Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Straight Men

I admit, I have a fetish for straight men, because straight men are not gay.

What?  That doesn't make sense.

I know it doesn't.  But it's true.

How many times have I paused to watch a handsome man interact with his wife and young children?  Young daddies, a gay friend and I used to call them.  Years later, I still stop to look at them--their heterosexuality confirmed by the presence of children.  Is there anything genuinely sexier than watching a straight man push a baby stroller?  If there is, I'd like to see it.

Straight men have an allure all their own, one gay men can't hope to have.  Sure, lots of gay men are handsome, even beautiful, and lots of them have killer bodies. I take a look at them, as everyone does, because you can't help yourself.  I look at extraordinary physical beauty in men...and women.  It's not because I'm gay I can't appreciate a beautiful woman.

But gay men try too hard.  They aren't as natural as straight men.  In general, their hard bodies aren't earned through tough, physical labor--they're created and honed at the gym.  Not the same at all.

Straight men are assured of their masculinity.  Long-time readers of my blog know I've had issues with my masculinity because I'm gay.  My guess is many gay men do too.  But straight men come by their masculinity honestly.  They don't have to pretend they're masculine by wearing funky facial hair, or unusual leather outfits, or riding a Harley Davidson.  Straight men are just masculine…because they're straight.  Being straight makes them masculine.

Young daddies have a softness to them, even a vulnerability.  When they're with their children, they're not afraid to be warm toward them, to cuddle or hold them close, to connect with them, physically and emotionally.  Gay men want to cuddle and hold only when they want something from you.  Otherwise, they have no use for you at all.  Is there anything colder than a gay man who's not interested in you?

Straight men don't have to work at who they are.  They just are.  Their whole being speaks of the ease with which they are men.  While gay men seem to have to put a lot of effort into who they are, perhaps to like themselves more, or to appear more attractive to other gay men, or to hide their gayness.  It all feels phony and flashy and pretentious.  

Then there's the whole gay fantasy of having sex with a straight man.  Is it a conversion thing--do we secretly hope to bring them over to our side?  I don't think so, because if that happens, then they weren't straight to begin with.  Then you're dealing with the whole gay thing, just in different clothing.

For me, the fantasy of having sex with a straight man has to do with being validated by him.  No other straight man has ever validated me, accepted me, made me feel I belong, that I'm all right, I'm a man, despite my sexual orientation. No gay man will be able to validate me in quite the way I need it (not even my partner).  So, for me, it's less about the fantasy of having sex with a straight man and more about the emotional intimacy.  That's where true acceptance comes from. 

Accept and Understand

I sometimes wonder if I ask a lot of people to accept and understand me as a gay person.  If I were not gay, would I be as accepting and as understanding of gay people as I expect straight people to be of me?

I mean, when you think about it, it's a bit odd two men loving each other and having sex together, as it's a bit odd two women loving each other and having sex together, right? But it's only odd because we live in a world that's accepted the norm as two people of the opposite sex.  Perhaps that's where we as the human race got it wrong--accepting heterosexuality as the norm.  (I understand heterosexuality is required to keep the human race going, but can we accept not all people are here to procreate?)

If I were straight, and I saw two men walking through Vancouver's gay village holding hands together, how would I react?  Would I be as repulsed as I've seen some straight men are?  Would I be sickened by the idea these two men go home together, and, among other things, have sex?  Would I be obsessed and sickened by the idea of sex between men, what they do to each other, the very idea of it?

Or would I realize some straight people engage in similar forms of sex, too, and that nothing sexual is off limits to any human being?  It's only sex, after all.  So what.  Big deal.

Perhaps I'd be less focused on the physical act of sex between two people of the same gender, and more on the feelings that typically go along with those acts.  I mean, sex itself isn't always neat and clean and beautiful.  Sometimes, it's pretty vile and dirty, no matter if people of the same sex or opposite sex engage in it.

I have no interest in looking at people I see on the sidewalk, or at the shopping mall, or in the library, and imagining them having sex.  Just like I don't think anyone should look at me and wonder about the kind of sex I engage in either Let's just accept sex is a part of the human experience, we all have it in one form or another, it's a common denominator between all of us, and leave it at that.

So what does that leave us with? It leaves us with human emotional connection. It leaves us with feeling validated through the love we receive from another person. It leaves us with that which elevates the human species to a higher level, because, while we engage in sex, a potentially base act when you think about it, hopefully, we have intense feelings of love to go along with it.

All of us can relate to needing to be loved, and needing to love someone in return. That's a common denominator to the human experience, too.  And, on that level, I can't imagine how any human being couldn't accept and understand the love between two people--of opposite genders or even of the same gender.

