Between a Cock and a Hard Place

Everyone thinks I’m gay. Here in town, that is. I’ve been told that before—most of the volunteer girls in our group thought so—and it doesn’t particularly bother me. My set of guys in the States wouldn’t mind, girls I’m interested in quickly find out it’s not true, and in any case I’m pretty comfortable with my sexuality and my 2.5 or so on the Kinsey Scale. The problem is that this is rural Mexico and the guys here do mind. A visit from a Jalpense girl who goes to college out of town confirmed that the gente definitely think I’m batting lefty and that it probably explains my paucity of straight male friends. As in, outside of coworkers and family, I have none.

The first glance thing isn’t the issue here—most young men dress way gayer than I do, and I know that sounds insensitive, but for the trendier Mexican set, gay or straight, spray-on jeans, tight-ass shirts and pastel colors are the uniform.

I couldn't find a picture of dudes wearing these after a ten second search. So yea these

I couldn’t find a picture of dudes wearing these after a ten second search. So yea these

A plaid palette and a relaxed leg-to-pant-width ratio put me in a more conservative sartorial cohort. The issue is that my best friend in town is gay. And since Jalpan is chockablock with ‘closeted’ young gay men, our association has branded me what seems like indelibly.

Mexico has a peculiar culture for gay people at the moment. Coming out hasn’t been, among friends, much of an issue for anyone I’ve known (with exceptions, given I went to a Catholic University) since the early years of high school. In parts of Mexico City, like the Zona Rosa, it’s weird to see anyone holding hands who isn’t gay, while Querétaro, the biggest city in my state and the place where Peace Corps Mexico is headquartered, is one of the more conservative urban areas in the country. It has a thriving urban hippy culture and what seems to be a healthy gay population (although without the handholding of the capital it’s harder to tell). At the same time, when I was headed to Mexico City and told my host mom I’d be staying in the same Zona Rosa, she opined about how beautiful it used to be. It’s still architecturally beautiful and full of municipal art and statuary…it’s just also full of gay folks.

This is pretty representative

This is pretty representative

Here in Jalpan, I put ‘closeted’ in scarequotes because while it seems as though everyone already knows who’s gay and who’s not, public display is strictly taboo, as opposed to the straight couples that neck and grind in the public squares. That sort-of closetedness compounds the impression of me because I act exactly like a gay Jalpense: I spend time with a gay Jalpense and I don’t do anything obviously gay with him. Any protest to the contrary on my part would be taken with a knowing wink and, in the case of straight guys, a slow social distancing. My other option, ostentatiously dating a few girls, falls through because there are hardly any unwedded and childless, and, in any case, it’s not too smart to date around in your site unless you’re looking for something serious. It’s too easy for a breakup or loose gossip to torpedo your social standing for the rest of your term. Which, and we’re coming to the point now, the impression of my homosexuality is already doing.

I have a hard enough time getting my kids’ mothers to believe I’m old enough to safeguard their kids—if they seriously believed (like all the young people in town) that I was gay, forget taking them camping or swimming or anywhere outside of our closely monitored and interminably boring meetings. We’re still at that awkward stage of social development where no-one’s going to assault me for being gay, but they’d definitely find me a corrupting influence and some sort of grope risk. Which is funny in itself, since straight men of all ages here obsess over the 14-17 age group.

My initial reaction to all this, long before the official confirmation, was to say fuck it. My friend, call him Mark, suggested that straighter dudes might eschew my company and I told him to forget about it. I’d stand by him. At the time, back in January, I didn’t much believe that it’d be an issue, and up through April I was hanging out with a few really cool straight guys around town. Since then, I haven’t been, and even abortive texts and invitations have petered out. I’m starting to reconsider my position.

At the end of the day, this is a job. Part of my job is connecting with the community. I only find that a little compelling, but I’m not just supposed to protect my own reputation—what I do while I’m here is going to impact the other volunteers in site and, more importantly, the volunteers who’ll follow. If I firmly establish myself as a social insurgent, the next three or four who come to site and have to grow their own roots may have a much harder time of it. Knowing how difficult and isolating it is to come to site, that holds weight for me. More, I’m not unhappy here, but readers of this blog know that I’m troubled by my dearth of friends, and keeping that count to one for the next sixteen months could realistically affect my mental health, especially since I don’t exactly have resounding faith in the rest of my mission to sustain me.

It's the heart, right? I need a bigger heart

It’s the heart, right? I need a bigger heart

I went out with ‘Mark’ and another gay friend of his this last Friday, which was when it became clear how many more gay folks are here than I thought—and I already thought it was a tidy few. I spent a lot of that night considering giving up the pursuit of straight friends and just becoming a not-presumed-straight maven of the gay Jalpense community. They find me as disproportionately attractive as the girls, so I find a pretty ready welcome. But that presents a problem of its own. Which is that it’s every bit as hard to convince them I’m not gay and not interested as the straight folks. The whole pseudo-closeted nature of the community here is what keeps hamstringing me; protesting is always protesting too much.

 

Yea

Yea

Entrenching myself in the gay community here might imply a lot more romantic discomfort than I’m ready to receive.

I’m sensitive to interest from girls I’m not interested in, enough to be make me crueler and colder to them than I’d like, so I don’t know if I could handle what I might unfairly imagine to be an entire group of dudes competing for my affection. Cutting ‘Mark’ loose feels like something that my basic moral compunctions wouldn’t bear either, so I’m stuck in a bit of place here. I’ll keep rolling with it.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s