Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thought for the Day, #14

"Most of the people who are very down on who you are and what you are, they have a lot of pain inside of them.  After all, what you're doing is not hurting them, it's got nothing to do with them, it does not threaten their lives at all, and yet they react so strongly against you.  The only conclusion I can draw is that they must have some kind of pain inside them that makes you a threat.  They have made you a threat.  But, again, that's their problem.  It's not your problem at all."

(From Lawrence Gullo, Fyodor Pavlov, Eileen Charbonneau, and Ed Gullo, "Our Parents as Allies," It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, Dan Savage and Terry Miller, eds., p. 241.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Perfect as You Are

I'm about three quarters through reading Dan Savage and Terry Miller's It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living.  So you'll forgive me if a number of my recent posts have been connected to this book, whether quoting from it ("Thoughts for the Day") or being inspired by it, to share some of my thoughts with you.

In general, I like the concept of the "It Gets Better Program."  If it achieves what it sets out to do--prevent young LGBTQ youth from committing suicide, because of the bullying they're subjected to at school and the resulting isolation and worthlessness they feel--then it's a success.

But, as I wrote in a post titled "Make It Better Project," published on October 19, 2010, I believe we owe our young people so much more than hope for some distant point in the future--a future that, at their age, seems so far away.  We have to give them something right now, something they can use to get through the day-in and day-out of being tormented (since none of us have figured out a way to stop bullying altogether).

When I was young, suffering from being the first child of parents who were children themselves, and from incessant bullying in grade school for being different in a way I didn't understand, I wish someone had taken me firmly by the shoulders, looked me squarely in the face, and said this:

"You are okay just the way you are.  The rest of the world is down on you for being different--from your parents, to the kids at school, to the Catholic church--and you're understandably scared as hell about what that means for your life and your future.  But don't be.  Don't buy into any of it.

"Maybe there's nothing you can do right now to stop the teasing and the hurtful and ignorant things people say, because you have no control over that.  But what you do have control over is how you feel about yourself as a result of what they say and do.

Sure, it takes a strong person to rise above, but I know you have that strength. I know you have that strength because I know you're special and wonderful and beautiful and fantastic and sacred.  And do not allow anyone to make you think differently.  

"Love yourself.  Love everything about yourself.   Know how important you are. Know how valuable you are.  Know how much you mean to the people who love you and to the world.  Be confident in the knowledge there's nothing wrong with you, you are just the way you're meant to be.

"If you are not strong, those who want you to hate yourself will win.  They will see you're weak.  They will take control.  They will rule your mind.  They will destroy your spirit.  What they do to you will have a negative effect on your life for years, even decades, after you graduate from high school.  And, long after their bullying ends, you will continue to bully yourself, having accepted, in one way or another, what they said as the truth.

"But they must not win.  They are no better than you are, even though they might come across that way. Nor do they know any better than you do--not about this, not about who and what you are.

"I'm not here to talk about the future, even though it will be so much better than you can imagine. Rather, I'm here to talk about right now, because you need help right now.  You can do this.  You must know you have it in you to be strong, as strong as you need to be to get through this.

"You must not let yourself down.  You must not give in to the negativity, no matter what it looks like, no matter what form it takes.  Draw strength from that core within you that knows you are good.  Your character is being tested, but you are stronger than anything thrown at you.  And I know you can do this.

"I repeat, above everything else, love yourself, because that's the greatest lesson you will ever learn. Know in your heart you are worthy and don't deserve any of the abuse you're going through.  Believe in yourself.  Honor yourself.  Respect yourself.  Have faith in yourself.

"You can do it.  You will overcome."

Today, if you are a young person being tormented because you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning your sexuality, I'm taking you firmly by the shoulders.  I'm looking you squarely in the eyes.  And I'm telling you what you need to hear from someone who knows.  Someone who's been there, who survived everything grade school can throw at you, who came out the other side.

Please, please listen to what I have to say.  Hold your head high.  Be proud of who and what you are. Go confidently forward in the knowledge nothing is wrong with you, you don't deserve what you're going through, and you are so much better than everything you have to endure.

You are perfect just as you are.

Thought for the Day, #13

'If you're struggling with this right now, I want you to go to the mirror, look at yourself and say "I'm (your name)."  If the words "gay" or "bi" or "trans" or "queer" are on your lips, replace it with your name. Because that's who you are.  That's the core of you.  I hope you can understand that.  It's something I didn't understand for far too long [p. 250].'

(From Jessica Leshnoff, "My Own Worst Enemy," It Gets Better:  Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living," Dan Savage and Terry Miller, eds.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Positive (Vintage) Images, (Part Four)

So I went looking for a single vintage photograph that presented gay men in a positive way--because we could use all the positive images of gay couples we can find--and I hit the motherlode.

I remember the art book publisher Harry N. Abrams released a book filled with pictures like these some years ago, and, as I turned the pages, one after another, I found each one life-affirming.  Each validated what Chris and I share together all these years later.

Gay couples have been around forever.  We are only a few in a long line of men who loved other men. Imagine how subversive--and frightening--it must have felt way back when to have your picture taken with another man in these ways.  

I hope you enjoy the images.  Let me know what you think.

And my favorite:

All images are from


I found the book I referred to above.  It's called Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918, by David Deitcher.  According to, it's still available in soft cover.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The REAL Power Behind Loving Yourself

This is the crux of why I keep writing about how we must love ourselves as LGBTQ people.

Here's the title from one of the personal essays in Savage and Miller's It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living (p. 228). I couldn't have said this any better or more succinctly.

Let's all receive and live this message:

"Haters Can't Hate Someone Who Loves Themselves, And If They Do, Who Cares."

Thank you, Lynn Breedlove.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


If you're an overachiever, there's a good chance your self-esteem is low, and an even better chance your self-esteem is low and you're gay.  I know of what I speak.

For many years, I believed the only thing I had going for me was what I did.  I thought if I pushed myself hard enough, if I produced, produced, produced--and, not only if I produced, but if I produced perfection--people would notice me.  I'd get positive attention I couldn't get any other way.  I thought people may not like me because I'm gay, but if I impressed them with the things I did, by the results I achieved, they'd have to notice me, they'd have to respect me, they'd have to put my sexual orientation behind everything else.  I believed what I did, not who I was, was the only way I'd win people over.

Let me tell you what a vicious cycle that was.  First, no one is perfect.  Even if your whole being is focused on being perfect, you will never achieve perfection. Never.  Excellence? Yes.  Perfection? No.  You'll make yourself crazy trying to achieve something that's unachievable.  And, not only that, but every time you fall short of being perfect--which is constantly--you'll hate yourself even more for not measuring up to some unrealistic perception you have of yourself, and, according to what you think, for disappointing other people.  All you'll end up doing is finding another reason not to love yourself.

I was an overachiever through school, college, and every job I ever had, including the twenty-eight years I spent with a major financial institution.  Don't get me wrong--if someone pays me for what I do, then I want to do the best damn job I can for them.  It feels great to receive compliments and awards, to have the confidence of your boss and your boss's boss.  To be given greater challenges, and special projects, and pay raises, and annual bonuses.  All of that is a huge ego boost, believe me.  It's easy to get caught up in that stuff, to lose yourself in it, to concentrate on your career and see yourself go places that way.

But what about you?  What about all the hiding behind the career and the achievements and the pay?  It catches up to you. Eventually, you realize what you're doing.  Eventually, you see pushing yourself to achieve even more and even better--because you can't face the reality of who you are, because the need to run away from yourself is never-ending--won't help you deal with the pain inside, the pain of being something you hate, the pain of being something you believe everyone else hates, too.  As the old saying goes, you can run, but you can't hide.

Every time I pushed myself harder in my career was a cry for help.  Over a twenty-eight year period, I'd risen to star status, and I'd fallen to has-been status--numerous times over.  I loved riding high as a star.  Who wouldn't?  I loved the recognition.  I loved the love.  I felt the people I worked with loved me, in the way colleagues who respect each other's work do.  What I didn't realize is, they didn't love me for me, and, even worse, I didn't love me for me, either.  I loved me as long as everything was going well, as long as I continued to achieve, as long as others recognized me for what I'd achieved.

