Tag Archives: gay love

Gay Men And Aging: Part Deux

hot guy with a big cakeToday I turn 33 and as I did last year I wanted to again share my perspective on what you learn as you grow older as a gay man. So often in the gay world, aging is heralded as losing something very precious with a value so high we become consumed with holding onto our youth as fervently as possible. To some it becomes a full blown obsession and any reference to them approaching 30 or older sets off a manic frenzy of doubt and insecurities with an ever looming shroud of shame. At that pace some give our youth so much value sometimes more than it’s actually worth. 

Setting aside the assumption that once we come out we go through what’s often referred to as a “second puberty” retaining a certain look of vitality and strength the fear of growing older as a gay man is much more pronounced in our community than our straight counterparts. Maybe it comes from feeling like we wasted so much time in the closet that we have to make up for lost time. We often harbor on the illusion that our youth has the most value.

When in actuality it is the complete opposite. Aging is what gives life true value. Not only in the monetary wealth we acquire or the relationships we nurture but also in how we value ourselves. What have I seen over the past year is a testament to that.  We are so hell-bent on hanging onto a period of our lives when we are revered for our youth and vitality that we only focus on staying in one place for eternity. Aging is a beautiful thing.

Some may spend a lot of effort in justifying the cons of becoming older while their message unconsciously speaks about our waning years and how we should make the most effort in living life to the fullest. Others may lament on how it is harder for us to make connections as we approach middle age. But I feel the opposite is true. As you grow older you find relationships to be much more fulfilling because you are at a point in your life where you honestly know yourself and the kind of people you want to invest time and effort into building something worthwhile.

As a result we don’t grow from our experiences or come closer to the actualized person we were always meant to be. That means we forgo the potential to be a more profound, worthwhile human being. So we become stagnate and eventually lost. You can try as much as you’d like to hold on to the present and this perfect image but it won’t last. But you can hold onto the experiences and let them enrich your life as you grow older.

Trust me I’m not saying I want to look older (though I’d rock the hell out of a salt n pepper beard). No one does. But it’s okay to be older and wiser than the year before. You can look great and be older at the same time. We’re all vain.  And that’s okay to be a little vain. What I’m saying is that it’s okay to appreciate the experience of growing a little older. A little wiser. To have a little more wear on you than when you were a brand new gay ready to take on the world. You can hold on to wanting to make change in this world with each breath you take.

But if stop for a moment and reflect you’ll remember those times of first being out of the closet and after that feeling of euphoria washed over you like summer rain you soon realized you didn’t know the first thing in actually making those dreams come true. I lauded loudly about how aware I was about the world but I still needed to grow because I didn’t know it all or myself. I panicked because the answers weren’t as readily available to me as I had once presumed would be the case once I came out. All the time I spent contemplating coming out and how I would do it and how different the world would be meant I had not taken into consideration how different I would be.

While in my 20s I did my best to externally exude a stoic reverence about where I was at in my life. But on the inside I was always vacillating between confusion and doubt and insecurities about how I looked, how I talked (I have a thick southern drawl) and even while in school was completely unsure about who I was as a person. Basically I was a mess because I was unsure of what being gay meant to me. That may be true of everyone at that age but as always it’s a bit different for us. More intense because we are readjusting to the world being openly gay.

Despite the previous knowledge I had about what being gay was like, the do’s and don’ts, the endless time spent silently observing gay men and what I thought gay lifestyles were like, I hadn’t experienced life enough to know what the hell being gay meant for me. The constructs that I’d held onto for so long and feverishly doing everything in my power and beyond to hold on to my youth was somewhat crippling. Always making such an excruciating effort to not only to maintain the look of someone in their early twenties but also keep up with that mindset is stifling. So I stayed in one place and didn’t grow.

That was true for all areas of my life. I was too busy trying to replicate the best examples of being a well-rounded gay man that it caused me to be a shadow of a man rather than just standing in the light and allowing myself to learn and discover my identity. Growth requires light and you can’t do that by always standing in the shadows of others or holding onto one specific place in time. While it is vital to have something or someone that inspires you at some point you have to be your own inspiration. After all, that’s how the people we most admire are on top is because they were willing to climb. They had some assistance and pushes in the right direction but ultimately they crafted themselves into those great figures by having the courage to find out who they were. And we all must do the same.

Again I forgot that lesson of appreciating the moment and moving onto the future because as a black man I had to do the same thing. You have to reconcile so much in life that you even have to account for how your race affects who you are, especially when everyone is always made aware of it. I had to decide if I would succumb to the weight of the stereotypes placed on me or refuse to be defined by them. Or choose to be obsessed with how much they impacted my life and defying them. My experiences as a gay man and the notion of vanity and youth reflect the same philosophies. And I finally got it and decided not be imprisoned by retaining youth I was free. I let myself be.

