Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ben Cohen, Hero

Photograph by Richard Phibbs for "Out"
If you don't know Ben Cohen, I think you should.  Yes, he's undeniably attractive, judging by the picture to the right, but, believe me, that's not all he has going for him.

Cohen is a thirty-two-year-old, straight, married father of twin girls.  He's also a former British rugby player and England World Cup winner.  I use the word former because, this past May, Cohen retired to devote his energies full-time to the Ben Cohen Standup Foundation.

The goal of his Foundation is to combat bullying, especially in relation to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, and homophobia in general.  Cohen kicked off the American leg of "The Acceptance Tour 2011" in Atlanta, also this past May.  He engaged in a series of meet-and-greets and fundraising events, all in support of organizations doing the hard work in our communities to generate greater awareness and acceptance of people's diversity.

On his website, Cohen is quoted as saying, "I believe that every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves, to love and be loved and to be happy.  That's what we all want.  I am in a privileged position to be able to spread some important messages across the globe--and that's exactly what I'm going to do."  Further, Cohen has said, "I'm passionate about standing up against homophobia and feel compelled to take action.  It is time we stand up for what is right and support young people who are being harmed."

Here's what I see:  With his good looks alone, Cohen gets attention, and he knows it, making it work for him (for example, he's willing to pose shirtless for pictures and be a calendar boy if people listen to his message).  Beyond that, the fact he was a well-known, world-class athlete puts him in a unique position, particularly with the sporting community, including players and spectators.  (And let's not forget how closeted athletes are in general, usually not coming out until after they've retired.)  

What I think Cohen has more than anything else is straight cred.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  people pay attention to straight people talking about the intolerances toward and injustices against gay and lesbian people, more than when gay and lesbian people themselves lament their own plight yet again.  Yes, we need to help ourselves, and we can't sit back and wait for compassionate and influential people like Ben Cohen to take up our causes.  But it certainly doesn't hurt to have someone like him on our side.

In my opinion, Ben Cohen is a hero, and he has my utmost admiration.  Unlike anyone in his position before him, he made the choice to shift his priorities from playing sports and earning big money, to adopting a cause not normally supported by someone who is straight.  And I don't think there can be any doubt his efforts, through the Standup Foundation, will increase awareness, raise funds, and make a difference in the lives of young people, who are particularly vulnerable to the hate levelled against them because of their sexual orientation.

(I invite you to learn more about the Ben Cohen Standup Foundation, by clicking here or here.)                  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Find What You're Looking For Here

I thought I would share with you some of the search keywords readers recently used to find one or another post on my blog (which I have access to in the Stats section of my blog).      

This list of search keywords tells me what's on people's minds out in cyberspace, and what support, or reassurance, they're looking for.  I can only hope they found something here that was helpful.  I know I've written on most of these subjects over the past two and a half years, in some cases numerous times.

If information on any of these interests you, please insert the applicable search words in the box at the upper right hand corner under the heading "SEARCH THIS BLOG."

Conversely, if you don't find what you're looking for and would like to raise a specific question or concern, simply email me by clicking Send Mail under the "EMAIL ME (I WILL RESPOND)" heading, also in the same area, and I will do my best to help.

I look forward to hearing from you.

1.  Hope for the self-loathing homosexual.
2.  Gay mid twenties lonely.
3.  When to say I love you in a gay relationship.
4.  People that try too hard to be straight.
5.  Steps to helping people to accept gays.
6.  Strong gay.
7.  Coming out in your thirties.
8.  Is gay relationship right.
9.  Gay when does the physical attraction shift to relationship
10.  How to love yourself if you're gay.
11.  Vintage pics male affection.
12.  Two men loving images.
13.  Being gay in a relationship what's it like.
14.  Early gay relationship.
15.  Gay Catholics self-esteem.
16.  Gay committed relationship blog.
17.  Gay in your forties.
18.  Gay journey to self-acceptance.
19.  Gay relationship pictures.
20.  Ashamed of gay relationship.
21.  Can you be gay and happy.
22.  Gay relationship stories.
23.  Gay someone out there for me.
24.  How to accept yourself gay.
25.  In a gay relationship...I'm 30, he's 19.
26.  Helping loved ones accept your homosexual relationship.
27.  Loving yourself gay.
28.  Accepting that you're gay.
29.  Gay relationship advice.
30.  E-birthday cards--gay friend.

How to Support Someone Who Might Be Gay

Recently, I received the following email from a young woman in the U.K., whom I'll call Britney:

I logged onto your blog by chance today after researching some of the issues you discuss on your blog.  I don’t know if you can help me out. I’ve been really struggling to come to terms with my former boyfriend coming out as gay. We’re only 15 and he still seems quite confused, yet he’s often reluctant to talk about his feelings or to categorize himself as gay. Today he admitted having feelings for a male friend, which is a massive step for him. I don’t know what to make of it all. I guess I also still love him and I’ve been hurting a lot recently. I’m trying to remain supportive to the best of my ability. He has been really depressed, and I no longer know what to do to help him. Perhaps you could offer some experience/expertise?

After considering Britney's request, I sent her an email with five questions.  The intent of the questions was to learn a little more about her and her former boyfriend, and the situation they found themselves in, so I could better respond to her email request.  The five questions were:
  1. How do you feel about gay people in general?
  2. How do you feel about your former boyfriend possibly being gay?
  3. How does your former boyfriend feel about maybe being gay?
  4. Why do you think your former boyfriend is depressed?
  5. Did you and your former boyfriend break up because he may be gay?  
Below, you'll find the advice I gave Britney in point form.  I share it with you, after asking Britney for her consent, because both of us want to help anyone who might find herself in the same position.    
  1. Your attitude toward homosexuality and gay people will make all the difference in terms of the support you're able to provide to your former boyfriend.  If you're accepting of gay people, he will likely draw you closer and feel comfortable letting you help him during this difficult time.  
  2. If your former boyfriend is gay, know that he didn't choose to be that way.  Whether he was born gay or not isn't the point.  The point is, he is gay.  You didn't consciously choose to be attracted to boys, and neither did he.   
  3. Just because your former boyfriend doesn't fit into a stereotype you have of young, gay men doesn't mean he isn't gay.  There are all sorts of gay people--from those who obviously are to those you'd have no idea are.  Sometimes, you can tell by looking at someone, but often, you can't.
  4. The single best way you can show support for your former boyfriend is to give him the space he needs to be himself.  That is, don't pressure him to be straight and to get back with you.  That's not giving him a safe place to figure out who he has to be.    
  5. Even if your former boyfriend is gay, that doesn't mean you've lost him forever.  There are all different kinds of love, including that between close friends.  The extent to which you support him now may dictate to what degree he'll want you to remain someone important in his life.  
  6. Avoid a situation where you try to convince him he's straight and still in love with you, only to find out, years later, after you've gotten married and had children, he's really gay after all.  That would be difficult for both of you and would impact a lot of people's lives. 
  7. Appreciate how difficult a time this is for your former boyfriend.  Even if he has a good attitude toward gay people, he's having to face the possibility he may be gay himself, and come to terms with what that could mean for his life, which is a whole other thing.    
  8. Your former boyfriend may have stereotypes in his head, too, about what being gay is about, but it's important for him to remember he can be whatever kind of gay person he wants to be.  Just because he may think all gay people are alone and lonely, for example, doesn't mean that will be true for him.  
  9. Being gay now is much easier than it was even ten years ago.  Still, it will take as long as it takes for your former boyfriend to accept and love himself, a journey that is long and arduous for most of us.  You can help him through it by being there for him and supporting him in any way you can. 
  10. If your former boyfriend is suicidal, you should help him address this immediately by urging him to talk with a professional, or by viewing/reading material that will give him a more balanced point-of-view.  Be sure he accesses the "It Gets Better Project" online or reads the book by the same name.
  11. Just because one is gay doesn't mean one can't be happy.  Your former boyfriend is going through a transition period now, of discovering who he is and what that means for his life. When he comes out the other end, happiness will be an option for him, but only if he makes that choice.      
  12. True, the world in general doesn't make being gay easy.  Still, every one of us has the opportunity to be supportive, available, and encouraging.  Be there for your former boyfriend.  Let him know he can be honest with you, and you won't judge him, or anything he says or feels.                     
If anyone has additional advice to offer Britney, I invite you to leave a comment.

