Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Tribute

I must share this with you.  It's extraordinarily beautiful.  Please be sure to watch until the very end.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

You Were Born to Love (Guest Post)

Dear Readers,

A little background.  In July of this year, Donna Smaldone, whom I met when she responded to a post, and I became friends, even though I live in Metro Vancouver, she lives in New York State, and we've never met in person.  You could say our spirits connected across the miles, because we get each other and what each of us is individually trying to do with his and her blog.    

That same month, Donna invited me to guest blog on her website, "Donna Smaldone: Welcome to The You Evolution," which came as a pleasant surprise.  She'd already written Parts One and Two of a series titled "When being gay isn't always so gay," and she entrusted me to complete the third and final part.  I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity.  If you haven't read what I wrote, and if you'd like to read all of the series, please click here.

Then, in August, Donna prepared a video post on her site called "What exactly IS The You Evolution?"  As I watched her explain, I saw how what she said applied not only to straight people but also to gay and lesbian people.  That got me thinking I should ask Donna to guest blog for me, to share with you details about how The You Evolution applies to you, but I didn't get the courage to ask her until recently.  (To see the video post, please click here.)

Donna is a vivacious, positive, and uplifting human being, and it gives me great pleasure to share her guest post with you.  I hope you agree that what she has to say is both powerful and empowering.  At the end of the post, you'll find a direct link to Donna's website.  I invite you to be a part of what she has to say about being the best you you can be, both as an individual and in your relationships.    

You Were Born to Love

You were born to love and to love fully.  So why should it matter who you were born to love?

It shouldn’t.

I do not pretend to understand the trials, wounds, and judgments so many gay people have endured for loving who they love.  As a straight woman, I admit there’s a certain luxury in being a heterosexual – and knowing my friends can’t enjoy that same luxury breaks my heart. 

I’ve known my friend De since we were children.  Although legally blind, she captures the essence of life in the most beautiful photographs.  She’s an artist, a New England Patriots fan, and an unapologetically overindulgent Mama to pup “Juno”.  De has a heart bigger than most and loves wholly and unconditionally.  Oh, and her partner of twelve years is a woman.

De will tell you she’s never fully identified with labels—‘lesbian’ included.  She’s merely succumbed to society’s need to paste it on her forehead.  De once queried, “Why can’t I just be a woman who happened to fall in love with another woman?”

Love is love.  Period.  Unfortunately, people have become masters of condemnation of things they don't struggle or identify with themselves.

God’s not disappointed in us for loving who we love, man or woman.  He’s disappointed in the disdain and disrespect we’ve adopted to pass judgment on how others love.

Friends, your love is not wrong.  Your love matters.  YOU matter.

In the beautiful uniqueness that is YOU, you’ve been given a purpose.  There is NO ONE else on this earth who has been given the same purpose as you.  Being gay does not negate this fact.  If you aren’t embracing the uniqueness that is YOURS, not only are you missing out – but your friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers are also missing out.

Embrace your individuality.

Everything that has happened in your life up to this point has played a role in your You Evolution™. Every smile, every kiss, every argument, every mistake.  Every good, every bad, every one.  Without even one of those things, events, or people – you would not be fully you.

Don’t give up on yourself.  Don’t give up on your self. Gay or straight – it makes no difference – there is NO other like you.  You are special.  You are precious You are beautiful.  And in no way are you a mistake.

Like so many of you, I am honored to have Rick Modien in my life. He and I have yet to meet face-to-face, but our souls are connected across this great continent.  Rick’s mission, to elevate the experience of being gay through understanding, accepting, and loving yourself, parallels my goal in The You Evolution™.

My hope through The You Evolution™ is to challenge YOU to embrace your own unique, personal journey so you may contagiously enjoy community and relationship with others. Thank you to Rick and to each of you for allowing me to be part of your journey. 

To access "Donna Smaldone: Welcome to The You Evolution," please click on the logo or here.

Thought for the Day, #36

I am a man who loves men, and I am proud to wear that uniform and fight for things like gay marriage, but I also look forward to the day when I can take that uniform off, and just be me, a human being not defined by sexuality and religion....  I would like for there to be a day when all kids grow up in a world in which they will not be judged negatively based on who they fall in love with. This day is coming, faster than anyone expected....


Falling in love will not send you to hell.  Love is beautiful.  You are beautiful.  Sex with someone you love is always beautiful.  

Both quotes are from Randy Roberts Potts, gay grandson of infamous televangelist Oral Roberts. In 1982, Ronnie Roberts, Randy's uncle and Oral Roberts's son, committed suicide after coming out.  Randy was profoundly affected by his uncle's death and now travels throughout the United States trying to undo the damage his grandfather did.

For more information, please click here.  

Check out Randy's website here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Stop the Insanity

It happened again.

This past Monday, September 19, another American teenager committed suicide because he was bullied for being gay.  His name was Jamey Rodemeyer, he lived in Baffalo, New York, and he was just fourteen years old.

According to news reports, Jamey came out in May of this year, and the experience was so positive for him, so filled with love and support from friends, that, ironically, he made his own video to tell other gay teens it really does get better.  

In part, here's what Jamey said in his video:

You were born this way.  All you have to do is hold your head up and you will go far.  Because that's all you have to do.  Just love yourself and you're set.  And I promise you, it will get better.  

So what happened between the time Jamey made this video and the day he died for nothing? His parents know he was bullied not only at school but online as well.  By insensitive shitheads who must be held accountable for his senseless death.  Jamey's case is under investigation.  Let's hope justice is served.       

When will the insanity stop?

When will we stop losing precious lives just because they're gay?

What can each of us do to ensure this doesn't happen again?

Speak up.

Play your part.