You may think that others won’t value the more seasoned you but I can honestly say that guys are more interested and drawn to the 33 year old me who’s tall, a bit lanky and truly knows who he is than the 25 year old me with a twelve pack abs and had absolutely no idea who he was. Maybe it is a thing of confidence. But really it’s about experience and allowing me to grow. And knowing that above all my faults and imperfections that I wholeheartedly love who I am, at any age.

Of course we don’t want to appear older. Nor do we want aging to slow us down. But this ravenous, all-consuming obsession we have with retaining our youth in this community is suffocating.

As with everything, this too is a balancing act. Be active in keeping both your mind and body healthy. It is perfectly okay to want to look good. You should always hold onto your youthful spirit and hunger for life. Just don’t become consumed with staying in one place in this life or you will miss out on the rest of the world. You’ll miss the person you always dreamed of being.

And you’ll miss out on birthday cake so no one wants that.

 

From Summer Flings To Fond Memories Of People Places & Things; New Tales Of Growing Up Gay

gay fireworks

So it’s really late and today has been a really crappy no good soul crushing day from start to finish. As I was processing all that occurred I received a really sweet message about my first tale of growing up gay and it brought the first genuine smile to my face all day. It’s amazing how serendipitous life can be. And as a personal thank you to all that have shared your own stories with me because I have shared mine, I’ve decided to open my journals yet again and share more of my tales of growing up gay. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

The time of adolescence is always marred with confusion, doubt, and an immeasurable amount of angst. But during those times of our lives we are awakened to the innate desires that make us who we are. And at sixteen, I was the epitome of all those geeky, awkward moments indelibly etched in memories that at the time we hope we never remember but as we grow older we are so thankful for being a part of. Doesn’t hurt that there was a hot guy that was a part of it.

This was not a time of new discoveries, or at least that’s what I believed before all this happened.  For I had already began to discover who I was and having a good idea what I had always been, I still was not willing to accept that I was gay. Especially as the very introverted teenager I had become. Building toy models, holding down a job as cultivating and farming tropical fish from my aquariums in my bedroom. Always reading about different worlds and people but I somehow unwilling to interact with the people in the real world. And always writing in my journals trying to decipher why the world was the way it was and why people do the things they do that contradict their actions. But I learned it was a time of sweetness, and summertime flings.

I had not yet reached the level of confidence that I now have as a man that contrasts the meek adolescent I was back then. It wasn’t that I had a hard time being social, far from it. I’ve never had a problem of being able to talk and engage in meaningful conversations with people. It’s just that back then, I really had no desire to interact with my peers or forge new relationships. I know now that it was because of fear. Fear of someone noticing even more how different I was from all the other guys.

I knew that I had an attraction to other guys. My body had a bad habit of showing me how much I liked my own gender through involuntary dreams and involuntarily body movements. I knew it meant I was gay but was still deep in denial and wondering why God had made me this way. So I was experiencing the basic rules of attraction and the stages of coming out all the time. Thinking about it all the time because while at school I was constantly being reminded of it with no control over when these strong emotions happened.

That’s why I was so glad that summer break arrived to finally give me a reprieve. So I wasn’t constantly around guys that made me think about being gay or around girls that reminded how I was not attracted to them. So I spent the time reading and writing and selling the tropical fish I had farmed to support my hobbies of buying comics and building toy models or designing wood sculptures. And I loved taking long strolls through the country woods as the sun set and by the creek. Who knew that this daily walk would soon bring all the things I was running away from directly in front of me once again?

My childhood home was deep in the woods, the sparse neighborhood was surrounded by tall stoic trees were delicately woven in waves of green hills and farmland. The air was always fresh and a lingering sweet perfume that invigorated, even on the muggy, humid days in Tennessee. On a particular day in early June I took the daily route through the trees and down the path to the creek during sunset. Honeysuckles pilfered the air as the sky turned gold and rouge with splashes of fuchsia and magenta. As I was lost in the clouds I heard a branch crack and my eyes darted towards the source that had broken my daydreaming sequence. And there was this guy around my age staring back at me.

At first I tensed up because in the south you’re taught to always be ready for two things: a fight and for love because they both can happen at a moment’s notice. He was tall and lanky with olive tanned skin and stark black hair. Intense blue-green eyes and a chiseled smile that could crack rocks. I was in awe. Staring at him trying to take in what I was seeing while telling my brain to stop racing the thousand thoughts zooming at top speed making me unable to speak. He said hello and I kept staring, Repeated himself and I kept staring. He tilted his perfect head of curly hair and he turned to walk away when I began cursing at myself out loud because I hadn’t said anything. He turned back around and said it was cool. And I melted.