I appreciate the trust Britney showed in me by emailing and asking for my advice.  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.    

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Victory for the Dignity of All Human Beings

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
My heart broke this morning when I saw this picture.  I should be thrilled for them, and I am, don't get me wrong.  After all, as The Vancouver Sun reported today, "Phyllis Siegel (right) and Connie Kopelov...were the first couple to marry at Manhattan's City Clerk's Office Sunday in New York [p. B5]," after, in late June, that state became the sixth in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriages.

Finally, following twenty-three years as a couple, Siegel, 77, and Kopelov, 85, were not only able to make their partnership legal, but also they were able to have their love for, and commitment to, each other formally recognized.  Yesterday was truly a momentous day for them and 823 other gay and lesbian couples, who were also married throughout the state on the first day same-sex marriage became legal.

You know, when I look at these two women--obviously seniors, obviously very much in love, obviously at the latter end of their lives--I'm moved to tears at the thought anyone would deny them the right to be legally married, to legitimize their relationship.  That anyone would think their love is less valid than the love between a man and a woman (or, for that matter, between two men).  That anyone would misuse some outdated reference in the Bible to presume God doesn't approve of what these women share.  If you don't get it, then you are truly without a heart.  

On this occasion, I think about how shameful it would have been had either Siegel or Kopelov passed away before Sunday, having never been legally married.  I think about the injustice that would have been done to them, not to be extended the same legal rights as all heterosexual married couples, not to have the world recognize the love they have for each other.  And I think about the other forty-four United States of America where people just like Siegel and Kopelov still can't be legally married.  What about them?  What about their rights as human beings?  What about their love?

I'm subtitling this post, "The Beauty of Love," because that's what I see when I look at this picture.  All gay men and lesbian women around the world want is to love someone of the same sex without being judged for it, without being told they're wrong or evil or immoral or going to hell because of it.  All gay men and lesbian women around the world want is for the love they have for someone of the same sex to be recognized as valid and legal and beautiful, and for that love to be looked at no differently from the love between a man and a woman.  Because, I assure you, there is no difference.  Our love is exactly the same.         

Friday, July 22, 2011


In early December 2007, Chris and I went to Hawaii for five days.  At the end of our trip, Chris flew back to Victoria, where we lived at the time, and I made a side-trip to Los Angeles, where I spent several days at Disneyland.  On the way home, I flew back to Vancouver, then on to Victoria, where I arrived just after midnight.  Because Chris had that day off, he offered to drive out to the airport to pick me up.  I appreciated that, since taking the airport shuttle isn't the most efficient way to get home at the end of a long travel day.

When I arrived in Vancouver on my return, I had several hours to kill before my thirty-five minute flight to Victoria.  I ate a sandwich from Subway, then called Chris at home.  It was great to hear his voice again, even though we'd only been away from each other for about four days. Among other subjects we discussed, I confirmed my flight from Vancouver was on schedule, which meant I'd arrive back in Victoria at a quarter past midnight.  Chris said he'd be at the airport waiting for me.  I couldn't wait to see him.

As expected, my flight arrived in Victoria on time.  I was exhausted.  Earlier that day, I'd spent a number of hours at Disneyland, getting in that last bit of magic.  Then, around 2:00 p.m., I started the trek home.  I caught the airport bus to Los Angeles International, where I waited four hours before the flight to Vancouver.  Once there, I waited another three hours to fly to Victoria. All told, my entire travel time, including all buses and flights, was about ten hours.  I couldn't wait to be home, in my own bed.

When I walked into the airport terminal at Victoria International, I smiled to myself, excited to see Chris's face for the first time in days.  I walked through the departures and arrivals area through a large door into the terminal, where relatives and friends awaited passengers.  I scanned the crowd of faces for Chris's but didn't see it.  I thought that was odd but guessed he might have gotten caught in traffic (although, at that time of the night, in Victoria, there was no traffic).  I walked to the baggage carousel and waited for my suitcase.

Suitcase in hand, I watched as everyone filed out of the terminal.  The long hallways and public areas were nearly empty.  The airport shuttle, parked outside the arrivals door, departed.  I knew from previous trips that was the final shuttle of the night.  Suitcase in tow, I walked outside into the freezing marine air and scanned the public parking area.  Still no sign of Chris.  I couldn't imagine what had happened to him.  I hoped for the best but expected the worst.  Could he have been in an accident?  I prayed he hadn't.  

Soon thereafter, I searched for a public phone in the deserted terminal (Chris and I don't have cell phones because we don't like them).  I found a quarter, placed it in the phone, and dialled our home number.  After a few rings, Chris answered.  I don't remember the first words that came out of my mouth, I was so stunned, but I'm sure they went something like, "What the hell are you still doing at home?  Didn't you remember you were supposed to pick me up at the airport?"

He hadn't.  He asked me what time it was.  I told him.  I said my flight had arrived at Victoria International on schedule, and I'd been waiting for him to pick me up for at least twenty minutes. He explained he'd been on his computer, had gotten distracted, lost track of time.  I tried to stay calm.  I told him the last airport shuttle had left.  I said I could take a taxi home (although we didn't need the additional expense).  He said, no, he'd get in the car right away and come get me. I knew he wouldn't arrive for another forty-five minutes.

Those were among the longest forty-five minutes of my life.  For some of them, I sat in the terminal, watched the janitors buff the enormous expanse of floor, and shook my head.  For others, I stood outside, my bags on the ground beside me, wondering what the hell had happened.  He'd forgotten to pick me up?  After I'd called him just a few hours earlier to remind him when my flight would arrive and by what time he should be at the airport to get me?  I couldn't believe it. Alternately, I was stunned and furious.

Some time after 1:00 a.m., Chris arrived.  Adding insult to injury, instead of pulling up to the curb outside the arrivals area, he paid for a half hour of parking.  For the second time that morning, I wondered where his head was.  "You forgot me?" I asked when we met up.  I felt out of my body, I was so angry.  He mumbled something.  I didn't ask him to repeat it.  He offered to wheel my bags the rest of the way to the car, but I kept a firm grasp on the handle.  He opened the trunk, I put my bags in, and we left.

Chris and I didn't exchange one word while he spent the next forty minutes or so driving us back into the city.  Not a single word.  I couldn't even look at him.  Instead, I peered through the passenger side window into the darkness along the highway, broken here and there by the odd street lamp or neon sign.  My body was drained from the long day, but my mind was reeling.  In it, I called him every name I could think of.  I hated him.  I hated him for what he'd done, for making me feel worthless.

As soon as we got inside the house and closed the door, I let him have it.  I'd stewed so long at the airport waiting for him and on the ride home, I needed to release it, to let it pour out of me in a great flood.  And release it I did, before we even made it past our front door, in one long explosive attack.  Judging by the look on his face, he had no idea who I was.  He'd never seen me so livid before.  I didn't pause long enough for him to say anything.  He needed to know how I felt. I didn't want to hear a word out of him.

