Gay Enough

Queer people often feel like they have to fit a stereotypical image of queerness to feel like their identities are valid, but all queer people should feel confident in their sexualities and identities.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I came out in seventh grade. When I told my friends, none of them gave an exaggerated reaction. They “kind of already knew” and had “figured it out.” They “could tell I was gay.” I was the only openly gay kid in my grade in my middle school. Before coming to Stuyvesant, I didn’t know other LGBTQ+ people. This idea that others could “figure out” my sexuality and the ubiquity of “gaydar” in our culture made me think there was a specific way to express my sexuality and that I could assume others’ sexual orientations. After coming to Stuyvesant, I met more LGBTQ+ people who celebrated their sexualities much more than I was able to. I felt like I did not fit in and I was not “gay enough.”

I always felt the need to repress my sexuality due to bullying in middle school. When I came to Stuyvesant, I no longer wanted to suppress the expression of my identity. I found an environment much more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and felt more comfortable talking about my sexuality with others. I sometimes mentioned that I was gay when I introduced myself. This new level of comfort with my sexuality strengthened the conclusion I had made in middle school: everyone could tell I was gay, whether I told them or not. Though I labeled myself as gay, I conditioned myself to let others label me before I announced it.

A few weeks ago, one of my straight male friends, who I assumed already knew I was gay, jokingly asked whether I had a crush on a particular girl. I immediately responded: “I’m gay. Did you not know before?” He said, “No, I never knew,” with a hint of surprise but quickly accepted it. Being conditioned to think that everyone could tell I was gay, I felt it necessary to ask this same friend a few days later if he suspected I was gay before I told him. Another one of my straight, male classmates was present in this conversation and said he had no idea I was gay either. He said that I had “no stereotypically gay traits.”

After hearing that comment, I started making a list of the gay stereotypes I live up to: most of my friends are female, I act effeminate, and I am dramatic and animated. Because I felt pressured to act stereotypically gay, I told myself that I was being “stereotypically gay enough” instead of telling myself that I did not need to fit a stereotype in the first place.

In Stuyvesant, I met queer people who dyed their hair pink or purple or blue, painted their nails, or had a stereotypically queer fashion sense. In the midst of all of this expressiveness, I felt lost, like I was not expressing myself enough or celebrating my sexuality enough.

I started questioning why celebrating one’s sexuality meant fitting a stereotype. The two are fundamentally different. Queer people dress differently and use fashion and makeup to express themselves because they do not want to follow cisheteronormative standards. Many queer men tend to express themselves as effeminate because they do not want to subscribe to norms perpetuated by toxic masculinity. Just because these are common queer modes of expression doesn’t mean they are preconditions for a valid identity. Celebrating one’s sexuality looks different for everyone, and that diversity is what makes being queer beautiful.

Though I deconstructed these stereotypes in my mind, I continued asking my friends how stereotypically gay they thought I was. One of my friends told me I was “pretty gay, just not like a white boy.” Though her response may sound politically incorrect, it made sense. White people are able to be more expressive about their sexualities and break cisheteronormative norms in a way people of color, like me, cannot. As a South Asian, I have to deal with the taboo topic of homosexuality in my culture and tackle being constantly reminded to fit into societal norms with classic sayings, such as “What will people think?” I do not have the privilege of being able to dye my hair, wear makeup, paint my nails, create my own unique fashion sense, or do any of the other things that people think would make me “more gay.” People who express themselves in those ways are not any “more gay” than me; they are just expressing and being themselves in the same way I am being myself.

I do not need to fit into other people’s perceptions and stereotypes of gayness in order to feel valid as a gay person. I am gay, and that is enough. Everyone who identifies as queer should be able to feel queer enough without someone trying to put a label. I am gay, so every part of me is gay, everything I do is gay, and every one of my traits is gay.