Friday, March 26, 2010


Over the years, I've given greeting cards to Chris on every occasion I can (someone should come out with a line of non-pornographic greeting cards for gay men):  Valentine's Day, our anniversary (taken from the day we met), his birthday (November 6), and Christmas--each one an opportunity to remind him that I love him dearly.

Some time ago, we met another gay couple for coffee, at which they introduced us to Michael (an ex-colleague of one of them), who laughingly lamented that he was in his forties and still single.  When Michael asked us a few questions about our relationship, I told him Chris is an absolute blessing in my life; that I'm not the easiest person to live with; and that he has the patience of a saint, which probably accounts for why we're still together.  When I have the opportunity to share how I feel about Chris, I do it.  I'm not ashamed of my feelings for him or to make other people aware of them.

The fact that I'm fortunate enough to have such a special person in my life is utterly incredible to me.  Incredible, because I recall feeling, seemingly not so long ago, that I would spend the rest of my life alone.  I had come to terms that that, even though I wasn't happy about it.  And incredible, because Chris and I have fared better in our relationship than most straight people we know.  I'm sure more than a few of our relatives wonder how it is that Chris and I have been together for almost eighteen years, and that we're still happy as hell, when they're long divorced or still single.  It all surprises me too.  I can't believe it.

But I think about it often because I don't want to take what I have for granted.  People change.  Circumstances between people change.  One day, one wants to go out on his own, pursue career opportunities or interests elsewhere, spend time with different people, and the other is left to wonder what happened, where things went wrong, what he could have done differently to keep the relationship going.  Sometimes, no one is at fault. That's just the way it works out.

In other words, I can't afford to be complacent.  I have to live in each minute and treasure all of the time I have together with Chris.  Everything ends sooner or later.  That's the nature of life on earth.  I don't want a single regret that I didn't take full advantage of the limited time we had together, even if that time is measured in decades.

Sometimes, I look at this young man I share my life with, and I wonder how it's possible that he and I are together.  Beyond the fact that I believe I deserve to be in a good relationship--there are lots of people who deserve to be in good relationships, but, for one reason or another, they aren't--I think it's nothing short of a miracle that two people with completely different backgrounds and experiences come into each other's lives.

How did it happen that we were at the same place, on the same night, at the same time, and that his trajectory crossed mine, bringing us together, and forever changing our lives as individuals?  Coincidence?  I don't believe in coincidences.  The miracle of our relationship confirms for me more than ever that there is no such thing as coincidence.  Everything happens exactly as it's intended.  Of that we can be certain.

But even after we met, anything could have prevented us from staying together.  He could have had a change of heart about me, which has certainly happened before with other men I met.  For whatever reason, they thought the better about staying with me and working on a life together.  Not what they were looking for.  Too high maintenance.  Too sexually inhibited.  Too nelly, as one fellow I saw once say (understandably, I was happy to see him go).  Just not right in some undefinable way.  Endless reasons exist for why one person is not right for another, take your pick, some more arbitrary than others.

Not only is it a miracle that two people ever meet, but also it's a miracle that they ever stay together, given all of the influences around them.  And gay men are particularly bad at this, often thinking with their dicks and not with their heads--and their hearts.  Strangely, for many, it's far easier to give of themselves physically, stripping in front of total stranger and engaging in intimate acts of sex, than emotionally risking the possibility of getting hurt.  Love is not without its risks, that's for sure, but I can't think of any better reason to take a risk.

When we first met, I worried that Chris was too young, that he hadn't experienced enough of life yet, sexually and otherwise, to know what he wanted, and what he didn't want.  That he would find the uphill battle to keep our relationship going, especially in the beginning, too daunting, and decide that he needed more time on his own as a single man, to mature into himself, to find out who he was, before he became defined by a relationship.  In other words, I worried that I'd lose Chris before he was ever mine.

But that's what was so beautiful about him.  Because of his youth, relative to me, and his lack of experience, he was open to me and to the possibility of us.  He wasn't jaded, or cynical, or filled with unreasonable expectations, based on being with many other gay men before me.  He was fresh, and innocent, almost childlike, even though he was very much a young man in charge of himself.

We took things one day at a time.  Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and our relationship persisted through many challenges, large and small.  Both of us must have found in each other something worth hanging on to.  We gave each other a fair chance, we didn't bail when circumstances became tough, and we remained committed to what we had together.

Today, I can honestly say that I know love--real, meaningful, true, spectacular, multidimensional, unconditional love--because of Chris.  What did I do to deserve him, to deserve us?  Sometimes I ask, why him?  And why me?

I could have ended up with someone very different from Chris.  I look back at some of my brief affairs over the years, and I wonder what my life would be like today if one of them had lasted longer than just a few days or weeks.  Would we still be together today?  I doubt it.  Some of the fellows I was with had great qualities, but most of them were lost, looking for something that doesn't exist, thinking a real relationship is built on the superficial.  They'd never given themselves the chance to see how much more exists below the surface.

