Friday, July 30, 2010

Double Standard

Last evening on "So You Think You Can Dance," the axe came down on Billy.  As executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe read the verdict, he commented that Billy had been in the bottom three a number of times, and he speculated that perhaps one of the reasons why viewers (and voters) hadn't connected with Billy was because of his androgyny.

When I heard that, I cheered, because I thought Lythgoe finally had the balls to say what I'd been thinking, at least subconsciously, since this season of the show started in May, when the top eleven were identified and Billy was among them.

I call it like I see it.  If Billy doesn't know yet, he's gay.  Nothing wrong with that.  I'm gay myself.  But I hesitate making this statement because I know how I'd feel if someone said I was gay, and I thought I wasn't or I hadn't accept it yet.  In fact, I know exactly how that feels, which I've written about ad nauseum in this blog.  

I call it like I see it again.  The fact that I cheered when Lythgoe identified Billy's androgyny says less about Billy and how he confused people about whether he's male, female, gay, straight, or whatever, than it does about my own internal homophobia.  I constantly have to catch myself thinking things like that.  I do it and don't even realize it.  Even all these years after coming out and struggling to accept all aspects of myself, I'm still a homophobe.  The only difference between me and many other gay people is that I know it.  It's something I can admit aloud, even though I'm not proud of it.    

What I think's interesting is that, having watched all seasons of "SYTYCD" and "SYTYCD Canada," I've heard numerous judges comment to the male dancers that they come across in a masculine way, for example, while dancing the paso doble, dominating their female partners, getting across that manly passion, fire, and control.  I admit watching a masculine dancer is a pretty hot, even arousing experience, in part, because I'm a gay male who likes looking at attractive men who are manly.  And, in part, because it's enticing to see what appears to be a straight man dancing, not an activity that attracts a lot of straight men.

(Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a large number of the male contestants on both versions of "SYTYCD" were straight, so dancing in a masculine way came easily and naturally for them, because it's something  they just were.)      

Where am I going with this?  Well, Lythgoe presides over a TV show featuring a dance competition.  Dance typically appeals to gay men in the same way sport, like hockey, football, and the like, appeals to straight men.  The judges on "SYTYCD" sometimes put down male dancers who fail to come across masculine enough, and applaud male dancers who do, in part, I believe, because of their agenda to legitimize dance, especially to straight men.  They want straight males, who are interested in dance but uninterested in being a part of something that attracts so many gay men, to join up, thereby adding legitimacy to what they hope will become an Olympic sport.  (As I write this, I wonder how dance is any different from figure skating in this regard.)

True enough, Billy may not have connected with American viewers because of his androgyny or his perceived homosexuality.  It certainly couldn't be because he wasn't talented.  In fact, an argument could be made that Billy was one of the most skillful dancers ever to compete on the program.  So what Lythgoe said is what I've written about here many times:  It's okay to be gay, and, in Billy's case, the American public would have accepted him as a gay man, if he hadn't come across so effeminate, with his nervous, girly giggles, his mannerisms, and his confusing attire (like that scarf last evening).

(Is this anything like telling Mia Michaels, one of the most talented choreographers ever (and a judge on "SYTYCD," as well), that she can't be a professional dancer because the shape of her body isn't like that of the small-waisted, narrow-hipped female dancers so favored by the show?  From what I understand, that happened.  Imagine someone telling you, despite all your hard work and your obvious skill, you can't be what you've always wanted to be because you don't have the right body type, or because you're gay?)

Am I angry because Billy was eliminated last evening potentially because he's gay?  No. Am I angry because dance shows, like "SYTYCD," don't embrace open or obviously gay male dancers in the same way they do straight male dancers (or male dancers presenting themselves as straight), possibly because they don't think the American public does yet either, or because they don't want dance to continue to be dominated by gay male dancers, thereby preventing straight men from participating?  Absolutely.

What about Kent?  Sweet, cuddly, cute Kent.  With the muscular, compact physique, the winniest smile, and the personality to light up a stage.  I'm in love with Kent.  Who isn't in love with Kent?  He's one of the best dancers the show's ever featured.  There's isn't a style of dance he can't perform--and perform well.  Every teenage girl in American is on Kent's side.  How could they not be?  That's why I predict he will win the competition in just a few weeks.

