Thursday, June 16, 2016

Have You Experienced The 'Phantom Gay Uncle' Phenomenon?

Written by Shane Smith, Editor, Stonewall Gazette

Navigating relationships can be tricky. The relationship with yourself is probably the hardest. From the moment we realize we are different from the "others" we try to figure out our place in society.

As gay men where do we belong? There are no dating rituals for us growing up. There are no cultural markers to say, "now, you are a man!" Sure, we slowly learn about our sexuality and begin the sometimes painful journey of owning our sexual identity. It can be, however, a tough road to travel for young gay men in particular as they see their straight counterparts (friends, colleagues and siblings) move through the seasons of life with so much ease.

Justin Myers shares his experiences in his article, The Strange Case of the Phantom Gay Uncle:
When my straight friends initially began to grow up, it was fun to attend their weddings and dance with the bridesmaids and toast their success and happiness. Nothing will change, we all said, as we twirled to disco in our ill-fitting suits and dodgy early Noughties haircuts. We shall always be this way.  
And when the pregnancies started, as they always do, we were all thrilled. We couldn’t wait to become gay uncles, spoiling the children rotten with forbidden sweets and oversized teddies. I pictured taking their offspring to the park, helping with their homework, giving them shoulder-rides at fairgrounds, buying them noisy toys and things that would make a mess. It would be so much fun. I would discover London through new eyes, we’d have great adventures – I couldn’t wait to hear “uncle” squawked in front of my name from a child with their grubby hands outstretched, wiping the remains of a Creme Egg on my brand new trousers. 

Since 2010, they’ve been slipping away to all corners of the country and even the continent. Children I always imagined I’d know really well and would be part of my life are springing up and popping out all over the place. And it’s lovely, and when we do see each other, it’s great, but the closeness I’d always imagined – the surrogate family unit I assumed we’d all become – isn’t there. 
Most straight people have many societal check points along the road of life which reinforce the fact that they are worthy and valuable members of society. It's really a club, isn't? A club we don't or can't belong to.

Yes, we can marry our same-sex partner now and for the men who can afford it, have children by adoption or surrogacy. But what about the average gay guy? How do we navigate through our life and relationships as we witness the "others" having a life we can only dream of?

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