It's when you're a has-been that everything begins to fall apart. As a has-been, I was forced to take a hard look at myself in a way I never did when I was a star. As a has-been, not only did I see I was falling short in my job--that some colleagues far surpassed me with their performance--but also I saw I'd let myself down.  I'd let myself down by refusing to see my low self-esteem.  I'd continued to rely on other people to make me feel good about myself.  I hated who I was as a human being, because I was gay, but I liked who I was when I performed well, because everyone seemed to like me.

I remember talking to my boss one day as I sat at my desk.  I don't recall the nature of the conversation--I believe I was at the deepest part of being a has-been again, the performance of the department I ran wasn't meeting national expectations, and I took personally that I'd let everyone down. When, all at once, I woke up.  Finally.  For the first time in two decades.  And what I'd done over that twenty-year period became clearer to me than it ever had before:  I'd allowed what I did, my constant drive to overachieve, to become me, to take control, to overshadow the truth of who I was.  

In other words, for the first time in my life, I'd realized how I allowed my need to overachieve to trump my value as a human being.  For years and years, I'd tried to obliterate my sexual orientation--to wipe it from my mind and the minds of everyone I worked with--by distracting with results, results, results. Unconsciously, I'd told myself, "They may hate me as a gay, but they'll ignore all that and love me in spite of it for what I do, for the recognition I bring us, for our increased profitability as a company."  I believed I couldn't make them love me as a human being, but as an employee?  I had control over that.

I wish I could say I retired in the summer of 2007 riding high, at the top of my game, as that proverbial star.  But I can't.  I was working harder than ever, expectations had blown out of proportion, and the performance of the centre I managed at the time wasn't good. But this time, the valley in my career was different.  I no longer counted on the estimation of my colleagues, in relation to how well I performed, to make me feel better about myself, to make me love myself.  I knew I was meant to do so much more than I had for so many years, and I left my job to embark on that road and see where it took me.  

Is overachieving an issue in your life?  Is it somehow connected to your sexual orientation, and how you feel about yourself?

Give up your need to overachieve.  Recognize your value as a human being for who you are, not for what you do.  Be satisfied with performing well, pursuing excellence, not working yourself into an early grave so you think other people will love you, so you think you'll love yourself.  

Set yourself free.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thought for the Day, #11 & #12

"You can be whatever you want.  You can love whomever you want.  But only if you first love yourself [p. 174]."

       -- John Berry, director of the United States Office of Personnel Management


"What's going to keep you strong, and what's going to help you get through it, is learning how to love yourself.  Seeing yourself as good enough.  Seeing yourself as beautiful enough.  And sharing what makes you, you.  Falling in love with what makes you unique is going to help you get through this difficult time.  Trust me. I've been there.  Thousands of other people have been there.  There are more people out there like you than you can imagine, and they share your story [p. 207].

                                -- Tuan N'Gai, "How I Got Over"

(Underscoring is mine for emphasis.)

Both quotes from It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, Dan Savage and Terry Miller, eds.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why Gay?

Why am I gay?

For years, I asked myself that question.  It wasn't so much about what caused me to be gay--that is, nature versus nurture--as it was about, for what purpose am I gay?

Some Christians would say being gay is my test.  They might not dispute that I was born gay, but they would dispute I've given in to being gay, to living my life as a fully-realized gay man, including having sex with someone of the same gender.

Of course, I disagree.  I agree that I may have been born gay, but I disagree that it's the test I've been given to earn my way into the afterlife, and that I failed by giving in to living as a gay man.  That puts a negative spin on being gay, and, as my most frequent readers already know, I choose not to look at being gay as something negative.  After all, being gay is a large part of my life.  It's what I am. It's how I experience life.  Even more, it's who I am.  

So I'm gay.  Why am I gay?  Why am I gay as opposed to something else?  Like left-handed.  Or interested in math instead of writing.  Or blue-eyed?  Or whatever?

Nothing is an accident.  I'm not accidentally gay.  That is, I'm not gay by accident. I'm gay for a purpose, and it took me a long time to figure out that purpose. Because understanding that purpose necessitated acceptance of why I'm different in that way, when I couldn't accept it for the longest time. Or maybe understanding that purpose helped me accept I'm different in that way.

