Thursday, August 27, 2009

Father F.

So I've decided to share an excerpt of my unfinished memoir.

Before Chris and I moved from Victoria, I attended a memoir writing class at UVic. For our last class, our instructor encouraged us to bring a piece of writing from our memoir, or to prepare a new piece altogether, to share with everyone. I reviewed my manuscript, looking for the perfect scene to excerpt and to prepare. I fully intended to share it with the ten or so other students there, even to the point of bringing it to class with me. But, because of the sensitive subject matter, and because I didn't want to risk offending anyone, I kept it to myself.

It's a completely true story. Prior to this excerpt, I wrote about several more instances involving the same character that left no doubt in my mind what his intention was that night. You'll have to trust that I know what I'm talking about.

As I transcribed this today, I made several more revisions, and I see that it still needs more work. But this is what it looks like now, and I hope you get something out of reading it. If you have any feedback, good or bad, please share it. Thanks for your interest.

Father F.

One night, after eleven, I sat in the small kiosk at the self-serve gas station where I worked. As usual, business had been much busier earlier in the evening, and there wasn't much activity around the tarmac then. I was either cashing out, balancing my transactions, or, having completed those tasks, watching the small TV on the counter, its snowy reception broadcasting a few local channels.

Through the reflections in the glass that surrounded me, I saw a large car drive around the back of the kiosk, pass by on the right, and pull up the centre island directly in front of me. I didn't immediately recognize the car, but I sure did when the driver got out. It was Father F., our local parish priest, and he wasn't buying gasoline. He was walking toward the customer door in front of me.

I heard the scrape of metal as the bottom of the door moved past the frame. Father F. walked into the customer vestibule and greeted me. Without hesitation, he leaned down to look at me through the small window open between us, and he asked me when I got off work. The question seemed unusual coming from him at that time of the night, but I answered at 1:00 a.m.

"How about coming over to the rectory for a drink when you get off?" he asked me then. From the smell of his breath, I knew he'd already been drinking.

I froze then, blood draining from my head, and I'm sure the expression on my face told Father F. I was stunned by his assumption and embarrassed by his question. I didn't say anything. I was too scared. I didn't know what to do.

The recognition on Father F.'s face told me he knew what he'd done. He mumbled something like, "Maybe some other time," and he turned around and left. He got back into his car, and I watched as he drove down the tarmac and turned right onto Gordon Drive, St. Pius X and the rectory several blocks down the street from the gas station, and just one block away from where I lived with my parents at the time.

Shaken, I finished the rest of my shift, but I couldn't focus or concentrate. I kept reliving Father F. asking me that question, and my imagination led me to wonder what might happen if I accepted his offer. If I drove my car to the rectory after work, parked in the adjacent lot, walked to the large brown door, and rang the bell. I imagined him greeting me, his Roman collar loosened, the first few buttons of his shirt open, gray chest hairs poking out.

I imagined him leading me down the hall to the living room--a room I'd never been in as a parishioner--the lights down low, some soft, unrecognizable music playing, a sofa awaiting us. He'd offer me a seat, and, turning toward the bar, he'd ask if I wanted a glass of wine or something to drink. I'd decline, because I don't drink alcohol, and he'd tell me he had Coke or fruit juice or water, if I preferred. I'd decide on something, not really wanting anything, and Father F., after pouring our drinks, would walk toward me on the sofa, where he'd hand me my drink and sit down with his. At first, we'd talk quietly about nothing, the creepy smile I recognized from when he shook my hand at church every Saturday evening emerging, as he said something he thought was funny, in an effort to help me relax. Then, he'd lean over, put his hairy hand on my knee, tell me he'd always found me attractive, move a little closer, and....

When I drove past the rectory on the way home that night, I noticed his car in the driveway, and no lights on in the plain, square, two-storey building. I was still so freaked out, that our parish priest, a man who represented God, and the Catholic church, and everything that was good and kind, and who had made a vow of celibacy in order to be ordained, had come on to me, one of his trusting parishioners. Weren't priests supposed to be above that? And, even if they weren't, shouldn't he have come on to a woman, not a young man?

And, even if his choice was to have sex with men, shouldn't he have been discreet enough to go after someone outside of our parish, someone who didn't attend church where he said mass? What he had been thinking, or had he been thinking at all? Did he really believe he'd get away with it? Did he consider the effect his come-on would have on me? Even if I had been out, and accepting of my own sexual orientation, which I was years away from, didn't it occur to him that he'd violated the trust I had in him as a man of God, someone I looked up to as an example of who and what I should be?

My mind reeled with unanswered questions, and I shuddered as I parked the car in front of my parents's house. I wondered if I should say anything to my mother in the morning. I didn't want to get Father F. into trouble because, after all, nothing had happened between us. Still, maybe someone needed to know. Maybe someone needed to talk to him and to warn him. Maybe I just needed to tell someone about it.

In the end, despite what it could mean for Father F., I didn't keep it to myself. I told my mother when I got up later that morning, although I have no recollection of it, nor do I remember what she said. But, knowing my mother, especially where our parish priest was concerned, she probably thought Father F.'s invitation to join him for drinks at 1:00 a.m. was harmless. Or, if she suspected anything untoward, she wouldn't have said it. I doubt that she thought he intended to have sex with me. After all, to that point, who'd ever heard about the local priest coming on to a young man? For all I knew, perhaps she'd even blame me for making up the whole thing, although I don't know what she might have thought I'd have to gain from doing that.

Attending church after the encounter at the service station that night was difficult. Our usual parish priest, Father M, still wasn't well enough after surgery to return to his job, and Father F. was with us for several more months.

I avoided going to church for several weeks right after. I couldn't face Father F., knowing what I knew. And, for a while, I even considered attending another Catholic church in the area. Immaculate Conception wasn't far away, and I could have easily driven there if I'd wanted to.

But St. Pius X was just down the street, the church I'd attended for years, and, in a way, it was home. I still respected the church, the building, what it was about, what it stood for, and how it made me feel when I was there. And a part of me needed what I got there, whether that was a sense of inner peace, or a connection to God, or whatever it was. In other words, no indiscreet priest would chase me away from my home church, since I wasn't the one who done anything wrong.

Eventually, I returned to St. Pius X, with Father F. continuing to officiate over mass. During the customary peace offering, he made less of an effort now to come over to where I was sitting and to take my hand in both of his. But it happened from time to time, and I wondered if, on those occasions, contriteness was what I saw in his face now. The smarmy smile had been replaced with compassion in his eyes and a genuine warmth in his face.

Shortly after I started attending mass again, one of Father F.'s sermons was about forgiveness. I listened to his words carefully, wondering if he saw how what he preached applied to him and his moment of indiscretion. I couldn't help thinking that, in the only way he could, Father F. was asking me to forgive him--for making an inappropriate assumption about me, for taking advantage of the trust I had in him, and for putting me in an uncomfortable position.

