Grappling with an identity issue can lead to the creation of an alter ego, whether that be necessitated by the realization one’s super power will put friends and loved ones in danger or that one’s homosexuality could do the same if not worse because one does not possess a super power, a surreptitious lifestyle for many may seem requisite. Some are better at this subterfuge than others, which allows them to seemingly effortlessly move back and forth between personas without ever arousing anyone’s attention. Those who might not be so good at this, however, can be caught lying or even caught up in the artifice they have created, leading others to see them as overly fantasizing individuals at best; pathological liars at worst.
For those of you who never had to resort to this survival mechanism, please indulge me in attempting to provide some insight into the complications and heartache it can precipitate.
You and “STM” had, as boys do, started acting out sexually with one another at the age of nine (let me add that puberty hit me very early), starting with “streaking” through the woods but pretty soon advancing to masturbating together, then soon after fullblown sex. By the time the two of you are in Junior High you are having sleep overs and camp-outs where the two of you are going at it until the wee hours then collapsing into one another’s arms, holding tight until you hear mom, dad, or siblings begin to stir. Increasingly your differing sexuality becomes apparent, though his doesn’t, and as boys and girls of that age will do, the name calling and whispering begin prompting “STM” and you to go even deeper underground with your relationship. Parties become group “make-out” sessions and there’s “STM” on the couch with Jenny and you on the bed with Kim (a good friend whom you love dearly) and “STM” is going at it with gusto and you are going through the motions; jealousy, guilt, desire, and resignation swirling through your head. (There was more than one “Kim” and I still feel guilt over what I did, although to my credit I never had intercourse or even tried with them.) Then at the age of 14 the inevitable happens: one Summer afternoon “STM’s” stepfather comes home and catches you. This relationship of five years, not too different from that of many of your peers other than you are of the same sex, is ended by a phone call where all you are told by “STM” is that his parents forbid him to “hang out” with you any longer. There’s no shoulder to cry on: no one there to tell you there are other fish in the sea.
You still see “STM” at school and eventually are able to be friends, even managing to have a few adventures worthy of writing about but the intimacy is gone. “STM” goes on to become one of the more popular kids in school while your sexual orientation, for whatever reason, becomes harder and harder to hide, something that in the late 70s/early 80s has the tendency to make one less than popular.
After graduation you don’t see “STM” again until you are in your mid-thirties. In the biggest gay club in town, there he sits with a Bud Light between his legs, nervously twisting his wedding ring around and around on his finger. A swirl of emotions wells up in you as you try to figure out what to say to him. You really want nothing more than to grab him and hug him and kiss him, let him know you still love him and always have but even in this gay-gay-gay atmosphere you defer to a conservative approach.
You walk up and say, already knowing the answer “ are you “STM”?”
As he looks up in a total panic you realize he has no idea who you are so you tell him, to which he looks you straight in the eyes and says “ Oh, hey! I’m only here because this place reminds me of the clubs I went to in New York, when I was in college.”
You know his secret identity and it’s disappointing that he cannot, after all this time, surrounded by superheroes, in the safety of this secret hideout, take off the mask, even for you. Boys will be boys.
This is a fictionalized account. Any resemblance to actual people is only coincidental because the events described in this narrative are all too common.