The first time I heard the term “gold star gay” was from an online report about an exchange between celebrity BFFs Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper. Apparently, Cohen had never had sex with a woman and he was having a chuckle with Cooper about it. The term however didn’t register until I heard it again in an episode of the Will & Grace reboot. In a hilarious conversation between Jack, Will and Grace, I was not only reintroduced to the gold star gay (a gay man who’s never been with a woman), but I also got to learn about the “platinum star gay” (the gay man who is so anti vagina, he wasn’t even born the traditional way).
After watching this episode, in my mirth, I began to reflect on my own status as a gay man. In my life, I’ve only ever been emotionally- and perhaps physically – drawn to two women.
The first was my best friend in secondary school, who I fancied myself in love with from SS2 to SS3. I never told her of course and I thought I was sleek, keeping my feelings well hidden from her. She of course knew, in the way that girls know these things. Nothing romantic came out of that; not even with the rampant allegements, from both fellow students and some teachers, that we were dating.
Then I got into the university and I met the second woman. She said “Hi” to me in our first class as Year 1 students and I was instantly smitten.
Retrospectively speaking, I think the only reason I ever pursued Esther (let’s call her that) was because of that first meet. I was sixteen going on seventeen, thrust out of the cocoon of boarding school. Wanting to hook up with some of my ex-secondary school mates and having them tell me that they “don’t do like that anymore”. I was caught in a conflict of emotions, between being certain that I was only into boys and questioning whether, according to what Michael (one of those ex-secondary school hookups) said, we’d all just been experimenting in school.
And then, I encounter this girl, feel this immediate tug of emotions toward her – so surely, that must mean that Michael was right. That everything we did in secondary school was one long experiment. That I really just needed to be out in the real world to experience the attraction that society considered
I saw in Esther a potential validation of my normalness. And by god, I was not going to let that go. So, I began to pursue her. We were friends, then we were fast friends. Then I became that boy who spent almost as much time with her as her girlfriends. We were everywhere together, and I pestered her with my proposal for her to be my girlfriend. With poems and short stories, I wooed her. And she always patiently said no, because she already had a boyfriend. But with every no, I felt my resolve harden. How was I going to be heterosexual if I didn’t become her boyfriend? Just how?
Finally, after a year of being the friend who wouldn’t agree to be friend-zoned, she broke up with her boyfriend and said yes.
But at this point, I was no longer the man she used to know. I was no longer asking a lot of the questions about my sexuality that I had in Year 1. I’d had a ton of gay sex and had dated a couple of guys. I had rediscovered the joy of being attracted to boys. I was seventeen going on eighteen, and a whole other man from who I was a year ago.
So it wasn’t with much enthusiasm that I began dating Esther. What I’d adamantly sought for so long suddenly seemed like a bane on my life. I no longer wanted to be around her much. And when friends teased us about being together, I didn’t feel the flush of pleasure I used to feel when we were just friends and they were speculating.
I really, really didn’t want to be a boyfriend to a girl anymore.
I especially didn’t want it now that it mean we were supposed to have sex.
The thought of ever getting intimate with Esther became something I dreaded very much. Every time she took my hand as we walked down the road, I had to fight the urge to recoil from the intimacy of it. I acted like I didn’t know what was expected of me every time her gaze lingered on my lips at the end of every visit to her room. I timed those visits to her room so they coincided with when I was sure her girlfriends would be around, because who needs an alone time with his girl?
Frankly put, I was petrified by the idea of ever having sex with my girlfriend.
Bu the Universe held a convention, and my village witches were in attendance. And matters arising was my sexual relationship with Esther.
That afternoon was the end of our lectures. We were headed back to the hostel. Our routine was a walk to the hostel bukka for lunch, and then a walk to her hostel, then goodbye. I would return to my room to see her either later in the evening or the next day in class.
But Esther had other plans.
As we approached the hostel area, she suddenly said, “How about we go to your room?”
I felt a little jump in my heart, just a slight trill of alarm. But that was it. There was no need to panic. Surely, my roommates would be around. So I acquiesced and we redirected our paths from the bukka to my hostel.
However, when we got to my room, that jump in my heart turned into a gallop. Because my roommates were not around! I stared in mounting horror at the padlocked entrance, a clear indication that I was the only person home. But I told myself not to panic. Nothing had to happen if I didn’t initiate it. Esther was too much of a lady to make the first move, I told myself. We would just sit, gist, laugh and gist and laugh some more until a roommate comes back.
And for about five minutes, everything was going according to that plan. Until it wasn’t. Esther had asked us to come to my room for a reason. She had an objective and if I wasn’t going to make it happen, she damn well would.
