Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Email from a French guy who's worried about being gay

A couple of months ago, a reader sent me an email with the title "Catch 22". The email was as follows:

Dear GB ,

I hope you are doing well and enjoying summer,

I know you are a busy person and get a lot of emails, but please take a few seconds to read the following. I would greatly appreciate your wise point of view on my situation.

I am a 21 year old French guy living in London since I was 16. So far so good. Everything is going well for me, well, most of the time at least! I really like London and I study interesting subjects in good universities and all and all, so I cannot complain about that. I am quite a lively person who needs to leave a mark on the world and get some attention. I like all things big, nice restaurants, going out a lot, studying hard, best clubs, etc. Most guys ask me how I manage to be always surrounded by all the hottest girls (arts students, management, fashion). I tell them that I don’t know, but the truth is that since I don’t really care about girls, I don’t get intimidated by them. I also like hanging out with guys, normal straight ambitious competitive guys and to me being friends with them is really important, way more important than being friends with gay guys. They’re not all the same obviously, there are so many types, but the more identifiable ones do live a certain lifestyle and act out all vaggy and flamboyant. So here’s the Catch 22: I have a straight guy mentality and vision, but not the same sexual drive or objectification of desire. What should I do? Because the problem is, there is something missing in my life, and though I like hanging out with my straight friends, they are still a bit different. And sometimes it shows. I feel like they are much ‘simpler’ than I am, and more aggressive too. Hanging out with straight guys is a bit like hanging out with very simple minded creatures who have basic desires and needs. And it makes it all funnier to play the game. Up to a certain extent.

Sometimes I do betray myself. When I am drunk. I start touching some guys because, they’re just ... so hot you know? And so straight as well? And a bit stupid? The more ‘fratish’ they are the better. Or I may do a movement that is a bit weird and suddenly there is a disconnect with the person I am talking to. They start wondering. Also I treat all the girls I go out with quite badly. But somehow they seem to like that. Whatever. Woman’s sexuality and mindpoint is really fucked up too. So I guess people wonder, there are rumours, it’s a sort of running joke. Is he gay? But it’s ok, because it’s all so mysterious and ho-ho ha-ha, he dresses better than everyone else, he’s a metro, he’s not so sporty, he doesn’t watch football or top gear. He’s ambitious. He’s sick. He’s insecure. He’s overconfident. He’s a player. He’s a psycho. Ho-ho ha-ha! It’s funny for everyone watching. The only reason I am getting away with it obviously, and I should feel quite lucky about this, is because I am French, living in big cities, evolving in certain circles amongst challenging people. So I get a free pass because I am French and basically eurotrash. Which is fine by me.

Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. That boy is very sick.


So what should I do? It seems to me that life is so hard and like a marathon. Why would I want to run it handicapped? Yet there is something missing. Yet I know the minute I will allow people to label me (which is unfair because I can still fuck a girl, it’s just that living with her is so grotesque to me, let alone really loving her, while I know fulfilment would be so simple otherwise) I will lose half my life. Most of my guy friends have told me confidently in the eyes several times they could not be friends with a gay guy (yeah, there goes the Oscar) because they get uneasy around them, or might feel that something awkward is developing. That kind of convo happens when talking about some friend from school or wherever who has turned gay, and since then ‘transferred’ to the gay scene (exile?) and I am caught in a sort of in between. And there seems to be no space for me. I want to be successful and express my abilities. Yet I feel like I am gonna get pigeonholed and left aside of all the real business action and important social circles if I get labelled as gay. In the same vein I don’t want to lose the thrill that is going to a restaurant with a beautiful lady and getting approval from the waiter and the room and being all proud and stuff, or getting in a good club easily with your lady. Though you’re not that into her, really. It seems to me that I should rather live a double life. Because it really isn’t worth it. And it isn’t getting better. This is bullshit. I feel like it’s actually getting worse.

Any advice, my dear GB?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

PS: I realise this situation is in a way quite ordinary, laughable, and you may have yet answered similar ones many times, but the process of writing the above has already 'helped' me in a certain way so even if you don't answer, thank you for having such a cool blog!

I’m sure that there are quite a few young gay guys who go through the kind of thing that this reader is describing. However, I don’t think I’ve answered exactly this kind of email before, and this is certainly a good one to answer because I think the reader expresses his feelings about his situation very well.