So, do I ask a lot of straight people to accept and understand me as a gay person?  I don't think so.  If you're a straight person, think about your wife or your husband, that person you love with all your heart and with all your soul.  That person you can't live without, who completes your life, who's here to teach you what you most need to learn about yourself.  That person who elevates you to a better version of yourself.

That's how I feel about my same-sex partner, Chris.  What's not to accept or understand?              


So there he was in last night's episode of "Glee," Dave Karofsky, sitting next to his father, Paul, in Principal Sue Sylvester's (?) office, along with Mr. Schuester, Burt Hummel, and his son Kurt, after being particularly bizarre and menacing to Kurt. For those of you who don't watch "Glee"--shame on you--Kurt is the gay kid, Karofsky is his bully.  Recently, Karofsky blew away fans of the groundbreaking Fox show by kissing Kurt.  That's right, Kurt's most vocal and violent bully kissed him, fully on the lips, for longer than a second, in what can only be taken as a serious overture and not as another form of taunting.

Anyway, as the camera lingered on Karofsky's face, I discovered I...what, felt sorry for him? Are you kidding?  I, who was bullied nonstop for most of my grade school life, who had cooked up numerous fitting forms of sadistic revenge against those who bullied me, felt sorry for this asshole?  Yup. One and the same.  Guilty as charged.  I felt sorry for Karofsky.

As a testament to the skillful actor who portrays this role (Max Adler), I saw the pain in his face--the pain of knowing he's as gay as Kurt, but also knowing he can't be in the least open about it.  You could feel the tension in the principal's office.  At one point, Kurt said something that could have led to him outing Karofsky in front of everyone there (perhaps doing him a favor in the process).  But that didn't happen.

For some reason, Karofsky's character has become one of the most intriguing for me. I don't believe for a moment any of the idiots who bullied me were gay, don't get me wrong.  In fact, in my stalking of them on the Internet over the years--just once or twice; I'm not that sick--I've discovered the ones I especially remember (and could find) are married and have children (which, of course, means nothing; they could still be gay themselves, but I doubt it).  No, the reason why Karofsky has my full attention is because I relate to him.  I understand his pain.  I understand the pressure he's under, to be something he's not.  And I understand how difficult he must find coming face to face with Kurt every day.

See, initially, Karofsky bullied Kurt by helping to throw him in dumpsters like common garbage; by throwing slushies in his face; by threatening him and calling him unflattering names in the hallway; and, more recently, by slamming him into lockers.  The degree of bullying increased at the beginning of season two--obviously as a reflection of what happened in a number of U.S. schools late this past summer, leading to half a dozen or so suicides.

Like everyone else who was bullied, I found Karofsky, and his henchmen, contemptible, and every time Kurt was bullied, I was back in that place too, feeling all those old feelings, after all these years of being out of the public school system. And I didn't appreciate being reminded of how much my bullies hated me, and how much I hated myself--for knowing in my heart I really was gay, and for not having the balls to stand up to them.  

Then we find out Karofsky has a secret, a VERY BIG SECRET, a secret all of us who are gay relate to.  He's no longer a one-dimensional character.  Karofsky's drawn to bully because, surprise surprise, he's gay himself, and because he's a jock, and because he has an image to uphold, and because he can't be himself. In other words, because he's forced to be something he's not.  Thus, the bullying Karofsky inflicts upon Kurt isn't so much about Kurt being gay as it is about Karofsky's spirit dying a slow death every day he has to deny to himself and to others who he really is.

When Karofsky sees Kurt walking through the hallway, in one of his outlandish outfits, pronouncing his homosexuality unmistakably, he's reminded of what he can't be.  He's reminded of the courage Kurt demonstrated to come out and to be himself, despite all of the opposition he receives, which he doesn't have himself. He's reminded of the support Kurt's received, from his father, Burt--who's one of the coolest dads I've ever seen--Mr. Schuester, and the entire glee club.  To Karofsky, Kurt is a symbol of what he can't be.  And even worse than being gay, perhaps, is having thrown in your face what you don't have and what you never see yourself having, especially if the survival of your soul depend on it.

Karofsky is a sympathetic character.  He's become more complex and multi-layered over the past season and a half of "Glee," and I appreciate where the writers and the producers have taken him.  I feel for him, in fact, so much so, I wonder if this is finally, once and for all, how we make peace with those who bullied us--by seeing them as the multi-dimensional, flawed, and ultimately vulnerable individuals they were, complete with demons of their own they found no other way to deal with than to inflict pain and suffering on others?  Wouldn't it be nice if we human beings were all black or all white?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Unlocking the Truth

Many of my posts begin with a quote.  Here's one from Jonathan Franzen's latest novel Freedom:

"Her father was a small-town doctor, and among her siblings and aunts and uncles were university professors, a married pair of former vaudevillians, an amateur painter, two librarians, and several bachelors who probably were gay [p. 449]."

