Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Gay Lifestyle

I came upon a concept that interested me today--that of some gay people who are unhappy being gay because they don't want to live a homosexual lifestyle.  In fact, they feel so strongly about this that they won't come out of the closet, or they seek help from religious organizations who try to cure them of their sexual orientation.      

I won't be naive and write that I don't know what they're talking about, because I had the very same concerns they do, particularly when I was much younger and going through a difficult, and protracted, period of coming to terms with my homosexuality.  At some point, I knew I was gay--I could no longer deny it--but I hated what appeared to go along with that: the lifestyle I'd have to live because I thought all gay people did.    

And what did that lifestyle look like?

At breakfast this morning, I completed a short brainstorming exercise about what I thought typified the gay lifestyle, some of the more negative aspects that didn't appeal to me, and here's what I came up with, not an exhaustive list and in no particular order:

  • Loneliness
  • Sex in public places (parks, washrooms, etc.)
  • Substance abuse (cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs)
  • No recognition of older gay people
  • Overemphasis on youthfulness and physical beauty
  • STDs, HIV, and AIDS
  • Growing old alone
  • Older gay men hitting on cute, young guys for sex
  • Promiscuity 

While some of these are part of the straight lifestyle, too (if there is such a thing), others are certainly specific to gay people, particularly gay men, and it should be no surprise that anyone on the verge of stepping out of the closet and walking into a full-blown gay life might have concerns about what course it's likely to take.      

So, I'm here to tell you, after over twenty-five years of being an out gay man, that some gay men live a good proportion of the gay lifestyle outlined above for some or much of their lives, but it doesn't have to be that way.  You do not have to be a part of anything that makes you uncomfortable, fails to conform to your moral code, or turns you off.  In short, as a gay person, your gay lifestyle can be what you make it.

What you don't often see are all the gay people living and working in your own neighborhoods, who quietly go about their daily business, just like everyone else, drawing no attention to themselves, and having little to nothing to do with the stereotypical gay lifestyle.  That's the great thing about being gay--no expectations to get married, have children, or live up to a heterosexual ideal, if you don't want to.  

So don't think for a minute that, because you're gay, you'll end up alone and lonely; dependent on alcohol and drugs; looking for sex in places where it shouldn't happen; invisible and forgotten when you're older; sick and dying of AIDS.  Millions of gay people today live happy, productive, fulfilled lives, in committed, long-term, and monogamous relationships.  You just don't hear about them that much.  In other words, they live like everyone else, like you're used to seeing people live, like you want to live yourself.

If you need more proof of this, take a look at other posts in this blog, particularly those under the heading "gay relationship."  As much as I can, I try to live my life as an example of what's possible for you as a gay person, and I talk about it openly right here.  I never wanted to be a part of the so-called gay lifestyle, and so I wasn't.  You don't have to be, either.

                                                                    Together, taking gay to the next level.  


  1. You know, Rick, when I was trying to do a little "background" learning before I started as a facilitator at that youth group, I bought a few LGBT magazines, as well as that collection of coming out stories you knew about. I think you've mentioned this before, but I was really struck by how much of the magazine (one more so than others, of course the name escapes me, but it was a Canadian publication) dedicated space to fairly trivial and sex-related stuff, as opposed to articles about issues facing gays and lesbians, or just current events/political issues, and how they affect the LGBT community. Given the volunteer work I do (at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre) I'd certainly describe myself as "sex positive," so I don't mean I have anything against sex, but there was just a very casual, "how to hook-up" feeling to the articles, it didn't represent the gay men who I know very well (you included, if I may presume to say I know you!) Anyway, I think what you're doing really fills a void. As you write these posts, perhaps some day you'll consider putting them together into book form? It could be a really wonderful thing for young people who are just coming out/beginning to navigate within the LGBT community to have. I would, of course, be honoured to proof-read for free!!

  2. Sarah, this is such a powerful comment that I want to feature it in a separate post and respond to it there. I hope you don't mind. I promise, I will try to do it justice.

    For now, I'll say a simple thank you (but that doesn't begin to tell you how grateful I am).

  3. You're doing the hard work here, Rick, we're just reaping the rewards and commenting! But thanks, as always, for your sweet words...

  4. Again, you are welcome, Sarah. I love when I receive a comment from you because I know it will be positive and uplifting. They make me feel good, that's for sure.


  5. Rick,
    What you stated is true if you are one of the minority of gay men who wanted a relationship and has found that. Otherwise, the choices are simply to either find some other purpose in life(in other words be a busy bee)or to seek someone out, which means being subjected to what you described as the typical gay lifestyle(you've hit the nail on the head except that you neglected to mention the high degree of mental disorders and the callous nature of adult gay men toward other gay men).
    I am your age. Although I was certainly an intelligent, masculine, reasonably attractive guy, 30 plus years of searching netted nothing. Love has to happen, and part of that is having access to a number of partners who would be relationship oriented and to whom I would be attracted. I have found that I can be more alone when I am with someone than when I am actually alone, so no sense putting a round peg in a square hole if the relationship doesn't work. In addition, I have been jolted severely probably 20 or more times. I watch women who have fatal attractions to men, and I honestly cannot find the commonality that is evident in such fatal attractions. At any rate, the resultant depression from all of this has led me to job loss and financial ruin, and certainly an inability to retire. I have been in psychiatric institutions 3 times with severe depression, suffered as a result of having been emotionally jolted.
    Like you, I ignore my orientation at this point although I find myself no longer wanting to associate with straight people, including family, who typically have partners and children.
    This is not a good life. The structure of the male gay community is merely focused on commerce, sex and vanity. It is too late for me but I would hope that things could be better for future generations.

  6. Anonymous, I want to thank you so much for reaching out to me and for writing such a heart-rending comment.

    I know you speak for many gay men who are in the same position as you. For that reason, I'd like to feature your comment, and my response to it, in a dedicated post on my blog. I hope to write something that will help you and them as well.

    Please check back soon. And thank you for your comment and for being so open and honest.

  7. I would only add that the only item in the list above that might be considered unique to the "gay lifestyle" is no recognition of older gay people (certainly straights esteem their older members). Otherwise, there are certainly older straight men hitting on cute, young gals for sex, promiscuity, loneliness, substance abuse, public sex, dysfunctional ageing, and venereal disease in the "non-gay lifestyle."

  8. I agree, diogenesii.

    It's a shame how some young gay men look down at older gay men–like they're worthless, making them the butt of jokes, isolating them and seldom considering what they've been through or how helpful they could be. We must do a better job of embracing our older gay citizens and helping to lessen their loneliness. I feel this more and more every day as I grow older myself.

    And, yes, I make the same point you do about some straight folks living what I identify as the gay lifestyle. I refer to this in the paragraph following the list.

    Thanks for your interest in my blog and for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time.