Learning from top to bottom

2018 has been a year of learning and growth for me. So I could really relate when I saw this in one of those best of 2018 in Tumblr things

Well kids, gather round, because I had one of those moments myself this year. A moment that shifted all my paradigms, distorted my memories, ruined my friendships, and almost got me kicked out of brunch. I want to tell you a story.

Let me start by saying...when my best friend from high school came out as gay in 1999, we weren't really surprised. And because he was effusive and popular and I am awkward and malodorous, I followed along with the friends he made, in and out of clubs. I met some lovely lovely people and had some great times, and "all my friends are gay" was said with a shrug, not a boast. I joined support groups myself when I was questioning. So what I'm saying is, I am no stranger to the gay life, or at least what the gay life was in the first decade of the Milennium (think cruising, not grindr). I've heard conversations at 4am, I've seen come ons and come downs and a lot of gay porn. (For some reason).

So of course I know gay men have sex, and I know how they have sex, and in what sort of positions,  and I know what tops and bottoms are.

Or so I thought. You see, that's what I thought top and bottom were: sexual positions. And like any sexual position, of course you'd have your preferences, stuff you liked more than other stuff. But I thought that was as far as it went.

Then I started watching Drag Race. And as I started to get into it, started to follow the lingo, I came to a horrifying realisation. Top or bottom isn't just what you like. It's what you are.

Top or bottom for gay guys, I learned, is a lifestyle choice. It's a complete identity. An identity that apparently comes with its own tastes in fashion and music and cuddling. It can even determine who pays for dates.

The first scary fallout from this is wondering how the fuck it is possible, even with my dim emotional awareness, that knowledge of this failed to reach me before now?

But much, much worse is the flow on knowledge that all the gay men I know, almost all of them, are either a top or a bottom. It's like when you find about sex for the first time and then you look at all the adults you know and think "oh my God, they actually do that?". With the guys I know, now I'm wondering who's who. I think back to the couples I've known - "I wonder who was what? I reckon it was...no hang on, remember the time he..." and now that is all I think of when I remember them (which I do a lot, with the whole memoir thing). I wonder it when I see gay guys walking down the street. "Do you reckon he's...?". I have to know.

This top and bottom thing is messing with my head. Overcome with curiosity at brunch, I turned to the gay couple sitting in the booth behind me and said "I'm sorry, I have to know. Which one of you is-" and they cut me off "finished with the tomato sauce? Actually, we're both done. Take the bottle". I don't even like tomato sauce, but I ended up covering my hash browns in it to hide my shame. I really am not good at making eye contact, and end up staring at the condiments when I'm trying to talk to people.

But the other thing I feel is kind of angry. One thing I did already know is gay people love making fun of straight people, or bi people who have straight sex, for having boring sex lives. Straight sex is something you know I've done at least once, since I have a kid, and I'm too poor to afford IVF (incidentally, my kid is lucky in this way, as an only child. He's too young to know much about this stuff yet, but when he is, no child wants to imagine his or her parents having sex. As an only child, G can imagine we only did it once, and it was a terrible drunken mistake we don't even remember, and the next day we were filled with guilt and remorse and returned to our lives of chaste platonic companionship except for the fact said sole, lone, only incident of forbidden lusts resulted in him).

So when gay people joke about straight sex being vanilla and boring I'm angry. I'm like oh bitch.

Because no matter what you think of not-gay-male sex, at least we're not doing it in the same position all the damn time.

But this top and bottom thing has blown my mind. How did the knowledge of this escape me? I've seen every episode of Queer as Folk, several times, albeit not recently. Did I miss something? Was I in the bathroom for all of the crucial chatter between Ted and Emmett? Was it all the chemical enhancements I was on at parties? I wish I was alive to see this. Cause I'm too old for earth shattering revelations anymore. And to my gay friends, I'm sorry, but I've thought about you having sex recently. Which is not as bad as it could be, but this is still pretty bad.