Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Yes, That's The Joke

I'm not gay, but if I was, I would want equal rights
I'm not gay, but if I were, I would marry who I like
It's not fair (I'm not gay) if the government has the say
About who can love who (not gay) 
Or to which God you can pray (not a gay)

Anyone under the age of 35 who ever used e-mail and had any friends (and me - I'm not sure if I fall into that last category...) will probably recognise a phenomenon known variously as "Q&A", "The Q Thing", or more accurately, "fuck me, yet another stupid fucking quiz; what the fuck?". I remember forwarding it once with "Oh Dear Lord It's The Q Thing Again!" in the subject line.

Just in case you're pretending to now know what this was, it was effectively a chain letter sent by e-mail, consisting of "this or that"-type questions, and a few open ones, including hilarious enquiries like: "Name?", and riotous scandalous ones like "No, your full name?". Girls, I noticed, tended to be more forward with their answers, although boys sent them on too, mostly with answers like "Am I in love? Yes, with Britney!".

I, of course, didn't hold back.

At 16, the Q Thing That Wouldn't Die reared its ugly head again, tearing through my school year like a ravenous beast of ASCII, and of course, everyone took part. I myself actually had something new to add.

Do you have a crush?

What's his/her name?
[Here I put the name of the girl-I-used-to-have-a-crush-on. She didn't go to my school and wasn't going to be reading this, so I felt safe doing so. Everyone knew, anyway, including her, that I had a crush.]

Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

What's his/her name?
[Here I put Louise's real name - or, at least, the nickname I gave her at the time. Realistically, we weren't actually a couple, but we'd been on a couple of dates, so I put her down.]

The next question threw me a bit, since I hadn't seen it on any of these yet.

Are you gay?

I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, at the closed nature of this question. Even at 16, I wasn't unaware that "gay" and "straight" were the binary options. I knew of "bisexual", "celibate", "asexual" and "self-sexual" (although I made that last one up at one point; I was sure it meant something at one point. Lightsinthesky was probably a good example.), so I was a little uncertain about this question.

I've never been uncertain about my sexuality. I'm heterosexual; I always have been. So, were I to answer this question truthfully, I could just put "no". Maybe even go on a bit of a rant about the presumed binary switch and talk about the fluidity of sexual orientation... but not in the middle of an e-mail. I wrote longer e-mails about that sort of stuff.

In any case, I'd already admitted to being attracted to one person and in a relationship with another person (although, in reality, I was in love with one and merely dating the other, but that's splitting too many hairs...), so I had a "what the hell, let's make this interesting" moment.

Are you gay?

The scene I imagined was some friend from school getting this, scrolling through the e-mail, seeing the fact that I fancied the girl-I-used-to-have-a-crush-on, followed shortly by the fact that I was dating Louise, then that I was gay, doing a "WTF?" double-take, and realising that I'd put this ironically, laughing once or twice at my ballsy move, and then just continuing on, and maybe even answering the questions themselves. That's how this proto-meme worked, right?

One person got the joke.

What I wasn't expecting, however, was an influx of e-mails. "I didn't know you were Gay," read one. "I always thought you were gay," said another, "everyone thinks you are." "I don't want to be your friend," said a third, "if you're going to be gay."

"I think you're confused about your sexuality," said a more astute commenter. "You claim to be in love with X, but you're going out with Y, and in Z, you claim that you're gay! Have you thought about talking to a psychologist about this?"

(Of course I was talking to a psychologist; where did they think I was going on Wednesday afternoons, skipping the final lesson of RS to do so?)

I told Robinson, and he laughed appreciatively. So at least he got it. But, for the rest of the weekend, I feared going back to school, wondering if my little ironic quip had backfired, and that I'd unofficially come out as gay to a whole school, making the whole thing more complicated by virtue of being straight (and having a kind of girlfriend, who the rest of the school had never seen; the fact that we met through a mutual appreciation of Knightmare may not have helped). What if, somehow, this got out to one of the teachers? Would they ask me if I wanted to have extra counselling (which wasn't possible, as I was already seeing the school counsellor in addition to my psychologist and my sixth-form mentor)? How many people would ask me if I was really gay?

I readied my "no, I'm not ... yes, two different girls ... yes, that's the joke" response.

On Monday, nobody asked me a thing, partially because very few people read these things; moreover because nobody cared very much; but mostly because another-girl-I-had-a-crush-on caused a bit of a scene by being asked out by someone and saying yes. I watched her, from afar, getting her first kiss and arranging a date with a guy I knew from primary school... but was very glad, after all, to be consoled by a couple of friends, one of whom I also fancied, who knew I had a crush on her too.

Not gay. Just maybe a little confused.

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