Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So Much More Than Flower Baskets

I was supposed to dispose of them while Chris was away.  That was my intention.  It's always worked in the past--wait until Chris isn't around and can't see what I do, then follow through on the deed.  Upon his return, let him know I've done it, when he has no choice but to accept it. This time, however, I didn't have the courage.  This time, I lost my nerve.

In late May, Chris and I bought two huge baskets from the local nursery, filled with a variety of beautiful flowers.  Last year, we installed a couple of decorative hooks to the inside of two columns holding up the roof above our back door.  That was the new home for the baskets.  I knew they'd look amazing there.  What pleasure they'd give us when we went out and saw their brilliant cheerfulness.

The year before, we cheaped out.  Money was a little tighter because we had so much landscaping work to do around the yard, so we bought a couple of hanging baskets filled with non-hanging petunias for $9.99 apiece.  Well, we got our money's worth. A few short weeks later, the baskets looked awful, like we'd paid as little for them as we had.  I resolved to make better choices next year.

Which I did.  At $35.00 per, the baskets this May were spectacular and lush, overflowing with hanging petunias and other intricate flowers I don't know the names of.  One basket was filled with white flowers and the other with red.  I was so convinced, having spent far more money than I could imagine previously on two flower baskets, that we'd continue to enjoy their beauty well into October.

But was I wrong.  Several weeks later, whole branches of petunias died, leaving patches of brown stems and wilted flowers throughout.  I continued to water the baskets once a day and hoped the plants would revive, but they didn't.  In fact, they got worse.  So much so that I didn't want to see them when I went out the back door.  Too depressing to be reminded of all the money we'd wasted.

I told Chris they had to go.  Of course, he objected, as I knew he would.  This is the guy who saves every living thing.  We've had house plants consisting of no more than a sickly stem and a single yellow leaf, yet he wants to save them.  When we lived in Victoria, his bathroom, which was brilliant with light, became known as the plant graveyard--their final stop before they went out for good.

At the very least, I told Chris, I had to remove the baskets from their hooks and put them down on the deck, propped on a couple of overturned nursery pots.  To tell you the truth, I was embarrassed at how badly they'd turned out and didn't want our neighbors to see them, especially since their baskets, which they'd paid a lot less for, were full and beautiful.

Down on the deck, the baskets looked even worse.  Chris and I continued to take care of them, even though I knew it was a lost cause.  My heart cried whenever I saw them.  I felt like a failed parent, like I couldn't be trusted with anything alive, even though our houseplants are thriving. Every time I looked at the baskets, I thought they must be in pain.  How could they look like that and not be?

Whenever I threatened to get rid of them, Chris continued to object.  He wouldn't hear of it.  Instead, he'd go outside and, garden clippers in hand, sit on a deck chair near the pots and painstakingly remove every brown stem, every spent flower.  From the kitchen window, I watched him try to save what little was left.  He seemed like a child, willing a dead bug back to life.

Chris's restoration routine took place twice this summer, on both baskets.  No matter how bad they looked, he cared for them as though his tender, loving touch was sure to return their vigor. The amount of love and attention he devoted to them broke my heart.  I wished, for his sake, they'd recover, but when there's no hope, there's no hope.  Why couldn't he see that?

Before Chris left to visit his dad in Castlegar a few weeks ago, I told him the two baskets would be gone when he returned.  I told him maybe he couldn't do what needed to be done, but I could. And I was determined I would.  I couldn't imagine keeping them around until autumn. Sarcastically, I told him to say his good-byes because that's the last he'd see of them.  

He gave me the unhappy face.  Disgusted, he told me I was heartless, had no respect for living things.  "I'm sure you can't wait until I leave," he said, "so you can get rid of them."  "You're damn right," I responded.  "I'm not looking at those ugly things until September.  They've upset my sensibilities long enough.  Why do you still want to keep them around?  Can't you see they're dead."

Only, I couldn't do it.  Not only could I not do it, but when I tended to the garden while Chris was away, I watered the two hanging baskets as well.  Every evening I looked at them, shook my head in disbelief, and wondered why we still had them, why we'd allowed them to bring down the appearance of our deck for so many weeks.  What was so important about these two damn hanging baskets?

After my run this morning, I looked at them again, still sitting on the overturned pots next to the fence on the side of our back deck--uglier than ever, waiting for someone to put them out of my misery.  But I'm afraid that won't be me, because I can't do it.  Every time I look at them, I see Chris through the kitchen window, his back to me, sorting the dead from the live, carefully clipping here and there.  

At some point, they ceased being flower baskets and became extensions of Chris, surrogates while he was away on vacation.  And every time I was near them, I felt him, even though he was hundreds of miles away.  I felt the care and attention he'd put into them, the love, really, and getting rid of them would have felt like getting rid of him, which I could no more do than...                                  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thought for the Day, #33

Back in January of this year, when I first wrote about how critical self-esteem is to the gay and lesbian community, I referred to a movement, a revolution.  Here, in part, is what I said:

2011 is our year.

I'm calling for a movement, a revolution.  We've hated ourselves long enough.  It hasn't worked for us.  We've gained nothing from it.  The time has come to love ourselves.  The time is now.

No more living unconsciously.  No more falling into the same old patterns of self-abuse, self-medicating with substances.  No more whoring around and having risky sex.

Give loving yourself a try.

There's nothing we can't do when we no longer accept that we're bad or worthless just because we're gay.  We have so much potential, from building solid relationships to whatever we most want.  

But the movement, or revolution, I call for is not out in the streets of our cities and towns, demonstrating and rioting and calling attention to ourselves.  It's a quiet revolution, a revolution from within, as Gloria Steinem puts it, within each one of us.  All change starts there.  We must respect, love, and believe in ourselves to make the change happen.  

This is the only way we can take being gay to the next level, we can lift the experience of being gay.  Until we love ourselves, it ain't going to happen, folks.  It'll be more of the same damn thing.  

But when we love ourselves, we're unstoppable.  Nothing is impossible.  I promise that.    

Then I read this today, which reminded me of what I wrote eight months ago, and which I was compelled to share with you:

Although queer [not my favorite word] people have made tremendous political gains in recent years, I believe our next frontier is within ourselves.  We can finally organize, demonstrate, and flex our political muscle; the next step, however, is to move beyond self-hating ("I am disgusting"), beyond the community identification only ("I am a lesbian"), to a place of true self-respect, self-nurturing, and internal peace ("I am worthwhile").

