The Gay Kid Who Wasn’t

Hello dear reader(s)!

Since the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, my Facebook has been pretty much a non-stop series of status updates by yours truly about my thoughts, fears, shock, sadness, and anger about every aspect of this hateful attack.  I’m sure some of my friends are shocked by how affected by it I am.  Most have been very respectful.

However, some well-meaning people are posting some things that leave me cold.  Specifically, they are posting that talking about the gun control side of the debate invalidates the hate towards LGBTQ people in this society.  I don’t think discussing immediate concerns about how to possibly mitigate the attacks that do happen by limiting the deadliness available to those who will attack takes away from the fact that we all need to be working toward a society where people are not attacked for not fitting what someone else thinks is right.  This to me would be the equivalent of saying it is not okay to talk about seat belts as long as people are still getting in car accidents.

You may disagree with that, and you have that right, but you do not have the right to attempt to prevent me from speaking on it.

But there is something even worse to me that I have encountered.  I know it is from people who mean well, but the effects it has on me are anything but good.  Some people have adopted the positions of some of the self-appointed LGBTQ “community” spokespeople that at its base point essentially asks who the hell I think I am as a straight person who considers myself an ally to speak about it at all, instead of just listening to those in the “community”.  This assumes two very incorrect things.  The first, is that there exists one homogeneous group of people in a community that includes everyone that is not all the way to the spectrum of the most masculine male and the most feminine female as defined by society.  The second issue is that these people assume that because I am straight I do not identify with and have no knowledge of the struggle of anyone in this “community”.

When I was growing up, it was in a pretty redneck town.  Ask me why I hate Reno.  Ask me why I hated it so much I had a blog called “Reno Failure” before this one until I got tired of bitching about that place all the time.  Ask me why I kept that as my user name for quite a while.  There was no gay community.  Not for a long time.  The one or two kids in high school (who were my friends) that were brave enough to be out were hunted.  Hunted.  That meant there were plenty of closeted gays.  And to the hyper-masculine, redneck dipshits, anyone who was different or not as masculine as them was gay.  If you think I don’t know what it is like to be the victim of male hate violence, you don’t know my story.  It didn’t matter that I wasn’t gay, to them I was.  I didn’t always talk about it, and still don’t, but I know what it is like to be at the bottom of a pile-on of hateful bullies calling you a “fag” as they’re throwing punches.  I know what it is like to worry about hanging out with just one of my other guy friends too much to avoid the attacks or names from their assumptions that was quite frankly none of their fucking business anyway.  I know what it is like to be harassed over and over again just for going to my drama class.

I know what it is like to have to develop a false persona to avoid the violence.  To take an interest in football so you can be as manly as your brother and cousin who were adored for their athletic ability.  I eventually learned to like football, but did not when I was a kid.  Playing was an act of attempting to be loved.  You could say the same things about working with my hands or trying to build up muscle.  All things I enjoy a little now, but at the time I did not have those interests it was a matter of trying to be loved and also a matter of self-preservation.

I deliberately suppressed emotion and my interest in art and literature.  I wouldn’t play D&D or with computers because those kids got beat up.  I had to pretend I was less interested in learning than I was.

There was no internet.  No Tumblr.  The people around me believed gays went to San Francisco when they grew up to live in a modern day Gomorrah.  Bisexual people didn’t exist and were just obviously confused or gay who hadn’t fully accepted it yet.  Transexual people were mentally ill and to be made fun of.  They were trannies.  Forget terms like pansexual and gender-fluid.  There may have been many of those people around me, but if the terms existed, those terms sure as hell didn’t exist around me.

I went to Pride for the first time with my first wife in 2005 after we moved to Seattle.  It was the last year the parade was exclusively on Capitol Hill.  I didn’t just go as an ally, I went for me.  I felt at home there.  People who were unashamed to be themselves, and love however they chose.  I envied their bravery.  We spent a long time there, and had fun.  We would have gone to one of the gay bars after, but my wife was tired.  So when a gay bar gets shot up during that city’s Pride week, please don’t presume to tell me how this isn’t personal to me.  And it gets even more personal to me than even being the kid who was picked on by those who thought I was gay, and that I could have just as easily been there as anyone speaking from the internet on behalf of some imagined “community”.  It gets more personal because even though I have always been straight in practice, I suspect that is more due to my fear of male sexuality for reasons I will not even get into than for strict preference alone.  I feel attraction to people, not parts.  I have always felt safer with women and so the attraction has been deeper and is therefore the only attractions I have felt strong enough to act on, but I’d probably be pansexual if someone was ever able to make me feel safe enough to deepen that attraction who wasn’t a woman.  Sorry everyone I know, it is what it is.

