Written by Daniel Sotelo-Reiner | @soteloreiner
Q1. When did you know?
How should I know? Did you know when you realized you were straight? I didn’t exactly walk out of my house one day, take one look at a guy and think to myself: “Oh, aha I see, the moment is upon me, sexuality unlocked.” To be fair, denial was a large part of it; perhaps I don’t remember when I knew I was gay because I spent so long trying to convince myself that I wasn’t. In order to accept who I was, the moment needed to be insignificant. Everything in life is a process—a series of short and long processes. This just happened to be a long one; there was no single moment where I suddenly felt changed and comfortable. Clearly though, you didn’t come here for deep introspective thoughts, you wanted to see simple answers inside the mind of a gay man. So fine, junior year of high school.
Q2. When did you come out?
Now that’s an idea—a single blip in time where you single handedly reveal to the entire world the secret that you kept locked inside for so long. Imagine if we just stopped meeting new people once we came out, because from where I stand every time I meet someone new I need to come out. For people anywhere on the sexuality spectrum, aside from those as straight as the lines in a google spreadsheet, life is a constant “coming out.” My hope is that one day society will be as used to the concept of varying sexualities that everyone’s life will be a constant “coming out.” So, my best answer for you is sophomore year of high school. Also, junior year, last month, oh, and yesterday.
Q3. Did you turn flamboyant when you became gay?
Well well well, that’s a little presumptuous of you. I buy one pair of bright red shoes and dye my hair into a literal neon rainbow and suddenly I’m flamboyant? In all seriousness though, how can someone turn flamboyant? You don’t turn into a racist when you win the 2016 presidential election, the racism is within you all along.
Q4. How did you come to terms with your sexuality?
Have I come to terms with my sexuality? I am a strong believer of the idea that everyone exists on a spectrum and that spectrum is constantly in flux. Not everyone agrees with this view, and that’s perfectly acceptable; I don’t need everyone to have my exact view on sexuality. I don’t quite know if I have come to terms with it. I still have difficulty saying the word gay when describing myself. In fact, even as I write the word gay, the voice in my head that reads things out loud has a little trouble with it. A part of me still flinches. It was a secret I kept for so long— for years even the simple thought of someone knowing terrified me. Where does that leave me now? Even in a much more comfortable place, that feeling never goes away. Not necessarily because I am ashamed or unsure, but because of the 16 years of stigma I grew up in that surrounded the idea of being gay. Sure, I may have grown up in a liberal community in NYC, during a much more accepting decade, and I may not have come across homophobia in a direct blunt smack to the face, but that doesn’t mean internally people consider being gay or bi as normal as being straight. I have come to terms with the fact that I like guys, but if society hasn’t come to terms with different sexualities, I don’t know if I ever can.
Q5. Who was your first boyfriend?
You came here for the truth. And as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I have to tell you, I’ve honestly never dated anyone. Straight people are so lucky, the moment puberty hits, they can go around asking people out like it’s nothing. They learn how dating works because they play the game the “correct way.” Now imagine wanting to ask someone out, but being absolutely terrified that they would know it was you asking them out, that you were terrified of your friends finding out, and frankly of anyone finding out—all because you had to go ahead and decide that you really needed to request something different from the menu. To assume I had the luxury of dating someone in high school is foolish. I think a much better question is “who was your first crush?”
Q6. Who was your first crush?
Straight, Gay, Bi, anyone, and everyone has a first crush story. We all love an adorable love story. You know the one. The two see each other across the classroom on their first day of high school and get married 15 years later. Or the one where they were friends forever and after years of being told they should, they finally go on a date. People love when a good story just warms their heart. Oh and how can you forget the classic: boy falls for best friend, best friend walks away without saying a word and ends up being homophobic. He was my first real crush, I genuinely thought I loved him, clearly I choose my men like I choose my chalk—white, straight, and may cause lacrimation and heart problems when told I love you.
Q7. Who is your most recent crush?
Shhhhh, if I say his name then he’ll know. I’m gay, not an idiot. Let’s just say I really hope he sweeps me off my feet.
Q8. What do your parents think?
I got lucky, for so many reasons. I have a mother and father who still care for and love me. Not everyone can say that. All it did was cause a divorce.