(From Loving Ourselves: The Gay and Lesbian Guide to Self-Esteem, by Kimeron N. Hardin, Ph.D., pages 7 & 8.)

My intention is only to plant the seed that the course we're on now isn't necessarily the right one, and that so much more of what we really want, and are entitled to as human beings, awaits us when we no longer accept there's anything wrong with being gay, when we see our self-worth for what it really is.     

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thought for the Day, #32

On the subject of gay dating, Steven Petrow has the following to say:

Self-esteem makes a difference in determining success in the dating arena.  Are you confident and generally happy?  Do you see yourself as someone worth knowing?  If you don't recognize the qualities you have that make you attractive, it's generally harder to project them and to accept others' appreciation of you.  

I sincerely hope all of you reading this who are dating can answer a resounding YES to Petrow's two questions.

(From Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners for Every Occasion: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Life, p. 47.)

A Taste of Single

Over the past week, I've had a taste of life as a single again, and, I have to tell you, there's not much I like about it.  

A week ago this past Tuesday, Chris drove to Castlegar, where his father and stepmother live. You'd think I'd be used to these trips by now; in one form or another, they've taken place since 2004, when Chris and I bought our first car together.  Those first trips made me a little crazy. We lived in Victoria at the time.  Chris was on the road, by himself, for over ten hours, including the ferry ride to the Mainland, and he was gone for not one but two weeks at a time.  Sure, I had work, both at my job and at home, to keep me busy, but evenings and weekends were the hardest.  I hated being apart, even though I knew it was only for a brief period.

Then I came up with an idea:  Chris and I would go together.  We'd drive to the Okanagan first and spend a number of days there with my mother--hit the sights, do a little shopping, take a wine tour (I was the designated driver since I don't drink).  Then Chris would travel on to Castlegar while I stayed a few more days with my mother.  Finally, Chris would return to the Okanagan, pick me up, and we'd make our way back home to the Lower Mainland.  What I loved about this idea is we'd both spend time with our families, and I wouldn't be by myself while we were apart.

Worked for a while.  Then circumstances became a little challenging for me in the Okanagan (family stuff).  So, last year, Chris took his trip to the Interior of the province by himself, and I stayed home.  I'd hoped things would be different this year--that some of the issues for me would be resolved with my mother and her family by now--but they weren't, so I stayed home alone again.  Now, I await Chris's return.  I can't wait to wrap my arms around him and know he safe and sound.

All of this is a long way of saying that, nothing would make me happier if I could avoid being alone altogether, particularly since I waited so long to find a life partner.  While the time Chris has been away this trip went fast, and I've kept myself busy, I hate being reminded of what life was like when I was a single person.  I hate having no one to care for but me.  I hate how big the house feels.  I hate having to do everything myself.  I hate preparing what-I-call sad-little-meals-for-one and having no one to talk to about his day as I eat it.  I hate how quiet everything is. And I hate having no one to live for but me.

The fact is--and I've written about this before--when you're in a relationship--and maybe this is characteristic only of my relationship, although I doubt it--everything is tied up in one person. The center of my universe is Chris.  We moved to a place where we have no close friends (not that we've ever had a lot of friends as a couple, anyway)--no one we socialize with on a regular basis; no one we can call up at the last minute and invite over or join in whatever he's doing; no one whose house we can scoot over to and spend a couple of hours talking and laughing.

I suspect a lot of people, gay or straight, are in the same situation.  Our lives are busy with some type of work, we're focused on our partners and families, and there isn't much time left for anything else.  But what happens when our partners or families are temporarily not there, and we find ourselves alone, facing the big hole all around us, and wondering what would become of us if the unforeseen happened, and we found ourselves permanently alone one day.

Every time Chris is away from home for an extended period, either travelling for work or visiting his dad, I'm forced to consider the possibility, after being together for over nineteen years, of something awful happening to him, of learning to be by myself all over again, and of being without the love of my life, the man who has in so many ways transformed me for the better and given my life so much texture and depth and meaning.  How do you start all over again, this time twenty years older, wondering if you can adapt to being single once more, if experiencing love a second time is possible?    

I'm sure my single readers are crying crocodile tears for me.  I hear the word pathetic cross their lips.  I've been alone for however-many-years, you think, and it's no big deal.  So what if you're by yourself?  So what if you come home from work to an empty house (unless you have a pet, of course)?  So what if there's no one special to share your evenings, weekends, dreams, and future with?  So what if you have no one to love, or to love you back?  Why is he making such a big deal out of this?  After all, it's not like he doesn't have someone in his life.  Enough already.  Stop getting so worked up about a hypothetical situation.  

Fair enough.  I hear you.

But--you knew there'd be a but, right?--perhaps you've never been in a long-term relationship before.  Perhaps you don't know what it's like to invest so much of your life in another human being.  Perhaps you don't realize how dependent you become on your partner, for everything, really--from companionship, to support, to love, to the list-is-endless.  In my case, I'm even financially dependent on Chris, as he supports the two of us while I learn to be a writer (the result of which, in the end, may never yield much of an income).  As they say, all of my eggs are in one basket.  

Over these past nine days while Chris was away, I've had some time to think about what my life would be like without him, and there are no easy answers around what I'd do.  Obviously, I'd have to put some plans in place if the two of us suddenly became one.  I guess it doesn't hurt to think about what those plans would look like, what steps you'd take first, where you'd go from the shock of losing your one-and-only to getting on with your life.  I don't like to dwell on it, and I haven't--not as much as I have in the past--because I have had other things to do, too.  But I don't believe putting our heads in the sand, and denying it could ever happen, is the answer either.

Whether we're gay or straight, our lives are rocked by the devastating news something unexpected happened to the person we love and have devoted our lives to.  The reality of that happens to people all the time, and, as morbid as it may be, I believe we do ourselves a disservice if we don't at least consider, from time to time, what we'd do to pick up the pieces and move on.  All of us have heard unfortunate stories, particularly of older women, whose husbands passed on, and who not only never overcame their overwhelming grief but who never recovered completely, who become shadows of their former selves.  No one wants that to happen to them.

