Over the past few weeks, a number of my friends have surprised me with questions about my gayness: Do you think you’ll be gay your whole life? When did you start being gay? Why do you want to be gay? On a bus, at a basketball game, over dinner, people I’ve known for years have suddenly become curious, not just about why I’m attracted to men, but why I insist on “acting gay.” I’ve been hassled with these questions so often recently that I’d like make something clear once and for all: The only thing I know for sure about being gay is that I love it.
So this Valentine’s Day, while other people are writing notes to their lovers, I’m writing a Valentine to my gayness.
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You’ve been with me as long as I can remember. Yes, I played with toy soldiers like other boys when I was young—but according to my mother, I carried them around in a gold lamé purse you helped me pick out. Even when I was a toddler you were already showing me how to bring exuberant femme glamor to the most mundane situations. And though I didn’t manage to sleep with a man until college, I’ll never forget how you convinced me to kiss a boy in second grade, right in the middle of class when the teacher’s back was turned. In the terrifying battleground of elementary school, you were there with me before I knew what your presence meant. So when people ask whether it was genetics, parenting, choice, or the devil that brought you into my life, I don’t know what to say. It’s hard to explain the cause of something that’s always been with you. I can only say that I’m very happy with the results.
And I have no plans to leave you, Gayness. In fact, I revel in the traces of our love all the time. I enjoy loathing straight bars. I admire my incapacity to understand sports. I celebrate these as confirmations of our connection (even though there are plenty of gays who watch football in bars that blare Aerosmith), and I’m always searching for more. A few years ago, when I read that gay male hair tends to whorl counterclockwise, I rushed eagerly to the mirror to check if mine did. I wanted to see evidence of your affection written on my body. Of course, dear Gayness, my hair does not whorl counterclockwise, and science is still as ignorant about your nature as I am. But the fact remains: Though I don’t know what you are exactly, I adore you.
In truth, dear Gayness, I love you even more than I love men. In the past decade, I’ve had only one partner, and he kept my eyes bloodshot for four years. Recently, I had a very nice date, but the gentleman later threatened to choke me out if I fidgeted while he slept. For whatever reason, I’ve gotten nothing from the men in my life, unless you count the things I’ve had to treat with antibiotics. But you, Gayness, have been my constant companion: teaching me how to stand firm when others judged me; pushing me closer to my mother and sister; introducing me to the exciting, colorful world of drag. You have made sense of my life. I like to imagine that you were with me already when I was a mere egg, that my life since conception has been nothing but a furious proliferation of specialized cells inflected by you. Like Walt Whitman, I sing of a body electric with Gayness.
As I write this, I’m sitting at a vanity in the basement of a club where I’ve been performing all night. Looking down at my high-heeled boots and cocktail dress, I wonder how anyone can possibly ask if I want to change who I am, to part ways with you. But maybe the idea is not so far-fetched. After all, we’ve had some rough times, Gayness—I haven’t always loved that we’re a couple. You’re unpopular. You can sometimes be so opaque, so easily misunderstood. It’s true that I spent many of my younger years wondering if we really belonged together, if I should try to choose someone else. Back then, when people interrogated me about our relationship, I thought that I owed them an explanation or apology. But now when people ask, I can finally say that I’m unabashedly proud of you, of our love, and that I can’t imagine a more perfect match. I do wish you’d ask before using our credit card on brunches, underwear, group vacations, V-neck tees, lost boys, and coffee-table books—but we’ll talk about that in the morning.