Thursday, May 27, 2010

Secret Language

A week ago, I was on my Thursday run, listening to Lea Michele from "Glee" on my iPod, sing "Don't Rain on My Parade," when the following question came to me:  What is it about show tunes, and songs sung by specific recording artists--like Bette Midler, Cher, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and many others--that so resonant with gay men?  I mean, I understand that many people, regardless of their sexual orientation, love show tunes and appreciate music from these stars, but it's almost like they speak to gay men in a way that they don't to anyone else, at least not on the same level.  And I came up with this.

Some songs hold an intimate, secret, and exclusive message for gay men, almost as though the artists who write and record them received a message from somewhere--a message to convey specifically to gay men.  And what is that message?  It's an urgent, intense, enduring, and eternally optimistic message that everything will be all right.  That someone knows what we're going through as gay men--how tough it is to be gay in our culture, particularly how we're judged for being immoral, how many of us are estranged from our families, how we almost invariably suffer debilitating self-loathing, all because of our sexual orientation--and wants us to know everything will be fine.  We're okay just the way we are. We don't have to change for anyone.  We'll get through.  We'll make it.  And not only will we make it, we'll also thrive and overcome and rise.  

Why else would these songs mean so much to us?  Why else would we take to the artists who record them, and feel as though we understand them in a way that no one else does, that they speak to us?  Take pride when you revel listening to Streisand's "People," or Garland's "(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow," or Cher's "Believe," or Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," or Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings," or any number of other anthems by other artists that celebrate the special resiliency of gay men.  The world shares the gifts and talents of these extraordinary people, but we know, in our hearts and in our souls, in a way that no one else does, the special reason why they are here on this earth.

How many times do we have to hear the message before we believe it? Everything really will be all right, after all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stunning Ignorance

In a recent newspaper article, I learned about Uganda's proposed anti-homosexuality bill.  That's right.  Before the parliament in Uganda is a bill that would criminalize homosexuality, with punishments ranging from life imprisonment to death.

The article was filled with information that demonstrated just how ignorant some people are when it comes to homosexuality, most of it based on misinterpretations of the Bible.  It's all well and good for gays and lesbians to say that this is going on in Uganda and doesn't affect us here in North America, except that there are people right here at home who feel much the same way, based on their religious beliefs.  They're just not as vocal about it because there's been a wider acceptance of homosexuals over the past number of years, and they don't want to be singled out for having unpopular opinions at this time in history.

But what would have to happen to change this?  Believe me, the tide could turn at any time.  Anyone who was around in the early '80s knows what was going on within our culture when AIDS hit; when it looked like AIDS was a gay disease; when many people said AIDS was God's curse upon homosexuals for engaging in such deplorable sexual activities.  When AIDS started to make it's way into the straight population, homosexuals were blamed for spreading it.

Anyway, the point of this post is to share some of the more incendiary pieces of information and quotes from the newspaper article.  Happy reading.

1.  "Most Ugandans are strongly in favour of the [proposed anti-homosexuality] legislation."  Which shows that it's not a few people with radical viewpoints on the fringe of society who believe this legislation must be passed.

2.  Apparently, there is an '" gay movement, that the gays are the ones who are responsible for all sorts of evil, for abortion and things like that. [Gays] have taken over the United Nations....  They are now about to take over Africa if we don't stop them...."'  I've been gay for the past fifty years, and I've never once heard there's an international gay movement that's trying to take over countries.  You'd think as an "insider," I'd be privy to this information.

3.  "...Homosexuals in Europe and North America are extremely well funded and have recruiters all over the world trying to convert young people."  Okay.  I'm not aware of that, either.  I doubt that money plays a role in helping young people come to terms with their sexual orientation.  There's certainly no formalized, world-wide movement to turn young people gay.    

4.  "...Gays were an integral part of the Nazi movement...."  Actually, there are well-documented references that gays were exterminated, along with the Jews, at the hand of Hitler's Nazis during the Second World War.

5.  '"We know from the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination."'  There's that misinterpretation of a Bible passage again.

6.  '"In our part of the world we don't believe, for a moment, that people are born homosexuals....  If someone is born that way, why do you then spend huge sums of money attracting people to that lifestyle?"'  See #3 above.

7.  '"My office has over 60 former homosexuals who were recruited initially, but they have abandoned that practice.  And they are the ones telling us the horrendous, horrendous experiences they go through that unhealthy risk."'  There's nothing worse than a supposedly reformed homosexual.  They'll do anything to cover up that they are still homosexual, and that whatever they went through to become straight didn't work.  Does anyone really believe that homosexuals can turn straight?  

