By Jacob Leaney of Inventions
Two people walk into a room. One is dressed in an incredibly smart suit, but has the confidence of half-eaten soggy toast. The other is dressed in a ridiculous pink onesie, but has the confidence of a mountain lion preparing to pounce on an unsuspecting deer that is casually grazing in the nearby shrubbery.
What would you rather be; soggy toast, or a mountain lion? Think about it.
I’m a 23 year old guy who loves alternative and heavy rock music, computer games, and being generally adventurous. I came out as bisexual when I was 15 – I simply changed my sexual orientation on Myspace to "bisexual" and that was that. I still don’t know how many people even noticed. I did mumble something along the lines of “hey mum I’m bisexual so yeah…” to my mum one day, but she was totally cool with it. Since then I often just refer to myself as gay as it involves less of an explanation; but that’s a whole other article. Overall, I am one of the lucky people who found it incredibly easy to accept that I liked guys and just got on with my life. Easy, right? Right.
When I started interacting with the harsh yet exciting post high school world, I began struggling a lot with my identity and how I could find ways to not fit into a stereotype. Both of those things relate closely to our instinctual need to categorize everything. Categories are an innate part of human interaction with our environment – without the ability to look at something and already understand a large amount of detail about it based on the category it falls into, we’d be in big trouble! For example, we know that a large metal object attached to wheels is likely to be in the car category, or an animal that walks on two legs wearing clothing is likely to be in the human category.
I think you’ve got the idea, so let’s move on.
As I got older, I started seeing the different aspects of myself that I felt made me uncomfortable with my identity, things that I would unconsciously lie about or subtly try to change. I was still trying to fit into somewhere, trying to find my category – ‘straight’ or ‘gay’? I liked guys most of the time, but I still had a thing for some girls. I would lose my shit over a Beyonce song or two if it came on at a party but rocked out to heavy and aggressive rock music most of the time, wearing band shirts every day. I longed for some close male friends, and found that most gay men I knew at the time had nothing in common with me. Those are just some of the examples of why I always felt that I didn’t fit into the ‘gay’ category, so I did things to try and fit more into the ‘straight’ category, because who was I if not one of those two?
Alternative and heavy rock music is heavily dominated by males, (straight males, that is), and although in the last decade especially we’ve seen a massive rise in the amount of women in rock bands, I think it’s still fair to say that rock music is still very much male driven. Out of all of the areas in my life, I have been most uncomfortable being honest about my sexuality when being part of the music scene – whether it’s as an audience member or a performer. Being in music is so fulfilling for me creatively, so to fit in I naturally tried to be ‘more straight.’ I would laugh and go along with it when a group of guys would mention how attractive a girl was, or just be consciously more ‘masculine’ acting with the things I spoke about or how I presented myself. I’d try to avoid talking about things that could be seen as ‘gay’ topics. You’re probably thinking that you totally know what the solution here is: “Straight people just need to learn to be more tolerant!”, but for me this is actually not the case. In fact, I have experienced the exact opposite. The alternative music scene in Australia is the most accepting and inclusive group of people I’ve ever been involved with. Not for one second did I ever think that my band mates, friends, or anyone else within this group of people would ever treat me differently because I have a boyfriend. Alternative and heavy music commonly has themes of things like self struggle, isolation, helplessness, depression, and oppression. I think this is why myself and so many others gravitate towards it. Why then, when I was surrounded by inclusivity, was I still so scared to be honest about who I was?
I felt misrepresented. I felt that everyone was being lied to about who I was, because of the mainstream gay community in Australia and how it was portrayed in the media. Online. On television. In magazines. Everywhere that I could see. It seemed like every gay person that I met also fell so brilliantly into the mainstream gay stereotype, and I was so frustrated that no one else like me existed, as far as I could tell. I didn’t like all of the baggage, expectations, and stereotypes that came with the label of ‘gay’, as well as how highly sexualized it is portrayed as being. My sexuality is not at the forefront of who I am, it’s not what motivates me, or what drives my creative ambition. It’s not something that people need to take into consideration before they become my friend. I feared that all of the things that made me an individual would be overshadowed by the fact that I was gay.
I started my own alternative/punk rock band back in 2013 called Inventions (we are still going strong!) Of the many lessons I’ve learned by being in this band, one of the greatest is that I am actually not defined by what anyone says I am or have to be, or what category I might feel like I must belong to. It’s actually a choice to not belong. The sense of belonging that I needed surprisingly came from within. My category is not gay, straight, bisexual, or any category in existence. I am my own damn category. Once I realized that, I started committing to being a fearless person as much as I could. Shedding this fear of my sexual orientation being more important to my personality than my values or ambitions made it so much easier to connect with people. I started feeling loved and cared about because of all aspects of me, including the things that separate me from other LGBTQ+ or heterosexual people.
I know there are so many people out there that are just like me, and the more of us that are honest with ourselves and the world around us, unafraid to say, "Yes, I’m in the LGBTQ+ category and I play punk/rock/metal/deathcore/hardcore/whatevercore music, what ’s up?," the more real-life role models others will have in future to know that what they’re struggling with has been done before. This really goes for anyone that has fallen into a category because they don’t know how else to belong.
I don’t know about you, but I choose to be the mountain lion.
Inventions is a Melbourne-based alternative act who recently dropped their new single, "I Said Goodbye." The guys in Inventions are hoping the song raises awareness for mental illness and are asking fans to share their own stories of struggle and overcoming and to use #ISaidGoodbye. Pick up your own copy of "I Said Goodbye" over at Inventions' Bandcamp.
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