After the embarrassment wore off we introduced ourselves. “Sam” as I’ll refer to him here was athletic and charming. A year older than I and a running back for his old high school team. He had just moved into our widely spaced out neighborhood and hated how country everything was. We talked about TV, movies, videogames and just about everything else for three hours. We met up every day after that and did more of the same. I felt like I had a new friend but every time we were around each other those same racing thoughts and feelings came rushing back to me.

A few days before the 4th of July another neighbor who was my age showed up with her friends by the creek, no doubt seeing us cut up there every afternoon for several weeks. The ladies were all inquisitive to the magazines we were reading to spark conversation and I, as naively can be sometimes, and ignored all the signals that they were flirting with us. So I forgot to feign interest to mimic the way Sam was interacting with them. He flirted back and showed how strong he was while I rolled my eyes and continued reading. I was feeling jealous because I wanted him to flirt that way with me. Then I made snide passive aggressive comments, which is a clear departure of my subtle and docile nature.

When Sam asked what was wrong with me I panicked so I stormed off and he trailed for a few paces before placing his hand on my shoulder to turn me around to see I was on the brink of tears. Concerned, he asked what was wrong and my emotions were running wild so before I could process what generic answer to give I blurted out “why don’t you talk to me the way you talk to them” and I was mortified by what I had just said aloud. I hadn’t even accepted that I was gay so how the hell had I just exposed myself to someone relatively new? Sam was puzzled at first and then had the look of “Oh, he’s one of them” and I was even more upset because he knew, and obviously didn’t feel the same way. So I ran home and cried myself to sleep, worried he would tell someone else.

Days past but Sam didn’t show up at our usual meet up place. I was hoping that he’d just forgotten the prior events but that was most likely what kept him away. The next day Sam showed up at my house wanting to hang out like nothing happened and I was more than happy to oblige. we talked about our plans for the 4th that I worried were scrapped but Sam still wanted to continue on. Then while we were talking about bottle rockets Sam brought up how his uncle who was gay taught him how to light them and stared rather awkwardly back at me. I became angry and he said he didn’t mean anything by it (he did) so we tensely went back to going over the inventory of fireworks we collected. Sam then stopped and said “I’ve thought about it too” and ran out the door at what seemed like an actual rocket. Couldn’t process what it meant. Did it mean he was feeling the same way or was he just talking hypothetical. But I didn’t want to lose our friendship so the next night when we met up to pop fireworks I pretended he never said it. And so did he…

So we went on with normal conversations until interrupted by thunder. A storm was coming in and we had to hurry if we were going to do. We reached to the top of the hill we picked out and set up everything to get the fireworks going. We started setting off more than originally planned and as Sam lit up another round one went off unexpectedly and went past his head grazing him near his eye.

He fell down and I took a knife to cut off a part of my shirt to cover the wound. it spooked us both more than anything. But I just wanted him to be safe and okay so I was doing my best to tend to it and gingerly cleaning it. Then he looked at me I guess seeing the concern. Sam smiled at me in a way he never had before and I returned the expression. It all happened so fast but it began to rain with lightning flaring up the night sky. But instead of collecting the fireworks we both instinctively lit more up to match the sky. We were out in the middle of an open field lighting off firecrackers in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm which retrospectively was stupid but in that moment made us feel alive. Immortal.

So we lit the last one, a cannonball together and stepped back and it shot up so high it looked like it hit the lightning and we jumped and slid backwards with us falling over each other staring each other in the face. His eyes danced as he said what to do next. Time froze like it had when I was younger but this time the sensation and emotion I felt was not friendly as it was in third grade. It was romance. It was perfect. He touched my hand and the next thing I knew I instinctively wrapped my hand around his jaw and kissed him.

For a split second I panicked at what I had so impulsively done and was about to withdraw until I saw him close his eyes and kiss me back. I couldn’t believe this was happening but didn’t stop myself but at the same time I did not want to admit how right it felt. I didn’t want to think so I continued until the rain let up like a sign it was time for it to end. We walked back without saying a word and didn’t talk to each other for a month. The next time I did see Sam. he was holding the hand of the neighbor that had visited us before with her friends. They were a couple, and I retreated back into my world of toy models and exotic aquarium fish only this time a bit more confused and more grown up than I had left it.

Months later Sam randomly walked up to me when no one else was around asking if we were cool and I said we were. Then said what happened was just being curious and I quickly agreed to silence the tension building. He smiled and patted me on the shoulder like he had the first time and kept it there for a moment. Then he smiled and rejoined his girlfriend who was waiting for him.