Sharing with Elevencats, Third and Final Part

This is continued from Parts One and Two in the series.  To view Part One, please click here.  To view Part Two, please click here.  
Elevencats:  I can’t live on autopilot.  I have witnessed some great moments...four times.  One time this guy looked at me during the whole bus ride.  The other time, I was out shopping and I saw a guy smiling at me.  Oh, the third time, a guy smiled at me as we passed each other.  And on the fourth time, my current dream guy gave me the dirtiest look.  He hasn’t looked at me once, he has always avoided my eyes.  I’m an idiot.  None of them thought I’m cute.  I just made it up in my head.  But it made me bubbly inside.  These moments made me smile.  
Rick:  You’re wrong, my good young man.  It sounds to me like all of the men who looked at you--at least from the way you described the scenarios--found you attractive, perhaps for different reasons, but I’d say they were definitely interested.  So stop putting yourself down.  Stop thinking you’re not cute.  Stop thinking no one could ever be interested in you that way.

Someone once said to me--because I used to put myself down constantly--that if I find you attractive, but you insist you’re not and can’t imagine why anyone would think you are, then not only do you insult yourself but also you insult me, calling into question my judgement and taste.  When men look at you, and continue to look at you, make no mistake--they’re flirting.  Receive the compliment in the spirit it's given.  Don’t insult them by thinking you’re not attractive enough for them to pay attention to you.         
And, you’re right, you can’t live on autopilot.  But many people just like you do until they’re comfortable enough with their sexual orientation to start playing an active role in their lives.  Yes, you can go to school, yes, you can go to work, yes, you can interact with family and friends, but, until you can face up to what you are, an important part of your life will be on autopilot.  Just take those first few steps toward the life you really want, whatever they might be.  Slow but steady wins the race.              
E.:  I’d like to live life as any straight person or an extremely courageous out gay person.  Lately, I have repeated to myself that I can’t ever be happy.  I have felt really bad, I have felt like I have no possibilities open to me because I’m too afraid of making a step into the unknown.  
R.:  Elevencats, you are getting to the exact point I got to in late 1985, when, at the age of 26, I could no longer go on the way I was.  My career was off and running, I lived in my own apartment, I had every reason to be happy about where I was in my life--and I was about as empty and miserable as one could be.  Because, although I knew I was gay, I thought I couldn’t do anything about it.  I didn’t want to date girls, because I wasn’t straight, and I couldn’t allow myself to be with other men, because someone might discover I was gay.  My personal life was a mess, and I wanted so much more for myself.  Most of all, I wanted love.  I wanted someone to love me, and I wanted to love someone.  (At this point, I had no concept of how important loving myself was.)        
Only you can decide when the time is right for you to come out and start living your life for the very first time.  Because that’s how it will feel.  What you’re doing now isn’t living.  It’s existing.  It’s doing what you believe everyone wants you to do, what everyone expects of you.  Well, you only live once, and, at some point, you have to take responsibility for it.  Yes, you may lose the love of family and friends.  Yes, you may have to find a different career, if the academic environment you want to work in isn’t open-minded enough to accept you as you are (I can’t believe that would happen, since academia is usually one of the most progressive places to be open about yourself, at least in North America).  
Is that too high a price to pay for being the complete gay man you were meant to be?  Only you can decide.  For me, the price I might have paid by not coming out and living authentically would have been far higher.  In fact, I doubt I’d be sitting here today writing this to you had I not come out when I did, because I could no longer take the pressure, live only half a life, or go without experiencing love.             
E.:  I’m sorry.  It isn’t a happy message.  But this picture opened my mind to being afraid of growing old...and other things just unraveled.  I have no one else to talk openly about myself.  It hurts so much at the moment.
R.:  No reason to apologize.  I don’t expect happy messages all the time.  I understand a good many of my readers are people just like you, and they have a lot going on in their lives and in their minds.  I’m just grateful I can be here for you, because I know what it’s like not to have anyone to share your feelings and thoughts with.  Always remember, I’m here for you, and I’m willing to help in whatever ways I can.  
That goes for all my readers.
Then I received this follow-up comment from Elevencats a day or so later:  
E.:  I am angry because my brain doesn’t work as effectively as I’d like it to.  I’m afraid I haven’t got enough time to compensate it with learning more.
R.:  You know, as I see it, you are putting yourself under so much pressure to meet unrealistic expectations, you’re making circumstances ten times worse than they really are.  So take the pressure off.  Relax a bit.  Stop being so uptight.  Stop trying so hard.  You’d perform so much better if you did.  
Here’s a great example:  Sometimes, when I sit down to write, I put myself under such pressure to be brilliant, to write perfectly formed thoughts at the outset, to use the very best word in all cases, that I can’t write worth shit.  That happened when I wrote the post “A Letter to Lisa.”  What should have taken me a day or so to write took four or five days.  By the end of that experience, I was so frustrated with myself and so exhausted, I just about gave up.  
Today when I sat down, I put myself under no pressure to write at all.  Rather, I decided to talk, man to man, about whatever was in my heart, whatever I thought you needed to hear, what I believed you’d find most helpful.  And, as a result, the words came pouring forth.  By the clock, I see I’ve been at this for almost six hours, and I’ve really had a good time.     
E.:  I’m angry at myself, because I haven’t got enough courage to live as an out gay man.
R.:  You may not have the courage now, but I’m confident you will--when you’re ready.  And only you can decide when that is.  
I didn’t have the courage at your age either.  But, by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I’d had it.  I couldn’t deal with any of the bullshit any longer.  I finally said to myself, “Fuck it!  I’m gay.  I have to live my life.  People can hate me or love me, I don’t care.  All I know is, life can’t go on as it has been because I'll go mad.  I deserve better than this.  I’ve already wasted too much time worrying about what other people will think of me if they learn I’m gay.  Who the fuck cares what they think?  What matters most is what I think of myself.  I know I’m a good, decent person, and that has nothing to do with being gay or straight.  I cannot live with myself if I don’t have the guts to be who and what I really am.  This is my time now.  There’s no going back.”  In other words, I put myself first for a change.  I stopped thinking about how my being gay would affect other people.  I knew for a fact how it would affect me if I didn’t finally come out and get my life underway.             
