One Man’s Journey to Accepting His Heterosexuality
I’ll be sixty-one in a few weeks from now. As the last quarter of my life ticks ever more rapidly away it’s natural to reflect on the course of one’s life and look at lessons learned.
My life has yielded few regrets as I’ve always tried to do what I believed to be right at the time. But I know, deep in my heart, that it’s time to go public with my sexual orientation.
When my children were growing up and we talked from time to time about love and relationships, I was always clear that the most important things were that both people like each other and that both people are able to be kind. Gender and orientation matter far, far less regardless of what social norms or mythological fairy tales may claim to the contrary.
Today, thankfully, people aren’t as terrified of sexual variety as they were when I was young. Homosexuality is now widely accepted in the West, as are a wide variety of sexual preferences and practices. Sure, there are still bigots and idiots, there are still closet homosexuals busy shouting about how bad homosexuality is in the hope that their friends and family won’t notice their own predilections (and yes, we are talking about a huge number of Republicans here), but by and large across the OECD we’re more relaxed than we used to be.
Indeed, in some circles it’s practically obligatory to identify with some politically correct term as a way to define one’s sexual “wokeness” (I confess that I have no real idea what “woke” is supposed to mean but I’m aware that it’s this week’s transiently fashionable phrase so I thought I should toss it in for the sake of inclusiveness). One must be pansexual, sapiosexual, omnisexual, transsexual, demisexual, or perhaps (at the very least) bisexual.
This current trend in favor of sexual polymorphism, which I welcome in general, presents a problem for people like me, which I will illustrate by means of an anecdote from my past.
Picture an Oxford college (the one with the bridge, if you really want to know) circa 1985. We’re in the Porter’s Lodge by the front gate and behind us is Old Quad, some elements of which date back to the 12th century even though the College as a whole owes much to the architectural whimsy of T.J. Jackson. I’m at the front desk, about four hours in to a twelve-hour stint, because this is one way in which I’m earning a little money this summer in order to help pay a friend’s tuition fees.
My friends Lars and Sophia are with me but preparing to leave; they’re off to the local pub for a drink before going to see The Draughtsman’s Contract at Not the Moulin Rouge up in Headington. On their way to the movie theater they’ll pass a house that has an enormous fiberglass shark apparently diving head-first into the roof. No one knows why it’s there but it’s fun, at least for the first few hundred times you see it.
Sophia steps towards me and asks for a kiss, which I give in a gentlemanly way on her lips. Lars pretends to be wounded and then asks, “Don’t I get a kiss, Allan?”
“Of course you do,” I tell him, and kiss him on the lips too. I feel the two-day stubble on his upper lip and wonder how women tolerate men with hipster facial hair, even though the term hipster hadn’t actually been invented back in 1985.
Lars looks at me balefully.
“Allan,” he proclaims in his most fetching mock-Shakespearian manner, “you are absolutely the most boringly heterosexual man I’ve ever met. There is simply no hope for you. No hope whatsoever.”
Sadly Lars’ diagnosis proved correct. Although I’ve enjoyed many man-woman-man threesomes in which sweat has been exchanged and genitals have come into contact with genitals, and although I am intellectually entirely open to the idea of having sexual intercourse with another man, I’ve never been physically attracted to one. I can admire an athletic male physique and I have a couple of dear male friends whom I love like brothers, but never in my entire life have I developed even the slightest tumescence in response to seeing, touching, or thinking about another man.
I am, it is clear, stuck at the far end of the sexuality bell-curve. And that is today an unfashionable and lonely place to be.
Nevertheless I feel it is only honest to come clean and admit that yes, I am straight.
I can’t help it; I was born this way. I’d like people to accept me for who I am regardless of my sexual orientation and the way I dress (these days, combat pants & t-shirt). I’m sorry I don’t have piercings, hipster stubble, and my body is alarmingly tattoo-free. I’m practically a cliché of a late-middle-age white male, a throwback to a much earlier era: perhaps the paleolithic.
Worse still is the fact that I have somehow failed to bond with my mobile device. In fact, my phone is off more than it’s on, which I suspect is a capital offense in many jurisdictions these days. I don’t have social media apps and I haven’t owned a TV for over thirty years. It’s difficult for me to confess this even now, but… I enjoy reading things called books. Combined with overt heterosexuality this has rendered me a social outcast.
Yes, I know. Reprehensible. Scandalous. Not the sort of example we wish to set for our children.
But I can’t help it. I’ve tried Aversion Therapy in which my testicles were shocked with 20,000 volts whenever my frontal cortex lit up in response to a lecture by Len Susskind on quantum field theory or while reading a poem by John Donne. Despite sustaining significant burns to my delicate dangly bits, I remained as stubbornly hetero-intellectual as before.
Even more unforgivable is the fact that as a self-confessed heterosexual man I feel no need to demonize the sexuality of others. This has cut me off from the comfort of organized religion in which closeted gay men scream loudly about how homosexuality is a sin in order to distract attention from the fact they’re buggering the choir boys every Sunday after mass. Thus even the sustenance of bigotry and hypocrisy is denied to me in my hour of need.
Sometimes I grow so lonely and desperate that I wish I could be asexual, as that is nowadays a perfectly acceptable orientation. Alas, I still have strong urges and when the opportunity arises I arise with it, often three or four times a day.
Lately I’ve come to terms with my orientation. I surround myself with little comforts: a YouTube lecture on eternal inflation here, one of Alfred Daudet’s lovely little books there. Think of me as a latter-day Thomas Love Peacock minus the quirky novels; though I do adore his poem Love and Age, which although mawkishly sentimental still moves me as it first did nearly forty years ago. Perhaps it’s because I too saw my first love abandon me for the sake of another. Or perhaps it’s because I’m merely a sentimental and nearly senile old geezer.
So I plan to be explicit henceforth about my orientation. Proud to be het, or something like that. I may even have my own parade.
Thanks for reading, thanks for letting me come clean in this public forum. And, more seriously, thanks to everyone who like me is utterly disinterested in anyone else’s sexual orientation because the things that really matter have nothing whatsoever do to with who or what we’re attracted to. All that matters is that we strive to be tolerant and kind to each other.
Because we’re only here for a brief moment or two, and thereafter all is darkness.
Let’s make life as light as we can for ourselves and for those around us while we’re able to do so.