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Where the Wild Queens Are (the original, unedited version)

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This is the unedited version of my feature, which ran in the last issue of Rise Over Run Magazine.  As the new issue comes out soon, in which I have a feature on Millennials at the National Equality March, I wanted to post this here, as well.

He runs his hands through my thick, jet black hair, a devious glint in his eye.  My leg is thrown over his shoulders and we’re shedding clothing left and right.  He’s only an inch or so taller than me and fairly scrawny by my standards, not my usual type at all.  But then again, in a town this size, it’s hard to have a usual type.  You pretty much have to take what you can get.  That’s not to say he isn’t cute, though; this boys is definitely a looker.  His gray eyes have a sparkle and his thick, black rimmed glasses slide down his patrician nose as he tosses his shirt on top of his Chucks, tossed haphazardly on the hardwood floor of my dark room.  I hear my roommate move outside my door, but I’m too preoccupied with this boy in my bed.

We kiss deeply, and I moan.  “Mmm… I love it,” he says, grinning devilishly.  “I love it when a boy says my name.”

I keep this in my mind, fully intending on using it to my advantage.  But I freeze.  I pull back and look him in the eyes, the light from the streetlamp bathing us in a yellow glow.  “What is your name?”

“Grayson1,” he says, going in for another kiss.  He isn’t fazed by my party foul at all.  “And yours?”

“Skylar,” I say, making a mental note to submit this to FMyLife as soon as he leaves.

I would love to say this is an exception, rather than a rule.  But awkward moments like this seem to define gay dating in Bowling Green, or at least my experiences.  To begin with, with the exception of two or three, every guy I’ve dated since moving to town in 2004 has been closeted.  Like the guy who dumped me for Jesus.  Or the boy who lied to me about being an SAE, like that would impress me.  (I would have settled for a Kappa Sig.)  Or the boy who left his sleeping girlfriend on the sofa, took her car, and came over to meet up with me.  I’ve been pretty unlucky in love.  But don’t feel sorry for me.  It’s my own damn fault.

Or is it?  I became curious as to why I wasn’t meeting any quality men.  I mean, the gay men have to be out there, right?  Surely they were out there waving rainbow flags and dancing to Lady Gaga, and I just hadn’t been privy to their presence.  There had to be more than closeted fraternity boys and secretive bisexual hipsters to date.  Right?

I’ve never been a regular on the gay scene in Bowling Green.  This lovely queen I knew back in the day used to have parties every Monday that always had a youthful gay turnout, but I haven’t been to one in years and honestly have no clue if he still lives in town.  Those parties used to be the social event of the week for gay men and the women who love them.   But where are the gay men hanging out now?  Had I failed to get the memo?  Surely they are somewhere.

When I first started at WKU in Fall 2004, the Outlet Resource Center was open in McCormack Hall.  A center focusing on outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) students, I remember my time there fondly.  It was always full of friendly faces and people, often hall directors, who were willing to listen to your problems.  Because of the level of confidentiality, the Outlet was a safe space for LGBTQ students, many of whom faced prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis, to congregate.  I firmly believe that it was the Outlet that made my first two years at WKU so easy, because it provided me with a support network I might not have had.

However, Housing and Residence Life closed the Outlet in 2007 and now uses the space as storage.  As if turning a gay and lesbian resource center into a closet wasn’t bad enough, WKU never bothered to find the center a new home, and the only place gay and lesbian students had to go ceased to exist.  So where had all the gay boys gone?

Where the boys aren’t

Setting out to find this town’s mythical gay scene is a lot like setting out to find Atlantis: everybody has an idea of where it might be and what it’s like, and it sure sounds magical, but nobody’s really ever been there.   I ask Dustin Bell, a senior theater major, what he’d heard of the local gay scene.  “That it exists,” he says rather tongue-in-cheek.  That’s all Dustin seems to know about the gay scene.  I ask him how he met men, and he answers bluntly: “I don’t.”

Ask any gay man or lesbian on campus and they’ll tell you that there is a gay scene in town; they just don’t know where it is.  Every little lesbian or giddy gay boy seems to think they’re the only one being left out.  There isn’t an official gay bar in town (the closest is in Nashville), though there is a monthly drag show at Ellis Place.