The first thing to say is that I think the reader has a few misconceptions that are hampering his decision making process. Although I think he’s right that in some ways life is like running a marathon, I think he’s very wrong to say that you’re handicapped in that race if you’re known to be gay. Another misconception that he has relates to being "labelled" gay, because the reader clearly feels that the label "gay" is a valid insult. But the fact is that when one person tries to insult another person, the person who’s the target of the insult needs to accept that he’s been insulted, otherwise the insult hasn’t worked. In this respect, before I came out I felt much the same way about being called gay, but these days I regard the fact that I’m gay as just one my many characteristics that make me who I am. It’s certainly no handicap or insult :-). However, one thing that the reader is right about is that this situation will slowly get worse for him, so it’s a good thing that he’s thinking about it and emailing people like me as he starts to address the problem.

The most important aspect to address is the reader’s concern that as a gay man he’s going to be " ... left aside of all the real business action and important social circles". In term of business, there’s certainly no danger of that happening. Gay people are definitely valued in the banking world, which is why banks have encouraged internal networks for their gay employees, which has led to things like the London interbank GLBT forum which I blogged about recently. Outside the banking world, for example in the world of strategic management consulting, firms such as McKinsey have their GLAM network (GLAM = "Gays and Lesbians At McKinsey").

There’s a good reason why gay people are valued. A gay person has had to indulge in some creative thinking to realise that they’re not heterosexual, because we’re all brought up to expect that we’re straight, and creative thinking is vital in today’s competitive business environment. One of my previous bosses in the banking world used to call me an iconoclastic thinker because I was sometimes able to break established norms and find new approaches to problems. So at least in the Westernised business world these days, there’s really no valid concern that gay people are left out. Outside the business world, for example in the music industry, gay people are common as well. Because X-Factor is on TV in the UK at the moment, the example in my mind is the X-Factor creative director Brian Friedman. Each week one or two of the judges thank him during the live shows for his excellent work.

Much of the same thinking applies in terms of the reader’s social life. The easy part is that it’s common for gay guys to be friends with straight women. At the moment though, it seems likely to me that some of his female friends see him as a potential boyfriend, so the current situation isn’t fair on them because those women are clearly wasting their time. So he’ll have much more honest friendships with his female friends if they know that he’s gay, and hence potentially much deeper and better friendships with them. I’d be very surprised if he were to lose any of his female friends because he’s gay.

Regarding his straight male friends, perhaps some of them will keep their distance from this reader if they know that he’s gay. However, the good thing about this is that it will select the more important straight guys from the less important ones, and he’ll find that he’ll remain friends with the more important ones. What I mean by that is that young straight guys who worry about having gay friends have little imagination, and typically lack confidence in their own sexuality. Those are the guys that the reader describes as "much ‘simpler’" than he is, and they’re not likely to be important for the world economy. Most likely is that they’ll end up with dull jobs, get married, have kids, all without making much of a mark on the world.

However, the more important straight guys are much less likely to have those hang-ups, they’ll be ambitious, and will probably think it’s good to have connections in the gay world as they develop their careers. Putting it another way, why does the reader think that there’s any long term benefit from hanging out with dull, simple, unimportant straight guys? Similarly, why is being friends with normal ambitious competitive straight guys way more important to him than being friends with normal ambitious competitive gay guys? My guess is that it’s just because he feels safe with what he knows, so he hasn’t looked further than his existing narrow circle of friends and so he doesn’t know any of those kinds of gay guys. Here, perhaps the reader just needs to grow up a bit!

The reader says that he has a "straight guy mentality and vision, but not the same sexual drive or objectification of desire". But the fact is that lots of gay guys say the same thing, often summarised as simply "straight acting". So to answer the reader’s main question about what he should do, I think he should stop being afraid of what will happen if people find out that he is gay. Indeed, when eventually they do find out, it’s most likely to lead to lots of good things happening to him :-).

Do any other readers have any other thoughts for this guy?


BiBanker said...

