Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Future of Gay

I've seen the future of gay, and it's a beautiful and amazing thing.

Actually, at the outset, let me correct myself.  It isn't gay at all.  Or lesbian.  Or bisexual, for that matter.  It has no label.  It needs no label to define it or categorize it–to allow others to put it in this box or that one, so they feel more comfortable with it.  Rather, it's two people who love each other, regardless of gender.  It's the future of love.

As a fifty-something gay man, who's seen his struggles in a heterosexual world, it's easy for me to think the way I've known gay to be most of my life will remain the same for all gay people, regardless of the year or even decade.  And I could use that excuse to continue blabbing on about the same damn thing, over and over again, thinking my words reflect what's going on today.  But that would be a mistake.      

The world is a very different place now–or at least parts of it are–from what it was in the 1970s and '80s, and I have no reason to believe circumstances won't continue to evolve and improve for gay people.  So it's important to remain current in thought and to ensure my writing reflects that in some respect.      

To this end, let me tell you what gave me a glimpse into what I believe the future of love looks like.

For several weeks recently, I corresponded with a twenty-year-old, African-American student, who shared intimate details of his life.  What I learned gave me so much hope for young, gay people like him, and those who are coming up, even in a country where same-sex marriage is currently legal in only a handful of states.  I won't make you privy to the personal details he shared, but I will show you what love looks like for this young man, and many of his friends, who it would be incorrect to put any label on.

For them, sexual orientation is less of an issue than it's ever been.  They don't appear to be as hung up on who loves who as has been the case in the past.  There's almost a fluidity to their love, where, today, a young man may find himself drawn to someone of the opposite sex, and, tomorrow, he may find himself equally drawn to someone of the same sex.  To him, either situation feels not only natural but acceptable.  The fact he's attracted to one or the other is utterly irrelevant–rather, it's simply a question of who he feels more connected to at any given time.

Of course, there will always be those who are exclusively attracted to the same sex (me included).  And, chances are, they're open to their friends about that, their friends supporting them one hundred percent and vice versa.  To young people, same-sex attraction doesn't appear to have the same stigma it used to.  They don't see two men or two women together; instead, they see two human beings together.  It's not the genders of the people that matter so much as the feelings they share between them.  

Unfortunately, a dark cloud continues to hang over these young people, exerting a negative influence, and, from time to time, leading them to believe what they're doing is wrong: older people, usually their parents.  Their parents were raised to believe love looks only one way, and any other appearance of it is unacceptable.  On their own, these young people eagerly celebrate love in whatever form it takes.  But, still very much under the influence of their parents, whose love they need and count on, and affected by unnecessary labels, they sometimes find themselves confused between what feels right and what others think.  They are not yet able to separate needing approval and being who they innately are.

At some point in the not-so-distant future, these older people, and their old world ideals, will cease to exist.  And, when that happens, today's young people will feel free to love whomever they choose, no longer needing their parents for validation, approval, or love. To take that one step further, when those young people become parents themselves, their attitudes toward love will be very different from those of their parents, and, for them, whatever form love takes for their children will be normal.  It will make no difference to them whether their son or daughter comes home with a young man or young woman.  All they will hope for is that their children find love and are happy.    

That's the way things should be.  That's the way they should have been all along.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thought for the Day, #57

There's a peacefulness that comes over [you] when you've found the right person.

                                                                                     - Nate Berkus

A few readers have sent me emails and asked, how do you know when you've found the right person to share your life with.  

When I heard the above quote from Nate Berkus, I knew it was the answer, because it's exactly how I felt when I met Chris.  And, conversely, it's how I didn't feel when I'd met other young men and wondered if they might be the ones.


The following morning, Adrian didn’t have to work until that afternoon, so he didn't need to rush out the door after we’d spent the night together.  We decided to stay in for breakfast.  I offered to make us pancakes, from scratch.  I don’t know what made me suggest that.  I don’t think I’d ever made pancakes from scratch before.  I was strictly an Aunt Jemima-type, pre-made all the way.  

Still, the adventure of attempting something different, while trying to make a good impression, motivated me, and away I went, busying myself in the kitchen while Adrian relaxed in the living room.  The whole domestic scene was completely foreign to me and an utter thrill to someone who had always envisioned himself coupled with a sweet and wonderful guy.  On that particular morning, Adrian fit the bill nicely.