E.:  I am angry because I want to speak with people, but I am too shy and awkward in these situations and can get only “yes” and “no” out of my mouth (even though I have no problem speaking in front of an auditorium with 200 people in it).  I feel like I am too boring, and my thoughts are not interesting enough.
R.:  In addition to what I wrote earlier in Part Two about confidence, I would ask the question, what’s different about being one-on-one with someone you don’t know, and speaking in front of a large number of strangers?  Why do you have confidence in one situation but not in the other?  
Again, stop with the put downs.  Your writing is full of them.  Whenever you’re about to put yourself down, reverse your thought.  Instead of writing, thinking, or saying, “I’m boring,” change your script to “I’m exciting.”  Instead of writing, thinking, or saying, “My thoughts are not interesting enough,” change your script to “My thoughts are brilliant, and I know other people will appreciate me sharing them.”    
All the put downs hold you back, Elevencats.  I hope you realize that.  They prevent you from being the fully realized young man you were meant to be--and I’m not even talking about you being gay.  
E.:  At the moment, I have a good possibility to learn, but I am afraid that I will make mistakes on the way.  Most of my lecturers are people who I (hopefully) will work with in the future.   So it’s crucial for me to be very good.  And if someone finds out that I am gay...  It means I need to be the very best.  It’s inevitable, the situation in Estonia.  When you drink, sleep around, are gay, fat (or something else), you need to be the very best in your field.  Because being good outweighs your negative circumstances.  
R.:  Two points here.  Of course you’ll make mistakes.  That’s life.  Get over it.  Everyone makes mistakes.  When I started out working at the bank in 1980, I made lots and lots and lots of mistakes.  Many of them cost the bank money--some, a lot of money.  Oh, well, that’s the way it goes when you’re learning, when you’re trying to get good at what you do.  Show me someone who doesn’t make mistakes, and I’ll show you God.  
The thing about mistakes is, learn from them.  Try not to make them a second time.  If you make them a second time, try not to make them a third time.  You’ll get it.  You’re not stupid.  I know that, and you know that.  Take the pressure off, and be the best you can be every single day.  That’s all you can do.  
The other point about mistakes is, you can’t learn without making them.  If you always learn without making mistakes, what if something goes wrong?  Will you know how to fix it having never made a mistake, having never delved into why you made the mistake in the first place?  Probably not.  Think of mistakes as opportunities to learn at a deeper level, because that’s what they are.       
E.:  I’m afraid that maybe I will not have a job when my scientific career doesn’t work out.  My dream is to be independent.  
R.:  Again, stop with the pressure.  Stop trying to be perfect.  Stop trying to over-perform.  Just do the best you can.  That’s all anyone can ever expect from you.  And that‘s all you can ever expect from yourself.  
And stop trying to tell the future.  One day at a time, young man.  One day at a time.  That’s all we have.  Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.  
If your scientific career doesn’t work out, something else will.  You don’t see that now, but you will.  There’s an old saying, When one door closes, another opens.  And so it does.  
I could not have even imagined what would happen during my twenty-eight-year career with the bank.  I could never have plotted the path I would take, the locations I’d work in, anticipated every step.  All I did was the very best I could do at each and every stage, and I let the rest take care of itself.  And it did.  It always did.  And it always will.  
You don’t know the future, you only know today.  In fact, you only know this very moment.  This moment is all we have.  Make the best of it.  That’s all you can do.  No one can expect anything more than that.         
E.:  I’m afraid of calling myself a gay man.  Yes, I like men more than women, but I am afraid of calling myself a homosexual.  It has mostly a negative feel to it.  Why can’t I just be a person who loves another human being?  I don’t like to be the fag, the homo, the flamer, etc.  I am a man who dreams of becoming a family with another man.
R.:  Honestly, Elevencats, you can call yourself whatever you want to.  I didn’t like the terms “homosexual” and “gay” for the longest time.  I liked the terms fag, homo, flamer, fairy, and fem even less.  Only through my writing here was I able to make peace with homosexual and gay.  Now, I see them less as labels and more as efficient ways to differentiate between people who love people of the opposite sex and people who love people of the same sex.  It’s all in how you look at them.  Yes, the terms are negative, or at least they have negative connotations.  But, in the end, they’re just words.  Do with them as you like.  
In my mind, I am a man who loves another human being--as the case may be, another man.  That’s me.  That’s my reality.  It’s who I am.  I believe it’s not who you love, but that you love at all.  That’s what is most important.  Don’t hold yourself back from loving , as the expression goes, truly, madly, deeply, just because the person you love is another man.  Never hold love back.  Love bold and love big.  When the time comes--and you’ll know when that is--give it everything you have.  Until then, gather as much experience as you can loving the most important person in your life--you.  Nobody is more important than you.  You are only as good to other people as you are to yourself.  You are only as capable of loving another person as you are yourself.    
From what I’ve experienced of you through our exchanges over the past nine months, you are extraordinary.  You are sensitive, sweet, respectful, thoughtful, considerate, honorable, smart, clever--the list goes on and on.  Do you really believe you’re anything less just because you’re gay?  Not even close.  Your homosexuality is but a small part of you.  A very small part.  You have so much going for you.  Even though we're half a world apart, the brilliance of your light shines here where I am.  You just have some things to sort out, which you will surely do in good time.  Be patient.  You’ll get there.  You’re so young.  You have so much ahead of you.  Including love.  It will all be yours.  Just be ready for when it happens.  In the meantime, be the very best you can be for yourself.  Then you’ll be everything you can be for that special someone.              

