Tag Archives: growing up gay

From Relationship Woes To Intimate Foes: Tales Of Growing Up Gay

gay artsy

Originally I was going to share a much sweeter, softer tale of growing up gay. But I feel with the way things have been going in the lives of people that I care deeply about that it’s more pertinent to share about the hardships of relationships. See, the truth is that there is no point you reach where you’ve completely grown so much that there’s no need for lessons. From the moment we first discover our sexuality we are constantly growing from our experiences. Our entire lives are a part of the process in understanding what gay means to us.

In my previous tales when I talked about completely coming out of the closet it may have appeared as though everything afterward turned out like a fairy tale (pun intended). Life for me at that point however was anything but a happily ever after. In fact for a time my life was a complete nightmare. It was because I honestly did not know what being gay meant for me. No matter how much I observed other gay men and their relationships prior to coming out I quickly learned that I couldn’t apply everything I saw or heard to my own life.

So sadly I did not run off into the sunset with the man I had been in love with for nearly six years. Even with the sweet memories I have of our courtship throughout my undergrad years we soon discovered that our lives were moving in two separate directions and more importantly we were just not right for each other. This relationship served as my first example of relationships not always being as fun and rose colored as I thought (and hoped) they’d be. The time was really more about transitions than living. Coming out to my friends and other loved ones that didn’t already know went smoother than I expected echoing the rhetoric that they always knew deep down and didn’t care.

Even with all the overwhelming support and unwavering love I still staggered with defining what gay meant to me. Wondering how much being gay defined me. I did not know how to be gay. This was immensely true when interacting with other gay men. In the beginning you ask yourself ask yourself so many questions about your first relationship as an openly gay man. What are the rules? What’s done differently than straight relationships? Can they last? The lessons we learn

But the biggest lessons about relationships came soon after that relationship ended. After my brush with death and time had passed I was at the most vulnerable time in my life thus far. Being in graduate school had its pressures and trials but those were expected. As was every other area of my life. But emotionally I felt extremely vulnerable. Some of my personal relationships with friends were changing for the worse. Maybe it was because I felt so removed from everyone else and trying to figure out the more detailed nuances of sex and courtship and romance. Or maybe I had a life altering experience and didn’t want to admit how much the experience changed me. So as a result I learned the hard way what relationships meant to me.

During this early stage I met a man that was a couple of years younger but had been out much longer than me. Charismatic and engaging were the first things that attracted me to him. Outspoken and blunt were also assumed great attributes to his character. He also had an amazingly firm body with these dazzling greyish green eyes that caught you off guard every time his gaze rested upon you. I was so smitten with him that he moved in with me only a couple of months after we began dating. How much I wish now that we’d taken more time to really know each other because it never would’ve happened.

Soon after we were living in the same space I discovered his debilitating habits that were much more than leaving the cap off the toothpaste. This man was very heavy into the booming gay scene of our college town and the surrounding areas. At the time that scene was mainly comprised of finding open spaces or private homes where men could gather and do copious amounts of drugs and engage in sexual adventures so novel that even my curious nature was taken back.

Part of me understood this behavior because most of these men, like me, had been suppressing or hiding their sexuality for most of their lives and had finally conquered that challenge so they had a lot of catching up to do. They just wanted to have fun. Even knowing by my own experience the feeling of relief it was to be an openly gay man with an urge to celebrate at any given moment the whole time I felt overwhelmed by what I was witnessing. Even more so because the man I was living with was so into this environment and I chose to believe him when he said that this is just what gay men do.

It came to a point that I rationalized his escalating behavior as being a part of a gay man back then. That we don’t live by the rules that everyone else does so I should just go with it. But inside I was miserable. Scared. Sad.Because looking back the life of hard partying was not where I wanted to be at that point in my life. But it was more than just wanting what I saw in the emerging pro-gay ads or whatever new aged approached my boyfriend thought about at the time to feed his habits. My life was conflicting two separate ideals at the same time because I couldn’t decide who was right in what being in a relationship as a gay man meant. But the answers finally came and when they did they knocked the air out of me.