A word about my state of mind will help.  In addition to feeling the exhilaration of finally having someone in my life, of experiencing physical intimacy for the first time, and of sharing my bed with another human being for the entire night, I was completely buzzed out.  I hadn’t slept with someone in the same room, let alone in the same bed, for many, many years.  I have always been an unsettled sleeper.  If I fall asleep, and manage to go into that deep, restful state, I’m usually good for the night; however, if I can’t get to sleep and struggle for a long time, I’m a mess.

I was a mess that morning, believe me.  If I’d slept more than an hour, I’d be surprised.  Most of the night, I’d lain there, nervous, uptight, and rigid.    

Adrian seemed to be completely comfortable beside me, the rate of his breathing telling me he was relaxed and asleep.  Meanwhile, I was wide-awake, my eyes chasing the shadows inside the room, acutely aware of Adrian lying beside me.  I resented him:  he was asleep, I wasn’t.  This was my bedroom, and we were in my bed.  If anyone was entitled to sleep, I was. Countless times, I didn’t want him to be there, and, yet, I wanted him to be there more than anything.  I was both thrilled and pissed off by his presence.

The following morning, when he woke up and found me already awake beside him, I told him I hadn’t slept, I wasn’t used to someone sharing my bed, and I felt dizzy with exhaustion, my head in a thick fog.  Sweet as he was, he apologized for his part in my sleep-deprived hangover.  There was nothing that could be done now.  The night was over, and the day had begun.  All I could do was make the best of it, hopefully get my second wind when I needed it most, and pray for blessed sleep that night, before I had to go to work the following day.  

We got up, showered together, and started to think about breakfast.  That’s when the idea to make pancakes came to me.

In the kitchen, I found a recipe for homemade pancakes and began to carefully measure the ingredients into a mixing bowl.  As the pan heated on the stove, I whisked everything together, looking through the pass-through into the living room from time to time, where Adrian was busying himself with something (I don't remember what).  Every time I looked at him, I saw a little boy, a sweet, innocent, patient little boy, and my heart went out to him.  I loved the way he looked, I loved his short, tousled hair, I loved his childlike face.  The whole scene made me feel warm inside.

At long last, I had someone in my life–someone I liked a lot, someone who made me feel good when I was with him, someone who had wanted to be with me from the previous evening, through the night, and now the morning.  There he was, in my living room, completely relaxed, just like he was in his own home, not the least bit anxious to leave as quickly as he could, so he could get on with the life he lived without me.  

If this is what a relationship looked like and felt like, I wanted more of it.  Who knew?  Perhaps Adrian was the right one for me.  I wondered it if was possible to meet a life partner the first time out.  I’d heard it sometimes happened with straight couples.  Didn’t that mean it could also happen with gay couples?  

I wondered if I could love Adrian, if, in my own inexperienced and immature way, I already did.  Was that possible?

What was love?  Would I know it when it happened to me?  Had I ever experienced it before?

When I thought of love, the first and only person who came to mind was my mom.  I was pretty sure I loved her, even though we’d had our troubles over the years.  Sometimes, I was definitely fonder of her than at others.  But, overall, when she came to mind, I felt genuine warmth inside, whether we got along or not, which we did–most of the time.  That was love, right?  Perhaps it was.  That's what I decided to go on.

Did I feel that toward Adrian now?  Did I feel the same warmth, that same fondness?  I thought I did, at least a little, even only after the short period we’d been together.  I really wanted to feel it.  I thought Adrian was great, and, if there was someone I could potentially love, it made sense it could be him because…look at him.  How could you not love him?  He was cute and sweet and gentle and, from what I could tell, a special human being, not like I believed most men to be, especially gay men.

Looking at him again via the past-through, I really believed there was potential for this fledgling relationship of ours, to find its feet, take off into flight, and soar.

But, first, I needed to get through breakfast–and figure out what was wrong with the pancakes.  I’d scooped some of the batter into the heated frying pan, and the pancakes had cooked all right.  But they hadn’t risen, as they should have, as I was used to them doing.  Everyone knew pancakes had to rise, become thick and fluffy, so they’d be light in the mouth when you bit into them, savoring the airy texture covered in delicious syrup.