Sharing with Elevencats, Part Two

This is continued from Part One in the series.  To view that, please click here.
Note:  The final section in this part is sexually explicit and may make some readers uncomfortable.  Another warning appears just prior to that section.  Please use your discretion accordingly.
Elevencats:  Truth is that I’m bad at making the first move.  I’m bad at talking to a stranger, or any human being for that matter.  Sometimes I walk on the street and just can’t stop guys.  I’m still gay.  That hasn’t changed.  And when I sometimes see the one who I’d like to spend the rest of my life with, who I fantasize about...I just can’t stop dreaming that he’d kiss me and make love to me.  He’s so smart (I have a thing for smart men) and good looking and funny and friendly and talkative.  But I’d never make a move on him.
Rick:  Making the first move, as you put it, is about being confident in how you feel about yourself, and about believing the person you’re interested in may just be as interested in you. Consider the possibility.  
Listen, when I was your age, I didn’t have confidence either.  I felt like a slug; I felt lower than dirt.  I was certain no one had the least interest in me.  If it wasn’t for other guys approaching me, I’d have never met anyone.  At least I had the common sense to put myself in the right places so I'd be noticed (i.e.: at the gay clubs).  As far as getting together with anyone, I left that entirely up to the other fellows.  (Curiously, though, while we feel badly about ourselves and couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in us, the ones we’re interested in probably don’t see us that way at all.  In fact, they probably think no one could possibly be interested in them, either.)   
I’m not going to sit here and write that you need to grow a pair, get your ass out there, and start meeting people, because its nearly impossible to muster the courage to approach people if you’re not used to doing it.  But I am going to say that you have a choice--either you sit on the sidelines and wait for life to happen to you, or you take control and make it happen yourself.  The choice is yours.  Just remember, the longer you wait, the more time you waste.     
The truth is, a lack of confidence in talking to strangers, as you put it, is a sign of low self-esteem.  For me, it was thinking the person I was interested in meeting was so much better than me.  Perhaps he wore nicer clothes, or he was more handsome, or he had a better body--whatever the case was.  But here’s a little secret: virtually everyone has low self-esteem.  Virtually everyone thinks other people are better in some way than they are.  So, in that respect, we’re all insecure, which, as I see it, makes the playing field even for all of us.        
In your case, an inability to introduce yourself to a young man you’re attracted to has, I think, more to do with living your life on the edge of being gay than jumping right in and going for it.  Perhaps you hold yourself back because you don’t know where it could possibly go.  You’re not out, your family and friends don’t know you’re gay, and the last thing you want is to start something that leads you to where you’re not prepared to go, or where you think you can’t go.  I know the feeling, but, sometimes, putting yourself in that situation is the best way to break the impasse.  Jump in with both feet--keeping your wits about you, of course--and see where it takes you.       
Many young gay men just like you keep their sexual orientation a secret to family, friends, and coworkers, yet still manage to live full lives as gay men.  What if, at the campus where you go to school, you saw a young man you’re attracted to?  And what if you didn’t have the confidence to approach him, but he had the confidence to approach you?  So you stumble and stammer and have an awful time talking to him, but he’s cute, and interested in you, and makes you feel at ease in his company, so you can actually put a few words together without feeling embarrassed.

The next thing you know, you go out for coffee, study together, and enjoy being around each other.  One thing leads to another, and you become a little sexual--nothing you can’t handle.  So what?  Your family doesn’t need to know, his family doesn’t need to know, you both have as much to lose if anyone finds out (so no one will), and you go for it.  You even feel good about doing it and wonder what took you so long.       
Just because you’re not fully out and living loud and proud in your community doesn’t mean nothing can’t go on between you and another young man.  Many men begin living their lives as fully realized gay human beings one small, comfortable step at a time, taking on only as much as they can handle one step after another.  That’s how I did it.  The options for becoming a fully-realized gay man are endless--from dipping your toe in the water and staying there indefinitely, to plunging right in without reservation.  You decide what’s right for you.  Just keep yourself open to the possibilities.  Never shut yourself off.  Who knows what might happen?  
E.:  I’m an old-fashioned guy.  I would only be with a guy who truly loves me and then we can make love.  I wouldn’t use a guy like this.  Not even in my dreams.  He wouldn’t love me even if we would be the last two people on this earth.  
R.:  You have the right idea, Elevencats.  You are an honorable young man, and I respect that about you.  You want to do the right thing for you and whoever you’re with.  Nothing wrong with that.  Hold on to your values and to what feels right.        
To return to my scenario above, let’s say the young student you’re interested in comes on to you physically, but you’re not comfortable because you’re not sure you love each other.  I’m familiar with this situation.  Here’s what I did.  
Nothing.  That’s right, nothing.  Yes, we got naked.  Yes, we kissed and touched each other.  Yes, we made ourselves feel good.  But when the men I was with wanted to engage in oral or anal sex, I refused.  Simple as that.  I was intent on reserving those experiences for the man I loved.  Were some of the fellows disappointed, even upset?  You bet they were.  Some were pissed off.  After he'd had plenty to drink, one even threatened to rape me (although I don't know how serious he was.)  So what?  It’s my body.  I’ll do as I damn well please with it.
So you don’t have to go all the way with anyone you don’t want to.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t do other things that feel good, and, perhaps most of all, help you feel better about yourself and give you more confidence.  Use your imagination.  Sex isn’t just about oral and anal.  There’s everything else, too, so many wonderful, and loving, and considerate things two people can do with and to each other when they’re naked, yet take little or no risk at all.    
The bottom line is, when it comes to sex with someone else, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.  Remember that for future reference.  You can, and should, put the brakes on anything you’re not ready for.  When you love and respect yourself, you love and respect your body, and you don’t allow anyone to abuse it.       
(WARNING:  This section is sexually explicit.  As this is the final piece of Part Two, if frank discussion about gay sex makes you uncomfortable, skip the remainder of this post and proceed to Part Three.)
E.:  And thinking about the process of sex...I can put and there, and he can put and there....  It’s disgusting.  It isn’t normal.  It isn’t right.  It hurts.  It will cause me to die of cancer.  OK, I will never have sex.  But isn’t masturbation a sexual activity....  Oh, I will never have sex with another man.  
R.:  Okay, take a deep breath.  And relax.  Now let’s have a closer look at your fear and disgust of gay sex, one step at a time.  
From what you write, I assume you’re talking about oral and anal sex.  I want you to know your feelings are perfectly normal.  In fact, I suspect many young gay people think about the mechanics of gay sex--or sex, period--the same way and are turned off.  I felt exactly like that, so much so that, at one time, I thought if this is what being gay is--performing physical acts that repulse me--then I want no part of it.  The question is, how do you overcome that apprehension so you can join the rest of the human race and enjoy comfortable and rewarding sexual activity?