(To read the posts I wrote when Chris was away last year--with a different theme--please click here and here.)    

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"That's So Gay"

Okay, I realize I'm late arriving to this party.  After all, other writers (in blog posts, articles, what-have-you) wrote some months ago about how offensive the line "That's so gay" is.  But I didn't get it.  Either I didn't pay attention, I wasn't present in the moment, or I wasn't in the right frame of mind.  Who knows?

But I was a couple of nights ago, as I watered the garden in our front yard, feeling more sensitive and vulnerable than usual, perhaps.  With Chris away in the Interior of B.C. now a week, and me home alone, I was a little sad and--okay, I'll admit it--feeling sorry for myself.

The garden in my head was a little wetter and more fertile than usual as I watched three boys walk by on the sidewalk, all about fifteen or sixteen years old.  I didn't catch everything they said, but, obviously, someone they knew had done something really stupid.  Whereupon, one of the boys, glancing at me, said, "That's so gay.  Who would do that?," as though he were saying it to me.  

Ding.  I got it.  I finally got it.  And I wasn't so much offended as I was disheartened--that the word gay now means stupid or idiotic.  Where I'd heard that expression before and didn't think much of it, the four words that followed opened my eyes wide, brought it more clearly into focus, and showed me how unacceptable its use is, especially among those who have no clue what they're saying.

It got me thinking, too.  What if we tossed around other words in the same way as gay? As long as we're using words to label people, what if we substituted gay for something else?  For example, "That's so teenaged boys.  Who would do that?"  Do you think had the three teenaged boys heard me say that, they would have gotten it?  No, you're right.  Probably not.

There's no end to the other words we could use, you know.  Let's have fun with this.  What about:

1.  "That's so middle-aged female.  Who would do that?"
2.  "That's so African American.  Who would do that?"
3.  "That's so Asian.  Who would do that?"
4.  "That's so white businessman.  Who would do that?"
5.  "That's so Jewish.  Who would do that?"

I could go on, but I won't.  You get the idea.  

By now, I'm sure I've insulted any number of middle-aged women, African Americans, Asian people, Caucasian businessmen, and Jewish people with my examples.  But isn't that the point? How can using the sentence "That's so gay" be any less offensive or insulting to those who are gay or lesbian?  It can't.

So how do we stop its use when it's meaning is something so negative and derogatory--something none of us, straight or gay, wants to be?                  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thought for the Day, #31

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.                                                                                        
                                                                                   --Dr. Seuss, writer of children's books

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thought for the Day, #30

Being gay or straight is neither good nor bad.  It just is.  The sooner we accept that, the better off we are.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thought for the Day, #29

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.  The mind is everything.  What we think we become.
                                                                                        --Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

So whatever we think about being gay, good or bad, becomes who we are.  Why not make it good?


As much as I want my blog to be about elevating the experience of being gay, I also want it to be a snapshot of Chris and my relationship, whatever we happen to be doing--exciting or mundane. It's important to me to present a picture of just how normal a gay male relationship is, for straight as well as gay readers.  Contrary to popular belief, we're not always partying at the clubs until all hours of the morning, walking down city streets in our underwear during Pride parades, or having sex.
Not the blueberry jam Chris and I made.
So what do two gay boys do when they're looking to have a gay ole time?  Well, in the case of these boys (if, at our advanced ages, Chris and I can still refer to ourselves as that), you make blueberry jam, of course.  How could there be any other answer?  The fact is, this is blueberry season in the Lower Mainland--famous the world over for its plump, delicious, and plentiful blueberries (according to the radio ads, "nature's candy"), and I can't imagine why I never came up with the idea before.

Actually, I can.  When I was a real boy in my early teens, I spent three consecutive summers with my maternal grandparents in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, in the summer, known as Canada's Hawaii. While my parents and sister remained in Dawson Creek, 700 miles north, I got my favorite grandparents all to myself.  That is, if you didn't pay attention to the revolving door of relatives only too happy to find an excuse to travel to Kelowna between early July and late August to visit.    

The Okanagan is famous for its fruit production.  As I recall, the growing season starts with strawberries in late June and proceeds to cherries in early July, apricots later in the month, peaches in early August followed by plums.   A variety of apples appear in late September and on into October, when the first frosts ripen them from green to red.  And, of course, throughout the panoply of fruit seasons, a variety of vegetables overcome gardens, from tomatoes and cucumbers, to zucchinis and corn.

In the early '70s, I remember watching my grandmother spend her entire summers stooped over huge boiling pots, turning the bounty of patches, orchards, and gardens into a cellar full of glass jars she and my grandfather would draw from until the following summer, when the canning routine started all over again.  Countertops, tables, and the stove were always covered in some type of fruit or vegetable, in various stages of production; I wonder now how we ever had enough space to sit and eat our meals.  

I still see my grandmother toiling in the kitchen, the heat outside a stifling 32 degrees C. (94 F.) or hotter, the house an oppressive sauna, as my grandparents never owned an air conditioner.  I think the reason why I never considered making my own jam until this past Sunday is because I'd had my fill of jam-making and canning from those summers, even though I don't recall helping.  And because I'd never thought of it as something I wanted to do.  Why not just buy what you need at the store?

Still, I LOVE blueberries, and the blueberry season, although three or four weeks in duration, is over far too soon.  How better to extend it beyond the last weeks of August than by converting some into jam Chris and I will savor every morning at breakfast, when we eat toast along with our cereal?  Not to mention how gratifying it is to make something with your own hands and, in the case of jam, how healthier, too, since Chris is diabetic, and we can control the amount of sugar used.

So there we were, Chris and me, in a kitchen double the size my grandmother had to work in, the temperature inside and out a pleasant 21 degrees C., a mere four pounds of blueberries waiting in a large clamshell to be turned into less than a dozen cup-sized jars of jam.  Not a daunting prospect, I admit.  Except I'd never made jam before and wasn't sure I could.  As a starting point, I went on the Internet and located a recipe that broke the process down step-by-step.  Even I could do it, I thought.

Normally, I would have completed the project myself, banishing Chris to anywhere but the kitchen, since I become irritated if I constantly bump into him, or if we're always in each other's way.  But, this time, I thought I could use a second pair of eyes to keep me on top of the detailed instructions, and to do some of the grunt work while I made sure everything was ready to go when we needed it.  The two of us helping each other really made a difference; I recommend sharing the responsibility.    

