A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of red pants for my Carlos from the Magic School Bus costume. It was my second year at college, a time of learning. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was how comfortable these pants are. Before this, I’d almost exclusively wear jeans, and maybe khakis if I was feeling adventurous, but that was it. These pants are the perfect blend of comfortable made from 98% cotton and 2% elastane. Not to mention that they also look good on me.
Although maybe they look TOO good on me. Sometimes it feels like a lot of people stare at me while wearing these pants whether it’s because they’re so bright, or maybe it’s how I walk. Either way, I often feel out of place in my neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago as if there’s no place for me and my imposing pants color. I have NO IDEA how to distinguish between a “Looking good!” and a “Stick ‘em up!”, but more likely than not, people will just see me as that gay guy on the street.
I mean it’s not like I’ve gone around asking how gay I look on a scale of 1-5, y’know. That’s what social media is for. Plus, no piece of clothing can make you look gay. In case you didn’t know, red pants aren’t gay pants. Or, for clarity, there’s no such thing as Pants That Turn You Gay. Likewise, straight pants never turned me into a heterosexual. Unless you mean “gay pants” as in “pants who are attracted to pants of the same gender” then maybe, but don’t be silly. If anything, maybe red pants are just pants that happen to be red.
Not to mention I’m not even gay. I’m bisexual as hell. Bisexuality is not homosexuality’s wannabe cousin; it’s something else entirely. All my life, I’ve never felt complete because it’s always been half-gay and half-straight. Well, I’m 100% bisexual 100% of the time. I’m bisexual when I wear my red pants, when I don’t wear them, when I bought them, before I bought them, on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse, here, there, everywhere.
I’m bisexual whether I’m dating someone who shares my gender or I’m dating someone who doesn’t, and I’m definitely bisexual the 99% of the time that I’m single. Maybe that’s what all the looks are about. They see someone unafraid to fight against the toxic masculinity and heteronormativity and they’re scared because I’m not changing for anyone. If I change my pants, it’s because they’re going in the washer, not because someone doesn’t like who I am.
When I was a kid, before I even knew what gay meant, I already had crushes on boys. They were the same as the crushes I had on girls, except I didn’t know that’s what they were until I grew up. Still, people used “faggot” and “gay” to mean awful things. Even people I knew treated homosexuality as something bad. A friend once teased me saying that, statistically speaking, most people named Carlos were gay. This was a joke to him and I wasn’t supposed to take offense. It’s not funny when your dad demands you tell him your sexual orientation, but you don’t know if it’s because he wants to support or disown you.
Now I’m almost out of college and I own these pair of pants. They’re not some big activist symbol. I mean they’re falling apart. They don’t even make a difference in my dating life. My first gay encounter happened online before I even bought the damn thing, and he still took his underpants off. I can assure you that the super homoerotic texts I sent were the sole responsibility for that Skype call.
My red pants didn’t play a role the night I slept over at a guy from school’s apartment either. It was after work when I run into him. He couldn’t go to his studio and so we went to his apartment where we played a bunch of video games. Before I knew it, he kissed me, and in my head, I’m like what the fuck is this? He said he found me attractive, and I’m like ok, and we kissed again, keeping in mind that I’ve literally never kissed anyone before in my life. Needless to say, there are probably mops with people’s portraits taped to them who are better kissers than me. For the rest of the night, we ignored his roommates and pretended to watch his favorite movie. It was late so I changed out of my khaki pants into a pair of his shorts I borrowed to get ready for bed. I guess I was feeling adventurous because, before long, we took each other’s shirts off and cuddled in his bed and eventually fell asleep. The next morning, I left with my first hickey, not quite understanding what just happened other than thinking that kissing was more underwhelming than I thought it would be. Although, that’s partly my fault, I guess.
And you know what? The pants I wore had nothing to do that summer with my first boyfriend. As an online relationship, he maybe saw the shirt I was wearing on any given day, but we still spent late nights texting. He sent me a recording of a song he wrote just for me, telling me that I was the first person outside his family to hear him sing. And I loved it, and I loved him, but being across the entire country meant that we could only have pretty words and good intentions.
My pants don’t care about why I haven’t dated someone with a different gender than me; they’re only concerned about keeping my legs covered. That’s a whole lot simpler than figuring out whether I even want to pursue a relationship. But I still want to be part of a community.
Last year, I went to my first Pride Parade. I wore my red pants because it felt like I had to. Even though they started as a costume, they make me feel good. Ultimately, I didn’t even like being at the parade. I’m all for celebration, but I’m not about crowds and people dancing too closely, and the very drunk girl who asked, “Are you gay??????” To which, I answered, “Bi,” before trying to leave as quickly as possible.
For what it’s worth, despite all the things I didn’t like about the Pride Parade, it still holds value to me. In a time when any one of the Orlando victims could’ve been me, I find comfort in the ways that world is changing for the better. It’s more clear than ever that I don’t have to pretend to be someone else, but rather it’s the person who wants me to be different that needs to change. But y’know, for the most part, I just want to be left alone. It’s not my job as to make sure you’re a decent person. After all, chances are I’ll just keep walking by in my red pants, hardly noticing you, other than the fact that you were staring at me.