The habits of my boyfriend began spilling over into our day to day lives. His drug use was no longer recreational but necessary in order for him to (dys)function. He felt that stealing my debit card to buy more drugs was acceptable and I was being too rigid. Never mind the fact that this habit also brought out moments of uncontrolled anger and disturbing public tantrums. Never did he direct it towards me because I was tall and big enough but he did to others.

That was followed by him asking for me to hold him so that it would reinforce the idea that I was his knight in shining armor to protect and love him all the while our house laid in ruins from his destructive behavior. This cycle affected me so much that it further strained friendships that were going through hard times. I felt emotionally robbed because I was losing my identity because I was always cleaning up after him and mending the bridges he was hellbent on burning down. Didn’t matter that I was being burned in the process.

Throughout our relationship I felt that because of my training that I should’ve known everything there was to do in dealing with his ways and an inability to handle them was a fault on my part. So it made it acceptable for me to stand by while his problems became more severe along with his stifling infidelities. Naively, or rather foolishly I believed that this was what gay relationships were like. Constantly filled with spontaneity and comprising our own rules as we go. That gay men define our relationships differently so they don’t look like everyone else’s. But deep down I knew this was not right. It was me not wanting to deal with the truth. I did not want to face that this wasn’t some new aged approach to relationships. I was settling for someone who had issues that desperately needed to be addressed.

See before this realization I let his addictions become my problem along with how he viewed relationships. We had become so much a part of each other’s life that I began to let my self-esteem erode away and become dependent on his vacillating emotional state. I’m not saying that you should walk away from someone that has issues and are struggling with their own demons. But there comes a point in every relationship that you have to begin weighing how much is benefited by you staying and asking yourself what you really want. What makes it all different is if the person is willing to actually invest. That’s when it finally clicked to me that I was listening to what everyone else’s ideals of what relationships between two men look like instead of asking myself what that meant for me. Thankfully before it irrevocably ruined my life I found the courage to say that this relationship was not healthy for either of us and that he needed help.

I had enough of studying at my kitchen table and silently cry my eyes out because deep down I knew this wasn’t right. This is not what gay men do as I’d let him convince me. Him having unprotected sex with other men wasn’t just what every gay man does. Him stealing from me and our home was not just what other gay men do. Him treating me like utter garbage and me just accepting that it was part of two men in a relationship was sure as hell not just what other gay men do. It made me hate him and myself for not listening to what I wanted in that relationship.

All the questions I had asked myself numerous times about what’s the difference between gay relationships and straight relationships was ridiculous in the end. Despite what other researchers or relationship experts or even very experienced gay men may think or say the only difference is simple anatomy. Any good relationship is built on communication and trust. Talking about and understanding what you need from that relationship at that time in your life and being honest with yourself if there comes a time that you want something else. For this reason I cannot blame him completely for our disastrous relationship because I didn’t speak up and say this is not what I wanted. I’m to blame for standing by and accepting it.

If you want monogamy then discuss it. If you want an open relationship then discuss it. If you just want to hook up whenever it’s convenient and have no other interactions with each other then discuss it. Don’t let yourself believe that any of these relationships don’t work but be cognizant enough to know which of these aren’t right for you. In the near decade that I’ve been out I can say that I have wanted each of these types of relationships because of the different places I’ve been at in my life.

There is no perfectly clear guidebook on how relationships work, regardless of your orientation. But you can always have an idea of what it should look like by being honest with yourself and really listening to what you want. Self discovery is made so much easier when we admit to ourselves what we are looking for instead of simply going along with what we see or what someone tells us.

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.

First Loves To Push & Shoves; More Tales Of Growing Up Gay

 dark gay

In my last piece I focused on the beginning of our process. The time of innocence and discovery that allows us to see how we’re different. And now this tale is about the middle part of this journey. It’s darker because this is when the internal conflict of accepting who you are and what everyone else believes you are.  During this time of the process we are presented with pushes and shoves that drive us to acceptance. Some are subtle yet linger with us while others are overt direct conflict that consumes every aspect of our daily lives. The time in which we leave our adolescence and begin adulthood is marked with these shoves during our process. Even though this is not as lighthearted and carefree as the first tale, it is just as important. Maybe even more so.

