Here at Instinct, we receive many colorful, thoughtful, threatening, tear-jerking emails every day. There’s a variety of emotions experienced for they come from all over the world and open us up to LGBTQ+ experiences from all over the world.
The following is what one of our readers sent in “about [his] personal experience as a Middle Eastern single gay guy.”
I think I’m Done!
Just like every other summer in my adult life, the charade starts: engagements, weddings, baby showers, christenings, first communions, and glitzy parties that last all weekend. Every summer it’s more and more “closeted” gay friends celebrating their marriages (to women, or their baby arrivals) all in shiny suits and forged smiles, in perfect denial.
And while I could write about the financial strain imposed when a single person celebrates other people for their entire adulthood, I want to write instead about feelings.
Celebrating other people as a single gay adult is one of the most conflicting emotional states I believe I’m capable of. On one hand, I’m joyful. Someone I like just got engaged, married, had a baby, or whatever. I love it when people I like are happy. I’m genuinely happy and full of gratitude that my friends and family are experiencing these things.
On the other hand, I’m deeply sad. I don’t have that happiness. And for a very long time, I’ve been trying to find it, to no purpose. All I can do is watch other people get it. There’s no greater reminder that you’re single and unsuccessfully trying not to be than watching a couple’s first dance or even social media posts. I’m sorry, but that is a trigger. And I keep living that trigger, over and over again.
To make matters worse, I’m now exhausted. Another celebration? The emotional walls I’ve had to build up and exert around other people’s life celebrations is a drain. The bigger drain? Watching closeted gay friends pretending to be straight, getting married, and building families leaving you wondering whether your own values and choices are sane or even sound.
Sometimes I reflect back at these events, as I cautiously approach conversations with people and begging God (I seriously do!) to prevent them from asking me, “So…are you seeing anybody?” or “when will we celebrate your marriage?”, or even “you’re still single… hmm… what’s wrong?” I cannot tell you how many times I have faced those questions , how many times have I tried to give out a brief answer while silently trying to calm myself inches away from a breaking point, hearing myself discussing my life in its most positive way possible, shoving my career to the forefront to dodge further interrogation. Sometimes I wonder if I have the professional drive that I do because it’s the one area of my life where I’ve seen effort match outcome. I’m not actually trying to inform people of what’s going on with me during these moments, I’m just trying to make myself feel less awful.
I wonder if I would feel less sadness and exhaustion, and be capable of even greater levels of joy, if there were celebrations for single gay men, too. Let’s be real: There are no celebrations to congratulate single gay men for their life accomplishments. I didn’t throw a massive weekend event and invite all the people I know when I crossed the “Single and 40” milestone. I didn’t have a party with my friends when I achieved my greatest professional role to-date. Would anyone have shown up for either? Taken either one seriously?
Apart from criminalizing homosexuality and shaming the “single” status, people of the Middle East (where I come from) have made weddings and babies over-celebrated affairs. The engagement, the engagement party, the bridal shower, the actual wedding weekend including a rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, some kind of group event, gifts, the pregnancy announcement, the gender reveal, baby shower, pregnancy photo shoot, birth photo shoot, post-birth photo shoot, christenings, every “this is how many months I am” photo thereafter, communions, school grades, and family vacations. I am thinking about posting a photo once a month under the theme “had a great one-night stand sex last night” while holding the pile of stained sheets for laundry.
I am not being bitter about the subject. I am just trying to tell the facts we experience as single gay men. We simply don’t celebrate the lives of single people the way we celebrate the lives of couples. That’s a simple truth. There are no accomplishments, occasions, or rituals universally considered to be worthy of partying with gifts and coordinated outfits.
Everything I’ve done to improve my self-worth and make myself not feel down because I’m single is so that I can simply feel as good and right in my personal accomplishments as couples do. I know my society might never follow me, but it’s work I’m doing so that I can feel better about myself, and hopefully make others feel better, too.
I don’t think I can celebrate other people anymore. Not until life starts celebrating single people the same way. I’m not demanding that people generate less joy. Quite the opposite, get married and have the babies, just keep in mind that my life is no less important or deserving of celebration than someone else’s. And until society comes around to my way of thinking, and my reasons for celebrating, I think I’m done.
I want to thank the reader for this as it mixes some things we experience here in the West but adds on the different environment and challenges that come with living in the Middle East. We of course do have gay marriage and we can adopt, but it is still not 100% accepted, even here.
What are your thoughts about the above? Do you agree? Are you done celebrating the lives of others when there’s no celebration for yours?