A Man’s Life An ongoing conversation about what it means to be a man in the 21st century
Man I look forward to a society in which having gay pride is as frivolous as taking pride in being 5‘3“. Because of the experience of losing every friend I had as a teenager and feeling despised by my town, I’ve never been very comfortable in groups. Groups often regard me with confusion, often make assumptions and misread me. I’m not out to confuse, but neither am I interested in going about “correcting” people’s assumptions—much the way the actor Matt Damon, erroneously rumored to be homosexual, elected not to respond to the rumors. He felt that such a public relations rollout, as these things are generally handled by the media, would be offensive to his gay friends—“as if being gay were some kind of f—king disease,” he told Playboy last December. While I am as prone as any straight man to the occasional stupid act of bravado—as likely as any guy to size up just about every other guy I see, wondering if I could take him, and just about every woman I see, wondering if I’d have sex with her—I’ve never felt I had anything special to prove as a heterosexual. When I was in the dance world a lot of people assumed I was gay, and that never mattered to me either. About 10 years ago I had a meeting with a woman who had, some might say, shamanic qualities, and to whom I had not previously spoken. At the beginning of our meeting she said, “This is the first lifetime in which you are a male.” Though I felt no need to apply any belief or certainty to what she said, it did seem to fit: As a guy, maybe I am a rookie. And there are deep familiar echoes of the feminine inside me—perhaps from some unknown past. I could be some version of transsexual—when we finally figure out what that means. In New York City, I know men less feminine than me who have undergone sex reassignment and live as women. And I know men less masculine than I am who don’t get mistaken for being gay.
I’m not particularly proud—and I try not to be ashamed—of my femininity. I understand the politically vocal “pride” others rouse to combat shame and mistreatment. At the same time it makes no sense, and it can get pretty annoying, to trumpet pride for something you can’t help being—male, female, bisexual, a racial minority, whatever—as though it were an achievement. I look forward to a society—and with same-sex marriage and widening transgender recognition and rights, it seems to be fast approaching—in which having gay pride is as frivolous as taking pride in being 5’3”. I look forward equally to the retirement of the word “tolerance,” a word that reeks of condescension and entitlement (as in, “We have decided to tolerate your nonconformity to us.”). And if my gentle friend Thomas is reading this, I’d like to change the answer I gave him:Yes, I’m a Rainbow Man, but not the kind anyone has in mind. There doesn’t seem to be a group for me yet. The thing about rainbows is they’re there and they’re not. Meanwhile, their holographic rings contain more possibilities than we can imagine. Word around our meditation community, for example, is that Thomas has a female partner for the first time and is engaged to be married. If so, I welcome him to my part of the rainbow. Douglas Goetsch is the author of Your Whole Life, The Job of Being Everybody, and other volumes of poetry. His work has appeared in The New Yorker,
Poetry, The American Scholar, Best American Poetry, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. An innovative writing teacher who has taught at colleges, conferences, MFA programs, and in group workshops in his New York City apartment, Goetsch is also the editor of Jane Street Press.
Fa l l 20 1 3
The Journal of Wabash College