Friday, November 29, 2013

Thought for the Day, #68

I'm not the only one to make the connection between how gay men were forced to be, AIDS, and society's disapproval of homosexuality.  Here's what Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun's columnist on all matters related to spirituality, had to say on the subject in a recent article:

Gary was one of the early ones to die as a result of unprotected sex that many closeted gays of his era [the 1970s and '80s] had in bathhouses and steambaths.  Socially approved homosexual relationships were then not an option.

(From "AIDS progress came only through suffering," Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun, Monday, November 25, 2013, p. A4.)

You can decide for yourself how much society then was to blame for the tragic and useless deaths of tens of thousands of young, talented gay men, who died from AIDS.  Who knows how much better off we might be today if they'd lived?


Thought for the Day, #67

Next to accepting themselves and overcoming self-loathing, the single greatest challenge most gay men experience is finding a partner.

In my reading, I read these quotes from Andrew Holleran, well-known writer of the seminal Dancer of the Dance, published in 1978:

A friend of mine told me that a psychiatrist in New York once told him that whenever anybody walked into his office and said, "Oh, I want a lover and I can't find a lover," he'd say, "Oh, stop it.  If you wanted a lover, you'd have a lover."


In the end, the people who don't have lovers fundamentally at some level don't want one.  And so don't bitch about it.

Quotes taken from "Andrew Holleran," Something Inside: Conversations with Gay Fiction Writers, Philip Gambone, p. 179.

What do you think?  Is there some truth to Holleran's assertions?

Thought for the Day, #66


To all those people who say that gay people are unable to love, I ask every single husband and wife, who are in love, to just feel what I'm feeling.  Even for just ten minutes.  I don't wish this on anybody.

From the Linda Bloodworth Thomason documentary Bridegroom, following Thomas Bridegroom's tragic accident in May 2011.  This quote is from a video taken by Shane Bitney Crone, Thomas's partner of six years, as he deals with his loss.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Response to Recent Comments, Part Two

Comment #2, received November 26, 2013  (My response is in italics.)

Thanks, Rick, for replying. I just wanted to expand a little bit. I think it's an unarguable truth that we all want love and someone to love. On that basis, I think there's only so much a familial love can fulfill us, and that's why we seek a partner to fall in love, and start our own family.

I could not agree more.  I completely believe we are here to love.  In fact, that is the only reason we’re here, a truth which eludes some.  And, no, familial love isn’t enough.  If we’re lucky, we experience familial love, in a form we recognize as such (some of us don’t, like me), and that allows us to move into our adult lives, ready and able to share our love with that special someone.   

Being single is okay, but you cannot experience the full spectrum of what life has to offer by being single. It's just okay.

From time to time, I receive a comment or email from someone who doesn’t get the whole relationship thing, who claims he’s happy as a single person and couldn’t imagine it any other way.  Like I said in Part One, different strokes.  But, deep inside that person, I believe there is a big hole, waiting to be filled with the experience of love from someone else.  He just hasn’t realized it yet. 

To go through this entire life without experiencing love from someone other than family would seem to me akin to being only partly alive.  I feel sorry for anyone like that.  Even loving fully and completely, and losing, is still better than never loving at all.  Until you’ve been in love–real and true and deep love–don’t tell me you’d rather be single, because I won’t believe you.

I know this because I had several partners who thought the world of me, but to whom I could never fully reciprocate. To them it was pain, because they cannot get what they crave - my heart. Again, the issue is not with me, because it is not difficult for me to fall in love - with a straight guy.

Oh, dude.  Read that again, will you?  Don’t you get it?  The issue is not with you?  Then who is the issue with?  Every partner you’ve ever been with?  So all of them were wrong, and you were right?  Who is the common denominator here?  You!  That’s right.

And I know exactly the problem.  You have no trouble falling in love with a straight guy, but you can’t give your heart to a gay guy?  If that isn’t homophobia, I don’t know what is.  And you know why I can say that?  Because I felt the exact same way. 

For years, I found straight guys more attractive than gay guys. I won’t get into the whole thing with gay guys being attracted to straight guys (in fact, I wrote a post about it previously, even calling it a fetish I had), but you need to open your eyes. 