8.  '"The anus isn't made for sexual intercourse, for God's sake.  The anus God created for a unique function and man is choosing to assign it another function..."' Interestingly, many straight people engage in anal sex, too, so what about them?

9.  '"If we don't make it hard [for gay rights groups], eventually what we see happening in the western world will happen in our country.  In your country, frankly, this homosexual juggernaut is totally powerful.  Those who are of a contrary view are pitied, frightened, they can't talk....  We don't want that situation."'  You would almost think that gays and lesbians had organized themselves into this powerful international political force that couldn't be stopped, but that's not at all the case.  

10.  The anti-homosexuality bill is "...about creating a climate that safeguards our values, and one of our values is that homosexuality is taboo.  It's an aversion.  It is not something you would wish for anybody you love.  So it's that we're trying to do, creating a climate that protects the family, protects who we are."'  Outlawing homosexuality won't make it go away.  Some people's family members will still be gay.  All the bill will do is send homosexuality underground and make life for your gay and lesbian citizens a living hell.  What about their rights?        

(All quotes are from pages C1 and C2 in "A fight for the right to live their lives," which appeared in the Saturday, May 15, 2010 issue of "The Vancouver Sun.")   

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Are You Waiting For?

Below is a quote I located in a blog I follow from time to time.  The blog owner is a thirty-two year old gay man, who is obsessed with being an elite runner when it comes to taking part in formal runs (like the recent Vancouver Sun Run) or marathons.

This young man has made numerous comments in posts about how difficult it's been for him to find a man to share his life with, how unhappy he is as a result, and how he's becoming adjusted to the possibility that he could be alone for the rest of his life (sound familiar;  the similarity in details is uncanny).  See if you can figure out from his own words why he's still alone.

I am single and the prospects of ever finding a mate are looking more and more bleak with each passing day. The more dates I go on the more I realize what I need in a man can only be found in an athlete. People who are not involved in sport do not understand the rich experience of doing something totally pointless for the pure ability to do it well. Without the distraction of someone who cannot keep up I might as well totally devote myself to sport and work.

What concerns me is that this young man has set a big restriction in terms of the type of man he sees himself with.  If I understand him correctly, he believes his mate should be an athlete like him, probably one who has the same obsession with running that he has.  

I have just one question, if this is the case:  If you happen to meet someone who is terrific, who is a lot like you in many ways, but who doesn't have the same drive to be an elite athlete, would you reject him as a potential mate?

I have no concerns with setting this goal.  If it's truly important to you, and, in the end, you're fortunate enough to find someone who meets your expectation in this regard, great.  So much the better.  I applaud you.  Going into a relationship, you should believe that you'll be with your mate for many years, so you shouldn't have to compromise finding what's important to you if that's a priority, or a deal breaker.

But, honestly, this feels arbitrary to me.  It also feels like an excuse.  Sure, if you have so little in common with someone else, including that he's not even close to being an elite athlete, then you're not meant to be together.  I get that.  Nobody says you should be.  It would be a big mistake, and you'd be miserable.

But from your comment, it also sounds like you've begun to shut yourself off from potential mates if they are not devoted athletes like you.  And that is no way to go about finding someone for a long-term relationship, especially if you want one as badly as you've said you do.

By all means, hold to your guns, and try to find what you want.  But, also, keep yourself open to the possibility that the person you're meant to be with might not show up in the package you expect, might not meet your requirements in a number of ways, physically or otherwise.  That person may not have an interest in being an elite athlete at all.  So what?

Believe me, what I've learned in being with my partner, Chris, is that there are far more important things than sharing all of the same interests.  In fact, when Chris and I first met, we didn't have many of the same interests at all.  As I've written in other posts, Chris worried about this and thought we didn't have enough in common to make a relationship work.  For that reason, he sat on the edge of our relationship for a long time, waiting to see what happened.

Well, he was wrong, and, over a lot of time together, we've proven that.  The thing about interests is, you need to have your own, independent of your partner, so you can pursue something away from each other, so you're not around each other's neck all the time.  Yes, you should have some things in common.  For example, Chris and I are avid readers, we like to garden, and we enjoy running together to keep fit.

But we also have other interests independent of each other, and that hasn't jeopardized our relationship in the least.  Sure, there's some compromising going on.  Sure, some of my interests may have shifted to accommodate Chris's, and vice versa.  That's okay.  That's part of the reality of being in a relationship.  But, believe me, what you give up, or change, is small compared to what you gain by being with someone you love.

