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Fag Hag Mag


This morning, as I contemplate the very poor decision made by voters in the state of Maine, I am wondering how differently people might have voted if they actually had friends or family who were openly gay. My life has been so much better, so infinitely much better because of the gay men I’ve known, who have been my friends, and supporters, and soul mates, that I can’t imagine anyone meeting any one of them and deciding consciously that it would be dangerous to society if they were allowed to be legally married. I also have at least three gay friends who have been married longer than I have, and in none of those relationships do I see anything substantively different from what I see in my own marriage. Well, other than the fact that in most cases they have fewer than half the rights I enjoy relative to inheritance, health insurance and end of life directives.

While I am politically liberal (perhaps one step to the left of the left-most point on the spectrum), this issue for me is personal, and not political. There is a kind of hard-wiring in me that has always led me to gay men like a divining rod. I have been, for most of my life, a “fag hag,” and although I am now a middle-aged fag hag married to, and in love with a decidedly heterosexual man, you can take the girl out of the fag hag life, but you can’t take the fag hag out of her psyche.

The first boy I ever fell in love with was gay, although I didn’t actually know that until we were in college. He was smart, and handsome, and funny, and he would dance with me at 7th Grade Activity Night because he was my friend. I was not exactly a hot commodity (about which, more another day) and I remember dancing to “My Eyes Adored You” in the cafeteria, face buried in his Shetland sweater, imagining that he was my real boyfriend. I have known him since we were in elementary school, he is still my friend, and although we haven’t danced together recently, I still love him. It turns out that nearly every boy I fell in love with between the ages of 9 and 18 was gay, which may explain why I didn’t have many dates. Over the years I have learned in various ways that these men were gay. Sometimes I heard the news from a third-party, but more than once I sat in a bar, a “family room,” or a parked car and listened to coming out stories that were a mixture of triumph, pain, fear and pride. In one case, the man was so raw, and so defensive that he misread the surprise on my face as judgment, told me he didn’t need people in his life who couldn’t accept him, and left me sitting on a bar stool before I could even explain that he’d misunderstood my reaction. I never saw him again.  I don’t know that I would have the courage to tell old friends that I was not what they thought I was, and to risk the rejection and judgment that might follow.

I kept falling for gay men in college, by which time I clearly understood that the men in question were gay, but harbored a belief that they could maybe change, or that we could make some kind of “arrangement” so we could be together forever. I knew a lot of that kind of thing had gone on in Lytton Strachey-Virginia Woolf circles, and believed that if they really, really wanted to, they could choose me. I fell in love with Larry, who was talented, and adorable, and dedicated to me a song based on a poem by Sylvia Plath. I fell in love with Andrew, with whom I performed scenes from “Much Ado About Nothing” in Shakespeare 203. I fell in love with Jeff, who made me laugh, and was beautiful, and had, at one time, dated Larry. At some point in this series of alliances, I began to identify myself as a fag hag, and announced on some occasion that I was going to start a magazine called “Fag Hag Mag.” It never happened, of course, but it was a culture that I knew, and where I felt comfortable. I was a not very pretty, not very confident  girl who had an escort for every occasion, an escort who opened doors for me, knew how to dance, and generally made me feel like maybe I really  was pretty and confident.

For a long time, as I got older and remained single, I wondered what was the matter with me. I dissected, I debated with myself, I tried desperately to figure out what signal was coming to me from gay men that scrambled my brain so that I fell in love with them more often than with suitably heterosexual specimens. I had experienced several “real” relationships, and certainly enjoyed the sexual dynamic that was (obviously) missing from my Faux Boyfriends, but even in a happy pairing with a straight man I missed the ease of being with my gay friends. I missed the easy inside jokes, the shared love of beautiful things, the lack of arguments over petty things, and the deep discussions that lasted for hours and covered everything. As a person of more advanced age and experience, I see that there is a de facto difference between the ease of a friendship and the heavier tension and responsibility of a romantic relationship, but the relative lightness of friendship can’t explain it all.

faghag2[1]There is, of course, the kind of gay male friend made famous on “Sex and the City” who will go shoe shopping and give good advice (as opposed to my husband, who tries to help, but mostly just likes the idea of really, really high stilettos and corset lacing detail), but I have always had girlfriends with whom I did that kind of thing. There was something else about those boys and men that I needed, and it’s not an easy “thing” to pin down, because they are all very different from each other. Some march in Pride parades and have rainbow stickers on their cars, and others live lives indistinguishable in any way from my own, including being married, having children and working. They are as diverse as any other group of people I know; one of them was even a Republican for a while. It’s not patent “gaiety” that I love, it’s something else about those men.