But my anger masked how I really felt.  Yes, my day had been long.  Yes, I'd been inconvenienced.  Yes, I was exhausted.  Yes, all I could think about was being home and crawling into my own bed.  But, more than that, I was hurt.  I felt subordinated to a computer. Whatever Chris had been doing on it felt like it was more important than me, more important than ensuring he was at the airport on time to pick me up, more important than having me back.

Toward the end of the scalding words that rolled uncensored from my mouth, I said, "I'd never do that to you.  I'd go out of my way to make sure I was at the airport before you arrived, so you knew how important you are to me.  I've always put you first.  From day one, you've been the priority in my life."  To which Chris uttered the unfortunate words, "Bullshit.  Who's waiting till all hours of the evening for you to get home from work?"  That stung.  He knew my job made demands on me I had little control over.  

We survived this incident, of course.  I don't recall how it was resolved, but I doubt we went to bed angry, because we never have.  Once I'd used up all the venom that had accumulated inside me, I'm sure I felt relief enough to calm down, to talk civilly again (who knows what damage I'd done?).  But the sting of what had happened was with me for a long time.  Call it insecurity, even though Chris and I had been together about fifteen years by then, but I still felt sometimes like I came second to him.  And I hated that.  

In retrospect, I learned two valuable lessons that night.  First, I learned that even those people we cherish the most can screw up, big time.  Despite perhaps holding them to a higher standard, because of the emotional connection we share, the truth is they're still human and capable of greatly disappointing us.  And the second lesson I learned was not to take everything personally. In the end, I wasn't at all in competition with Chris's computer, or anything else in his life.  It took me a little while to understand that.         

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There Just Isn't a Physical Attraction

The words in the title of this post come from a response to a comment I left on Rural Gay's blog last week.  Rural Gay is a forty-something male who, like many others these days, gay and straight, has turned to online dating sites to meet someone presumably as interested in coupling as he is.

Sadly, he hasn't had much success finding a potential partner, despite putting himself out there and going for coffee with a number of men.  One of the reasons Rural Gay gave for the lack of success is "there just isn't a physical attraction," on one or both sides.  Which got me thinking...

When I met Chris, I wasn't physically attracted to him, either.  Just twenty-three years old, he was a little boy, really; he hadn't yet grown into his looks.  He was skinny, his glasses were too large for his face, and his hair was coarse and unmanageable.  He reminded me of several geeks I'd seen back in high school.  The only physical feature of his that appealed to me was his five o'clock shadow. And that's about it.  

Chris was not at all the hunky Adonis I'd always imagined myself with, I'd dreamed would fall all over himself when he saw me for the first time, wondering where I'd been his entire life.  I'd seen a good many cute, handsome, and hot men over the years, but they paid little attention to me.  

And my physical appearance?  My body was no specimen, that's for sure.  My hairstyle was fussy and plastered into place with too much hairspray.  I tried to sport sideburns then, but the hairs on the right were sparse, and, on the left, they didn't meet up.  I'm sure my face had recently broken out, and, to top it all off, I had braces on my teeth.  Not a pretty sight.  Not a pretty sight at all.

Yep, Chris and I were quite the pair.  And if, as too many gay men do, we'd relied entirely on what both of us looked like to decide if we were interested in each other, it wouldn't have happened.  We would not have pursued anything else we saw in each other, and we would not have been together a total of nineteen years this last month.    

In truth, we were ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill schmoes.  And I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but that's all most of us are.  So why do so many hold out for some physical ideal, someone we've always seen ourselves with or hoped we'd end up with.  What makes average looking men think they're going to land Brad Pitt?  It's time to get off your high horses.  Do you want to be alone or do you want to be in love?      

Guys, here's the thing:  Physical attraction?  It's not everything.  It's only a small part.  Of course, if, when you see someone for the first time, his appearance completely repulses you, there's a good chance, no matter how long you spend getting to know him better, he'll never be more attractive to you.  If that's the case, move on.  Don't beat a dead horse.

But, beyond that, as far as looks are concerned, everyone else is in the running.  Because, on a strictly superficial level, every person has at least one outstanding physical attribute, something you can find attractive, something that captures your imagination--whether it's a thick head of hair, or long eyelashes, or a great set of eyes, or whatever the case may be.

Find that one attribute, that one thing you consider physically appealing, and you find the portal to giving that person a fair chance, to giving yourself permission to discover him beyond his looks.  Honestly, unless he thoroughly disgusts you, a quick first meeting over a cup of coffee isn't nearly enough time to get to know the complex human being sitting across from you, and whether or not you might have a future together.  

That first time I asked Chris to dance?  Let's say I hadn't, so turned off was I by his geeky appearance.  Or let's say he had shot me down, deciding he didn't like anyone who wore braces on his teeth.  Either way, I hope you see how arbitrary those rash decisions would have been, and how much we would have lost out on over the subsequent nineteen years.

How much do you really and truly want to meet someone to spend time with, maybe even to spend the rest of your life with?  How motivated are you to take the risk, to put yourself out there?  How important is it to you to experience deep and abiding love, to find "the one," to know what happily "married" couples experience every day they're together?    

All I'm saying is, give people a chance.  True, you can't control how others come across, but you can control how you do.  If you approach every potential new friend with a defeatist attitude, with cynicism and negativity, he'll know what's going on.  He'll read it all over you.  The energy you give off will turn him off, and, if he's smart, he'll run in the opposite direction because no one wants to be with someone like that.    

I don't care how many times you've been shot down.  Do you want to be with someone, or don't you?  That's the bottom line.  If you don't, this post isn't for you.  But if you do, every time you're shot down, get back up on that horse and ride.  Never let anyone know you've been disappointed in the dating arena.  Be positive, be open, be yourself, and approach each new person as though this is the first time.

Last week, I wrote that my fervent hope is every single one of you reading this will experience the kind of love Chris and I have in our relationship.  Because there is nothing in the world like it.  I want that for you more than you know.  It's why I spend hours every day working on this blog.  It's why I keep writing about how important accepting and loving yourself is.  It's why I want you to see what really matters.  

Love is out there.  Right now, someone, just like you, is waiting to be loved as much as you're waiting to be loved.  Just remember, real and true love has little to do with physical attraction and everything to do with a meeting of minds and souls and intentions.  Our bodies are mere containers.  It's what's inside those containers that really counts.        

Never forget, I'm on your side.  I want your life to overflow with the love you want.  I'm rooting for you.  Now, go out there and give 'em hell.

(Rural Gay's blog is located here.  Check it out.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"When Being Gay Isn't Always Gay"

Last Friday, I "met" Donna Smaldone for the first time.  Donna lives in New York State, and, after discovering my blog, she wrote comments on several posts, remarking on the love Chris and I share, and on how much in love she is with love.

Donna is a special person; that comes across loud and clear in her writing.  Not only are her spirit, energy, and positivity big and infectious, but also she is completely supportive of gay and lesbian people.  She recognizes the love she shares with her husband of eighteen years, Skip, is no different from the love I share with my partner, Chris.  Believe me when I say, we need a lot more people like Donna in this world--and on our side.  

Just two short days later (Sunday), I received an email from Donna.  She asked if I would consider guest blogging on her site.  She told me she had written parts I and II of a series titled, "When being gay isn't always gay," and would I be interested in writing part III, to be published Tuesday evening?    