I made a comment to Adrian that something was wrong.  He came into the kitchen and looked in the frying pan.  He said they looked fine to him, and I told him what I thought the problem was.  When I pointed it out, he agreed it appeared they hadn't risen as they should.  

Working in a restaurant, and something of a cook himself, as I would soon learn, Adrian asked to see the recipe.  I showed him the book on the counter. We reviewed the list of ingredients together, and it was when we got to baking powder that I realized, in my half-asleep, heightened awareness of at last having someone to make breakfast for, that I’d forgotten to add the baking powder.  That's what had prevented them from rising.  I looked at the flat, lifeless, and unappetizing pancake frying in the pan.

To say I was mortified is an understatement.  Not only had I wanted Adrian to have a wonderful pancake breakfast, just the two of us together, but also I’d wanted desperately to make a great impression.  I’d wanted him to hold me in high esteem because of what I’d done, because I’d produced the most amazing pancakes he’d ever eaten.  (Many years later, I'd realize I'd always tied my self-worth to what I did, not to who I was.  I suspect I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to overcome this.)

Again, Adrian came through.  By that time, his response shouldn’t have surprised me.  He’d already proven how sensitive he could be, how patient and kind.

“It doesn’t matter if the pancakes rise or not," he said.  "They'll be good just the same.”

I’m sure he knew from the look on my face that I didn’t believe him, that I was sorely disappointed this had happened, all because I’d been so damn stupid by forgetting to put in one of the most critical ingredients.  I hated myself at that moment, and I wanted more than anything to throw away the flat pancake in the frying pan, along with the batter, and start all over again.

Except there was one problem:  I’d used the last egg.  I hadn’t gone out yet to do my grocery shopping for the following week, and I was running low on a number of things.  I looked in the fridge again, in the off-chance I’d been mistaken.  Nope.  I was right.  No eggs.  I looked at Adrian and told him I couldn’t mix new batter, unless I drove to the store and bought some eggs.

“These pancakes will be fine,” he assured me.  "Really,” he continued, “they’re a little flat, but they’ll taste just as good.  There’s nothing wrong with them.”

I wasn’t convinced.  I was angry with myself for being such an idiot and for not having enough ingredients to make another batch.  Running out of things in the household was fine if you were alone, if no one else was counting on you, but not if you had someone in your life.  I had someone in my life now, and, in the future, I’d have to be more conscious of our joint needs and not so thoughtless.  

Eventually, Adrian and I sat down for breakfast.  To compensate for the thin pancakes, I tried to make everything else perfect.  There was bacon and fresh orange juice and pure maple syrup and a little light music on the stereo.  And the sun was shining outside and Adrian was sitting beside me.  It all felt wonderful and surreal.  I was exhausted from my sleepless night, and still pissed off at myself, but I was grateful for this time with him, and for being able to share something as simple as breakfast.  

Adrian dug into his pancake with gusto, as though it was the biggest, fluffiest, most delectable pancake he'd ever seen.  With his fork and knife, he folded a piece over to make it look thicker, then put it in his mouth.  I poured syrup on mine, cutting it into several rows, back and forth, then sideways.  Anyway I looked at what was on my plate, I still saw the same thing, and I felt so embarrassed and ashamed.  Adrian was making the most of the situation, but I couldn’t forgive myself for what I’d done.

We started to talk about something, and Adrian tried to make a joke, just to lighten the mood at the table.

That’s when I started to cry.  I tried to eat, but I couldn’t.

Adrian looked at me and saw that I was crying.  He asked me what was wrong, and I cried even harder.  Soon, I was bawling.  I couldn’t even speak.

Adrian got up from his chair, came over beside me, knelt on the floor, and wrapped his arms around my waist, resting his head against me.  That made me cry even harder.

“What’s wrong?” he asked me again.  "Why are you crying?”

“Because,” I said, between sobs.  “Because I can’t believe I ruined the pancakes.  Because I wanted everything to be perfect.  Because I feel like I don’t deserve you."  And then I said, "Because I feel so unlovable.”

Adrian held me tighter then, and I sobbed.  I cried far more than I should have, far more than ruined pancakes warranted.  But Adrian could not have been kinder or more understanding.

When I finally settled down, we ate our breakfast.  By then, not only were the pancakes flat, they were cold too.  

What you’ve just read is an excerpt from an unpublished memoir I wrote in 2008. 