After that same mass, I remember Father F. made a point of shaking my hand as he stood outside the front door of the church, where he greeted many parishioners before they left. He kept what he said appropriate to the occasion, and he seemed to search my face for the forgiveness he sought.

Finally, all of the drama ended when Father M., a sweet, dear Irishman, returned to the parish. I was grateful when I saw him presiding over mass again, because, no matter how hard I tried to forget, no matter how I tried to give Father F. the benefit of a doubt, as long as I had to face him once a week, I couldn't move beyond my feelings of betrayal.

To my knowledge, Father F. was a priest in the Nelson diocese for many more years after the incident. Then, some time later, I heard through our family that he'd been sick, I believe with cancer, and that he'd passed away.

I don't know why--and I may burn in hell for writing this--but I was relieved when I heard that he was gone. I was long an adult by then and had moved away to Vancouver, where I was certain I'd never come into contact with him.

But, throughout the years, I always wondered if he'd taken a liking to another young man, and if he'd ever approached him in the same way that he'd approached me--with an indirect but unmistakable intention, with a need that drove him to the unforgivable.


After reading E. Lynn Harris's latest novel "Basketball Jones" recently--not the best book I've ever read, but not the worst either--I decided to read his memoir entitled, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted."

Before Harris passed away of heart failure at the end of July in Los Angeles, he was a black, gay writer, whose personal story, I believed, would be compelling. I'm always in tune with the true stories of other gay men, always looking for tidbits that I can use to understand myself better and to feel a kinship with those who've gone through some of the same things I have.

I was also fascinated that Harris put most of the personal details of his life in a memoir, because I spent about ten months in 2008 writing my own as yet largely unedited and unpublished memoir about growing up gay. I've been stalled in working on my book because I've felt no one else would be interested in reading it.

But my interest in learning about Harris's life as a gay man tells me that if I have a curiosity about him, other gay men might have a curiosity about my life, which was the reason why I wrote it in the first place. My goal was to write something that might be helpful to other gay men, that might make their lives better or prove to them they aren't alone.

At any rate, I've been struck by the number of times in Harris's narrative that he mentioned the need to put himself in situations where he felt more masculine or manly. As he attended grade school and then university, he knew he was different from the other boys and young men. He knew he had gay, or, at least, bisexual, tendencies, but, for the most part, he didn't act on them. He knew some of his classmates thought he was gay--which was a double strike against him since he was also black--so he took deliberate measures to prove that he wasn't by exhibiting masculine or manly characteristics or habits like the other males.

This included being seen dating beautiful women, which he enjoyed doing, mostly for the resulting friendships, but which he knew would help quell the rumors about being gay.

It also included pledging to a fraternity. He describes in detail the physical torture that was inflicted on him when some of the men in the fraternity he wanted to belong to suspected he was gay. Harris writes, "I survived the weekend and many nights of torture and was initiated into the fraternity. In a lot of respects, my initiation was a big step in my search for manhood....The extra punishment I received since they believed I was gay proved to advance my status in the eyes of many of my [fraternity] brothers. Despite the humiliation, I had taken the extra ass-kicking like a man, and it made me feel stronger ["Brokenhearted," p. 108]."

Reading the references in Harris's book to needing to prove to himself and to others that he was a man, because of all the conflicted feelings he had around possibly being gay, was a relief for me. For years, I've struggled with seeing myself as a man because I'm gay, and knowing I wasn't alone in this really helped.

I wrote in a previous post here, I wrote about needing to look like a man, or how I feel a man should look, even if I didn't feel like one. In particular, I wrote that I've always identified physical masculinity with how hairy a man's body is. Thus, a man might be a complete wimp in terms of courage, and he may not be the least bit honorable or trustworthy--many of the characteristics used to define manliness, but if, for example, he has a heavy five o'clock shadow and can grow a thick beard, and if his chest and stomach are covered in thick fur, then at least he looks like a man, and society routinely accepts him as such. Or, at least, I do.

I also wrote that I think a lot of other gay men do to. I think plenty of gay men rely on their masculine appearance to deflect any negativity that may be directed toward them because of their sexual orientation. This may include growing facial hair, developing their pecs and biceps, and displaying an abundantly hairy body. A little research on the Internet proves that however ridiculous this may be, many people, men and women alike, perceive these physical characteristics to be symbols of masculinity. Right or wrong, that's just the way it is.

At any rate, wherever Harris is right now, he should be pleased with himself for writing about the insecurities he felt about his masculinity. His courage in admitting this helps me, and others like me, to know that we are not alone; that, if we feel it about ourselves, there's a good chance someone else feels it about himself too; and that it's all right to have these feelings.

Harris's courage also helps me to find the courage within myself to continue working on my own memoir, with the hope that someone might identify with what I went through and draw strength from that. We can't hope to have any greater an influence on another human being.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One Person at a Time

In the post, "Am I the Problem?", which I wrote on August 6, I talked about moving DVD boxed sets of "Queer as Folk" so the electrician, coming in to do some work on one of our walls prior to the installation of our built-in bookcase, wouldn't see them and potentially take a negative position toward Chris and me. What I mean to say is that I didn't want the electrician to know we are a gay couple, even though, strangely enough, when he arrived at the house, Chris was on vacation, and I introduced him as my partner.

I'm long past not introducing Chris as my partner, I don't care who I introduce him to. I know Chris feels the same way. We've been together for nearly two decades, and we are every bit a couple as any heterosexual couple is. Why should I marginalize what we share? Why should I deny it, just to help someone feel more comfortable around us? If he has that much of a problem with Chris and me as a gay couple, then we can get someone else to do the job. We are what we are, and I can't change that. Nor should I have to for anyone else.

Did the electrician, whom I'll call Calvin, flinch when I told him Chris was my partner? Did he harden just a little, put up a wall around him, take the attitude that we might be like that but he wasn't? Maybe. I can't be sure. But there was some hesitation, just a second or two, before he reached out his hand and shook Chris's. It's a typical reaction as people register the information I've given them and try to process it in a way that works for them.

I don't know at what point Calvin started to soften. I brought him downstairs to our theatre room, showed him the wall where the built-in bookcase was to be installed, and explained what needed to be done. I'd like to think I made completing work in the home of a gay couple as natural and as easy as I could for someone who may have had little experience with our arrangement. Calvin listened to what I had to say, asked questions, thought about the options, and went to work.

As I usually do when service people complete work in our home, I stuck around and I asked questions of my own, trying to understand what was going on and ensuring the work was done as needed. In the process, Calvin and I talked about a number of things, like when Chris and I had moved in, where we'd moved from, what we thought of the area, how the move had gone for us, etc. In addition to ensuring the work was done correctly, what I think this did was help Calvin and me to warm up to each other. After a while, I didn't feel he was hesitant toward me at all, and I didn't feel intimidated being around a straight man.