In short, I'm gay to help others who are gay.  Now that I'm older, and I've lived over half a century, and I've been through several phases of what it means to be gay, I'm over all that, and I've accepted I have a responsibility to help other people accept their own gayness.  Who better to show a young gay person, struggling with his or her sexual orientation, than someone who struggled with his own? Someone who knows firsthand what being gay is about?  And, more importantly, what being gay can and should be?

A straight person can't help a gay person come to terms with being gay in the same way a gay person can.  I don't know the first thing about being straight, so how can a straight person know the first thing about being gay?  A straight person can (and should) accept a gay person.  A straight person can (and should) support a gay person.  A straight person can (and should) love a gay person.  But a straight person can't validate a gay person.  A straight person can't show a gay person by example that it's all right to be gay.  Only a gay person can do that.

At some point, we have to look outside ourselves.  We have to get over what's been given to us.  No, more than that, we have to embrace what's been given to us.  In my case, this is being gay.

And we have to look at ourselves and our lives in a larger context.  What's it about?  Why am I here? What is uniquely mine to share with others?

Today, I'm male, 51, and gay.  Today, I'm deeply in love with my partner of nearly two decades.   Today, I love myself more than I ever have before.  Today, I know being gay isn't a liability--it's a gift. It's a gift I was given to share with others, particularly those who are also gay but not in the same place as I am today.

If ever you wonder what your life's work is, what your purpose for being here is, what you were intended to do during your short time on earth, take a close look at your gifts.  What was given to you. What's different about you from everyone else?  What makes you unique?  What makes you special?

Maybe you hate what's unique about you now.  Maybe you hate being different from everyone else, because what makes you different makes you stick out, attracts negative attention, repels people.

Never forget, what makes you different is your gift.  You received your gift for good reason.  Your purpose is to embrace it.  Your purpose is to love it.  Your purpose is to understand how to use it, not just for your own benefit but for the benefit of others.

What do you have to offer that someone else doesn't?  What is uniquely yours to give away?  If you're gay, being gay is what you have to offer, is uniquely yours to give away.  Even being gay is a gift. Being gay is a gift.

Why gay?

Why not gay?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh (Revised)

Then I read this, by Adam Roberts in "The Dinner Party," on page 83 of Dan Savage and Terry's Miller's It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living:  

"...As a teenager, I was really repressed.  Whereas some repressed teenagers become angst-ridden and sullen, I was the opposite: I was a manic sack of nervous energy [-] fidgety, jokey, always hiding behind my humor...."


'By then, I'd found an incredible group of friends in Rathskellar, Emory's improvisational comedy troupe. It was in Rathskellar that I first learned I didn't have to be "on" all the time....'

(Italics are mine for emphasis.)

Gay humor is a wonderful, and wicked, thing.  In the company of my gay friends in the past, particularly Dale, whom I met shortly after moving to Vancouver in the late 1980s (he passed away in 2000), I laughed so hard and so long, I hurt all over.  My face, my sides, my stomach--everything hurt. Laughing takes a lot of energy.  It requires you to be up over an extended period.  Sometimes, after I'd spent an afternoon with Dale, I felt as though I'd been through a rigorous workout. I was wiped.  It was exhausting.       

Dale was in a lot of pain because he was gay, effeminate, homophobic, single, lonely, and average-looking.  I didn't see the pain he was in until we'd been best friends for several years.  Around the time I discovered I didn't want to be around him anymore, I realized what was going on.  He was addicted to making people laugh.  Humor was a drug to him.  He needed it to mask his insecurity.  He hid behind it so people wouldn't see all the things he hated about himself.  He used it to disarm others, to take the attention off his shortcomings.  I only wish I'd seen this then so I could have somehow helped him.     

There's nothing wrong with humor, or being funny, or making people laugh.  I'm not suggesting gay people should rid themselves of their funny, because, to some degree, they're defined by it.  But what I am saying is there's funny, and then there's FUNNY.  Any gay man who is incessantly FUNNY, who lives to entertain others, who surrounds himself with an audience all the time, who's constantly "on"--that man is hurting.  He's also hiding and covering up something.  Don't be fooled by the nonstop comedy routine that is his life.     