No, I ended up with exactly the right one for me, and, to this day, our relationship is an utter mystery.  That's the only way to look at it.  Who am I to question how it happened, or to worry that it may not have at all?  All I need to be now is grateful that it did (which I am beyond measure), to recognize how truly blessed I am every single day, and to know that miracles really do happen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Still Coming Out

Last Sunday, Chris and I went to Ikea Coquitlam.  We were there for my sister and her boyfriend.  They plan to buy a place together in the next few months, and the reason for our trip was to find a number of items to help stage her townhouse before potential buyers arrive for viewings.

Debbie asked for my help because she likes how I decorated our house in Maple Ridge, and because, well, I'm gay, and, as she says, I got all the decorating genes and she got none.  In fact, not only did she not get any decorating genes, she's hopeless.  Utterly hopeless.  You'll have to take my word for it that she needs help.  

Anyway, I should have known Ikea would be crazy busy.  What a gong show.  The whole store was swarming with people.  Generally, there's ample space to move around the wide aisles and displays, and to take a breath, but not so much then.  I think half the Lower Mainland was there.

It was on that stage of people all around us that I became aware of some of them watching me, particularly the straight young men, their pretty wives close by.  What was that look on their faces?  Did they see something that surprised or perplexed them?  Was that disgust?  I couldn't be sure, but I didn't need to be a UBC graduate to figure out why they were looking.  

When Chris and I are out in public together, we're pretty much low key.  Over time, I've made a conscious effort to downplay some of my tendencies so as not to attract negative attention to me or to us.  But this is not a problem for Chris.  He's the man in the relationship, and, like straight men, his gay tendencies, if he has any, are well in check.  In fact, I think he could pass for straight.  If anyone gives us away, it's me.  

It's not that I was gesturing wildly in the middle of Ikea, or sibilating, or that I'd turned up my flame so high that the ceiling nearly caught fire.  But there I was, zeroing in on specific areas of the store (we were in a bit of a hurry), taking stock of items, and expressing opinions about them loud enough for people around us to overhear.  Was it what I said or how I said it?  Perhaps.  Whatever it was, I became aware that I was doing it, and I stopped doing it right away.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't live my life for anyone else.  Who cares if people's attention is drawn to me because they figure out I'm gay?  I am gay, for goodness sake.  I'll always be gay, whether I like it or not.  What's the use in trying to hide it?  Besides, I knew I'd never see these people again, so what did it matter if I said the word "fabulous" a few too many times?  

No, the issue for me wasn't what other people saw when they looked at me, but what I saw of myself in their gazes.  I didn't see how I'd most like to project myself, what I'd most like people to see in me, what I'd most like to be.  I didn't see the masculinity that seems to be so effortless for straight men, and for a few gay men who are able to hide their sexual orientation better than others.  

Remnants of low self-esteem?  You bet.  Internalized homophobia?  Absolutely.  Am I angry at myself?  Sure.  Fifty years in, better off now than I've ever been in terms of being settled in my own skin and in my life, I still feel those pangs of shame rise up when I let my guard down and allow who I really am out of the closet.

Does anyone have the right to judge me because I'm gay?  Not a chance, and, in most circumstances, I wouldn't tolerate it.  But it's not anyone I'm worried about.  It's me.

Monday, March 22, 2010


This past Saturday afternoon, Chris was out working on the landscaping in our front yard.  The sky had become cloudy since the morning, but the temperature was still early-spring balmy.  Many of our neighbors were out, including two children from several houses down.  One was Ally, about five or six, and her sister Maddy, about three.  Ally is a big fan of earthworms.  As Chris was digging in the soil and found worms, he gave them to Ally in her little hand.  Believe me, that little girl has more guts handling earthworms than I do.

Anyway, close behind the girls was their mother, also named Chris.  Ally's fascination with worms opened up conversation between her mother and me.  We both laughed at how ready Ally was to dig in the sandy soil with her bare hands looking for worms, and how delighted she was when she found one.  Neither one of us could figure out where this interest came from, but the main thing was Ally already had respect for nature by ensuring she didn't hurt the worms.  She only wanted to hold them and let them droop in her fingers to make me sick.

Last spring, Chris, Ally and Maddy's mother, saw that we had workmen in our front yard, cutting up hardwood floor boards.  "You put hardwood in your place, didn't you?" Chris asked.  She asked other questions about our floor, so I thought she might as well come in the house and take a look for herself.  The next thing I knew, I was showing her many of the other changes we've made to the house since we moved here.

After she had the tour, she asked if her husband, Warren, could come over and have a look sometime.  She was especially interested in the hardwood floor and the crown moulding in the sitting/dining room and kitchen, and she wanted Warren to see them too because they were planning to make similar changes to their house.  "Have him come over now if he's home," I offered.  Minutes later, I formally introduced Chris and me to them, and then I brought them in the house.

Just inside the front door afterward, Chris, Warren, and I talked about the similarities in our houses, how the floor plans are exact, how they have a large window in the dining room area, while we have two narrow windows (one of the perks of living on a corner), and how different the two houses look, even though they are technically identical.  All in all, I found Warren and Chris to be good people, and I was embarrassed that we hadn't introduced ourselves much sooner.