There are far more important things that should be shared by two people in a relationship than common interests.  For example, honesty, decency, trustworthiness, honor, integrity, and respect.  These come readily to mind.  I know there are many others, but you see what level they are on.  In short, you should have the same strong sense of what's right and what's wrong.  In other words, your moral compass must be pointed in the same direction.

If, for instance, you are adamantly opposed to having an open relationship, where both of you are able to have sex with other men, as Chris and I are (opposed, that is), but your partner thinks it would be cool and insists on it, then you're probably not meant to be together.  As far as I'm concerned, these are the deal breakers, the things that cause increasing degrees of conflict in relationships that will eventually break you up.  And, if it's important enough to you, you should never be talked into doing something you're not comfortable with, especially something on this level, just for the sake of staying with the man you love.

I think you can work around interests you don't have in common.  In the case of the example above, the young man may find a mate who isn't an elite athlete, and never will be, but perhaps his mate enjoys jogging or running for personal fitness, or perhaps he'd be a great supporter.  While he's out training or competing in races or marathons, his partner might be with him every step of the way, either in spirit or in body, cheering him on from the sidelines.

But, if he doesn't, so what?  Do you have other things in common, even small ones?  Is he a good, solid person in your life?  Are you excited to get home to him at the end of the workday?  Can you see yourselves build a life together?  Does he inspire you?  Does he respect you?  Does he set a good example for you?  Is he a good influence on you?  Do you love each other?  These are the bigger life questions--not whether he understands me because he's an elite athlete like me.

What I really want to say is, stop putting obstacles in your way.  And stop making excuses for why you haven't found the right mate yet.  The person who's right for you may be nothing like what you always had in mind.  In fact, he probably won't be.  Be open to that possibility.  You never know.  There's a bigger plan for you, and you don't know all of the details.  Have faith and trust.

And, while I'm on the subject, I need to make one final comment about still being single at the age of thirty-two and wanting to be in a relationship more than anything else.  What are you waiting for?  Time is ticking away.  There isn't a moment to waste in finding the one to share your life with.  I'm not saying you should pair up with someone who's obviously wrong for you just because you're getting older.  That's not my point at all.

What I am saying is, if you're truly serious about finding a mate, do it.  Make it a goal.  Stop holing up in your apartment and thinking the man of your dreams will magically appear in your life.  Stop traveling in the restricted little circles that are your daily and weekly routines, thinking that, if you don't find anyone that way, you're not meant to.  Open up your life and yourself to the possibilities beyond who and what you are right now.

Believe me, there isn't a moment to waste.  I met Chris when I was thirty-two. We've been together eighteen years next month.  I wish we'd met a decade earlier.  Eighteen years have flown by in an instant.  Eighteen years isn't nearly enough time to spend with this wonderful man.  I want to grow very old with Chris. I hope we are two doddering codgers together in our nineties and beyond, tormenting the workers in an extended care facility.  But even that won't be enough time together.  And there's no guarantee we'll live that long.

All we have is right now.  And if, right now, you're not happy because you're alone and getting older by the minute, then do something about it.  Stop placing unreasonable expectations on the potential mates you meet.   Decide what that mate MUST have, what the deal breakers are, and get on with the task at hand. If you do it right, a relationship will transform your life in ways you can't even imagine.  There is no comparison between being single and alone, and being coupled and together.  Believe me, the latter is preferable by a mile.

Play a proactive role in getting what you want in life, including a relationship.  Start today.  Don't waste another minute alone if you're not happy.       

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Secret to Our Longevity

I was so wrong.

A little over a week ago, when I described some of the daily realities of the relationship I share with Chris, I wrote the following:  "...I've found the only way a relationship works is if one person is dominant, and the other is submissive (and I'm not talking about in bed).  If the two people in a relationship are both dominant, they'll be at each other constantly and never get along.  If the two people in a relationship are both submissive, you'll never get anything done."

I admit there's more than an element of truth in this, particularly in terms of what a relationship would look like if both people were dominant or submissive, but I know I got the terminology all wrong.  In fact, the terminology I used not only does a disservice to Chris, it insults him, and I didn't realize it until I read something last week.

Honestly, I don't remember where I read it--perhaps in one of those daily rags that Chris brings home at the end of every work day, either "24H" or "Metro"--but it was about a well-known male celebrity admitting that he's difficult to be with in a relationship.  And that for a relationship with him to be successful, the woman he's with needs to have not only the patience of a saint, but also a total lack of ego.

