man writing about a gay character and I know better than she does what it's like to be the gay man. And that's as plain and simple as it gets. I don't see anyone telling Toni Morrison what it's like to be African-American, so don't tell gay men what it's like to be gay.

But I digress. Here's a comment from the Matt Bomer article I thought was nice:

“You are the example that the rest of our country needs to wake up and see in terms of equality and putting an end to the bullying epidemic and making sure that every family is respected in our schools and our society," Manganiello, who also reportedly attended college with Bomer, is quoted as saying.

You can read the rest of the article here. There are more interesting links and even a mention about that idiot Bret Easton Ellis. And I'd like to add one more thing. If you see bullying, stop it. Even if it looks like harmless teasing it can be harmful to kids and they don't even realize it. Things are better now than they were when Matt Bomer and I were growing up, but things still aren't all that great.

4 comments:

EngineerQueen said...

I think that it is similar for gay people regardless of gender. However, I think because of the idea of such strict gender roles makes it especially difficult for young gay men. Women/Girls can get away with holding hands, close hugging ect... for far longer than men/boys.

As far as being kicked out.. it happens EVERY day, and if someone out there thinks it doesn't, they need to do a little bit of research. As many as 26% of lgbt kids are kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation. Many more leave due to emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

I knew I was attracted to women probably around age 10. I didn't have my first relationship with a woman until my 20's. and I didn't officially "come out" until I was 30. All the time trying to adhere to my family's religious beliefs by marrying a man and having children. Living in the closet is a very painful experience, that our heterosexual counterparts will never truly understand.

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting and sharing your story.

A.M. Burns said...

Ryan,
Great post, and something that we all need to think about and try and be supportive of our gay youth. Some of us knew at a very young age we were different, but didn't know what that difference was until later. I'm old enough I was actually taught in school that being attracted to members of the same sex was a mental disorder. Boy did I feel bad trying to sit next to the hot football player.
As for reviewers, I get a kick out of them. Like you I right from what I know, and actually get told from some of these gals that my writing isn't gay enough. Then was the comment that I didn't have a snarky best friend so my story wasn't interesting. While other gay men give me great reviews because they can relate to the story. Keep writing and just ignore the folks who don't get it.

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting. Things have changed a lot for kids, and I think seeing the way older gay men like Matt Bomer are doing things makes it a little easier. But then there's always something that seems to come along to set everyone back a few paces.