Middle school was a confusing time for everyone, but it was especially confusing for gay people. Let’s be honest: no one really knows they’re gay in middle school. Middle school just isn’t sexual enough! Instead, the full force of heteronormativity and societal gender expectations write the script for young gay kids to follow.
If you’re in college now, middle school was something like a decade ago: the glory days of the original Wii, the iPhone 3GS, pubescent Harry Potter, and the first Obama term. Yes, this was the era of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” but that didn’t stop the rest of the music industry, from iTunes to Kidz Bop, from telling middle school boys that they should date girls and middle schools girls that they should date boys.
When I was a middle school gay boy, I didn’t understand my friends’ interest in girls’ bodies. “I mean, yeah, I guess Jenna has a big butt. Like, yeah, that’s my favorite part,” I hear myself saying to Brad. But the lack of sexual interest doesn’t stop a young boy’s emotional haywires from getting all mixed up. That’s how gay boys get tricked into thinking we should the date the first girl who gave us attention. The adolescent need to find a first romance really comes in the for the win, and all of a sudden I’m telling Morgan, “No, I’m not gay! I have a crush on Chelsea.” It’s not until later that we realize.
So, these are for you, Chelsea McCall. You laughed at my jokes, and I thought we were in love. Here are ten songs from middle school that made gay boys think they were in love with girls.
1. “Better In Time” – Leona Lewis
As a young gay boy, everybody can tell except you. The bemusement at all things masculine, like what car you’re going to buy when you’re 16 or how many points Kobe got last game, are clear indicators, and the obsessions with the Golden Globes and the new Leona Lewis song just aren’t turn-ons for middle school girls. So your classmates weren’t surprised when Kayla didn’t want to go on a date with you, but that didn’t dry your tears on the bus. Don’t worry, “Better In Time” is here to comfort middle school hearts everywhere after the first unsuccessful love. “It’s going to hurt when it heals too,” Leona Lewis says in her #2 chart-peaking single, and she doesn’t even know the half of it. Leona Lewis’s ethereal vocals and raw emotions are just enough to make a gay boy think he fell in love with a girl.
2. “I’m Yours” — Jason Mraz
We all remember the awkward beauty of our first real crush. Gay or straight, there’s almost nothing more exciting than the feeling of the onset of a new romance, particularly if you’re 11 and the only requirement to be “dating” someone is to hang out with them at recess. Jason Mraz’s single, which set the record for most weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 with 76, paints the divine picture of the hold-hands-on-the-bus feeling with perfection. “It’s our godforsaken right to be loved,” he laments. Gosh darn it, it is our godforsaken right to be loved, unappreciated middle school gay boys everywhere say to themselves.
3. “Miss Independent” — Ne-Yo
It’s her personality! Gays of all kinds, ever the fans of gender equality, are impressed by an independent woman. The ones that are tricked into thinking they’re straight may find reprieve in this bop from Grammy-nominated hit machine Ne-Yo. Saying your favorite trait about your girl is her personality is as much a gaydar beeper for gay middle schoolers in 2008 as it was for Elton John in 1986. Miss Independents really are prime options for gay boys seeking girls. Chelsea, if you’re reading this, the strong way you carried yourself at Academic Challenge took me aback and made me think I was in love with you.
4. “Lovebug” — Jonas Brothers
Hormones exist, and they’re ready to ruin your seventh grade. “I never thought I’d catch this,” bemoan the definitely-liked-them-because-we-thought-they-were-hot Jonas Brothers, who I might add we only liked because we thought they were hot. What’s most important to remember about this song is that we only liked the Jonas Brothers because we thought they were hot. This epoch-defining love tune helped catapult the Jonas Brothers to win Best Musical Artist at the 2009 Kids Choice Awards. Analysts indicate that the voters only liked them because they thought they were hot.
5. “I Do Not Hook Up” — Kelly Clarkson
“I’m not into her that way,” he says. Also, “I love American idol.”
6. “Fifteen” — Taylor Swift
Let’s be honest, this list could have included “White Horse” or “Love Story” or “Fearless” or “Mine” or really any Taylor Swift song from middle school. It doesn’t take much to convince a middle schooler that Taylor Swift is good, and even less for young gay boy. The thing about gay middle schoolers is that they are ready to experience whatever the artist wants them to experience. When it comes to really… any … early Taylor song, the Youth Gay is ready to fall in love, go to a prom, and have a great, straight date night, dammit! Also, we’ll just admit it: the real feature for pubescent gay boys in “Fifteen” is just the high school senior boys.
7. “Two Is Better Than One” — Boys Like Girls
And you thought we’d only have one Taylor Swift song on this list! Ha! The illustrious, Kids Choice-nominated Boys Like Girls, along with Taylor herself, are here to tell the world that being single is worse than having a girlfriend. Thanks, message received! Boys really do like girls, I guess. “There’s so much time to figure out the rest of my life,” sings the group towards the end of the song. So much time, but so much to figure out. Good luck, gay middle schoolers!
8. “Somebody To Love” — Justin Bieber
Just somebody, anybody really.
9. “Grenade” — Bruno Mars
My favorite song about unhealthy relationship imbalances and self-harm in the name of love! What’s so fantastic about “Grenade” is just how popular the song was in middle and just how little any middle schooler can comprehend about self-sacrifice. Nevertheless! This song struck me hard in eighth grade, as the pangs of unrequited love and reluctant attendance at Valentine’s Day dances really hit their peaks. Bruno Mars’s third #1 single helped catapult him to eventual Super Bowl and Grammy fame, but it all started deep in the hearts of middle schoolers without any idea of what love actually means. The gay ones even less!
10. “Someone Like You” — Adele
It’s the end of eighth grade, and gay 13-year-olds across the country must finally give up the hope of successfully dating their big girl crush. Only Adele’s piercing 21, best-selling album of the decade and best non-Rumours album ever made, provides relief. It plays in the bathroom as I cry in the shower. I will find someone like you, Chelsea McCall. Middle school ends, gayhood begins, we move on.