Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A married male friend of mine posted a photo on his social media page today of himself. I say married because I want to point out that neither of us are homosexual, but it was a nice picture and he is, I think, a handsome man by most standards, so I commented saying, “very dashing”.
Such an odd word, “dashing”. It’s rarely used these days. Nobody has ever referred to me as “dashing”, although at my age the best I could muster is “moseying”.
He replied, “I love you, too, Richard”. I love this. It’s sad that national homophobia has made it so uncomfortable for so many men to say, “I love you”. Like wearing a pink shirt or going to “chick flicks”, there’s this societal taboo attached to the phrase that just doesn’t belong there.
There are so many different types of love, and so few involve physical attraction. He’s my friend, and I love his openness, his acceptance, and frankly his friendship. But, no, I don’t want to go to bed with him, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want me in that way either. We just respect and like each other, and that’s enough. He’s a good friend and I’m fortunate to know him.
Homophobia (and other forms of prejudice) doesn’t just hurt the target of the attitude. It hurts all of us. At this point I could go off on a tirade about the talent and vision of people that are lost on elitism, but it’s more than that. My friend’s comment was so uncommon that here I am, writing a blog about it. How much do we miss out on because something seems “gay”? There are some great movies that men will avoid because it’s not “manly” enough, great jokes, and wonderfully entertaining. And it hurts nobody but the man afraid of how he will be perceived. He is only harming himself.
Back when I taught and wore a jacket and tie every day, I pretty much restricted myself to blues and grays, maybe if I was feeling adventurous even tan shirts. One day, for some reason, I saw a deep purple shirt that I kind of liked. So, I thought, I’ll go out on a limb and try it. I cannot begin to tell you how many positive comments I heard from women about my shirt. I have no idea what men thought about it, but, frankly, what women found attractive matters more to me. It was eye-opening.
This was an important lesson for me. If someone makes an assumption about me, my sexuality, my political standing, anything at all based on the color of my shirt, then that’s their issue, not mine. I’m allowed to wear what I want, say what I feel, be who I am that makes me feel comfortable and attractive regardless of what others believe. And if they’re so homophobic that it bothers them then, frankly, they don’t deserve to know me anyway.
In a few months I’ll be attending, once again, my “home” Renaissance Fair. For the second year, I’ll be going as the character “Marco Bragadino”, a real character (and quite the character he was) from history. I’ll be wearing loud clothes and hats and speaking in a (very bad) Sicilian accent. This year will be extra fun as I expect my friend to be there painting faces, but this kind of event goes far in helping break through any mental hang-ups you might have whether or not you’re aware. The first year, I was very self-conscious about how I was dressed, how I looked, and what people might think. After a few years, with people asking to take pictures with me, being accepted in garb, and just having fun I became so comfortable that I would even go to restaurants straight from the fair and still in garb. Even there I was accepted and had fun with it. When somebody would ask about the Ren Fair, I would look at them quizzically and reply, “what fair?”
I wonder how many people ever stop to consider how they censor their own behavior and limit their own experiences because of homophobic paranoia. Without meaning to, I know that I had, and probably still do in some manner that is so ingrained in my upbringing that I’m not even aware of it. I guess this is what “woke” means, though. I’m constantly evaluating my own thoughts and behaviors looking for those ways in which I limit myself based on my own upbringing and small-mindedness. I love when I find them, too, because once identified I can rectify them which invariably leads to wonderful new and unexpected experiences.