But what would happen if Kent suddenly came out?  What would happen if he said or did something that unmistakably said "gay"?  Has he won over enough hearts so far to ensure winning the whole thing, or would American girls turn on him, because he's no longer available to them, because they could no longer see themselves with him?  Would the judges hold him in lower favor, too?  Would he have gotten as far in the competition as he has so far?  Or would he have been sent packing along with Billy last evening, thereby ridding the show of the two most obvious gay boys?

I ask a lot of questions for which I have no answers.  I pose them only to provoke thought. It seems to me that a show like "SYTYCD" must draw talent wherever it comes--gay, straight, or otherwise.  Does it really matter what the male dancer's sexual orientation is? Would it matter if any of the lovely female dancers came out as lesbian?  Would the judges tell them they didn't dance feminine enough, not lady-like enough?  Or are only gay male dancers stigmatized, because the dance community on the whole wants more straight male dancers?

Yes, it's true, I like a male dancer who dances like a man, who has power, and force, and confidence behind him (not to mention a macho physique and demeanor).  And I cringe when I see a male dancer who's too soft, whose mannerisms are too effeminate, whose clothing choices are too confusing.  But that's my problem, isn't it?  It says more about me, and my internal homophobia, than it does about the dancer.

The dance industry, as far as I'm concerned, is fine the way it is.  Many of the most talented male dancers in history are/were gay.  Dancing is a highly creative field that needs gay male dancers, whether we the viewer can tell they're gay or not.  No one's talent or ability, whether in dancing or acting or any of the  performing arts, should be diminished in any way because of sexual orientation.  Have we learned nothing about discrimination?              

Living Pride

The editorial in the July 29, 2010 issue of "XTRA!" got me thinking, not for the first time.  It spoke about the changes to Pride parades in recent years, including a shift toward commercialization and politicization, how mainstream they've become, and the reality that fewer gay people attend.  Robin Perelle, Managing Editor for "XTRA!" Vancouver, writes: "I have yet to find a non-newbie who is enthusiastically anticipating this year's parade.  Some grudgingly say they'll go but only because they feel they should.  Others are simply done. What's wrong with this picture? Why has Pride lost its meaning for us [p. 6]?"

I put myself in the category of those who are done with Pride parades, and most things gay in an official way.  When Chris and I lived in Victoria, it was convenient for us to attend the modest Pride affair there.  We lived close to downtown, where the parade ran down Government Street, past The Empress Hotel and the provincial legislative buildings, and through James Bay to Fisherman's Wharf park, shocking some tourists in the process.  But, admittedly, the most compelling part of the parade for us was when we walked hand-in-hand behind the final float, usually some huge monstrosity with a drag queen on the back, blasting music through the otherwise sedate neighborhoods of the capital city.  Everything else was kind of fun or amusing in a cheesy way, but kind of useless, too.

Now that Chris and I live in __________, it's no longer convenient to drive into downtown Vancouver to watch the parade.  Or maybe it's not that it's not convenient, so much as unnecessary.  Why go to the trouble of driving that long distance there and back, trying to find parking, and spending our time doing something we've seen on countless occasions in the past, when we can find better things to do with ourselves?  We used to consider supporting Pride important to furthering the cause, and, for that reason alone, we made the effort, even though we didn't always want to.  But I just don't have the energy to make the effort anymore.

Here's the thing.  We're older now.  I'm 50, and Chris is 42.  How is the parade, and Pride in general, still relevant to us?  More club boys dancing in their underwear on floats sponsored by local gay clubs we haven't been to in over a decade?  More topless dykes riding Harley motorcycles?  More civic, provincial, and federal political figures who are, let's face it, there only to solicit the gay vote?  More floats sponsored by cell phone companies, stores, restaurants, and the like?  So what?  Been there, done that.    

You know, when it comes to Pride, it isn't just about a parade, it's about a daily lifestyle, daily choices to be a good human being and citizen first, and gay second.  I live Pride every day of the year.  To me, Pride isn't about being young and beautiful, naked in public, subjected to advertising, or solicited for political support.  Pride is making peace with who I am, being settled and happy, living comfortably in suburbia, sharing a life with my partner. Pride is about loving and accepting myself as a gay man, having self-respect, and setting a positive example of what it means to be gay in 2010.

