If toxic masculinity between heterosexual men is destructive, then toxic masculinity between homosexuals is deadly. Unfortunately, unlike many other things in life, being part of the gay community isn’t a choice; that’s where the problem lies. Because men who are attracted to men are going to have to include themselves in gay social spaces, the ones they feel they belong to most which automatically opens to the possibility of getting hurt. Race discrimination, body-shaming, being accused of being either too feminine or too masculine and feeling left out for not living up to specific high standards imposed by the modern gay culture are only a few of the things gay men should worry about. Finding a tribe of genuine, accepting friends is almost impossible. For the most part, good looks are the only thing getting you through the door. Even then, building lasting connections isn’t likely to happen. When the looks fade, might as well die. Just thinking about growing old in this day and age is enough to get my anxiety going.
AIDS is the cursed disease we all deserve for our ceaseless sexual appetites for those could slowly kill us anyway, either physically or psychologically, making us addicted to the high they provide or attached to the people who help us reach them, so better back off and stay away. You can shroud the illness but not the stigma behind it. In people’s eyes, if you have it, you’re a walking disease; no one wants to be seen that way. Being part of a world so unforgiving and marginalizing makes you not want to exist. Even when we check all the boxes on the “How-to-be-perfect” list, we’re all pretty much still susceptible to criticism; nothing you ever do is good enough. When you walk inside a gay bar or club and see everyone looking hot and having fun, stop and look closer. Once you do, you realize that everyone, and by that I mean literally everyone, is dealing with a slew of self-doubts and anxieties in noxious — sometimes dangerous ways. That makes dealing with bullying and peer pressure back in school seem like a walk in the park. Although tough, the pervasiness of violence, physical aggression, sexual assault, hazing and ultimately, exclusion from a certain group is something everyone goes through during the school years when teenagers become mean and tactless. The fact it’s so common makes it feel normative which although wrong, is part of life, so you deal with it. Being different is the main cause behind the alienation of certain individuals until they graduate and go to college. Gay teenagers think that once they’re out into the world, the challenge will fade and they’ll be able to fully embrace who they are, but little do they know that’s never the case as a new set of problems arise, mainly the fact their own kind rejects them. I’ve met a lot of individuals who put on a rough exterior once scratched and seen beneath, kindness and compassion are found. The hurt they carry suppresses a big part of their identity which makes them say or do damaging things to themselves and to others without knowing it; it’s their way of coping and protecting themselves. There’s a lot of misandrical behavior in the community that’s often derived from self-loathing but for the most part, it’s because gay men are filled with contempt.
I didn’t know how to feel about Warren’s return. Usually when people leave, they don’t come back. In my mind, after he left he no longer existed, but now that he’s here, I can’t deny his presence. He texted me when he boarded the plane asking if I’d be down to meet him the night after. Ellen and I had planned to go out for drinks at High Dive and he showed up an hour later. Before his arrival, I got her all caught up on our history.
High Dive isn’t the best place to catch up or have private conversations, but I was at least hoping for some intimacy from Warren; not necessarily anything PDA, more like him putting his focus on me. Well, that didn’t happen. As soon as he walked through the door, men he knows gathered around him, welcoming him back and wanting to hear all about his life in San Diego. Soon, the conversations turned into flirting and I was totally ignored. Ellen saw that; she saw my insides boiling with jealousy and my inner rage quietly roaring. The night was supposed to be about me and him; after all, that’s why he came out.
One thing I admire about Ellen is her strong personality, the fact she refuses to take people’s bullshit and doesn’t mind calling them out when they do something even remotely inconsiderate. When Warren finally got a minute for himself, she walked over to him, grabbed his arm and dragged him into a corner. Then, she leaned in and whispered in his ear. He was embarrassed in response to whatever it was that she said to him; the fact he was being discourteous. It was the first time I saw her talking sincerely. She wanted to shield me from the hurt by making him understand how much I cared about him. When she walked back to me, she said he said he was just being nice and polite to the people coming up to him, so I let it slide. After all, they were the ones throwing themselves at him, not the other way around. I didn’t want to stand there and witness that regardless, so we went to the club across the street. It was my second time there, and I still hated it; the snazzy decor and hazy lights, the degenerate crowd. We walked over the backroom where the dance floor was. Ellen wanted to dance, so I let her indulge herself while I stood there with our jackets. The majority of the room consisted of shirtless men high on some kind of drug; opioid, I guess. An extremely addictive drug from Russia had reared its ugly head in America recently, and a lot of people were taking it at rave parties and clubs, turning them into zombie-like creatures and keeping them up late until dawn. The seamless flow of electronic dance music quickly put me in a trance I could no longer think or feel, and soon Warren made his appearance inside the room. He was on the verge of being completely wasted; he could barely keep both eyes open and he was hunched over like he was about to collapse. I had no idea he was drinking again; not that excessively.
I never understood people who drink themselves to death. If you’re unhappy or your life is falling apart, at least keep an impression that you’ve got it all under control. Regardless of that, I couldn’t stand there and judge him. I liked him too much. He leaned towards me and rested his head on my shoulder, and I asked him if he wanted to leave. He said yes. I turned and waved at Ellen who was having too much fun, indicating we were heading out. On our way out, I saw him make eye contact with an old acquaintance (probably a fuck buddy or random one-night stand), they nodded and smiled, and I watched before grabbing his hand and walking him out. But his demeanor slowly changed. He seemed more in control than he was before, and he stopped me. He said he wanted to stay, and that I should go. The look he had in his eyes was a look of betray. Knowing why he wanted to stay almost infuriated me. I decided to stay open minded, kissed him goodnight and left the club. Outside, the crowd was loud and hostile. I wanted to get out of the neighborhood as soon as possible. As I did so, Ellen came after me. She asked me why I was out while Warren was still inside, and I explained to her my concern.
“He said he wanted to leave then decided to stay as soon as he saw that guy. What kind of bullshit attitude is that?!”, I screamed.
“There’s nothing you can do about it. Guys like him are confused, and take a little more time to figure things out.”
“And what am I expected to do in this case?”
“You’re going to have to put up with it. I don’t think you can say goodbye to him.”