We have kept in touch over the years and are still friends and when we talk about this story we refer to it as a nice moment between friends. He and his wife have been happy for over a decade and when the three of us do talk about that time openly we don’t spend hours on end debating if Sam may be gay or bisexual but rather that two people can share a moment like this and it is all it was. People experiment so I don’t want readers to think that there was more to it on his part.

The point of sharing this particular tale is to remind us of even when it doesn’t work out the way we planned that we can appreciate those moments that meant something special to us. Even when it ends abruptly for no reason. Even if the person you shared it with turned out to be someone completely different than you expected. Even if you find out that they don’t feel the same way that you felt. We can always appreciate how it made us feel and how for a little while we felt a dream coming to life. And if we can remember that lesson, we know that taking control and making those dreams is possible so long as we are open to them when the opportunity comes to you. To remember there is always something new when we least expect it.

After all, it was summer

 

Is He A Top Or A Bottom?

bitchybottoms

Today while attempting to research for something to blog about I came across this article in the Advocate titled, Six Reasons Why it Sucks to Be a Gay Manthat discussed the different ways that being gay has its downfalls. Never mind the negative tone the name of the article has as it is apparent after reading the first two paragraphs that the author was satirically making a point through humor and I can’t fault him for that.

However there was one particular point on the list that really frustrated me. Maybe frustrate is too strong a word as it’s not so much that I have hostility towards this point, but rather I question the point itself. It talked about how not knowing a potential partner’s sexual role early on can pose problems later on in the relationship. The author implies how it sucks when two gay men get together and are dating only later to find out that they are first in fact bottoms:

4. “Wait … we are both bottoms?”

It’s the third date and you have been on your best behavior with that gorgeous man across the dinner table.  That means no “sexting,” no more than two cocktails, and nothing below the waist … until now.

You think, Finally, this is how dating is supposed to be! You didn’t meet on Grindr or sleep with each other on the first date. You have the same taste in music and even talked about how you both want kids. Everything is perfect!

That is, until things finally start heating up and your thighs keep wanting to go in the same direction as his. After a frustrating make-out session and an awkward discussion in the nude, the reality of your preferred position becomes apparent. Even if one of you may be more “versatile” than the other, you are both bottoms.

So there went the wedding bells, but it could be worse. At least you have a new shopping pal.

This of course would cause problems in any relationship when you have a preference to a specific sexual role; if you’re not into it, you just aren’t. But the first thought I had when I read this point is why would this information be something that you would find out on the third date? When is the right time to ask this question.

And I know that most already know the answers to this question depending on their own experience or belief in common sense but some of us are not as clear on parameters because of inexperience. Or the fact that as the more men you interact with, the sooner you realize that the answer is not as clear cut as you once believed.

Because despite what the media, and sometimes what our own beliefs about the validity in stereotypes of gay men, we know deep down that we are a very diverse group of men so you can’t just go by appearance. Or how they walk. Or how they talk. Their profession. All of these demographics don’t automatically tell you this crucial information that will at some point will mean something to both of you.  And despite their popularity, we don’t always have the convenience of social dating apps like Grindr to blatantly list what are our sexual preferences.

Some may be saying right now, “all that stuff doesn’t matter, it’s all about the connection”. Well like it or not sex is a component of that connection. Granted, it is not the only connection two people can share with each other or the only way to physically express affections for one another but it is still an important part to intimacy. Remember that as men we react first by what they see, so we also base our future behaviors on what we see in the present and foreseeable future.

You may have sex on the first date or may not have sex for the first six months of dating someone new, but a lot of the attraction may be centered on how you were attracted to him in the first place. So the discussion needs to happen at some point well before you make it to the bedroom one night to take your relationship further. So this will come up at some point.

But the question is of course when. When do approach sex roles in potential partners? So how would you approach the matter if it weren’t so apparent? Would you bluntly ask? Going up to someone and saying hi, I’m (insert name) and I’m wanted to know if you’re a top or bottom” probably won’t go over too smoothly. We can all appreciate a direct inquiry but you’re more than likely to offend someone with a question that is so intimate and  private.

Would a better way to approach the dilemma be to enact on a series of vague questions to find out the answer? What an icebreaker that could be, if done correctly. There’s drawback to that as well. A lot of guys do not like these types of long-winded, mull around the bush questions (including myself). After a while they can come off as condescending and suggests that you are too much the inquisitor rather than potential lover.