So I had learned I was different in third grade. Even though this discovery is monumental, the way I came about it was so carefree and innocent. And I was not prepared for the dark twist and turns of development coming my way. As we get into adolescence and later adulthood, we start to feel those push to understand and accept being gay. The first shove was to understand why I was different. Why I thought about guys instead of girls. Why I felt the need to want I wondered for what seemed like years why I didn’t like girls the same way. I thought girls were great. Still do. They’re nice and have amazing hair that I always want to play with for hours on end.  But that shove to be like all the other guys was strong; I was never quite able to be as they were.

It lead me to take on more androgynous behaviors and to this day I am still not sure if it was intentional or because I enjoyed those activities. And this understanding leads me to my first dark period. Bad hair, bad clothes and a sullen guy that listened to R.E.M. on repeat every day. That was coupled with my brief consideration on whether or not this was truly what God wanted for me. I also knew it was about how I didn’t fit into everyone else’s mold of what a stocky 6’4 guy should be like. I quickly learned not to care what others thought about every other area of my life but I still refused to confirm what a select few had suspected. And the representations of what I thought gay was did not resemble me at all so I didn’t know how to be gay. Or maybe I was just stubborn.

Those awkward years ended and finally I was an adult. I felt like as soon as I arrived on my first day that I would feel this euphoria and be able to just come out, everyone would be cool and I wouldn’t care either way because I was happy. And even though that year was the best of my life I still felt hollow. Because I still hadn’t come out yet. The shove of a new life and new beginnings was not enough for me to come out and fully accept my sexuality. I knew and accepted it years before. And more importantly to me, my parents knew. At that time their opinion and support was all that mattered. I often wonder if it was fear of being judged on one more thing I could not change. Because of my race I had faced discrimination. And I did not want to have to always be aware of something everyone else would constantly judge me on. But until I had that final push came the first of much one summer night. Or maybe I was just scared.

And during that summer after my first year of college came another shove. I had the privilege of making friends to two men like me that felt they could trust me with their secret. I was the first person they told that they were gay. That secret that was also my secret, but I just wasn’t brave enough to do so. One friend was there on campus working during the summer months after my freshman year, also known as one of the best years of my life, with me. One night he pulled me aside and asked me to go out for a walk with him as he had something to tell me. And I obliged wondering what he had to say.

We walked across the street and sat on the surprisingly cool steps of our university’s conference building and stared up at the stars, our favorite pastime. But Mick (I nickname all my close guy friends that, I don’t know why) was so quiet that night. And I sensed something was wrong. He turned to me with a tear falling down his face and said, “I don’t want you to hate me, Sly.” And my heart sank for him because I couldn’t take away his pain. I assured him for several minutes that he didn’t have to be afraid of him and that I will support him no matter what. And he said. I’m gay. And I said okay what else is there? And he smiled. Letting out a huge sigh of relief he started to cry tears. I’ll never forget this expression of ease and freedom that was so visibly etched on his face. And then I began to cry.

My heart felt like it was in my throat because I so desperately wanted to say “So am I, Mick” but I didn’t. And he asked what was wrong, holding my hand and more tears strewn down to the ground. The push was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever felt. So torn on when to come out. I kept thinking would I take away from his moment or would this be a double celebration. Finally I recovered saying I’ll always be there for you and support you no matter what. This doesn’t change anything between us. And even though I meant those words they felt like cruel malicious lies because I was unable to say that I’m gay too and you’re not alone. We talked and laughed and when I went back to my room I cried until I fell asleep. The push, or this internal desire was not strong enough to do it. Or maybe I still felt alone.

The next shove was the most subtle and the most powerful. It has the scale and drama of those relentless romantic comedies I avoid religiously.  Because one of my last shoves was love. I had met a guy the very first day of college and I was in awe. He was lanky but still so statuesque. A business major with charisma that could woo the most uptight person into having a good time. He was smooth and I was in love. And even though neither of us was out at the time we were drawn to each other as if we knew each other’s secrets. A common trait of mine is to hide my greatest treasures away from everyone else in order to preserve them. Or maybe I’m just a little selfish.

