“So, like, what are you?”
The first girl I ever asked out was named Mary. She was from Miami, and she was up in New York in the same summer dance program that I was in. I had heard from two of her friends that she liked me, and I took that as good news because I liked her too. I asked her out in the lower lounge of the building, and she said she had to think about it. Later that day, a large group of us, including Mary, went to Lincoln Center. I asked Mary if I could borrow her phone to call my mom, but she took her iPhone out and started to dial a number- which was confusing. I was handed the phone to see that the number she dialed had been saved under the name “Rejection Hotline.”
From that point on, I have taken my feelings toward others and held them so close and tight that I’m surprised they’ve been able to breathe. I was 15 when Mary rejected me, and I’m turning 24 in about three months. I dont think I’ve ever gotten over that day in July completely, but I don’t think I should. It was that day that I really started to think about who I am.
I’ve been classically trained in ballet and modern dance from the age of 7. Many of the men I grew up dancing with ended up coming out as homosexual. I am almost certain that I am one of maybe three men who graduated from my dance school that are heterosexual. I had liked girls in the past, but every opportunity I had to “talk” to girls ended up being botched simply because it wasn’t expected of me to be straight. There was, and I think still is, a stigma that if you are a man in the dance world, you are gay.
Telling a girl that I had a crush on her in the 9th grade produced the response: “Wait, you’re not gay?!?” Having a girl sit on my lap briefly in a company rehearsal during my freshman year of college later yielded the response: “WAIT, I thought he was gay!!!” When asked about my sexuality, the question was often never whether or not I was gay or straight, but simply: “So, like, what are you?” Everyone assumed that I was on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
After that very painful yet emotionally maturing day on the steps of Lincoln Center, I questioned my sexuality every time I thought about possibly being in a relationship with someone. Was I obligated to be gay because I was a male in the dance world? Was my lack of success with women a sign that I should just give up? Is all of this just the troubling path of coming out?
I wasn’t going to accept that, and still don’t. Why was it that I was expected to live my life a certain way because of a single hobby? Asking such questions from that age led me to think more about what sexuality meant and put notions of what I was “supposed to do” out of my mind. I’ve experimented, googled and witnessed a lot. This past summer I found myself in a room with friends who all happened to be gay males, and they were playing a game involving dares of different intensities. The basic dare was mild, along the lines of what “truth” would be in a normal game of “truth or dare”. The triple dare was always sexual. I happened to be involved with a triple dare and a double dare, and immediately after their completion I didn’t really feel like I had discovered something new. My close friends in that group consulted me afterwards and asked if I was ok, making sure I didn’t feel like anything was forced, and wanted to apologize for getting me in that situation in the first place- which only made me feel better. They were aware of my sexual preference and had the integrity to consult me and make sure I wasn’t feeling some type of way. I am not someone who immediately discounts homosexual behavior- it has literally been in my world for the majority of my life. I respect my friends, and they respect me.
All that one witnesses and takes part of in their life helps make them who they are. I believe that the more one experiences, the more certain they can be in stating who they are. Too often do people put themselves in one box of society without having experienced the rest of the world to say they prefer being in that one box. I refuse to be put in a box. I can say what I like and what I don’t. I can say who I am attracted to and who I am not attracted to. Don’t ask me what I am. I am me.