Outside, Chris and I talked with Chris and Warren a little longer.  Then, Ally's mom told her daughter that it was time to put the worms down because they had to return home for dinner.  Ally wanted to know if she could come back after she ate, knock on our door, and ask Chris to come out and play with her so she could dig in the dirt and find more worms.  "You'll have to wait until he's outside again," Ally's mother told her.  Kids.

I relate this brief story because I wondered, after Warren, Chris, Ally, and Maddy returned home, what they thought about Chris and me, two men living together, obviously not relatives and more than just friends.  I wondered if Ally, a bright little girl by all counts, would ask her parents why there wasn't a mommy and a daddy living at our house, just like at all the other houses in the neighborhood.  And I wondered how Warren and Chris, who had been warm and friendly with Chris and me, would answer that question.

Surely, they wouldn't go into any detail about us being gay--after all, how do you carefully explain that to a six year old without getting into the whole sex thing?  But I thought, given how open minded they seemed to be, Warren and Chris had such a great opportunity with their daughter to create an understanding, even an acceptance, of Chris's and my living arrangement.  Seeing it firsthand, perhaps she, and even her younger sister, would think nothing of two men living together and liking each other, just like mommy and daddy like each other.

The opportunity rests in the hands of people like Warren and Chris.  If they are bigoted and prejudiced against gay people, to some degree, that will be passed on to their children, continuing the cycle of intolerance into the future.  If, however, Warren and Chris are opened minded, as they seemed to be, and don't have a problem taking the opportunity to explain to their children the ways in which people are different, whatever the difference may be, then we can be hopeful that the younger people coming up, the ones who will run our world years from now, will be equipped with what they need to accept people for who they are.

I'm hopeful this is the case with Ally and Maddy, and all the children in our neighborhood, who, having seen Chris and me come and go, work in our yard, and interact with them, their parents, and others, will help to make being gay a non-issue in the near future.                    

Friday, March 19, 2010


Some years ago, shortly after Chris and I moved in together, we spent time with one of his colleagues, whom I'll call Peter, outside of work.  We were invited over to each other's apartments, we had dinner together, and we went out to movies.  Peter was in his late forties at the time.  He was gay too, but, to my knowledge, he'd always spent his life alone.  He had his interests outside of work, but they seldom  included other people.  I felt sorry for Peter.  While Chris's and my relationship wasn't all perfect then, I was thrilled to have met someone like him a couple of years earlier, and I saw the potential in what we had between us.  I guess I thought everyone, including Peter, should know how great it felt to be in love with another human being.

I don't know how it happened--possibly because Chris and I recommended that he try it, or possibly because we had set a good example--but Peter started to look through the personal ads in "The WestEnder."  I considered this a breakthrough for him.  Knowing Peter as I did, I couldn't imagine him taking an interest in personal ads to find someone to spend time with, let alone to fall in love with.  I was encouraged that Peter just might open up himself to the possibly of being in a relationship at his age, that he might find himself a lot happier as a result, and that he might be a little kinder and gentler in his interactions with people, specifically his coworkers.  A bachelor for many years, Peter was set in his ways, and I was convinced that if he met the right person, he might loosen up a bit and realize there were more important things than living life to satisfy yourself all the time.  

Incredibly, Peter found an ad that interested him, and he responded to it.  I'm not clear on all of the details, but, before long, Chris told me that Peter and the fellow who'd placed the ad met, and they'd hit it off.  In fact, over little more than a few weeks, Peter's life turned upside down.  They seemed compatible, they enjoyed each other's company, and they spent a lot of time together.  Chris told me that, as a result, Peter was a different person at work.  He was friendlier, easier to get along with, and happier than his colleagues had ever seen him.  Every time I asked Chris about how things were going for Peter, he had more good news to share.  Peter seemed to have found himself the ideal man and the ideal relationship.  I was thrilled for him, but more than a little skeptical too.

It didn't make sense to me that, first time out, Peter had found the perfect man for him.  After coming out in 1986 at the age of 26, I had spent time with several young men, both in Kelowna and later in Vancouver, and I'd learned firsthand how truly challenging it is for two people to find each other, let alone be compatible enough to build a life together.  Most of my "affairs" had lasted a few days, a few several weeks, but all had broken up for a myriad of reasons, teaching me about myself along the way and preparing me for when the real thing came along.  And, between those affairs, I'd subsisted for very long periods in the desert of aloneness and loneliness, finding myself increasingly wondering if there was indeed the right person for everyone.  By the time I turned thirty-two, ancient by gay men's standards, I was doubtful the man for me was out there, and I began to accept the possibility that I would be alone for the rest of my life.  Then along came Chris, and I won't bother repeating all of the details about our early relationship that I've written about in multiple posts here already.