Does attending the annual Pride parade help to reinforce any of that?  Not that I can see. The public spectacle seems to be, first and foremost, about reinforcing Vancouver's reputation as a fun city, since the parade is the only annual public event of its kind.  It also seems to be more about drawing attention to a small segment of our population for all the wrong reasons, and excluding what it really means to be gay to me and thousands of people like me.  Supporting the gay community via the parade isn't worth the effort.  Pride isn't what it used to be.  Or, as I've gotten older, perhaps I've seen it for what it really is, and I'm disillusioned that it isn't so much more.  

To those of you celebrating Pride this year and taking in the parade, I hope you have a good time.  I  hope you get something out of it.  This weekend, around the time the Parade rolls through Vancouver's West End,  Chris and I will be at home, probably working in our garden, reflecting on times when attending the parade was a given because we thought it was worthwhile and important; because we were younger and wanted to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  But, most of all, we'll be giving thought to what it means to be gay for us now, and how the parade, and the Pride festivities in general, have so little to do with that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Six and a Half Heady Years

I bet each of us has a time in his life that he looks back on with more nostalgia and fondness than at any other.  Mine is bookended by the day I came out (January 1, 1986) and the day I met Chris (June 13, 1992).

It's been said that when you come out as a gay person, you're born again, and that surely was the case for me.  Before then, I remember feeling I wasn't fully alive, like something inside me, perhaps my spirit, was dead.  I went through the motions of life, showing up at all the right places at the right times, but I wasn't fully present.  I was a shell, in denial of who I was because society told me I couldn't be gay.  I didn't know when, or if, I'd ever step out from behind the wall and present myself as a complete human being.

After I came out, I met lots of new and interesting people, most of them gay like me.  For the first time ever, I wasn't alone.  My associations with other gay people proved to me that it was possible to be gay and to be respectable at the same time.  Sure, there were some gay people who lived down to the stereotypes--who couldn't keep jobs, lived hand to mouth, smoked, drugged, drank too much, and who had indiscriminate sex.

But there were many others who were settled, too, who held down jobs for longer than a few weeks or months at a time, who were good at, and took pride in, what they did, and who were prepared to work for a better life.  In other words, they respected themselves, enough not to smoke, drug, or drink excessively, and to exhibit self-control when it came to sex. They reminded me of me.  They showed me another face of being gay, one that told me it was all right to be who I was, that I didn't have to be anyone else just because I was gay.

I can't overstate what it felt like not to be alone any longer.  For years, I'd moved through the small community where I lived at the time, wondering if I was the only gay person there (other than the creepy older men who'd leered at me from across the street or in the mall, something illicit on their filthy minds).  I'd had my suspicions about some of the other people I'd seen possibly being gay too, but I was purposely shut off from everyone.  I wasn't open to them being gay because I wasn't open to being gay myself.  The isolation was crippling and painful.  If the rest of my life was going to be the same, I didn't want to be a part of it. What would have been the point?  I lived in anticipation of a better time.

Six months or more after I came out, I had my first affair, with the sweetest young man I could have ever lost my virginity to.  He told me he was mostly a virgin, too (he'd only played around a bit, nothing serious).  I was paralyzed at the thought of letting anyone touch me.  I was scared to death.  I sat on the sofa, my arms wrapped around me, while he placed his hand on my knee.  I was completely freaked out.  I couldn't touch him back.  I laughed nervously.  I didn't trust him, at least not at first.  I'd felt so unloved over the years, even by my parents, and I'd been hurt by so many of the things some of the kids at school had said and done to me, that I'd built a wall around me.  I considered myself utterly unlovable.  I was a damaged, vulnerable child who most of all needed someone to care.  Adrian did.

When I went to the gay club in Kelowna, providing the dance music every other Saturday night, attending the occasional Monday coffee night and Wednesday discussion group, for the first time, I felt I had a home to go to.  The apartment I rented on Ufton Court was pleasant enough, and it contained everything I'd acquired over the years, but it was empty.  I was alone and lonely there.