Bingo!  The light went on.  That describes Chris perfectly.  That's what I really meant to say about him.  It's not that he's submissive, has no backbone, or no get-up-and-go.  It's that he has no ego.  He always defers to me.  He always puts me first.  He always looks after my best interests.  In that sense, I would concede that he's selfless.  

Imagine what it takes to be selfless.  It doesn't take a weak person, it takes an incredibly strong and secure person.  Someone who doesn't have to impose himself on anyone else to feel better.  Someone who doesn't need to have the final word.  Someone who doesn't need to have his way.  Someone who doesn't have to dominate someone else to feel good about himself, to know that he's important and matters.

I don't know where that comes from.  Perhaps it's in the way Chris was raised.  I knew from the first few days we were together that his parents had raised him well.  He was a good person, a solid person, a moral person.  But the mysteries around just how well he was raised, and the results of that, continue to reveal themselves to me, even after being a couple for almost eighteen years.

Who is the stronger of the two of us?  By far, Chris is.  I impose myself on him.  I am insecure and need to be heard.  Not only do I need to be heard, I need to be followed.  I need to set the course we take.  I need to be in control.  (What can I say--I'm a needy control freak, and I know it.)  

Chris lets me take control, of most things, but he's no pushover.  If he truly objects to something, he lets me know, and we go with it.  And, because he doesn't always yammer on about anything and everything, as I do, I know that when he says something, it's legitimately important to him.  Not because he's insecure.  Not because he needs to make a point.  Not because he needs to feel better about himself.  But because he genuinely feels it's the best course of action, not for him, but for both of us.  

It's no coincidence that fate paired us.  I have so much to learn from someone like Chris, who approaches life not from the perspective of scarcity but from abundance, not from the need to satisfy his own ego but from the goal to bring out my strength.  There are nearly ten years between us in age, with Chris the younger, but he is by far the most mature and the most wise when it comes to the circumstances we encounter together as a couple.  In that sense, he really is a rock to me, the relaxed and steady and certain security in the center of my craziness and volatility.  

You want to know what the real secret to the longevity of my relationship with Chris is?  It's surely not because, as I wrote earlier, he's submissive, or a marshmallow, or a pushover.  It's because he exhibits the patience and the selflessness of a saint (he'd be so embarrassed to read this).

I'm the impatient, high maintenance, uptight, insecure, and ego-driven half of our relationship, and the only way what I share with Chris could survive is if I was paired with the exact opposite--with someone who doesn't feel less about himself because he helps someone feel more about himself.  In fact, I think his helping me to feel more about myself allows him to continue feeling good about himself.

Whatever he has, he has naturally.  Whatever I have comes from outside myself, and, I believe, often at the detriment of someone who isn't already strong and secure.        

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Closer Look at This Gay Relationship

Perhaps those of you who are gay and single think that being in a long-term relationship would be exciting or cool or whatever the word is today.  As far as I'm concerned, it is.  There's nothing else like it, and I wouldn't want to live any other way, particularly at my age.  But what I thought I'd do is share with you some of the daily realities of Chris's and my relationship, and you be the judge as to whether or not what we share is exciting or cool, and something you would like in your own life.      

Remember, Chris and I have been together for nearly eighteen years, so we're pretty settled into the type of relationship that both of us are comfortable with. This includes monogamy.  From the beginning, we decided monogamy was a deal breaker:  if one or the other of us wanted an open relationship, then it was over. Neither one of us was prepared to share his partner with someone else.

And from the beginning, the foundation of our relationship has been trust.  We both agreed that, when trust was gone, we had nothing left.  Neither one of us has given the other any reason not to trust him.  I believe that's, in part, why our relationship has lasted as long as it has, and why it's as solid as can be.

So, without further delay, here's what our relationship looks like.  

1.  For over half of our relationship--about eleven years--we've lived in places that one partner loved and the other didn't.  In 2000, we moved to Victoria for my job, a city Chris didn't want to move to and, unbeknownst to me, never got used to. And, in 2009, we moved to __________ for Chris's job, a place I would have preferred not to move to (and which I tolerate now).  Relationships don't happen in a vacuum.  The real world impacts them all the time, including career opportunities and places of residence.  Many relationships break up when one or the other partner decides he can't live where the other wants to.  Our relationship could have broken up, too, back in 2000, but I made the decision I would never lose Chris to a job, no matter how much money I earned.        