Just want to Say to 'catch 22'by quoting GB's words 'I think the reader expresses his feelings about his situation very well', what 'Catch 22' described how he feels, you are not alone, as I am another living example being through exactly what hes being through, except that I am more self-restricted so I do not touch guys when in a real social life setting, no matter how drunk I am and no matter how much I want, believe in my mind I wud throw myself on them lol. Therefore in life, nobody up to now suspect I am gay hence no rumours so far to bother me much.

If I would like to shield a light on what is going to 'catch22', or myself more accurately, would be I was raised so much in a way that everyone expects me to behave like a man for 20 years or so that somehow I have adapted a way of fixed behaviour or social pattern to play in the role in a social life that I am more comfortable with, this is reflected in the way that all my mates are straight. And being ambitious and aiming big myself also meaning that I need to fit in, or my personal character determined that, I don't know, however this nature of wanting to fit in also meaning that from some point of view, makes me hard to openly come out to all my mates that 'hey dude, u know what, I fancy guys'.
Plus, being in banking which commonly a masculine or male dominated environment, especially at FO,at least I am in this kinda of environment, my ambition to do well and fit in act like double effects which lead me hard to come out as I just fear I Wud lose what I could achieve, ya call me coward if you like, but I forgive myself on that, since it's a human nature that people Wud be afraid of unknown things, just at different level.

Anyway,in addition to what GB mentioned why gay are valued, I would add one thing that, from my own experience, I believe that being a Bi gives me a very strong empathetic ability, as I can understand people very well, hence can manage to build great relationships with all kinds of people, and when applied to work settings, that makes me a great sales person, which is of course valued in banking as it is a people business. Guess I have this ability because being a bi can make me think more, and lookin inside of my heart to look for answers and constantly also looking for answers from how other people behaves thinks or feels.

All in all, think Catch 22, or myself more accurately, needs to do is to really calm down and weights the costs and benefits, costs meaning, potentially lose some 'straight' friends which I agree with GB that they tends to be less secure with their sexuality as 1) a real straight does not need to build his muscularity on bashing gays and 2) they simply can get satisfied lifewith their nice straight wife or gf and start a happy family that is satisfied enough that they can handle relationships with people more objectively and fairly, hence not a matter whether they are gay or bi. Benefits are simply here, simply I will be happier as I am following my heart and feel free. However simple equations do not solve problems, as we all know, life is slightly more complicated to everyone, therefore I sincerely feel for Catch 22 and want to let you know that there si another guy is also here being through the same stage to look for a way that leads to a better or simple way out.

At last, don't care about ur 'straight mates' that much, I thought in England ppl generally don't like French anyone, so why being so nice to sacrifice your happiness just for staying with them for a drink or two every now and then? Lol, am joking..

BiBanker said...

Oh my god, I didn't realise I wrote so much! The reply box was small so couldn't tell how much I wrote. Am embarrassed for acting like a Blah blah granny. Apologies.

Anonymous said...

I'm 16 from the US and ive been following your blog for a long time and I just wanted to say this is the best response/reader's question yet. Keep it up!

Unknown said...

Dear GB,I shoot you an email weeks ago. Hope you get a chance to read and reply.Best.

GB said...

I've looked through my email, Sebastian, and can't see an email from you anywhere. Can you try sending again? Why don't you send directly to gay_banker@yahoo.co.uk, because all email to gb@gaybanker.com gets forwarded there anyway! GB xxx

Anonymous said...

I think GB sums it up well in his final paragraph, that is to 'stop being afraid'. There's no shame in feeling fear, it's something most of us in this context have felt intensely. But the key is courage, find a way to be brave and good things will follow. Ultimately, no matter what advice people give you, you'll never know how confident and comfortable you can be as an openly gay person before you just do it yourself.

Jayesh said...

Maybe he may meet similar people at JakeTM/Village Drinks? #justathought!

ps...GB i know you hate JakeTM as most guys are dicks! :-)

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Anonymous said...

Dear Gay banker

I don't know if you'll get this but I'm going through quite the dilemma. I think I'm gay, which totally terrifies me. My family can be pretty homophobic at times.

My father passed away when I was very young leaving me and my siblings to care for my sick mother. I've become sort of her rock. I help her with so many things and I love her so much that I'm willing to sacrifice my own happiness. I refuse to put her in a home and I will attempt to care for her with the help of a personal care worker till the day she dies. It would totally destroy her if I finally come to terms with my sexuality and came out. She's a devout Christian and I was raised or indoctrinated to think negatively of the word gay. My mother doesn't hate gays but she thinks being gay is a sin. She believes that gays should be allowed to live in peace without being oppressed but she still does not approve of that lifesyle.

