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|I have a young friend, Alexandre, who I love very much, although unfortunately for me he’s incurably straight. Not long ago he said to me:
And because I love him so much, and couldn’t bear to alienate him, I didn’t challenge him about this but brought our discussion on the subject to a close.
(Photo: "Nobody knows I’m gay")
But I had another reason for letting it pass: I myself know what it is to be irrationally and passionately homophobic, and at the same time to be unaware of these prejudices.
Our society has, even before we were born into it, selected certain values and rejected others. As individuals we grow to be like other people, in spite of ourselves.
I don’t know at what moment of our lives this all starts, but probably our first lessons in homophobia begin when we are very small. For example, when parents find children playing sex games they may separate them saying "boys shouldn’t kiss boys." Or when they ask boys if they have a girlfriend yet.
Why they never ask a boy if he has a boyfriend yet, or which of his male friends he fancies?
One time something did actually occur in one of those inane interviews they have on TV. A boy was asked one of those clichéd questions such as: "do you have a girlfriend?" or "who are you going to marry?", and he answered: "I’m going to marry John" (... or Peter, or Michel, or whoever it was).
In Mediterranean and Spanish-speaking countries, society only has one image of homosexuals: the enduring stereotype of the graceful, witty effeminate ("... you know: the guy I mean acts like a woman...") when, in reality, there are probably very few people like that. There seems to be an inability to conceive that a Real Man -macho, and assertive, who genuinely enjoys sex with women- might also be the ’wife’ of another man, as they say Julius Caesar was:
"He was the lover of every woman, and the wife of every man."
Is it that people are incapable of imagining such a thing, or is it that are they afraid to acknowledge the truth of it?
We men have learned our lessons well, playing our part to perfection, for are there not more closet homosexuals (ones with a wife and children, outwardly ’normal’) than those who are out, who do not hide their true nature from the world. And so, however imperfectly, life goes on.
I forgot to say that a hypocritical society also breeds individuals who are hypocrites, but you already knew that, didn’t you?
I don’t mind if they become fathers to hide their homosexuality behind a cloak of ’normality.’ But what does annoy me is that they are the first to ridicule those who are openly gay, even though they’ll covertly check out a guy if they find him attractive !!!
I’m not saying that any homosexual who’s not out is a hypocrite. Bisexuality exists in even nature (it has been observed in several species of animal) and bisexuality can be harder to bear than homosexuality.
I grew up in an environment where the lessons they taught me were ’kiss a girl’, ’shake hands with a boy’, ’keep away from those undesirables’, etc.
Who was going to make friends with a poof?
We simply passed them by without anyone showing any interest in them, as if they didn’t have feelings, intelligence, a heart, a soul.
And so it was that Henry also became a Real Man.
As a child I was full of energy, very forward and talkative -a good student, too- who people liked, and who was fortunate enough to have the affection of a loving family. On top of this agreeable and confident personality, I was a rather handsome child: slim rather than skinny; well-proportioned, with a round face, small nose, large eyes, and almost always smiling.
When I was seven, something happened which unfortunately was going to change the whole of my life (It’s strange: I’d almost managed to put it right out of my mind, such was the worry and pain it caused, but I was reminded of it by the conversation with my friend Alexandre that I mentioned above, and that brought it back in all its horror).
My parents reacted very badly when they found out, as if I’d been responsible for it, and they told me off severely and forbad me to go out of the house or make friends with the other children. This lasted three long years.
I know that something inside me was broken at that moment. My smile vanished and I became inward-looking, as if embarrassed.
For years, I couldn’t bear to be near older males. I avoided my brother, his friends, my cousins, and even my father and uncles, when they wanted to sit me on their knees or hold me.
I think this also made it difficult to have friends, as even when I liked someone it was impossible for me to let them know it.
Then, I began to go out with girls, just like everyone else (well, not QUITE like them, obviously).
Nobody chooses to be homosexual, just as nobody chooses to be straight or bisexual.
Michel de Montaigne, one of the great French philosophers of the sixteenth century, wrote these words about his love for Etienne de La Boëtie:
"If you were to ask me why I loved him, I believe I could only explain it like this:
I don’t know why two men should fall in love, but...
for that matter, does anyone really know why a man should fall in love with a woman?
It seems that there are some who will never manage to understand what my friend David wrote about when he was only 12:
To be heterosexual does not make you more of a man, or more noble, nor does it make you the arbiter of truth.