2.  Our relationship resembles a heterosexual marriage more than we thought it would.  I play the wife, and Chris plays the husband.  I take on the responsibility for virtually everything in the house, including cooking, cleaning, finances, meal planning, decorating, etc.  Chris looks after fixing everything, anything technology, driving the car, mowing the lawn, etc.  I've heard several gay men say they refuse to fall into male and female roles, and that may work for them, but I don't think there's any way around it.  I consider Chris and me lucky that our interests are in different areas.  That way, we don't fight about doing the same things, and we can always count on everything getting done.  Imagine if neither one of us fixed the toilet when it broke.  What would we do?  

3.  Our clubbing days are long over.  In fact, almost the minute Chris and I met--coincidentally, at the Odyssey, a well-known gay club in downtown Vancouver--we stopped going to clubs altogether.  This was back in the early '90s.  The music was changing to that highly repetitive techno junk neither one of us likes, and, honestly, why go to the clubs, as I had for years as a single guy in my twenties and early thirties, if you're no longer looking for someone to settle down with?  So if you're thinking your wild, carefree days of clubbing every Friday and Saturday night will continue after you're coupled, you're probably wrong, unless it's so important to you that you have to keep it going, and you make it a priority to do it together.  But why would you do that when there are so many other great things you can get involved in?

4.  Not long after Chris and I started getting serious, our single gay male friends went by the wayside.   You know why?  Because it turned out we didn't have much in common anymore.  We shared a lot when we were single, alone, and miserable, but, when that was no longer the case, they continued to do their own thing on their own (that is, ogle men and fantasize about getting them into bed), and I was only too happy to let them.  You can only tolerate those familiar, long, and unhappy faces for so long when you're happy to be in a relationship and want to move on to the next phase of your life as part of a couple.  I look back with great fondness on all the times I spent with my single friends.  We really enjoyed ourselves, and I'm grateful we were there for each other.  I wish them well.

5.  On the subject of friends, Chris and I know several other gay couples, but we don't spend a lot of time with them.  In part, they're busy with their lives, and we're busy with ours.  But also I spoke with a fellow in a long-term relationship several years back, asking him how many friends they had, and he said almost none.  He said he was uncomfortable socializing with other gay men, single or coupled, because of the sex thing, and the possibility he could lose his partner to someone else.  As insecure as that sounds, I have to agree.  Promiscuous sex in the gay male community is too prevalent, and I want no part of it.  Chris is off limits to anyone other than me, as I am, too.  There will be no partner swapping in our relationship.  

6.  And on the subject of sex, you might think that Chris and I are lucky because we have partners who are readily available to have sex with.  You might even think that we have sex constantly, every opportunity we get.  But you'd be wrong. It turns out the amount of sex Chris and I have is consistent with the national average for straight couples (about once a week).  Both of us are busy and tired, and our schedules are inconsistent because of Chris's long daily commute time into Vancouver for work.  I wouldn't say we're in a rut, but, again, we've gotten into a routine, and I think we're both happy with the amount of sex we get.  Life doesn't revolve around sex, believe me.

7.  Routines.  Now there's an interesting subject.  Whether Chris and I love routines, would rather live by them, or that's where lives eventually land, we're very much in a weekly routine.  It looks like this:  Early Sunday morning, Chris and I go out for a run.  Later, we plan our meals for the week and complete our grocery shopping.  Then we work around the house, indoors or out.  Monday to Friday, Chris is up at 5:00 A.M. and he's at work before I'm out of bed.  I work on tasks around the house, write blog posts, work on preparations for my novel, and have dinner ready when Chris returns from work just after 6:00 P.M.  Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Chris goes for a run.  Otherwise, we shower and settle in for a little TV viewing.  Chris is in bed by 10:00 P.M., and I get to bed usually after midnight.  Saturday mornings, we have a pancake breakfast and spend the rest of the day running around shopping and completing errands.  And that's our week in a nutshell.  Boring?  Everyone's life is a routine.  Take a look at your own.  

8.  The great thing about being in a relationship is that I know there's someone out there in the world for me.  I know I have a champion, someone who's on my side, and Chris knows he has, too.  Even though I'm in __________ and Chris is in downtown Vancouver, I feel connected to him throughout the day (I think about him often), and I know he'll soon return home to me.  I know the period we have together between the time he returns home from work and when he goes to bed is short, but I'm comfortable in the knowledge that he's mine, that I have a partner, and that I'm not alone anymore.  We'll be together again soon, when we'll continue to build on what we have and work on planning for the future.      

