Outspoken: Michael McManus

BY

January 30 2006 12:00 AM ET

Growing up in the
Midwest definitely has its perks. Endless fields of
corn, dairy cows on nearly every corner, and flannel shirts
worn by men with mullet hairdos. Yes, I am proud to
say I’m a corn-fed, flannel-wearing,
hamburger-eating Nebraskan. And I’m gay.

It’s still
hard for that phrase to roll off my tongue. I
wouldn’t say that I’m uncomfortable with
my sexuality, but “gay” isn’t one of
those words that Midwestern folks speak very
often—the top three being “corn,”
“cow,” and “beer.” Yet
I’ve always known that I was attracted to men. I
remember going on camping trips with the Boy Scouts and
concentrating more on the short green shorts than the
actual knot I was learning to tie.

But even though I
liked boys, I didn’t think I was gay. The first time
I heard the word “gay” was in middle
school when one of my classmates called another boy
gay for dropping his books. Being immature (but
“cool”), I began using the word frequently and
spontaneously. Bump into me in the hallway? Well, then
you’re gay. Forget your multicolor
highlighters? Gay. I was so clueless.

It wasn’t
until my freshman year in high school that I understood the
word “gay.” We were at a choir competition,
and I was standing next to this effeminate and
outgoing guy. We made awkward eye contact with each
other all day long, and he finally walked up to me and
asked, “Are you gay?” Am I gay? I can
only imagine how foolish I looked when I replied,
“Uh, no.” One of my buddies then called him a
“faggot,” a word that I was very
familiar with. Things started to make sense.

I realized that
being gay was an actual way of life and, in fact, the
life I would one day live. I have since started writing a
weekly column in the school newspaper at the
University of Nebraska talking about gay and lesbian
issues. I am hoping that the words I write will help people
realize that I am as normal as any other Midwestern guy. I
eat corn, crave Bud Light, and enjoy rodeos. I am a
gay Nebraskan.

Tags: Commentary

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