We flirted off and on for years and came so close to something happening. But knew the moment either of us gave into our desires, we would have to share that secret about us. We weren’t willing to do that yet. We’d lose touch with each other then randomly find each other. But we still were unable to commit to announcing that we were both gay. Then during the summer before I started grad school I saw him randomly again. Before we had a chance to say hello we kissed. Impulsive and right in public. We hugged and talked as he asked me about when I finally had come out and I said I hadn’t yet. This changed the tone and he wanted to give us a real chance at something but only after I was out. But I still wasn’t out yet. And we hung out more and I felt the shove to embrace my sexuality more than anything because I wanted to be with him. He went on his way later that week and we kept in touch. I wasn’t fully ready but I was closer than ever.

And then a few months later my last shoves came. They weren’t sweet with hints of love even though I thought about my sexuality more than anything. They were dark and cold. The last shoves were death itself. I had been so stressed with school and grades I thought my appendix erupting was a simple flu virus. When I finally arrived at the hospital they had me prepped for surgery within 15 minutes because I was bleeding internally and were uncertain I would even survive the procedure. They said I should make a quick phone call to my parents and I did. This acceptance of being gay had consumed my thoughts so much that I ignored my own health. And as they rushed me to the operating room, O remember the bright fluorescent lights above me and I vowed that if I made it I would live as openly and authentically as possible.

Then news came of a college friend that had committed suicide because he was gay. Reading and hearing about it as I was healing from major surgery, I remember crying because I wasn’t just sad. I was livid. Because I felt that maybe if I were out sooner that he wouldn’t have felt so alone. I know that it’s not my fault, or at least convinced myself that I had no control over his actions. But I will always wonder had he been around more people that were completely out would it have changed the outcome and that I believe is true in anyone’s life.

So I had shoves in all states of my being. From the emotional, what felt like physical when confronted with how someone else’s truth was also my own and the spiritual side. Sometimes all at the same time, all shoving me to either come out or be alone forever. And I was terrified of both. You see there’s this push and pull. This shoving and stalling the entire time until you are full out. There is time of frustration and anger throughout. I felt even with all I knew and awareness I felt I possessed I still couldn’t own it yet. Even with my parents’ support I still hesitated for years in completely embracing my sexuality. Because that conflict, that pushing and shoving doesn’t end until we allow that process of understanding that we are different in one aspect than everyone else. Self-acceptance comes on its own time when you are willing to accept it. It took years for many of us. But thankfully that is changing for the better.

Again, I tell these stories because I feel we all need to share them. Because even though the newer generation of gay men and women have it better than us it still does not make that process any easier. But the way we make it easier is a result of them reading our stories and life lessons and insights so that maybe they avoid some of the things it took us years to learn. And for them to know that their feelings and emotions through this process is normal. Because it is about their development. So maybe they find more tears of joy than sadness. To know that they are not alone.

 

The Who’s What’s Where’s When’s And Why’s Of Being Gay

gay question

There are many what’s when’s where’s who’s and why’s to being gay. Because there is a neverending parade of questions that we begin to ask ourselves. We make speculations but all that does is raise more questions. It is a time marked by fear and pain that we carry with us. But it is also a time of strength and empowerment. So many vacillating emotions go into this process because it is an ongoing process. Through progress and setbacks these moments define our lives. But these five types of questions are the stages we face when we are gay. When I write about these experiences and stories I have only one goal in mind and that is that the more we share the more we grow. That the more we discuss in detail our processes of accepting our sexual

Now this has been written about before but it’s not enough. Even though we have resources like PFLAG that gives an objective and well versed PowerPoint on this process it is still not enough. Because to me, it reads more as an instruction manual rather than really delving into the emotions of what it’s like to be gay. There are so many emotions and questions that seem to lack answers. And while they give a general overlook for the LGBT community, I am focusing specifically on the gay community. Makes me think that we also need to hear more about the other aspects of our community but I can only do it justice if I speak from my own experience.

5 Stages of Being Gay

Discovery/Questioning This is the beginning. The first moments when you realize that you’re not like everyone else. Like most of us this happens at an early age. We notice how we may interact differently than the other guys around us. We may not be into the same things or play the same way. We may not want to dress like our other male classmates or prefer the same music. We have our first evidence of our differences in random encounters and innocent kisses. We may like the same things that girls like. Or we may do the exact same things as our male counterparts but almost like a sixth sense we know we aren’t quite the same.

