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A Relationship in an Envelope

The Mysterious Seeker of Love-by-Mail Spreads Alienation and Gay Stereotypes

By Theodore K. Gideonse

The following is a response to a form letter sent by the "boxholder" below to most male students at Harvard College:

Dear Mr. Boxholder,

I know that in your letter you said that you didn't want anyone to write you back and tell you that they disagreed with your observations and conclusions concerning gay men. You only wanted serious respondents to your personal -ad-cum-anti-gay manifesto. But I felt that your stunning mass-mailing demanded a response. I found your sending every male undergraduate at Harvard and Yale that bizarre letter very upsetting, and I wanted to tell you why.

From your tone, you don't seem to care about the possible negative affects your letter may have had. I was angry that so many people had your undivided attention. Your letter was rather odd, so no one just read the first line and pitched it in the trash can--they read the whole thing. My first fear was that closeted men or men unsure of their sexual identity were going to be upset or frightened by your letter.

I think that if I had received it when I was still confused about being gay, I would have been scared that gay men really do "show much greater vanity, cliquishness, pettiness, and pique, and less forcefulness or strength of character." Your letter was an exhortation against believing that gay and straight men only differ in their sexual orientation. The ways in which you phrased your description of the gay men you've met exhibited your belief in their inferiority.

Not only were gay men, closeted and out, reading this letter, but so were thousands of other men on the Harvard and Yale campuses. Most of these men were probably unaffected by your letter, but others who hadn't really thought much about gay male behavior may have been persuaded to believe your description. People who already agreed with your observations or who would like to undermine the rights of gays and lesbians could use your letter as ammunition. "Look!," they might say, "One of your own thinks you're pansies too!"

I'm not trying to deny that there are gay men who fit your description. There are plenty who do, but there are also plenty who don't. I don't think you understand that this behavior is not inherent in being gay. Some of the behavior you described is the result of growing up in a sexist, straight society and not finding a place to fit in. Much of the reason many gay men are effeminate is because in always being attracted to men, and in seeking people with whom to identify, many gay men found women as close friends at an early age. By hanging out with mostly women, it's not surprising that one might act somewhat "female."

As for the other qualities you speak of, straight men act the same way in different contexts. Gay men do not have monopolies on vanity or cliquishness. Just look at the men in the Versace suits at an Undergraduate Council meeting or the exclusiveness of final club members.

Your onslaught of letters was quite invasive. If I wanted to read a personal ad, I would have picked up the Phoenix or BayWindows. If I wanted see descriptions of gay men like yours, I would have picked up the Peninsula. I did not want to check my mail and find your letter. If I was straight, I don't think it would have bothered me as much. But I'm gay, and I felt especially targeted. And because I don't really agree with your views and have no plans to seek a relationship with you, I felt like you were being incredibly intrusive into my life. I don't like to be hit on randomly through the mail.

I will not pretend that being gay is easy. In fact my life would be a heck of a lot easier if I were straight. But I'm not, so I make do with I what I am. I haven't always been thrilled with the gay men I've met. As I said above, some of them fit your description. However, I have also met some amazing people since I came out, people I never would have encountered if I wasn't gay and out. Maybe I've just really lucked out, though. However, I don't think spending thousands of dollars mass-mailing love letters is the best way to make friends or find a lover. And it may be hurting other people in the process. Just be patient.

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