A lot of self loathing comes up when I have a thought that isn't so straight. I can never love anybody else romtantically until I learn to love myself I am told but I don't think I can ever fully love that side of me. I don't hate gay people but its been ingrained in me that If I'm gay it would be wrong.

Even if I do come to terms with being gay I'd lose everything! My family means the world to me even though we may disagree with many of their views. I have the feeling that they would disown me if I was to ever come out. I'm also extremely concerned and self consicous about what every one would think of me. For example the church members, classmates, friend, co-workers, etc. I care to much about what every one thinks I guess and I'm to weak and fearful of the consequences.

Lets say as well that I end up pursuing a relationship with man would he be able to put up with my constant fear of being discovered. We wouldn't be able to act like a couple in public, he'd never be able to meet my family and I have lots of trust issues as well so I think it would be cruel to ever get in a relationship and put someone through all that baggage until I learn to sort it out but I don't think I ever can sort it out.

I'm not even sure if I'm gay (I could be Asexual) but I most likely am. I find myself attracted to guys but yet I hate being around them at the same time. I never feel comfortable around men since my father was very into physical disicpline I have grown to fear men. All my friends are women and when I'm around other males escially the same age grougp as I am I become extremely defesive and cold.

I honestly kind of think sex and human contact is kind of weird. I've test my sexuality by watching porn and I able to be aroused by straight or gay. I'm a 26 year old virgin and I have no issues about being a virgin for the rest of my life and I have no desire to be with any one sexualy either. I do however enjoy watching porn but I just have no desire to ever want to have sex. So I could be asexual I guess.

I don't know this is a lot to take in but It feels so good to just vent and have some one listen. I'm pretty sure I'll need therapy and loads of it.

Thank you so much for reading this all of this.

GB said...

Dear anonymous commenter, I've taken your comment and given it a posting of its own. Please don't worry about the idea of being gay. Now that you've taken this step and expressed yourself by leaving that comment, I'm sure that very gradually things will get easier for you. Good luck, GB xxx

Anonymous said...

I am in similar situation (European, top universities, elite social circles, international, London, intense social life etc). I am openly gay.

The key word is CONFIDENCE. If people are talking about whether or not you are gay, it makes things awkward and a bit mean. Just be forthcoming with who you are.

I have been out socially since a very young age and I have never really had a problem. Granted, I am not one of "the boys", but why would you want to be seeing as you have nothing in common with them?

The key to these situations is being confident and not giving a shit. That takes guts and people will respect you A LOT more.

I understand what this guy means about the gay circles though - it is difficult to find international gays from a privileged background who have it all. But they do exist. So I think it is important to invest in both gay and straight friendships and grow up and not think so narrow mindedly.

Anonymous said...

I think there is some vanity crisis going on. You just need to get over yourself and understand that you have one life, even better - you are not gonna be young and hot for very long, and then you will be really pissed at the whole world that made this handsome smart and rich guy, who has everything he needs, restrict himself because of the fear of someone else's opinion. Well, I think you are the type of a person who doesn't really give a shit about most of the people, so just accept that the people you hang out with have the same attitude. I am sure a ot of your friends could be described that way. I was in a similar situation. Then I met someone who was all I wanted to be and open, not to all, but to at least friends. Successful in a team sport, national junior champion, very well educated, very beautiful and stylish, charizmatic. And then I thought what the hell, I have all the attributes, if he can do it, then for sure I can do it too. And since then it was very easy, people are more interested than anything else, and no one has turned their back. Except for a cousin of mine, who somehow knew it and when he messed up, used my homosexuality as an explanation to others why we are not in touch any more. So, it also helps with getting rid of unwanted people in your life. The only problem, all of it is quite narcissistic. In fact you are not special to anyone except those who love you, and gay or not, rich or not, you are just like everyone else. And as I said, yo have one life, you like what you have (looks, money, education, status), use it now, later you'll be classified as an old perv :D and the, as everyone else, you die.
Good luck! :)