"Now, remember," I told Chris at the outset, "there are two tricks to making jam.  It has to thicken, so it's the right consistency and not a loose mess in the jars, and the jars need to seal properly so none of the jam spoils."  I spread the nine pages of printed instructions (including pictures) on the island in the center of our kitchen, showed Chris what I'd already done to get us organized, and put a potato masher in his hand, directing him to the large mixing bowl and ten cups of blueberries already pre-measured.    

I'd like to tell you some horrific thing happened, making this story far more interesting than it really is, but, in fact, everything went as smoothly as it could have.  The only inconvenience was that Chris and I had to wait to start boiling the blueberries, lemon juice, water, apple juice (for sweetener), and pectin until the sanitize cycle in the dishwasher was over, ensuring the jars were sterilized and hot at the time we poured the boiled mixture into them.

And was our first jam-making effort successful?  You bet it was.  I tested a bit of the boiled mixture in a small spoon sitting in ice water to ensure the jam thickened properly and decided to add a little more pectin, boiling the mixture another minute (as instructed) before carefully ladling it into the jars.  In the end, the jam thickened perfectly, and the seals on all ten jars popped during the next couple of hours (music to our ears).  The only change I'd make is with the sweetener, adding a little sugar to the mix.

Next up:  peach jam, after Chris returns home from the Interior with a trunk full of fresh fruit.

Jam--not just someone's grandmother makes it.

This peach jam we made.
Postscript:  So on Saturday, September 2, Chris and I made a batch of peach jam (ten one cup jars) after he bought far more peaches than we need on his return trip home through the Okanagan in August.  I'm pleased to share a picture of our achievement with you.  I had a taste from the testing spoon, used to ensure the jam thickened, and it was delicious.

How much fun is making jam.  I wish we'd started earlier this summer and taken advantage of other fruit seasons before they came and went.

Oh, and by the way, this batch we cooked with four cups of sugar to ten cups of fruit (considered a reduced amount of sweetener), and not apple juice only as we did with the blueberry jam earlier in August, which I now find a little bitter.  Chris is happy with it though, since he's diabetic.            

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Quiet, Peaceful Life at Home

More than once, I've woken up (not from sleep but from unconsciousness), become aware of how much Chris and I have as a couple, and thought how fortunate we are that both of us value one of the things that is most important to each of us as individuals.  Months ago, I wrote a post about what I believe accounts for the success of Chris and my relationship, but I neglected to add one aspect without which I know we would not still be together nineteen years later:  we place the same worth on a quiet, peaceful life at home.

By contrast, for a short period in the mid-80s, I dated a fellow who was handsome, sweet, and well-meaning.  But, when I got know him better, I discovered how he thrived on drama, even attracted it because he couldn't seem to live without it.  His unusual roommate was a continuous source of drama--and I heard no end of what he put him through--as were members of his family, most of his friends, and all of his brief stints at employment.  At any given time, one or more parts of his life were in upheaval, the effects dizzying.  

Something always seemed to be going on, and, while he loved it, I found it disconcerting and exhausting.  Comfortably from the sidelines, I watched, shook my head in disbelief at what befell him each time, and wondered what could possibly happen next--all the while the realization reinforced that at least in this one way we were so different, we'd never make it as a couple. (There were other issues between us, too, but that was one of the major ones).

Then several years ago, Chris and I became friends with a gay couple, one of whom was a colleague at the company where I worked at the time.  We liked this couple because they were vibrant, clever, and a hell of a lot of fun (plus, we'd always wanted to be friends with another gay couple, who shared common interests with us so we could go out for coffee, walks, dinner, and the like).  For a short period, we enjoyed each other's company socially.  Sometimes, when work brought my colleague to Victoria, where Chris and I lived at the time, he'd make a weekend out of it.

Late on Friday afternoon, his partner took the ferry over to Vancouver Island, and we'd all get together for dinner on Saturday, later walking around James Bay, enjoying refreshments at the Ogden Point Cafe, taking in the beautiful view of the ocean and Washington State's Olympic Mountains from Dallas Road, strolling through Beacon Hill Park, and, toward the end of the evening, hitting a coffee shop/eatery on Government Street.  We enjoyed some good times and hearty laughs together, which I'll always remember with great fondness.  

Regrettably, we lost touch over the years, I suspect because, in at least one significant way, our lives and priorities were so different.  Where Chris and I believe strongly in home-ownership, first getting into the real estate market in late 1994 and owning one home or another ever since (except for a short period upon moving to Victoria for work in mid-2000, when I wasn't expected to be there more than two years), this couple has been together a decade or more, continues to rent an expensive apartment in Vancouver's Yaletown, and spends the majority of their time, money, and energy travelling around the world.

I rarely access Facebook, but, whenever I do, invariably, this couple is yet again on another trip--to somewhere in Europe, Turkey, South Africa, wherever their hearts take them.  While I'd talked to my colleague numerous times about the advantages of investing in a home--even, at one point, suggesting he and his partner consider purchasing the condo Chris and I bought in '94 and renovated thoroughly before listing it in August 2007--he was firm about maintaining his lifestyle of travel and experiencing the world at whim.  That penchant continues to this day.

Chris and I like to travel, too, and, over a long period, we've visited a number of different places. But neither one of us would ever sacrifice a quiet, peaceful home life for the continuous upheaval of three days here, a week and a half there.  Call us settled, call us staid, call us dull, but when it comes to priorities, from day one, among ours was home ownership (which has benefitted us financially, more than we ever could have imagined).

And, if that meant having to forego extensive and repetitive travel in order to buy a place we loved (or could afford, as the case may be), turning it into a beautiful, comfortable, and secure sanctuary where we'd spend the majority of our time together, then so be it.  Different strokes...


To see the post titled 'Thirteen Reasons Why "This Gay Relationship" Works,' click here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Opportunity of Aging

For all the effort I put into seeming knowledgeable and secure and insightful here on my blog--in the posts I continue to write encouraging gay and lesbian people everywhere to accept and love themselves--the truth is, as I've recently discovered, life is a continuous journey of learning to accept and love ourselves, in all our incarnations.  Just when we think we have the gay thing down, it turns out we need to employ the same skills we used to keep the acceptance and love going, as we age and look more and more like our parents, even our grandparents.  

