Unsolicited Stranger

Unsolicited Stranger

Over the past eleven years I have witnessed and personally experienced hostility and aggression from other men due to my sexual orientation. It has never occurred in person, but it has occurred online, where people are much braver and less filtered in what they type out in messages to others.

My sexuality is not overtly obvious. In other words one cannot immediately deduce my orientation by merely meeting me as I do not externalize it nor exert characteristics stereotypically common to men who are interested in other men.

Online, however, one need not even ask me as my sexuality is clearly stated on my social profiles, publicly accessible.

This morning, I received an unsolicited message from a guy living in my state who appears to be in his 20’s, who I do not know nor have any mutual friends with, according to Facebook. This guy decided to send me a message with only one word, “fag.”

Now in my younger years this type of message probably would have provoked me to send some sort of angry response. However, with age and experience often comes a more level head and so I spent today contemplating this message and whether or not I should respond or even spend any additional amount of my time thinking about it.

Though it has happened a few times over the last decade, I typically do not receive random hate messages from guys I don’t know or never heard of. Usually it’s from guys I do know or who I have mutual friends with.

For example, when I made my interest in men publicly known in 2008, I had male “friends” or acquaintances who sent me unpleasant private messages prior to unfriending me on Facebook.

One went so far as to publicly comment unkind things on my Facebook wall because he was so unsettled by my interest in other men, as though I had suddenly become a completely different person to him and everything we went through together was nullified, forgotten, and meaningless.

These experiences are partially why I changed my name ten years ago; I feared that people would verbally or physically attack my family members merely because of my no-longer-secret sexual orientation.

This type of resentment from others is not an uncommon thing, the vast majority of people who are part of the LGBTQ+ experience this to some degree. Some far worse than others and some are even murdered due to homophobia.

In my experience, men who behave in this way towards men like me, do so for one of four reasons:

1. Self-hatred / Denial
2. Victim of Sexual Abuse
3. Attention Seeker
4. Fear of the Unknown

Frequently there is another common thread that appears in addition to any of the above four reasons. This co-occurring thread is religious zealotry. When I looked at this guy’s profile he had several religious posts about his Christian faith. Ironic, I know, but typically religious faith is used as a justification or validation for hatred. In other words, they use it as an excuse to hide behind, and their personal reason for their hatred or fear is left concealed.

I’m going to break down each one of the above four reasons or categories into more specific detail for further explanation and understanding.

1. Self-hatred / Denial

I know this category very well because I used to be in it. Many people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, didn’t want to be and some still don’t want to be.

This refusal to acknowledge or accept this aspect of their nature leads down a path of hatred not only for oneself, but for everyone who reminds them of that side they’re hiding or rejecting.

I already suspected I was into guys when I was 11 years old. By the time I was 13 years old I knew it for sure, but I didn’t want to be. I wanted to live a life like everyone else, with a wife, kids, white picket fence, all of those things we fantasize about in our youth.

So I tried to smother those feelings, pretended like they weren’t there. Of course, this was pointless, one cannot deny their feelings without serious consequences to their emotional and mental state.

So I became angry. Angry at others who I thought looked gay, or acted gay. I became hypersensitive to these things because I was fighting those same feelings inside myself. I used gay slurs and derogatory words, as if doing so would somehow hide my own sexuality.

And then I became aware that these romantic feelings were not going to go away even if I didn’t acknowledge them or accept them or act on them. So my anger became internalized and I hated myself. And that self-hatred and denial became less about others and more about me.

I began to realize that I was going to be like the gay people I hated. That I was going to be an outcast, unwanted, hated, misunderstood, vilified by my Catholic community and by society as a whole. Sitting in my Catholic studies class as a 6th grader while my teacher read from a pamphlet that said homosexuality was a sin, didn’t make me feel any better.

This chaos of feeling attracted to other guys and at the same time hating it and oneself, can lead guys in this category to seek out gay or bisexual men to antagonize or harass because deep down they want their attention, but they hate themselves for wanting it, so they externalize that hatred onto the gay or bisexual men.

It is a bizarre, confusing, and unfortunate state to be in, but one that is fairly common for permanently closeted men. Typically these men will not outwardly appear gay or bisexual which allows them to fly under the radar and go unnoticed. Some may even be married to women and have children.

Sometimes they marry women because they believe it will validate for themselves that they are straight and not gay, other times it’s because they are bisexual and do truly love their spouse emotionally and physically, while still harboring secret feelings for other men.

2. Victim of Sexual Abuse

Unfortunately, this category exists. Trauma of any kind can have lasting effects on a person. Sometimes even for a lifetime.

Understandably, men who were sexually abused as children by other men or who were sexually assaulted by other men when they were teens or adults, sometimes harbor a lot of anger and aggression, particularly towards those individuals who remind them of their perpetrator. This triggering of their trauma can lead to violent confrontations and altercations.

Sometimes these negative feelings can expand into entire groups of people, such as entire genders, races, and sexual orientations. In other words, people who look like or behave in a way that is reminiscent of their assailant will trigger them and whole groups of people will be the recipients of their distrust or hatred.

3. Attention Seeker

Loneliness is a real thing. Sometimes the lack of emotional connections and social experiences can cause these men to act out in order to get attention from anyone.

By intentionally trolling other people, they are able to partially and temporarily satisfy their need for attention. Even if they have no personal angst towards the people they are attacking.

Their feelings of abandonment, loneliness, feeling forgotten or unwanted, compel them to lash out at anyone they see as an easy target, believing that the person will consequently confront them.

This confrontation can be in person and can include an escalation into physical violence, but more often than not this challenging and aggressive behavior occurs online where they can maintain some degree of anonymity.

4. Fear of the Unknown

This category is usually for men who experienced very sheltered childhoods and lacked interaction with people of different sexual orientations. Quite often they grew up in very religious families and communities where “sameness” was celebrated and “different” was viewed as dangerous.

These men grew up feeling uncomfortable, distrustful, and even fearful of men who did not think, look, or behave the same way they did.

For some, that distrust and fear can lead directly into aggression and anger due to their need to feel safe, secure, and familiar with their social surroundings.

Put into a situation with someone of a different religion, race, or sexual orientation quickly takes away that sense of stability and familiarity, leading them to lash out, especially if they feel as though they’re being forced into the situation. For these reasons men in this category can also initiate violent confrontations and altercations.

For some of these men, this response transcends distance. Meaning whether they are standing next to a man of another sexual orientation or encountering one online, they feel the same insecurity and will react with the same level of fear, hatred, and anger.

With that exploration complete, you may be wondering what category I think the guy who messaged me fits into. Honestly, he could have been any of them. I did reply back to him, with nothing but kindness and understanding, he immediately read the message but never responded to my lack of hostility.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, please access my immediate assistance resource page.  A comprehensive listing of online and phone resources and services is also available.

%d bloggers like this: