Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Letter to Tina

Dear Tina,
I’ve decided to write you a letter.  Letters, I find, are more honest and personal, as well as easier to write (although, if you knew how much I've worked on trying to get this right, you might disagree).  As for my other readers, if you’re anything like me, the thought of being privy to someone else's private correspondence is both enticing and thrilling.  I hope you get something out of this, too.    
In your comment to the post titled “Monogamy on the Rise," you posed a couple of thought-provoking questions.  This is my attempt to answer those questions to the best of my ability, with a few sidetracks, starting with the second one first.
Why do some gay men cheat on their partners?  
Before I give you my point of view on this subject, I want you to know my answers don’t come from personal experience.  Chris and I have been together for over nineteen years, and neither one of us has cheated on the other.  And, even before I met Chris, when I was seeing someone--there were only a few for short periods--I never had sex with anyone else (the opportunity didn't happen, and I didn't want to).  That’s just the way I am.  For me, there's a direct relationship between cheating and self-respect.    
Since I can’t write from personal experience, my answers come from observations of other people who did cheat.  They come from conversations I had with some of them, trying to get to the bottom of what they did and why.  They come from thinking over the years about this issue and trying to understand what’s going on, and why sex is such a large part of being gay for some people.  And they come from my considerable reading on all matters related to being gay. Now, to your question.  
In general, I think long-term, committed, and monogamous relationships are difficult for some gay men.  In my opinion, there are a number of reasons why this is so:
1).  Gay men are men first, and gay second.  I’m not convinced all men, regardless of sexual orientation, are made for monogamy.  Are they hardwired to have sex?  Yes.  Is their sex drive intended to ensure the survival of the human species?  Yes.  Do they believe they should have sex with their partners only?  Not in all cases.  I think for many men, sex is a stronger impulse than monogamy.  As a man, I can’t account for the bad behavior of some men, nor do I make excuses for them.  Male sexuality is what it is.      
2).  When they enter relationships, a lot of gay men are what I call broken.  By broken, I mean, in part, consumed with self-loathing, because of the messages they received since they were children that homosexuality is wrong.  Over time, they came to believe those messages.  Thus, any homosexual behavior--even something as simple as meeting other men--feels innately wrong.  If they enter relationships, they often sabotage them--by cheating, for example--because I believe their partners are a constant reminder of what they know they shouldn’t be.      
3).  When broken gay men enter relationships, they bring with them a lot of baggage related to feeling insecure, worthless, and unlovable.  Again, these feelings are the result of societal messages related to homosexuality.  Gay men often have expectations of their partners that no one could ever fulfill.  They need to be validated, made to feel worthy, and convinced they’re lovable.  When their equally broken partners don’t have the skills to fulfill those needs, they cheat and look elsewhere (but, of course, the answers are within themselves, not with someone else). 
4).  Many gay men feel entitled to explore their sexuality with multiple partners, even though they’re supposedly in committed relationships.  Where this attitude originates is probably a combination of the nature of male sexuality (which I discussed previously); the need to counter crippling insecurity and self-loathing (that frankly no amount of sex with different partners could ever resolve); and the belief that monogamy is a heterosexual ideal that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, apply to gay men (which appears to be related to the expression and privilege of being an out, gay man).  
There you have it--my four-part answer to why I believe some gay men cheat.  I'm sure there are as many reasons as there are men, but these are the ones that come readily to mind and make the most sense to me.   

Now to your second question.
Do I think some people are against gays because some gay people aren’t monogamous in their relationships?
In a word, Absolutely.  But it’s not just about the inability of some gay men to remain monogamous.  It’s also about the tendency of some gay men to indulge in sex with a number of partners (sometimes, dozens or even hundreds), whether they’re single or supposedly in committed relationships.
I believe we live in a culture where cheating on a partner, whether secretly or in what’s called an “open” relationship--where the partners agree one or both can engage in sexual encounters outside of the relationship--is considered immoral.  I agree.  This practice, by the way, is not exclusive to gay people.      
In the past, I’ve written that homosexuality is not immoral.  Let me qualify that.  In my opinion, if you’re a gay man who’s faithful to his partner for the length your relationship, then I don’t believe homosexuality is immoral.  If, however, you’re a gay man who cheats on your partner, secretly or in an open relationship, then I believe homosexuality is immoral.
Further, in my opinion, if you’re a single gay man and engage in a modest and realistic number of sexual encounters, with the intention of finding the right man and settling down, then I don’t believe homosexuality is immoral.  If, however, you’re a single gay man and have sex with almost every man you meet, then I believe homosexuality is immoral.  
Let me hastily add an important point here.  I make no differentiation between straight people and gay people with respect to what I regard as immoral.  For example, whether you’re gay or straight, if you cheat on a partner, I consider your conduct immoral.  And, whether you’re gay or straight, if you have sex with an inordinate number of people, I consider your conduct immoral.  
Now, I believe non-monogamous and promiscuous behavior in gay men gets a lot of attention, particularly in various media.  In fact, as a result, gay men have become known for living what’s referred to as the “gay lifestyle.”  For that reason, the widespread belief exists that all men who are gay necessarily partake in the gay lifestyle.  Which, of course, is ludicrous.
As I mentioned above, Chris and I do not live the so-called gay lifestyle.  We know a number of other gay men in couples, none of whom (to our knowledge) cheat on their partners.  Yet, if you were to ask those who have an issue with gay people, they’d probably say it’s impossible for Chris and me, or any two men, to be monogamous...because we’re gay.      
That, in part, is why I write this blog:  to give readers a glimpse into a living, breathing relationship between two gay men, who love one another unconditionally, and who live a moral lifestyle consistent with the monogamous standards of most heterosexual people.  I may not convince all gay men to do the same, but I hope I convince those who are against us that not all gay men are alike.        
Once again, I want to thank you for your interest in my blog and in the subject of monogamy as it relates to gay men.  I also thank you for your comment that inspired me to write this letter in the hope of answering your questions.  If you have additional questions, or need clarification on any point, let me know.  I’m happy to keep this communication going until you understand gay men a little better.  
Yours sincerely,


  1. Yeah, you pretty much confirm my thoughts for why some gay men cheat etc. I also agree with the point that cheating in any form or having sex with almost every person you meet is immoral.

    Thank you, Rick, for answering to my questions once again. I bet it took a lot of time and thinking to write such a long letter. Thank you for that. :))

    Right now, I really don't have any questions to ask, but when I do, I will make sure you will hear about them. Until then, thanks a lot for your hard work writing this blog.

    All the best!

  2. Tina, it was a pleasure to write the "letter" in response to your comment.

    Part of the reason it took more work than anticipated is because, as a writer, I wanted it to turn out perfectly (it didn't), and because I needed to sort through all the thoughts and feelings I have about the lack of monogamy in the gay (male?) community and the prevalence of promiscuity. All the different drafts and pieces I came up with helped me to put it all together, so all of it was necessary to the process.

    Thank you for the opportunity you gave me to write this letter/post. I appreciate your interest in trying to understand gay people better, and I hope what I write will help you to understand your uncle better and encourage you to get back in contact with him.

    I hope to hear from you often. Take good care.