Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hero Or Freak?

[Scroll down for the YouTube video of Five For Fighting's "Superman".]

Is Superman really gay?

The thing about movies like Superman Returns (by the way it's AWESOME, go see it!) and the X-Men Trilogy and the Spider Man Trilogy (did you know 3 is coming out next summer?) and other mutant/superhero type movies that I find so intriguing is the way that they are able to portray the experience of being different in a society that doesn't completely understand you.

It really doesn't matter if Superman or any other comic book/silver screen super hero is gay or straight or a cross dressing whatever. The point is that we can relate to the characters. As a gay man who has struggled with the Clark-Kent-Super-Man dualistic identity, I understand that as super as being different can be, sometimes I just want to be a regular Clark . . . .

If Clark is the closeted "normal" guy, then that means Superman is the "out" and "uncommon" guy. Is there a "super" element to being gay that I need to embrace?

The closet experience can be tough. Am I Clark? Am I Superman? When am I one or the other? Am I ever both at the same time?

There's a phrase in Superman Returns that i'll alter here: Even though I have been raised among heterosexuals, I am not one of them. Maybe it's okay that I am not a heterosexual.

I remember when the emotional conflict was so unbearable I desperately wanted to look a loved one in the eyes without wearing my Clark-Kent-eye-glasses - hoping that he or she will recognize the Superman within. I want you to know that I am gay!

But it was so hard to do. Rejection can be a closeted gay man's kryptonite.

Now that I'm somewhat "out", it's kind of relieving - to a degree, at least. Am I a crime-fighting hero or am I a mutant-freak? My loved ones will have to decide for themselves. I will have to decide for myself. What does it mean and what does it look like to accept the fact that I am gay?

If I choose to be the hero, then what does that mean? Perhaps, it's that I choose to be different. I choose to live the kind of life that values genuine relationships and platonic friendships. I choose to respect individuals without objectifying their bodies as if it's something to devour or claim or play with. I choose to value commitment and monogamy for the one person that I love.

If I choose to be the freak, then does that mean that I am never the hero? When the frustration of being lonely overtakes me and I am tempted to find a physical connection, does the indiscretion deny me the right to speak against it? When I gawk at the hotness of a guy passing by or when my jaw hangs open after seeing Brandon Routh on screen, does it reveal my hypocrisy?

Even public figures can be in a sort of closet. Anonymity allows me to get away with being the freak because no one expects me to be the hero. But being the hero means inspiring everyone to be the hero too. It'd be easier if no one knew my name. However, nothing about this journey of mine has been easy. I used to be paranoid about walking down the street of what we call in Long Beach the "gay ghetto". I am now much more comfortable with sitting in the front of a coffee shop frequented by gays and lesbians and being okay with people seeing me and thinking that i must be gay too. I am gay. How about when I go to the gay bar with friends for a drink? How about when I go to the gay club with friends to dance?

As I become more known by people in the gay community here in this city, how far do I need to be above reproach? How much of an example do I need to set? Am I the normal relatable guy or am I the hypocrite guy? The pressure sometimes makes me just want to let go! What in the world am I trying to do here and who am I to speak into the lives of others?

Where are the real leaders in our community? How can any of us have the right to try to be a hero when we are also the freak?

Perhaps the problem is that I need to stop seeing this dualistically. It's not that I am either hero OR freak - Clark OR Superman. I am both. Maybe the hero is also the freak who is just simply trying to live a better life - not save anyone. Perhaps the responsibility of the hero is not to be the savior - because there already is one - but rather it is to simply walk forward on a journey and inspire others to walk the journey as well.

I'm no superman. I can barely even be a proper Clark Kent. I figure the best that I can do, for right now, is to claim that I am neither. I am simply walking towards the One who is.


Anonymous said...

That's profound stuff, Eric, and I need a small mood-lightener. Perhaps we gay folks simply need to decide if we like tights?

I ask a lot of those same questions you pose, mainly because I do not feel like a hero. I am still Matt even though I am gay. The same Matt who enjoys eating Oreos and watching ducks feed in my yard and grilling burgers in the summer. I feel there is very little heroic about me, gay or not.

I find myself asking, "Can I be gay and NOT be an icon or an image or a stereotype? After 32 years, I am getting pretty good at being Matt, and growing into the idea of being Matt outside of the closet. But once I am out of the closet to you, could I still please be Matt? I am no more heroic or powerful once I am out to you. I am simply one thing more to you: authentic."

Anonymous said...

Of course he gay!

Look at those low rise red briefs; there practically bikini style!

What a closet case!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric,
It kinda sounds like from your post that in both the "hero" and the "clark" that there is a strong pull to conform. Like whether your being around gay people or straight people they except you to conform to a certain way. Just be your self, and who God created you to be. Be true to your convictions, that GOd has given you.

Its not fun living a life you have to hide, I have been doing that all my life. Becuase when your clark you have to hide being a hero, and when your a hero you have to hide being clark.

What if superman stopped hiding?