In fact, it turned out that Calvin was very personable. Over the course of his two visits to our home, he asked questions about Chris and me, which I answered honestly, not hiding anything about the nature of our relationship, and we shared a number of laughs about various things. He commented on the hardwood floor we had installed several months ago, saying that he thought it looked great, and he was happy when I offered to show him around the house so he could see the numerous other changes we'd made since moving in.

For my part, I learned where in Metro Vancouver Calvin lives. He told me about his wife and the type of work she does, and he said he had two children, told me their ages, and a little bit about them. In other words, the interaction between us was much more than a straight service provider coming into our house to complete some work for us. Calvin warmed up to us a great deal, provided top-notch service, and commented as he was leaving that he really enjoyed working for us. (Chris and I even thought Calvin might have a few gay tendencies himself, although that was probably nothing more than us reading a few of the signals in him that we're used to looking for. Was it possible Calvin felt so comfortable around us that he allowed himself to show characteristics of his feminine side without feeling that he'd be judged? Who knows.)

The bottom line is that, whatever Calvin may have thought about us when he first arrived at the house, he seemed to think something else entirely when he left. Perhaps Chris and I were the first gay couple he ever did work for--although I doubt that's the case in all of Metro Vancouver. Perhaps spending time with him, and talking to him, and being honest with him about Chris and me--trying not to hide anything as it came up in conversation, yet still being respectful--helped him to see us as the complete couple that we are, regardless of the fact that we're the same gender. And, perhaps, as a result, Calvin was able to change whatever preconceived ideas he had about gay people, feeling more positive about us as a result of his experience at our house.

As I see it, this is the way the battle will be won, the battle for the legitimacy of gay people and gay couples in the eyes of straight people. When straight people see that Chris and I are no different from them and their significant others, then perhaps minds will be changed and the world will be changed too. When straight people realize it's all right for gay people to be themselves, and to love whoever they want to, maybe then straight people will realize they can be themselves too, and not have to be a certain way toward gay people because that's how society thinks gay people should be treated.

Winning the battle one person at a time. It's the only way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shirtless, #2 (or, Red Beads)

Back on June 12, I wrote a post called "Shirtless." It was about a couple of male teenagers walking home from the local high school in the heat of late spring, their shirts off, their bodies youthful and muscular. I made some assumptions in that post, chief among them that the two young fellows were straight, and that, because of that, their lives were so much better than mine had been at their age.

Well, I may have been hasty in my assumption. Just a few days after the Pride parade in downtown Vancouver, I saw the two young men move past our house again. One walked on the sidewalk, and the other rode his bike along the side of the road. The day was sunny and hot, and, again, the two of them were shirtless, their torsos lean, hairless, and lightly tanned.

What struck me about the young man on the sidewalk, perhaps the more handsome of the two, was what he had around his neck. He wore a string of bright, shiny, red beads, like those worn during Mardi Gras in New Orleans--and like those gay men wear during Pride festivities. I thought nothing of it at first, admiring instead his sense of style, not connecting style in a young male with being gay.

But then I realized that the shirtless young man on the sidewalk might not be as straight as I assumed him to be. Perhaps after everything I thought and wrote, he's gay. As gay as I am. As gay as Elton John is. As gay as Neil Patrick Harris is.

If this is the case, then I have even more admiration for him than I had before. Where does a young man, shirtless in public, wearing a string of bright red beads, and probably gay (since I don't think a straight young man would wear the same string of beads), find the confidence to feel good about, and draw attention to, himself? Have circumstances for young gay men in some places in this world, including __________, changed so much, particularly in the public school system, that this young man can express himself freely in what he wears and not be the least concerned about being harassed and ridiculed by people, fellow classmates or anyone else? Are circumstances really that much better now?

If so, then so much the better. There's no reason why the young man on the sidewalk can't be himself fully. There's no reason why he can't move through this world with the same degree of confidence that an equivalent straight young man has.

Just imagine this: If that young man is as confident as he is now, and unfazed about being gay, how far in the sky will he soar in his lifetime. There's no limit. A shiver runs up my spine as I think of it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Interior Designer

Many years ago, when I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life once I graduated. So I went to see a school counsellor, who advised me to take an aptitude test. The test was intended to help me sort out my likes and dislikes, in terms of potential careers, and to identify what I might be good at doing.

Surprise, surprise, the results of my test showed that I had the greatest interest in, and aptitude for, interior design, although I'd had no experience designing anything to that point.

At the time, I was confused with this result--and conflicted.

On the one hand, I was happy that the test registered a potential career choice that would require me to be highly imaginative and creative. I'd always thought I'd be involved in work of that nature. It certainly beat the hell out of working in a bank--that, ironically, I ended up doing for twenty-eight years.

On the other hand, I can't tell you how many times I looked at the results sheet from that test, the asterisk beside interior designer registered way over in the column, far beyond those opposite nearly every other potential career choice, indicating a strong ability to do it and to be successful at it. As thrilled as I secretly was that the results showed a line of work I should give serious consideration to and that intrigued me, I knew there was no way I could pursue a career as an interior designer.

There may have been other reasons why I knew I couldn't pursue a career in interior design--like could you earn any money doing that type of work?--but, by far, the most compelling reason was because the men who were designers were assumed to be gay. Just like hair stylists, or make-up artists, or anyone else in the arts. Remember, this was the mid-1970s. Go ahead and get a job as a designer if you want to, but, be warned, the world will think you're gay. And your personal life will take a course you couldn't have imagined.

Choosing a career traditionally held by women and gay men was unacceptable to me. As a kid, who'd been teased through most of grade school for being gay, I'd fought as hard as I could to prove everyone wrong. Hell, I'd gotten the message loud and clear that being gay was sick, and disgusting, and offensive. No matter how motivated I may have been to act on the results of my aptitude test and to pursue a career as an interior designer, I was motivated even more to prove to everyone, and especially to myself, that I wasn't gay.

I bring up all of this because I think it's remarkable that, in my own way, with the various places Chris and I have lived in over the years, according to a number of people, I've demonstrated an obvious aptitude for interior design. Of course, I've had no formal training in the field, I just seem to have a sense for what works and what doesn't, what looks good and what doesn't. Numerous people over the years have suggested that I should be an interior designer, and that I missed my calling in life.

More than design, I've wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little boy, composing stories, recognizing the power of words. Other boys I went to school with had the physical power and strength I lacked, which they aptly demonstrated through their prowess on the athletic field. I may have been a lot of things, but an athlete wasn't one of them.

Instead, I believed my strength was a way with words. I've always thought, since as far back as I can remember, that if I was going to make a mark in life, it would be through my writing, through expressing my ideas using words. I still believe that.

But you know what's so great about life? I don't have to be a writer only. I can be an interior designer too. I can be both if I want to. And I can add anything else to that list as I see fit, as long as I'm prepared to do that work. (Chris has suggested porn star and slave driver, not necessarily in that order. But that's another story altogether.)

