It all started with a pair of sandals.
You see, I grew up going to Cedar Point every year, sometimes multiple times a year. For those of you not from the Midwest, or who aren’t roller coaster enthusiasts, Cedar Point is an epic amusement park in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. It’s unrivaled in its mastery of coasters. At least, in my roller-coaster-snob opinion.
I had several concerns when it came to my Cedar Point attire. My outfit had to be optimized for comfort, temperature, ability to carry things, and of course, limit heinous tan lines as much as possible.
I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of sandals for an upcoming Cedar Point trip when this all started. There I was, perusing Zappos website when I found the perfect pair. They were black and grey, had supportive rubber soles, several velcro straps at various angles, and claimed to be optimal for keeping my feet cool and comfy. The catch? They were the type of sandals I deemed appropriate for only 3 types of people:
I was not a small child or a dad, but instead a 16-year-old (unknowingly) closeted teenager. The idea that I could be mistaken for a lesbian made my hands sweat and my brow furrow in concern.
Eventually, my “fuck em’ if they can’t handle my style” determination set in, and I ordered them. When they showed up at my door later that week, I hurriedly took them up to my room, put them on, and stared at myself from every possible angle in my full-length mirror. I loved them. They were as comfy as I anticipated and didn’t seem heinous to me. They were functional, and that’s what I wanted.
Even still, familiar beads of sweat formed on my palms as I worried I might look like a lesbian.
I walked downstairs where my dad was working at the computer.
“What’s up, kid?”
“Do these sandals make me look like a lesbian?”
I’m pretty sure he burst out laughing at that point before saying
“I don’t know, what do you think a lesbian looks like?”
To which I replied, “Someone who wears these sandals?”
I ended up wearing the sandals to Cedar Point that year. They were as wonderful as I thought they’d be, but after that, I couldn’t bring myself to wear them again. I was too insecure. I ended up giving them to my mom because as it turns out, there’s a sub-type of suburban moms who also wear sandals like that.
Thus began a secret trend of me consciously thinking about whether or not certain things made me look gay - syles of clothing, haircuts, standing in front of lingerie stores for too long...
For years I admired short, edgy hairstyles. I was always drawn to them while perusing for a new look. I had the urge to rock a shaved head on multiple occasions, but could never bring myself to do it. I thought I’d be more desirable to men if I had longer hair. (VOMIT).
As I got further into my 20s, I started caring less. I finally got a pixie cut and even shaved my head. What people thought of my style mattered less and less. I started caring more about what felt like me.
After coming out, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t purposefully try to “gay up” my wardrobe. I was less afraid of things with rainbows on them, I decided to give flannel a try. I started shopping in the men’s department more often. What I realized, was that I wasn’t doing this because I wanted the world to take one look at me and know I was gay. I was doing it because I’d always wanted to. I finally felt free to rock whatever look I wanted to rock because once I stopped hiding behind heterosexuality, I felt like I could be myself in every possible way.