First, oral and anal sex aren’t the exclusive domain of gay men.  Many straight couples engage in oral sex, and some even in anal sex.  So, in terms of those particular sexual activities being disgusting, because they’re associated with being gay, that’s not the case at all.  Whether you’re gay or straight, sex is about what you’re into, what gives you and your partner pleasure. Virtually anything goes, depending on the willingness of the two people involved.
Another thing you should do is become more comfortable with your body.  You’ve mentioned that you masturbate, so you’re already familiar with your penis, and how good it feels to touch it.  I read somewhere that it helps those people ill at ease with the idea of oral sex to think of the penis as a miniature version of the entire person it’s attached to.  Thus, if you love the whole person, chances are you’ll love the smaller version.  After all, his penis is as much a part of him as your penis is a part of you.  When you love someone enough, you’d be surprised what you become more at ease with.  And, when you think about it, it's just a penis.  
So it is with the anus.  That part of your body is like any other part.  It has its own specific function, which many find filthy and disgusting, but it’s still a part of you.  Just like your eyes, your chest, and your toes, for example.  Don’t avoid it.  Instead, learn about it.  It might help when you’re in the shower to use a soapy finger to touch it (if you haven't tried that already). And I don't mean just to clean it.  As you touch in and around that area, be conscious of the sensations you feel.  If you’re so inclined, graduate to the next level by using your soapy finger to probe it a little.  Relax.  Go ahead.  It’s just another opening in your body.  And, if you feel comfortable doing that, then see how far you can go.  Again, be aware of the sensations, what feels good and what doesn’t.  There.  Was that so bad?    
The whole thing about sex is, you need to be comfortable with your own body to be comfortable with someone else’s.  And I believe you should look at it as an extension of the strong emotions you feel toward another person.  I believe sex should always be seen and done in that context (which is why I deplore promiscuity), but many would disagree with me.  I think most gay men are all about the physical pleasure and getting off.  That’s too bad.  I feel sorry for them.  If that’s the only way you look at sex, then you're missing out on a lot.  On the other hand, if you look at it as a deeply personal experience to share with someone you love, then it will be so much more, regardless of how great, or not, the physical aspects are.  
I’m not aware of anyone getting cancer from engaging in gay sex.  Are there sexually transmitted diseases you should be cautious of, including HIV and AIDS?  You bet.  While it’s important to be considerate of the other person during the act of sex, you must always put yourself first.  If you’re not comfortable doing something, then you must speak up and not think you have to go along just because the other person wants it.  And when you object, if the other person cares about you and your feelings, he will listen and respect your wishes.  If he doesn’t, he’s a jerk, and you need to get dressed and leave immediately.  
By now, you should know the precautions to take to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease.  Because we’re talking about your body, your health, and your life, you must take responsibility not just for yourself but also for your partner, to ensure both of you are adequately protected.  While some will say you can’t pick up HIV or AIDS through oral sex, I would not be willing to take that risk unless you really know the person you’re with.  If you’re one hundred percent sure he’s not infected (I don’t know how you can be), then use your discretion.  Same with anal sex.  But here’s a suggestion.  Even if you and your partner have been tested for the HIV virus, you’ve been together for a long time, and you’re not having sex with other people, I would still recommend using a condom during anal sex, out of respect for each other.  
And, finally, yes, when the time is right--which only you can determine--you will have sex with another man.  You shouldn't hold yourself back from having sex, within the context I discussed earlier, because you’re as entitled as the next guy to sexual pleasure.  But here’s a little secret from me to you.  Based on the emphasis sex receives in the media, particularly in the West, it’s overrated.  Sex plays an important part in any relationship, including Chris’s and mine, but, if I had to choose between sex and love, I’d choose love without question.  All I’m saying is, keep sex in perspective.  It’s great, but it isn’t everything, as you may have gotten the impression it is from the gay media.  

For the third and final part, please click here.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sharing with Elevencats, Part One