The realization that I can be whatever I want to be, and that I can be more than one thing at a time, has been liberating. Of course, the logistics of being both are daunting, but there's still the possibility, right?

Which makes me laugh because I appear to have come full circle in some curious way. All those years ago, when the results of my aptitude test told me I should pursue interior design and didn't seem to have caught up to me. Now, I find myself exhibiting the talents for design that were identified on a chart thirty-plus years ago, and only now have I begun to give myself permission, after being out of the closet for over twenty-five years, maybe to pursue it and to see where it might go.

Imagine, just imagine, where I might be today as an interior designer, if I hadn't been concerned then that people would find out I was gay because of the type of work I did. The world is filled with famous interior designers, and I might even be counted among them.

Of course, it isn't healthy or realistic to go back and to imagine what might have been. But I can't help but think about the hand of fate that saw me give arguably the best years of my life and career to a company whose jobs were routine, and regulation-driven, and regimented, requiring virtually no imagination or creativity, certainly not in the way design would.

Isn't life funny sometimes? Who knows why someone who loves and respects words, and the effect they can have on people, ended up in a career focused almost entirely on numbers. There must have been some reason for it, although I don't have enough perspective on it just yet to know that reason. But the irony hasn't been lost on me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Yesterday, Chris and I spent most of the day in Vancouver. When we moved to __________ over three months ago, we decided that, as a treat, we'd drive in to Vancouver every four to six weeks, to visit some of our favorite stores, to eat at some of our favorite restaurants, and to be a part of what the city has to offer. Since Chris had an appointment with a dentist in Yaletown yesterday, and since he's on vacation for the next several weeks, we thought what better time to treat ourselves to a jaunt into the big city.

Among the places we visited was Little Sisters, the well-known gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender store on Davie Street. Little Sisters sells virtually anything anyone from the GLBT community might want, from magazines and books, to greeting cards and DVDs, and from clothing and jewelry, to calendars and sex toys. It's a fascinating place and a routine destination on our visits to Vancouver.

Anyway, there we were in Little Sisters. At one point, I walked around a counter, and I saw someone I recognized, leaning down to look at something on a lower shelf. My brain went to work. Where had I seen this face before? Who was this guy? Did I know him from somewhere?

The more I looked at him, the more I realized I didn't really know him. That is, he wasn't a friend I'd made during the twelve or so years I lived in the Lower Mainland before moving to Victoria in 2000. But he was so familiar. Who the hell was he?

Finally, I put the pieces together. When I moved to Vancouver in the late '80s, I'd seen him on many of my walks around the West End. I always noticed him because he was small and cute. What I mean by that is he was short in stature, small boned, and distinctive looking, but very attractive, in a boyish sort of way. At least I thought he was.

I remember I used to see him around Vancouver's West End, always with the same fellow. No question, they were a couple. They were similar in size, they were equally attractive, and they looked great together. I was single at the time and forever on the man hunt. I was desperate to be in a relationship. What these two fellows shared was enviable to me, and I wished I were as fortunate as them. One day, I hoped, maybe I would be.

Despite recognizing this fellow now, there were things about him that seemed somehow different. For one, the store was nearly deserted, and he appeared to be by himself. Where was the other guy I'd seen him with all those years ago? Perhaps they were no longer a couple. What could have happened to break them up? Had his partner died of AIDS? So many gay men's partners have been lost that way over the years. Despite not knowing him, I hoped that was not the case with him.

For a fleeting moment, I thought about losing Chris to AIDS, and I shuddered, forcing the possibility from my mind. I felt so much compassion for the fellow beside me now. Whether you lose your life partner because your relationship runs its course, or because he contracts HIV/AIDS and passes away, the ending of what you share can only be described as a tragedy. I pray I never know either of these fates.

But, as I continued to look at the fellow now, to grasp what was so different about him, I realized what it was. His hair was so much shorter than I remember it, and it was mostly grey. His face, while deeply tanned, was spotted and heavily lined. His body remained small and youthful looking, but his face betrayed the fact that he'd aged, a lot, since I'd last seen him more than a decade earlier. That was it. He was so much older than I remember him being all those years ago.

The thought that came to mind then centered around someone who'd known me ten, fifteen, twenty years earlier. I wondered if that person, having not seen me in a long time, would say the same thing about how I looked--that is, that I'd aged, aged a lot, and not well.

I'm still fortunate enough to run into people who haven't seen me in a while, and who, upon finding out my chronological age, tell me I don't look it. That I look perhaps ten years younger. Sometimes, people who see Chris and me together think that he's older than I am--I bet he likes that--or that we are close in age, when I'm nearly ten years older than he is. I always take this as a compliment because it's great not to look as old as you are. You feel more vital, better about yourself, and blessed to age gracefully.

But, somewhere along the line, that stops, and you start to look old because you are old, and people who haven't seen you for a while don't tell you that you appear ten years younger than you really are because you don't anymore. And you'd know they were lying if they did.

Have I aged better or worse than the fellow I saw at Little Sisters, I wondered? I don't tan anymore, acutely aware of how much damage I did to my skin in the late '70s, when I worked evenings and spent all day, every day, in the hot sun at Kelowna's City Park, tanning until I was a dark chocolate brown. I liked the way I looked with a tan, still do, but those days are gone forever.

Why is this so important to me? Why don't I want to look my age? What does it matter if someone thinks I've aged badly since the last time he saw me?

Perhaps because I don't want him to think I've lived a hard life. Perhaps because I want to grab on to whatever youth I have left and to keep it as close to me as possible for as long as I can. Perhaps because to be gay and to be old, is to be gay and invisible.

In the gay world, just like in Hollywood, youth is the all-important currency. Without it, you have no place--not in the gay publications, not in the gay clubs, not in the gay culture.

The reality is that, if you're fortunate enough, you'll live a long time, and you'll grow old, and, in your own way, you'll still be just a fabulous as you always were. Because, as we grow older, the definition of fabulous changes. It has to. It can't apply only to the young and the pretty. We can't let it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


In the early '90s, I was a Customer Service Manager in a branch of CIBC, and I hired a young man by the name of Bill.

Bill was a big, burly, young man, the type that's always intimidated me, because I'm not at all like him, and because I want to be more like him, and because he's not gay; and because I'm gay; and because most everyone in my history has been able to tell that I'm gay from looking at me or talking to me; and because I thought for sure Bill would know I was gay; and because he wouldn't be comfortable with me; and because he'd make me feel uncomfortable being around him.
Whatever Bill may have thought about me during the interview process, I didn't get the impression that he knew I was gay, and that he was uncomfortable with me. He seemed decent enough, personable enough, and respectful enough. So I hired him.