What is it about straight guys that appeals to you that you don’t find in gay guys?  Straight guys are more masculine?  The idea of being with a straight guy not only turns you on sexually (converting a straight guy is a big gay guy fantasy, if you didn’t already know), but I’d be willing to bet you crave the validation from a straight guy too.  Here’s how it goes:  If I can get a straight guy to love me, then he’ll show me that being gay isn’t so bad after all.  In other words, his attention and love will show me I’m a valued human being. 

But it’s a big illusion, because if you got a straight guy, technically, he wouldn’t be straight, would he?  Then what?  When he gave you his heart, you’d withdraw yours, because he’s no longer truly straight?

Not to mention that if you’re self-accepting, then you shouldn’t need validation from a straight guy to make you feel good about yourself.  You should already feel good about yourself.  Do you see that?

One of them was so depressed to the point, he was suicidal. I had to take him to the hospital to an emergency room. I didn't leave him abruptly, nor was I cold towards him, because I totally understood how he felt. I wanted the same - I mean, not necessarily the same, but to be in a mutual satisfying relationship with someone. Regardless of straight or gay, we all want that - because it IS our heart's desire. Even the Bible says so.

Wow!  I feel sorry for this fellow (the one who was suicidal).  Just on the basis of what you wrote here, I’d say he was definitely suffering from low self-esteem, and he saw your leaving as figuratively ending his life, which he literally wanted to carry through on.  This is a manifestation of how desperate some gay men are when it comes to accepting themselves for who and what they are, and finding the love for themselves that is key to their/our mental health in general.    

That being said, I think being gay is a big challenge, almost a curse,

A disability in one comment and a curse in the other.  Please reread my comment in Part One about this.  Being gay is neither.  It just is.  What makes all the difference in the world, in every aspect of your life, is how you look at it.  You create your own reality by how you look at something like your sexual orientation.   

…that cannot be changed to become a blessing by our own will/strength,

I don’t know if I’d call being gay a blessing.  That said, because I’m gay, I have this blog, and I’ve met some incredible people, like you, as a result.  I consider that a blessing.

And, because I’m gay, I met my partner, Chris–the most extraordinary human being I know–and have experienced the best twenty-one years of my life with him.  I consider that a blessing.

I can’t know what my life would be like if I were straight–although, in my less happier days, I gave some thought to what that might look like–but I can tell you I’m one blessed man.  Whether that’s because I’m gay or not, you decide for yourself.

…but it is somewhat dependent upon external factors such as finding the right one for you.

Gay or straight, external factors will always affect our lives, including finding the right person.  But let me tell you this.  Just because you’re straight, and find who you believe to be the right person, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be happy, or you’ve got it made.  Just ask all those straight people out there who got married, thinking they had it made, and are now divorced.

In other words, gay and straight people have an equal chance of being blessed by external factors (which are largely out of our control), including finding the right person.  There are no guarantees.  All you can do is the best you can do in all areas of your life. But a positive attitude almost always means you’ll find yourself in a better place than if you have a negative attitude.

It is just okay with being by yourself. We can be somewhat happy by being single, but never be fully fulfilled until we meet our heart's desire and are in a fulfilling relationship.

Agreed.  I've already commented on this.  

So I think it is wrong for you to say I am wrong.

I haven’t said you’re wrong.  As far as not being fulfilled until we meet our heart’s desire and are in a fulfilling relationship, I couldn’t agree more.  I’m an example of that in my relationship with Chris.

Because essentially, what I am saying is very basic and fundamental, that it is irrefutable. Anyhow, thank you for your response, and I look forward to your new post you promised on this topic.

Thank you for your comment.  I sincerely hope I've written something here that got you thinking, and maybe helped you to look at yourself and your life a little differently.  Sometimes, that's all we need–a little push in another direction.     

Response to Recent Comments, Part One

The following is a comment I received from a reader to a post I published here in July 2011.  My comments are captured in italics.  

The second comment I received from the same reader follows in a separate post titled "Response to Recent Comments, Part Two."

Comment #1, received November 25, 2013 

Hi Rick. I doubt you will answer…

As I wrote to this reader, in a separate and briefer response, I answer every comment and email I receive from readers–with only a few exceptions.  If you are not respectful of me and my other readers, or if you write a complimentary comment, but, when I click on your name, I’m taken to a website where you’re trying to sell something, like a hook up service, or sex toys, or what-have-you, then, no, I will not respond.  And I won't publish your comment on my blog either.  Be warned.  Don't waste your time.  