9.  When Chris and I first met, one of his big concerns was that he didn't think we had enough common interests, and, therefore, we didn't have much to build a relationship on.  I told him that was ludicrous, and it turns out I was right.  Sure, it's great to have things in common, and, if you're so different and so adamant about pursuing what's important to you, then maybe it won't work out between you.  But, if you're both open to it, you can learn to share some of your partner's diversions.  And, frankly, there's nothing wrong with having your own interests, independent of your partner.  They give you something to do away from each other so that when you get back together, you have new things to talk about and to share.  You can't be exactly alike and have everything in common.  That would be like marrying yourself, and how much fun would that be?  (I hasten to add that you MUST have certain things in common, like morals, ethics, and worldview, because, without those, you'll be at each other constantly, and that is not good.)  

10.  Compromise.  Yes, it's true, you don't get your way all the time.  Actually, I get my way most of the time, but I'm fortunate.  When it comes to compromise, I've found the only way a relationship works is if one person is dominant, and the other is submissive (and I'm not talking about in bed).  If the two people in a relationship are both dominant, they'll be at each other constantly and never get along.  If the two people in a relationship are both submissive, you'll never get anything done.  Honestly, the only way Chris's and my relationship has worked is because Chris has the constitution of a saint.  He puts up with my uptightness, but I put up with his laid-back nature.  Over the years, he's learned to have a little more backbone and get-up-and-go because of me, and I've learned it's all right to relax more, take it easy, and let time pass me by.  This fundamental difference between us has contributed enormously to the longevity of our relationship.  I can't see myself working better with anyone else.                      

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Religious Discrimination

In the post I wrote a few days ago titled "Homosexuality is NOT a Moral Issue," I mentioned a recent case of potential discrimination against a teacher, Lisa Reimer, when the independent Roman Catholic girls school she's worked for under contract over the past year dismissed her from completing the school year with her students, because she's a lesbian and had asked for time off while her partner gave birth to their child.

In "The Vancouver Sun" yesterday were several letters from readers on this subject, some or all of which I'd like to share with you here--those that supported Reimer, as well as those that spewed the same old religious crap against homosexuality we've had to deal with forever.  I suspect God wouldn't discriminate against Reimer, so I don't know where these local bigots get off playing God and passing judgment on her.    

In Reimer's Favor:  

"How can narrow-minded people believe that showing someone a different way of living will cause that person to mindlessly adopt it?

"Being gay is not a cult; there is no programming.  Good teachers bring out our best traits that are already there.  They cannot make us something we're not."

                                                                      * Doug Lee, Vancouver

"This story is another lesson from the Catholic church on hypocrisy.  They say family is sacrosanct and abortion is evil.  Yet, when a woman and her female partner choose to create a family and do not abort a child, they lay off the bread-winning partner because she is a lesbian.

"If the teacher was a person of colour, aboriginal or disabled, would the parents be complaining?  Just like colour, race and disability, sexual orientation is not a matter of choice.

"This is another reason to take away all funding from private, independent and religious schools and put it into the public school system.

"I do not want one cent of my tax dollars funding bigotry.  Parents who want to raise bigots should pay for it themselves."

                                                                      * B. K. Anderson, Vancouver

Not in Reimer's Favor:  

"Lisa Reimer is a big girl and she knew that signing up to work at a Catholic school might cause problems if her sexual orientation became an issue for the parents."

                                                                      *Esther Lea Kornfeld, Vancouver

"Being a Catholic, I would not want my child to have a teacher who was gay teaching in a Catholic setting; this goes against Catholic belief.

"We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman[,] and sex and procreation are reserved for marriage.

"The fact that the two woman are gay is not the issue, but the fact that they are engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage is.  As parents and Catholics, we also have rights as to the people we want teaching our children."

                                                                      * M. Rea, Burnaby

(All letters are from "The Vancouver Sun," Monday, May 3, 2010, p. A8.)

The last letter is the one I find most interesting, and that encapsulates most of what's wrong with this issue.  Some immediate thoughts that come to mind are:

1).  M. Rea of Burnaby contradicts herself.  In the final paragraph of her letter, she states, "the fact that the two women are gay is not the issue, but the fact that they are engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage is."  Yet, in her first paragraph, M Rea writes, "I would not want my child to have a teacher who was gay."

