My First Time Living in a Gay Neighborhood Wasn't So Blissful


Great essay! I agree, when you realize you don't fit into the rather narrow boundaries of what gay men are supposed to be (butch yet femme in emotions, white, fit and muscular, etc.) you find that you are having to compromise just as much as with the straights. Glad you got through it and love yourself.
I sympathize... and yet you did deem it necessary to point out that your first encounter "had chicken legs, a hairy belly, and a balding head." You mentioned these traits, if I'm reading you right, as supporting evidence of how not-wonderful the encounter was. Didn't you?

Look, physical attraction is obviously unavoidably subjective, and not anything we have much if any control over. You meet someone, and the light switch either goes on or it stays off. But the cruel irony is that, even if you hadn't specifically called out (what you saw as) that man's physical flaws, this piece would still carry a whiff of hypocrisy, and here's how: No one is ever upset when unattractive people reject us. We're only upset when attractive people reject us. Which means the very act of being upset--and writing essays about it--is founded on the same sort of looks-based social triage you're bemoaning.

Speaking from the vantage point of 53, I would offer that, just as important as learning to accept your physical self is, it's also important to accept sexual attraction for what it is. It just... happens. It shouldn't be a value judgment on a human being's worth--but neither does it do any good to pretend one is above it all, rendering you virtuous and other people shallow. If X isn't turned on by Y, it doesn't make Y a bad person; that much you understand. BUT it also doesn't necessarily make X a bad person.
@2 - You sound like every white guy decrying their dislike of Asians or Blacks as "just a preference". Do you need to hear that you're not a bad person for only finding whites attractive? Because that's what your patronizing comment reads like.
@3 to me the line of whether a preference fits into a larger social pattern, and what that social pattern is.

"I don't go for curly hair" is a personal preference. "I don't go for fat guys" is at least in part a social preference. Sure, somebody could also have it purely on their own outside any social context, but that ain't where we are.
My first experience in a gay neighborhood (at least on my own, as a young, newly out, single gay guy) was the Loring Park neighborhood in Minneapolis in 1990. Local hicks from the burbs came around in their trucks to scream faggot at you on your way home from work, and the corner store's bulletin board was full of memorial notices for residents who had succumbed to HIV/AIDS. (by no means exclusive to Loring Park of course, but a constant grim reminder in an already grim place)

I had lived in Seattle and knew that there was a better environment out there. I was already planning on moving back when the brother of a friend of mine was beaten to death in the park. No one knew if he was gay - he was only twenty and hadn't come out yet - but that was enough for me. I'd had enough of Minneapolis.