That was no longer where real life happened.  That's where I went to hide out, to separate myself from the rest of the world, so I wouldn't be hurt.  That's where my old life resided, the one before I came out, the one where I was empty and miserable.  I didn't live life there.  It's where I ate and slept and got ready for work.  It's where I went to live life on autopilot, from one day to the next, where I told myself things would never change.  Why did I want to be there any more than I had to be?

Two years after I came out, I moved to Vancouver, ostensibly for my job, but I'd become disenchanted with what I knew of the gay life in Kelowna.  Along with wanting to pursue greater job opportunities, I wanted to meet new people, become a part of the gay scene in the big city, meet the man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.

But life in the big city wasn't at all what I expected.  I hated my new job, at least for the first six months, until I was transferred to a position in West Vancouver, where I really loved my job.  And the gay community scared the hell out of me.  If Kelowna had been the elementary school of gay life, Vancouver had been the high school and college.  HIV/AIDS was still relatively new then, in the late 80s, with some mysteries still surrounding it, and, in addition to being frightened and conservative and discreet, I had yet another reason not to connect with other young men, particularly on a physical level.

I soon discovered the entire gay community in Vancouver hadn't been waiting for me to arrive from the Interior of BC.  And if I'd thought that, despite being a part of the gay scene in Kelowna, I was still alone and lonely in terms of not finding the man for me, I was worse off in the big city.  I went to the Gandy almost every Saturday night, at least until I had to leave around 12:30 a.m., while things were just getting started, so I could catch the last Skytrain back home to Burnaby.  If I didn't meet anyone before then, it wasn't going to happen.

Then I met Dale, through a personal ad he place in "The West Ender."  Despite wanting a relationship more than anything, which didn't happen until some time later, with someone else entirely, I found a best friend, someone who was gay, too, someone who knew the city better than I did, who wasn't scared to embrace it in a way I couldn't, and someone who took me under his wing, showed me places, and immersed me in the exciting and colorful gay life I might not have been a part of otherwise.

Dale took me to my first drag show at Doll & Penny's, a restaurant in the middle of what's now known as the Davie Village.  He introduced me to clubs other than the Gandy (which I frequented because it was closest to the Skytrain station and because I felt safe there), like the Odyssey and Celebrities.  (He even took me to Numbers and the Shaggy Horse, which were not to my liking.)

He took me to Hamburger Mary's (which he affectionately called Hamburger Fairy's), a greasy spoon with tunes, cute waiters, and a rousing gay clientele.  I felt like I was a part of the gay community because Dale was so in love with it himself and helped me to be a part of it (although, when I look back on it now, I was never part of the inner circle, part of the exciting "in" crowd, and I never would be).

And Dale introduced me to other people, ones that he thought I'd like, for example, Paul, a sweet and compassionate young man, who didn't become the person I'd share my life with either, but who became a wonderful friend I lost touch with when Chris and I lived in Victoria. In the absence of relationships, good, close friendships are the next best thing.

In the meantime, I continued to frequent the clubs, sometimes with Dale, sometimes with Paul, usually alone.  I grew more confident in myself as a young man and as a gay man. Not that I ever became comfortable approaching other men.  I still had a lot of self-esteem work to do, to take myself from feeling like I was a worthless piece of shit to feeling self-assured enough to be in the company of other people and to consider myself an equal.

I met a number of young men, all attractive to me in one way or another, none of whom became my life partner, but all of whom taught me things about myself, so I'd be ready when Chris came along.  To this day, I don't believe Chris and I would have gotten along as well as we have had I not had all my prior experiences with other men.  We meet everyone we do in our lives for good reasons, even though those reasons may not become evident for many years.    

Why was this period of angst and searching and insecurity so special to me?  Because it's when I came into my own.  It's when I came alive for the first time, starting at the age of twenty six.  It's when I finally became oriented in the direction my life should take, and started my journey down the long road toward seeing myself as a worthwhile human being. It's when I made the true separation from home and made my way in life, professionally and personally.

It's when I discovered myself, as I explored the gay community, to see if I belonged, and if so, where.  It's when I was single and alone, not to mention lonely and miserable, but also took the greatest leaps toward understanding, accepting, and loving myself.  It's when I learned many lessons about who I was so I'd be ready for the relationship I now share with Chris, who, with his companionship, patience, and love, transformed my life and made everything I'd gone through worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Living Fearlessly: National Coming Out Day, October 11

According to Wikipedia, "National Coming Out Day is an internationally-observed day for coming out and discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. It is observed by members of the LGBT communities and their supporters...on October 11 every year...."