It's been said laughter is the best medicine.  Who among us doesn't know that to be true?  But when humor is used excessively and obsessively, as I know Dale did, then it can have the opposite effect:  it pushes people away rather than draws them closer.  It can also prevent one from dealing with the bigger issue, which is why one uses humor to escape in the first place.  As Roberts suggests in the remainder of his quote, "...I...learned I didn't have to be 'on" all the time, that it was important to be introspective, and...being gay really wasn't that big of a deal." 

Sometimes, taking the time and effort to be still and contemplate ourselves and our lives is necessary. True, until we come to terms with being gay and learn to love ourselves for who and what we are, introspection is tough.  We may not like what we see when we take that sober look in the mirror.  But, as Roberts writes, being gay isn't a big deal.  It's another facet of us, like everything else.    

Our biggest challenge, as I see it, is to get ourselves there, to believe in our minds and in our hearts we're all right just the way we are.  Only then will the funny we share with others, that doesn't originate in a place of pain, be truly humorous.    


"How did I survive?  I survived by making people laugh.  It was my personal defence mechanism. Making people laugh--and getting them to like me--saved my life.  Who is going to judge or pick on me, if they're laughing?  Comedy has the incredible power to disarm....  I'm still getting people not to judge me, by making them laugh first [p. 202]."

"I've turned all that hate into love by way of laughter [p. 203]."

(Both quotes from Murray Hill, "I Didn't Always Wear a Tuxedo," It Gets Better.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"After River" (Updated)

"He came on foot.  Like a mirage, he rose in a shimmer of heat waves above the winding dirt road leading to our door.  I watched him from the shadows of our enclosed porch."

Thus begins After River, a novel I read in 2008, several months before I started writing this blog. After I finished reading it, I remember thinking I wished I had a way of bringing it to the attention of other readers, because I feared it would get lost in the relentless release of new books.

For the record, I dislike recommending books because I don't know your taste as a reader.  I could tell you something is fantastic, create unrealistic expectations, and you could end up not only being disappointed, but question my taste as well.  

So, let me use a little reverse psychology here:  I don't recommend this book, but here's why I think you should know about it:

1.  For my readers in British Columbia, the Canadian province where I live, the writer of After River is Donna Milner, a sixty-five-year-old, former real estate agent, who lives outside of Williams Lake.  In other words, Milner is a local writer, and I think we should support local writers to the extent we can, as long as we like their work.  I like Milner's work.

2.  I don't want to give away too much about the story, but you should know there are gay male characters in it.  The preamble on the inside of the dust jacket doesn't state this, but it gives some sense of what happens.  It says, in part:

"Everything changes one hot July afternoon in 1966 when a long-haired stranger walks up the winding dirt road to their door.  The arrival of this soft-spoken Vietnam War resister sets catastrophic events in motion that will leave relationships shattered and Natalie [the protagonist] separated in unimaginable ways from the family she loves."

3.  What struck me about the novel is the sensitivity with which Milner handles the gay storyline.  I thought either she had firsthand knowledge of what it's like to be gay (perhaps she has a close relative, even a son, who is), or she is one perceptive writer.  Whatever the case, the gay characters are treated with the utmost respect and dignity, and that isn't always the case in written material.  

I fear Milner's novel didn't receive enough attention after it was released, particularly from the LGBTQ community.  I could be wrong, but I don't recall ever seeing it on the bookshelves at Little Sisters, the gay and lesbian emporium in downtown Vancouver.  And this is a shame because they sell plenty of crap. Milner's novel isn't crap.  It's possibly one of the best books I've read with a gay storyline.  It offers a beautiful portrayal of gay love, with no salaciousness whatsoever, and it will break your heart to learn what happens to the characters.

To pique your curiosity further, here's another quote:

"I stood frozen.  The scene in front of me, the rumpled bed, the clothes strewn on the floor, River's canvas duffel bag in the corner, his guitar case leaning against the wall, I took it all in.  But it made no sense.  The relief of finding River there conflicted with the truth of what I was seeing.  I heard Boyer's voice groan, 'Oh, God, Natalie.'"

