The Grey Pool: Chuck and Larry

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This new issue of the Grey Pool is a little different than previous entries. Instead of focusing in on a specific story from my school days, the article will detail a variety of different instances regarding my experiences with the LGBT community during this period and how they in turn affected by world view. I’ll detail more down below.

Y’know, looking back on things I’ve realised that I can’t for the life of me remember when I learned what a gay person was. Which sounds completely arbitrary when you think about it, like trying to remember the first time you realised that some people had brown eyes instead of blue.

But I usually remember things like this. I remember the first time I learned what a Protestant was, which was in second year. I’d be about thirteen at this point and the history teacher was talking about how he thought that people who refer to Protestants as “Prods” are stupid cause its…grammatically incorrect?

I don’t know, it’s like that Jerry Seinfeld quote. All women think they’re good at interior design, and all men think they’re funny.

But yeah. Took me thirteen years to realise that there were different sects of Christianity outside of the Catholic church and that many of these sects don’t really like each-other. Again, this sounds arbitrary but I’m from Northern Ireland. A catholic boy not knowing that protestant people exist is like a black kid in America not knowing what white people are.

Made watching the Simpsons really confusing, I’ll tell you that. You’re sitting there, confused, thinking “why do they keep calling the priest a reverend?” and that episode where Bart converted to Catholicism felt like a goddamn fever dream.

Then there was the time I first learned what 9/11 was. It was nearly ten years after it happened, on the day the US assassinated Osama Bin Ladin. It was all over the news. I got up for school in first year and I saw this guy for the first time in my life.

I didn’t know anything about him outside of that he was dead and a lot of people were happy about it. By the time I got to school everyone was talking shit about it. A lot of 9/11 jokes flew by my me. But it became painfully obvious that I, and a lot of people, had no idea what the fuck they were talking about.

I’d known the Brits were at War in Afghanistan. But I didn’t know why. I asked my parents later that night what 9/11 was. They refused to answer and just turned back to the TV.

Little things like that I can remember, but I can’t exactly pin point when I learned what a gay person was. I know I grew up watching Friends and Will & Grace, because my older sisters were big fans of those shows, and they had Gay characters in them, but I don’t think at the time I really understood what being Gay really meant.

I know I saw that episode of the Simpsons where Homer and Bart befriended this guy and when Homer found out he was gay he got freaked out and tried to keep him away from Bart because he was worried that he’d turn Bart gay. It ends with Homer’s bigotry nearly resulting in their deaths by a stampede of reindeer, but their friend saves them and thus Homer’s perspective changes.

But I didn’t see anything different or unique about the character other than that he had a real thin moustache and wore a bowling shirt everywhere.

Then there was that one episode where Homer lived with two gay guys and at the end of the story one of them kisses him, to which responds by Homer jumps out the window and running back home. Again, I didn’t understand the connotations of any of this so my reaction to seeing that was “huh, didn’t know you could kiss a guy.

It probably wasn’t until I watched I now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry where I first truly understood what all this stuff was about. The film’s a comedy about these two firefighters who have a near death experience. One of them is a family man and a widower so he gets really goddamn scared about his mortality- thinking that his death would financially ruin his family. He applies for insurance but is rejected. He thinks that if he can find someone to marry then he can become insured. But he has issues dating on a normal basis, let alone with all this pressure on him. So what he does is he convinces his bachelor-playboy best friend to marry him so that he can get insured. He goes along with it but they get tangled up in this legal kerfuffle because the law is new and people want to make sure they aren’t scamming the system- which they are.

They engage in this huge scam, befriend the LGBT community and alienate their friends in the process- only to result in being exposed and pissing literally everyone off. But it was all for the kids so everyone is kind of ok with it and the big, stocky, macho guy comes out of the closet and gets married to another guy by Niagara Falls.

The film addressed a lot of key issues. Namely, that there were gay people and what made these people different from others was simply that they were attracted to people with the same gender. Oftentimes their personality would juxtapose what society deemed to be normal behaviours for their gender. So gay men would often be known for acting more effeminately and gay women would often be known for acting more masculine. But this is not always the case and it really doesn’t matter how someone behaves, so long as they’re not an asshole.

It also addressed why people may not like gay people. Primary reasons to do with religious upbringing, ignorance, insecurity and the fear of being rejected or judged. You’ll see that the reason the protagonists friends rejected them was because they were afraid of being associated with gay men, thinking by association they too would become gay. But of course they didn’t, they realised the errors of their ways and reunited with their friends. One of the protagonists gives an enlightened speech proclaiming “and guys, don’t call people faggots- it’s not nice.”

So yeah, that’s how I think I first learned about gay people. My entire perspective of a community of people is founded upon a fucking Adam Sandler movie.

I had this perspective established by the time I entered secondary school. I was a mixture of fondness and complete indifference to the LGBT community. I feel the same way about Wexford. I mean, I don’t want to go to Wexford- but it’s nice to know that it’s there and that it’s having a good time.

The transition from primary to secondary school is a big one. Over one summer you realise that things have changed. It felt like I’d been taken out of the shallow end and dropped into the fucking Arctic Ocean. With everyone seeming like they wanted to drown me so that they could use my corpse to stay afloat.

A few things became apparent. For starters, everyone had become more vulgar and obnoxious than they were. They started acting older than they actually were, lads started acting hard. It’s a bit startling, to say the least.

Everyone seems to know more about sex than you and they never let you forget it. Guys, for the most part, would deny that they had ever took a wank. It was a weird thing that we believed back in the day. That if you were wanking you were somehow either gay or less of a man- which to a lot of these guys was the same thing. But you felt very insecure about this thing that everybody was doing but wouldn’t admit to. It’s cause you’re young and you don’t know what you’re talking about and you need the respect of your peers like a whore needs crack.

You grow out of it eventually. I myself went from being pure innocent to becoming the dirtiest rat bastard to enter any room. If some boy today told me that he doesn’t wank I’d assume he’d soon drive a van into a crowd of people.

The boys back in first year did stuff that was just gay. Like not gay as in the pejorative sense, I mean gay as in they literally pretended to have sex with each other. Mimicking the weird sex positions and noises they’d seen and heard watching all that porn. This entire generation of boys had been traumatised by porn- and I mean traumatised.

First time I was exposed to porn I was at the village community centre, hanging about with kids my age doing a bunch of activities. A boy a year older than me came up and showed me a video on his phone of this poor woman getting spit roasted. At the time I didn’t understand why any man would want to stick his dick in anything, let alone a woman, so it was a pretty frightful sight.

Soon after I was getting a haircut, another kid came up to me, took me into a room and showed me another one of these videos. Another poor woman, getting spit roasted.

It was always spit roasting. It was never something soft or gentle like a lesbian sex scene or some woman getting eaten out- naw, it had to be this poor woman gasping for breath as she’s being exposed to the worst pain in her life.

When you’re an adult you’re mature enough where these images can be handled correctly and responsibly. But when you’re a kid an you’re exposed to this? It fucks you up. Fucks up your expectations of sex, women- fucks up everything. And every boy was exposed to this kind of shit at some point.

By the time you’ve reached your late teens you’ve become so desensitised that even watching the most fucked up video would struggle to turn you off. You’d be like “oh god, that was horrible…well, I’m already here so I might as well keep scrolling through these videos” there’s no activity quite like watching porn. If you went on a hike and you saw somebody die- you wouldn’t finish the hike.

By second year these boys stopped doing this stuff to each other. By third year you become more rigid in your intimacy with men- no hugs, nothing that would suggest even the most timid of affection. By GCSE the same boys who’d been jokingly humping each other a few years back were too feared to stand next to someone at the urinals.

Around this time in third year you tend to realise that maybe the people you’ve been hanging out with are bigots. They’d refer to students from Poland or other European nations as “foreign bastards” and would refer to openly gay students as “faggots”. They were very tense around these people they deemed undesirables.

Anyone that didn’t conform to their ideals of what a man should be they looked at the same way an Israelite looked at a Leper. A lot of these cunts thought I was gay because I didn’t meet their ideal. I was a bit awkward, talked weird, walked weird, didn’t play sports- I was basically this anti-social weirdo who they couldn’t understand, so they just labelled me as “gay” and were done with it.

I kind of resent that. It wasn’t just people at school who thought I was gay, my family did too. One time my Ma said to me “we’d love you, even if you were straight” and everyone laughed but, I don’t know. It bothers me. Even gay people think I’m gay. A few of the gay guys at school tried making moves sometimes and I just had to let them down.

If a gay guy did that now, it’d be flattering. Back then you were in a world of grief if people learned that the gay guy fancied you.