Then as we progress into adolescence, we develop but in body and in mind. The awkward stage of being between a child and an adult. By now most of us know what’s different. When we aren’t trying to get the cute cheerleader’s phone number or going out for the position of quarterback on our high school football team. When we may have higher voices than all the other guys. When we might walk and move differently too. In a time when we want to be just like anyone else we can’t help but feel  the most different and even more alone. Because by now we’ve recognized on some level why we’re different. When we know that we are gay.

Anger/Confusion And as a result of this discovery comes more questions and no answers. This goes on throughout all but the final stage of acceptance. This can last for years. Constant never-ending questions about why we’re different  We’re angry because we aren’t like everyone else because we just want to fit in. We are angry at everyone else for not being like us.  We seek out the answer from our elders. Needing to find clarity of why we think about having sex with guys. Why do we dream about it almost every night. Why do we always have all these feelings when we see a guy we find attractive.

Why do we think of his shape; his hairy arms, his thighs, his strong hands and legs, his furry chest and chiseled abs, his beautiful eyes. Why do we dream of his hands encapsulated in mine as we gaze at the stars. Why can’t we think of something else. Why can’t we think of girls like everyone else. Why can’t we be like everyone else. We can’t stay this way. Why does God hate us.  Why can’t we be this way. Why do we have to try to be like everyone else. Why does it feel like everything about us a lie. We do we have to pray this away. Why are we so stressed that we make ourselves sick. Why can’t we stop lashing out at the ones trying to help even though they don’t know what’s wrong. Why do we have to let go of everything we thought we’d be. Why can’t we stop crying. Why do we keep thinking about his eyes. Why are we so damn afraid.

Admittance That moment when not only do we know but still may not know why. We are going through what feels like an emotional rollercoaster and there are no signs of it ending. For whatever reasons, while we may not be willing to accept it but we can at least admit it to ourselves. It may take years before we full accept it, if ever. We will always be different no matter how hard we try or hide the truth from everyone else. We know that we will never be like everyone else. And the dreams that our parents had for us will never turn out the way they planned. And it is a time where we are relentlessly contemplating what our next step is and where that may lead.

Where do we go from here. Where do we get the strength to accept that we are gay. Where did gay come from. Where will I learn how to be gay. Where can I go to stop being so afraid. Where will we go if our parents kick us out of the house. Where do we go to fix this. Where do I go to learn how to hide this. Where is the explanation why we were made this way. Where was God when he made us.

Fear and Doubt More and more questions with still no clear answers. And like confusion/anger, we go through this during most of the other stages. Constantly afraid to even think about what being gay could mean for us and how it will impact the rest of our lives. Terrified that we are being judged for every single thing we do. Fear that we will never be able to be like everyone else. Always fearing we will never be happy. And we doubt that we will ever be able to come out. We begin to doubt our judgment in all other areas of our lives. We even begin to doubt the few answers that we are able to find.

What if everyone else finds out. What if everyone else hates us. What if people tease us. What if God hates us. What if we can’t be saved and we burn in hell. What if they were right and we are wrong. What if there is something wrong with us. What if my friends start hating me. What if I never find anyone that can love me for me. What if I’m alone forever. What if people try to beat me up or try to kill me. What if I just give up end it all. What if gay is wrong. What if our mothers stop loving us.

Acceptance Then to us what appears as some miracle, things begin to change. Maybe an event or person has entered our lives to show is that there is nothing wrong with being gay. Maybe it was just time we needed to accept the truth. But we reach a moment. A pure, crystalline moment that frees us from all other thought and reason to the contrary. Because we have finally began to accept us.

 We have finally accepted that we’re gay and admit. No longer do we think about being like everyone else because we like who we are. As we have accepted and embraced our sexuality we are finally able to do the same in the other areas of our lives. We realize that being gay is not the only thing we are. We don’t care about being different anyone. So many nights we wondered would we ever feel better. It got better. We can sit back and let our fantasies run wild because it is natural. It is okay. We will be okay. To hell with trying to convince everyone else okay because we are not living for them, we are living for us. We are free.