(For those of you unfamiliar with Elevencats, that is the pseudonym of a young man, who is gay.)
Dear Elevencats,
Over the past week, you commented twice on the post titled “Positive Images, Part 5 (Roy and William).”  As I read your words a number of times, I heard my own voice, in my early twenties.  I related so much to your frustrations, anxieties, even anger, particularly since I know how difficult it is to be unable to share your feelings.         
You gave me much to work with in your comments.  So I thought the best way to address the concerns you raised is to review them in detail, one at a time, and capture whatever thoughts come to mind, thereby giving you some different things to think about.  In the process, I hope what I write will be helpful to others going through what you are.       
You began your first comment with the following:
Elevencats:  I want to die at a young age.  I’m too afraid of growing older, because I love my baby-face, my skinny body.
Rick:  I know you wrote this out of frustration and don’t mean it.  How can anyone, at the mere age of twenty, want his life cut short, just because he’s fearful of the physical changes associated with growing older?  That’s not a good enough reason.       
Don’t look at aging as diminishment.  When I gaze at the picture of Roy and William, I see two older gay men whose lives surely weren’t easy, but who, despite all the challenges they encountered, lived fully and meaningfully.  I imagine everything they went through, at a very different time from ours, just to be together and to experience love.  For that reason, they inspire me; seeing the beauty in them moves me deeply.          
That’s why I had to include their picture in my “Positive Images” series: because I consider them an extraordinary example not only of individual gay men but also of a gay couple, and of old people.  They set an example to all of us of what we should hope to be and to have at their ages.       
In between the age you are now and that of Roy and William--a lifetime, really--you have a whole lot of living to do--at least fifty years, as I see it.  Don’t rush it along, because it goes fast enough on its own.  Don’t wish it cut short, because you’ll need every bit to become everything you were meant to be.  And don’t squander it, because every minute counts.        
Finally, don’t forget that our bodies, no matter what they look like, are merely vessels.  All they do is contain everything that we are.  What they look like on the outside, in the grand scheme, doesn't matter.  Infinitely more important than a pretty face and a thin body are a mind, a heart, and a soul.  It is in those three places that a life well lived is truly measured. 
E.:  I am always afraid of losing control over myself; that’s the main reason I don’t drink.  I’m afraid I’ll slip, tell someone that I like guys....  
R.:  So join the club; I’m not a drinker either.  I have two main reasons why I’m not:  one, my father is an alcoholic, and I know what liquor can do; and two, getting drunk and losing control has always been a big concern of mine.  I’d far rather be sober and in control, even if it means I can’t deaden the pain I feel from time to time, than drunk, out of control, and dependent on someone else to get me home safely.  I’ve never been confident enough anyone would take that responsibility.    
In my opinion, you’re not missing anything because you don’t drink.  And the fact that you don’t get drunk and put yourself in the position of blurting out to someone that you’re gay, when you’re not comfortable with your sexual orientation let alone anyone else finding out...well, what better reason not to drink.  Lots of people don’t drink for lots of different reasons.  You’re in good company. 
E.:  Oh, I’m afraid of being a faggot.
R.:  I’m struck by your use of the “f” word--possibly the worst epithet directed at gay men.  But I know why you use it--because you’re angry.  Because it doesn't seem fair to be gay.  Because we still live in a world where being gay, despite all the positive changes in some countries, is bloody difficult--certainly more difficult than being straight.  I hear you.  I really do.     
All of us, Elevencats, are afraid of being gay at one time or another, particularly before we’ve fully accepted what we are and come out to family and friends.  You are not alone.  Countless thousands, even tens of thousands, of young gay men and women just like you are right now processing the same feelings, the same fear, each in his or her own way.      
But believe me when I tell you, where you are right now is infinitely more difficult than where you’ll be when you finally come out.  At least that’s been my experience and the experience of countless people.  Obsessing about what you think will happen to you, about what your life will be like afterward, is infinitely worse than the reality.  You don’t see that now, but, in time, I think you will.  
Once you make the decision to come out, I suspect you’ll care less than you ever have about how the world around you reacts to the truth of what you are.  Yes, it would be tough to lose family members and friends, because they can’t accept your homosexuality, but, honestly, I don’t think that will happen.  It didn’t to me, and it doesn’t to the majority of gay men and women.  
Ninety-five percent of the time, family and friends come around, after they’ve taken a surprisingly short period of time to process what took you years to come to terms with.  Give your loved ones all the time and support they need to assimilate what you share with them. Assure them you’re still you and haven’t suddenly become someone they don’t know.  You’ll be amazed at how much support is out there waiting for you.         
E.:  Maybe I should try to fall in love with a girl; I have many wonderful girls surrounding me (and even maybe someone who doesn’t know why the heck I haven’t made a move yet...or most probably know).  But I don’t want to make another person suffer.  Shit, I promise, I’ll live my life alone, always being the single man who hasn’t got time for family business.
R.:  No need to promise you’ll live your life alone, or to explain you’re still single because you don’t have the time to find the right girl, get married, and have children.  That’s an unreasonable expectation for any of us.  All of us have the right to live our lives fully.           
I want to share a little story with you.  It might help.
I remember walking home from high school one bright spring afternoon with a girl named Shelley.  If ever there was a girl for me, it was her.  If ever there was a girl I should have married, it was her.  
Shelley was terrific.  I loved her long, kinky, bright red hair, her beautiful smile, and her ballsy sense of humor.  We had a great time together--sharing some of the same classes, studying at each other’s parents’s houses.  For different reasons, both of us were outcasts and virtually without friends, but we understood and appreciated each other.  Hell, she was even Catholic, as I was.  Our parents would have been thrilled if we’d gotten together.  It would have been the natural order of things.  My mom and dad would have turned themselves inside out if I’d told them Shelley and I were seeing each other, thereby confirming their son was normal after all. 

On that fine spring day, for the very first time, I was trying to get up the nerve to ask Shelley out.  We were just a block or two away from where I lived, where Shelley and I would part until the following day at school.  I had to make up my mind.  I felt like I was in a now-or-never situation.  Yes, I could have asked Shelley out whenever I wanted to, but, on that afternoon, I knew the time had come.  Which way was it going to be?  Ask her out, or never ask her out?  Straight or gay?  Decision time.      
I knew in my heart--as much as I didn’t want to--that I was gay, and that there was no point starting to walk down a road with Shelley that I would never see the end of with her.  It would not have been fair to me, but, even worse, it would not have been fair to her.  I knew eventually other fellows would discover her and find her as attractive as I did; one would even go on to love her in a way I never could.  As much as it pained me, I knew I’d have to face up to the reality of what I was, sooner or later, and I couldn’t imagine potentially destroying Shelley’s life because I was in denial.  I may have been only sixteen at the time, but, even now, I’m proud of the decision I made then.       
And you, Elevencats, know what the right thing to do is, as well.  As much as you might not want to be gay; as much as you might want your life to be “normal’; as much as you might want a family in the traditional way--you know the truth.  You know you’re gay, and that will never change, no matter how much you want it to.  You will always be more attracted to men than to women.  And, thankfully, you're mature enough to know you cannot be the cause of someone else's suffering because you don’t have the courage to face what you are head on.  
Taking the easy route isn’t the answer; it seldom is.  The answer is living authentically as the gay man you are meant to be.  The time will come to be all that you are.  Be patient.  Be patient and be ready.

For Part Two, please click here.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Exchange with Mark

Before I went to bed this past Saturday evening, I checked my email and found the following from Mark.  It was in response to a post titled "On Gay Men and Monogamy...Again," which I published late last week.  The reason why I decided to share this with you should become apparent as you read it.

Dear Rick:

I've been reading your blog posts over the past several months, and I just wanted to send a note of thanks.

I am also in a long-term relationship in which we have been faithful to each other.  At times, it felt like we were the only gay men we knew who wanted a monogamous relationship much less sustained one.  I even remember being teased by some of our gay male friends about not sleeping with other men, as if we were somehow missing out on the "gay lifestyle."  At worst, there were certainly times when I have felt like a minority within a minority.  For me, being faithful to my partner brings a deep respect and dignity to our relationship that wouldn't be there if we weren't monogamous.  It's the reason I wanted to be in a relationship.

