Boxed In

Hey, I’m Tom, and I like boys… and maybe girls – I’m not really sure. But why would that matter to you? I’ve found that over my years here at Glasgow Uni, people love, and almost need, to put you in a box in order for you to make sense for them.

Boxed In.png

I came out when I was sixteen and was in a long-term relationship with a guy till I was twenty. Throughout that relationship the label of being gay was more and more emphasised, to the point where I was almost adjusting towards everyone’s view and definition of what gay was, even though those who defined me weren’t the ones who were gay. They accumulated these characteristics of what being gay meant from TV shows, movies, social media, family and friends.

The moment I did not fit inside their definition of gay it was a massive shock! “What do you mean you’ve never been to gay pride?”, “You played sports competitively?!’, “Well that’s a big drink for a gay guy!” … you get the idea. Similarly, when I mentioned the fact that I played with Barbie’s when I was 6 and starred in musicals it was so easily understood because “of course you would, you’re gay!” One of my favourites was the assumption that I was or should be disgusted by vaginas. To the point where I would even react to the word with utter disgust when I really did not have an issue with the organ or the word itself, it was just me fulfilling other people’s views on my sexuality.

I’ve now come to the ripe and bright age of twenty-two where this affects me less, and I’m less afraid of being me. If people ask I’ll answer, but so many people have already made assumptions, and when they have it is hard to explain your situation. Do I know what ‘sexuality box’ I need to be in? No definitely not, but I’m good just sitting in the ‘Tom box’. Because the ‘Tom box’ is made up of all sorts of things that have a greater contribution to whom I am than my sexuality, and probably of more interest to you.

So rather than assuming what a person is like based on their sexuality, check out their individuality and what makes them unique.

I should mention perhaps that as you are reading this please do not see it as a rant or an angry piece of writing. I don’t blame people for reacting the way they do. I just hope that this short piece of writing might enlighten a few people on their obsession with boxing people in (although I am absolutely shi**ing it to have this article released.)

When I told my family back in The Netherlands that I was curious about dating girls (after telling them I was gay at 16) they couldn’t care less. And why would they? It’s my life, I’ll learn from it, I’ll see whether I enjoy it or not, and they’ll respect it. Telling friends here is mind-blowing for them and then I’m put in the ‘bisexual’ box. A common response I hear from being in this box is that I am “taking away girls” from the potential market of straight men. I really do not get that argument. If you feel like I will take away your girls’ then maybe they are not the girls for you. My goal is not to take away anyone’s love interest; I’m just another person who is looking for a little lovin’ and cuddlin’ just like you.

Maybe I am writing this in a progressive liberal university bubble, and I definitely do not mean to hurt or frustrate anyone. I’m just telling my experience and how challenging it is for me to be ‘me’ whilst also fitting into a rigid, constructed box that doesn’t fit. Let’s not let this descent into a millennial snowflake rant of over-hashtagging and keyboard activism, but maybe just take a second a think. Before you need to box someone, think why. Why do they need to be put into a sexuality box of socially constructed norms which defines who they are? Instead, get to know them on an individual level – have a listening ear. This does not just count for sexuality, but also counts for race, gender, religion and all other elements that make us uniquely individual.

-Tom Smits


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