I feel a little shitty about this position, this resentment for people presuming I’m gay. It’s like that Shawn Mendes situation. A lot of his fans, most of them young girls, think that he’s gay. Even going so far as to make memes about it and write comments about how his posture makes him looks gay. Here’s what he has to say;

This massive, massive thing for the last five years about me being gay…In the back of my heart, I feel like I need to go be seen with someone — like a girl — in public, to prove to people that I’m not gay…Even though in my heart I know that it’s not a bad thing. There’s still a piece of me that thinks that. And I hate that side of me.

This kind of resentment occurs because people are essentially trying to tell you who you are. The way you talk, the way you walk- every single action you feel needs to be scrutinised in fear of being misrepresented. It’s exhausting and it leaves you with this rotten feeling as you question whether or not you’re the ass hole in this situation.

I got some grief at school, but nowhere near as bad as the gay students would have gotten it. There’s one moment that sticks out in my mind, I’ve talked about it previously but I’ll tell it again. I was in third year and it was lunch time. After eating you have little to do except walk about- so you walk about with friends or people who tolerate having you about, back then you could never tell the difference.

We’re doing laps of the main building until one of the boys sees some people he knows inside, standing by the radiator near the door. We head on inside so that one of the boys can converse with one of the other boys in the group. Rest of us didn’t interact with each other, just segregated ourselves into little groups of people we could stand with.

Ten minutes pass by and two other students come in. One of them was gay, a very camp guy. They’re walking to the stairs, one of the boys in the group just looks at him and calls him a faggot. The pair pick up the pace and within a few moments- they’re gone. I turned to the guy beside me and asked why he said that. Boy looked at me and explained that the guy was gay and that was bad or some shit, I don’t know. He spoke some bigoted bile and my brain just cancelled out the stupid like it were white noise.

But I remember the look on that boy, this pure hate and disgust- all because he couldn’t understand another man’s nature. I can’t understand that hate. I just can’t. I went up a few minutes later cause the bell had rang. Heading to class I saw the gay guy and his friend pacing up and down. The guy was on the verge of having a panic attack.

It’s not easy being a gay person anywhere, especially when you’re young. But it’s especially difficult in a place like Northern Ireland. The only place in both the UK and the island of Ireland that does not have marriage equality. Then there’s Ireland’s history with gay rights, which is extremely sketchy. With the north only decriminalising Homosexuality in the mid-eighties (twenty odd years after the rest of the UK) and the south decriminalising it in 1993.

1993. Think of that. Fucking South Africa was free of Apartheid an entire fucking year before you could legally be Gay in Ireland.

That said the south has made some leeway in regards to Gay rights. Legalising equal marriage in 2015, becoming the first nation in the world to pass gay marriage into law by popular vote. It also elected Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach, an openly gay man. Which is nice, but let’s remember that he’s a spineless, power hungry sycophant who tried to blame financial issues on welfare recipients instead of multinational corporations refusing to pay their taxes. He’s a Thatcherite who is fond of Love, Actually.

I remember that day in 2015, the 22nd of May. It was summer and there was barely a month left of school. It was that time of year and that type of climate where even the most miserable of bastards could feel nothing but content. On this morning I remember waking up, tired, and went to get the bus.

The referendum had been the main thing everyone was talking about for the past few weeks. Mostly it was just talk between my friend group and the news. But on this morning I listened in an exhausted state at what my peers on the bus thought of the whole thing- and by fuck it felt like someone was pouring molten aluminium into my eardrums.

It’s, for lack of a better word, a queer feeling you get when you suddenly lose what little respect you had for the kids you went to primary school with. You get people talking about how the whole thing is just flat out wrong, how it goes against God and nature and all this shite.

Some of these people were in a higher band in school than me, meaning that the education system deemed them smarter than I was. They could do maths better, take more complicated science classes- but for some fucking reason they couldn’t wrap their head around two gay people getting married.

That entire day was just an endless rotisserie chain of peoples shitty opinions. The most liberal of which came from this girl who said “Sure, there’s nothing wrong with being gay- it’s just men acting like women is the problem” which basically translates to “I’m fine with people being themselves so long as their personality aligns with my comforts”.

Y’know, it’s stuff like this that turned me into a misanthrope. People give me weird looks when I say that, saying dumb shit like “oh, so you just hate people then?” Yes! Yes I do! When they do and say dumb shit like this and their only defence is “It’s the way I was raised” then I find it appropriate to wave a big, fat, middle finger to the human race and say- fuck you all, I’m done.

And I know this isn’t healthy, but it’s how I feel about a lot of things. I go out and I see all this conflict, drama and sheer unadulterated stupidity and I can’t help but feel the need to crawl into a tar pit and lay there forever.