I hate to admit aging scares me and makes me feel insecure all over again, but it's no surprise many people in the gay community--from what I understand, men and women--have an enormous issue with getting older.  Not a few gay relationships end because one partner was turned off by signs of age in the other's face and body (possibly because he was reminded of his own aging and, ultimately, mortality).   When the emphasis is so unrealistically on beauty, and vitality, and sexuality, all the domain of youth, then those of us no longer youthful can't help but feel insecure, especially if our partners are younger, much younger, than we are.  

So I fish for the answers I need.  "What will you do when I'm too old for you?" I ask Chris, as he stands before the kitchen sink, washing dishes.  "Will you exchange me for a younger model?" "Are you sure you'll still want me around when I'm old and ugly?"  "I can't compete with (fill in the name of a twenty-something young hunk both of us find attractive), you know."  And Chris's response is always reassuringly the same:  "Whatever," he says, outright dismissing the utter nonsense coming from my mouth.  "I'm getting older, too," he tells me.  "Who will want me when I'm old?"  He turns to look at me as I wipe the tea towel over a stainless steel pot, and he knows the answer.

Inside, I'm the same as I was nearly twenty years ago when I first met Chris; I don't feel a day older.  No, that's not true at all.  Chronologically, I'm older and usually don't feel it, but, internally, I'm better, much better, because I know myself in a way I didn't then.  Not only that, I like and accept myself, as a gay man, including all my shortcomings and weaknesses, more than I ever did.  Despite everything I erroneously accepted about being gay for so long, I've even learned to love myself.  I've grown a lot as everyone does, if they're conscious and aware and focused on evolving and improving and being who they were meant to be.  So what I have to offer Chris now, as opposed to in 1992, is richer.  And, thankfully, more of what he saw in me from the beginning.      

Without question, young people have much going for them.  Who can compete with youth and beauty and vitality?  On the other hand, who wants to, because that's only the package, the surface, not the substance, which, as we all know, is infinitely more important.  There comes a point when we need to see that and embrace the natural aging process, because it will happen whether we like it or not.  The challenge is not to look at aging as diminishment.  Rather, aging is becoming a different version of ourselves.  And, if we remain alert and do the work, each version at every stage of our lives will be richer, in one way or another, than all those before it. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thought for the Day, #28

The following quotes are from Cord Jefferson's "Where's the Pride in Pride Parades?:  In a Politically Important Moment for the Gay Community, Thongs and Theatrics Don't Cut It", published June 15, 2009 at www.theroot.com:

Annual pride marches ultimately accomplish two things: They entertain those of us--gay and straight--who already wholeheartedly support the cause of equal rights for the LGBT community, and they feed into the rotten stereotypes of bigots, the same people who fear gay boy Scout Leaders and consider same-sex marriage "deviant."

Knowing that there are people--voters who have the power to deny them rights--who will judge them based on the flamboyance of their appearance at one parade, why hasn't the gay community decided to tone down the pride festivals?  

I wish I could say that no bigots are going to use pictures of a few men in thongs in San Francisco [and in every major city in North America, including most recently Vancouver] to write off millions of gay, lesbian and transgender people, but I can't.  There's a lot at stake right now.  The community is on the verge, perhaps, of a tipping point for rights and acceptance. Maybe, just once, the LGBT community should try abandoning the scant costumes and embellished sexuality....  They could march down the center of America's [and Canada's] great cities in all the clothes they regularly wear, exposing themselves for what they truly are: normal human beings.  It wouldn't be as fun as past parades, and it's not fair.  But, for now, that's life.

Please click here for Jefferson's complete article.

Please click here for "Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Help Me Get My Partner Back?

A few days ago, I received the following email from Jim (the name has been changed):

I am/was in a relationship with a wonderful man for almost six years.  Excuse me for crying, but recently I met up with an old friend whom I had not seen in over six years.  While over [at my friend's place], things got out of control, and I did not stop them when I should have.  [We became intimate], but I stopped it before it went too far.  I'm also a bad liar and wear my emotions on my sleeve.  My partner asked me what was the matter, and I spilled it.  He took his key and gave me mine back.  He said we would meet up in two weeks and see where we are. This is the thing, the wait is killing me.  I cannot do anything but cry.  I'm also experiencing panic/anxiety attacks....  So I'm wondering what can I do to stop crying and to prove...that I'm sorry and it will never happen again?

After I read this, I felt for Jim, because I could imagine how difficult his situation must be.  Then, I started to worry I didn't have anything to tell him that would be helpful.  After all, my blog is primarily about accepting and loving oneself as a gay or lesbian person.  What do I know about calming down in an emotionally charged predicament and possibly getting two people back together?

That said, the more I thought about it, the more I realized not only did Jim's situation relate to the theme of low self-esteem--which is so important to me in connection with gay people--but also I saw Jim as a good friend, someone I care a great deal about, and I began to work through what I would say to a good friend who needed the support of someone who was understanding, compassionate, and would not judge him for what he'd done.    

Below, you'll find the basis of my response to Jim's email.  Again, I share this with you in the event you find yourself in the same situation and wouldn't mind the advice of someone who might be able to help you sort through your emotions and figure out what to do.  If any of you have something else you'd like to offer to help Jim, I invite you to leave a comment.  Jim and I thank you in advance.


To get through this difficult time, Jim, I think you need to get to the bottom of why you would allow the situation with your old friend to get out of control.  It seems to me there may be two reasons: 1). Either your relationship with your partner isn’t as good as you think it is, or 2).  You don’t feel good about yourself to begin with.  In either case, when you became intimate with your old friend, some need in you was satisfied by the attention he gave.  I don’t believe the gratification you felt was nothing more than the physical thrill of being intimate.  Rather, I think he made you feel good inside because he paid attention to you, maybe more than your partner has recently.  Or maybe you’re hungry for positive attention, period, whether from your partner, your old friend, or someone else, because of how you feel about yourself.  I suggest you give consideration to why you allowed the situation with the old friend to go as far as it did, because, if it could happen once, it could happen again.    