Every time Chris told me yet more good news about how well Peter's relationship was going, I grew increasingly disgruntled.  I wanted the best for Peter, don't get me wrong, but I wondered why I'd had so much difficulty finding Chris when Peter had apparently found his version of Chris on the first attempt.  That didn't seem right to me, or fair.  Perhaps the universe had been on Peter's side, recognizing he was already in his late 40s, in need of human companionship, and deserving of good things.  I couldn't begrudge him his good fortune.  That's the way circumstances turned out sometimes.  There was no accounting for why some people seemed to be luckier than others in the arena of finding love, but, if that was the case, then it was meant to be.  I had nothing to complain about.  I already had Chris, and I loved him very much.

One day after work, Chris returned home and announced that Peter and his partner were moving in together.  I stopped what I was doing and stared at him.  How long had they been seeing each other?  A month?  Two at most?  And they were moving in together?  Chris and I had waited ten months before we decided to move in together, a length of time that seems hasty to me now but that, at the time, felt right because I knew how much I loved Chris and how eager I was to get on with living as a real gay couple.  I'd wanted cohabitation, and everything that went along with it, ever since my early twenties and long before I came out as a gay man.  It just seemed like the ideal living arrangement for me.  I'd been single and lived on my own long enough.  I knew what being alone was all about, and I didn't like it.  I didn't understand other single people who said they preferred living alone.  What was so great about it?  When I was alone, I always felt like something was missing, like my life and my heart could be fuller.

For the next several weeks, Chris provided occasional updates on what Peter and his partner were doing to get ready to move in together.  As arrangements continued to be made, I had to concede that maybe, just maybe, this was really going to happen.  Perhaps it was time to drop the cynicism, even the negativity, that Peter and his lover were moving a little too fast, that they hadn't known each other long enough, really, to take such a big step, that both of them could potentially regret not taking enough time to ensure cohabiting was the right thing to do.  Perhaps I just had to accept that when some people know, they know, and it wasn't for me to judge whether something that wasn't right for me shouldn't be right for them.  Besides, I wasn't directly involved.  What did I care?  I didn't want Peter to get hurt, but neither Chris nor I was in a position to talk to him about the breakneck speed at which his personal life seemed to be moving along.  Besides, Peter was old enough to make his own decisions and, if things didn't work out, old enough to handle it.

Well, a few days later, Chris told me that Peter had told him he and his partner weren't moving in together after all.  In fact, not only were they not moving in together, they had decided to break up.  After everything between Peter and his partner had been so hot and heavy since they'd met, I was taken aback by this news but not surprised.  What the hell had happened, I asked Chris.  Peter and his lover had decided things were moving way too fast. Apparently, in the heat of all the arrangements they were making, they'd discovered things about each other that they hadn't known and that had surprised them.  Perhaps they didn't have as much in common as they had originally thought.  Perhaps the two of them had jumped too quickly to the falling head-over-heels stage without knowing each other as human beings and individuals.  Perhaps they'd both been alone for too long, were too eager to be with someone else, and had been blind to some of the realities of living with another person.

To go from the exhilaration of moving in together one minute to breaking up the next must have made Peter's head spin, never mind what it did to his heart.  Over the next number of weeks, Peter withdrew from the rest of the people in the office.  Where they had seen a difference in him before, kinder, friendlier, and more personable to interact with, he became the exact opposite.  Peter didn't say much to anyone about how he was hurting--in fact, other than Chris, I don't think anyone else in the office even knew what had happened to him over the previous months.  Chris knew that Peter was gay, but none of the other people knew, although I'm sure they had their suspicions.  Peter didn't think they had any business knowing about his personal life, and he seemed to prefer being aloof, even gruff, with his colleagues rather than show warmth and vulnerability. Before long, Peter was back to his old self, and his coworkers were left wondering what had overcome him and been just as quickly withdrawn.

Peter's tale is a sad one that affects me every time I think of it.  In the intervening years, he's opened up his life and his heart to no one else.  He responded to no more personal ads, and he made no efforts to meet anyone new.  Just as his life was before responding to the personal ad and his whirlwind romance, so it became afterward, and, to this day, Peter lives alone.  He's in his sixties now, retired, and he moved out of the West End to a small community in the Fraser Valley.  His mother died of cancer a while back, and he himself had a bout of cancer a number of years ago, which he's still recovering from.  With his mother gone and no true friends that I'm aware of, I imagine Peter went through his cancer ordeal by himself.  I have to wonder how tough that was for him.  During the warm months, Peter spends time in his garden, and he likes to go on hikes, spending a lot of time outdoors.  During the cold months, he shares his life with his cats, and he keeps to himself.  At the end of the day, he's alone.  He eats his meals alone, he watches TV alone, and he goes to bed alone.  I can't help but feel sorry for him, especially since I know there is so much more out there for people who are willing to take the risk to open their lives and their hearts to it.      

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Questions? Comments?

Yesterday, I received a comment from Kama on one of my recent posts about writing a novel.  Kama said that my blog was relatively new to him, but that he was more interested in reading details about my relationship with my partner, Chris, and that he wanted me to write more on that subject (which I told him I plan to do).  I appreciate his position.  After all, the name of this blog is "This Gay Relationship," and, lately, I've been writing about anything but.