Reading this sentence got me thinking.

I remember when I was growing up in Dawson Creek, and my mother used to tell me about people from her family.  Of all the things Mom talked about to me, these stories were the most fascinating.  I didn't know any of the people she mentioned, all of them distant relatives of mine in one way or another (most of whom I'd never meet), but, for some reason, even when I was a little boy, the stories about the men who never got married fascinated me.  Mom would say the other people in the family thought these men were different, odd, not quite right, because they never followed the traditional path--getting married, having children, etc.  Even then, perhaps, I knew my fate would be to be considered odd, not quite right, just like them.

I imagine most of these men spent their whole lives hiding the fact they were gay (at least I assume some of them did).  And when I read the line from Franzen's novel, my mind began to explore what being gay must have been like in the 1940s and 1950s.  How many people from that era never revealed to anyone, family members or otherwise, they were gay?  How many of them denied who they were because to be gay then was worse than anything you could be--worse, even, than being a criminal?  Imagine that.

Back in the mid-1980s, still not a hospitable time to be openly gay, I hadn't revealed my sexual orientation to anyone--except for a woman I worked and became good friends with in 1981, when I went up north to work for five weeks. Later, when I returned home to Kelowna, Judy came to visit me, and, after we'd spent a night dancing at Tramps (the "in" nightclub there at the time) and having a great time, I revealed to her, while sitting in my car under my apartment building, the sun coming up early on that June morning, that I was gay.  I thought I was safe:  Judy liked me, I liked her, and I trusted her with this information.  But most of all, I knew she'd return to Prince Rupert, and I couldn't be hurt by anyone there whom Judy might tell about my sexual orientation.

The relief I felt telling that one person was immense.   But, of course, I hadn't even started the real work, and anguish, of coming out of the closet--that is, telling my family and friends.  Revealing my truth to Judy provided only a hint of how good I'd feel to be totally free of the secret I'd kept hidden for so long.

I remember feeling so angry that I couldn't be my true self around other people. By the time I turned twenty-five, I'd already come to the realization nothing was wrong with me.  I had no reason to feel badly about myself, just because I was gay.  Sure, the kids at school who'd bullied me told me being gay was wrong, and once in a while, something came up in the media to remind me many people would consider me an abomination if they knew about me.

But I knew the truth.  I knew I was still me.  I knew I was a good person.  And I knew I deserved better than feeling miserable about myself because of something I had no control over.  So the contradiction between how I felt about myself--which was perhaps the most positive I'd ever been in my life (that's not saying much)--and what others would think of me if they knew I was gay...well, let's just say I couldn't reconcile them.  It made no sense to me.

The second person I told was my closest high school buddy.  But, unfortunately, I didn't do it in a calm and collected fashion.  Rather, I was so upset I'd been lead to feel badly about myself for so long that I was full of rage.  Honestly, I was ready to explode.  My high school buddy showed up at my apartment door one night, after he'd tried to contact me on the Enterphone.  I'd pretended I wasn't home.  I didn't want to see him.  I wanted to be left alone.  Something had been brewing inside me, and I wasn't up for any company that night.

His showing up at my door, after another tenant in the building had allowed him entry, set me off in a big way.  At first, my anger was directed at how inconsiderate he was.  Didn't he know I didn't want to be bothered?  How could he be so presumptuous to piggyback someone entering the front door and show up at my apartment?  How could he be so insensitive?  Didn't he know I had a lot on my mind?  Didn't he know I was in turmoil, and he was about to get more than he'd bargained for?

Turns out maybe I wasn't angry with him after all.  Maybe I was angry at the situation I found myself in--had found myself in my entire life.  Here I was in my mid-twenties, hiding a secret for that long, knowing I was all right just the way I was, but also knowing society wouldn't accept me, because I was gay.  What was I supposed to do with the rage I felt?  How could I make peace with knowing in my heart I didn't deserve the scorn and ridicule of the world?

And so I came out to Rob that night, in a great, long, intense outpouring of emotions.  I yelled and I ranted and I balled.  I cried a lot.  I don't remember everything I said.  I know I had no choice but to say what I did.  I know the contradictory feelings I'd had built up over time, and, sooner or later, they would come out, they had to, in some attempt to relieve the pressure.  Oh, the pressure. The pressure to keep up the pretense of being like everyone else.  The pressure to try to be acceptable.  I felt blocked.  I felt pent up.  I felt like only a ghost of myself.  I knew something had to give or something drastic would happen.  I didn't know what that would be.