I've often wondered what would happen if all LGBT people came out on the exact same October 11.  What if Monday, October 11 of this year were that day?  Yes, this very year. Just a few short months from now, all people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered would be out. No more closets.  No more hiding.  No more pretending to be something we're not.  Then what?

The reason I bring this up is because I believe there's power in doing something in large numbers.  If just a few do it, there's no impact on a grand scale; however, if many hundreds of thousands, or even millions, do it, all on the same day, don't you think the straight world would sit up and take notice?  Don't you think that all LGBT people, and the ongoing issues we face, would finally be taken seriously, because the straight world would have no choice but to take them seriously?

Our numbers would be too impressive, too overwhelming to ignore.  And straight people, who had thought their families had been spared the blight and embarrassment of someone lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, would learn otherwise.  They'd realize that uncle who never got married, or that sister who seems to have no interest in boys, or that young son who prefers the arts to athletics, and, yes, even that man who's married to a woman, or that woman who's married to a man--all of them are gay or lesbian or bisexual or even transgendered.  We're everywhere. The problem is that, as a group, we're fractured, separate from each other.  But put us all together, and who knows what we'd be able to do.

I'm in a unique position.  I came out when I was twenty-six, and I've been out to virtually everyone I've come into contact with for over two decades.  I've been in a gay relationship I'm very proud of for eighteen years.  I don't have an employer or co-workers. I live in a suburb of Metro Vancouver and a neighborhood that's been completely accepting of Chris and me.  Oh, and I'll be 51 years old this October 3.

If you haven't put all of the pieces together yet, here's what it all means to me:  I don't give a shit what people think about me being gay.  They can take it or leave it, doesn't make any difference to me.  I'm at the age in my life when I can let go of all that prejudice, bigotry bullshit.  I've earned the right to thumb my nose at anyone who doesn't want to have anything to do with me because of my sexual orientation.  They can stay away from me, and I'll stay away from them. We don't need to have anything to do with each other.  In fact, we'll all be happier that way.  

Ah, the beauty of growing older.  (There have to be some benefits to aging, don't there?) There comes a point where you must stop living your life for everyone else.  You have to make the decision not to be concerned about what other people think of you because of who you're attracted to, who your partner is, who you have sex with, yes, and who you love.  It's none of their damn business.  And if they make it their business, and they don't like it, so what?  Tell someone who cares.

I feel sorry for young people today who believe, for one reason or another, they have to live double lives--out of the closet to a select group of supportive family, friends, and co-workers, and in the closet to anyone who likely wouldn't be supportive, because of their religious beliefs or their personal prejudices, and who could wreak unfortunate consequences.  There are all kinds of blogs at Queer Canada Blogs written by LGBT people across Canada who are typically young, just making their ways in life, and scared to reveal who they really are for fear of what? Losing the love of family and friends, being ostracized, being abused physically, losing their housing or jobs?

That's why I think that if we got everyone to come out this October 11, people would have to deal with us.  There'd be no escaping us.  Our sheer numbers would be so enormous that we'd be in their faces everywhere, utterly unavoidable.  If we could all adopt the attitude that we don't care what the fallout would be related to coming out at the same time, I guarantee you it wouldn't be as bad as you might think (it usually isn't anyway). People would be stunned at just how many of us there really are.

And if the people who mean the most to us rejected us on the basis of our sexual orientation, oh, well, too bad for them.  Their loss.  There'd be enough of us around to support each other and to get us through.  We'd form the families we should have, not the ones we were born into.  

The biggest problem affecting my idea is that, the hardest person we ever have to come out to is ourselves.  It's one thing to admit in the darkest corners of our minds that we're gay--to entertain even the faintest possibility of that--but it's quite another to take that first tentative step out of the closet and to reveal the truth of who we are to others.

The worst damage straight culture has done to us has to do with how it's made us feel about ourselves.  To a large degree, we've accepted that to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered is repulsive, because that opinion has been forced on us in a myriad of ways, and, subconsciously, we've accepted it.  Otherwise, why would we tolerate being in the closet, and living only half a life, even one second longer?    

