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 runninggay.blogspot.com 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 message...to 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 chapters.indigo.ca]."
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.