Some of you may wonder why gay men loving themselves is so important to me. Why that theme appears in many of my posts.
I'll tell you.
First, a little about myself (especially for those new to my blog). I'll be brief.
I've written repeatedly about my own self-loathing and how it manifested in my life. I won't go into all the details again. What you need to know is, when I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, I knew I was different from other boys.
My father avoided me, I believe partly because I put him off; he didn't know what to do with me. I didn't fit into his neat idea of what a son was. In other words, I was a disappointment to him, and I always felt that.
At school, I was picked on, from as early as I can remember until my high school graduation ceremony. Kids were verbally and physically mean.
Every message I received about being different--I didn't know I was gay or accept it until many years later--was negative, a put-down. As a result, I thought something was wrong with me. I thought I was wrong.
I learned to hate myself.
I wasted my teen years, all of my twenties, and half of my thirties hating myself because I was gay. I know now I deserved better. I know now I had no reason to hate myself.
A little more about me, which will become important later.
I've never smoked a single cigarette, not so much as a puff.
The only alcohol I like is Kahlua. I drink it occasionally, if it's around, with a little milk. Otherwise, I consume no alcohol at all. I hate beer and wine; I think they taste awful. I've made a conscious choice not to drink. Alcoholism runs in my family, as it does in many. Perhaps I'm predisposed to it. Whatever the case, I'm better off not having the taste for liquor.
I've never taken illicit drugs. Not one. I hate taking Extra Strength Tylenol, even when I have a headache. I don't want anything foreign in my body. Control is a big issue for me. I always need to be in control of myself. Taking drugs compromises that.
As for sex? I've been with fewer than ten men. In all of my fifty-one years. I've performed oral or anal sex with fewer than half of them. One is my current partner, Chris.
I've never cheated on Chris. Not once. I never will. I don't believe in open relationships. Chris and I would not be together today if one or the other of us wanted to play around.
I've always believed love is a prerequisite of sex. While self-loathing consumed me for years, somehow, I respected myself enough to know sex for the sake of sex is wrong. Given that I came of age during the emergence of HIV and AIDS, I'm probably alive today because I didn't screw around. I'm grateful I never fell into a pattern of promiscuity.
In 1988, I met Dale. He placed a personal ad, I responded to it. I wasn't his type--too effeminate, I imagine. He wanted a manly man. I wanted a manly man, too. He wasn't my type either. We became good friends.
More than anything, Dale and I wanted to meet the right man and to fall madly in love. To settle into a long-term, committed relationship. How many times did we talk about that? We were consumed by it.
In reality, we were needy queens. We smelled like desperation a mile away. The more we wanted to be with someone, the less likely anyone wanted to be with us. Dale characterized our lives as long, vast deserts of loneliness, gratefully interrupted by the occasional oasis, when one or the other of us was with someone, usually for no more than a few days.
We didn't see it at the time, but Dale and I were homophobes. He laughed at effeminate gay men, making fun of how they walked, talked, held their cigarettes, dressed, danced--pretty much everything about them.
I admit, they disgusted me too, and I didn't want to be anywhere near them. Effeminate gay men scared the hell out of Dale and me. They reminded us of our own homosexuality. Their presence forced us to see we were more like them than we wanted to admit, and that made us sick.
In other words, we hated them. And, by association, we hate ourselves. But we didn't know it at the time. I figured it out some years later. I doubt Dale ever did.
By July 2000, I'd already been with Chris for eight years. We were about to leave Vancouver for a decade together in Victoria.
In the same month of the same year, Dale passed away. To this day, I don't know why. I've speculated it's because he kept giving away bits and pieces of his heart to men who would never love him back--until nothing was left. He was just 43. He died alone.
Dale was man-crazy. To use an old expression of his, if he had a dime for every hot man he fell in love with...well, you know the rest.
Ironically, in his forty-three years, Dale never loved a man. Not really. His motivation in life was to find the man of his dreams and to fall in love, but he never did. He never enjoyed that special relationship with someone whom he loved and who loved him back.
When Dale saw what Chris and I had, he told us how lucky we were to be together. He used to say, "No one loves me. No one wants me."
I felt for him. I hurt for him. He was one of the closest friends I've ever had. I wanted him to be as happy and fulfilled as I was. He knew I loved him, but of course not in that way.
I assured him his prince would come, someday, just as he had for me. I really thought he would.
That day never came.
(For the conclusion, please see What I Need to Say, Part Two.)