Maybe the best approach would be a combination of the first two scenarios. But instead of asking them, under no uncertain terms declaring what sexual role you prefer. For instance at some point providing information about your own preferred sexual role (without being vulgar or inappropriate), you suggest how much you love leading your dance partner on the floor and doing a very sensual rumba. And that doesn’t have to include actually discussing sex itself. But that can be seen as being too forward.

Maybe that approach is too forward as well, suggesting cockiness and that you just assumed what you believe is their sexual role. the whole guessing game and these tactics you employ can be tiresome. Honestly I don’t think this situation of later on finding out two guys are both bottoms happens that often as natural chemistry will express what each of your roles are. So maybe listening is the true key. Maybe there are subtle indications that can help that we don’t pay attention to often. Maybe that was what the author was suggesting.

I believe it’s important to ask why we have such a hard time approaching this topic in the first place. The biggest reason is the result of what the roles themselves imply. Being a top implies masculinity and strength as well as dominance while being the bottom signifies submissive, feminine attributes. One of the problems arises is when we take those sexual roles we assign ourselves outside the bedroom and apply it to everyday life.

It’s no secret that in the gay community that the bottom is the brunt (no pun intended) of many jokes. And is seen as a negative attribute, especially by those that carry heteronormative practices of misogyny into the gay community. That means they, like chauvinistic men in the rest of society associate anything feminine as being weak.

We can blame it on media, or upbringing as much as we want but the truth is we are responsible for correcting those ill-conceived beliefs into the community. As I’ve stated before, we have to take accountability for not repeating the mistakes we advocate against. Basically, remember what I said earlier about every guy being different? That’s the most important thing you can do. And be honest in however you discuss it.

Lastly, don’t ever question what sexual role he says he prefers and take him at his word. Just the way you would want to not be scrutinized by whatever your preferred sexual role is for you.  If you either don’t believe or accept that then kindly move on to some other topic or someone else.

I won’t tell you which method is right or wrong because that is not my job description in this setting  However I will say to always remember how you want to be addressed when this question is asked of you and how you’d respond accordingly. The chemistry will say more than any line of questioning you can think up and provide you with the answer when necessary. And guys, always do it with respect. Perceive each man, regardless of the position he prefers, is still a man and a human being. Remember and respect that.

From Gaybies To Love Me Maybes; Tales Of Being Openly Gay

Okay I’m back here again. After I said that I had written the last tale of growing up gay I realized that the story didn’t end there for me. Nor does it end for the rest of us when we come out. Why? Because we continue to grow and change. Evolve. Most notably this all happens within the first couple of years. You discover so much about what being gay means to you. All the existential introspective listening to music while pondering your life occurs in this time period.

So I wanted to again write about the experiences I’ve had and to the best of my ability generalize it as I feel many gay men may have at some point experienced these stages. Because we reconcile those experiences and learn from our past when we talk about them. This isn’t so much a tale as it is just an exercise in random, yet meaningful, assortments of different stages/aspects we go through.

Gaybies

This is the term given to gay men the first year that they are officially out of the closet. It’s generalized that way because in a sense you’ve been born again. The world is new, and this is the time when you can actually celebrate who you are openly.  Everything in the world seems so big. More real. You could definitely compare it to the first time Mary Tyler Moore walked the streets of New York City. You feel so revitalized and aware of pleasures, both simplistic and deep.

There are so many firsts that occur when you step out into the world as a gay man. No more trying to hide the fact that you love men and want to have sex with them. You openly talk about sex. Some of us during this stage just want sex. Lots and lots of sex. One of the many advantages of being a member of this community is that you’ll find out is that sex isn’t hard to find.  And I certainly will not begrudge anyone that partakes in this behavior (safely).

It’s all exciting and you want to soak up every catch phrase and whatever the in thing to do is at that time. Go to every gay bar that you can get into. The rush of excitement every time you write down the words “I’m gay”. You take a deep breath every time you say it to someone who doesn’t know the truth yet and are either greeted with a displeasing reaction so you can give a quick rebuttal that you’ve rehearsed a thousand times mentally. Or take a huge sigh of relief when they are welcoming and loving.

But this stage isn’t all fun. Just with everything else in life this time period teaches you that there is a darker side to just about every community. More notably, this is when you find out about rejection. Scathing, brutally honest rejection. I’m not talking about when a crush says no thank you after you have finally worked up the courage to ask them out. It’s when you walk up to a prospective guy to show interest in you will flat out tell you whether they like you or not.