I am past the point of needing a gay man to be with me so that I have a man in my life; I have one, and he is working out quite nicely.  I don’t believe I am drawn to gay men because they are just a different kind of “girlfriend,” or because they are handsome and charming escorts; I don’t think it’s a gender-related thing at all. I think I love them because no matter what they do with their lives, or how they grew up, or how introspective they are as a general rule, every one of them has had to struggle with being different, and afraid of rejection and judgment. That kind of mental work almost necessarily creates some level of compassion for others who suffer, and  that compassion is very attractive to me. I know gay men who are not particularly nice, and who are just as personally uninteresting to me as heterosexuals who behave badly, but my boys, my boys all have souls that shine like beacons to anyone who has been broken, rejected or misunderstood. I no longer need gay male friends to prop me up or make me feel better about myself and my life; I just love them because they are fabulous human beings who make the world a better place.

I will add that the whole business of comparing straight men to gay men and criticizing straight men for their failure to enjoy poetry, or Jimmy Choos or going to the theater is, in my opinion, an unnecessary and unfair business.  Not all gay men are flamers with boas in their closets, and not all straight men are insensitive clods who’d rather be watching football. Many of the finest straight men I know are wonderful precisely because they have some qualities or preferences that read as stereotypically “gay;” my brother claims that in college people thought he was gay because he had a beautiful collection of neatly folded sweaters, and listened to Judy Garland. Not gay; just evolved. My husband has been known to cry a little at the end of a sad movie or after a particularly moving story. Not gay; just the hottest kind of thing a straight man can do.

I won’t have changed anyone’s mind here, and I didn’t intend to present any kind of logical argument for gay rights. This really isn’t about gay rights at all, except to the extent that gay people are human and should have rights based on their humanity and not on who they fall in love with. I also don’t mean to dismiss or undermine the goodness of straight men, who offer a whole other kind of rich, complicated wonder to my life. This is just a love song to all of those boys and men who were so kind, and so loving and accepting of a not pretty, not confident girl, long enough for her to grow into herself and leave that girl behind.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

29 responses »

  1. Ann,

    It is always wise not to try to change someones opinion, rather to present the truth as it is and accept that once in a while that your words make another see what it is that you see.

    Acceptance is a huge subject, requiring large respect for all viewpoints, without malice to either perspective. I’ve always left this ‘delicate’ subject alone for the usual reasons of invokeing a rage of irreconcilable differance from a less objective recipiant.

    It doesnt have to be that way, and along with your growing into a more complete Annie, the acceptance of others viewpoints without invalidating them also comes.

    Turns out Rob and Sam are the lucky ones in the end………….

    • If one single person read this and looked differently at homosexuality as a result, I would be elated. Of course I may never know, and I may provoke more scorn than conversion. I just know that this particular heterosexual, upstanding, married with child person would not be functional today without all of those boys and men with huge hearts and infinite patience.

      This “going deep” thing is making me feel a little raw, though; tomorrow I might just write about something less close to the marrow. Then again, maybe I won’t.

  2. Ann,


    “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, maintain their nuetrality.”


  3. oops….forgot to give the credit to Dante.

  4. Here, here Ann!!!! Once again, we have more in common than we thought. I have loved and been loved by many wonderful gay men, and I am the better person for it. People are people, no color, no race, no sexual prefernce, just people….love them, and enjoy every thing they have to offer to this world!!!!

  5. Ann,
    I’m just going to say this–it’s people and friends like you that made the “hell” that was high school tolerable. I love you.


  6. Dearest Sister;

    I still listen to Judy Garland. Can’t abide babs, tho.

    I agree with you on all points . . . and for the record, almost all of “your” boys are dear, dear people. One I think is a schmuck, but you knew that long ago.

    On the narrow subject of marriage, I wish I could remember the comedian who pointed out that the fear of gays ruining marriage rings hollow given what an incredible hash us heterosexuals are making of the institution on our own. I cannot for the life of me fathom how a gay couple marrying threatens my marriage. I think my wife’s (appropriate!) exasperation at my innumerable follies will do a far better job of that.

    Any rate, nicely put.

    Not sure you are getting close to a novel – but you are proving to be a vigorous polemicist.

    – PTG

    • Dear Spawn,

      One of them was a schmuck, but he’s better now. Really, he is. He was mainly unhappy because he was pretending to be straight in order to avoid burning in hell…..

      I am flailing in the world of fiction, but enjoying the hell out of this stuff. Apparently, I have a lot to say.

  7. As a sister “fruit fairy” (my preferred term, but I bow to your own preference), I too find solace and companionship among my boys. In fact, earlier this evening in lingered a little longer just to be with a few of the boys at an event. I can’t quite explain it myself but perhaps it’s that I can lose myself in a friendship because that wonky sex stuff just isn’t going to happen. Or maybe not…

    Thank you for putting to words to the story of my life and that, I suspect, of many women with whom we are both acquainted.