Two points.  First, I doubt that Lisa Reimer has had open lesbian sex in the classroom where she teaches for all her students to see, to confirm that she is in fact a lesbian.  So, in that case, if Reimer had not disclosed to the Catholic school before being hired that she's gay, the school would have been none the wiser, and students would at this very minute be taught by a lesbian.  Would they be any the worse for it?

Second, M. Rea would have us believe that she doesn't discriminate against lesbians, only against those who engage in lesbian sex.  But has she personally witnessed Reimer having sex with her partner?  Obviously, it's not the sex Reimer had with her partner that resulted in the latter getting pregnant, so you'll have to look further than that for proof.  How, then, does M. Rea know that Reimer and her partner are having sex?  Are you sure, M. Rea, that your issue with Reimer is that she's having sex with her partner, and not that you just don't want lesbians around young children?  We need some clarification on this.    

2).  In paragraph #2, M. Rea writes, "we believe that marriage is between a man and a woman[,] and sex and procreation are reserved for marriage."  News flash! Gays and lesbians have been able to legally marry in Canada for years now.  Of course, we know the whole issue surrounding gay marriage had to do with churches refusing to marry them, and the gay marriage we have now is a civil marriage, not a religious one.

From that perspective, even though gays and lesbians can get married, the church doesn't recognize their marriages.  M. Rea could then assert that Reimer and her partner are not really married at all, since her church didn't sanction it. Thankfully, our culture is ahead of most churches in recognizing the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, so who needs M. Rea's Catholic church, or any other church for that matter, that discriminates against gays and lesbians?

The moral superiority of many people who supposedly use their church's teachings to judge and to discriminate against other human beings, on the basis of sexual orientation, is about as arbitrary as you can get, and it gives me a royal pain in the you-know-what.  It must be nice to live in world as black and white as M. Rea does.

Until, of course, one of the children she refers in her letter to having turns out to be gay or lesbian him- or herself.  Then, I pity that child.  If that ever happens, I suspect M. Rea will sing a very different tune, or risk losing her son or daughter. What goes around comes around, honey.  Or, as my mother used to say, don't spit too high, it'll fall back in your face.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Respect and Love Yourself

Lately, a number of things have come up that are important to me, and that I find are curiously connected to each other.  I thought I'd take a few minutes to write about them, and I hope you'll take a few minutes to share them with me.      

A week ago today, Chris and I went on a day trip to Victoria, where we used to live before moving back to Metro Vancouver in April 2009.  Among the places we visited was Capital Iron, a unique store that sells literally everything, where we saw Terry, a casual gay acquaintance of ours, who works in the plants, ceramic pots, and outdoor furniture department.  I asked Terry how he was doing, and he didn't answer with the usual, "I'm fine," or "Good."  Instead, his answer, part statement, part lament, was "I'm still alone."  (Given that Chris and I don't know Terry well, I was surprised by his answer, but I was glad we were there to discuss it with him and, hopefully, to give him hope.)

This weekend, from the Queer Canada Blogs site, I discovered and read a post written by a 32 year old gay Vancouver man who wrote:  "My current life is a dream come true, with the obvious exception.  It is on days like today when I kind of feel like a failure.  In reality we are put on this world to meet someone [and] to fall in love....  I feel I blog on this topic way too much but it is reality.  If I were in love I'd be blogging about my wonderful boyfriend and how we are so perfect for each other.  Looking forward to year 32 I do not really have a dream but more of a fear.  What if I never meet a man to share all I have now?"  (I wrote back to J. D., told him about meeting my partner when I was the same age as he is now, and asked him to keep the faith.)

This weekend, I finished reading Richard Amory's Song of the Loon.  Originally published in 1966 (and reissued in 2005 as a Little Sister's Classic by Arsenal Pulp Press), Loon is pure gay pulp fiction with literary overtones.  In the Introduction to the novel, Michael Bronski writes, 'The overt message of Amory's novel is that only by loving oneself--essentially accepting the fact that "gay is good"--can one ever love other people and be at peace with the world.  Richard Amory's genius in the Loon novels is that he brought that the masses--a message they wanted and needed [p. 13].'      

Then this morning, I recalled a book I saw on bookshelves years ago.  Published in 1999 and written by Brad Gooch, a gay English professor at a university in New Jersey, Finding the Boyfriend Within: A Practical Guide for Tapping into Your Own Source of Love, Happiness, and Respect asks the question many gay men ask themselves:  "Why don't I have a boyfriend?"  In his book, Gooch "...chronicles his courtship of the inner [being] who is both our ideal lover and the self we must nurture and grow, to help us prepare for and sustain a real-life relationship.  Finding the Boyfriend Within offers simple self-awareness exercises toward the respect, happiness, and love that come first, and most enduringly, from within [from the synopsis of the book at]."