Who knew we were this strong. Who knew that we would realize that there is nothing wrong with us. Who knew that our friends and family love us unconditionally. Who knew that even though some may have turned their backs on us that we are still okay. Who knew that we could like being gay. Who knew that gay isn’t much different than being straight. Who knew that we can still have all the things our parents dreamed for us. Who knew that we would love ourselves again.

You see, all of these who what’s whens where’s and whys are about me and you. These stages aren’t all linear and we go through some longer than others. I searched my journals for days and these were the things I asked. Even though they are all the personal questions I asked, these are the questions that we all ask. Because even though monumental events like this are hard to forget they are always a series of questions and answers. Even though I had admitted to myself when I was still a child I had not yet accepted it until I almost died. And then learning about a friend who took his own life because he was gay was enough for me. If ever there was a time to believe in signs to change my life those were two of the most defining moments.

I thought about the mothers that have lost their sons and daughters too soon and how my silence was suffocating my own life. Their pain was too powerful for me not to reflect upon my life. I gained the courage to fight back all the fears and doubts and face that this was who I was always meant to be. I searched for all the questions I had about being gay but the most freeing thing I have ever felt in this life is when  I discovered the answers lay within me. It is an extremely empowering moment.

When we share our stories it helps others dictate how they want their story written. Our lives all different but our questions are the same. The more we share the better the make it for those that go through the same way. We show that it’s normal to feel this way and that it is okay to be who they are. Because we are tired of seeing people being so bullied and afraid that they feel like the only way out is to end their life and that has to stop. When we talk about our paths, our stories, our lives and how our questions are the same. it shows how the process of accepting things as they truly are frees us. I only hope that it leads to those still afraid to do the same and answers some of their questions.

Special thanks for the twitter friends Tony, Jim, Mark, Colin, Christopher, Roy, and Mike D that helped inspire this article, and to my journals for being there for me during a time when I feared no one else would be.

From Sweet First Kisses To Saying No To Having A Misses; Tales Of Growing Up Gay

Gay-Kiss

As you can tell lately I have been doing more opinion articles as of late and the reason is because it makes me truly feel connected and able to foster thought and conversation. Since it’s Monday and rainy I thought I’d share something a little light hearted; a tale of when I knew I was different and how moments like this shape our lives in a profound way. When I began to realize that I was not like everyone else and began to realize that I’m gay. And how even though some events in our life weren’t as poetic and a replica of what society tells us I still hope it reminds you of a time of self discovery that you treasure rather than a time you only associate with pain and frustration.

As most of us growing up, I knew I was different from the beginning. I may not have had many overtly “feminine” behaviors (even though I have always been fascinated with hair) I was a very sensitive kid. Often described as moody I always felt as a child that I was at the mercy of everyone else’s emotions. I could cry at the drop of a hat whenever I saw someone else in pain, both in real life and in fiction. I often cared more about everyone else’s feelings rather than myself. A lot of times very quiet and only wild or rambunctious when given permission to do so.

Gay was not a solid construct in my mind because there weren’t too many out gay men at the time in the south though there were a few lesbian couples in our neighborhood. And honestly I was a bit naive because I really didn’t know what gay meant until I was almost in middle school. I only thought at the time when I saw two men as a couple that they were like every other normal couple and did recognize a difference or similarity. I just believed all adults loved each other the same way. More importantly I didn’t know that gay was seen by some as a bad thing. Oh how I miss that naivety.

So I was not all too concerned with love thinking it only happened with adults. I didn’t have pretend girlfriends or teased fellow classmates with age old songs about kissing while sitting in trees. I was more likely to defend someone who was being teased because of it. And then everything changed when I was in third grade. I had a great group of friends during that time that I loved having as many adventures as I possibly could; staying out longer in recess than necessary, sneaking the latest and most popular toys, making fart noises and sticking gum under the desk during our boring  history lesson.