The bottom line is, the situation with the old friend happened, and there’s nothing you can do to take it back.  In short, you have to own what you did.  You have to take responsibility for it (which includes understanding why you let it go so far).  Once you have a better sense of what went wrong, you need an opportunity to discuss it with your partner.  At this point, he feels betrayed.  I’m sure you see that.  When trust is broken, so is the bond between two people, and there’s never any guarantee you’ll get either one back.  You must be as honest as you can with your partner, including telling him what motivated you to put yourself in the situation with your old friend in the first place. Hopefully, he’ll listen to you and understand.  But he’s hurting, make no mistake about that.  He will need some time to come to terms with what happened (even though you didn’t go all the way with the old friend, you went far enough to show what your intentions were).

The two week cooling off period is a good idea, and I think you should respect he needs this time.  In fact, both of you need this time to reflect on your relationship and to decide if there’s something worth saving.  If your partner can’t get beyond the betrayal and no longer wants you in his life, you will have to respect that and move on.  While I realize at this point letting him go would kill you inside, you don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you.  That would be another manifestation of low self-esteem.  On the other hand, if your partner is somehow able to get beyond his hurt and decides to take you back, don't underestimate how fortunate you are and do everything you can to convince him that you will never play around behind his back again.  It will take a very long time indeed for you to earn back his trust.  It can be done, but it will take both of you working diligently together, possibly for years.  I know of no other way.

For now, crying is a natural reaction to what happened.  You’re upset that you let the situation with your old friend get out of control, and you’re upset that you hurt your partner and he doesn't want to see you for a while.  Allow yourself to feel badly as you need to.  If necessary, turn to friends for comfort and support.  There’s no harm in crying: it shows you're human, and you regret what you've done.  Anxiety, on the other hand, is tough to deal with.  I know this because I suffered from debilitating panic attacks over fifteen years ago.  To counter an attack, I suggest you sit still in a quiet location and concentrate on your breathing, because anxiety is often a function of irregular and shallow breathing.  Remain still and take deep, regular breaths, allowing air to move into your diaphragm.  Do this as long as you need to at any given time until your anxiety subsides.  Deep breathing will also calm the adrenaline pumping through your body, which is a big part of anxiety as well.  (If this doesn't help, please be sure to see your doctor.)    

If you have the ability to contact your partner over the two week period, either by phone, email, twitter, etc., and he’s willing to talk to you, then, if you haven't already, let him know how sorry you are about what happened.  Make sure he understands you truly regret it.  Reassure him you will never hurt him like that again.  And mean it.  But, to ensure you can live up to that, do the work I suggested to understand why you went as far as you did with your old friend.  Discuss openly and honestly with your partner what you learned about yourself.  Help him to understand why you did what you did, and what you’ll do differently to ensure it never happens again.  Hope that he takes you back.  If he does, know your relationship won’t be the same as it was before, probably not for a very long time.  And, if he doesn’t want you back, take an appropriate length of time to mourn the loss of what you shared with him, and move on, ensuring you learn from your mistake and never put yourself or a future partner in the same situation again.

I hope this helps.  If you want to talk about this further, let me know.  My fingers are crossed for you, and I wish you the best.  

If you, or someone you know, needs help dealing with something related to being gay, please send me an email.  Simply click on "Send Mail" located on the upper right hand side of this page, and I promise I will respond to you.


A sneaky way to get your attention, isn't it?  Titling this post "Sex"?  But I do it for good reason--to have the opportunity to highlight the essential difference between what many people, gay and straight, think being gay is about, and what it's really about.      

Nat Nasci of Vancouver gave me the perfect gift, tied up with a big, red bow, when he responded to an email I submitted in late July to Xtra!, Vancouver's biweekly gay and lesbian newspaper, and suggested I don't get what being gay is.  In his letter, Nasci went on to write, 'Gay rights is about sexuality.  It's always been about sexuality.  We are supposed to be free from the restraints of oppressive religion, thought and people like you--the "don't flaunt it because I'm uncomfortable" crowd [p. 5].'

Too late to take that back, Nat.  But, if you think about it, do you really mean to say gay rights are not about sex, but about love?  The right to love people of the same gender?  Do you see the difference between sex and love?  I hope so, because there is one.  A big one.  

But, really, is that all gay rights are about?  Sex?  Or even love?  Don't you think, Nat, we could look at them a little more broadly, because they're about so much more?  Like, for example, human rights?  The right to dignity and respect?  The right to equality under the law?  The right to get married?  Things like that?

Couldn't we all agree being gay is really a little bit about sex, within the context of love (of course), and a whole lot about what makes us like everyone else in the human race?

To read my email and Nasci's letter in their entirety, please click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Views and Reviews of Vancouver's Recent Pride Parade

The Gay Pride "...movement has three main premises:  that [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)] people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity, that diversity is a gift, and that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered....  The word pride is used...as an antonym for shame, which has been used to control and oppress LGBT persons throughout history."

                         --"Gay pride," from Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

'"[Pride] is intended to be two things: a reflection and a celebration of the community and, to a great degree also, a parade for tolerance in our community...."'

                         --"B.C. Liberals offer no excuses for missing pride parade," by Jonathan Fowlie,
                           The Vancouver Sun, Wednesday, August 3, 2011, p. A2        


'A local professor...has called to ban the Vancouver Pride Parade for its "overly sexual content" and vulgarity.

'"Vancouver's so-called 'Pride Parade' should be banned.  It is vulgar...to say the least!," Shinder Purewal, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University political science professor, tweeted.

'Purewal said he openly supports same-sex marriage, but criticizes the content of the parade itself for being too sexual.

'Anyone who has seen pictures or videos [promoting the Pride Parade]...the sexual part is too much," he said.  "You wouldn't want to take your families there."'

