Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Lee Suckling: Things straight people can learn from gay people

Being gay makes you part of a minority, which isn't such a bad thing.
Photo / Thinkstock
Being gay makes you part of a minority, which isn't such a bad thing. Photo / Thinkstock

Here's one of the great things about being part of a minority. You get to take in the customs and conventions of the majority, decide which to keep, and which to reinvent. The gays know this. Despite marriage equality, Macklemore and Orange Is The New Black, we live in a world spearheaded by heterosexual culture, but most of us are okay with that. There are a few things, however, that challenge heteronormative conventions that might make life in the majority a little less tasking.

Firstly, gay people are automatically part of a community, wherever we are in the world. It's like being Italian. Our community is the result of decades of being forced underground, so it's vibrant and welcomingly inclusive to newbies. Straight people, as the majority, can miss out on such a sentiment. So do something - anything - that gives you a sense of community. Football club? Stitch 'n Bitch? Young Nats? Any will do. The world is made up of rich communities, and feeling included - and including others - satisfies beyond belief.

The concept of marriage, kids and the white picket fence is all pretty new to us, yet it's been expected - even enforced - upon heterosexuals since the dawn of the First World. As a gay person, though, society doesn't expect much of you. You're not looked down on if still single at 30. If unmarried and without child at 35, you're not "too career-driven", nor is "spinster" uttered upon the feline-friendly that live alone at 40.

Nonconformity to societal expectations is a key strength within gay culture, and when negotiated into straight culture, might result in happier heteros with lower divorce rates and decreased performance anxiety.

On matters of what others think, let's address something that gives gay people thick skin: being called derogatory names by strangers. It hurts, but you eventually realise that a person's internal hatred must be unfathomable for them to vocalise their homophobia to someone they don't know. Such helps you manage and desensitise yourself from life's inevitable forms of bullying. Reclaiming the catcalls that once offended you is empowering, so when a drunkard shrieks "Ginger!" on the street, you can smile and think, "Yes, I am! Well done you for having eyes!"

Gay life is harder than straight life in many ways, and easier in others, but let's clear one thing up, from us to you. The ability to breed is a blessing, not a curse. Another news story about how unaffordable it is to have kids, and the gay community will go spare. To create a family from a test tube takes years of effort, thousands of dollars and loads of disappointment, whether you're gay or straight. If you can make babies, even if you choose not to, know how lucky you are.

Conversely, dogs can be better than children. Yes, you eventually stop picking up your children's poo, but you can't leave them home alone while you go out on the lash. As many gay people discern - dogs don't live as long as kids, but they give just as much love, if not even more.

Now, let's talk PDA. There are acceptable levels of public displays of affection, and none of them involve tongue. You'll see gay couples hold hands and kiss with closed mouths in public, but rarely (excepting K'Road after midnight) will you see sidewalk displays of the French variety from us. We refrain out of our own decency and respect for others, so unless it's a dark corner behind Danny Doolans, let us all leave the tonsil show at home.

Also, it's okay to look. When your partner sees someone attractive and you notice more than a passing glance, it doesn't mean they've stopped fancying you. Gay couples appreciate hot people all the time - but in the same way you'd appreciate a brand new VW Golf parked outside. Lovely to look at, but you love your tried and trusted 2006 model more.

On a more serious note, talking about past relationships with a current beau is something most gay people do. We talk about being hurt, being cheated on, or even being the cheater. It's uncomfortable for all parties involved, which is why many straight people live by the maxim "exes stay in the ex closet". In opening up out loud, though, you expose your vulnerabilities and insecurities. You realise your past relationships' mistakes, and can work to ensure they don't affect - or repeat in - your current.

In ensuring past relationships don't affect the present, remember how important regular STI checkups are. Pregnancy isn't the worst thing that can happen without a condom. Most gay men get checked every six months; single or otherwise, because peace of mind is nice. Giving someone the clap is not.

* Lee Suckling is keen on social commentary, profile writing, and the arts, and he's currently undertaking a Master of Journalism whilst pondering a future in academia. Lee is also gay, which may or may not influence his work.


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Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Writer Lee Suckling pens his opinionated thoughts every Wednesday, covering issues surrounding Generation Y, New Zealand's gay community, and the ethical dilemmas presented every day to those living in a tech-centric modern world. Outside of the New Zealand Herald, Lee writes for a range of magazines and newspapers across New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.

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