I know that many gay couples choose not to be faithful to each other and are happy in those relationships.  It works for them.  I believe we all have the right to define the best relationship for ourselves and must honor that right for other couples.  It may not be how I would choose to live, but it may be for others.  I don't have objections to that.  I do have to say, however, that I'm constantly disappointed by how often gay couples choose not to be monogamous.

Which brings me to how I found your blog.  We are fortunate to live in a state that allows same sex marriage.  After 27 years, we are planning our wedding for next year and are so excited to be finally wed.  But as I'm sure you're aware, marriage equality is a fiercely debated topic currently in the US.  With the presidential election coming next year, the candidates have once again tried to identify the common enemy, the gays, and are promising they will stand up for family values, traditional marriage, Christian values, etc.  Inevitably, the amount of infidelity within gay relationships will be given as a reason once again to show how gay relationships are not the same as straight relationships.  On one particular night, I had listened to more than I could stand and was feeling less excited about our upcoming wedding.  I jokingly did a Google search for committed, gay relationships, not expecting many meaningful hits.  Your blog was one of the search results.

So finally, the thank-you.  Thank you for posting about your views and your relationship.  It is very comforting to me to read a gay man's blog about the value of being in a monogamous relationship.



Here is my response to Mark.

What a thrill to hear from you, and thank you so much for your kind words.  Occasionally, I hesitate publishing some of the posts I write (for example, those on gay men and monogamy), because I think I might be the only one who feels as I do.  But then I decide, what the hell.  You have just one chance to go around in life; my thoughts and opinions are just as valid as anyone's; and, if people don't like what I write, they don't have to read it.  Besides, more often than not, I learn others think the same way I do (maybe not on all points, but on many) and appreciate someone finally speaking up for them. 

If you've read extensively through my blog, you'll know I also don't get the whole thing about the "gay lifestyle."  I just don't get it.  I don't understand what some gay men see in sleeping around and having a lot of sexual experiences with different partners.  What is the thrill in that?  I know what I share with my partner--and I'm not even talking about sex here--is more worthwhile and meaningful than anything these men have hopping from one sexual encounter to another.  I could not have said it more beautifully than you did:  "For me, being faithful to my partner brings a deep respect and dignity to our relationship that I wouldn't achieve if we weren't monogamous."  I feel the same way.  I love knowing what Chris and I share is worthy of other people's respect. 

I've never been like other gay men.  From the time I finally accepted my homosexuality (in my early twenties), my goal was to be in a long-term, committed, and monogamous relationship.  Not for a moment did I want to sleep around in the hope of satisfying my sexual appetite with dozens or hundreds of men.  What's the point in that?  How empty.  How meaningless.  An open relationship with Chris?  Why?  How disrespectful of him would that be?  If you truly love someone, you're not out having sex with other people.  Simple as that.  And how disrespectful of myself, too.  I strongly believe the root of promiscuity is a lack of self-respect and self-love.  If you respect and love yourself, the last thing you do is give it all away to just anyone.  But I know I don't think like a lot of gay men.

I also believe as you do, Mark, that each of us has the right to define the best relationship for himself and should honor that right for everyone else.  Absolutely.  But where this theory runs into trouble for me is when all gay couples are looked at the same way.  Is when the mainstream community assumes all gay male couples have open relationships, cheat on their partners, and have little regard for commitment and monogamy.  As much as it might be a stereotype, somewhere along the line, the mainstream community got the idea gay men are not monogamous, and, thus, my relationship with Chris isn't looked at with the same respect as relationships between straight folks are.  This doesn't sit right with me because, as far as I'm concerned, there's no difference between them. 

That's why, among other subjects, I write about monogamy in gay relationships.  Because what often happens is those of us in monogamous relationships disappear into our communities, blend in, and few outside our closest neighbors know we're there.  Meanwhile, the hyper-sexualized gay male world continues to get all the attention (pride parades and the like), while those of us in monogamous relationships don't have a voice or the opportunity to say, "Hey, wait a minute.  We're here, too, and what we have deserves respect.  Because gay men are not just about sex and open relationships.  Many of our relationships are just as stable as straight ones, and they deserve to be recognized accordingly."  End of story.

Congratulations, Mark, on being in a monogamous relationship with your partner for 27 years.  What an incredible achievement.  Both of you should be proud of yourselves.  And you must be thrilled about your upcoming wedding.  Nothing should be allowed to diminish any of the excitement of that occasion, especially not the political climate in the US.  Yes, some scary things are going on in your country, with the Republicans and the Tea Party.  Yes, many believe among the evils befalling the US are a lack of family and Christian values.  And, yes, unfortunately, infidelity in many gay relationships will be used to diminish the credibility of all gay relationships.  Which is why you, I, and our partners must continue to set the example that not all gay relationships are the same.

I'm so grateful my views on gay men, relationships, and monogamy gave you comfort at a time when you needed it.  And I sincerely hope you move steadily toward the day of your wedding, knowing you are exactly where you want to be--and where, if honest with themselves, most gay men want to be, too.  The fact is, many gay men think they crave sex, but what they really crave is love.  What we have with our partners is love, and, as you already know, no amount of sex--no matter how good it is--could ever substitute for that. 

Warm regards,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Gay Men and Monogamy...Again

I have a lot of respect for relationship columnist Dan Savage:  I appreciate how tell-it-like-it-is he is, I respect and agree with much of the straightforward advice he provides, and I applaud his (and his partner, Terry's) It Gets Better Program, to support teenagers at risk of committing suicide as a result of bullying at school.  But on one point we disagree.

Dan Savage
In a Vancouver Sun article titled "Is monogamy making us miserable," by John Preston and appearing in today's edition, Savage is quoted as saying, '"My partner's fidelity to me is as important as anyone who's in a monogamous relationship with someone else; we just don't define sexual exclusivity as the be-all and end-all of commitment.  In other words, we're faithful to each other, but sometimes we have sex with other people. However, that in no way violates our commitment to each other."'