Interested?  I hope so.   

Update:  So this past Monday, April 25th, Chris and I found ourselves unexpectedly in downtown Vancouver.  We were supposed to spend the day in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, but we missed the nine o'clock ferry by seven cars and didn't wait until eleven o'clock for the next departure.  So we decided to drive into Vancouver instead.

Among the places we visited was Little Sisters, located on Davie Street.  To my surprise, and delight, I found a copy of Milner's book on their bookshelves--a single copy, mind you, and not in the section I expected.  It was in the lesbian fiction section.

I don't have a problem with it's categorization there, and I understand because the writer is female and the story concerns a female protagonist, it might be assumed women would be more interested in reading it than men.    

But this means most gay men probably wouldn't consider After River, and that's a shame.  After all, the gay story line concerns two men, not two women.  And, as I wrote previously, Milner does a beautiful job of presenting this storyline, which is a significant part of the novel.

Don't be misled by the book's cover or where it's placed in a bookstore.  Milner's story is universal and deserves attention from both sexes.  

Thought for the Day, #10

"We're conditioned to seeing men holding guns but not men holding hands."

                                                                        -- Jodi Picoult, Sing You Home

Thought for the Day, #9

"And know that you are truly beautiful from the depths of your being, because loving yourself is the greatest gift you can experience!  What others perceive and say is illusion as far as your true self is concerned."
                                                -- Michael Feinstein, singer, pianist, historian

(From It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, Dan Savage and Terry Miller, eds., p. 92)


Friday, April 8, 2011

Karofsky, Part 2

A lighter, more fun post today.  Yes, I think I have those in me, too.  I hope so, anyway.

First, I thought I'd share some statistical information about my blog, which you may (or may not) find as fascinating as me.

To the left is a list of the top ten posts.  These are the ones that received the largest number of page views of the nearly 250 posts I've written in the past two years (that remain on my blog).  The stats for the top five, starting from the bottom up, are as follows:

5.  "Why What Makes One Gay Doesn't Matter," written January 20, 2011, total page views--199.
4.  "Strong Gay Men, #2," written September 9, 2010, total page views--229.
3.  "Positive Images (Revised)," written January 12, 2011, total page views--305.
2.  "Strong, Gay Men," written July 12, 2010, total page views--439.

And--drum roll, please--the Number One post to receive the highest number of page views--a full 454 more than the next most popular post, is "Karofsky," written on November 24, 2010, following the "Never Been Kissed" episode of Glee, in which football jock Dave Karofsky, played by Max Adler, laid one on Kurt Hummel, played by Chris Colfer.  This post has received a whopping 893--and counting--page views so far.  

I have no clue why this particular post has generated so much interest, far most than any of the others I've written on subjects I consider far more important (such as raising self-esteem in gay men).  But, in an effort to figure it out, I googled the word "Karofsky"and found a reference to my the bottom of the second full screen of options.  Which means you'd have to go looking (a little) to find it.  (I even thought people might have searched for information on someone else with the same surname and landed on my blog, only to realize it wasn't what they were looking for.  Who knows?  It remains a mystery.)

But, for the sake of argument, let's assume what I have to say about Dave Karofsky on Glee genuinely interested almost nine hundred people.  Why could that be?    

Perhaps because he's one of the most fascinating characters on TV right now, and I think one of the most compelling.  Here's why:  

1).  Because you would never in a million years suspect he's gay.  I mean, take a look at that face. When you saw him throughout Season 1, throwing Slushies at Rachel, Finn, et. al., did you think for an instant he was gay?  You're a liar if you say you did.  He's a major closet case, easier able to hide his sexual orientation than most of us.  That in itself is fascinating.    

2).   Because, in the TV universe, where everything--and I mean everything--is out there to see, we know nothing about Dave Karofsky.  We know nothing about his past.  We know nothing about his torment (and, believe me, someone with that much anger is tormented).  And we know nothing about his future, which I'll have more to write about below.  

3).  Because he's the quintessential high school bully finally getting his just desserts. Our parents told us about their type--insecure, probably the exact same thing they teased us for being--but we didn't believe them, did we?  Well, now we have Karofsky, the symbolic bully, the manifestation of what our parents always said.  Imagine, the studly, high school football jock, with apparently everything going for  Does it get any better than that?  

