Alexander Lowe discusses how gay men could learn to escape reality in fictitious world and get trapped there for good.
‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” – I caught my boyfriend clued to the screen watching one his favorite fairy tales when I came home. How common it is for a beautiful princess to get rescued from her solitary containment by some Prince Charming, I thought.
I have once myself felt like this for so many years. That there was an evil spell on my life, that the world was unjust and unfair, that I deserved so much more. And I believed that somehow it would all change one day when He comes into my life, that my fairy tale will start the minute I meet Him, that’s when my true life really begins and that I just need to hang on until then when all my troubles disappear to be happy ever after.
Fairy tales heroes were my playmates, confidants, my imaginary friends. Among my favorites were tales by Hans Christian Andersen. Feeling myself ugly duckling I hoped to turn into a beautiful swan one day. And like Elisa from the Wild Swans I longed for 11 beautiful, young and strong brothers to redeem me from my misery and put an end to my sufferings. I could also easily associate myself with the Little Mermaid who would rather give up her legs and commit suicide than hurt a loved one.
The society naturally marginalizes unorthodox individuals, labeling them as a certain category, putting them in a certain box. Growing gay adolescents have to realize and accept they are different from others, effectively lock themselves away from their peer group in at least some ways, even if just mentally. And so we may hide away in the security of our imaginary closet or escape into a
parallel universe. Either way there is some disconnect between the outside world and inner self that could lead to all the different psychological complications and various ways of dealing with sometimes harsh reality.
I think this is however a vital stage in the development of gay personality, similar to a pupal stage inthe development of a butterfly, when a larva hides inside a cocoon to go through metamorphosis before transforming itself into its adult stage. But for a gay person coming out of the imaginary closet and fully integrating into the outside world could be a painful lifelong process.
Fairy tales may provide welcoming relief and comfort to misfits letting them escape into a different world with its true magic transformations, lucky escapes and happy endings. Bullies in that world get punished, and love, fame and money could all come at once in a neat package. Just lie down and wait as your Prince Charming is galloping your way on a white unicorn to French kiss you and finally make it all right.
When I look around the LGBT community, I see a lot of similar ‘sleeping beauties’. Waiting for the best times to come, daydreaming and sleepwalking through their lives. Some narcissistic, other bipolar, commonly insecure, anxious, anorexic and bulimic these often middle age dreamers are still waiting for their childish fantasies to come true. Endlessly browsing dating websites and cruising in the gay bars, they become trapped in their imaginary world of false hopes and unrealistic
This lethargic dreamlike state may be efficient for a while to heal early traumas, suppress emotions and even keep younger appearances. But what if Prince Charming never comes, what are the downsides of the prolonged ‘sleeping beauty syndrome’? Delusion and apathy. Disempowering ourselves we are missing out on opportunities and not letting ourselves fully develop and flourish. We are objectifying ourselves by reducing ourselves to our looks and function, becoming objects to be used rather than subjects in control. We learn early on that for a Cinderella the only ticket to happiness is being rescued by a man, not self-realization through work and education. We make believe that the power, love and care we lack of could come from the outside, making all things right, breaking the spell of our stigma and loneliness. That we should patiently wait for the miracle
rather than work on making it happen.
Historically, fairy-tales were written to prepare children for the adult life, to reinforce values and set up gender and behavioral stereotypes. It is now speculated how princess tales have been affecting psychology and behavior of millions of girls over hundreds of years. I guess gay boys might have been similarly tricked into the subconscious belief that they are somehow inherently disadvantaged and should just passively wait for a magical fix or ‘rescue’ numbing their sensations and disabling self-fulfillment.
While traditional fairy tales feature torture, murder, cannibalism and even necrophilia and incest, there is no room there to teach us about gender fluidity or equality. In the absence of gay characters, gay boys with unconventional ratio of masculine to feminine could easily identify with a central female character, a passive receptor of injustice, often isolated, depressed and at times
suicidal. The character is often delusional and lonely amidst typical family detachment with the father figure either missing or suppressed by the evil stepmother. There is also a good deal of jealousy and unfair competition. Does not this all fit neatly into a stereotypical gay man’s world?
Gay shores, Distant father and dominant mother, importance of good looks, jealousy and bitchiness in a hunt for the Prince Charming…
So what happens when we weave our childhood fantasies into the reality of adult life, sometimes denying reason just to stay true to our fairy tale dreams? When real life digresses further from our dream, it gets seductive to get sedated. We self-medicate and induce mind coma through consumption of alcohol and drugs, emerging ourselves in gaming, gambling, anonymous sex, by one
way or another trying to ease the pain and run away from the harsh reality back into our dreamlike fantasies. How many gay guys you know are screwing their lives around secretly longing for some fairy-tale relationships?
But is self-destruction and self- sabotage the true magical pill that can cure us? Or are we capable of facing the reality and taking control of our destiny? I would like to make a wakeup call to all those ‘Sleeping Beauties’ out there: emerge from your cocoons as whole new personalities, let yourselves fully flourish and develop your talents, become your own royal rescuers and fairy godmothers. Become your own best friend and boyfriend – encourage yourself to grow and prosper. After all, Prince charming you are looking for is likely to be ‘Sleeping Beauty’ waiting to be rescued as well. So wake up and snap out your friends from dreaming a dream too, it is time to start living the life.
—Photo Ed Uthman/Flickr