I don't need to tell you I was thrilled with this offer.  Almost immediately, my imagination went to work.  I was intrigued by the subject of Donna's series.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt it coincided with the overall intent and message of my own blog.  I liked the synergy the two of us created working together on this project.  

Donna didn't have to ask me twice.  Over the next day or so, I came up with a piece of writing I hoped would do justice to her series.   After submitting it to Donna for her review last evening, she said she couldn't wait to publish it.

Below, you'll find the link to the post I wrote for her blog.  Please be sure to read parts I and II as well.  And I encourage you to take a look at the other posts on Donna's blog.  I think you'll agree her message of love and being the best you (The You Evolution) are important and timeless.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thought for the Day, #26

"His secret he cannot reveal, not even to himself, for fear that it will consume him completely. Deep inside, far from the light of awareness the secret lives.  Go down beneath the layers of public facade, personal myth, and fantasy.  Peel away the well-crafted layers, for only then can you see the secret clearly for what it is: his own self-hatred."

(From Chapter 1, "The Little Boy with the Big Secret," in The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, by Alan Downs, Ph.D., p. 17)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where Did My Camp Go?

So Thursday night, I watched "So You Think You Can Dance," the American version, and one of the guest judges was Jesse Tyler Ferguson.  (Can we talk?  Have you seen some of the guest judges this season?  Debbie Reynolds?  Are you kidding? Sweet and legendary, but, hello!, useless.  And Carmen Electra? What?  Since when do large breasts falling out of a top qualify one to be a judge of a dancing competition?)

Anyway, Jesse Tyler Ferguson appears on "Modern Family," a show I watched exactly...once (the pilot) and gave up on.  Sorry. Don't try to convince me otherwise.  I don't need to be tied down to yet another TV series.  Although, I sure liked Ferguson on Thursday, much more than I thought I would, who's gay because he mentioned he has a boyfriend (not that I needed to be told), and who had me thinking, at least for a moment, I may have been hasty in my assessment of "MF."

Without question, Ferguson is one of those gay men you'd invite to your house party because, well, for one (and a superficial one, at that), he's cute.  The ginger hair makes him look spritely, and the full beard makes him look oh-so-butch.  Not to mention the perfect smile of perfectly white, straight teeth, his tasteful and unique fashion sense (was he wearing a jacket with the pattern of corrugated metal on it?), and his vivacious personality.

It's his vivacious personality that sends me to my computer today because he has one, that's for sure, and what seeing him camp it up on "SYTYCD" did was remind me of what I once had.  Oh, I may not have been as vivacious as him, but I couldn't help but look up from the show at one point and realize something I never had before.  Truth is, I used to be funny, once, a hell of a lot funnier than I am now.  And I can't help but wonder where my camp went.

There was Ferguson, gesturing broadly, finding the perfect wise crack, bon mot, or observation to make (as though he'd had advance notice of what those around him were about to say), and using expressions that would only come out of a gay man's mouth--one who's comfortable with himself and doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks.  In fact, sometimes, he was so clever and so quick, both in wit and speech, that he lost the audience altogether, including me.  But, no matter.  He hit more than he missed, and you couldn't help but love him.  At least I did.

Once upon a time, I used to have a little Jesse Tyler Ferguson in me.  But he's long gone.  I remember when I was a bank teller in my mid-twenties.  I became familiar with the other ladies on the teller line, and I knew most of the regular customers on a first-name basis.  We laughed, man.  We laughed a lot.  Sometimes, we carried on like we were in a TV sit-com, especially on a crazy busy Friday afternoon, line-up out the door, and everyone so exhausted and so punchy, who knew what might come out of our, my mouth.    

That's when my outrageous came out.  That's when my unique way of looking at something emerged, prompting me to make an observation or a sarcastic comment that cut up everyone, including customers in the line-up who overheard us.  I admit, it was fun being the center of attention sometimes, for a change, not the one being laughed at (they weren't laughing at me, were they?), but the one who was making other people laugh.  Whose bizarre perspective and blatant moxie caught people off guard and turned them into putty in my hands.  Oh, those were the days.

Those were the days, too, when I moved to Vancouver in the late 1980s and met Dale, the most brash, acerbic, and outrageously hysterical real-life clown I've ever known.  Dale was gay, too, (so gay!), and, when the two of us were together and in top form, WATCH OUT!  Take shelter from the zingers, the jibes, and the cracks, because no one was safe with us around, least of all each other.  Yes, we were often cruel and inappropriate, but, hey, it was all in good fun.  We never tried to hurt anyone.  Not intentionally, anyway.

But camp doesn't appeal to everyone.  And, early on, I learned anything that pointed a finger at me--more than I did just standing in a room and doing nothing--and unmistakably told people I was gay had to be downplayed, if I didn't want trouble on my hands.  And I didn't, believe me. Camp has a time and a place--generally in the presence of other gay men who get it, won't judge you for it, and will likely join in, because it makes them feel carefree for a change--but not in front of just anyone.  

So part of putting an end to my camp had to do with survival, living up to others's expectations of me.  In fact, most of it did.  I've always had a wild sense of humor, and, when you get me started, and I feel comfortable, there's no end to it.  I'll have you in stitches faster than you can say homosexual.  But that was then, when I was much younger, on those occasions when I felt safe, when I could truly be myself, let the zingers fly, and not care if they landed where someone found them hysterical.

It was not after realizing, when I put a muzzle on it, I wouldn't be judged as harshly.  Not after spending nearly thirty years working in the conservative world of banking.  Not after being a supervisor and manager of anywhere from five to forty people, knowing my unique perspective and witty repartee wouldn't be appreciated.  Not after growing older and maturing, settling into the life I'd had to create for myself, void of camp, personality, and color.

The world has changed.  It appreciates people like Jesse Tyler Ferguson more.  It doesn't get as uptight about gay men who are flamboyant, who flail their hands and arms about, lisp, and mince, sashay, or prance when they walk.  And it looks at bright, clever, witty people, straight or gay, and sees them for what they really are--brilliant and gifted and valuable.  Isn't that the way it always should have been?  

And you know what?  I've changed, too.  I learned Thursday evening I celebrate the Jesse Tyler Fergusons of the world now.  Where they used to disgust me, because they were so obviously gay, because I thought they made all gay people look bad, and because they reminded me too much of myself, they now genuinely amuse me.  I've softened toward them.  I embrace them. And I recognize only too acutely what I lost by becoming something I wasn't, but had to be.                                    

Letter to the Editor of "Xtra!" (Updated)

Referring to Mr. McCann’s editorial (“Flying the Freak Flag,” Xtra!, #467), beyond what a straight person might think of me by looking at your newspaper, I’m tired of seeing drag queens, and hyper-sexualized leather men and go-go boys in your pages.  They, and what they represent, are as far away from my life as a fifty-something gay man, partnered for nineteen years, and living in the suburbs, as you can get.  Most times, I wonder why I even bother picking up Xtra!.  
Still, keep the freak show going, because, yes, there are plenty of freaks among us, and they should be seen and heard for amusement purposes.  But I, and apparently a number of your other readers, would appreciate seeing more images of non-freaks, too--those who don’t have a feather boa, a leather harness, or a G-string to their name.  In other words, people over thirty-five with lives, assuming, at our advanced age, we’re still considered part of the community.              
Open your mind, Mr. McCann.  As an editor of arguably the most influential gay and lesbian publication in Canada, you have the opportunity to ensure every segment of our diverse community is represented in a positive and uplifting manner.  Your cavalier attitude doesn’t fly with me, and it shouldn’t with most of your readers, either.  Once you figure out who you serve, I’m hopeful you’ll make better editorial decisions for your newspaper. 

