Gay culture is constructed in a way that almost prevents us from growing up. When I ventured into West Hollywood in my early-twenties like a lost lamb, I thought I’d never leave. Men—young and old—drank, laughed and partied together till sunrise. I remember thinking this is Neverland.
Growing up I’d never thought I’d be okay with admitting I loved men. My father was a conservative police officer, my mother was a church lady and I was unabashedly fine with “marrying” a woman in spite of my urges. So when I moved to L.A. there was a lot of suppression I had to unleash—boy did I ever.
I wasn’t the only one going through what I call a “two year phase” of hooking up, falling in love, and partying to make up for two decades of not being able to say the word gay. Most of the young guys I went to college with were going through the same phase—we matured later, long after our straight counterparts.
Adults have a lot of responsibilities, but gay subculture seems to promote an idea that it’s fine taking our time to figure it out. The “party” takes precedence over the “job.” But let’s face it, we all know there’s a time to stop procrastinating and get our lives in check.
We can have the husband, children, the home and the perfect business and still maintain our boyish charm. One of the greatest things I’ve found as a guy who knew nothing about gay culture until later in life is that it’s always been about community. The problem, however, is when members of our community hold us back from achieving our potential.
It’s important for us not to loose sight of how wonderful our culture can be. Never should we find opportunities to become resentful or bitter towards what it may have become—if we do that, how in the hell are we going to convince a 15-year old closeted kid it’s okay to find others like him?
It’s not a bad thing to go out. It’s not a bad thing to be proud of what we are and be around people who want to celebrate it. Does this make us a manchild? Only when we let the “scene” take over our identities. When we stop caring about everything else is the moment we become not only manchildren, but lost boys.
The spirit of gay culture is self-power.
In the days where being gay meant you were fired from your job, you couldn’t have a drivers license, and you were forced to keep quiet, gay culture was empowered by raising our fists and saying, We’re here. We’re queer. We’re proud. This was the root of how our community was built.
We were our own refuge against countless of societies teaching us to hate ourselves. We had to love each other, but first we needed to love ourselves.
Holding onto that boyish wide-eyed optimism is needed to remind ourselves where we’ve been. Beneath our smiles lie thousands of scars hidden by pride and community. We aren’t manchildren because we like to party or go out or express ourselves. Having fun in being different has no relation to the responsibilities we all have. In an age where pride is scarce, it’s important not only to wear it, but set it on fire for others to see and admire.
I’m the first to admit I’m still a boy at heart, and always will be. As I grow into my relationships and build a family, the one quality I wish to pass onto my children is to be pride. There are things in life in which we need to take seriously, but we can’t let it become the ruler of our subconscious minds.
Being a manchild is different than being lost. I like to go out and party, but I also work hard for what I have. Neither of these things are related, nor should they be.