They will unabashedly tell you everything that’s right or wrong with you. Wrong hair, terrible shoes, lame accessories, ill-fitting clothes, dieting tips and workout routines they think would help you look better. That’s just in the first minute of talking to him. We also quickly learn about the social hierarchy of sex and how many will immediately size you up within 3 seconds and label you a top, bottom, verse, dom top. power bottom, vers top, vers bottom or anything in between. You will also be categorized based on size and body hair as if you are a new produce that needs to be bagged tagged and shelved until ready for use,

It could range from gym rat, otter, bear, leather daddy, twink, cub, “straight acting” gaypster (gay hipster) gaymer (gay gamer) bromo (gay dude bro) manther (gay cougar), a bunch of other lame inane adjectives or the ever so dreaded “average”. In my first year of being out, I’d say the labels is what I struggled with most because I outright abhor them. As many gay people of color will tell you, we’ve already had enough with being categorized just by your natural appearance.  I’m in no way knocking it if you feel like they embody your personality. But my free loving nature resists any attempts to categorization or labels. .

Anger/Rejection of Perceived Gay Norms

After your gayby year, you feel like you’ve got the hang of it. Because this is most likely the most self-indulgent superficial year of your life. At least it was for me. I took full advantage of all the gay world had to offer and more. But I came down hard to reality after that year. Because we learn about how we are truly affected by society and what is really going on with us. Our problems as a community. This can result in a lot of anger.

The reality of the world may lead to this stage of anger because as both an outsider and eventually an insider you see vanity and self-absorbed tendencies to the max. After that much self-indulgence you become frustrated because that has been your world for such a long time. Failing to realize the true complexity the gay community could appear to have a total disregard for feelings or a total lack of acceptance to any differences. There’s more than likely frustration that accompanies this because you felt that it was different. Then you learn that it is all about the places you go and the people you associate.

This time is also marked by, depending on your perspective, harsh realization that people don’t always equate sex with love. Or maybe you’re angry because you are just fed up with the archaic labels and shallow pace the gay community seems to be set in. You may see the majority of gay men as superficial egotistical airbags.

This is the time where you may become outspoken and angry at society. Angered how religion and God’s Word is twisted to fit man’s image when it’s fueled by greed and power. You begin to reciprocate the anger that is directed at you because you remember all the times you were afraid of being who you were before coming out.  You are angry because you feel like you always have to be on guard to protect yourself from those incensed with hate and bigotry.

Introspection of Gay Lifestyles

This is when we look inside for answers because we want to make sense of this community. All the things that you have learned and all the feelings of anger and frustration build to a point where you quietly back away from all things gay. It’s not so much that you don’t want to be gay it’s your way of searching for answers. You ask yourself how you can find contentment in so much chaos. You speculate and theorize about how you can coexist with this pace. Then you begin to question your outlook.

This is the time that you learn the true nature of your sexuality. You learn the mechanics of having sex with another man. And now that you’re listening and asking real questions about life, you learn and hear the real personal impact of HIV/AIDS from the people you meet. You realize they are not the virus, that they are people.

This is also when you question everything that you had to push back out of your mind because being gay was the only thing that mattered. But now you’re learning that it’s only one aspect of who you are. You question the very notion of faith and what you believe to be truth or creature comforts.

You’ve learned about activism and how to get involved in fundraisers for hospice care and youth centers. You donate to the cause and let your actions speak for you rather than heated emotions taking over. You reconcile so much of the anger you had both with yourself and with society. Sometimes, after years of being in this community, the sad, detached, distrustful, and overall apprehensive feelings of expecting anyone of real value coming into your life has merely been the result of your outlook.

Gay Acceptance

All this time you’ve spent thinking, wondering who you are and what gay means, you come to a serene, clear moment that places all of these emotions that you’ve had about the gay community and about yourself. Again you learn to not look at any person or situation by the few superficial aspects that commonly define them.

This is when you’ve finally and completely accepted yourself and your sexuality. No longer do you feel like you have to declare how masculine you are to prove your worth as a man  No longer are you concerned with how gay you look because you know that you can only live your life. Instead of being angry and having resentment towards those that do have it all together or all the advantages of society. this is the time where you just take action accordingly.

Getting involved to help when and where you can. By this time in your life you realize that maybe you shouldn’t look at movies or base finding love off of sitcoms. That true genuine people are around that will share your interests and concerned for your well-being. At this point when you write the words “I’m gay” you see it as just a part of who you are, like hair color or height. This is the time marked by when you’re looking for someone to spend your life with, you aren’t too concerned with him being a top or bottom as chemistry will work that all out, You’ll care more about if he’s genuine, engaging, and considerate to who you are and building your lives together.

