Homoromance – Intimacy Beyond Sexual and Gender Norms

By D. F

For some of the readers, this might be a cringe-inducing read, but it is nonetheless a big topic for me to unpack. Probably in the future, I shall look back upon this and flinch, as even though my intentions are well-meaning, using the correct terminology most of the time is a challenge in itself. I might end up with a bit of egg on my face, using generalities even though that is not the intention, have some of my opinions come off as hack-handed, and at times I might even roll my own eyes at myself. But the inherent difficulty of always being right is no reason to fear openness and vulnerability.

A bit of background: Broadly speaking, I identify as a cisgender heterosexual male. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… Well, you know, simple. So, what is there to write about?

“People who read are hiders. They hide who they are. People who hide don’t always like who they are.”
― André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

The impetus for this piece was a series of conversations where terms like “straight”, “homosexuality”, “bi-curious”, “love”, and “friendship” were thrown around a lot – and on a personal level to boot about me, and about other participants of the conversation being had at the time.

One conversation, in particular, was about sharing and defining feelings for others, not just in general, and the difficulty to find the words to best describe these feelings. It very quickly became more complex than just “I identify as a cis-het male”.
In particular, this piece relates to my complicated relationship with me being attracted to some people who identify as, and/or are performatively or biologically, male. Not merely an aesthetic attraction, but, in my view, one that’s connected to my sexuality.

The Yellow Brick Road

In junior high, like many people, I was the target of bullying. I don’t claim to be special for that, but as is expected, it shaped part of who I am. I am sure I’ve at times been the bully in some way, shape, or form from other people’s perspective – not trying to claim a moral high ground either – but here I’m talking about systematic bullying that was pervasive, from the same group of individuals.

I was a nerdy guy into basic philosophy and science, with no interest in sports whatsoever. And in my country, unlike in China, it makes you a target. And I was skinny-fat. Of note at the time was the predators’ preferred tactic of questioning my sexual and gender identities, which, when tallied up, would produce a sum total of an insignificant, inconsequential masculinity, a known trope of toxic heteronormative masculinity.

“Is it better to speak or die?”
― André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

In this context, I started to explore my own sexuality. For a long time and well into adulthood I pushed the question, “Why and how do I find some guys attractive?” at the back of my mind. I think it’s always been there, just dismissed, because it seemed easier: Putting myself in the category of “cis-het male”, while not painting the complete picture, was comfortable to an extent. Struggling with my mental health, in general, was more my primary concern.

Later on, in high school and college, I found my crowd and didn’t question myself much. I finally felt more accepted, but insecurities lingered: Too risky to dig deeper.

Read More:

You’re Not in Kansas Anymore…

Later in adulthood, when I got room for more nuanced self-reflection, I started examining these feelings. There had always been this niggling voice, and because I started making male friends who felt more than friends to me, that voice became louder. The attraction was also reciprocated, sometimes on the same level and sometimes not, and words were always at a lack. The closest term I could think about was bisexual, or maybe bi-curious, but that still wasn’t it.

Over time, I have learned to parse these feelings through this frame of reference – as much as I desire intimacy, it’s not an overtly sexual sort. Heartfelt hugs, sharing vulnerability, building trust, and going on a date, are examples of how such intimacy can translate materially, even if it’s a gross simplification.

“And on that evening when we grow older still we’ll speak about these two young men as though they were two strangers we met on the train and whom we admire and want to help along. And we’ll want to call it envy, because to call it regret would break our hearts.”
― André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

Sex and intimacy are easy to confuse. The idea of sexual interactions with another man is, to me, attractive on a theoretical level, but it has never transcended the physical much to my own frustration, and that of men with whom I have been intimate on some level. Being aware they’re not the same doesn’t make it less frustrating, especially because they are so often compatible.

And For You, Cowardly Lion…

At times I’ve felt I’ve been cruel with my intimate male partners, afraid that not being able to sexually engage with them while being myself satisfied on an emotional level would be perceived as taking advantage of them, or of having deceived them and rejecting their identity. But as someone who is highly sensitive to consent and ruled by the desire to not violate anyone’s boundaries, the potential to have my or others’ boundaries violated due to poor communication is something that sits heavily with me.

“I suddenly realized that we were on borrowed time, that time is always borrowed, and that the lending agency exacts its premium precisely when we are least prepared to pay and need to borrow more…”
― André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

It clicked when I started reading more widely. Looking purely at my sexual orientation, then I am heterosexual. In the context of this piece, sexual orientation is defined by the level of attraction on the female-male gender binary spectrum. That seemingly doesn’t bring more information on a surface level, but the idea that sexual orientation is one narrow aspect through which one can see sexual identity, just one spectrum among others, is the key.

Sexual identity with its multiplicity of spectrums, when observed more broadly and outside of the boundary of the male-female binary, gave me a framework through which I came to terms with these feelings, and the means to communicate them.

So, where do I think same-sex attraction lives in my sexual identity? Mostly on the asexual-allosexual spectrum: It is panromantic attraction. It could be homoromantic, or biromantic, but I feel it actually lives outside of the gender binary. And that’s when I discovered that my feelings are not only real: They have a place in my sexual identity, and they even have a name!

Dedicated to D. of M&D, and M.N., for their compassion, patience, and acceptance.

Photos: Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Homoromance – Intimacy Beyond Sexual and Gender Norms

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