                         --"Pride too sexy: Kwantlen prof," Metro, July 29-August 1, 11, p. 02

Reactions to Purewal's view from www.macleans.ca:

Well, I hate to have to say it but Shinder Purewal is absolutely right!  The reason I hate to say it is because I'm gay, I'm not ashamed of it, and I'm not in the closet.  Seeing those events does not make me proud at all but rather quite ashamed and angry.  The negative stereotypes that mainstream society has about gay people, i.e.: that we are all fairies and freaks and we do nothing but sleep around, are only reinforced by the people who attend and participate in the gay pride parade.  Would Black people hold a Black Pride parade and present themselves as slaves and servants?  NO.  Then why do we have to have events like this that reinforce our stereotypes?  Most people are only exposed to gay culture when they see coverage of this on the nightly news.  What the heck do you expect them to think?  I live in the suburbs, have been in relationships, but have yet to find that guy I want to spend my life with, but I am hopeful he is out there.  When I do find him, I will shout from the rooftops the pride that I feel being with him, a pride I would like to show by being able to walk down any street and hold his hand without fear of being looked at as an outcast or [becoming a target of violence].  As long as these shameful events continue to cast my sexuality and that of many, many others who may feel as I do, in a negative light, my dreams of Pride will never happen.


If heterosexuals had a parade and there naked people gyrating during the parade and around the associated events, they would be stopped and arrested.  
The pride parade is fine.  The naked perverts are not.


Why do they have to be so disgusting?  I am ok with gay but to do whatever you want in a parade....Gays, you are not furthering your rights by doing this.  You are turning people against you.


And these reactions from The Vancouver Sun, Monday, August 8, 2011, p. A8:

I know many compassionate, liberal-minded people who wonder why simulated sex acts, nudity and shouted profanities...can be sanctioned at one public event and not others.

                                                                --Peggy Trendell-Jensen, North Vancouver

No one is questioning the rights of gays, lesbians and transgendered to express their sexuality.
What is in question is how much sexual content (homosexual or otherwise) is publicly acceptable at what is billed as a "family friendly" event.  
Homosexuals have a tremendous amount to be proud of.  Contributions to literature, music, design, and the arts, are enormous and have had a profound influence in [the] shaping of our society and culture today.
What I'd like to see is a truly family friendly parade, one that we can all share and enjoy, taking pride in other culture and diversity.  Let's save the ass paddling for the nightclub or cabaret later.

                                                                               --Geoff Snell, Richmond

It's too bad the professor who called the pride parade "vulgar" received such a backlash.
I completely agree, having a sexually themed parade down the streets of Vancouver is vulgar.
I have no problem with same sex relationships, or marriage for that matter, but I know where to draw the line. 

                                                                               --Jesse Beaton, Delta

I am a supporter of gay rights, but the whole idea of shocking the world into acceptance is not the way to gain sympathy for the cause.
I believe the gay pride parade should exhibit gay love, not be a grandstand of blatant sexuality.
Call me old fashioned, but I believe leather whips and nudity belong in the bedroom.
[For] future generations to be more understanding and [to] change people's perceptions, then maybe the gay community could...make a few changes to the event.
Try to make it as welcoming as possible, not one that parents feel they must shield their children from because instead of candy, condoms are passed out.
For a group trying to break the stereotype, they seem to do a pretty good job of fitting the mould.

                                                                --Caitlin Hillcoff, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

In this post, I decided to let others speak for me.  They did a far better job than I ever could.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thought for the Day, #27

I suggest getting your hands on some gay literature or gay media.  It helped me a lot to see other people being gay and confident and loving themselves.  You'll find out soon, I hope, that gay people are some of the most talented, hilarious, capable people you'll ever meet.  And the world really needs those kinds of people, so stick around.  There are amazing adventures to be had with really funny, attractive, open friends and lovers. 

(From "Look at the Moon," by Agustin Cepeda, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller, p. 168.)

Be Open to the Possibility of Love

"I want you to promise me you'll leave yourself open to the possibility of someone getting close."

This advice I gave recently to elevencats, who lives in Estonia, after, in a comment to the post titled "Children," he wrote, "I don't let anyone too close to me," which he knew would preclude him from finding a life partner.  I was alarmed by his words and thought he was probably right, which is counter to what I know he wants because of past comments he made where he said he wishes to be in love with another man.  In a subsequent comment, elevencats wrote, 'Every night I go to sleep, I say "I love you, my special someone, wherever you are."'  Already, he has the love for a man; he just doesn't have the man.  

You know, when you're gay, it's remarkably easy to shut out other people, to keep them at arm's length, to prevent them from getting close.  We learn early on, particularly from experiences with kids at school, that people are hurtful.  They pick up on our differences, our sensitivities, and tease us about them.  That damages us inside, so, in defence, to prevent feeling pain, we close ourselves off.  To the extent that, when we reach adulthood, we relate to people in dysfunctional ways.  If we don't let anyone get close, we think, they don't get to know us, we don't have to pretend to be someone we're not, and we won't get hurt.    

I've been there, believe me.  I spent years and years shutting people out.  I suspect even if someone had tried to be friends with me in junior high school, for example, I wouldn't have given them the chance.  I'd been hurt too many times.  On the rare occasion when I had trusted others enough to befriend them, they often betrayed or used or turned on me.  And that hurt like hell.  You open the door to others only so many times before you begin to blame yourself for the pain you feel.  If I didn't let them close, you tell yourself, they couldn't have done what they did to me.  And I wouldn't feel so awful about myself.  We learn.  We learn.

So, then, when we get to adulthood, the only way we know how to relate to people is through short bits of superficial interaction, and only when necessary.  We get what we need, or we do what's required, and we move on.  I have no doubt many people who encounter us think we're terrific--if we'd just slow down long enough to let them get to know us better.  The real shame is if this happens with a potential life partner.  Few people who might be interested in us will mow us down to get our attention.  If we fail to demonstrate at least a little engagement and human warmth, opportunities will pass us by, and we won't even know it.

When I moved to Vancouver in the late '80s and met Dale through a personal ad, we become friends in a way I'd never been friends with anyone before.  Dale was gay, I was gay; he wanted a relationship, I wanted a relationship--but neither of us saw in each other what we were looking for.  Sometimes, when Dale and I were out walking on the Stanley Park seawall or eating at a restaurant, he'd tell me someone had just cruised me.  And you know how I reacted?  I said, "Yeah.  Whatever."  I didn't believe him.  He was a jokester, and, more often than not, I thought he was putting me on.  Dale had to keep repeating that he'd seen someone was genuinely interested in me for me to believe it.

So, on the one hand, I wanted a relationship, badly, more than anything else.  But, on the other, I didn't believe anyone could ever be interested in me, and I was oblivious to anyone who was. The extreme example of not letting anyone get close is shutting them out altogether, and I have some experience with that, too.  That sort of behavior will never endear you to anyone who might think you're handsome, or cute, or attractive, and would like nothing more than the opportunity to exchange a few words with you, maybe even take you out for coffee or dinner or a movie.

