Top, Bottom or Vers? Gay Man Defies Social Pressure and Comes Out as a Side.

by Tim

I’m Tim, and I’m from Montclair, New Jersey. 

I came out in three separate occasions over a summer. The first one was, “I think I might be gay.” And the second one was, “I’m gay.” And the third one was, “Yeah, no, I am. I really am gay and this is irreversible.” 

I remember going through kind of a checklist of, okay, what does it mean to be a gay man and what are the things I need to abide by to not just convince my parents or my family or my community, but also to convince the world I am a valid gay man. This is who I am. That checklist, I know, included things like, you got to go clubbing, you got to go to the gay bars, ’cause that’s what you’re expected to do, and you have to start dressing a little bit better than you did. The third one was, you need to start having sex like a gay man, which I interpreted as you need to be into anal sex. 

So when I was 18, 19, I had just finished school in Indiana. Then I went to study in London and I started exploring what it was to live that checklist. What inspired me to go to London is, it’s kind of funny because I wasn’t really planning to do it. My senior year I started writing about theater, mostly like critical theory, and people were like, “You’re really good at this.” And I went, “Oh, maybe I should try being a playwright or try writing for the theater.” And I looked around and I went the best place to do that, to me feels like London. Then I went to study in London and I started exploring what it was to live that checklist.

I was very inexperienced, I guess, at that point as well. And I was very much in a place that I was still trying to accept who I was, and accept that I was gay, and that I could be a sexual being. I had some anal sex for the first time and it was very strange to me. It wasn’t something that came natural to me and it was something that was sort of uncomfortable. I never got pleasure from it, but everyone else was seemed very pleased. 

After these encounters, it became a very difficult thing for me where I started to dread having sex or sexual encounters because they always ended in, “I want to have anal sex and you don’t want to.” And then, I actually met, I would say, my most substantial relationship. I met him there. We were writing a musical together, but when we started having a lot of sex and a lot of anal sex, it would tire me out because I felt like I had to perform. And so, performing night after night, I was like, “I would like to not perform tonight.” But I didn’t know how to say that other than, “Let’s not, tonight.” Because I was very nervous still about being perceived as a real gay man and being perceived as sexually adequate.

I remember sometimes lying there after we had had sex and being told, “Oh you’re so repressed, you just need to get over it.” Or, “That was really good. I don’t understand why you didn’t enjoy it.” Those things, especially in a moment where I was already feeling very vulnerable, that made a really deep impression on me. 

And I think after we ended things, when I went back on the apps, in London, and in the States when I got back, it was very much always, I was even reaching out to people knowing that I would enjoy it to a point and then there would be the sort of final chapter that I didn’t enjoy. And that was just the way it was going to go.

I had come back from London, it was my first apartment on my own, I messaged a guy and he was like, “I’m here on business, just for the night, come over in my hotel.” So I went to the hotel and we had a nice conversation, and then it started getting a little more intimate, started getting a little more physical. And I just kind of went with the flow, we were making out, and then we basically just lay there and we had, there was lots of grinding, there was frottage and then we finished.

And I remember, just as we were getting to climax and I got really tense in that moment, and I remember him just looking and he was like, “Why are you so tense? Just relax.” And I did. And of course, it was one of the best sexual experience I had had so far. And it was kind of just this light bulb that went off, that went, not everyone is going to ask you or to do something you don’t want to do. And sex doesn’t have to be this checklist of what is a good gay man and what kind of sex does a good gay man have.

“Sex doesn't have to be this checklist of what is a good gay man and what kind of sex does a good gay man have.”

This person accepted me as a valid gay man and it was not anything on the basis of what I did in the bedroom. That was sort of pre pandemic.

And then the pandemic, I know, put kind of a stop all on all of us in terms of meeting people, especially meeting new people. So during that period I kept remembering that guy and that one encounter, and I started just doing some research on are there top, bottom and verse, are there other terms? And then, I came across this man named Joe Court, and he was talking about sides. And he was basically like, “These are gay men who don’t like penetration. That’s not their thing.” 

So, I started doing research on sides and the more I read and the more, few people I started to talk to, I went, “This sounds like who I am.” And after the pandemic, I just went on the apps and I put it out there and I said, “I’m a side. And that’s what I like, and that’s who I am.” And it all really changed. I think finding the term side and being able to lean into that was a really big player in chattering those elements of the checklist that I wanted to have. 

If you are feeling like you are out of place in a community that you think you belong, lean into it. When you lean into it, you can really get excited about who you are. And I think also when you lean into something like that, what I found is, you attract the people, you attract to our people. It should be pleasurable. So if it’s not enjoyable, you should be enjoying it, you should… it should be great and amazing. And being a side is a totally valid thing.

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