Of course I’m only kidding—I hope that was clear. They got divorced for totally different reasons that would probably be a part of some entirely different memoir titled “CHILDHOOD TRAUMA,” or something like that. I only have one set of parents so I can’t tell you for certain, but I’m relatively sure that most kids don’t actively talk about their sex lives on a regular basis with them. I’m pretty sure Little Jimmy doesn’t have a weekly “I got laid” discussion with his mother. They know that I’m gay, and, well, that’s pretty much the extent of it. There’s just one small complication. My father is Peruvian, and he’s a little less accepting of the whole thing than my whiter-than-Wonderbread mother. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t really tell my father, but instead wrote, shot, and edited a film that was, let’s say, heavily inspired by the events surrounding the first guy I had feelings for. Not petty, just artistic. When my father saw it in the movie theatre, the film could tell him for me so I didn’t have to. How did he react? Did he yell? Did he refuse to talk with me? I’m not sure. I didn’t sit with my family, which looking back I realized is because I was scared. I sat with my friends who I knew already supported me. I never spoke with my father about it afterwards. All I know is that my father made a decision in his mind that day when he told my mother that my sexuality wasn’t normal, it was just a phase.
Q9. What happens when you ask out a straight guy?
The magical sexuality fairy descends from heaven and throws me into hell for committing a sin. Yeah, you’re right that is ridiculous, that was a pretty unrealistic sentence. Of course being gay isn’t a sin. The second guy I really liked and asked out was also straight. He wasn’t homophobic (pro-tip, that helps a lot). He still rejected me, but then he became my producer for the film I made about my first crush. Josh is great, we’re still friends.
Q10. Don’t you ever become attracted to your straight guy friends?
Last time I checked straight guys found their female friends attractive all the time and it’s the same thing here, and that’s perfectly okay. Just like you don’t go around asking out every female friend of yours, I don’t go around asking out every male friend of mine. Who would have guessed I also have some amount of self control that prevents me from wanting to be with every straight male friend I have.
Q11. Do you hate straight people?
Of course I do. Our main objective is to prevent all procreation in order to wipe out the human race. No human race, no more straight people, easy.
Q12. What was your senior prom like if you were gay?
I always knew that I wanted to go to my senior prom, but as my senior year got closer and closer I knew that I wanted to go on my terms. It meant a lot to me that I went with a guy that I asked out. Don’t get me wrong, I tried. This time, I swear the guy I wanted to ask out wasn’t even straight. I learned my lesson about asking straight guys out—don’t. He was my third real rejection and somehow it hurt more than the first two combined. I don’t know how straight people do it. He wasn’t rejecting me because he didn’t fancy a fellow gentleman, the rejection was because he just didn’t like me. High school alone is a rollercoaster for your self-esteem, tack on being rejected for not being attractive enough, or funny enough, or whatever it was he didn’t like for the first time in your life.
No one knew I asked him out because I wanted to go to prom with him, so I just told everyone I never really cared about prom. I’d save some money and get to relax at home. How was my senior prom since I was gay? Pretty lonely.
Q13. What’s dating like in college?
I spent three years of my life working through and figuring out what I wanted. Meanwhile, I would watch all my straight friends in happy relationships, experiencing the joys and difficulties of dating, spending hours working up to a massive promposal. It never really struck them that I wanted all those stereotypical high school dating experiences too, but I just couldn’t express what I wanted to myself, much less anyone else. When I first got to college, I thought this would make everything easier and to an extent it did, but very quickly I found that having almost zero experience in what people call “dating” left me at a huge disadvantage. There’s a whole new layer of emotions and situations I have to learn how to deal with after spending three years doing the exact same thing figuring out my sexuality. Dating in college, for me anyways, is like entering a new stage of a videogame and finding out everyone around you just leveled up to level 10, all while you’re still stuck as a level 1 character.
Q14. Who picks up the check on a date?
Usually we both accidentally pay and are too nice to fix it so we both end up broke.
Q15. Who was the first person you told?
There’s something really frustrating about spending time figuring out your sexuality. While your brain is stuck in the utterly terrifying, energy-draining journey known as self-reflection, everyone around you has suddenly decided that they are the one and sole wise seer, knower-of-all who has determined your sexuality for you. Maybe one day you made the mistake of staring just a few seconds too long at that cute guy in your class, and before you know it you start to hear whispering coming from the group of desks next to you. The word “teenagers” comes from the latin root for gossip. I’m just making an assumption here; I took Ancient Greek in high school so there is a good chance I’m wrong, but teenagers love to gossip. I never really told a “first” person that I was gay because in their minds, the people around me had decided they would tell themselves for me. As I became more comfortable and started telling more people, the most common reaction I received was “oh yeah, of course, I knew it.” And that response can be frustrating. I know you knew, but I didn’t know, and frankly I didn’t really know you knew before I knew I knew, you know?
Q16. Who is your gay icon?
Me when I’m drunk.