The first point I want to make is that being alone and lonely, despite often having lots of friends and an active life, is one of the worst afflictions to affect mankind, but, in my opinion, especially gay people.  It was a huge problem for me in the past, for virtually all of the gay men I knew over the years, and I see the situation hasn't improved at all in the twenty-first century.  

The second point I want to make is, I don't like suggesting Terry at Capital Iron, the writer of the blog post quoted above, and umpteen other single gay men, who are alone, lonely, and miserable, don't love themselves, and that's why they don't have that all-important relationship they want most.  But, honestly, I believe with all my heart that's the root of the problem.  

Listen.  What do I care?  I've been in a long-term, committed, and monogamous relationship for eighteen years next month.  I couldn't be happier because I found the man of my dreams in 1992, and we live a life together that many gay men would give nearly anything to have.  What difference should it make to me whether you, as a single and unhappy gay man, love yourself, find the partner of your dreams, and live happily ever after?

Oddly, it makes a huge difference, and I'll tell you why:  Because I'm you.  I was in your situation.  I understand what you're going through.  I wanted so much more for myself, too.  I always believed my true happiness would come from being in a meaningful relationship, and, when it finally happened, I discovered I was right.  I discovered how much better life really is when you have someone important to share it with.  I've lived on both sides, alone and coupled, and I know for a fact that coupled is without question the best way to go.    

It also makes a huge difference to me because I know what prevents many gay men from having the relationships they most want.  I know from personal experience that gay men, in general, hate themselves.  I hated myself--sometimes, I find myself falling back to old patterns and still do--and many of the gay men I've known over the years hated themselves, too.  First and foremost, we hate ourselves because we're gay.  We hate ourselves because the world tells us, in countless ways, that being gay is wrong, and unacceptable, and an abomination.

Answer me this:  How can you not hate yourself when you receive the same message, over and over?  When the kids at school teased you relentlessly about being gay?  When the religious faith you were raised with told you that being gay is a sin?  When your parents, relatives, or friends made offhand, negative comments about gay people?  When you've seen news reports on TV or read articles in newspapers and magazines about gay men who were physically assaulted, or bashed, or even murdered in our cities and towns?  How can you come away from all this, and so much more, and not feel disgusted and ashamed of who you are?

And here's what you may not have realized:  Self-hatred, or internal homophobia, takes many, many forms.  It's the nonstop negative talk that goes on in your head--putting you down, telling you you're stupid and not good enough and worthless because you're gay.  It's smoking and drugging and drinking alcohol excessively, when you know they're not good for you, because you need to deaden the pain of being gay.  It's seeing an effeminate man on the street who disgusts you because he's obviously gay, and you see yourself in him?  It's being promiscuous because physical contact, putting yourself in potentially dangerous situations, is infinitely easier than risking emotional connection and having to accept on a deeper level that you're gay.  It's easier to run from yourself, no matter what form that running takes, literally or figuratively, than it is to face the reality of who you are, to love yourself, and to love one special person of the same sex.  

Believe it or not, it's important to me that you love yourself and that you have the relationship of your dreams because you deserve it, and I want you to be happy, just like I'm happy.  I really do.  Just because you're gay doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you.  In fact, there's nothing wrong with you.  Nothing at all. You are as worthy and as valuable and as extraordinary as anyone else on this earth.  You matter. Your life matters.  What you do with your life matters.  And you cannot afford to waste even one more minute hating yourself because of what society or our culture or the world says about you.

If everything I've written, or will ever write, on my blog does nothing else, I hope it does this:  I hope it shows you that the first step to finding the love of your life is acknowledging that you don't love yourself, not in the way you should.  I hope it shows you that the way to heal is to admit to all the ways, large and small, that you are homophobic, and to how your behavior, especially toward yourself, is affected as a result.  Understand why you do some of the things you do to yourself, and why you have negative thoughts and feelings about who you are. And I hope it convinces you that you deserve to love yourself.  If you don't believe that you deserve to be loved, who will?  The one thing you want most in your life, which is love, regardless of whether or not you receive it from anyone else, is the one thing that you have the power and the ability to give yourself, starting today, right now.  

The sooner you get on with loving yourself, the sooner you can get on with living your life the way it was meant to be lived, and moving forward with fulfilling the real purpose you were put here for.