(For the editorial by Marcus McCann I was responding to, please click here.)

Note:  My letter was published in issue #468 of Xtra!, dated July 28, 2011.


At least two of the letters sent to Mr. McCann subsequent to mine agreed with my point of view (you can see those at the link above, too).

Then this letter appeared in issue #469 of Xtra! dated August 11, 2011:

Referring to Mr. Rick Modien's letter [Letters, Xtra! #468, July 28], referring to Marcus McCann's editorial, all I can muster is "Huh?"

Mr. Modien quotes his age as if to indicate that most gay people of that age feel as he does.  That somehow his view is an entitled one.  To insult drag queens, leather men and anyone else that he sees as freaks is amazing.  Isn't this the backward, prudish and very suburban mindset that we as gay people have been fighting?

Well, Mr. Modien, I too am a gay man over 50, and I understand that it was and is people that follow their true spirit that started the whole gay movement.  It was drag queens that first said "No!" to being arrested for just being.

If it was left up to people like you, we wouldn't be where we are today.

Xtra has had many, many articles of absolute relevance to all the gay community--or do you just look at the pictures?

I'm at the point where I really am at a loss as to what to say to your letter.  I find it hard to believe that someone as old as you doesn't get it.  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.

I guess you didn't attend Pride or any events that had "freaks."  Too bad: they are the people you should be thanking.

                                                                                 --Nat Nasci, Vancouver, BC


If I have any regrets about my letter to Xtra!, it's that sentence one of paragraph two was snarky, and I apologize to anyone who I offended.  Everything else stands as is.

I do not believe I'm entitled to anything because of my age.  I merely wish to make the point that I know Xtra! will continue to feature freaks (Marcus McCann's word, not mine) in its pages, and I'd like those of us who are not freaks to be featured, too.  Balance is all I ask for.  

Gay rights isn't about sex, at least not to me and not to a lot of other gay and lesbian. It's about love. It's about loving people of the same gender, not having sex with people of the same gender. There is a difference, particularly in how we, as gay people, represent ourselves to the mainstream community in publications like Xtra!, the annual Pride parade, and other LGBT events.

And, finally, for the third year in a row, no, Chris and I did not attend the pride parade (or any of the events for that matter).  We made that choice because, as middle-aged gay men, we feel what the parade has to offer not only doesn't interest us but doesn't represent us and how we feel about ourselves at this point in our lives.

When the Pride Society cleans up its act; implements rules around blatant nudity, sexuality, and obscenity (physical and verbal); enforces the rules; ensures our one big, annual public event is not only positive and uplifting in all respects, but also family-friendly (as many in the mainstream community want), then Chris and I will be happy to take in the parade and show our pride as gay men and a gay couple.
I'm compelled to draw your attention to this article, which was one of the comments left to my letter on the Xtra! website.  Please click here to check it out.

Can You Be Gay And Happy?

My favorite part of the day, when I finish whatever tasks I have around the house, then sit down to talk to you through my blog.  Nothing makes me happier.  Nothing.  

The word "happy," as it relates to those who are gay, or suspect they are, came up twice in my reading this week, prompting me to give it some thought and leading to the question, Can you be gay and happy?

In the first instance, I received an email from a young woman in the U.K., who asked for advice for her and her former boyfriend.  She wrote they had recently broken up, because he's starting to be aware of feelings he has for one of his male friends.  But he's conflicted about it, and, as she wrote, "having no happiness in it."

In the second, a comment, from a reader of an article on withdrawing government funding for organizations associated with the ex-gay movement, stated (I'm paraphrasing), gay people will never be happy because the way they are goes against nature, against what God intended for us.

Well, I'm here to say to the young woman from the U.K., of course your former boyfriend can be happy if he turns out to be gay, and, to the reader who wrote the comment to the article, what a load of you-know-what.  The fact is, happiness is not exclusive of straight people.  If I use myself as an example, happiness is entirely possible when you're gay, but it will take a little work to get there--nothing you can't handle and nothing you're not required to do during your experience as a human being on earth, anyway.  

So how do you achieve happiness when you're gay?  Apart from the fact that happiness is a state of mind (which some believe is dependent upon what's going on in your physical world), and happiness comes from within (which means, regardless of what's going on in your physical world, you always have the choice to be happy or not), as a gay person, happiness is dependent upon your ability to own your sexual orientation.

What I mean by owning your sexual orientation is, as long as you continue to be influenced by what those who presume to know what's better for us say about homosexuality being wrong and evil and immoral, and as long as you judge yourself by that standard, you will not be happy.  Put another way, as long as you remain conflicted about being gay, because of what you've been led to believe about it, and as long as you buy into all the negative crap, allowing it to affect how you feel about yourself, you will not be happy.  I guarantee it.                    

So let's say the same thing, only in a positive frame:  When you make your peace with being gay (that is, when you accept yourself as a gay person, which you should, anyway); when being gay is no different from being whatever else you are (no more or less important); when you know in your heart your worth as a human being (neither gay nor straight); and when you turn off the self-loathing and turn on the self-loving--then you will find happiness.  I guarantee it.  

A difficult task, as Donald, one of my readers, puts it?  Perhaps.  But, as I've written before, this inner journey--to yourself, really--is the most important one of your life.  There is nothing more important--not going to school, not earning a living, not finding a career, not even falling in love. Because, believe me, everything else will be affected by your inner journey.  Everything.  

Consider yourself a step ahead of anyone who hasn't read this.  As an older gay man, who's been exactly where you are today, I know what I'm talking about, as I continue to grow in my knowledge of what this passage on earth is about.  I've been there, and I use my experience here in my blog to give you a heads-up, to share what I know to be true.  (I only wish someone had told me about this stuff when I was much younger.)  

You can start the work now, by digesting what's in this post, and others I've written on my blog, with the intention of helping you, of making your path easier.  Or you can avoid the inner work we're all called to do on our life journey and see where that takes you.  The choice is yours to make.  You decide.

But, remember, happiness can always be yours, no matter if you're straight or gay.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Pictures of "This Gay Relationship"

Recently, Chris and I bought a tripod to replace the one I broke when we lived in Victoria.  On the very same day, we happened to have decent enough weather that we could get outside and take pictures of ourselves together as a couple.  

I'm pleased to share a few of those pictures with you now because I believe, just like the photos of supposed gay couples in ads for TD Canada Trust (which I featured in "Positive Images"), they put a positive face on the reality of what a gay male couple can look like.  

I hope you like these.  Let me know what you think.

Sex and Validation

Part of "elevating the experience of being gay" is understanding ourselves better.  When we understand ourselves better--truly see, as if for the first time, what we do and why we do it--we have the opportunity to change and to improve our lives.  To this end, I want to clarify something I've written about repeatedly, something frequent readers will know is a big issue for me in the gay community.  

I'm hard on gay men, and I know it.  That's because I want better for them, even though they may not want better for themselves, or they may not realize better exists, and they deserve to have it.  I'm hard on gay men in general because I deplore their promiscuity, the emphasis they place on sex at the detriment of other things in their lives.  I have new insight on gay men and promiscuity, and I want to share that with you.

My eyes were opened when I recently read The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, by Alan Downs, Ph.D., an American clinical psychologist for over fifteen years, who works with many single gay men and gay couples.  If, as a gay man, you want to understand yourself better, I highly recommend this book.  I have no doubt you'll see yourself in its pages.      

Where promiscuity is concerned, as it relates to gay men, I confess I had only half the story. Yes, in general, many gay men indulge in sex, a lot more than their straight counterparts do. Yes, many gay men indulge in sex because they're filled with self-loathing, thinking so little of themselves they readily give their bodies away, as though they have no respect for who they are.