Ok I know, I’ve never been drunk. But sometimes I am so exhausted I feel drunk. And me drunk on my own exhaustion is a real power player. I respect him. I’m also afraid of him.
Q17. Is having a gaydar a real thing?
If by gaydar you mean a semi-unconscious train of thought which tries to identify someone’s sexuality through subtle assumptions, it definitely exists. Subtle assumptions seem innocuous, but I assure you they have an effect. I know people use their gaydar and try to figure it out. “He has to be gay, wait no I think he’s bi.” I’m guilty of it too, I’ve done the same thing. Yet even if those gaydar-weilding people are right in assuming I’m gay, the thought of these assumptions are what never leave the back of my mind. It’s the subtle ways in which people accidentally refer to anything other than completely and unwaveringly rectilineal as abnormal, or wrong, which contribute the most to feeling ashamed or afraid with who you are. Making assumptions will never fully go away, but it’s important to take a step back and recognize that you aren’t infallible. Your assumptions can and will be wrong in any attempt to characterize a major part of someone based off a few moments with them. If we can take that step back, we can start to break down those pesky thoughts always in the back of your head.
Q18. Do you want kids?
Yes, I really do. It might be incredibly selfish of me, but one reason I want to have kids so badly is because they are my responsibility to the world. Our generation has ushered in a time of unprecedented change. We represent a generation who is beginning to break down the useless barriers between seeing people as different instead of just a fellow human soul. And the older generation, they might not all be homophobic, but even the ones who are alright with or support same-sex couples almost never see it as normal. It is etched into our brains from birth that “normal” is a man, a woman, their two-and-a-half kids, their dog Fido, and their cat Whiskers. It’s not the older generations fault that they don’t see it as normal, and it doesn’t make any of them bad people; it is just very hard to convince someone that what they’ve spent decades being forced to accept as normal is all a facade. Our generation though, we can be the start—the start of a redefinition that forever changes our society. I want kids because I want them to know that a man and a man are normal. A woman and a woman is normal. A man and a woman is normal. Black is normal. Hispanic is normal. Mixed is normal. There is no normal, we all just are. And if we can raise a society that breaks down the barriers we force ourselves to believe separate us, then as a society we can empower each and every one of ourselves to be who we really are.
Q19 . What is gay sex like?
I mean, I really just want to start by holding someone's hand.
Q20. How do you know (being gay) is not a phase?
The time I thought my career path was in origami was a phase. My fascination with duct tape was a phase. The rise of fascism in the 1930s and 1940s was a phase. Donald Trump (I pray to whichever omnipotent figure makes him go away) is a phase. Color-tinted sunglasses were a phase. Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and Ant-Man (2015) were a phase. Silly Bandz were a phase (fun fact I owned the rare Ameribandz set, and please don’t ask me how many I owned). The guillotine in 18th century France—that was a phase. We humans really are crazy. But questioning my sexuality as a phase? While I do believe that sexuality is always fluid, a phase wants me to believe that how I feel is a mistake, a small unimportant moment in time that has no effect on the rest of my life, that it is something to simply pass, to just get through and get back to being the right way. That I simply cannot agree with.
Q21. What’s your favorite musical?
I wanted so badly to find a witty comeback, to yell at your assumption that perpetuates a stereotype. But it’s definitely Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.
Q22. What was the hardest part about understanding or figuring out that you were gay?
I was uncomfortable with who I am. I became a husk of a person who lived in absolute fear of the burning, heart-wrenching sting of rejection. Rejection hurts, whether it’s the guy I offhandedly asked out at a robotics competition because I thought he was cute, or the guy I like so much even the thought of being rejected by him stings. After 18 years of existence, I couldn’t find anyone to share the love I wanted to give, and that frustrated me. I became angry and convinced that it was my sexuality that was the problem, or that it was me—I was someone who couldn’t be loved. I was in a place where, more than ever, I wanted to be happy and in a relationship, but I was in absolutely no position to be the kind of person that could be in a relationship. In all honesty, I don’t know how straight people grow. Don’t get me wrong, I know that they do. I promise you I know plenty of amazing straight people. But discovering my sexuality forced me to question everything about my identity, it forced me to learn the need to move on, and it has led me on the path to become comfortable with the person I am. I am not the perfect embodiment of a human, but I am not someone who is defined by one single choice. I am not the most talented person in the world. I am not the most athletic person in the world. I am not the smartest person in the world. Yet, I am not someone who is defined by the rejections of others. I am someone on the path to embracing who I am.
I am not straight, because I am gay.
Any more questions?
This piece was originally written in the Spring of 2019. Edits have since been made to certain portions but the views remain consistent with my beliefs at the time.