Welcome to ¡Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at [email protected]
I have just very recently (as in the last few weeks) started to come to terms with the idea that I am not straight. I don't know if I am bi or pan, but I know I’m queer. Here’s the thing, though: I am a cisgender man in a very happy, monogamous marriage with a cisgender woman, who I love very much and who I am very attracted to. In line with that, I don't really have any urge to go outside of my marriage and pursue men, no more than I have any urge to pursue women. I am happy with the relationship I have.
I have "come out" to her, as well as to a couple of close friends (though, not my family, who are not exactly, uh, "queer-friendly," and so not worth the trouble), and they have all been very accepting and kind. But they have all, in some way or another, asked me the same basic questions: "Why does this matter?" I think the understood second part of that question is "...if you aren't going to do anything with it?" I know that it does matter; I feel much more comfortable with myself now that I can admit that my long-standing crushes on boys like Donald Glover Twin Peaks-era Kyle MacLachlan are real and not shameful and abnormal, but I can't really explain why?
Help me, please!
Hey there, WB!
It’s funny, isn’t it? We can have an inkling that something we’re experiencing is important, but it can take a lifetime to refine that inkling into complete sentences that make sense to us. Our own thoughts, the shapes of our own desires, can be complete mysteries until we figure out how to articulate them. With that in mind, I’d like to talk to you about language.
For queer people especially, we often aren’t given the vocabulary of self-understanding from the jump, or words that help us connect with ourselves and to others like us. We’ve had to find those words buried in books or in forums on the internet, or we’ve had to stumble upon the right mentor figure. I didn’t even know what “gay” meant beyond an insult for a long time.
Language is imperfect. It’s a faulty conductor for the complex, four-dimensional shapes of our thoughts and feelings. We’re humans, WB, and as such we lack the capacity to have a full grasp on what’s really going on inside our heads. Otherwise, philosophers wouldn’t have much to do. Language helps us compensate for this. It brings our wild, complicated thoughts under the temporary sovereign of understanding, allowing us to communicate to others, albeit imperfectly, what we’re experiencing and what it means to us.
When we come out to ourselves and to others, we’re doing a lot more than announcing sexual preferences or what have you. We are communicating the geometry of our souls as we understand it, giving others the opportunity to see us for who we are in a more complete way as only language can do—not just with words, but nonverbally as well.
The glances people give us when we don’t conform to gender expectations are a form of communication. A parent asking their gay son when he’s going to get a girlfriend is a form of communication. A person referring to a bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship as “straight” is a form of communication.
None of the above outright express what they really mean, but we can infer the meaning because language isn’t just about words. It’s about how we move through life in relation to other people. Coming out, telling people your identity, can bring the language people use with you into closer alignment with who you really are. This can be affirming and healing. It can make us feel more seen by the people we care about, and you needn’t have sex with a guy to experience that. This isn’t a “use it or lose it” kind of deal, no matter who might try to convince you otherwise.
Maybe you won’t ever get physical with another man, but that doesn’t mean you won’t “do anything” with being queer. Queerness isn’t a monolith, but it can manifest as a language, as a culture, as an approach. It can be a lens through which one can behold the world and draw unique conclusions from any subject; gender, authority, aesthetics, violence, politics, community. Your identity as a queer person saturates your experience with all these things, because as humans we bring our whole selves, conscious and unconscious, to everything we experience. I think that’s a sacred thing that should be honored.
I’m happy you’ve realized this about yourself, WB! And I hope this column helps you in some way to make sense of why coming out does actually matter to you. If not, look on the bright side: you did “do” something with your queerness by writing into ¡Hola Papi!. People who aren’t queer can’t do that because I throw all their letters in the fire.
Just kidding. I’ve never actually received a letter from someone who wasn’t queer. But stay tuned for ¡Hola Papi! FOR MEN™, I guess! Anything could happen.
Con mucho cariño,