Friday, August 30, 2013

Thought for the Day, #64

Why do gay people feel they must be the best little boy in the world?  Is it because they're compensating for a kind of guilt that they already have in them about something they already know to be wrong or feel to be wrong?  It can't just be coincidental. There is something going on here.  I was tremendously interested in pleasing my family. Anybody is, I think, of a certain kind of upbringing. And homosexuality was, of course, such a violation of that picture that it was a great pressure in itself to deny it or to compensate for it in some way.

(From an interview with writer Andrew Holleran in Something Inside: Conversations with Gay Fiction Writers, by Philip Gambone, p. 181.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Self-Acceptance Is Not Just About Sexual Orientation

A gay man goes to a spa to have his face injected with Botox and dermal fillers.  He's obsessed with getting rid of lines and wrinkles.  His age?  Twenty-seven.

One of my favorite gay male bloggers admits to having life-long body image issues.  He writes about the rituals he puts himself through, to ensure people he doesn't know don't see what he perceives to be his physical imperfections when he wears a Speedo swimsuit.  He's in his late 40s.

A gay writer writes, in a recent article appearing on

A few months ago at Pride in West Hollywood, I was standing on the crowded front porch of the bar Micky's, waiting to enter, when an extremely handsome 50-something friend of mine stormed past.  I asked where he was going and he replied, "Home.  I'm pissed."  Why?  "Some queen just shoved me and said 'Get out of the way, old man.'" (From "In Defense of Aging," by Jon Bernstein)

It's occurred to me more than once, as I read these pieces, that it isn't just our sexual orientation we, as gay and lesbian people, need to accept.  It's also our bodies, our faces included, and, more specifically, ourselves as we age.

I know something about this.  Up until I reached the age of 50, I was more or less happy with the way I looked.  I'd faced the fact I would never have the buff body I'd always wanted, despite nearly twenty years of working out, which had made me fit but not buff.  And I thought I was still on the upward swing of looking better and thus feeling better about myself.

Then, in October 2009, I hit the proverbial wall.  Suddenly, there was no longer a four at the beginning of my age.  I'd reached the half-century milestone, and I started to realize that maybe my long and steady climb toward that ideal of physical perfection had come to an end (or was surely slowing down, due to no fault of my own).

Over the next several years, I sunk into a deep depression.  A cup-half-empty type by nature, I began to fixate on everything that confirmed I was no longer getting better, I was getting older.  That stomach area that would never be flat, even defined, despite my hard work over the years.  Those criss-crossed lines below my eyes (not to mention the laugh-lines at their corners) that looked like a sheet of graph paper tilled sideways.  And that grey hair that was no longer just above my ears but had pretty much take over my entire head.

For two and a half years, I dreaded getting older.  That's dreaded with a capital D.  I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror.  I hated that, despite my commitment to eating healthier and exercising, I would never be young and beautiful again (I was once one, no doubt, but the other is open to opinion).

That dread was so bad, it permeated my entire life.  There was not one single thing I looked at, or experienced, that didn't have a dark cloud hanging over it.  I began to have panic attacks again (something I fought hard to overcome in 1994 and then ten years later).  I was scared to get into a car for fear of being in an accident.  I was scared I'd lose Chris (even though there was a period when I believed he would be better off without me).  And I was scared of dying before I achieved what I thought I was put here to do.

Nonsense.  All of it was nonsense.

You know what turned me around?  It was so simple, you won't believe it.  And it can work for you too.

I was walking through the parking lot at our local Save-On Foods in the spring of 2011, and a saw an old lady carrying bags of groceries to her car.  There was nothing special about her. She was an old lady, just like any of the old ladies I'd looked at throughout my life.

But for the first time, I saw her.  No, I mean I really saw her.  Not just the fact that she was old, but beyond that.  Inside.  I saw her soul.  I saw the incredible dignity she had as a simple human being, completing an everyday task.  And I saw how utterly beautiful she was. Yes, beautiful.  Lines and wrinkles and sagging skin–all of it.  In that moment, she struck me as stunning.  And I could not imagine how I'd never seen aging like that before.

