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James identifies as gay, but his first proper relationship was with a man who did not. This is the thing about coming out: A relationship with a straight guy can, in a way, reverse that, dragging you back into the closet. Although the gay guy in the relationship will try their best to be sympathetic — they know this struggle better than most, after all — it's understandable that their patience will wear thin.
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The ability to go public about their relationships is very important to many gay men — even if it attracts negativity. As a fresher at university, Robin, then 18, fell into a relationship with Dom, Says Robin: He absolutely had per cent control over things; the code of conduct imposed on us was coming from him, not me.
Robin decided he would come out, in the hope it would show Dom that it didn't have to be a nightmare. Simon was 17 when his hitherto straight best friend made a move on him. He would always tell me he wasn't like me, and couldn't be, because he 'had his whole future ahead of him'.
The idea that my future was irrelevant and that admitting he was with me would ruin his made me feel worthless and I ended up battling depression for years. Gay men aren't toys to be practised on.
Bisexuality was often the only concession to less binary labels, but is and was often a source of derision among straight and gay people alike, characterised by accusations of greed or indecision. The closest anyone got for many years was the advent of metrosexuals — basically straight men who used moisturiser and took longer than five minutes to get ready in the morning — and drunk straight women getting off with each other for a dare. And even these were very much about straight people play-acting than any serious comment on evolving sexuality.
Everybody else had to stay in lane, their labels hanging over them.
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A sign things could be changing, for the better, are men who are comfortable with their status as a man who sleeps with men, and refuse to be bound by labels. Years after his straight-guy experience at uni, Robin somehow once again found himself in the middle of another heterosexual man's coming-out story. At first Robin assumed this was just an ego boost, but when Luke battled depression and none of his female flings were on the scene, Robin found himself as primary source of care and comfort, and feelings grew from there.
And I thought that was adorable, and sensible, and kind of romantic. While some men may both have the strength of character and also the front — and it takes plenty of that, be under no illusion — to reject these labels and still be open, it should be said that labels can sometimes facilitate this. Why not join us to today to discover yours?
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