But I don't think these are the only reasons why this particular TV character fascinates.

For example, I think viewers are interested in where the writers and producers of the Fox series plan to take him.  That is, if you haven't already lost interest.  Karofsky hasn't appeared in a single episode--not even to throw another Slushie, slam someone into a locker, or threaten death--since "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle" aired following the Super Bowl on February 6 (in which, incredibly, he both danced and sang, after he said he wouldn't, because they were both gay).  Not one sighting.  Does this mean the series is done with the Karofsky character?

If the blogosphere is accurate, nope, not at all.  In fact, much of the upcoming April 26 episode, expanded to a full ninety minutes (yeah!), will center around Adler's Karofsky, exploring the theme inspired by Lady Gaga's current smash hit "Born This Way."  And, from what I can tell, whether this season or next, the Karofsky story, according to series creator Ryan Murphy, will have a happy, although at this point, undetermined, ending.

Which got me thinking.  If I were a writer on Glee--and bearing in mind the impact it would have--what would I do with the Karofsky storyline?

First, like Murphy, I'd want it to have a happy ending.  Yes, I know, this character deserves to be put through hell, the same as we were back in high school.  But I'm not sure I'm up for revenge anymore. Is it even the point?  I've matured over the years, and I've realized nobody's story is ever easy.  In the process, I've developed compassion for the likes of Karofsky.  I mean, you have to feel sorry for the guy.  You do.

For that matter, when I think about it, I suspect we all have a little Karofsky in each of us.  Maybe that's a part of his appeal:  we see a little of him in us, but we see a little of us in him, too.  When you acknowledge that, dismissing people, or characters on TV shows--if they are developed well--becomes more difficult. Nobody is ever all black or all white.  There's lots of grey in between, which is the common ground we all share.

So let's talk about THE kiss.  What did it mean?  Did Karofsky simply have no more appropriate way of coming out to Kurt and demonstrating to him what they had in common?  Or was Karofsky genuinely attracted to him?  Fascinating, that. Imagine, a big, burly, high school jock attracted to the diminutive, flamboyant poof. Doesn't it give new meaning to the expression, opposites attract?

Would it be realistic for the writers of Glee to link Karofsky and Kurt together, especially since Kurt now attends the Dalton Academy and is about to be an item with Blaine (played by dreamboat Darren Criss)?  I suppose stranger things have happened. But in the real world, how would that work? How could a self-respecting--and, need I say, homophobic--football player end up with a boa-wearing, show-tune-singing, screaming flamer (cute as he is, of course)?

Would it be fair that Karofsky live a double-life:  By day, the rough, tough, homosexual-hating football jock; by night, Kurt's passionate snookie bear? Would we want that to happen?  Consider the message it would send to all the real-life jocks, scarcely able to keep the quivering doors closed on their closets, so frustrated are they having to hide their true selves. Would that be a fair tradeoff for Karofsky: here, you can have Kurt, but, guess what, you have to stay in hiding? Otherwise, we can't guarantee what will happen to you when your teammates, and the rest of the school, realize what you really are.

Whatever the case, how enticing would it be for the tormentor and the tormented to end up in a loving, long-term, committed relationship together?  What sweet, sweet revenge for those of us who faced the music every day of our lives in the public school system, who learned the meaning of hate when we looked into their evil, detestable faces.  Could I have ever in a million years turned my hate into love for one of my torturers?  Not bloody likely.  And the look on Kurt's face, when Karofsky threatened to kill him if he ever revealed his secret, told us he couldn't either.

But this is Glee we're talking about, not the real world.  And, if we've learned nothing, the Glee universe has it's own parallel reality, one in which bad things still happen, but so do miracles.    

(Disclaimer:  For the record, I realize Glee is just a TV show and is not reality.  I also realize it has a lot of potential to shape minds, depending on how it deals with some of the sensitive issues raised.  For this reason, I thought spending a little time on the character of Karofsky, and how his storyline rolls out, was worthwhile. I hope you enjoyed the post.)

Thought for the Day, #8

"Being gay is simply a benign fact.  Barely interesting.  How I wish I had known this early on."