One second, we were lounging on the bed, chatting away, and the next, she’d rolled herself into my arms and was reaching her head up to kiss me.
It happened too swiftly for me to react well, for me to have any chance of smoothly maneuvering myself out of the situation. Instead, I jerked my head sharply out of the way as though her pursed lips came bearing a platter of man-eating bacteria. My awkward rejection gave her pause, just a momentary beat of chagrin, and then she was back to pushing for our intimacy.
The next few minutes became characterized by how awkward and mortifying everything we did was. Esther’s hands and mouth were attempting to reach everywhere on my body. To claim my lips in a kiss. Grappling with my belt buckle. Grabbing at my crotch. Horror prickled my skin as I fumbled my way through stopping this invasion of my body. It was that kind of conflicted moment where I absolutely didn’t want this, but was trying not to be forceful with my rejection because I didn’t want to embarrass her.
There were two places I was determined not to let Esther get to: my lips and my crotch. In those frantic moments when the hotness of her breath fanned across my face every time she came close to capturing my mouth, I realized more and more that I didn’t want to kiss her. That I couldn’t kiss her. That kissing was something I could only give to someone I desired, and (shocker!) I didn’t desire her. I absolutely couldn’t also let her get hold of my crotch because I didn’t know how to deal with the mortification of having her find out what a soft lump my penis still was. My penis was nowhere in the neighbourhood of being hard; in fact, it appeared to shrink more and more as it realized that a woman was trying to touch it. I kept moving my hips away from those grasping fingers, trying desperately to keep her hands on my chest, my shoulders – anywhere but on my groin.
So there we were, two teenagers struggling and writhing about on the bed. I imagine Esther must have thought this was some sort of foreplay, that I was playing hard to get to heighten the passion of the sex she would surely soon get. I don’t know. But for several moments, she fought to get to me and I fought to keep her off. And it was all such a quiet battle, with none of us saying a word, our panting breaths the only sounds that broke the silence in the room.
Finally, she must have realized this was no love play, that I was actually actively warding off her advances. She suddenly became still, and for a moment, we lay there, tensely entangled in each other, our hearts beating fast. Then she pushed away from me, recoiling to the end of the bed, as far away from me as her mortification could get her. Then without looking at me, she sat up and began righting herself.
Feeling like an asshole, I too sat up and tried to say something. “Esther…”
“I’d like to go back to my hostel,” she muttered, still not looking at me, studiously adjusting her clothes.
I opened my mouth and then closed it. What did I want to say really? Sorry, mami, I couldn’t fuck you because I prefer to fuck boys? I don’t think so. In fact, I didn’t even want to talk about anything regarding the debacle that the past few minutes was.
She stood up. I stood up. She wasn’t looking at me. I wasn’t looking at her. We awkwardly moved around each other as I opened the door and she stepped out.
“Do I walk you to your hostel?” I said, ever the gentleman.
“No,” she said brusquely.
“At least, let me walk you downstairs to the common room,” I persisted, the jackassy feeling I was feeling demanding that I remedy this situation somehow.
“Fine,” she acquiesced tersely.
In a wooden silence, we walked together downstairs to the entrance of my hostel, where we said goodbye and she began walking fast in the direction of her hostel. I looked on after her for a while, thinking many things and arriving at many decisions. I was thinking about how my social currency in our department was about to plummet, because surely, Esther would get to her hostel and tell her friends, complete with embellishments, all about how I couldn’t perform when she wanted us to have sex. That was alright though; I was never going to be interested in chyking any other girl ever again. Not in school. Not after school.
Which was the second thing I was thinking: that I could never ever have a girlfriend. What happened upstairs in that room reaffirmed to me that being with girls was certainly not for me. I’m a very sexual person; even at 17, I knew this. So for there to be a situation where I absolutely didn’t want to get my freak on with a person must mean that such a person was not for me.
There are many things you are constantly trying to figure out about life when you’re a teenager. But in that moment, I figured out one thing: that having a girlfriend and the eventual marriage to a woman was NOT something I’d ever be interested in.
The next day, Esther broke up with me. Very amicably of course. Turns out she was too much of a lady to try to besmirch my reputation in school, and we stayed friends post breakup.
And she became the last woman I would ever feel any sort of attraction to.
So yeah, while I cannot claim to be a platinum star gay, like Jack McFarland in Will & Grace, who was born through Caesarian delivery, I would like the Rainbow gods to hand over to me my gold star for ensuring that the delivery room where I was born is the only contact I’ve ever had with a vagina.
Written by Pink Panther