Coming out is a process.  Wouldn't it be great if all we had to do was decide to come out today and do it?  Unfortunately, for many gay people, coming out takes years.  From the time I first started to accept that I might really be gay to January 1, 1986, when I came out to my mother, nearly ten years passed.  To that point, I fought it all the way.  I would prove to the kids who teased me at school about being gay that I wasn't, or else.  But the most important person I had to prove it to first was myself.  I could no more accept being gay than I could anything else that was utterly outrageous.  

What we need to do is get every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered person to work on accepting themselves, if they haven't to some degree already, and to take all the steps necessary to come out to family, friends, and co-workers this Monday, October 11, 2010. We need to build them up to the point where they can accept the reactions they receive, good or bad. We need them to know they can not only survive this step, but also they can and will thrive after taking it. Never again will they have to be something they're not, or be a ghost of the full person they were meant to be.

Imagine the power in all LGBT people coming out on the same day.  Imagine the power in laying claim to the fully realized human beings that we have the right to be.  Imagine the power in showing the world where all of us are--in every walk of life, in every neighborhood, in every workplace, in every religious place of worship, in every village, town, and city. LGBT people are everywhere, and until we take ownership of what is rightfully ours, we will allow ourselves to be victimized and to be less than who we are.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Strong, Gay Men

I believe it takes a strong, gay man to be in a happy relationship.

What do I mean by strong?  I mean a gay man who fully accepts his sexual orientation, who loves himself regardless of it, and who accepts homosexuality, in all of its permutations, in other men.

Think about that.

If you're gay, single, alone, lonely, desirous to be in love and to be in a lifelong relationship, ask yourself if you're a strong gay man according to the definition above.

* Have you truly accepted the fact that you're gay?  No running from it.  No hiding.  It's what you are.  It's what you always will be.  It is what it is.  End of story.

* Do you truly love yourself, regardless of the fact that you're gay?  You love yourself as a human being.  You know your own self-worth, because you're here, right now, breathing air on this earth.  You love yourself as a gay man, too, because it's a part of you.  

* Do you accept what homosexuality looks like in other men?  You're as comfortable with masculine gay men as you are with effeminate gay men.

Here's what's up:  It's bad enough most of us have self-esteem issues because of how we were raised.  Add to that the whole gay thing, and everything that goes along with it, and we have the potential to hate ourselves and to go on hating ourselves, in so many different ways, through much of our lives.

Until you make peace with being gay, it will continue to be an issue for you, and it will crop up throughout your life, in countless ways, including when you have the chance to love someone and to be loved in return.  I promise you that.  It won't go away until you make it go away.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Connection, Love, Meaning

It's strange to me that we're gay, and forced to deal with all that entails, yet we are hardwired, as all human beings are, to seek companionship.  If we could turn off all want and need of connection to someone who validates us through their company and emotional attachment, being gay would not be an issue.  We could go about our lives, as so many religious fanatics and homophobic bigots would have us do, without acting on the impulses of our sexual orientation.  We could get a dog and forget about it.

But, alas, we are unable to do that.  We are compelled to seek the warmth and the love of someone special, because that's what we do, leading to no end of challenge and heartbreak.  

Because we intrinsically hate ourselves--given what our parents do to us and what our culture does to us--we don't have the ability to give ourselves what we most crave, and we are unable to accept it from anyone in a constructive and mutually satisfactory way. Instead, we spend the rest of our lives digging out from under the pile of shit that's been heaped on us, and, along the way, through no fault of our own, we mess up countless friendships and relationships, because we don't believe we deserve them.  Many people reach out to us, but we, introverted, removed, and suspicious, cut them off in many ways.

The trick is to realize it's perfectly fine to be gay; to make peace with the reality of who we are; and to risk loving ourselves unconditionally.  Nothing else puts us firmly on the path to recovery, from something that wasn't our fault in the first place, and to achieving our birthright as human beings--connection, love, and meaning.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Internal Prejudice

Whenever I read material that confirms something I think or feel, I like to share it here.  In part, it helps me feel that I'm not so far off base in what I believe is true, but also I get to repeat my point through someone else's words for emphasis, just in case I'm not perceived as an expert on the subject.