Over the course of several months, my interactions with Bill were always good ones. He was attentive when I spoke to him, he always took direction well, and he got along with the rest of the staff. I never once got the feeling that he wasn't comfortable around me, either because I was his supervisor or because he knew I was gay. (By then, he'd spoken to an number of other staff members who knew I was gay and who must have told him I was. I didn't hide it from anyone, but I wasn't a flamer either. It was just another part of me, like my hair color, or my weight, or my height.)

Most days, I had lunch in the upstairs lunchroom. Sometimes, Bill was up in the lunchroom too, with several other staff members, and we always seemed to enjoy each other's company. We talked a lot, often about off-color topics, and we laughed a lot too.

I'll never forget when a copy of "The WestEnder" was upstairs on the lunchroom table. Bill was leafing through the paper and got to the ads on the last few pages, the ones for escorts that were into nearly every scene any of the readers of the paper might be into. Bill read out some of the ads, putting lots of expression in his voice, and making them sound utterly ridiculous.

Finally, he picked up the phone in the lunchroom, dialed the number in one of the more colorful ads, and, in the most serious and sincere voice, talked to whoever was at the other end of the line about what services were available and what he was looking for. Of course, he wasn't interested in availing himself of the service at all; he was only interested in putting the person at the other end of the line on the spot with outrageous requests she seemed only too happy to accommodate. The rest of us in the lunchroom tried to stifle our laughter as we listened, but there was no way we could.

I don't remember how long Bill was with us before he got a transfer to a branch in downtown Vancouver. We said our good-byes and good lucks, and away Bill went, to pursue another opportunity.

Some time later, perhaps a number of months, I was in downtown Vancouver after work on a late Friday afternoon, snooping through several stores, and having dinner out. I lived on Beach Avenue at the time, so, unless I walked the distance, I had to take either the Davie bus all the way down Granville, then Davie. Or I had to take any bus down Granville, get off at Davie, wait for a Davie bus, or walk the rest of the way.

Across from The Bay on Granville, I boarded a bus. Since it was late in the afternoon, the bus was very crowded. As I was used to doing, I moved all the way down the aisle to make room for all the passengers that would get on the bus at the various stops down the street. At the back of the bus, I put my bag down, grabbed onto the handrail, steadied my feet, and got ready for the bus to lurch forward.

Right in front of me, sitting on the second to last seat in the bus, was Bill. I recognized him immediately, although I didn't remember his name; I've never been good with names. Feeling intimidated all over again, even though I'd once been his direct supervisor, I thought about how not to say anything to him. But I didn't want him to recognize me and think I was stuck up. And moving elsewhere in the bus was impossible, so I did what I should do. I said hi to him, smiled, and tried to make it look like I was pleased to see him again after such a long time.

From the reaction I received, you would have thought Bill had never seen me before, had no idea who I was. I was surprised, but I didn't let it affect me. I'd started the conversation now, so I felt I had to continue it.

I asked him how his new job was going at the branch downtown. He said fine, and proceeded to answer all of my subsequent questions with no more than one or two words. While I looked at him, he never looked at me. His eyes wandered all over the inside of the bus and out the window. He looked at the person sitting beside him, as if to make sure that person wasn't put off by him talking to me. I thought Bill was cold and aloof toward me, and I didn't immediately understand it.

But as the bus proceeded down Granville Street, packed with people all the way, I thought I recognized that expression on Bill's face--the same expression of utter disgust I'd seen on other people's faces, mostly my peers at school, when they saw me in the hallways, and were disgusted with me because they thought I was gay. Like them, I realized Bill didn't want to talk to me. I knew that he would have preferred if I hadn't acknowledged him at all--if I'd stood right in front of him and said not a word. He didn't want any one of the other passengers around us to see him talking to a faggot, and to think that, by association, he was a faggot too. I cut back on the conversation at that point. I'd run out of chirpy small talk anyway, especially for someone who didn't want to talk to me in the first place.

Fortunately, I wasn't on the Davie bus that late afternoon, and I had to get off at the corner of Granville and Davie. I said good-bye to Bill, wished him continued success in his new job, and left.

I never saw Bill again, but the effect of that brief and miserable interaction will be with me the rest of my life. All I could think about was, was I so despicable, so disgusting, so repulsive, that Bill, after me hiring him months earlier, and him getting along well with me as his direct supervisor, couldn't muster enough small talk to at least get through an unexpected encounter? Had he been that fake when he worked for me, sucking up any personal feelings he had about working with, and being supervised by, a gay man, that I couldn't really tell how he felt? Did it disgust him so much working with me that he simply couldn't tolerate a brief encounter on the bus months after I ceased being his supervisor? Could some people really be that two-faced, one way while they worked for you and another way altogether, when you longer wrote their performance reviews and they no longer had to pretend to like you anymore?

I have always felt insecure around other people, particularly football-player types like Bill, and this experience did nothing to help me in this regard. But, as I look back on it now, I know that Bill's reaction said more about his character and his prejudices than it did about me being gay. In my logical mind, I see this, and I know it shouldn't bother me. So, why, then, after all these years, do I remember this exchange so vividly, and do I still find myself hurt by it?

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Better Man

Chris is a constant source of inspiration for me. I admire him so much, and he sets such a good example. Almost on a daily basis, he proves to me that, between the two of us, he's clearly the better man.

For all of this to make sense, you need a little background detail.

I'm the uptight person in our relationship, and he's the laid back one (for those of you who already know the two of us, I didn't need to provide that information, did I?). Essentially, what this means is that everything bothers me, and nothing bothers him. On that basis alone, Chris is an inspiration. I still don't understand how he doesn't get crazed by some of the things that go on in our relationship, or at work, or in the world in general. Like I said, an inspiration. I know I should be a lot more like him.

Don't ask me why, but I seem to take pleasure in finding fault with Chris. I seem to want to point out something that he's done wrong, something that's annoyed me. I realize this is petty, but, the way I rationalize it is, Chris and I need to meet somewhere in the middle of being uptight and relaxed. In the end, I think he goes too far in his direction, and I go too far in mine. Sometimes, I feel I need to prod him into being a little more disciplined, or careful, or observant, or whatever it is. And, sometimes, he needs to show me that it really is all right to be more laid back, that the world won't come to an end just because something's happened that I don't like. After all, not everything needs to be a big, dramatic production, does it?

Let me give you a recent example. In the powder room off our kitchen on the main level of the house, we have a white hand towel. Chris is about the only person who ever washes his hands in this room, since I prepare most of the food in the kitchen and am used to washing my hands in the sink there.

The other day, I was in the powder room, and I noticed that the white hand towel had a large smudge of dirt over much of it. Right away, I knew Chris had done it, guessing that he doesn't clean his hands properly when he's in that room. Instead, he probably dangles his fingers briefly under the water, without using soap after he's been out in the yard working in the dirt, then wipes his hands on the towel. I can see him do it.

When he returned home that evening, and we'd settled in to having dinner, I asked him nicely if he'd use soap from now on when he washes his hands in the powder room. He objected and said that he does, but I was ready for his response. I told him I never wash my hands in that room, yet the white towel has smudges all over it. Busted. He knew it was useless to object further.