So, in light of all these memories from the past, I think about all the men and women who came of age in the decades before I was born, men and women who just like me now were gay then.  And I can't imagine, feeling like I did just before I exploded and had to tell someone about the truth of who I was, not being able to do it.  I can't imagine living my entire life without telling my loved ones about myself.  I can't imagine the pressure continuing to build inside me, not for twenty-five years but for an entire lifetime, forced to keep my truth locked inside me.  How is it possible all these people kept this most personal secret so deeply hidden without going insane?  Perhaps some of them did, and I just don't know about it.

I can't imagine....              

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Glee: Never Been Kissed"

The latest issue of "Glee," titled "Never Been Kissed," was a stunner.  Here's why:

1).  In light of the recent suicides of at least half a dozen gay or questioning youth in the U.S., as a result of being bullied at school, this episode was timely in showing just how unrelenting and even violent bullying can be.  What I love is how "Glee" moved bullying from something mildly humorous--for example, when, in season one, Kurt requested a few moments to remove his designer coat before his bullies tossed him into a garbage dumpster (don't get me started on the message being gay is no better than being common trash)--to a more realistic depiction of what really goes on in public schools.  Who among us can't relate to the mental and physical torment Kurt was subjected to in this episode?  I found myself getting more and more furious every time he was slammed into lockers.

2).  Is the character of Shannon Bieste supposed to be transgendered?  (Maybe I'm just slow, and everyone else has already figured this out.)  Regardless of what sex Dot-Marie Jones, the actress who capably plays this part, is, the depiction of Bieste is all about opening viewers's eyes to the challenges transgendered people face in a world that likes--relies on?--its labels of human beings falling under either the male or female umbrella in a way that feels comfortable to us.  Bieste makes me uncomfortable, no doubt about that, but seeing her helps me to tear down my preconceived notions of what femininity is. In the same way I'd always hoped people would tear down their notions of what masculinity is when they interacted with me.

3).  When I saw the Dalton Academy, an all-boys school, I got a glimpse of what school could really look like for young people, if, as the authorities at Dalton had done, a zero tolerance policy for bullying was adopted.  Imagine...a school where people's differences make no difference; where gay and straight students get along because sexual orientation is a non-issue; where students are able to focus on academic excellence and not living in fear.  Watching this, I wondered how different my grade school experience would have been had I attended a place like Dalton; how differently I would have felt about myself both in school and after I graduated from it.  Clearly, Dalton is a visionary ideal, but should we expect anything less from our own schools?

4).  After the big, burly football jock Karofsky kissed Kurt--and I mean KISSED him--I was so stunned, I had to rewind the DVR and take another look, and then another, just to be sure I hadn't imagined it.  Wow!  I began to think about the jocks who tormented me in school thirty-plus years ago, how I suspected they might have been gay too, because they seemed so intent on beating up on me, even though I couldn't have been less of a threat to them.  Unless, of course, every time they saw me, they were reminded of something they couldn't accept in themselves.  Thankfully, none of them ever trapped me and laid one on me.  I would have felt exactly as Kurt did: shocked, repulsed, and violated.  I would have derived no degree of comfort to know they were gay just like me, that's for sure.          

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Changing the World

In a post called "Living Fearlessly: National Coming Out Day, October 11," published July 21, 2010, I wrote about how, if everyone who is gay and still in the closet came out on the same day, our power would be undeniable, and the world would have no choice but to sit up and take notice.

The same thing was discussed on the Ricky Martin episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which aired yesterday, Tuesday, November 2.  As Martin correctly stated, every gay person goes through a process of self-acceptance, which usually leads to some form of coming out at some point in time. Coordinating everyone coming out on the same day would be a challenge, indeed (which is one of the reasons for the "National Coming Out Day"), but there's a lot to be said about how we'd change the world if we did.

Ultimately, as Martin remarked, we need to get to the point when, if someone tells family, friends, and co-workers he's gay, the uniform response is, "So what?" That's the world I'm living to see, but, at this point, we can only do it only one person at a time, as each of us accepts himself and finds the courage to speak his truth.  

Please click here to watch a brief video from "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on the above subject:

Good News Story

How's this for positive news involving a gay couple?

Vancouver's Claude and Kurt Blanchette-Ebert won the $50 million Lotto Max jackpot last Friday, the largest lottery winning in B.C. history.

This time, we don't have to read yet another news story about someone gay losing his job because of his sexual orientation; or dying from AIDS; or being bashed somewhere in Vancouver's West End; or committing suicide; or being discriminated against.

This time, a gay couple, celebrating their thirtieth anniversary next month, wins a life-changing amount of money, and the newspaper article presents them like any straight couple who's won lottery monies in the past.

We can use all the good news we can get.

To read the full news story, click here:

To see a video of the Blanchette-Eberts receiving their lottery cheque, click here: