Sep 26, 2013

Free Fall: Not Knowing for Half of Your Life

I haven't seen Free Fall (Frierfall, 2013), but apparently it's about a guy named Marc (Hanno Koffler) who has gone through half of his life as heterosexual (he's 33).  He's got a pregnant girlfriend.  Then suddenly, without warning, meets Kay (Max Riemelt), and turns gay.

Wait -- you can't turn gay -- you are attracted to the same sex or not.

But if you have no idea, not the slightest inkling, if you've never experienced a moment of same-sex desire, not consciously, anyway,  it's about the same thing.

Can anyone really not know for half of their life?

Parents, teachers, and other adults almost invariably assume that every child is innately heterosexual.

Have you ever seen anything as disgusting as this "lock up your daughters" t shirt?  Apparently this baby boy's parents can't wait until he's a teenager to start brainwashing him into the "girls! girls! girls!" mantra.  They want everybody to think that he's already anxious to sexually assault all of the girls in the neighborhood.  And this is a good thing.

Not only are they presumed grotesquely heterosexual from birth, kids are kept from the knowledge that gay people exist.  

One of my students, who was heterosexual, said that she had no idea that gay people existed until her senior year in high school, when an "alternative prom" was offered to those students who wanted to bring same-sex dates.  Why would anyone want a same-sex date? she asked.  Her friends explained.

After 18 years of silence.

When you are gay, but assumed heterosexual and denied knowledge that gay people exist, it's very easy to fall into a false heterosexual identity, to go through the motions of heterosexual desire and behavior, to ignore your same-sex desires or explain them as something else.

Or it can be merely a matter of definition:  when all you hear about and see on tv or in movies are negative stereotypes, you think "I'm not like that, so whatever I am experience, it doesn't signify gayness."  So you go through your life thinking that, like all heterosexuals, you are attracted to the same sex.

One of my dissertation respondents "came out" at age 63. He knew that he was not attracted to women, and that he was attracted to men -- he and his wife both enjoyed movies featuring male nudity.  And he knew about gay men, the flitting, sashaying queens of tv.  He just never made the connection until one day his wife came home from the library with a book on gay people.  Real ones.  A light bulb came on over his head.

After 63 years of silence.

I didn't make the association until the summer after my senior year in high school.  Before that, there were only hints and signals.