My response to Kama was, first, to encourage him to read any of the posts I've written over the past thirteen months under the Labels "gay relationship" and "being gay."  Altogether, I've written a total of 119 posts on these two subjects, covering many different aspects of what Chris's and my life together is like, and many of the ongoing issues I've had with being gay.  I think many blog readers have a tendency to focus on only the most recent posts, when the blog may in fact contain a good deal more interesting information on posts written much earlier.  Don't worry--I refer to myself here more than to anyone else.

At any rate, if nothing else, I've proven in what I've written thus far, on a wide variety of subjects, that I'm willing to write about almost anything when it comes to sharing information about "this gay relationship" or what being gay is all about for me.  My hope has always been to say something that will resonate with my readers, that will be helpful, or that will make them feel they're not alone in the way they think or feel.  

So that said, I came up with this idea:  If you have any questions about my gay relationship, go ahead and ask.  If you are part of a gay couple already, and you've always wondered what another gay couple does in certain situations; or if you are gay and single, and you have any questions about what it's like to be in a gay relationship, I encourage you to ask.  I'm open to just about any question you might have, I will do my best to answer everything, and I invite you to help improve my blog by enriching it with your contribution.

I've written about a lot already, but, who knows, maybe I haven't touched on a subject that's really important to you.  Or maybe I have, but you'd like me to say more.  I'm here for you, believe me.  I would be only too happy to help you with anything you might want to know.  Go ahead.  You know you want to ask.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


When you are a gay man, and you look into your partner's face, you see yourself.  Only when you accept and love yourself, sexual orientation and all, will you allow yourself to accept and love that other man, and open your heart fully to him.  

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mandated Masculinity

Trust me to pick up on numerous references concerning masculinity in an article on figure skating, during the recent Winter Olympics, that appeared in the Saturday, February 27, 2010 issue of The Vancouver Sun.  Here are a few quotes that might be of interest:

"...There is abundant hard evidence that a campaign does exist [within the professional figure skating world], a campaign to ensure that both male and female skaters perform [according to] their genders....  And make no mistake about it, gender, unlike biological sex, is a performance--one performs as masculine or feminine through dress and deportment [all quotes are from "Here's the rule: Men are men and women are ladies," by Peter McKnight, p. A7]."

According to the rules of the International Skating Union (ISU), there are strict rules concerning what is suitable attire for both male and female skaters.  'As Occidental College sociologist Lisa Wade states, these clothing rules mean "that the performance of femininity and masculinity, as defined by the ISU, is required if one is to be a competitive figure skater...all skills aside."'

Male figure skaters don't have a good time of it, especially "...since they're participating in a stereotypically feminine endeavor.  This means that they must always and everywhere--on ice and off--reaffirm their masculinity."

"Off ice, male skaters are often portrayed engaging in manly pursuits, something exemplified by the constant emphasis on Elvis Stojko's martial arts prowess."

'On ice, male skaters' masculinity must also be constantly and unmistakably on display, through militaristic uniforms and war metaphors, and through eschewing "the curved arms, arched back and flowing quality associated with the ballerina" in favour of "straight or angular body lines and lifted emphasize solidity and muscularity of movement."'

Is that enough to give you a good idea of just how shamefully homophobic the figure skating world is?

First, as the inimitable Karen on the now defunct TV series "Will and Grace" once said, are the higher-ups of the skating organizations "headless," since they apparently can't see just how many gay male figure skaters there are and have been over the decades?  

And second, what difference does it make if male figure skaters are gay or not?  Who cares?  Are they concerned their sport will somehow be scorned or ridiculed if the ticket-buying public learns the male figure skaters they admire are gay?  Shouldn't the emphasis in sports--and in everything, including the U.S. military--be taken off sexual orientation altogether and placed firmly on skill and ability, where it belongs?

Daniel Radcliffe

That Daniel Radcliffe.  He's such a cute young man.  I understand why we gay men want to claim him as our own.

Reportedly, a fellow on the Internet claimed that Radcliffe is gay.  He made that assertion based on nothing more than he thinks Radcliffe has "a gay face."

Radcliffe took the comment in stride.  Tongue in cheek, he said the fellow must have compared pictures of him to those of Elton John, to determine if they had similar facial characteristics.      

But Radcliffe, 20, also said that, if he were gay, he'd have no problem saying so, even though he's famous around the world for portraying Harry Potter.  He doesn't think that being famous would make any difference to him as far as revealing his sexual orientation is concerned.

This is not the first time I've read that Radcliffe said something like that.  He seems to be one well-adjusted and accepting young man when it comes to the idea of being gay.

Perhaps this is the difference between being gay and young now, and being gay and young twenty, thirty, forty years ago.  It's our young people who will finally get us to where we want to be.        

Thursday, March 4, 2010


'In the early 1980s, a friend whose father had been killed crossing the street and whose mother had committed suicide on Mother's Day advised me, "If you have anything to work out with your parents, do it now.  One day it will be too late."  This thought nagged at me and I began a fifteen-year effort to reconnect with my parents [p. 195].'

