I’ve been at war with Valentine’s Day since I was old enough to understand what it means to be single. I’ll also admit to being insecure over the central theme of the date itself: being loved.
In my early twenties, I concluded that the unattached had much to celebrate; Carrie Bradshaw taught me that! The Sex and the City heroine made solo existence enticing, even seemingly preferential at times. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, when the gay parallel to New York City’s most famous fictional single person would manifest. Women have a framework for discovering the importance of being strong, independent individuals: it’s called feminism. We don’t really have a homo-parallel, though, that allows gay men to realize self-empowerment.
When we accept the fact that we are gay, most of us aim to find out what that means by finding another person to, well, be gay with. We quickly attach ourselves to whoever will have us. In the process, we spend little time unearthing the beautiful complexities that are our own uniqueness. Often, we allow other people to mold our personalities and shape our futures. In the Midwest especially, there’s a certain way that religious guilt, lagging cultural awareness, and rural isolation combine with inner strife to create havoc. We look to ease the tension by hooking up with other people. Our boyfriends will be our saviors, even if we barely know them. Let’s be honest, though…Grindr isn’t exactly a gay emancipator!
I’ve long identified as a feminist, and for years, I hailed its mantra as the focal point of my pride as a single, gay man. Something was always off, though, and it’s a deep-rooted issue I’ve just recently begun to examine.
The simple fact is that gay men face a distinct set of issues that women, gay or straight, do not. We are marginalized differently, many of us having our dignity defrocked because we don’t live up to societal standards of masculinity. Our sexuality develops more aggressively, with pornography and casual sex being far more normalized than most of us want to admit. The social circles we form can get convoluted by body image wars, alcoholism and drugs, and a constant one-ups man ship in pursuit of chasing an Adonis like perfection. Oh, and did I mention the fact that we can’t really talk about any of this openly for fear of retribution from the religious right? There is so much inspiration to be drawn from feminist writings and icons, but we need our own movement of empowerment.
What feminism can’t offer to gay men is something that only we can give ourselves: love. Women didn’t need a movement to find love; they needed to get beyond pigeonholed roles, actually! In a world still hostile to us, and where we are often our own worst aggressors, we do need a movement toward self-reliance. We need to get secure in our identities as single people before we aim to couple with someone else. We need to celebrate our uniqueness, appreciate our success, and value our worth when we do. We also need to see examples for how we can stand strong as individuals first and lovers later on. Television shows like Modern Family and The New Normal, which are fantastically helping mainstream gay families, are great steps forward. The time is nearing for the next wave, though, when single gay men are celebrated in popular culture as the multi-faceted, ever-evolving beings that we are! Will Truman started this on Will & Grace, but focused too much on his co-dependent attachment to his straight best friend, Grace Adler. Neither was particularly empowered by their status as a single person. We need to get beyond the fag hag motif. We have to liberate ourselves!
This year, I’ve decided to pull out from the war on Valentine’s Day. Instead, I’ll focus on learning to love myself and doing what I enjoy. Maybe I’ll even write a treatment for a TV show that is the gay answer to Sex and the City. What will you, a single, self-respecting individual, do with your time and your talents? Your answer might just change the world—or at least your world!