Further, Savage suggests that "heterosexuals...should learn to behave more like homosexuals--and gay males in particular.  What this means is that they should re-examine their ideas about fidelity."  In other words, he believes gay men have figured out what works best in relationships, where monogamy is concerned, and straight couples should consider following the example set by them.  Based on previous posts I've written on this subject, you already know his advice doesn't sit well with me and my partner, Chris.  

According to the article, "...Dan Savage's many critics point out, it's absurd to suggest that heterosexual couples should behave more like homosexuals."  Andrew Marshall, in How Can I Ever Trust You Again?: From Infidelity to Recovery in Seven Steps, confirms this.  In his experience, '...infidelity doesn't necessarily work for gay couples, either.  "What tends to happen is that they have a don't ask/don't tell policy, but someone invariably ends up getting jealous.  Or else they have sex with everyone apart from each other and drift into a sibling relationship."'

(All quotes are from page B7 in the aforementioned article.)  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Positive Images, Part 5 (Roy and William)

No words are necessary.

My sincere thanks to photographer Richard Rinaldi for granting me permission to grace my blog with his extraordinary photograph.

(Please visit Richard Rinaldi's website here and here.)

Thought for the Day, #34

So here's something to think about, an idea I've tossed around for the past month or so.  Again, it has to do with self-loathing, and the reality that many gay people hate themselves because of the constant messages they receive throughout their lives that being gay is wrong, evil, or immoral.

I believe some straight people, who stand in judgement of us, can only be thrilled when they learn of our self-loathing, how miserable we often are as a result, and how that self-loathing negatively affects our lives in so many ways.  Why wouldn't they be?  As I see it, our self-loathing plays right into their opinion of what they believe to be true about being gay.  

If homosexuality wasn't wrong, they must think, then why would gay people hate themselves? But because they believe it is wrong, and since gay people often exhibit the signs of self-loathing because they've consciously or unconsciously accepted that it's wrong, too, then they must be right--being gay is wrong.  Otherwise, why would self-hate play such a detrimental role in our lives?    

Do you need any more convincing to turn self-loathing into self-love?  Do we want to give those who oppose us more ammunition?  Let's truly be filled with the pride we want everyone to think we have.  But remember, pride isn't something we put on once a year, at a parade, event, or celebration.  Instead, it's something we permit ourselves to feel all the time, when we've accepted and love ourselves just as we are.

Thought for the Day, #35

According to a recent study out of the U.K., "...aging gay men and women have a greater risk of loneliness than do heterosexuals...."

Further, '"[t]his pioneering research confirms what we already knew intuitively, that there are hundreds of thousands of lesbian and gay people growing older without the same family and support structures that many straight people enjoy," said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall [a U.K. gay rights group].  "Quite often, that's because their own families have disowned them just because of the way they were born."'

With the number of baby boomers reaching old age now and over the next decades, many millions of gay and lesbian people will be alone, lonely, and in need of compassionate and understanding human contact and companionship.  I sincerely hope younger gay and lesbian people will recognize how important and valuable older people are, and rally around them to provide the support and love they need.    

(Quotes are from "Older Gays Have Higher Risk of Loneliness," by Andi Alexander,

"It's In You To Give"

According to Canadian Blood Services, in ads broadcast over the radio from time to time, urging people to donate blood and help save lives, blood is in us to give.  But, apparently, not in gay men.

I remember when I was a boy growing up in Dawson Creek, my father gave blood on a consistent basis.  In the wee hours one morning, our phone rang.  It was an emergency.  Several people with life-threatening injuries needed to have surgery.  Dawson Creek & District Hospital, several blocks from where we lived at the time, was short of blood.  My father's blood type was O negative, which I understand has components that can be used in all patients, regardless of their blood types (I believe I have O negative blood, too).  Could he come in immediately and make a donation?

In the cold and dark of a northern British Columbia winter, my father changed out of his pyjamas and drove to the hospital through the snow-covered streets.  I don't know if lives were saved that night, as a result of his donation, but my father did what he could do.  He did far more than the majority of people do.  I've never forgotten that morning.  Sometimes, the idea of giving blood creeps me out.  Other times, I think it would be a privilege to donate and know what you've done could save someone's life.      

But it's not a privilege accorded to gay men.  According to an article in The Vancouver Sun titled "Gay men in U.K. allowed to donate blood," appearing in the Friday, September 9, 2011 edition, "Canadian Blood Services bans donation from all men who have had sex with another man since 1977, citing statistics that say these men are at greater risk of being infected with HIV/AIDS [p. B6]."

Someone needs to explain this to me.  I'm well aware of the tainted blood scandal that occurred in Canada in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which the national blood supply was contaminated with Hepatitis C and HIV, to the detriment of many people and resulting in messy legal battles.  But circumstances have changed over the past thirty-five years.  Now, all blood donations are tested before they're given to patients.

So if blood donated by gay men, or by anyone for that matter, was found to be contaminated, couldn't it simply be discarded?  Given the dire need for blood most of the time, wouldn't allowing gay men to donate and discarding the contaminated blood discovered be preferable to not allowing gay men to donate, potentially ending up with a blood shortage, and losing lives as a result?  I don't get it.

I have to wonder if there isn't something else going on here.  I mean, think about it.  I'm gay. I've been in a monogamous, same-sex relationship with the same man for nearly two decades.  I'm one hundred percent certain my blood is not contaminated and could be used to save lives.  Yet I can't donate.  But some heterosexual men, who had sex with God-knows-who, and who could have any or all of the same diseases presumed to afflict only gay men, can donate.  Is this a double standard, or what?  

The Vancouver Sun article goes on to say, "Physicians, student groups and gay rights' activists in Canada have long protested the policy to exclude men who have had sex with men from donating blood, calling it outdated, unfair and offensive [p. B6]."  I couldn't agree more.  Isn't this yet another way to discriminate against gay men?  Doesn't Canadian Blood Services see the inherent risk in ANYONE donating blood, given the diverse sexual activities of countless millions of people.


Update (September 2013):

Recently, Canadian Blood Services made the decision to allow gay men to donate blood–IF they've been celibate for five years.

How is that any different from being in a monogamous relationship for over twenty years?

I don't get it.