The above quote comes from an unexpected place:  Steve Martin's Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life.  Yes, that Steve Martin.  Those growing up in the 1970s remember him as that "wild and crazy guy," arrow sticking through the head, singer of the hit "King Tut."  But he's also a talented writer--not just of comedy material--and capable of heartfelt sentiment and profound insight.

I wonder how many gay men and lesbian women have solid, close relationships with their mothers and fathers.  I know I don't, at least not with my father.  I'm 50, my father's in his mid-70s, and we've never known each other as human beings.  I spent most of my years growing up at home avoiding him, so fearful was I of his harsh tongue and his ready hand.  I couldn't wait to move out on my own, and, when I did, I spent as little time around him as possible.

More recently, my father and I have had no communication for almost fourteen years.  He might tell you that had something to do with the terms of the will he drew up in the mid-90s, but I would tell you his will wasn't the issue at all.  I'd reached a point when I no longer wanted this man in my life.  I had started the hard work of liking myself more, and I didn't need occasional dinners with him to remind me of how miserable my home life had been, and how much we'd never said to each other.    

Recently, I've begun to wonder if, as I was growing up, my father became indifferent, sometimes even hostile, toward me because I wasn't the son he'd expected, because I wasn't like other little boys.  Perhaps he saw how scared I was of getting physically hurt.  Perhaps he saw how disinterested I was in sports or most activities normally associated with boys.  Perhaps he saw how I gravitated toward my mother, related to her more, took more of an interest in her pursuits.

As I write this, it occurs to me that I'm doing the same thing sexually abused children do:  blaming myself for what happened to me.  The fact is, I don't know where children get their ideas of what they like and don't like, what they're comfortable and not comfortable with, but, instinctively, I knew what my preferences were, and they weren't those of other boys.  I can no more blame myself for being who I was at the time, and for what happened to me, than a sexually abused child can blame himself for the heinous things that were done to him.    

What I do know is that I completely lacked constructive masculine influence in my life.  On my terms.  When he saw I had an interest in being creative--drawing with pencil crayons, painting with water colors, writing short stories--my father should have recognized my early abilities and encouraged me.  When he saw that I didn't like sports, he should have been bold enough to find out what I did like and to join in doing it.  In other words, he should have been the father I needed, not the father he thought I should have.

Lately, I questioned in another post ("Middle Ground," January 19, 2010) if an effeminate boy had the chance of going either way--that is, becoming straight or gay, based on the amount of positive masculine attention he received as he was growing up.  There may be something to this--and I'll leave the conclusions to scientists and researchers--but I don't blame my father for me being gay.  The fact is, the signs were all there from the beginning, and blaming anyone for who I am would be counterproductive.

Have I regretted not having contact with my father over the past fourteen years?  I don't know if regret is the right word.  Honestly, most of my interactions with him since I was a little boy were not good ones, so, in breaking off communication with him in the mid-90s, I didn't think I'd miss anything I never had in the first place.  Could I use a father in my life now, particularly since he's still alive?  Yes, but only under the right circumstances.

This has been a season of rekindling relationships for me.  For a number of reasons, I broke off a close friendship with a high school buddy around the same time I stopped communicating with my father.  Late last summer, I located the buddy on Facebook, contacted him, and since then, we've worked on getting reacquainted.  Both he and I have appreciated getting back together after all this time, and the experience has been a positive one for both of us, so much so, in fact, that he strongly recommended I give my father another chance based on recent experiences with his own father.  

After much consideration and thought, early this past January, I sent my father a brief letter, one that I worked on for some time to ensure the words said exactly what I wanted them to.  I told him that I expected receiving a letter from me after all these years would likely surprise him; that I'd thought about him over the years and hoped he was well; and that I wasn't ready, until then, to open the lines of communication between us again.  I also wrote that I hoped we could get to know each other because we didn't know what might come of it.  Then I gave him my address, and I told him I hoped to hear from him.

About a week later, I received a letter from him father.  Was I excited?  Yes.  But I was also cautious.  Before I opened the letter, I thought there was the possibility he'd say too much time had passed without being in contact with each other; that the time had come and gone to work on our relationship and to try to be close; and that he didn't want to hear from me again.  There was always the chance that he'd moved on, that his life didn't have room for me anymore, and, more importantly, that he wasn't prepared to go down any road with me to reconcile.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case.  In the first paragraph of his letter, he wrote: "I was so surprised and happy to get your letter, that I got tears in my eyes."  My father was never an emotional man, so to read that he'd been touched by my reaching out to him, well, that brought tears to my own eyes.  He went on to say that he'd thought of me over the years, too, and that he was sure we could work at patching things up between us.

Over the past several weeks, my father and I have exchanged a few emails.  The waits between them have been difficult and filled with anticipation for me, but we promised each other to take things slowly, not to rush into anything without thinking it through.  In his last email, my father wrote: "I hope you know how happy I am that we have opened the door between us, and I am happy we can try to get closer together with our feelings.  I am prepared to answer any and all questions if I can, and possibly get together some time down the road."               