What strikes me about this story is, I have no idea where the word “unlovable” came from.  To my knowledge, I'd never used it before, certainly not in relation to myself.  

When I think about it, I could have used any word at all to describe how I felt in that moment.  But it was not a conscious choice; I hadn't had time to think about it.  It's what came out, and I will always remember it.

Of course, I could not have said anything truer.  But I didn't see it then.  All I knew was, for the first time ever, I had a wonderful young man in my life.  And I needed to be perfect for him.  Because, if I wasn't, I’d lose him.  And I couldn't afford to let that happen, after I’d waited so long to meet someone like him, and because I wasn't sure I’d ever meet anyone else.     

It would take another six years for me to realize I not only felt unlovable to people in general, but, more importantly, to myself.  That was a shocking realization.  I had never been aware of how I felt about myself.  And, when I was, I couldn’t believe how unworthy I felt.  

But I shouldn’t have been surprised.  If you haven't been taught from an early age that you're worthwhile, that you make a difference by being here, then you lack the tools to feel about yourself as you rightly should.  And, at some point, in order to repair the relationship you have with yourself, and to prepare you for that future relationship with someone important in your life, you will need to find those tools and use them.  

I shared this story with you for one reason only:  to demonstrate that any one of us can go from where I was in 1986–feeling utterly unlovable–to where I am today–knowing not only that we must love ourselves as gay and lesbian people, but also writing this blog to help you on your journey to knowing how worthy and lovable you really are.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Missing Piece, by Nathan David (Guest Post)

You would not believe the number of times I've received emails from people wanting to use my blog to advertise something.  I guess just by my use of the word "gay" in the title, they think I'd be interested in selling everything from hook-up and match-making websites to sex toys.  It's apparent they've spent almost no time at "This Gay Relationship" and have no idea what my blog is about (although you'd think the subtitle would give them a clue).    

So when I received an email in mid-January from Nathan David, a 24-year-old young man, proposing to collaborate with me…well, I confess I was doubtful I'd be interested.  It wasn't until I took a close look at his website, "Rings of Equality," that not only was I impressed with what he's doing, but also I saw the overlap between our websites.  And a collaboration to help both of us achieve our common goals might just be a good idea.

The agreement Nathan and I struck was that I would provide an essay for "Rings of Equality"–which I did recently, called "Eventually Yesterday"–and he would provide one for "This Gay Relationship," titled "The Missing Piece," which you'll find below.

What Nathan's done in a few hundred words is take us from his high school years to the present, as one half of a four-year-long relationship.  I was surprised by Nathan's honesty and candor, as I think you will be.  Clearly, he's not afraid to share personal details about his journey as a young, gay man, in the hope of inspiring others to be better versions of themselves.    

I'm sure you'll enjoy reading "The Missing Piece" as much as I've enjoyed bringing it to you.  And my thanks, Nathan, for having the courage to approach me and for your contribution to "This Gay Relationship."  I appreciate it.


High school was difficult for me, like I think it is for most teens. I worked hard to be popular and was continually driven to accumulate more “friends.” Regardless of what I did or how I moved up the social ladder, there was always a piece missing in my life. 
Often at night, I found myself staring at the ceiling, thinking, “Why am I not happy?”  After many nights of deep reflection, I realized I didn’t have any friends because I was not being honest with anyone–including myself. I had become a master of hiding the true me in an effort to gain acceptance. Armed with this knowledge, I slowly learned to accept myself. “I am gay, and there is nothing wrong with that” became my mantra.

With this newfound love for myself, I gained the confidence to share who I am with family and friends. Although not everyone’s reaction was ideal, I felt closer to finding the missing piece.  Inspired by a new feeling of closeness with those who are important to me, I entered college as a fully-out gay man.

College was a clean slate. No one knew about my past, and people came to know the true me, with my sexuality forming only one aspect of my overall identity. No longer was I known as “Nathan who used to be straight.” I was just plain “Nathan,” and I liked it that way.

So why did I still feel something was missing?  Although not as large, I knew it wasn’t there.  And, once again, I found myself up at night, staring at the ceiling. This time, the mission became finding a boyfriend.