                              -- Richard Chamberlain, actor

(From Crisis:  40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, Mitchell Gold with Mindy Drucker, eds., p. 107)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


There are two classes of gay men:  hot and not-hot.  It's the same as rich and poor.  You fit into one or the other.  There's nothing in between.  Guess which class I belong to.  This is my personal experience, but I know I speak for other gay men, lots of them.

A misconception is that if you're a gay male, you're hot.  That's because the gay males who get the most attention are hot.  They're handsome or cute; their bodies muscular and hunky.  Sure, they may represent us well, give us a pretty face, but they don't represent the entirety of us.  

In fact, the majority of us are merely average.  We're the ones with acne-scared or pock-marked faces, bad hair or receding hairlines, skinny or overweight bodies.  We don't necessarily dress fashionably. We don't draw attention to ourselves.  In other words, we're regular, everyday, common people.

When you're young and gay, you're on the outside looking in.  It starts in high school, maybe earlier. Jocks are on the inside.  They're all good-looking, athletic, and popular.  People like to be around them. Most of all, they're straight.  They're what you're not, what you wish you were more than anything.

You might assume things will be better when you grow up.  Chances are, you'll be out of the closet. You'll become more aware of other gay people around you. Only, you realize you're still on the outside looking in.  You think because you have being gay in common, you belong, but you don't.

This time, the ones on the inside are the gay men who appear to have everything going for them: great looks, lots of friends, desirability.  They dress well, drive nice cars, live in stylish apartments.  They're the cool group, the fun and exciting group, the one everybody wants to be a part of.      

Hot men only want other hot men.  Not-hot men only want hot men.  Nobody wants the not-hot men. Sooner or later, the not-hot men realize their chance of landing hot men is zero.  Together, not-hot men become great friends, but rarely do they consider each other relationship material.    

Not-hot men think by getting hot men, their status will change.  By default, they'll belong inside; they'll move to that coveted place.  Other hot men will befriend them.  Their desirability will increase.  They believe they'll learn to like themselves, even love themselves, more, as a result.

So they wait for the hot men to come on to them, not realizing it's all an illusion. Hot men won't come on to them or ever give them what they need most.  Not-hot men are surrounded by other not-hot men who would make perfect life partners, without all the fantasy and fraud of hot men.

Not-hot men give little thought to being alone and lonely while they pine for the hot men, while they dream about being on the inside looking out.  Eventually, many become more realistic and see other not-hot men as if for the first time.  But the question is, do they ever stop feeling less-than?  I hope so.

Thought for the Day, #7

"God loves you the way you are.  God doesn't want you to change.  God doesn't want you to be cured or healed, because there's nothing to be healed from.  You are the way you are, the way God made you.  And the way God loves you."

   -- Bishop Gene Robinson, "God Believes in You," It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, Dan Savage & Terry Miller, eds., p. 31.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Skeletons in the Gay Closet

In response to an article I read on recently--about how circumstances for gay men don't always get better once we graduate from high school, as projected by Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" Project--was this comment from Daniel S. in New Hope, PA:

Being gay in America is kind of like a layer of Hell wherein we are forced to live in high school for our entire lives. I am very much in agreement with David [Michael Connor in his March 23rd commentary titled "The Trouble with Happy Endings"]. No, it does NOT always "get better". In many ways I understand and sympathize with the lost souls who seek out the Ex-Gay movement because they can no longer endure our shallow and superficial "gay community" with it's body obsession, adolescent fixation with pop culture, and tendency to prize bitchiness as a virtue. While I do not believe that I can ever be "cured" of being gay, I have in recent years come to genuinely despise "gay culture". As a less than physically-perfect man in my late-30's, I am not really welcome in it. Truthfully, I have a lot of pity for gay kids because they really do not have a lot to look forward to. The bullying they get now from straights will be coming from gays later. Unless of course they grow up to be very hot.

What impressed me about this comment is how packed it is with stuff about our gay culture that should be unacceptable to us.      

Let what you read here sit with you for a while.  Then I encourage you to do something to help make being gay a little easier for someone else.  Often, all that's needed is an attitude shift.