This is not the father I grew up with.  Now, he's talking about getting closer with our feelings--something I didn't even know he had--and he's more open than he's ever been to hearing what I have to say and to answering questions I have about what happened between us over the years.  I attribute this to the fact that we're both a lot older now, and we're trying to relate to each other more man to man, than father and son.  

For either one or both of us, time is running out, and, if we're ever going to have some kind of a relationship between us, now is the occasion to do what Steve Martin's friend urged him to do back in the 1980s.  Martin goes on to describe in his short but powerful and well-written book how he made peace with both his mother and his father over fifteen or so years, how truly difficult it was for all of them, but how, ultimately, their efforts resulted in them becoming closer before his mother and father passed away.  Martin writes of his father, then in his eighties:

'...One afternoon, perhaps motivated by a vague awareness that time was running out, we hugged each other and he said, in a voice barely audible, "I love you."  This would be the first time these words were ever spoken between us.  Several days later, I sent him a letter that began, "I heard what you said," and I wrote the same words back to him [p. 196].'

Am I going to sit here and type the words that I believe my father's and my efforts to open communication between us will have the same happy ending as Steve Martin's?  I can't do that, in part, because it's too early to tell, I don't know what will happen, and I don't want to be disappointed if unarticulated expectations are not met.  What I do know is that my father and I have considerable ground to cover.  I have not yet forgiven him for everything that happened to me in the past, but I'm open to what he has to say in the hope that it will help me to understand them better.

Why was it important for me to write this post today?  Because I know there are other estranged family members out there.  Because I hope that my story will inspire other gay sons and lesbian daughters to begin the process of thinking about getting back in contact with their parents. Admittedly, you have to decide for yourself if and when the time is right for you to open communication.  It took me fourteen years, but I was motivated to do it because I'm aware now, more than ever, of how quickly time passes, and how, without notice, the opportunity could be taken away from us at any time.

For years I told people that my father was dead, even though I knew he was probably still alive and well.  I believed what I'd heard on TV talk shows--that you might be related to someone, but that was no reason to have them in your life if they were toxic to you.  I had no intention of contacting my father, even though, over the years, I knew having nothing to do with him didn't feel right.  Sometimes, I worried that I'd regret not making the effort while I still had the chance.

I can't tell you what the right thing to do is.  You have to decide that for yourself.  But if anything I've written here shows you how difficult it was for me to open myself to my father again, yet how hopeful I am that I made the right decision and that the result can only be for the better, then putting these words down will have been worthwhile.  Just begin the possibility of opening up the door to communication between you and your estranged parent.  Open up even just a small crack from which to get a glimpse of what might be.  You never know.  That's all I'm saying.  

I Can't Imagine

Is it possible there's a single person on this earth who's prevented himself from falling in love because he's too scared to lose someone, either through a relationship breakup or through death?

Once in a while, I think about losing Chris.  I worry that he'll decide he no longer wants to be with me, or that he'll be killed in an accident.  And I'll be alone for the rest of my life.  During those times, I imagine what my life would be like without him, and I honestly don't know if I'd make it. I know lots of people have felt the same way, have faced devastating losses, and most have managed to move on with their lives, some even to find love again.

But I also know some haven't.  For them, the loss, the grief, the emptiness are so overwhelming that life never returns to normal.  So overcome are they by what has befallen them that to move on seems nothing less than a betrayal of the ones who had their hearts.  Their loss, grief, and emptiness remain endless.

I put myself in their position, and I wonder if I would fare any better.  I doubt it.  I can't imagine now that I would.  But here's something I know for sure.  Even if I lived the rest of my life in utter misery and despair, I can't imagine not having had the past eighteen years with Chris.  I can't imagine not allowing myself that time with one of the most amazing human beings on the planet--because I was too scared that I might lose him.

I'm so grateful that I opened my heart as wide as I could to accept love into it.  I'm so grateful that I've been blessed with so many days spent with Chris, experiencing so much together, knowing what it's like to love another human being that much.  Yes, I'd be a different person if he were no longer mine, but I'd be even more different if I'd never taken a chance on loving him in the first place.

Not accepting love is ten times, no, one hundred times, worse than never experiencing it at all.  That...I can't imagine.        

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


When I was growing up in Dawson Creek, in a neighborhood much like the one where Chris and I are now, families lived all around us.  There were the Johnsons, the Maisoneuves, and the Bykefers across the graveled back alley from us.  The Henschels lived next door.  And across the street were the Hansens, Moens, and Byers.

All these years later, I still remember the families who were our neighbors up to the time I was fourteen years old, when we moved to Kelowna. Many of them had children our age, and my sister and I often spent weekends and summers playing out in the streets with them.  I remember being invited into their homes, either with or without my parents, and I recall many of the things I saw and experiences I had.

The Bykefers were German.  I remember Doris's mom had lacy, white sheers hung in all the windows of her house, which I've since learned is characteristic of German people.  But it always seemed so strange to me.  Why would anyone want to shut out the sunlight we saw so little of in Northern BC?