From there, I put the pieces together:  If we're very lucky, we get to age.  Aging is neither good nor bad, it just is.  It's a part of life like any other.  But, truth be told, it's even better than everything before, because it's our time to put to use what we've learned about the world and ourselves.

In the article referred to above, Bernstein writes, "The journey of self-discovery takes a lifetime."  And so it does.  If we're lucky, the great blessing for all of us is that we're around long enough to end that journey when it logically should, so we learn everything we possibly can about having an open heart, a generous spirit, and an easy laugh.

And the body?  It's nothing more than a vessel–a vessel that gets us from point A to point B, whether the journey be physical, intellectual, or spiritual.  By all means take care of it, respect and honor it, because it's the only one you'll ever have.

But, in the end, it doesn't matter one speck what it looks like, as long as it gets us to where we're supposed to go.  And the longer we're here–assuming our focus is right–the more likely we are to arrive at exactly where that is.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thought for the Day, #63

To the question 'Is the term "gay fiction" a legitimate term?', writer Joseph Hansen (1923-2004) had the following to say:

Not as far as I'm concerned.  Once, due to a misapprehension on my part, I ended up with a story in a gay anthology.  I won't do that again.  I don't believe in gay anthologies; I don't believe there is such a thing as gay literature.  And I simply won't have anything to do with that.

We're all on this planet together.  We'd better try to understand each other and tolerate each other and get along with the business of being human beings, because there's plenty of stuff that all of us need to improve, and one of them is not our sex lives.  There are a lot of other things ahead of that. 

There is too much that contributes to a feeling of "us" and "them"–we're here and they're here, and we're different from them, and they're different from us.  One of the things that made me most angry about that anthology that I contributed to was that when it came out the title was Different!  Different is what we don't need.  All-the-same is what we need.

(From Something Inside: Conversations with Gay Fiction Writers, by Philip Gambone, pages 36-37.)

You Don't Have the Right

The other day, I checked out some of the most recent search keywords readers used to find my blog, and I saw these:

Gay and giving up on love.

They took my breath away and broke my heart, in part, because there's one reason, and one reason only, why all of us are here–and that is to love.  And to be loved.  (There really isn't anything else, of importance, anyway.)  In part, because I can't imagine things being so bad in anyone's life that he would give up thinking he'll ever experience love.  And, in part, because I've been in love with my partner for the past twenty-one years, and I know for a fact love is out there–and real and possible and amazing.  

True, love is not always the easiest thing to find, and there are all sorts of things people call love that aren't.  But, rest assured, it exists.  And many of us, gay and otherwise, know what it is, and know our lives have been transformed by it.      

Of course, I can't pass up the opportunity to repeat, once again, that the person you most need love from…is you.  That is the starting point for every other experience of love you'll ever have, plain and simple.  I believe with all my heart that, until you get that message, and until you make it happen, real and true love will elude you.  That's nothing more than a law of the universe: what you put out there is what you get back.  And what you put out there, when you love yourself, is love.  The love you have for yourself is what attracts other people to you, is what invites love back into your life.    

I think it's possible to experience what you think is love from another person before you love yourself, but it's not at all the same experience of love you'd have if you loved yourself first.  Does that make sense?  The reason why is because the love you have for yourself first is the example of the love you want from someone else.  Lots of people think the love they get from someone else is real and true, but it often isn't.  It's needy.  It's clingy.  It's dependent.  From the outset, it doesn't feel right.  Something is off about it.  It makes you feel suspicious of the other person, distrustful of the other person, it doesn't make you believe, deep down inside, that what that other person feels toward you is really love.  That's because it probably isn't.  

If you don't love yourself first, you send out the message that you don't believe you're worthy of love.  You intellectualize that you are, but, in your heart, you know differently.  Your heart sees through the surface, knows the truth of what you believe, and that is reflected in everything you do.  You may not think it is, but it is.  If you're not putting out love, then what are you putting out?  Whatever it is, that's what people see and feel.  That's what either attracts them to you or repels them from you.  Think about that.  What does your energy tell other people about you, about how you feel about yourself?  Is that the message you want them to get?  Or is there another message, a better message, one that will bring you what you most want in your life? 