These are when you have friends in your life that instead of picking you a part because of their own neuroses will always pick you up when you fall. You are finally able to see a plethora of loving, caring men that truly want to help you gain your identity that’s separate from all the inane sometimes uninspired labels. All visible from the beginning that maybe you overlooked. You will learn that you’ve learned that you are not just a letter to the acronym of LGBT and neither are the rest of the men of this community. You recognize that gay is not the subgroup in this community. This the moment that you truly are a complete, actualized being.

Again this is a very rough assortment of some of what we experience. Some of us go through all these aspects and stages one at a time, all at the same time or none at all. This was basically to show that we are in fact always growing no matter what stage.

 

How We All Need To Evolve About HIV/AIDS

HIV

Several weeks ago I was asked to do an Op-Ed on whether an HIV negative man should date someone who is positive. Being completely honest, I was nervous. Not because the subject matter of discussing HIV/AIDS makes me nervous, but for fear that I wouldn’t fully encapsulate my point correctly or present each side of the argument accurately. So I held off for a while to ruminate and collect my thoughts. Methodically trying to map out how to present it to a community that has such a taboo about even discussing the subject, fearing an association to something that affects the entire community.

During this process I kept revisiting excerpts of different points I wanted to bring up and as time went on thought they were too convoluted or sounded insulting or just was too random to be of use in the article. I then came across a brilliant and honest depiction of what it was like for a man living with HIV to go out seeking romance or possibly love. David Duran’s story about being positive and navigating through social dating apps really touched me because I truly felt the frustration he expressed about disclosing his status to men he could have some potential sexual relationship. I related to it because I felt frustrations when I’m discounted or erroneously judged because of race in the gay community, another taboo subject rarely discussed.

As I thought about the comparisons it made me think of how taxing that has to be on the gay men that have to endure the silent ridicule and muffled disdain for something that could have happened to any of us. Now some may chagrin to that statement I just made but they would do well to remember that condoms do sometimes break. They should remember that just because someone says that their STI test came back negative doesn’t always mean that they don’t have the virus because it hasn’t shown up yet. So yes it can happen to any of one of us.

This reflective journey made me remember an incident about understanding what HIV is after I came out. I came across a journal entry dated a little over six years ago where I attempt to process whether or not I would date a man living with the virus. I’m going to share a part of this entry to show some of the mistakes I made as a younger gay man and how this experience may resemble the reactions that David and other men have faced. I hope that even though it shows a bit of my own ignorance back then that it may also open eyes to the misconceptions and negative attitudes surrounding it. Because as I always state in these articles, nothing ever changes if we don’t talk about where we went wrong and how we can overcome these flaws.

Saturday January 27th 2007

Tonight I feel like I messed up big time. My first real venture into socializing with gay men, something I dreamed about was a wash. I was finally able to openly flirting with a guy..but in the end it just came out awkward. I was grateful that William had invited me out cause even though it’s been over a year since I came out I don’t know anyone other than the man I’d loved and lost as a circumstance of bad timing and a couple of random guys I fooled around with. This was supposed to be a big step but it..just didn’t turn out right.

I got along with everyone and flirted with the guys and that was received well. Later on this guy walked in. Black hair and the most brilliant  luminescent emerald green eyes I can remember. Checkered shoes with a matching scarf and pinstripe suspenders. A hipster from head to toe. I was so taken by him. A few drinks and I felt comfortable enough to say more than hey. We talked about school and politics. He was as so sharp and articulate as I always think I am.. Sweet smile and his butt. Amazing. After we went out back to talk more we leaned in to kiss but he stopped before we made contact. Saying he had to tell me about his status and I was so in the moment it wasn’t clicking to what he was referring to. He said he was positive.

A few seconds of confusion until I realized he was talking about HIV. I was just so caught up in the moment..but I wasn’t able to hide how hard the statement had brought me back down from fantasizing about us throwing each other against the house and me having my way with him. The starry gaze in my eyes was replaced with shock. I could tell he’s seen this expression before and it makes the whole thing worse. And I noticed that he noticed my initial reaction that was in my face that easily to him said “no” when I didn’t know what I would do. But I know he’s seen that face before and a resolve that nothing would come of our earlier flirtation. Shaking and so upset, probably heightened by the alcohol, my reaction condemned this man and I felt so ashamed, that I may have hurt his feelings. I began to cry.

Spontaneously crying, like I always do when I feel I’ve deeply offended someone unintentionally. He was trying to say something like “it’s okay, I understand” but all I could do was profusely yell how sorry I was if I made him feel bad or that he wasn’t desirable. Because I felt like at that point I couldn’t just save face and say of course it’s not an issue but my reaction said differently. Even worse that I know what that feels like on some level to be rejected on something you can’t change, though not to the degree that he had to have felt. Too often I’ve had resolve to rejection as sometimes as an African American you have to brace yourself as some people do react to you this way.