I hate to admit it, but I'm glad I had my facts together and could prove that he'd made the smudges on the towel. But, in light of what happened yesterday, I've had to reexamine why I bring things like this to Chris's attention in the first place; why it matters so much to me; why, in the case of the towel, I couldn't have just put it in the laundry, hung a fresh towel on the bar, and gotten on with life.

Why did I need him to be wrong? Or, maybe the question is, why did I need to be right? Why was making this point so important to me? Doesn't the "great" in our relationship far outweigh the bad, or the inconvenient, and I shouldn't I overlook all of the minor things that annoy me about a person that I love dearly and would never want to live my life without?

Back to what happened yesterday: I was at Coopers, a regional food store in our area, to buy a few items to get us through the rest of the week. After I returned to my car, I was about to pull out of the parking stall when I discovered I was boxed in by a couple of large trucks on either side. My visibility was bad, but, somehow, I needed to get out of the parking lot. Using the rearview mirror, I watched several vehicles come and go, so I put the car back in park and relaxed for a few moments until I was sure the coast was clear. Then I attempted to back out again.

That's when I heard the scraping sound. Immediately, I looked in my rearview mirror, and I realized that I'd hit another car. I couldn't believe this had happened, saying a few choice words. Where had that car come from? Hadn't he seen me try to pull out? Couldn't he have given me a break when he saw my car emerge slowly from between two trucks?

At any rate, the accident happened. I pulled the car back into the parking spot and got out to survey the damage to the other car, then to my own. The other car had sustained two extended surface scrapes on the rear driver's side that didn't seem to impact the body at all. Then, I walked back to my car, the one I share with Chris, the one that's only five years old, the one that's fully paid for, the one we plan to have for a long, long time--and I hoped and prayed the damage was minimal, so minimal, in fact, that you couldn't even see it.

Good luck with that. The rear left bumper was scraped in several locations, and there was one deep scratch, probably six inches or more long, that I knew would require body work to fix.

After the driver of the other car yelled at me for not seeing him, and after we exchanged contact and insurance information, I went to a local car body shop to find out how much it would cost to fix the damage. Much of it would clean off easily, but the deep scratch could only be repaired by removing the bumper, which would require additional work and expense. The damage? About $535.00 worth. Then, of course, there was the cost to fix the other car, if any work was needed.

Even though I did what I thought I could to safely back out of the parking spot, I discovered after making a claim with ICBC that the person pulling out of a parking spot is at fault if he hits another car because it's assumed he didn't use due care and attention before backing up.

I had to take full responsibility, I knew that, but I also had to deal with how Chris would react to what had happened. He doesn't get upset about anything, really, but I always assume the worst reaction from him because I know how I would react in the same situation, if he had been in an accident, resulting in damage to the car that would require us to spend money we'd rather spend elsewhere or save.

When I returned home, Chris and I spoke on the phone. I explained everything, and his response was essentially, "Oh, well, these things happen. That's life. Get over it."

I shouldn't be surprised by that reaction. Like I alluded before, Chris seldom gets upset. I think I've only seen him get upset a few times over the seventeen years we've been together, usually when he's frustrated at me because I've gone off the deep end about something. Other than that, there's nothing I've done that's been bad enough to anger him, and he's always been philosophical about everything, recognizing that, for example, in the case of the fender bender yesterday, no one was hurt, the damage was minimal, and life will go on.

Not even after Chris returned home from work and took a close look at the car did he get upset. In fact, he said he thought the damage was minor enough that we shouldn't even bother getting it repaired. Was it really worth us paying the money, whether the full amount or the amount of our deductible if we went through ICBC?

For the record, this is where he and I differ. In a previous post, I wrote about being a perfectionist, so my position would always be to repair even minor damage, because who wants to drive around a newer car with scrapes all over the rear bumper? Shouldn't we try to return the car to as perfect a condition as possible (even though it's far from perfect after owning it for five years). In my opinion, sometimes, I think Chris needs to be more uptight about things, so that matters like this get his attention and he's more motivated to take care of them.

But, here's my point: I was upset with him for making dirt smudges on a white hand towel, to the extent that I had to bring it to his attention and catch him in a lie, and he wasn't the least bit upset that I'd been driving the car when it was involved in a minor accident that would cost us a minimum of $300 or a maximum of $535 to repair--not to mention the cost of repairs to the other car, whatever those were.

Chris knew I was already upset with myself for what had happened, so I'm sure he didn't want to make me feel worse. Which is reason one why he's the better man. But, as I watched him take a look at the car and talked to him afterward, seeing he wasn't at all upset, I felt so grateful that I share my life with such a wonderful and warm human being. And that he's not a carbon copy of me.

And I felt so petty for all the many times I've pointed out to him something he's done, however minor, that resulted in something I didn't like or that I was upset about. Let's see: A dirty white towel, or a minor car accident. Let's put this into perspective. If anyone had the right to be upset, who should it be?

Yet that's not the way Chris operates. It's just not the way he's put together. And what I'm left doing in situations like these is watching the grace with which he handles them. I never feel marginalized, or insulted, or worse about myself. I'm always aware of the way he puts me first and ensures there are no hard feelings between us. Because, after all, relationships are full of little things that annoy or piss off or upset, right? But, really, the most important thing is that other person who shares your life with you, and that you love with all your heart. How could anything else matter after that?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Am I the Problem?

Maybe you can answer this question for me: Am I the problem? Do I continue to make being gay an issue? Or am I justified in my actions?

The other day, Chris and I moved a number of boxes in our family room so we could prepare a wall for an electrician to look at where we're scheduled to have a built-in bookcase installed. Among the things we needed to move were several DVD sets, which were taken out of a moving box some weeks ago but not returned. Many of these sets were several seasons of a well-known Showtime program portraying gay men called "Queer as Folk." The boxed covers depict males who are obviously gay because of what they wear and how they are positioned together.

As I put the boxes down, still visible from the area where the built-in will go, I saw them in my hands and, instinctively, moved them around in such a way that they would be covered up or disguised, so that the title of the series and the pictures on the boxes wouldn't appear. I didn't want the electrician to see them, to realize Chris and I are gay, and, potentially, to take a negative attitude toward us, even though it's inside our own home we're talking about here.

You might well ask, how do I know the electrician would have a negative attitude towards gay people. I don't for sure, of course. But, believe me, when you've been gay your whole life, when you've encountered a lot of people, and some of them almost imperceptibly showed how they felt about gay people, you develop a sense for this sort of thing. You see how they change sometimes in your presence, how ill-at-ease they become, and you know how uncomfortable they make you as a result.

But, in the case of the electrician, did I jump the gun? Did I just assume I'd get a negative attitude and, therefore, took appropriate measures to avoid it? Or did I not give him a fair chance to prove to me that he didn't have an issue with gay people?