We learn early to close ourselves off from other people because we don't want to give them the chance to hurt us.  But, in order to achieve what many of us want most--namely, a relationship--we have to unlearn the only way we know how to interact with others.  It's not easy to turn our social skills upside down, to do the exact opposite of what we've always done, to come out of our shells and become extroverted.  But it's possible, and I know from experience it's about liking ourselves enough to realize if someone does hurt us, we don't have to feel negative about who and what we are.  We can develop the inner fortitude to avoid getting totally crushed by some of the insensitive things people do.

The advice I gave to elevencats is the advice I give to you.  Be open to the possibility of letting someone get close.  Even more, be open to the possibility of letting love enter your life.   Learn to love yourself, recognize your self-worth, and build the internal strength you can call on when someone hurts you, either intentionally or unintentionally, so you won't end up devastated and paralyzed.  So you have what it takes to recover quickly, and to realize that what someone has done to hurt you is more about him, and his own insecurities and self-loathing, than it is about you.

Friday, August 5, 2011


"I had a dream about you," she said.

She was Maria, our favorite cashier at Save-On Foods and Drugs, where we buy our groceries.  I couldn't imagine what she'd dreamed about us, or why.

"I dreamed you adopted a little baby," Maria continued enthusiastically, as though she were trying to sell us on the idea.  "Have you considered adopting?"

For exactly three and a half seconds, I answered.  In all the time Chris and I have been together, I think the subject of becoming parents has come up two or three times.  But it's gotten as much energy as we might give to talking about what to have for dinner, or which restaurant to go to.

(Truth be told, many years ago I thought if Chris and I were ever serious about having a child, particularly one with biology as close to ours as possible, he could contribute the sperm, and my sister could contribute the egg.  An interesting consideration, given that my sister has never had her own children, has no interest in kids whatsoever, and would definitely think I'd lost my mind if she learned of this asinine idea.)

Yes, we told Maria, we've heard of gay couples who adopt children.  No, it's not something we've ever seen ourselves doing.  But maybe I shouldn't presume to speak for both Chris and me, when he's never said anything about it one way or another, always deferring to me instead.  

Chris would make a great father; I have no doubt about it.  His endless patience would make him an ideal parent.  After all, if there's something parents need when it comes to raising children, it's patience.  I envision him playing with our child hour after hour, becoming a kid himself, and having a grand time.  I also see him being too lenient, unwilling to discipline, and leaving all the tough stuff for me.  

I was told I'd make a terrific father, once.  Coincidentally, the young woman who said it was someone I supervised.  She'd seen me work with colleagues and customers, and assumed the way I conducted myself on the job would translate to the role of parent at home.  What she didn't realize is there's a big difference between who you are within your own four walls, and who you're paid to be in the workplace.

In fact, I know I'd make a miserable mother.  I'm too much like my own mother to be any good in the role--uptight, selfish, and impatient.  If I made the commitment to be a parent, I know I'd be a good one, in spite of myself, because I don't take on anything without giving it my complete attention, energy, and time.

But that would be at the detriment of the child, whom I'm sure I'd make miserable.  I'd worry and fuss over it altogether too much.  I'd never give it any freedom or leeway.  I'd be behind it continuously, watching and judging and correcting everything.  My expectations would be too high.  I'd love it to death, is what I'd do.  And that's not good, either.

I think it's critical, whether you're gay or straight, to make a conscious choice about whether or not to have children.  To think long and hard about bringing another soul into the world and to realistically assess if you're the right people to do it.      

It's not because you can biologically have a child that you should.  Many heterosexual couples think having children is expected of them, so that's what they do, without giving serious thought to if they really want them, or if they have what it takes to raise them in the best way possible.  I pity children in that situation.  They had no choice to be born to a couple not well suited as parents.

No, there won't be any children around our house, other than those of our neighbors.  Chris believes it's not fair to the child if the parent is already older at the point of having them.  He's in his early forties now, and I'm in my early fifties.  That means by the time a child we had graduated from high school, Chris would be in his early sixties, and I'd be in my early seventies--perhaps not the best situation for a young adult.

Or are we making excuses?  The point is, some of us are meant to be parents, and some of us aren't.  Without question, I'm not.  But Chris?  I can't help but think a child is being deprived of having a parent as loving and as caring and as patient as I know he is.  On the other hand, do I really want to share Chris with a child?  I'm not so sure.  I'm not so sure.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Letter to "Xtra!," August 4, 2011

When we’re unhappy about something, we complain out loud; when we’re satisfied, we often say nothing at all.  In the past, I’ve written to Xtra! twice to complain about its one-sided depiction of the gay and lesbian community, most recently requesting more positive images of non-freaks (Marcus McCann’s word).  Today, I thank Xtra! for a job well done.  
In 2010, the cover of the Xtra! Pride issue depicted--what else?--go-go boys dancing in their underwear.  This year, the Pride issue featured an older gentleman, thin, grey hair on his head, wearing a “Loving Spoonful” T-shirt.  What a positive image for the community:  a senior supporting a worthwhile organization.
Reviewing my collection of Xtra! issues from the past two years (45 in total), I found seven with covers featuring people with grey hair (16% of the total).  Of those, only two depicted people with grey hair in a positive way (a PWA survivor and seniors still having sex).  That’s less than 4%.  From this, you’d think the gay and lesbian community belonged to only those under 35.    
That’s me on the most recent cover of your newspaper, albeit in about twenty years.  That’s all of us, sooner or later, if we’re lucky.  And it’s critical our media, like Xtra!, show us ourselves in a positive and uplifting manner, during all phases of our lives--not ignore us, hide us, or make us invisible.  Those with grey hair especially deserve to be proud.

Postscript #1:

The following email was received from Robin Perelle, editor of Xtra! Vancouver, in response to my letter:

Thank you! I appreciate all your feedback. I am especially glad that this year’s Pride cover resonated with you. That’s exactly what I was aiming to convey.

Postscript #2:  

Much to my surprise, this letter appears in the recent issue of Xtra!, #470, dated August 25, 2011.