Unfortunately, I did not see the parallels between this and my focus in high school to collect friends.  I was a man on a mission, and my criteria for prospective partners were subpar, to say the least. I found myself getting into toxic relationships, where the focus was on making out and sex rather than compatibility and intimacy. I saw every gay man as another potential partner and completely lost sight that perhaps we could just be friends.

Over time, my approach evolved, and I moved from being promiscuous to establishing monogamous relationships with little compatibility. The missing piece remained missing. 
Finally, I decided to stop the hunt. In my desperation, I entered relationships that were not constructive. I replaced my external search for fulfillment with a focus on myself. I received counseling and reflected on what was important to me, including the impact I wanted to have on the world. I realized I was still putting too much stake in what others thought of me and what society expected. I believed I was well on my way to self-acceptance but quickly learned I had significantly more work to do.

As time passed and I focused on myself, an interesting thing happened. I started talking with a nice boy in one of my classes. We chatted about homework, life, goals, and values. We became friends.  And, one day, I realized we truly cared about each other. I felt something I hadn’t with the other guys, something beyond attraction. It was compatibility and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of each other. Unlike with other guys, we took it slow and started dating after several months.

That was over four years ago, and our relationship has been far from perfect. On countless occasions, we’ve had disagreements, almost breaking up a couple of times.   

What I’ve come to realize is no relationship is perfect; every couple has conflicts.  But the true test is how you deal with this friction. Do you blow up at each other, or do you ignore the problem?  (We’ve done both, and neither turned out well.) Or do you use these conflicts as catalysts for change and growth?

Believe me, this is harder than it sounds, but it’s worth the struggle. As imperfect as our relationship is, we continually work to grow our love and help each other achieve his goals.

Ultimately, I think two things have made our relationship last: our shared values and our efforts to improve communication. As time passes and we work on our relationship, the number of good times increases.  Every year, we spend more time enjoying each other’s company and doing the things we both like to do.  

Now, my relationship is a support system for my self-development. It feels good to be encouraged as I face the next set of challenges: health, work, faith, and social issues. At this moment, these challenges make up my missing piece.  And, every day, I work on them to become whole.    

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Same Love," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Mary Lambert)

I've watched this music video several times now, and it still brings tears to my eyes. Please take a few moments to watch it and see for yourself.        

My sincere thanks to Shaun for bringing this to my attention.  You are an amazing young man–the future of love.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Not Gay for Nothing

It's rare when I receive an email from a gay person, particularly a young, gay person, that is not only positive but inspiring–and maybe even influential–as was the case this past weekend.  

Shaun, who sent the email, has a refreshing take on his sexual orientation.  It's one I believe would serve a lot more of us if, perhaps, we were less caught up in how we think we're supposed to feel about being gay–that is, negatively–and more in the very real opportunity it offers us.         

I want to share this with you in the hope you take from it what I did:  a different perspective on what it means to be gay, and what we are challenged, as gay people, to do with something we can use not only to our advantage, but also to the advantage of others, if we learn to embrace it.      

In part, Shaun wrote:

...I got divine validation for the way I am and that it is not a mistake or anything like that, it is actually a blessing, a gift, and I chose before I came to Earth to be this way for specific reasons on a soul level, for my own growth and the growth of souls I would encounter....


I know now that I was not meant to be alone and that I actually have a lot to do…on Earth, and I've been getting the feeling my homosexuality and my music are going to somehow coincide with each other at some point, probably on a large scale and that I'll help a lot of people in the process and the Universe has been preparing me for it.  

All of this insight from a young man who is only twenty years old.  Incredible.  As I wrote Shaun, when I was his age in 1979, I did everything I could to deny my homosexuality.  And I kept denying it for many years afterward.      

Being gay a blessing?  A gift?  If someone had told me back then I would eventually look at it that way…well, you know the rest.     

But, today, I believe that being gay is special because, first, I've been able to accept my sexual orientation fully.  That's the first step for all of us.  And, second, because I use what I know to be true about it to write this blog, allowing me to connect with gay and lesbian people from around the world.  

My life has been deeply moved in ways I could never have imagined by people like Shaun, who show me through their example how far we've come from the dark ages when I came out, and what the experience of being gay can and will be in the very near future.

I hope you are able to open your mind and your heart to take in what Shaun wrote, and to begin to see how being gay just might be a blessing and a gift in your life.  

It's all in how we look at it, isn't it?