Another example: When I'm on the phone, as I was today with a large corporation, and I'm asked the name of my partner, I always pause giving Chris's name. Yes, Chris is short for either Christopher or Christine. But, most of the time, the person I'm talking to figures out through our conversation that Chris is male. Often I can't avoid using the pronoun "he" when referring to Chris, even though I try. Obviously, there's no question then that Chris and I are gay and in a relationship.

Why do I hesitate giving Chris's name? Am I making an assumption that the person on the phone, after discovering that I'm gay and Chris and I are in a relationship together, will treat me differently, because he or she naturally has prejudices against gay people? Or am I simply protecting myself because I've taken so much teasing in the past over being gay that I just don't want to bring that on myself again?

A final example: When the moving company from Victoria delivered our possessions to the house in __________, I overheard one of the fellows bringing in furniture say that Chris and I were brothers. I took note of his comment immediately, and I wanted to correct him. I wanted him to know that Chris and I are gay, that we're a couple, and that he shouldn't make assumptions about two men living together.

But I chose not to take on this battle. I made a quick decision that, in the end, all I wanted was our possessions to arrive safely in the house, and I knew I'd never see him again anyway. What would be the point of making clear that Chris and I are a gay couple?

Except it's yet another example where I didn't stand up for myself, where I allowed someone to make assumptions about us, where I missed the opportunity to clarify, to inform, and, potentially, to expand awareness.

The lives of gay men and couples are filled with these situations, where we feel we need to hide who we are in one way or another because we just don't want to cause any trouble, or because we don't want to make someone feel uncomfortable around us, or because we don't want to risk people's attitudes changing toward us.

But every time we do this, we invalidate who we are. We marginalize the individuals we are and the relationship we share with the most important person in our lives. All because we don't want other people to know about us, or we don't want to face any negativity that may come our way.

I'm all for making other people feel comfortable, but at what price? I've been an out gay male for twenty-five years, and I've been in a relationship with another gay male for over seventeen years--a relationship every bit as committed as that shared between heterosexual couples. But our society still makes assumptions when they see two men together, particularly when the two men are seen together all the time, in the same places. And those assumptions can lead either to a positive reaction, a negative one, or indifference.

As gay men, we never know what to expect when it comes to people's reactions toward us, and we sure as hell don't want to feel any of the negativity we were subjected to when we were in grade school, and the children there had no tolerance for us at all. In some respects, I think it's just easier to assume people will respond to us negatively, just like the kids at school did all those years ago, and to take appropriate measures to ensure that doesn't happen. But, every time we do this, we allow a little bit of who we are to fall away, and we become less and less the full human beings we were meant to be.

So, I ask you: Am I the problem? Because of my actions and reactions, do I allow being gay to continue being an issue when, possibly for most people, it's not? Or do I do what is necessary under the circumstances, not giving people the benefit of a doubt, because I've been burned too many times before and can't bring that upon myself even one more time?

Setting an Example

In early 2002, Chris and I took a trip to Mexico. Through work, I'd been awarded a five-day trip to Cancun, during which the company had planned a number of activities for us to participate in if we were interested. One of them was a jeep rally that involved us driving from the hotel zone down the east coast to a small, impoverished Mexican village named Tulum, and back again.

On the return trip, Chris, feeling sick and lethargic, drove the jeep while I sat in the front passenger seat. In the back seat was a gay couple we'd gotten to know over the previous few days. We'd attended many of the events together, talked about everything, laughed our faces off, and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.

At one point, I turned to the couple behind us, their hair blowing wildly in the wind, and I asked them, "Do you think you have a responsibility to other gay people through the example you set as a couple?"

Earlier, we had talked about being out to colleagues, being a visible example of gay people in a long-term relationship, proving gay relationships work, conducting yourself in a respectable manner, living lives in an upstanding way--all to help other people, no matter their sexual orientation, to see another aspect of gay life, one not often portrayed in the media or in life. The answer I received was, "No," and, while I was disappointed, I had no choice but to respect it.

But, as far as I'm concerned, whether we're aware of it or not, known gay people are always under scrutiny while in public, and how they conduct themselves, I believe, can have an effect on what people think about gay people in general, and how they are likely to react toward other gay people in the future.

When I still worked for one of Canada's largest financial institutions, there were numerous occasions when Chris and I presented ourselves as a couple in social situations. Our social committee planned several events during the year, including bowling, eating out, hiking, mini-golf, kayaking, annual Christmas parties, and the like. Husbands, wives, partners, children, and friends of employees were always welcome, so, of course, Chris and I participated in the events together as a couple.

As much as I wanted to show my support for the social committee's efforts by attending the events, and as much as I knew I'd enjoy myself spending time with some of my colleagues outside of work, I also knew Chris and I had a responsibility, as a gay couple, to present ourselves in the most favorable way possible, both to make other people feel more comfortable with us, and to set an example.

I was aware some of my colleagues might be uneasy with us around, particularly if they were with children and found themselves having to explain how Chris and I were related. But we always conducted ourselves in the most upstanding manner to ensure we didn't embarrass ourselves or anyone else.

Sometimes, flag waving isn't necessary. Sometimes, we don't have to attract attention to ourselves to make a point. Sometimes, the quietest "demonstration" is the most effective. All that's required is going about your daily business in a positive way, interacting with other people, so that good impressions are made, stereotypes are broken, and acceptance is given a change to flourish.

In the seventeen years that Chris and I have been together, do I think we, in the way we've conducted ourselves in social settings, have set a good example of what gay people and couples are like, and helped to change people with negative opinions of gays? I hope so. If the way we are today has made the road smoother for someone else tomorrow, then I will be one happy person.

Did Chris and I ever receive any kind of negative vibes from people who encountered us and clearly didn't approve of us or our living situation? Sure. There are still bigots out there. There are still people who, no matter how much evidence to the contrary, will always hold negative opinions of gay people, for religious reasons or otherwise, and it's not presenting ourselves in a positive manner that will change their minds.

But I'm pleased to report that, by and large, most of the people we encountered during our social events at work accepted Chris and me openly, and they were completely supportive. I think they were the type of people who respected the diversity of people in general, and I believe we added another dimension to the social makeup of all those who participated.

But our job continues. As long as Chris and I are a couple--which I hope will be for the rest of our lives--we will be in a position to help people become more comfortable with what may not be familiar to them. It's our job to make them feel more at ease in the company of gay people. It's their job to be open to accepting gay people in their lives and in their hearts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Glass Closet

I just finished reading an interesting article in issue #416 of "XTRA West," the local GLBT newspaper. In it, Ivan E. Coyote, a writer who is a lesbian, writes how thankful she is to lesbians who are feminine, wear typical female attire (as opposed to lumber jackets and work boots), and break the stereotype of what lesbians look like. She says that her "closet was always made of glass," to the extent that everyone knew by looking at her that she was gay. But this was not the case for feminine lesbians, who may have surprised people when they came out, who may have confused straight men hitting on them, and who Coyote seems to bestow special status on because they weren't like her.