So as you’re railing about how awful it is to be targeted because you do not fit a certain notion society has of who you are, please make sure you are not excluding those affected using the same prejudicial notions.

Featured Image By Ludovic Bertron from New York City, Usa [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons




Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

27 thoughts on “The Gay Kid Who Wasn’t”

  1. Honestly, I don’t care if you are gay or not and I hope that’s alright. I am not on facebook, don’t participate on twitter -even though I have an account so I don’t know who things are handled there.

    Terrorist attacks are nothing new for me. I grew up with the fear of bombs, back in the 80’s when terror attacks were normal in Europe.

    To me,the shooting in Orlando is an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on our freedom, the freedom to be whatever we want to be. Womens’ rights, Gay rights, religious freedom, freedom of speech…that’s what the United States of America stands for. I am very angry and I would stand there in front of the club with a candle, if I could.

    Like in France and Belgium innocent people have been killed while having a good time. Soccer games, movie theaters, nightclubs. I just wrote a post called “again”, because mass shootings are our new normal, if things won’t change.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I appreciate that. We do not invalidate the struggle of others when we react in support to something terrible befalling others just because we may not be exactly the same. Because one day it is a gay club, the next it is an abortion clinic, the next it is church or synagogue, until the only ones left are a bunch of Trump supporters and Islamic extremists trying to hurt anything they think is different or not as good as them.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great Post Josh! The insecurities, ostracizing, pigeon-holing, bullying – no one has a corner on those markets. Do they? Some schools put boy and girls in separate schools for age 12 because psyches are so vulnerable at that age. It is my opinion that groups like LGBT and Black Lives Matter have a tendency to be reverse discriminatory. Their anger and finger pointing frightens me. Its difficult to have understanding or connect with people who are shaking their finger in your face. Hopefully someday we will all be free to be who and what we are or desire to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know about reverse discrimination, but there is definitely anger. With these groups, I can understand it. If you are constantly ostracized and your very life is at stake it is easy to get angry at anyone who resembles your oppressors. (Me.)
      That said though, you shouldn’t try to silence those who support you either just based on your appearance or what people think they know.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe reverse discrimination was not a good choice of description. Thanks for pointing that out. Yes, the anger is understandable but it does put off some who would support if they weren’t intimidated.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sure. THAT I get! LOL We have a group of anarchists that love to go down to every major protest and try to turn it violent here. They infiltrate all the peaceful protests and change the message. There are bad actors in every group that have the potential to change the public perception of a cause the majority do not support. Unfortunately, for BLM in particular, they also have the media focusing near exclusively on some of those bad actors instead of the many peaceful people who are more actively involved.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fear which feeds hatred of “the other” seems to be an almost “genetic” part of Human beings. Perhaps when humans lived in small groups it was adaptive to fear any other group. After all, homo sapiens outlived (eliminated?) Neandertals, Homo Erectus and possibly other types of humans. On the other hand, real hatred of the “other” needs to be taught and nurtured. (See Fox News for details).
    Since it is doubtful that we will eliminate the hatred in my life time (I am 66) I see the best solution as trying to limit the availability of the means of violence. That means sane and effective national gun control.
    Every time an incident like this happens the NRA claims another victim (s). Every year over 34,000 Americans are killed by guns (suicide about 50%, the rest are accidents and intentional killings). And the NRA continues to buy Congress and prevent any meaningful gun control. This may sound nasty but I am waiting for the day when some parent of one of these NRA victims takes an AR-15 to an NRA meeting. I am pretty sure that would my reaction if this happened to one of my kids.
    There will always be haters and violent people. We need to make it much more difficult for anyone to obtain a rapid fire, automatic weapon. Not a complete solution, but it would help.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. I think that’s how a lot of us feel, so deeply affected, shocked, saddened, angry, fed-up — searching for others who feel as we do, who echo that affectation and acceptance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Josh
    This post is perfectly expressed. I grew up in a similar redneck haven and can understand the immense pressure and bullying forced upon everyone to fit in. God forbid you befriend or talk to anyone of another race, religion or orientation in my town, or you were labeled. And persecuted. I’m glad you said what many of us were thinking. This was an attack on humanity. Not just on a community. And we are all grieving…
    Again…great post❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your blog made me rather emotional, in a beautiful way.

    Just wanted to take the time to say.. You are absolutely wonderful just the way you are.

    There is so much hate in the world, we cannot spend a second being anything but the counteracting.

    As a gay man to a man who isn’t but has been called gay..

    Stay strong, be yourself and love everyone.

    Even when they hate.

    Because love conquers all.

    Liked by 1 person

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