And here I am most likely making this guy feel that way. Both of us embarrassed at the moment I was having I flagged a sober friend to drive me home…Could it have been the era I grew up in? Definitely. I grew up in the 80s and 90s in the south, the time of the Cold War and the Reagan era that seemed to completely and utterly fail to diminish the impact of the virus. AIDS was on the news almost every night. And people were terrified  I was terrified. These all sound like more excuses about whatever I’m subconsciously afraid to say. 

Growing up I remember so often when the subject of gay came up it was automatically synonymous with AIDS and then death. Back then it due to the reprehensible negligence by the government so it really was a death sentence. I wonder if that image was ingrained as I was processing the fact that I was gay; maybe that had some weight in how I reacted. I just remember being so afraid growing up thinking if I’m gay then I’m automatically destined to inherit this disease? Of course I know better than that now. I know antivirals helps a person live normally. But back then that was all I knew. Maybe it’s all an excuse.

Why did I react that way? Why am I trying to justify being so wrong. This isn’t like me. It’s not like I have anything to worry about. I get tested for STD’s at least once every six months. And if we were intimate together I would take the same precautions that I always do. So why did I respond that way. William called and said the guy wasn’t offended and understood but I still feel like a horrible human being. I wonder if it wasn’t completely subconscious, or lingering fear. Maybe that’s why I panicked because I had internalized all the lies and manipulation I had been taught growing up from the media. All I know is that I was embarrassing tonight. And probably hurt someone’s feelings. I hate this feeling and sorry for all this,

I remember during this whole ordeal I kept thinking that if I referred to it as a disease instead of a virus that it was insulting. Or what if it’s the other way around or both or neither. I was just so afraid of offending this man and those amazingly beautiful emerald eyes of his. More likely it was fear that I still had not dealt with and it all came to the surface that night. I needed to reconcile that because no matter how open minded I believed I was, for whatever reason I was seeing a status rather than a person. That was why I had that reaction. For me, I needed to change that outlook immediately and I believe that I’ve done so.

Some things are the same as they were then. I still slightly look away when I make eye contact with someone I’m extremely attracted to and smile. I still have terrible one liners that somehow makes the guy I’m talking to laugh..still don’t know if it’s out of civility or genuine affection. I’m still immensely drawn to hipster. I still use protection every time I have a sexual encounter and get tested at least once every six months to make sure that I don’t have any STD’s. But now I do not treat a man that is positive as some fragile being I need to tiptoe around. No longer through my awkward, panicked behavior do I treat these men as though their status is the only thing I see. I view these men as men, just as deserving of love and affection as anyone else. As it should be.

So maybe the worse thing I did through that experience was be afraid of offending someone else’s feelings (which is at times still a flaw). But it was necessary for me to go through and learn some of the prejudices that I may not have been aware of back then. As the years have went on I grew to see people as people, no matter their circumstance. I now know that I would consider dating an HIV positive man the same way I’d consider dating any other gay man. Would there be lengthy discussions and all precautions before during and after sex be taken? Absolutely as I take those precautions with every man I’m with sexually, as we all should be.

So how do we challenge ourselves to stop letting stigma dictate how we treat these men? How do we evolve and overcome the insensitive and sometimes downright ugly reactions that we may have when these men are looking for the same things we’re looking for? Talk. Just as we did when we first discovered that we’re gay. We sought out after answers about what our sexuality meant and what sex would someday mean to us. We learned the mechanics of protecting ourselves and those we sexually engage. We learned that we don’t want to be treated differently on the basis of one aspect of ourselves.

Sometimes it is necessary for us to revisit the lessons of the past and apply them to a different situation. The one thing all of us can do, regardless of status, is talk openly about HIV. I’m not saying that anyone has to share the exact same opinion on this because I understand why people would have reservations about it. Who knows, maybe I still do as I have not dated anyone who is positive. But at least I am ready to talk about it and learning more.  Because I do believe there are valid concerns, just like any relationship you embark upon. Education is paramount, not only in prevention but in understanding what it means to those living with the virus.

All relationships have obstacles that we will all have to face. But that doesn’t mean that you have to treat these men so distastefully. As David has said, we are all kin, and status doesn’t remove our sexual nature or desire or our humanity. Basically the only thing I ask every gay man to do is challenge and examine why they have a certain view on this topic. Question where your beliefs come from, question what you fear, and ultimately do what’s right for you. And always protect yourself. Talk.

Thank you David for being my muse and inspiring me to find the right words to express how I feel. And my journals for yet again showing me how reflection is always necessary for growth.