I wish I could say that I'm thankful for gay men who are masculine (is this an oxymoron?), but I'm not. Not by a long shot. In the world of gay men, which I've written about before, those who are masculine looking and acting are preferable to those who are effeminate. The reason for this is obvious: Our world still doesn't embrace being gay. If you don't look and act gay--that is, if you can pass for being straight--then you are more acceptable. You fit the standard norm, and no one, gay or straight, has to deal with you as a gay individual.

The truth is that we need to live in a world where it doesn't matter if you're a feminine lesbian or a masculine gay. Where you're not preferable or better because you break the stereotype. As much as butch lesbians might yearn to be feminine, or effeminate gays might yearn to be masculine, the fact is that we are what we are, and we should be good enough just as we are.

Being gay, whether female or male, shouldn't be more acceptable just because you fit some mold of what straight looks like. But the first step in making this change is with the gay community itself. Coyote has to embrace her masculine tendencies in the same way that I know I need to embrace my feminine tendencies, the very ones that have distressed me most of my life and that I've worked hard over the years to downplay. Only when there is no special status bestowed on masculine gays and feminine lesbians--that is, they are not recognized in any way that puts down those who are not like them--will we be able to accept ourselves, just as we are.

Human First, Gay Last

I hate the word "homosexual."

I hate it because it has the word sex in it; and because, for that reason, it's distracting for a lot of people; and because it's an easy label for people to compartmentalize people like me; and because it focuses people on something that's none of their business; and because it emphasizes sex over every other aspect of being gay; and because it makes sex seem like the basis of my relationship with Chris; and because it allows people to think that all homosexuals do is have sex; and because it has negative connotations.

I hate the word "gay."

I hate it because it's an easy label for people to compartmentalize people like me; and because it's a perfectly good word in the English language that has negative connotations, preventing straight people from using it unless labeling someone who's homosexual; and because I'm not the least bit gay about being a homosexual; and because it's too simple a word for something that's so complex; and because it's often the first word used to describe someone, instead of words like intellectual, or writer, or human being.

I'm a human being first, and a homosexual or a gay last.

In the meantime, I'll continue to work on finding a word that appropriately captures the beauty of life and love that is shared between two men.


This past Saturday, I read an article in "The Vancouver Sun" entitled "Homosexuality, religion and acceptance." Written by columnist Douglas Todd, he commented that, after including statistics on his blog around how people with different religious affiliations see homosexuality, the responses he received were difficult to read.

Here's a direct quote from the article:

'Many of the hundreds of ostensibly anonymous comments that flowed in from readers are not for the faint of heart. A minority of the commentators...treat homosexuals with disgust. It comes pretty close to promoting hatred (which is illegal in Canada) when homosexuals are uniformly described as "sick," "dirty," "unhygienic," "sinful," "arrogant," having "no principles," "immoral," "condemned in the Bible," "a health risk," "horny," "prone to psychiatric disorders," "lustful" and "going to hell."'

Wow! When I first read that, I was stunned. For all the advances that have been made in the acceptance of gays and lesbians over the past forty years since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, we still have a long way to go. While a majority of people may well be supportive of gays and lesbians now, it's the more vocal and hate-filled, religious minority that give us reason to pause, and that create a world in which gays and lesbians must be fearful, just because of our sexual orientation.

I don't plan to go through each of the highly descriptive words or phrases above to discount how they don't necessarily apply to gay people, or how they may apply to all people--gay, straight, or otherwise. The fact that they are directed, in this case, toward gays and lesbians tells me there are still a lot of stereotypes out there, and there's still a lot of unnecessary hate toward people who are different and misunderstood. So much for the benefit of having religious affiliation when it comes to the love of God for all people.

We've come so far, but we still have so far to go.

Finding "The One" -- Update

On June 24, 2009, I wrote a post entitled 'Finding "The One,"' with suggestions for gay men on how to find the right people to share their lives with. I based my information on the relationship I share with Chris, my own partner. After all, I was alone and lonely before I found him, and, now, we've been together seventeen years, in a completely monogamous and committed relationship. I figured I might have some advice that would be helpful to others.

But I forgot one very, VERY important step in the list of advice I gave.

Prior to meeting Chris and settling down into "wedded" bliss--no, Chris and I are not officially married, even though we could get married in the province of British Columbia if we wanted to--I had several "affairs" with young, gay men. Fortunately, none of them ever resulted in a long-term relationship. I say "fortunately," of course, because, had I taken up house-keeping with any one of these guys, I wouldn't have been available when the right one, Chris, came along.

In some cases, the fellows I saw had no intention of settling down with anyone. For their own reasons, they were more interested in being with a lot of different men, and indulging in physical pleasure, than in building a lasting relationship. Often, I think this had something to do with homophobia on their part, where it was easier to enjoy a short period of intense, physical passion than it was to deal with issues of self-hatred that prevented them from accepting their sexual orientation or that of someone else.

Thus, we arrive at my point. If a relationship is your goal, perhaps more than anything else, both you, and the young man you want to be with, must be extremely comfortable with being gay. Because, if either one of you is the slightest bit uncomfortable, you are not ready for a relationship.

If you hate yourself because you're gay, you will not be able to accept being with another man who is also gay. You will see in him what you hate most about yourself, and, consciously or unconsciously, you will push him away, emotionally at first, then physically, when becoming a little more serious about each other scares you from making a commitment.

When I met Chris, he was just twenty-three years old. In many respects, he was immature and still had some growing up to do. But, in one respect, he far surpassed the previous men I'd dated, many of them several or more years older than him. Chris was utterly comfortable with his homosexuality. It didn't bother him in the least that he wanted to be with a man rather than a woman. For him, connecting with another man was natural and normal and right. He had no qualms with committing beyond physically connecting.

From my perspective, the single factor that accounts for the success of our relationship over all these years is the comfort level each of us has around his sexual orientation. I think in some respects, both of us will have things to deal with for the rest of our lives related to being gay. But, when it came to connecting with each other, had one or both of us not been in a place where he could accept his homosexuality enough to give himself completely to the other person, we wouldn't be together today. In fact, we might not have made it past our first week or month together, let alone the past seventeen years.

It takes a big man to accept his homosexually. Sadly, because of the way society messes up our heads by telling us that being gay is unacceptable, many gay men never arrive at the point when they can accept themselves--so ingrained is their self-loathing--and they will never connect with other men in the ways that would be the most meaningful for them.

One of the most intimate ways we can be with other human being is through sex. But an even more intimate way is by connecting emotionally, which is one of the most compelling reasons for being in a relationship. Unfortunately, many gay men will only ever know the physical pleasure and release involved in sex. They will never know that deep and enduring love that is possible between two people, who are prepared to give themselves without reserve to each other.