Okay, maybe JLO's message isn't an exact parallel to mine, but I couldn't write this without at least one pop culture reference.
Daddy. Bear. Otter. Cub. Wolf. Pig. Jock. Boi.
These are just a handful of the current archetypes given to gay men by gay men. Don't get me started on the hybrids: Muscle Daddy. Pig Bottom. Polar Bear Top.
The list is almost endless.
All of this points to the fact that that my sexual preference requires further categorization. "Sure I'm gay…but what AM I? A top? A bottom? A Jock Pig Power Boi Bottom??"
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in gay "dating" apps like Grindr. It's no coincidence that one of the first questions I'm asked online is, "What are you into?" I take it "penis" isn't a sufficient answer? I've tried answering the question with things like "I'm open" or "Whatever feels good in the moment." Both are typically met with the same question again, or the person blocks me.
As a heavy, hairy gay guy with a beard, I am almost always placed into a Bear or Otter category. I was never asked if I define myself this way. Apparently it's just based on appearance. Cool. Fine. I guess I'll be an animal but I'm not all that happy about it. When it comes animals, the one I love the most and identify with is a dog, but I found out that means something very different in the gay community, and I'm just not convinced a mask or collar suits me.
Grindr actually goes so far as to create "Tribes," which are basically gay cliques aimed to categorize every single man on there. Stop trying to put me in a box. I don't even like boxes.
Besides animals, I get Daddy a lot too, which blows my mind because I'm still kind of young (34) and definitely have not put any kids into this world (cue sarcasm). I also get Top most of the time. I think it must be the baseball caps. Maybe if I wore them backwards I would send more a Bottom vibe. It could also be my Paris Hilton ass in a sea of Kim Kardashians.
Here's the thing - I'm open. As a gay man, I am into men. That's it. So I'm a Bottom. I'm a Top. I'm Dominant. I'm Submissive.
I like to do whatever feels right in that moment with that person. I guess that makes me Versatile, but in a sea of gay 20 and 30 somethings all looking for Tops and Daddies, being Versatile isn't all that, well, versatile.
I know what you're thinking…if I'm so opposed to labels, or defining my sexual likes and dislikes, I should just avoid dating/cruising apps like Grindr. Easier said than done. In today's app-heavy dating pool, not being on the apps would severely decrease my chance at meeting guys. Even if I did delete them, the second I step into a gay bar, club, village or go on a date, the labels and the pressure behind them start back up. The labels may be most apparent in the apps but the apps didn't create them. They are simply a magnifying glass.
At first I thought I would just come up with a new label, one that better suits me. Maybe I could be a Salamander? (adapts to their environment). Or how about a Glitter Monkey? I'm not exactly sure what that would enTAIL (sorry) but I assume it would involve dancing for money. I could make that work. Seriously though, if I created my own label I would only be adding to the list so I guess that leaves me with one of two options:
Option 1 - Swear off sex and relationships completely.
Option 2 - When someone asks me what I'm into I just say: "probably not you."
In truth, the strength of gay cliques probably stems from the fact that most of us spent our childhood and teen years being bullied and ostracized. Most of us never sat at the cool table, or ever felt like we belonged. So when we became adults and gained confidence and acceptance, we did what humans do best, we repeated the injustices done to us. Or perhaps all of this is simply a natural evolution in gay identity and resistance is futile. Maybe using the term "Gay" just no longer cuts it.
For me, right now in my life, being Gay and using the label Gay is all I need. It means I'm already unique and inherently different. I get to go against the traditional gender and relationship norms that define heterosexual society. I get to live my life as a non-conformist…and that's pretty cool.
PS. I think I'll go with Option 2.