Lamar, in his own words: “Being gay doesn’t mean much of anything to me, other than the fact that I date men. I think the most important thing about being gay is to be aware of what people may think of you. When I introduce myself to people for the first time, I give them everything without announcing my sexuality, because I believe it’s irrelevant at that point. This is why I’m often assumed straight – because I don’t lay out that one label setting up a list of presumptions about me. I am no different from the straight guy next to me, and I find it incredibly rewarding when I realize I’ve shut down someone’s assumptions about gay people based off stereotypes. Nobody is one-dimensional, and that’s another reason why this project is so awesome. It’s showing the world that gay men come in infinite forms.
I face a challenge dealing with my sexuality quite often, whether it’s at work or socially. The biggest challenges I’ve had all come from the pressure of my family’s harshly negative beliefs about homosexuality. I think my family’s beliefs created 10 times more pressure on me than society’s pressure overall. Homosexuality in the black community is strongly unacceptable, it seems to me like they view it more as a cultural deviance than religious. I was told that homosexuality is “wrong”, “a sickness’, and a “mental disorder”. My family made it very clear – through jokes and serious talk – that anyone who identified as or “behaved” gay was to be unaccepted, disowned. With that knowledge, and having never met a gay person, my biggest fear was to indeed be gay. I honestly thought it was the worst thing anyone could be. Overcoming this challenge took going away to college, breaking away from my family for a while, and learning the truth about human sexuality.
Granted, I haven’t been a New Yorker for very long, but I have a pretty good understanding of the gay community here. One thing is for sure, the gay community here today is not what it was in the 80s or 90s. New York City is known to be a gay capital, so being gay in a city like this is, without a doubt, easier than being gay elsewhere. As the growing acceptance of New York City as a gay territory continues, more gay communities are forming to create not only one gay community, but many. New York City in particular houses gay sub-cultures drawn on commonalities of things other than sexuality like “gaymers”, “people of color”, “hipsters”, “Chelsea gays”, etc. This, in one way, makes being gay in New York seem way easier as there are more forms of expression existent. On the other hand, the sense of “community” here has been broken to very small alliances – and with smartphone apps and social media – there isn’t much need to go out and build queer communities, as more inclusive communities have been set.
I actually don’t have a coming-out story. I had kept my sexuality to myself for a long time until finally publicly dating guys. I’m lucky enough to have friends who required no explanation at all and continued to accept me after learning about my sexuality. They probably always knew, or had an idea, because I tried to hide it. Oftentimes, the things that people try to hide are the most obvious to see.
If I could give myself advice before coming out, I would say, simply “everything will be okay” and that “being hated for who you truly are is far better than being loved for who you’re pretending to be”.