…but I actually think different. I mean I agree with you about the self-acceptance part and all, but what about those who never had problem with himself? For example, I never had issue with my own sexuality or self-identity…

If you are totally self-accepting, and you truly don’t have a problem with your sexual orientation, then I’d say you are the exception to the rule.  Because, in general, most gay people, who’ve received the message their entire lives that there’s something wrong with them, just because they’re attracted to, and seek love from, someone of their own gender, are not so self-accepting.  But I will take your word for it that you don’t have a problem with yourself.  I would only ask that you be conscious of your internal dialogue and any instance, large or small, where you put yourself down, especially because of your sexual orientation.  If you feel at all inferior to straight people because you’re gay, then you have some work to do.'s just that I can't seem to find a partner. I'm sure you are well aware by now, but it is actually way harder for gay men to find the right one for him - I mean WAY HARDER.

Yes, I’d agree that it may be more difficult for gay people to find the right one.  I think there are several reasons for that:  1).  self-acceptance issues (which I covered above); 2).  a lack of safe, social places in many towns and cities, where gay people can meet each other; and 3).  any other obstacle you end up putting in your way (and there are many, which I touch on below).

Some lucky ones may have a partner for many years, but I hear more than 90% of the couples who've been together for more than 5 years are in an open relationship.

I can neither dispute nor agree with your figure of 90%, although it seems a little high.  I will say I’ve known some couples who are in open relationships, but I’ve also known others who are not.
Monogamous and open relationships exist for both straight and gay couples.  It’s just that you may be more aware of open gay relationships because you’re gay yourself, and because of the circles you travel in.  

I don’t agree with open relationships in general, for either straight or gay people, which I’ve made clear in some of my earlier posts.  But to each his own.  If it’s not something you want for yourself, hold to your guns and don’t cave in, should you ever find yourself at that crossroad.  Better yet, before you get involved with anyone, be sure neither of you wants an open relationship, and make that a condition of your being together.  Chris and I both agreed at the outset we would never accept open relationships, and we continue to be monogamous to this day, after over twenty-one years together.        

I'm not going to judge that, but I just want to find someone just for me and be happy. It seems like it's impossible for me - and I've realized it's not just me, but actually most gay men are single, lonely, and not really happy.

You’ve just stated what your goal is–“to find someone just for me and be happy”–so that is what you must achieve.  Anything less is not good enough.  

It was my goal long before I met Chris, and it continues to be my goal.  I believe that it helped me find Chris back in June 1992, and it’s helped me stay with him, in a loving, committed relationship, for all these years.

Don’t let go of your goal.  It’s tough to achieve it, yes.  But it’s possible.  If I can do it, and other gay couples I’ve met can do it, so can you.  Believe.

I think being gay is like a disability - it's a big challenge given us, mostly by birth. It's a challenge we can't really overcome while being on this earth.

I’m hearing homophobia here.  I don’t think being gay is any more of a disability than being African-American is, or being a woman, or being Asian, for example.  In other words, I don't consider it a disability at all.

When you attach that label to it–disability–you stigmatize not only the sexual orientation itself, but also anyone who has that sexual orientation, including yourself.  Did you get that?  You stigmatize yourself too.  Isn’t that a form of non-self-acceptance?  I think it is. 

Yeah, being gay has it’s challenges, but so does everything else.  As I’ve written before, being gay is being gay.  At the end of the day, it’s neither good nor bad–it just is.  It’s how you choose to look at it, either as a straight or gay person, that turns it into something else.  You can see it negatively or positively.  Whatever you choose will affect how it manifests in your life.  Do you see that? 

You know, accepting yourself is a basic, elementary step - at least it was for me.

Now that I’ve had my say on this subject for a bit, do you still agree with your statement above?

It was always extremely difficult, near impossible to find the right match for me. My standard is not the problem…

Are you sure about that?  You would not be the first person to put all kinds of obstacles in your way when it comes to meeting other gay men and deciding if they are right for you.  I did the very same thing before I met Chris, and look where it got me.  I entered my thirties still very much alone and lonely, and I seriously thought I didn’t have a chance of ever meeting the right guy.

