‘Preference’ is a strange thing – one cannot always explain it, yet it’s there: whether in the most mundane things in our lives or the biggest decisions we make, one thing is true – choice is everywhere. Knowing what to do with it can be real bitch, though!
Imagine for a moment that there is a time traveller from 1860s Victorian England. Imagine further that this time traveller also happens to be a man of the ‘homosexual persuasion’. Now imagine what this Victorian gay man would go through walking into a gay bar today. Or what it would be like seeing two men getting married as family and friends cheer and wish them well. Or try to imagine what sensory overload would blast through him as he surfs gay porn on the Net! Imagine how stunned our Victorian time traveller would be with all the choices we have. I think he’d pass out.
We live in a world of endless choice. Today, there’s a gazillion different preferences out there for gay men. Just look at all the choices available to you on Hanky, as just one example. Choices for gay men abound on everything from career and how and where to live to what we seek in other men in terms of chemistry to personality to looks to body shape to income to shared interests to the size of you-know-what. Technology has made it all so much easier and exponentially more varied and easier. The law has also helped some of us in certain parts of the world.
We can only have preferences if we have choices. Not all of us are that lucky. The out gay man living in London has a darn sight more choice about what he can do on a Friday night than the closeted gay man in Lagos or the gay man forced into marriage with a woman in Cairo. That is not to say that the out gay man in London is necessarily happier, but his potential to be so in terms of his sexuality is surely greater. And that’s the tricky thing about having choices – it doesn’t readily equate into happiness. But at least having that choice is a good starting point, would you not agree?
Our Victorian time traveller would be overwhelmed by the very things that we too often take for granted. I choose to be single and stay the hell away from marriage and other vestiges of commitment, but that is my choice, because I have the possibility of being committed or married to another man if I so wanted. Just as I can decide whether or not to accept an opportunity that pays great but happens to be in a homophobic place. Of course I often take these and other things available to me for granted, as do you, no doubt.
Is there a trick to all of this decision-making in the midst of so much abundance of choice? Who the hell knows. Personally, I think nothing beats honesty with oneself. If your preference is to work in a homophobic environment that pays you well and gives you the money and independence to pursue other interests in your spare time, then go for it. Just be honest about the compromise you have made. The same is as true for the guy whose preference is only for tall, white guys. To hell with those who call him a racist or a ‘heightist’…if his preference is honest enough, that should do. Should that not be enough with all the choices that we make?
Choice is indeed everywhere. It’s not always liberating to have all that choice nor is it easy. I think it’s even fine to be indecisive sometimes. I feel very okay when I tell people, “I’m not sure what I want, but I know what I don’t want”. Often people cannot stand that logic. It drives them mad that I can be that undecided! I say to hell with their impatience because it’s my way of working through stuff. What works for you is up to you, of course.
And thank goodness it’s not all grand or heavy stuff. To choose can be fun or trivial. Sometimes knowing what jacket to wear on a night out with that hot guy is enough! With regard to choice in all its many, many variations, remember that it’s really all about two simple words: you decide.