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What I Meant to Say, Is...
Acting Straight & or At Least, Less Gay
by Beau Burriola - SGN Contributing Writer

We walked along the sidewalk, further apart than we ever do, trying our best to not look like a Gay couple. I wanted to hold your hand like I normally do, badly, but I knew I couldn't. I didn't want to put either of us in danger. It's phenomenal how a couple can grow so attached to the little daily contacts throughout the years that, when you suddenly don't have the regular touch, you feel as awkward and clumsy together as a couple on a first date. That was us walking down the road trying to not look like a couple, like we were just "homies" or roommates, or something else acceptable enough to justify the three feet of space between our exaggeratedly masculine walks. We looked like impostors.

Unlike in Seattle, French Guiana isn't the sort of place where Gay people can safely be open and affectionate toward one another. It's a place where the primarily hip-hop, Creole, and Chinese cultures are well-defined and where anything else sticks out sorely and unwelcomely. So, coming here has put me in the strange position of having to pretend - if not to be completely straight - then to be less Gay. For the occasion, I have employed a number of stereotypical techniques to improve my charade: speaking with a low and gruff voice, walking with a tough swagger, wearing mud-colored baggy clothes, and avoiding any contact (touching or eye) between me and other males. This is the world in which I now exist, a far cry from good ole out-and-proud Seattle.

"Bitch," I mumbled when we walked past a girl with big hair, hand-in-hand with her boyfriend. "Asshole, asshole, asshole! Bitch, bitch , bitch!" I didn't know him, but I hated him for creating a world where all the rest of us have to cater to his biases and ignorance. I hated her for rubbing my face in it. I hated myself for enduring it. I hated all the shame their kind imposes that forces most Gay people to retreat to places where we feel safe and leaves us stranded in refuges and ghettos across the world.

Now, like all those Gay folks I never understood before and often cursed, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being closeted again and that has created a huge moral dilemma for me. When I came out years ago, I was determined never to be one of those Gay people who are always hiding who they are, watching over their shoulder to make sure nobody suspects, or pandering one bit to the exhaustively homophobic world.

After growing up in Texas with a preacher father and going into the Army, I was up to my rucksack in shame and wanted no more of it. It was out and proud or not at all.

But age and wisdom makes you change your view of even the most passionate beliefs, doesn't it? It makes you compromise on even some of the things you swore on with all your heart, so that you aren't limited to only going to places where Gay is always OK. Let's face it, the world is big and there are a lot of places you'd have to cross off a map and never visit if you always felt that being an openly Gay couple were the only acceptable answer. You'd have to cross out the Pyramids in Egypt, the Acropolis in Athens, most of Africa and South America, and forget Asia or Russia or any Arabic country. You could never join the Army. You could never get through the thick exteriors of some people who can't see past their own ignorance. Maybe sometimes, to truly live life and see the world outside the walls of our Gay cities, you have to step away from what you know and are comfortable with - and even sometimes what you believe completely - just so that you aren't boxed in by your own view of yourself. You have to wade back into uncomfortable waters, if only to sometimes escape your islands.

So I compromise and out of necessity, I do my best to change my usual habits. The joy I used to get from holding your hand is replaced by the joy of knowing how completely rubbish we are at looking like we are not a couple. My heart sings when the lady at the bakery notices our matching necklaces and gives us a wink. Each quick kiss we manage to steal back from the world when the elevator doors close or when we think nobody is watching becomes the reaffirming lifeline that our constant contact always provided. I know this won't last forever, so I look forward to the day it won't matter.

For now, though, it does matter. It matters because sometimes there are times when the closet is necessary. It matters because our world is not safe. It matters because we are not yet equal. It matters because I love my boyfriend and I can't hold his hand, but I'm willing to come here anyway - even if we have to walk around with exaggeratedly masculine walks, gruff voices, and mud-colored baggy clothes.

Beau Burriola is a queer, love-inflicted writer trying his best to blend in the Caribbean.
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com

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