Pecs and the City

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Tuesday, 18 June 2013 17:51
  • Written by Matt Ponder


Surrounded by clicking keyboards and bustling co-workers, he dwells in a mundane day job, concealing himself in a shirt and tie, changing his voice, his mannerisms and his every personality trait in order to blend in.

But when he leaves the office, he reveals the man underneath. Muscles wrapped in skintight fabric, he becomes who he was born to be — the very essence of truth and strength.

Now even if you're not a comic book nerd like me, I'm sure you think I'm talking about Superman, right? But what if I told you that this wasn't Krypton's last son but a man like many others who live their lives in a Clark Kent existence while hiding their real identity?

Every day across this country people put on a disguise that is used as a shield from the scorn and violence which comes from the narrow-minded. Whether it's a homophobic workplace, a deeply religious family or even the mindless brutality of high school, the need to hide who you truly are can literally be a matter of life and death.

Sometimes in order to fit in with a certain kind of group or a type of environment you have to adopt the character of a swaggering straight boy — just like Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne pretend to be a clumsy nerd and a vapid playboy so no one will suspect they're the Man Of Steel and the Dark Knight. Dual identities, one life.

The mythology of superheroes goes hand-in-hand with the reality of homosexuality; the masks, the secrets, the yearning to be accepted as a “regular" human being even though we are different — even hiding our true selves to protect our family from harm.

This analogy is clearest in the pages of Marvel's X-Men. Persecuted for a genetic anomaly that makes them different from "normal" human beings, they are looked down on, perceived as a threat to the youth around them, even attacked in varying degrees of violence merely for being different.

They seek refuge at the Xavier Institute For Higher Learning where they can be with others like themselves. Protected from a world that hates and fears them, they are also tempted by the government's development of a cure — a cure for something that is decided from birth, like blue eyes or brown hair.

Sound familiar?

The Internet is clotted with true testimonials about how different “cures" for homosexuality are successful. None of these so-called cures hold water, however, but what if there really was a cure? Would you take it if it were offered to you? Would you change who you were born to be if it meant you would avoid persecution?

The simple fact is this: being gay is not who you are, it's merely a part of who you are. Not a choice, not a lifestyle and certainly not a mutation. It's the same as having a brain for math, a talent for music or the predisposition for thirty-yard touchdown passes.

Being gay can’t be explained away by gamma rays or the bite of a radioactive spider, but unlike the Hulk's green skin or the Beast's blue fur, being gay can be hidden from the public at large.

Even though we have made huge strides in our equality, we still have the option to hide who we are. Racism, ageism and gender bias still exist in our brave new world, but unlike homosexuality we can conceal what makes us different.

But is that a good thing?

It's impossible to hide your gender or the color of your skin, but your sexual preference can remain a mystery. So the real question here is if you can hide it from others does that mean you can hide it from yourself?

If you don’t have to face the simple fact that you are different in what can often be a cruel, intolerant world, does that make it easier? Can it make you forget who you really are underneath your mild-mannered disguise?

Speaking of mild-mannered, let's take a look at another figure that mirrors the experience of homosexuality: Superman.

I don't mean because he's muscle-bound and sexy with a colorful skintight outfit, but because just like us, he has the choice to live his life in secret. He has the choice to deny who he was born to be. Even though he's not human, he looks and acts just like everyone else, belying his true nature as an alien god.

He could live his life as Clark Kent and no one would ever know the difference. What makes this man so super is that he chooses not to stand idly by when injustice rears its scaly head.

He does this because not only does he see it as his responsibility to use his powers to protect the world he calls his home, but because when he was just a boy, his father told him to forget his fear that he wouldn't be accepted and become the man he was destined to be: “One day you're going to have to make a choice — whether to stand proud in front of the human race... or not. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, he's going to change the world."

These words resonate with our shared experience, not only with who we choose to be in our lives, but especially during pride. The choice of who you want to be is yours and yours alone, but once you choose your path, you can use that strength and power to lead others into the sun.

It is our duty as part of the gay community to disavow the myth that being gay is some ill-fated plight that needs to be hidden because as soon as we try to separate our lives into mutually exclusive territories, it gives credence to homophobia.

In this day and age we would never suggest that someone's color or creed has any effect on who they are as a person, but there was a time when being Black or Jewish or a woman was treated as a stigma.

That kind of thinking seems archaic now, doesn't it? If we can't accept who we are and be proud, we give power to those people who use sexuality as an excuse for discrimination.

We all have secrets and we all wear masks, even with the people we hold close to our hearts. Maybe there are some things that should never be revealed, but the true facets of your identity shouldn't have to be one of them.

Fear will drain you like Kryptonite but only if you let it. Pride means being conscious of one’s own dignity. Pride means holding your head up when everyone around you has theirs bowed. And courage is what makes you do it.

This summer as we celebrate pride with parades and festivities all across the region is the perfect time for you to step out of your Batcave and into the light. Don't lose sight of who you are. Don't be afraid to show your true self to the world. Shed that secret identity and let everyone see the hero beneath. Be strong. Be beautiful. Be powerful. Be proud.