All the normal things guys our age did. But there was a classmate of mine that I hung out with more than anyone else. Seth. A fiery redhead that was just as effervescent and spontaneous as I was. Like me, he was always looking for the next bit of excitement to be had in a wild adventure. We always were in a competition with each other. From grades to kickball, we always tried to one up the other all the while having some of the best laughs growing up. Our competitive side only made our friendship that much stronger. And it remained that way throughout the year.

Then one day our teacher had us make these makeshift binoculars that would allow us to look at the sun during the upcoming eclipse. It doesn’t sound exciting but if you know me, you’d know that I was obsessed with astronomy and astrology at the time (I still am). My first coherent memory is of a full moon when I was two. So Seth and I, as always, were in competition to see who would complete it first and he won that time.

After grimacing and slowly congratulating him, we were then assembled to the exit of the school playground so that we could test out our new creations and because of the excitement, Seth and I got separated. We began to call out to each other, each of us apparently just missing each other at a previous location.

Then, we heard each other’s voice in the same proximity and ran to each other. As we navigated the last few yards between us we both turned the corner at the same time and  ran directly into each other, full impact. Because we were the exact same height our faces met at the exact same time and our lips touched. We kissed. My first kiss. Neither of us moved in that moment and I know on my end, I was too shocked to pull away. The entire time I felt as if I were frozen and unable to do anything except stand there as my best friend and I were kissing each other. It all happened by accident of course and I feel like we both knew that.

Nothing about this was planned since we were only nine years old. But in that instant of when our lips met, my world changed. It was almost as if time stood still. My feet were numb and I was so lightheaded I could barely stand up straight. We slowly pulled away from each other, both of us blushing from looking at each other since it happened. It wasn’t followed by what guys our age would normally say by saying it was gross.

We didn’t try to prove our budding manliness by fighting. There was no blame because we had done nothing wrong. We simply shared a moment that so many of our other classmates had shared with each other every day. I went to apologize because I did not want it to be awkward and Seth held his hand out to say no, it’s okay, we have nothing to be sorry for. Then we just stood there. It was perfect. And I was never the same.

After that moment I began to think about love and what love meant. And even though the myopic interpretation I had about what love was at that age didn’t change, my place in the world of love did. No longer did I just think of it happening to adults because of fairytales. I began to see my grown up self as one of the characters, looking for the man I was supposed to rescue. My mind had begun to awaken to what was really possible for two people to feel for each other some day.

I began to think about what I wanted someday when I was an adult. From that moment on, I knew that I would never walk down to greet a woman wearing a spectacular white gown that I pledge my affection to for the rest of our lives. I wasn’t ready to accept it but still at that moment I knew. All that from an accidental bumping into each other; and it had changed my life forever.

The remainder of that year was great and the friendship between Seth and I didn’t miss a beat. We never discussed it afterwards and went on competing each with other. But on the next to last day of that school year, Seth told me he was moving away and I was heartbroken. A common fault of mine when I’m overwhelmed with emotion is to shut down but not this time. I cried my eyes out in front of everyone and to hell with what everyone else thought.

But to calm me down, Seth took me to our hangout spot away from the swings and held my hand and promised we’d always be friends no matter what and that we’d met again one day during an eclipse. And I calmed down. And we laid there in that spot looking up and holding hands until it was time to go home for the day.

This incident in my life is probably why I romanticize love and what I want in a man; kind, rugged, noble, and always challenging me to be better than I ever perceived myself. And it took me a while to realize that during the awkward stages I had of dating women. As great as they were, the women never encapsulated the feeling I felt back on that clear spring day in third grade.

That and I grew to have a very soft spot for rugged ginger haired men with beards. I know how rare perfect moments like these are to have at any time in life and even more so at such a young age. But who wouldn’t at something like this? Because as I grew up to become a man, I still think of when I felt love and what I want love to be like for me.

The point of me sharing this story today is because we go through so much as gay men. Though the process of coming out is a long continuous set of obstacles, there are some great empowering moments that come from it. Strength can come even from our awkward and vulnerable points in life. Moments for us to reflect upon and to treasure and grow and to draw strength from.

How the most profound things are discovered about ourselves in the most unexpected ways and that the dark clouds of our past do have some silver linings. And I am still waiting for the adult Seth so that we can use the makeshift binoculars we made in our youth to watch the eclipse and hold hands.