The lack of a local watering hole hinders the development of any gay community, according to “Mark” and “Bill,” a thirty-something couple I spoke to.  They asked not to be identified because they are not out to their families.

“We are just roommates to most,” Mark explained.  I met Mark and Bill on Adam4Adam, a website that, according to its homepage, aims to “help you find new friends and create new relationships quickly and at no cost.”  Of course, it’s a site you don’t want to access in a campus computer lab, as the advertising that keeps the site free is mostly hardcore pornography linking to sites catering to any sexual proclivity you can imagine.  Just ask the lab assistant who threatened to kick me out for looking at porn.  (I insisted I was doing research, but understandably, she didn’t believe me.)

“We get cussed a lot because we are a couple,” Bill says.  “People say ‘why does a couple come on here if they aren’t willing to hook up?’”  Dustin agrees, saying that sites like Adam4Adam, which is joined by the likes of gay.com and Manhunt, are mostly intended for men looking for a quickie.  “There are a few good people on there, but most of them just want sex,” he says.

I’ve used Adam4Adam, Manhunt, and gay.com before, and in my experience both Bill and Dustin are right: the men on those sites are looking for quickies and fly-by-night romances.  They’re not looking for lasting relationships, and they certainly aren’t looking for friends or to network.  This isn’t Facebook for fags.  It’s more like a 21st century glory hole.

That’s part of the problem, says Jeff Herron, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Kentucky and an HIV prevention specialist focusing in men who have sex with men (“MSM”).  He says that in smaller towns, such as Bowling Green, being isolated and the stigma of homosexuality in the local and national culture can have vast consequences for the self-esteem of gay people and drive men into hiding and risky behavior.  “There is definitely a sense of alienation,” Herron says.  “We’re talking about men who live in areas where not only is there a lack of community, but they often lack MSM peers and social networks.”  Herron says that this alienation and lack of community often makes hooking up on sites like Adam4Adam the only viable option.  “In rural areas, the internet is vital for them in meeting partners.”

In talking to the different men and women I’ve come in contact with, this seems to be an extremely common problem.  “John,” a 19 year old WKU student, who asked not to be identified, says that he meets gay locals online.  I meet John at his house, where he is reclined in his bed, comfortable in his gray WKU tee-shirt and gym shorts.  His room is dimly lit, with personal mementos draping the walls and ESPN on the television, which he has me mute.

John classifies himself as “semi-closeted,” saying his friends know he is gay but that he prefers to keep a low profile.  “I’m straight by day, gay by night,” he says with a sheepish grin.  He mentions Manhunt.com specifically, which he says is for “straight up hook ups.” He says he has to go online because there is no bar in Bowling Green for him to meet people.  However, he seems unlikely to go.  “I like to go places where I’m not going to be recognized.” John says he grew up in a conservative world, and prefers to “keep things orderly.” I ask him if “keeping things orderly” means that being gay is somehow disorderly.  He becomes defensive and says that he is afraid of what other people’s reactions might cost him.

I decide to press further, asking John if he is ashamed of being gay.  He falls silent, his eyes falling toward the ground.  He unfolds his arms and refuses to meet my gaze, staying silent for a good minute, before laughing nervously.  “God, I don’t know,” he says finally, a baffled look on his face.  He takes a moment to collect his thoughts before adding “I’m sure that’s the case.”

A light at the end of the tunnel?


It’s this level of self-loathing and homophobia that concerned Kat Michael, a junior from Louisville who, last fall, cofounded the Student Identity Outreach, or SIO.  “Throughout LGBTQ culture we’ve been trained to operate in the shadows,” she said.  Michael wanted to change this.

SIO is the only organization on campus focused on working to provide a safe and educational environment LGBTQ students , she says.  Michael serves as the president.  “For people from small towns, this is the first they’ve been involved” in the LGBTQ community, she says.   “The majority of students are from Kentucky and used to (negative) treatment.” However, she adds that “they become more outraged in SIO seeing they deserve to be treated fairly.  They’re grateful to see us on campus.”