Now, I’m not saying to throw all your standards out the window and accept the next guy who walks into your life.  Standards are a good thing.  Standards allow you to identify what you will live with and what you won’t live with.  For example, I wouldn’t be with an alcoholic, someone who takes drugs of any kind, or a smoker.  These are non-negotiable, deal-breakers.  If you're involved in any of these things, you're not the one for me.  Moving on.  But when you have some gay men saying they must be with someone who has blond hair, a buff body, or a large you-know-what, well, then they’ve taken standards too far and deserve to be alone until they figure themselves out (not to mention, get their priorities straight).    

…but I seem to find a lot of straight men attractive.  Also, I believe there is no issue with me, because actually many gay guys seem to fall head over heels for me. I was just never able to reciprocate to those gay guys. Yes, I believe being straight has its perks, which most gay guys don't have. We coined the term and call "gaydar" for a reason, right? I would like to think I could tell most of the time who is gay or not. Anyhow, I derailed.

I’ll comment about this in Part Two.

I think being gay is a challenge we can't overcome by ourselves.

I take this to mean you think we can't overcome the “gay challenge,” as you put it, unless we're with someone else in a loving relationship.  One, I may have at one time thought being gay is a challenge, and, as a gay man, some days are certainly more interesting than others.  But, overall, I don’t think being gay is a challenge anymore.  And two, I don’t think we can be dependent on someone else to help us with what we perceive to be a challenge.  Not to mention, being with someone else in a relationship can’t change your mind about whether or not being gay is a challenge. 

What if I told you today, this very day, you can change how you look at being gay and no longer see it as a challenge?  And what if I told you that, if you did that, you’d begin to live a whole other experience of being gay?  Because that’s exactly what would happen.  I’m not saying you would never see gay as being a challenge again.  But what I am saying is, in general, your whole orientation in life would be different, because you don’t see being gay as a challenge, disability, or (as you put it in your second comment) curse.  Listen, the choice is always yours.  Continue to look at being gay this way, or change it.  Whatever you do will set the course of your life.   

Our hearts' desire will never be quenched - at least, not fully. Maybe some of us were able to, but most of us can't. Most of us just live an "okay" life - cause without that someone, how can we be truly happy??? It's just okay. No, I cannot be happy by self-exploration or whatever. I'm done with that. I don't see any other way for me to be fully content in life but to find that One.

Please see my comment in Part Two.

I am not hopeful about finding that person,

All we have is hope.  When you no longer have that, what do you have?  Think about it.

…and I have stopped looking - but if it is meant to be, I guess I will find that person...someday.

There’s resignation in your words, which concerns me.  But, overall, I think you’re on the right track.  When I really and truly stopped looking–really and truly stopping looking and saying you have are two different things–I met Chris.  I’m not saying the same thing will happen to you.  What I am saying is, live your life.  Live it to the best of your ability, whether you’re single or coupled.  Make the most of every day.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself because you’re not in a relationship.  Stop thinking your life is less than because you’re still single.  Make the most of being single, in the way I’d expect you’d make the most of being in a relationship. 

And, yes, if it’s meant to be, it will happen.  I believe with all my heart there is at least one person out there for all of us.  I strongly suggest you believe the same thing.  But don’t wait around for it to happen.  When, not if, it’s meant to happen, it will.  Until then, this is your time to become the best damn human being you can.  Use this opportunity to work on yourself.  Be the best person you can be, first and foremost, to yourself.  Because you’ll need all of that, and so much more, when the right man comes into your life. 

When you are ready, it will happen.  I worry it may have already happened, and you didn’t recognize it at the time.  So now's your chance to open your eyes.  Figure out some of the things I’ve commented on.  There is a reason why you’re still single, just as there was a reason I was still single before I met Chris.  Work on finding out that reason.  And don’t give up until you figure it out.  Otherwise, you may never get what you most want, and that would be a real shame.

Please be sure to check out Part Two in a separate post.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Do You Do?

Last evening, I attended a session of a local writing group, featuring a guest speaker talking about blogging.  It's the second such session I've attended.  The first was in October.

Since Chris and I moved here in early 2009, we haven't extended ourselves into the community.  Other than becoming acquainted with a handful of employees at stores we frequent, and a few neighbors, we've been isolated.  

I've thought about connecting with other writers in the area for years, even posting a notice in a nearby coffee shop, in the hope of starting my own writing group (which went nowhere).  Then I heard about this writing group and decided to check it out, recognizing the need to meet people who have the same interest I do.         