The Maisoneuve children, Susan, Timmy, Mike, and Cathy, from oldest to youngest, were, to my surprise, second cousins.  After Susan attended Mrs. Viola Benson's seventh grade choral speech and drama classes at Tremblay Elementary, she was so inspired by the performing bug that she enrolled her siblings, and a few of her friends, to put together an impressive show in their family basement for the rest of the neighborhood children to watch.  Later, I understood what that performing bug was about when Mrs. Benson transferred to Canalta Elementary, and I was assigned to her homeroom class, where I too was exposed to choral speech and drama, leading me to pursue the dramatic arts until grade twelve.

The Moens had two children, the older daughter, Lori, and her younger brother, Kenton.  Over at their house one day, I saw something that scared me.  The door to the master bedroom at the end of the hallway had been bashed in.  I asked Lori what had happened, and she told me that her dad had done it.  I knew Mr. Moen to be mild-mannered, and I couldn't imagine what had caused him to do that.  Lori told me the cherished family pet, a beautiful, large German shepherd, had gotten out of the house unexpectedly, was hit by a car, and dragged itself back home, where it died. Mr. Moen had been so distraught that he'd taken his anger out on the door.  I've never forgotten that, nor will I ever.      

Remarkably, I can't remember what happened last week, but, ask me about something that happened when I was in grade school, and I can probably recall it in detail.  I think children have a higher capacity to remember than many adults do, particularly those who are middle-aged or older, like me.  Which tells me that what children see, hear, and experience matters to them, certainly at the time it happens--creating alternately pleasant, strange, and unsettling memories--but also later as adults, when their short-term memory is diminished, but their long-term memory continues to affect their lives.  Which one of us can't remember when a parent did something that either built us up and made us feel good about ourselves, or brought us down, chipping away at our self-esteem?

Next door to Chris and me in __________ is the quintessential Canadian family--two parents and two children, a girl and a boy.  Lindsay is seventeen and in grade eleven, and Jeffrey, thirteen, is in grade eight.  While Phil is quiet and low-key, with a warm smile and a wonderful laugh--that makes me laugh whenever I hear it--Mandy is vivacious and fun.  She loves her garden, her husband, and her children.  In the past ten months since Chris and I moved here, we've talked a lot with our neighbors out in the yard, and we've had each other over to our respective homes. Phil and Mandy invited Chris and me over just a few weeks before Christmas, so we could partake in a family tradition that included drinking cider, eating various seasonal treats, and sharing conversation and laughs.  We had great fun and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  

Where I am going with this post, you ask?  Well, as I think about what I remember from my childhood, it occurs to me that Lindsay and Jeff, two sweet and impressionable kids, will, when they are adults, remember many things from their childhoods, too.  One of the things I'm sure they'll remember, since it's not so common, is the gay couple they grew up next door to in __________.  When they're adults and interact with different types of people, regardless of the differences, I hope they'll recall Chris and me, two gay men they spoke to and laughed with on numerous occasions.  I hope they'll remember we were just like their other neighbors--friendly and pleasant, proud of our house and our yard.  In other words, I hope we give them no reason not to like and respect us, and I hope they have good memories of us.  

Someday, Lindsay and Jeff will encounter other gay people, and I hope, because of their interactions with us when they were children, they will give those gay people the same chance they gave us to prove ourselves.  I don't believe they should necessarily like and respect all gay people just because they liked and respected us.  But I hope they would be open to giving them the same chance they did us, and that they'd decide what kind of people they are based on their own merit.  Not all straight people are good, and not all gay people are good either.  People need to be assessed according to their character, not because of their sexual orientation, or whatever minority they belong to, and that's how I hope Lindsay and Jeff will approach gay people as a result of their experience with us.

In an earlier post, I wrote about each of us setting examples for other people.  We never know when something we do or say will have an effect on others.  So, for example, if Chris and I didn't take care of our home and yard; if we showed little or no respect for the neighborhood or our neighbors; if we weren't warm and open and friendly, people, including Lindsay and Jeff, might get the impression that we're not the best folks to be around.  And, because we're gay, they might think we're the way we are because of our sexual orientation, and that all gay people must be the same.  Not only would that be unfortunate for us, but it would also be unfortunate for other gay people, who wouldn't deserve the bad rap they got because of how Chris and I had conducted ourselves.    

Now and in the future, Lindsay and Jeff could be influential in engendering a better understanding of gay people.  In school, when they see young gay kids being picked on, perhaps they'd speak up, saying gay people are cool, and telling their classmates there's no reason to bully someone because he's gay.  As adults, perhaps they'd be allies of gay people, stepping up to support us when the time comes, and fighting for our rights alongside other straight people, who know intolerance of gays and lesbians is unacceptable.

And, who knows, either Lindsay or Jeff could be gay.  Seeing a positive example of gay people living next door could help them arrive at a place of self-acceptance and self-love much faster, sending them off into the world as stronger and more capable human beings from the outset.  And their parents, Phil and Mandy, might be more willing to support and love them, regardless of their sexual orientation.  If I had a hand in making any of that happen, because of something I said or did, I would be so grateful.