She says that the internet is a great way for LGBTQ students to meet, but that it isn’t always ideal.  People, she says, “can create a weird persona online.  I would rather see you so I can see through you.”   Not that she has a chance to meet many women online.  The online choices for lesbians are much more limited than for gay men.  Michael says they are available, but they’re not popular in Bowling Green.  “For the most part there are fewer outlets for lesbian social networking,” Michael says.  “It boils down to word of mouth.”

The one common thread that every individual I spoke with shares is the notion that word of mouth is the best way to network with other LGBT locals.  Bill and Mark, the couple I spoke to, say they found their friends through other gay friends, and John says that while word of mouth is less important for him, he still finds it useful.  Dustin says that word of mouth is how he meets most of his gay friends, and that is what brought him to the SIO meeting last Monday in Tate Page Hall.  Dustin was one of 43 people who attended last Monday’s meeting.  Though Dustin didn’t meet any potential boyfriends at the meeting, he said it was still nice to be around other gay people.  However, he is still apprehensive.  “I try not to get my hopes up,” he says.

Kat Michael echoes that sentiment.  As we chat in the Subway in Garrett Conference Center, people around us laugh, enjoying an early dinner, and one straight couple catches my eye.  They are holding hands and exchange a butterfly kiss, completely oblivious to an equally oblivious world.  It dawns on me that if I had done that with a boy the entire restaurant would have been gawking at us.  It must have dawned on Kat, too.  “I don’t know if in my life I will ever be able to fully and openly love the person I’m with,” she confesses.

However, John, the closeted 19 year old, has higher hopes for his future, despite his apprehension about the present.  He says that when he gets a job, gets married and has kids he will keep a picture of his partner and children on his desk, the same as his heterosexual colleagues likely will.  “I think that in this new age people are more accepting,” he says.

The mostly unfabulous social life of Ethan Green Skylar Jordan

I haven’t heard from hipster boy Grayson since we hooked up nearly a week ago, and I can say with confidence that it isn’t because I had to ask his name.  A closeted boy like Grayson didn’t want to give me his name, and having met online, I have no way of even knowing if Grayson is his actual name.  The fact is, though many men will profess their interest in something more than a one-night stand (even if it’s just a regular hookup), the risk is too much for closeted boys.  They can’t chance being caught by their friends, their fraternity brothers, their girlfriends.

Bill and Mark, that delightful gay couple I spoke with, say that until the culture of Kentucky changes, not much else can.  “There are way too many holy-rollers that would put a stop to any gay bars or gay hangouts that were public,” Mark tells me.  I’m afraid he may be right.  However, that doesn’t negate the need for something to be done.  Kat Michael is doing wonderful work with Student Identity Outreach, but I imagine even she would agree that one night a week isn’t enough.  Still, it is something.  It gives students like Dustin Bell and John the chance to at least meet other gay individuals in an atmosphere that isn’t rife with the sexual overtones of Adam4Adam or a nightclub in Nashville.

As for now, though, it looks like I’m stuck finding men the new old fashioned way: online.  Perhaps, until I leave this town, I am condemned to date closeted fraternity boys and crazy scene kids who cheat on their girlfriends.  Perhaps I’m doomed to be hit on by married men who married for no other reason than to hide their sexuality.  I mean, it’s kind of hard for a prince on a white horse to gallop up in a chat room that’s sponsored by a site called Chocolate and Cracker Orgies.  (I’ll leave it to you to investigate, but I’m sure you can figure it out.)

Of course, while I’ve been writing this, I’ve been sending e-mails back and forth to a rather sexy guy on Adam4Adam.  We’re making plans to meet this weekend.  Sure, it’s not the fantasy I always had of meeting my dream boy at a gay bookstore or a bar in the gayborhood.  But, like I said, in Bowling Green, you take what you can get.

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Written by skylarjordan

October 22, 2009 at 12:16 am

3 Responses

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  1. Wild and crazy!

    scentcouture

    October 22, 2009 at 12:22 am

  2. keep up the good work i enjoyed reading your blog….

    dalena johnson

    October 22, 2009 at 4:34 am

  3. […] at Rise Over Run I did a feature on a sorority’s homecoming queen candidate. I interviewed a closeted fraternity president. And after the now-infamous (and largely discredited) Rolling Stone piece on rape at UVA, I […]


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