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Michael McManus

Michael McManus


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.

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