But the end result of that day proved good. There was a sixty percent voter turnout, over three million people showed up to vote. You heard stories about people who had flown back home from all over the world just to vote. At the end of the day, over 60% of people granted people the respect and equality they deserve and that gave you hope.

In those regards the south has made some leeway, but there’s still some way to go. I get straight friends with women problems telling me sometimes “man, I wish I was gay- it’d solve so many problems” and I always have to tell them; No, it wouldn’t. If anything, it would amount to more problems. I don’t care how much difficulty you have talking to girls nothing- and I mean nothing- will ever amount to that gut wrenching feeling you get when you walk down the street, holding your partners hand and passers-by give you dirty looks.

When you realise the amount of shit they get, it’s not surprising that members of the LGBT community are twice as likely to have anxiety than their straight counterparts.

Though I will concede, there is one thing I do envy from the Gay community. I wish that straight women were as forward as Lesbians. Honestly, only two women in my entire life have ever come up to me and told me I was pretty- both of them were Gay.

Not entirely sure why they told me this. My best guess is that I remind them of a very butch Lesbian.

But with straight people there’s this pressure for the guy to be the one to speak first. He’s the one that’s got to make the move- and it’s down right fucking exhausting. I’m not good at talking to people normally, let alone in this context. It’d help if the woman could be the one to make the first move- that’d be nice.

The way I lived my life was that I did my best to see and treat everyone the same. Which seems ideal, but some people require more consideration than others. You got to be careful what you say to some people because you don’t know what’s going on in their lives or what their experiences have been. If life is a game, then the goal is to get as many people to like you as possible. I’m not while charismatic so what I’ve resorted to is being quiet, polite and occasionally very funny.

It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to realise that you shouldn’t act more camp than you actually are around gay men, because while you may think that you’re being inclusive they think you’re being a patronising prick. Likewise you shouldn’t try to mimic their slang or lingo or anything like that cause, well, you’re just not one of them- and it’s weird when you say it.

I myself have to avert my gaze whenever I see two women kissing. For one reason, it’s rude to stare. For another, straight guys have fetishized lesbians to an absurd degree and I really don’t want to get caught staring. Because it’d be creepy, and I don’t want to be labelled “Dodgy Des” so I just stare at a wall or something.

There was one case at tech where we were doing group projects. The project could be about any topic they wanted. I heard from one group about a guy who suggested that they do a project about homophobia, mainly because one of the group members was gay. This member shot it down immediately. Which is more than understandable, who could be fucked with making a video about why some cunts hate them? And why would you even think that they’d want to focus on that in the first place?

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how considerate you are, some times it’s just not your scene. I was out at the Speakeasy a few weeks back, at this Poetry and Pints thing the English Society does. I’d been once before and drank like six pints of Guinness before the night was over. What can I say? I’m a light weight.

This session was for some Gay charity or something. I donated a fiver to get in, thinking “I like the Gays and I like pints, so this should be a fun night” the first poem of the night was pretty good. This bi-sexual guy went up and had a poem whose premise was about how people, particularly guys, expected him to act manly and had expected him to act a certain way over another. How they had essentially tried telling him who he was, similar to Shawn Mendes.

I found it very relatable and he ended up wrapping himself in the bi-sexual flag and said “bi-bi” and left. I laughed, last bit was pretty clever.

The next person however was a little less funny. This person opened with a poem whose central premise was how gender is a construct and how it’s astounding it exists. And I get it to some degree. It’s silly that we’re weirded out by men wearing dresses and girls wearing trousers and that pink is for girls and blue is for boys and all that craic. But to dedicate a poem to it seems, I don’t know, weird to me.

I looked about the room and saw all these flags. There was the traditional rainbow flag, there was the bi-flag and the trans flag. Then there was a bunch of other colours that I just didn’t understood or was interested in understanding. At this point I downed my second pint and left.

Well, not immediately. I had to wait until this person was finished with their second poem. A love poem about a scorned lover or some shit. Quite the change in tone, I’ll give you that. Reason I waited was that I was feared that if people saw me leave they’d think I was homophobic- and I really don’t want people to think I’m a bigoted ass-hole.

I need the respect of the gays like Conor McGregor needs to get hammer-fucked by Khabib.

Soon as the poem was over I left. Nobody missed me. It wasn’t my scene. I’ve yet to find my scene. Or anyone who actually likes Chuck and Larry.


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