Here's "Mr. Gay World Responds to Criticism," written by David King, from the April-June 2010 issue of "LOV" (Living Out Vancouver):

'The newly crowned winner of Mr. Gay World 2010 has had a lot to deal with, not only in engendering world peace but overcoming the stigma of his own win.

'The 28-year old Mr. Gay World this year is Charl van den Berg, a restaurant manager from Cape Town, South Africa, who, after four grueling days of competition in Oslo beat out rivals from all over the world.

'De Berg believes he has got a message to deliver, in fighting homophobia, AIDS and other issues facing the LGBT community, but getting his voice first necessitated "parading around in skimpy underwear working hard for that sash and scepter" and blocking out controversy about his past....

'"Although I'm painfully aware that as a South African we have a Constitution that is based on sexual equality, I think our biggest obstacle to this equality is not what we perceive to be so called heterosexual prejudice," said van den Berg.  "Our biggest obstacle to true equality is our own internal prejudice within the gay community [p.12; italics are mine for emphasis]."'


In the June 17, 2010 (#439) issue of "XTRA!," guest columnist Daniel Zomparelli writes in "Saving Davie Village" that what used to be the center of the gay community in Vancouver has been taken over by gentrification.  Zomparelli writes, "our community's former main street is being overrun by large chains and coffee shops that remove any cultural significance Davie once had [all quotes are from p.16]."  In addition, he says, "the more I look around the Village these days, the more straight people I see.  Where the hell did the gays go?"

Elsewhere in the article, Zomparelli speculates that one of the reasons why the gay community relocated elsewhere in the city--namely, east of Davie--is because "...gays are not so nice to people they don't know."  I thought I was the only one to notice this, but I recognized it decades ago, when I was new to the city, didn't know anyone, and could have used a friend.  Had it not been for the personal ads in "The West Ender" at the time, I doubt I would have met someone in the Davie Village, on the street, or at one of the gay clubs, who would have wanted nothing more from me than friendship.

I can't tell you how many times in the past I was on the receiving end of a young, gay man's unfriendly attitude.  Maybe I was at a grocery store in the West End, a coffee shop, a restaurant, or any number of other places.  Typically, I'd notice a young man I found attractive, who I thought in the normal course of events might be fun to talk to, nothing more.  Sometimes, all we human beings need is the slightest connection to someone we find attractive, who, through the exchange of a few kind words, validate us and make us feel less invisible.

Anyway, gay men have an acute sense of knowing when someone is looking at them, when someone is on the verge of saying something to them.  We just know.  But I almost never got the chance.  More often than not, whenever I got anywhere near them, I was blown off.  They didn't so much as glance at me.  They knew I was there, wanting so much to have them pay attention to me, even for just a few moments, but there was no looking in my face, no acknowledgement, no nothing.  In fact, I'd say they went out of their way to be standoffish, even cruel sometimes.  

Believe me, if a gay man is interested in you--that is, if he finds you attractive and wants you--he'll go out of his way to be nice to you, to ensure you're aware of his interest.  He'll look at you, repeatedly, in the eyes, smile at you, flirt with you, chat you up, camp it up with you.  If he's secure and forward enough, he may even give you his phone number--as a young, handsome, Hispanic bank teller once did to me once.  In other words, if a gay man wants to have sex with you, you'll have no trouble getting his attention.  The sexual energy between you will be unmistakable.

But if he thinks you're the least bit interested in him, and he's not the least bit interested in you, well, you'll likely be snubbed.  You'll be treated like a non-entity.  A lower life form. Or maybe he'll just make you feel that way when he all but ignores you, giving you the minimal attention he's required to by his employer, or, if you're not in an employee/customer situation, none at all.  The last thing he wants to do is give you the wrong idea by noticing you and saying a few words.  The last thing he wants to do is lead you to think he's interested in you when he's clearly not, and you should know that.  

Zomparelli closes his article with the following:  'Saving Davie may require some cultural renovations.  But when you come down to the basics, the Village may just need the locals to start with one word:  "Hello."'  Believe it or not, guys, exchanging a few words with a fellow gay man doesn't have to lead to a romp in bed or a lifelong commitment--even though it could.  Sometimes, the exchange of that simple human warmth could make a difference in the life of another human being, a fellow gay man, who feels disconnected from the rest of the community, or even from himself.