But the piece I wasn't aware of, until I read Downs's book, is many gay men use sex for validation.  At the risk of over-simplifying, when they're children, gay men typically don't obtain validation in the usual way non-gay children do.  For a variety of reasons, our fathers, the first men we love, were unable or failed to provide validation, usually leading to our mothers over-validating us for the wrong reasons.

In school, Downs writes, "children, probably more than any other people, are keenly aware of differences in one another, and often torment other children they perceive as different [p. 11]." He continues, "Maybe you remember just how cruel children can be?  Most gay men have early memories of this kind of rejection at the hands of their playmates [p. 11]."

It's no surprise, then, that as we enter adulthood, we have little or no sense of our self-worth, because we were not validated.  Or we may have been validated, but for the wrong reasons, which has the same detrimental effect.  Filled with shame throughout childhood, we pretended to be something we weren't (i.e.: straight), only to realize the validation we received was for being fake.  Downs calls this inauthentic validation.

On the subject of sex and validation, Downs has the following to say:

"The validation we achieve through sexual encounters is immediate and stimulating, even if it is essentially inauthentic.  We play a role, one that we have mastered over the years of being on stage, that seduces our beautiful conquest-to-be.  When he gives up his resistance and succumbs to our siren call, we feel the rush of immediate validation.  If no one else, at least this one man sees something of value in us.  This blissful moment rarely lingers, but in that moment it satisfies.

"Hidden in our search for validation is both a truth and a lie.  The truth is that validation is good and necessary for our psychological well-being.  The lie is that we have not yet discovered or accepted ourselves, hence, the validation is of something less than authentic.  It is the validation of a facade we masterfully erect [p. 77]."


"Some gay men who have a particularly difficult time with self-validation rely on sex to feel good about themselves.  This kind of gay man needs to see others excited by his presence and adoring his body in order to feel worthwhile and acceptable.  If other gay men fail to notice him or be attracted to him, he begins to question his own value.  On the surface, this may sound a bit juvenile, but in reality it is something that many, if not most, gay men struggle with to some degree.  We rely heavily upon the adoring reactions of others to our presence for our own self-esteem [p. 98]."

And, finally:

"Virtually all of gay culture is defined by sex and the pursuit of desire and beauty.  Whether it's a gay bar or a gay news magazine, the hard driving, heart-pounding message of sex is omnipresent.  And it's not just sex--it's toe curling, mind blowing, hard body, all-night-long sex.

"Is this enough?  I am a man.  I need to be loved.  I need to love myself.  I need to feel strong and to cry.  I need to feel alive and to grieve my losses.  I need to know that there is someone in this world who truly loves me.  I need to love someone.  I need a safe, stable and committed home.  Truth is, I need all these things much more than I need great sex [p.p. 22-23]."  

(The Velvet Rage is published by Da Capo Press, A Member of the Perseus Books Group, ISBN: 978-0-7382-1061-2)      

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Sometimes, I see a young man who blows me away.  In his twenties, he's undeniably beautiful--his face handsome (even straight men would admit it) and his body tight and muscular.  Even more than his physical presence, I'm turned on by his attitude.  He's confident without being arrogant.  He knows he has it going on, and he's not afraid if others know.

As if that isn't enough, he's talented.  Maybe he's an actor or a dancer or some other artist.  And he's good, very good at what he does.  The light shining from him is brilliant, so much so, it's blinding.  Every opportunity seems to be his.  His future is set.  Success is virtually assured.  From the outside, he appears to be superhuman, an example of what most of us wish we were.  It's enough to make you sick, right?      

I'm blown away by a young man like this because he's the antithesis of what I was at his age.  Physical appearance aside--although let's acknowledge beautiful people, male or female, get a lot more positive attention than those who aren't nearly so fortunate--perhaps what I admire, and envy, most is his confidence, which all but ensures a better use of his gifts, leading to a brighter future.  

I hate looking back and regretting something, because I'm powerless to change it.  But if I have any regrets, now that I'm in my fifties, among them would be I wasn't a fully-realized twenty-something-year-old (even though many in their twenties are lost).  When I consider our symbolic young man, everything going for him, I realize I'm filled with remorse over how much time I wasted, what could have been but wasn't.

If I had to identify a single thing that held me back most in my twenties, as I emerged from my teens feeling beaten and worthless, it would be how I felt about myself.  I know you don't need to be gay to experience the aftermath of low self-esteem, but being gay adds a whole other layer to how negatively you see yourself, and a lot more work is required to get through it and overcome.

I ache for the years I'll never get back, for the twenty-five-year-old I will never be, for the opportunities that may have been mine, had I been more confident, had I felt good enough about myself to take advantage of them.  I turned out all right, as did my life, but the one thing all of us have a limited supply of is time, and there's no accounting for squandering it by hating yourself for something you couldn't help being.

If only I felt about myself then as I do now.  If only I'd known in my heart, regardless of what everyone had said, that being gay wasn't such a big deal, after all.  If only I'd known you could be gay and still love yourself.  If only I'd known being gay was possibly the least interesting thing about me, that I had so much else going on, that worthiness has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation.  If only...                     

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Free to Stay or Go

Over the years, I've known, or heard of, a number of gay male couples who broke up because of jealousy.  Both men in each couple may have been completely faithful, but, because one was jealous of the other--and, let's face it, no one does jealous better than a spurned gay man--the couple was propelled along the treacherous path of no longer trusting each other.

And, where there may have been no infidelity before, there certainly was soon after.  Part of that, I think, is little more than some believing monogamy is impossible between gay men.  But, also, part of it is many of us are filled with shame because we're gay  (read: aren't comfortable with ourselves), and feel insecure or unworthy of the partner we have.

I'm sure you've heard the expression, "He doesn't have a jealous bone in his body."  Well, no truer words could describe Chris, my partner of the past nineteen years.  Early in our relationship, I hoped to make Chris a little jealous, not by fooling around with another man, but by ogling a cute specimen on the street or at the club.

Yes, I was insecure, and, as a means of getting the reassurance I needed Chris was genuinely interested in me, I made like I was attracted to someone else, just to get a reaction.  Please let him be just a little jealous, I thought. Please let me know it's me you really want to be with, and that you have haven't just defaulted to me because no one else is interested in you right now.

My attempts failed.  Miserably.  Because, to my surprise, Chris doesn't get jealous.  He really doesn't.  When he noticed me looking at someone else, I'd ask him, "Aren't you even a little bit jealous?"  And his answer was always the same:  "If you don't want to be with me, then there's no point trying to keep you."  Which I hated at first.

It made Chris sound like he didn't care one way or the other that he was with me.  It made it sound like he'd make no effort whatsoever to fight for me, that he'd failed to see how much we had together, and he could just as easily let me go as not buy a cup of coffee.  In effect, my little test backfired.  I didn't get the reassurance I wanted at all.

But, over time, I saw what Chris's response really meant.  It didn't mean he had no feelings for me, or he no longer wanted to be with me, or he'd failed to see how good we were together and how much potential we had as a couple.  Rather, it meant, "I love you and I want you, but, if you don't want to be with me, then what can I do?  I can't force you to love me and be with me if you don't want to.  Our relationship isn't a prison.  If you want to be with me, great.  If you don't--if you see something else you like--then follow your heart and do what you have to do.  I'll be hurt, of course, but I'll accept your choice.  I'll trust your judgment.  And I'll wish you well."