The sessions are informal.  They're held in a large lobby, where seating arrangements consist of what's available in the facility at the time–from bar tables and stools, to upholstered easy chairs and sofas, to large, round tables with four chairs around them.  Yesterday, I arrived early enough to take my place alone at a large, round table.  Who, I wondered, would I be seated with? 

Before long, two chairs were taken away, leaving only one to my left.  An older woman walked up and asked if anyone was using it.  I said no, and she sat down.

I'm not good at small talk, but, after the older woman had settled in, I introduced myself (I couldn't sit there and say nothing, could I?).  Once we learned each other's name, I went one step further and asked about–what else?–her writing: what type of writing she does, what she's working on now.  I listened to her for several minutes before she asked me about my own writing.

I told her I'm one third of the way through rewrites of a novel.  She seemed impressed.  Then she asked what genre it is.  An innocent, even appropriate, question, given our common interest.  But I hadn't prepared myself for it.   Of course, the genre is Gay and Lesbian.  But, instinctively, I thought I couldn't come right out and say that.  Or could I?

Never one to think fast on my feet, I spoke in vague terms, at first–well, it's a little bit of everything, I said.  (What?  Where the hell did that come from?  What did it mean?)  Thankfully, I got my wits about me and recovered myself,  adding I hoped it was mainstream.  Yes, that's it, literary mainstream.  (I wish.)

Apparently, my answer made her more curious, because she then asked what my novel is about.  Again, unprepared, I came up with the idea of taking the long-range view, from ten thousand feet above.  It's about love, I answered.  Which it is.  That wasn't a lie, at least.  It just wasn't the full story.  She smiled, as if she understood (she had no idea).  

When she continued to look at me, obviously expecting more, I told her it was mostly autobiographical, although it has some fictionalized elements.  And, I added, it's really about how critical love for oneself is to finding love from another person.  Again, she seemed impressed and agreed.  Then she offered, and to keeping love once you have it.  I told her, good point.   
Whew!  I'd managed to get myself out of that one.

For the next several minutes, while the organizers of the group and the speaker played around with electronic equipment, the older woman and I talked about general things.

Then she lobbed this one at me: What's your blog about?  I don't know what look I had on my face, but I turned away quickly, pretending to be distracted by something going on nearby.  I needed a few seconds to come up with a quick answer, but nothing was forthcoming.     

When I looked at her again, I said something, but it was essentially incoherent (and he's a writer? she must have thought).  By then, I was starting to sweat, and I found myself flubbing my way through a useless ramble of words.  How could I tell her my blog's about being gay, with the intention of helping gay and lesbian people build their self-esteem?  The opportunity to drop the gay bomb had long passed.    

The older woman seemed relieved to have my attention again, and commented that she thought she'd said something that had offended me.  I assured her that wasn't the case. 

A short time later, having put two and two together, the older woman asked me where I'd met my wife (there's that word again; people make assumptions–hasn't she noticed the PC term now is "partner"?).  I said at a club, which is true.  But I didn't meet a wife, I met my husband.  And it wasn't a club, as in an organization.  It was the Odyssey, a gay club in downtown Vancouver, now closed. 

Thankfully, the rest of the evening passed without further discomfort.   

But, afterward, I couldn't help but wonder what had happened in my exchanges with the older woman.  Why they felt like they'd gotten so out of control.

I had not one, not two, but three chances to be honest with her, to tell her I'm gay, not in a deliberately shocking way but in a matter-of-fact way (a teachable moment?).  But I didn't.  After the first circumlocution (what's your novel about?), I felt I had to keep the lie going.  Otherwise, I would have had to do some backtracking.  And it just snowballed from there.  

Why hadn't I told her the truth? 

Was it because there's a lot at stake for me attending those writing sessions (I haven't even decided whether I'll keep going), knowing I need to meet other people, other writers like me, and needing a place, finally, to belong?  Or was it because I didn't want to embarrass myself, or allow my sexual orientation to override anything else that I am–namely, someone who just wants to be another human being, and a writer?  

Or was it because, in that split second, I'd unconsciously decided to put the older woman first, not wanting to embarrass her, or put her in the position of having to react in a way she didn't feel comfortable with, or say something she didn't really believe?

Whatever the case, I came away from the session wondering, when you fail to tell someone the truth about yourself, if you're just being considerate of them.  Or if you're denying and betraying yourself, and everything you've been through to become who you are.