    • I quite like “fruit fairy;” it’s definitely a little less “In your face.” I don’t have any boys here, they are all far away…I envy you that.

      And yes, many, many women.

  8. Beautiful.

    I am so proud of you right now.

    (Still catching up on my reading…now on to the previous post).

    Oh, and please forgive ME (and I do mean Maine), but don’t not see (double negative) that nearly half of us voted for the constitutional rights: that all men (and women) are created equal…(our country will get there one day)!


    • Thank you. You know the first one was Will – no big secret, he knows it was him, too. 🙂

      It never in a million years occurred to me that you had voted against equal rights…I’m kind of surprised at Maine, though. I am also glad that you are home safe from your travels – now you can start working on converting the other half of the Maniacs.

  9. Thanks, Ann, for your poignant writing. I just witnessed on television the man who was the mouthpiece from the Catholic Diocese who spearheaded the campaign to defeat this amendment. He said it had nothing to do with “hating” gays. I’m so embarrassed and sickened to say I’m Catholic! This vote has nothing whatsover to do with the church, the bible, or Jesus and everything to do with hate! Jesus had only one message and that was to love one another. Simple. The bible has been used and abused to justify slavery, murder, incest and just about anything you disagree with…but to have an organization like the Catholic Church promote hate…is just another reason why many of us are seeking other spiritual avenues.

    • Kathleen, it has always amazed me that anyone could use the Bible (particularly the New Testament) in support of the argument that homosexuality is a sin. I think it’s probably why I’m pretty much a Buddhist these days.

      Thanks for reading – and for speaking up about what you believe. If more of us did that, maybe more people would see that there is no excuse for excluding or penalizing any group of people, and certainly not based on “Christianity.”

  10. How can I get a subscription to Fag Hag Mag? I should definitely be a subscriber 😉

    Just wanted to say that when we were in college the model I had grown up with was that homosexuality was a mental illness or at best, lifestyle choice! I really had to change my way of thinking as I got older…and a lot of folks will have to as well; it is just slow to happen, I think.

    Enjoyed this!

    • Unfortunately, publication of FHM ended shortly after I got married and lost all my cred.

      I really never knew you were raised that way, and I’m kind of surprised given that you grew up in a college town and I guess I always assumed your parents were pretty liberal…Simon’s Rock wasn’t exactly a hotbed or conservatism, nor was Oberlin.

      I am glad you changed your thinking, and you’re right; it’s neither easy nor comfortable for a lot of folks to change beliefs they have had since childhood.

  11. Beautifully written, Ann. You are gifted. I prefer “fruit fly” myself, but will answer to “fag hag” and I also like Julie’s “fruit fairy.” I will share this post with friends and am sure they will enjoy it.

  12. That was the most touching piece of writing I have read in a long time. I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. As a woman who also has many gay friends from both sides, men and women, and is married to a straight man who is also very evolved, I can say I think you touched on the answer perfectly.

    This isn’t an issue really over gender or sexuality. It is an issue of connecting with other souls who are wonderful, loving human beings. I think we all crave that. We just don’t always know where to find it and some people let prejudice blind them from looking in all the right places.

    • What a nice comment, and you clearly “got it” that it isn’t about the sexual preference or gender, but the soul. Thanks for a little something lovely and thoughtful on a tough day. 🙂

  13. Somehow I missed this one when it came out, but Tammy posted it today (thanks, Lady!).

    I think you hit it on the head, about the struggle creating compassion. I imagine if we compare lists, we probably had crushes on the same boys at school. I thank god for the wonderful and brilliant gay men I have loved in my life(yes, Eric, you especially…) who were kind to us unpopular girls. My 6th grade son has dances at school, and I have told him about our “activity nights”. I only hope my son can be as good to his crushers.

    I’m probably going to be pondering your sharing/revelation the rest of the day. : )

    • I’m glad you found this – i wondered where you were. 😉

      We did know many of the same guys, and probably had a few crushes in common. Also, my son is in 7th grade, and I have the same hope for him. We have to trust that we have raised them to be kind.

      Thanks, most of all, for telling me that this made you think. Sometimes when I put everything out there, I need to know that the high self-disclosure was worth it. If it makes somebody think, it was.

  14. Not sure if you got the comment I posted earlier about having posted this (it seems to have disappeared)… A friend of mine wrote to me (about this) on her page (rather than here, on mine, where you may have seen it), so I’m passing Paula’s comment along here:

    “Read the Fag Hag Mag and was quite moved by it. Kudos to your friend Annie.”

    • I saw that comment too, and when I tried to go to it it wouldn’t let me. Weird. I do appreciate the compliment; please tell Paula I’m glad she understood.

  15. (Arrrgghhh…forgot to hit “notify”…again…sorry.)

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