When I finally got the message, I realized how much Chris really did love me after all--enough to let me go if that's what I really wanted.  Enough to set me free to love, and live my life with, someone else.  Enough to accept that I no longer loved him or wanted to be with him.  If that didn't demonstrate the full extent of his love, nothing else could.

And, frankly, it made me want him even more, because--as if I didn't know what a quality person he was already--it meant there'd be no jealousy drama in our life together, which is so characteristic of many gay male relationships.  It meant he would never try to hang on to me if there was no point.  And it meant I was free to stay or go.  The decision was mine.

I made the best damn decision of my life.                      

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thought for the Day, #25

In my reading last week, I came upon the following passages from The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, by Alan Downs, Ph.D.. They appear in Chapter 14, "What Mom Didn't Know & Dad Couldn't Accept--Lessons on Being an Authentic Gay Man," under the heading, "Lesson #8: Actively Practice Accepting Your Body As It Is Right Now."  

Downs writes:

"Accepting your body in the present moment isn't about not having fitness goals.  It's about loving who you are and how you look right now, no matter what changes you might make in the future.  It's about knowing that making changes in your body is a worthwhile hobby, but it isn't going to make you more desirable or loveable [p. 185]."


"The non-acceptance of your body is yet one more expression of the internal shame [you may feel as a gay man] .  The apparent motive for body building is to achieve a beautiful physique; however, the underlying motive is to relieve shame.  It's all about making yourself more acceptable and less flawed, and in short, less shameful [p. 186]."

Alan Downs is a clinical psychologist practicing in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The Velvet Rage is his first book about the psychology of gay life [from the book's back cover].

Friday, July 8, 2011


Today, I want to talk to you about making a shift in your life.  The dictionary defines a "shift" as, "a slight change in position, direction, or tendency."  And that's all I want you to focus on--a slight change, something each of us is capable of, because nothing more is needed to transform your life.  

As gay and lesbian people, when we think about the journey to self-acceptance, to loving ourselves for who we are, we look at it as this enormous task, this journey of a thousand nights, something that will take years to accomplish.  But don't get caught up in all that.  Don't defeat yourself, even before you begin.      

Here's all I want you to think about:  This one precious minute in which you find yourself reading these words.  Right now.  Not later today, or tomorrow, or a few days from now, or next week, or even next month.  Because none of those matter, if you don't focus on right now first.

Right now, I'm asking you to make a shift, an infinitesimal movement in another direction, one you haven't gone in before.  Chances are, your life has been on the same trajectory for months, maybe even years.  But you know in your heart the path you're on no longer serves you.  Time for a change.

I want you to look at the course of your life in this way.  Imagine yourself standing and looking straight ahead.  Let's say that's the direction your life has been going in, and, for as far as you can see, beyond walls and whatever other immediate obstructions, is the direction you'll keep going in.

Now, here's the important part.  From your standing position, turn to the right, ever so slightly. Not much.  Just a bit.  Then look in that new direction.  Yes, your starting position is essentially the same, because you're still standing in the same place, and the view looks familiar.  But you've just made a big change.  

Here's the beauty of that shift.  If you project into the distance, further and further away from where you are now, you'll see how, over time, the trajectory of that line diverges increasingly from the trajectory of the original course you were on.  Some distance into the future, the two lines will be miles apart.

That's what you need to do.  For now, that's where you need to take your life.  In that new direction.  On that new trajectory.  Toward that new horizon.  Toward whatever new experiences and opportunities await you along the way.  Toward your new and exciting future.  

But, I hear you say, how do I know if that new direction is the right one?  The one I should be going in?  What if I should have shifted to the left instead of to the right?  What if where it takes me is no better than where I was going before?  What do I do then?

The course of your life is full of directional changes.  We don't always know if a new one will be right for us.  What we do know, however, is, sometimes, we get to where maintaining our course in the same direction is worse than not making a shift at all, left or right, and setting ourselves on a new course.  

So it is with hating ourselves just because we're gay.  Whether we know it or not, the path of self-loathing we've been on for years doesn't serve us.  It hasn't taken us where we want to go, or where we need to go.  Our lives, from our careers to our relationships, especially with ourselves, have been adversely affected.

Time for a shift.  

Now that you know a shift can make all the difference in the world, what is the shift I'm asking you to make today, this very minute?  It's nothing more than making a change in your routine, doing something positive in how you look at and treat yourself.  That's it.  Nothing more.

Here are a few ideas on simple shifts you can make:  Compliment yourself on something.  Do a good deed for someone else.  Think of five things you're grateful for.  Cook yourself a great dinner.  Take a long, relaxing walk.  Watch a movie you've wanted to see for a while.  The list is endless.  You decide.    

When you do one (or more) of these things, be sure you consciously acknowledge the reason why you're doing it is for you, not for someone else (although others might benefit), because you deserve it, because you're worth it, because you're the most important person in your life (which you are).

Congratulations.  You've taken your first tentative step toward self-acceptance.  You've put some new, positive energy out into the world, directed specifically at you, and, without you realizing it, that energy will return--in how your day goes, in how others look at you, in how you look at yourself.

Before you know it, you'll willingly do kind and positive things for yourself all the time.  Today, you treat yourself to that new book you've wanted to read.  Tomorrow, you buy yourself a vitamin-rich smoothie.  The next day, you take yourself out on a date, or go for a bike ride, or spend a couple hours at the spa.

You get the idea.  This is about you.  This is about looking after you.  This is about changing how you feel, think about, and look at you.

Small shifts.  That's all it takes.  Shifts where you know the reason why you're shifting is for you. The result is, you'll take a step closer toward being all you were meant to be, for yourself as well as for others.                          

Shift.  Do it today.  I'm counting on you to do something for you, to begin your journey toward self-acceptance.  Don't put it off a minute longer.  You deserve this.  You really do.      

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Message for Those Unable to Accept a Gay Relative or Friend

For those of you who don't accept, support, and love a relative or friend who is gay, what do you think you're doing to him?  Do you think you're somehow waking him up?  Making him realize he's straight after all?  Do you think you'll fix him?

Ain't going to happen.  When you're gay, you're gay.  That won't change, no matter how much you want it to, no matter how badly you treat your supposed loved one.  All you succeed in doing is alienating him, making him feel more conflicted than he already does.  Worst of all, you force him to hate himself.  

All of us, gay or straight, should know nothing good comes from hating yourself.  In fact, entire lives are destroyed when people hate themselves.  Some hate themselves so much, they commit suicide.  How can ruining your gay relative or friend's life--maybe even leading to his suicide--be better than accepting, supporting, and loving him?  How?

Stop judging your gay relative or friend.  Stop thinking you know what's best for him.  Stop trying to make him something he isn't, something he will never be.

Start accepting, supporting, and loving him, unconditionally.  You can make all the difference in his world.  You alone.  Don't underestimate how important your acceptance, support, and love will be in his life.                      

Three Questions for Those Who Can't Accept Themselves

Recent posts I received from Aries Boy still have me thinking about how to help gay men, like him, and lesbian women accept themselves.  

So I came up with these three questions, which I hope will get you to think, in slightly different ways, about the challenges you face on your journey to self-acceptance.

At the very least, please give these some thought.  Even better, write me a comment (or send me a personal email) and share your answers.  I bet something you say will help someone who feels the same way.

Question #1:

What is the worst possible thing that could happen if you accepted yourself as a gay man or lesbian woman?  

Question #2:

Is the reason why accepting yourself as a gay man or lesbian woman a challenge for you because:
     a).  you're unable to?
     b).  you won't?
     c).  you don't know how to?

Question #3:

What would have to change for you to accept yourself as a gay man or lesbian woman, and do you have control over it?       