Every single one of us has the opportunity to experience love.  It's like what Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz tells Dorothy:  "You had it all along."  Yes, each of us always has the capacity to love ourselves at any time.  That love isn't dependent on anyone or anything else. It's always there; it will always be there, ready for you to know it and accept it and feel it.  But, first, you must make up your mind that you are the most important person in your life.  And you, above all, have the capability to give yourself what you most want from someone else, what you think can only come from someone else.  

There is no reason why each of us doesn't feel the fulness of love, even if no one in our lives tells us he loves us (which can be empty words, anyway).  To say that you're giving up on love tells me you're giving up on yourself.  And you don't have the right to do that.  You are too important and too precious and too valuable, to this earth, to the people you hold most dear, to the purpose for which you were put here, to give up on yourself.  And to think you will never know love, to feel there is no one out there to love you, and even to believe you are unlovable.  You couldn't be more wrong.  

Open yourself up to love today.  Start with yourself.  Don't just say it, do it.  Take the necessary steps.  Begin to believe how worthy you really are.  I ask only that of you.  It will be the most important thing you ever do.    

Remember, giving up on love is giving up on yourself.  And you don't have the right to do that.  

You and me?  We are love.  That's all.                      

Letter to "Xtra! Vancouver's Gay and Lesbian News"

Sometimes, you just have to stand up for what you believe in, for what you hope will help the gay and lesbian community see themselves a little differently.  I expect someone will write in and rebut what I wrote, which will appear in the next issue, but, for now, it's out there.  (And, for the record, another reader wrote in to say virtually the same thing.  Thank you, Pam Olund.)

The following appears in the August 15-28, 2013 issue of Xtra! Vancouver's Gay and Lesbian News, #521.  It needs no explanation.

Since when did flaunting one's foreskin become a part of Pride?  No wonder I haven't had any interest in attending a single Pride event since returning to the Lower Mainland four years ago.  I realize a small element of nudity has always been there, but I've never approved of or appreciated it.

And, in answer to editor Robin Perelle's question–"What's next?  Will the Dykes on Bikes be told to put their shirts back on?"–in my opinion, yes, they should be.

I'm no prude, believe me, but there's a time and a place for nudity, and it's not at family-friendly Pride events.

People who participate in the parade must remember they represent us as a community; what they do as individuals reflects either positively or negatively on all of us, whether they want to accept that or not.  The fact is, I don't want men like Glen Callender [founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project] representing me or giving everyone the impression that all gay men are like him.  They're not.  Ninety-nine percent of us are proof of that.

People in places like Russia can't even hold a parade, for fear of being thrown in jail or executed.  Let's show some respect for ourselves and each other.  Keep your penises in your pants and your breasts covered.  Instead, dazzle us with your smile, spirit, and enthusiasm–not your body parts.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

A New Way (for Me) to Look at Pride

In the past, I've been critical of the annual Pride celebrations that take place once a year in many large cities around the world (this long weekend, Metro Vancouver, my home, celebrates Pride).  In blog posts published here, I've written, among other things, that Pride is an excuse for politicians to win the gay vote; for businesses to attract the gay dollar; and for gay men to strip down and get lucky.    

Well, to a degree, there is all that, isn't there?  I can't deny it.  And, unfortunately, I can't do a thing about it.

But what I can do, what is within my control, is change how I choose to look at Pride. Which, starting today, I've done.    

From this point forward–and in recognition of the growing popularity of Pride celebrations in many places, attracting people who aren't gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender at all–I choose to look at Pride not as an LGBT event but as a human being event.    

At its core, Pride has become an opportunity for each one of us to celebrate that which makes us different from other people, regardless of what that difference might be. Are you African-American, Asian, or First Nations?  Celebrate it at Pride.  Are you Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim?  Celebrate it at Pride.  Are you straight, gay, or transgender?  Celebrate it at Pride.  The world is a big place.  There's room for all of us.      

Be proud of who and what you are.  Let the world know you are not ashamed of what makes you different from others, that you recognize the strength, beauty, and dignity in our diversity.  

Join in the celebration.  Be proud.

Happy Pride, everyone.