Upping the Stakes

>> Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If talking about homosexuality gives you the willies, be warned. I'll be talking about it. On the other hand, maybe you could learn something. I am.

This is one my posts exploring what I'm learning from exploring yaoi manga, which could be seen as boy-on-boy romantic smut (as opposed to "bara" which is generally less romantic and more about the physicality, or so I've read). So, what have I been learning as I delve into a different world, a different environment? Or at least, one type of portrayal of that kind of world? Well, I need to add a couple of disclaimers. What I've been reading, called "yaoi" is actually male-on-male romantic manga generally written by and for women and girls to read. So, one might expect there to be marginal realism. However, it still has given me pause to consider things that are the same and things that are potentially different with regards to a gay couple.

Today, I'm noting the difference in magnitude in confessing a heterosexual romantic interest and confessing a homosexual interest.

Now people around the world don't necessarily have a love confession like is often portrayed in many kinds of manga: "Hey, I really like you. Would you go out with me?" but it really struck me how much more is on the line for a gay guy in that situation. You like someone, even love someone who might be your best friend in the world or someone you barely know that you saw and instantly fell for or just someone you were drawn to.

First, you have to come to grips with it yourself. If you knew you were already inclined that way, preferring men to girls, the fact that you love another man is unlikely to cause you untold soul-searching. True, every overt move toward another man is an opportunity for your preferences to become known (and stigma still attaches to this sort of thing in most societies), but you have probably already come to terms with who you are.

But what if, as frequently happens in what I've been reading, you either haven't known (or acknowledged) your preferences or, as it could be, you don't necessarily have a preference so much as a connection to a certain person who, for whatever reason, calls to your own soul. Maybe you've always dated women without understanding why it never really worked for you, why you couldn't become bone-deep passionate about them? Maybe you don't have a natural preference for a particular gender, but just particular people. Maybe sex has always been impersonal before, gender notwithstanding. But, if you never thought of yourself as a homosexual, before you've confessed to anyone, you have to come to terms with how you feel, what, if anything, that says about you, what that does to your own view of yourself as a man.

Ideally, I'd hope, you realize it doesn't change that, but then it's easy for me to say that. It's not a question I'll likely have to deal with, given that I've pushed three people out of my body. But there's something to be said for how society has inflicted stereotypes and concepts on people. There's nothing in the world that keeps someone homosexual from being a talent or capable athlete or soldier or policeman to teacher or delinquent. It doesn't make you more tough or less so, doesn't determine your favorite color. It doesn't make you a threat to your "buds" who are just friends, or, in fact, to anyone else. In fact, it doesn't really mean a thing except that you love people that come with the same equipment (or at least one person who does).

(There's a big controversy, apparently, because yaoi often portrays this ambiguously without making clear that people are "born" one way or the other. I'm not going to tell anyone gay they were or weren't born that way, but I'm also not going to tell someone else who says they aren't that they were. Not sure there's one and only one answer for everyone. But I don't know; I'm not gay)

That's one of the biggest differences I've been thinking of when comparing the realization you love someone to heterosexual relationships. Even if a relationship is completely inappropriate or impossible for any number of reasons, loving someone of the opposite sex doesn't impart the same level of soul-searching an unsuspecting young man would face when he realizes that the person he loves most, that he wants to touch sexually or to have in his life, is another man.

Girls, you'll be pleased to know that men, if manga is any indication, are no better at communicating with each other than they are communicating with us, at least if romance is involved.

Now, let's say our protagonist (we'll call him "Jin" which is often used to denote "man" or person in Japanese compound words) has wrestled with his soul and come to terms with the realization that he loves another man, that, despite trying to pretend it's friendship or kinship or some other feeling, he is sexually and/or romantically attracted to another man. What does Jin do?

A girl in that situation, or a boy, might be thinking how they could get that feeling reciprocated, or about finding a way to ask the other person out, or be too shy to say anything. But note how much less they have to lose to make a move, whether subtle or overt. A boy can ask a girl out and, if she refuses, that doesn't make it the end of their relationship. They can still be friends or coworkers or whatever. In fact, it's so painless (relatively speaking) that a heterosexual doesn't have to reserve asking someone out until he or she is desperately in love. He or she can ask if someone's just cute or has a nice smell or strikes one the right way. In fact, the less one is already invested in it, the less of a risk it is.

But for Jin who loves another guy, particularly if the guy in question is not overtly gay, it's considerably stickier. If the "guy" is not someone he is deeply attached to, someone he truly loves, why would you risk it? And risk you do, even if your heart isn't on the line. With attitudes as they are, you could get the crap beaten out of you for speaking your heart. Even someone who might not be bothered to find a good friend gay might react violently to find himself the object of affection. Even if violence doesn't break out, ugly words readily could and you've now made clear your sexual orientation to someone who might very well feel antagonistic; i.e. you've take the chance on it all going public (which can ruin someone, even today).

But even if that doesn't happen, even if the object of affection is tolerant and understanding, if he's not of the same mind and inclinations, there's an excellent chance that a friendship or relationship Jin cherishes, perhaps the only contact he has with this person, could be lost or transformed into something entirely different. Every word studied for nuance, every gesture, every touch could be examined and treated with suspicion. Putting the genie back into the bottle ain't that easy.

But what if this guy really is the love of Jin's life? Those of you (like me) who might feel like you've found your soulmate may know what I'm talking about here. If someone is the one, THE one, keeping silent, keeping the distance, being friends may just not be an option. And that just means you're gambling with your very heart, gambling everything because what you want matters that much. The more you are compelled to speak, to act, the more you have to lose, the more it will hurt if your love and heart are rejected with extreme prejudice.

Food for thought. Next, giving some thought to receiving such a confession...


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