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Journey to Self-Acceptance as a Gay Man

Since early last week, when I received a comment from Aries Boy in Indonesia, on how difficult accepting himself as a young, gay man has been, I've had time to reflect on my own journey to self-acceptance, which, for the most part, happened over two decades ago.  

As I think back, the biggest issues I had with accepting myself fall roughly under two headings:

1).  What would people think of me when they knew I was gay?
2).  What would I think of myself as someone who was gay?

What would people think of me when they knew I was gay?

Make no mistake, for as long as I remember, people knew I was gay just by looking at me (although, of course, I didn't believe it to be true or I denied it).  If my appearance alone didn't tell them, then, surely, my voice inflections or my mannerisms did.  I didn't go out of my way to be effeminate, I just was, partly because I was born that way and partly because I was raised with an absent or aloof father (not enough positive masculine influence) and an domineering mother (too much feminine influence).

There's a difference between suspecting someone is gay and having it confirmed.  As long as people speculated I was but I didn't address it or kept denying it, there was always the chance I wasn't.  And, despite all the indications to the contrary, people would give me the benefit of a doubt.  On the other hand, when I confirmed it, then there'd be no doubt left in their minds, and, as a result, I'd have no choice but to accept whatever consequences came my way--mostly bad, I expected, based on people's opinions and feelings regarding gay men in general.

When I use the generic term "people," naturally, I refer to those nearest and dearest to me. I had only a few friends at school (mostly girls who were unattractive, overweight, or odd in some way that made them outcasts, too).  So I could hardly afford to lose anyone within my immediate family who was the least bit close to me.  Which, as I write this, seems strange now because I wasn't particularly close to any of my family members either (except, perhaps, my mother).  But what I had was still something I needed to hold on to, since, without it, I'd have nothing at all.

A piece of this process for me was finally admitting to myself I really was gay.  By the time I got to my early twenties, I knew I could no longer hold on to the hope I'd one day be interested in girls in the same way most other young men were.  I just didn't look at girls, or young women, that way.  While I could admire an attractive female for her beauty--and had for most of my life--I wasn't the least bit sexually turned-on by them.  So, step one for me was, I knew once and for all I was gay and could no longer deny it.  But that doesn't mean I accepted myself as a young, gay man--not yet anyway.      

I'm getting a little ahead of myself in the story now--which I'll address in the second section of this post--but I got to the point, some time after acknowledging I was definitely gay, where I could no longer reconcile all the negative opinions and views and ideas people, or society, or our culture, held about gay people, now including me, with who I knew I was inside as a human being.  I remember the exact time I woke up, not from sleep but from accepting all the crap I'd been led to believe about gay people.  I remember saying out loud, I'm not like that.  I'm not like that, and I don't deserve to be thought of or treated like that.

This awakening was a revelation to me, and it would change my life forever.  Don't ask me, after years and years of being treated like crap and thinking of myself in the same way, where I found the internal strength to turn that around, but I did.  Of course, the transformation didn't happen overnight.  I still had some work to do to compare the widespread negative views held about homosexual men with the person I was, and to realize, little by little, I was better than all that. But, in my heart, I knew I was a kind and decent and good person, and, for the first time in my life, I began to stand up a little straighter (no pun intended) and to lift my head a little higher. 

What would I think of myself as someone who was gay?

Perhaps the biggest obstacle I had to face, on the journey to self-acceptance, was overcoming my perceptions of gay men in general, based on what I'd gathered and experienced firsthand.

What did I know about gay men to that point?  In addition to what I'd learned being gay supposedly was from my school classmates--all of which was negative and cringe-worthy--as well as the media, neighborhood gossip, and the like, my own experience with gay men was no better.  Many had leered at me on the street, like dirty, old men lurking in the bushes; one freaky-looking one had told me point-blank he had a great, big hard-on for me; and another forty-something one from Vancouver had tried, when I was just thirteen-years-old, to pick me up so he could "show me a few things."  Understandably, if this is what being gay was--that is, if there was even the chance I might turn out like any of these men--I wanted no part of it.

For many years, until well into my twenties, this was the perception I had of all gay men, whether it was true or not.  I can't think of a single positive experience I'd had with anyone who was gay until I attended my first gay dance, which also happened to be a 1986 New Year's Eve party.  There, I saw a variety of gay people, men and women, many familiar to me from the community, some who I imagined were probably similar to the ones I'd had experiences with previously, but many more who were just like me--good, kind, and decent people.  In that regard, the dance was a pleasant, eye-opening experience.

In particular, I met a young man from Vancouver, who took a liking to me.  Yes, I could have taken him home following the dance, we'd gotten along that well, but I didn't.  Instead, what I took home was a lot of great memories of the time I'd spent with him, talking, dancing, enjoying each other's company.  In many respects, that young man played an instrumental role in helping to change my opinion of gay men in general.  No longer did I think they were all old and dirty with only one thing on their minds.  Rather, I knew there were all kinds of gay men, many of them just like me.

That was one liberating experience.  I came away from the dance not only feeling better about being gay--not nearly as riddled with shame as I had been before--but also knowing I could be whatever kind of gay person I wanted to be.  I could define what being gay meant to me and not allow myself to be defined by what my misperceptions of it were, or what others's misperceptions of it were.

As I walked out of the basement of the old church on the corner of Ethel and Bernard early on January 1, 1986, where the New Year's dance had been held, I felt as though the weight I'd carried for over two decades had been lifted.  I had yet to come out, which would unexpectedly happen in just a few hours, and which I knew would be one of the most difficult things I'd ever done, despite feeling so much better about myself, but I'd taken an enormous step toward self-acceptance.  And I knew, whether or not my family accepted me as a gay man, I would somehow make it through.  Somehow.

Thought for the Day, #24

'What always fascinates me is that once a gay man...[is no longer motivated by avoiding or overcompensating for shame], his visibility in the gay community often diminishes. He is no longer a regular at the gay clubs, nor is he an active player in high gay society.  He may, in fact, no longer feel the need to visit the gay ghetto.  You may see him on occasion at the gym or at a political fund raiser, but he is not a regular on the gay scene.  This is unfortunate for young men, for they are unable to see the healthy progression from shame to freedom. Many younger gay men just assume that once you get older, you hide out in your house or move away out of embarrassment from having aged.  It isn't conceivable to them that many of the gay men who "disappear" do so because they have outgrown the need for the avoidance of shame and acquisition of validation that is at the core of so much mainstream gay culture.'

--Alan Downs, Ph.D., The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, pp. 110-1.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thought for the Day, #23

What we need is "...heteros to show up on...behalf [of gay and lesbian people] and say, hey, look, these are my people you're trying to discriminate against.  You can keep your religion and your church, you can keep your ideologies in your home.  But, when it comes to the civil arena, when it comes to civil constructs, their citizenship is every bit as valid as yours or mine."

                                                                             --Jeff Wilfahrt, grieving father

Wilfahrt's son, Andrew, was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year.  Andrew was 31 years old and gay.  He confirmed to his parents everyone he fought next to knew he was gay and didn't care one way or the other.

Andrew's parents have taken up the fight for the right of gay and lesbian people to marry legally in their home state of Minnesota.

They are incensed that their son was good enough to lay down his life for his country, but, if he'd had a same-sex partner, they couldn't have been legally married.  In addition, Andrew's partner couldn't have claimed his ashes and wouldn't have received the $100,000 compensation issued by the U.S. government.

My sincere thanks to Aries Boy in Indonesia for bringing this story to my attention.  Everyone must know about Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt.  For his full story, please click here.