Tag Archives: gay community

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.

The Discussion Of Racial Gay Self-Hate That Is Never Addressed

DTLA

When I write these Op-Eds, I always attempt to present a topic and viewpoint that either is never talked about or approach a subject in a completely different manner as it related to various issues that I see in the LGBT community, and in particular with gay men. When I divulge my own experiences with this formula it is in hopes that I in some way illustrate why I came to that conclusion. But the topic I’m discussing has so many layers that I may be unable to fully quantify the ramifications of what is attributing to this issue.

So when I write about the infrastructure of the gay community I’m hoping to spark some dialogue because I see so many divisive tactics that we have in the community. From internalized homophobia to latent racism I try to shed some of the motivations behind them and how we as a whole can learn from them. And while this issue is about someone’s own personal issues/problems we as a community may also be part of the cause of why this happens.

Sometimes people will do just about anything to feel as though they belong. Because none of us truly want to be alone. We crave some form of validation from the people that we either admire, feel commonality, or that we aspire to be like. And unfortunately race is still an issue within the gay community, despite those that make asinine claims to the contrary with statements like “I’m gay I can’t be racist”. We know that isn’t true. But we hardly see examinations into how this misbelief as well as others affects other gay ethnic/racial minorities. More specifically, we don’t talk about what negative stereotypes and behaviors this group do to themselves and other gay men of color.

I wanted to discuss this specific topic as a result from, believe it or not, a TV sitcom. It all started as a result of my queuing up a show saved up on DVR. There’s a show by LOGO called DTLA that depicts the lives of 30 somethings of all different backgrounds, races and sexual orientation navigating their lives and loves in Los Angeles. The premise of the show is what I always fantasized being gay would be like for me but it wasn’t. Maybe it’s because I have a tendency to romanticize every possible scenario, as we all do. I’m in the south but to be around that many people that are diverse in opinion and get along is hard sought after here.

Anyway, this led into further discussion of shows like Queer As Folk and Noah’s Arc that feature gay male characters as well as the plots, implications and our own desires about the hot cast members. But as my friends and I were discussing the plot along with the eye candy the dramas provide, a friend randomly asked me if I ever felt that race makes me feel as if I actually had to distance myself from other gay African Americans and other gay ethnic minorities. I was at first shocked, insulted that he believed that I would ever limit the human experience by isolating my interactions from people that share a part of my ancestry.

Then a few seconds later I knew exactly what he was referring to. What he meant by that line of questioning was if I felt I needed to distance myself from other ethnic minorities so that I would feel like I fit in with the majority of the gay community. There’s a belief that this happens as a result of tokenism, or when a select few members of a minority are accepted into a community. The minority’s acceptance is supposedly a sign of good faith that they’re not harboring prejudiced ideology. In fact it doesn’t even matter if the group practices this type of initiation as it’s only necessary for the minority that believes this phenomena to be true.

So gay minorities that believe this phenomena to be true and are consciously agreeing to the terms will go out of their way to make themselves stand out. They will show that their behavior is like that of the other Caucasian men in the gay community and not associate with members of other races, especially their own.  They feel that it is a consequence to this perceived tokenism and  feel that this is more pressure for GOC (gays of color) to assimilate into an ideal of what is acceptable mannerisms and customs commonly associated with gay Caucasian men.

Sounds so outlandish when you think about it but this works in the same way as internalized homophobia. where a gay person will openly condemn homosexual practices and cultures assimilate and show allegiance to a favored group. I wish I could say this is all just theory but I’ve witnessed this behavior and even questioned if I was embarking on it when I first came out. But my philosophy has always been to reach out be inclusive.  I’ve never had that reaction where I felt like I couldn’t date my own race or embracing my various racial background as a gay man.

However I do remember a time when I was at a gay club and asked another African American if he wanted to dance and he was so hot. Great smile and laugh to accompany his very muscular physique. He said no thank you and I was fine with that until he leaned over and said “we can’t have the rest of them thinking we’re hoodrats” I was taken back because we weren’t doing anything other than talking. When I asked what he meant he continued by saying that “whites didn’t like it when too much of us are in one place. Then offered to meet me somewhere later if I gave my number and instead of lecturing him, I simply walked away.

Whenever I think of this tokenism happening I refer to my Race and Racism professor discussing this tokenism phenomena that can occur with our innate need to belong. He talked about how on a subconscious level, African American men that journey outside of their native community may do all that they can to stand out and completely isolate themselves from any members.  No matter how compatible they are in ideology and insight a person may avoid all interactions for fear that they will be associated with any negative stereotypes. he will even go so far as to laugh at racially insensitive jokes or even engage in using them himself all in an effort to belong. All the while these men will always have an internal struggle of who he is and what he believes constantly challenging his position in the community he is trying to adopt.

My story about the guy at the bar illustrates what my professor taught about how this phenomena occurs with gay ethnic minorities. They will not openly get into dialogue with other gay men in clubs and other hangouts for fear they will be grouped as just another minority that exhibits the same undesirable characteristics. They may openly say something like “I don’t do black guys”, much like you would see from a prejudiced Caucasian’s profile on Grindr or other dating apps.  Their need to assimilate and be seen as one of the adoptive community is so strong that they don’t recognize the hatred they’re harboring for a group they belong to and for themselves. This behavior is a clear indication of deficient self-esteem where they may fear association from their race so much that they become prejudiced to it.

Jargon aside, even though this skewed vision that a gay ethnic/racial minority may have is of their own issues and experiences we as a whole community can do more to -prevent this jarring behavior. We can talk about race a bit more. A lot more. Because too often the experiences of what it’s like to be gay and from an ethnic/racial minority is classified as the same experience when that is completely untrue. They are on two different planes of conscious.

Phenomena like this affect all of us because it shows that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies both from members within the community and to ourselves. And that these beliefs, however extreme they are valid come from somewhere. We need to examine that and be willing to give each other a voice so that anyone, no matter the topic, feels like they are being heard and respected. We can all have dialogue because these are things we never talk about.

Hey Gays, There’s No Such Thing As Hag In Friendship

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People always want to analyze the constructs of any community and label each component. We all do in order to understand the unique complexities that structure a culture’s behaviors, customs, and even thought processes. Understanding the mechanics allows us to be able to understand why people are the way we are. And the gay community is no different. We have certain things about us that are a part of our daily lives that help us in one way or another. Often, when asked about what things are involved in our daily lives one thing always comes to mind that makes our experience as gay men truly unique.

Now this is the one accessory that nearly every gay man has in their possession. It serves as a calendar and journal that documents the inner workings of your life in just about every aspect. Most of us, at some point, reference to these record keepers as they are often the ones that help us analyze our lives. No matter how feminine or masculine any gay man claims to be, this is acquired in one way or another and is a part of your daily life. And it always comes in the form of a woman.

This woman does just about everything with you. From picking out clothes to going to night clubs together. Workout together. Eat together then obsess about your weight so you have to go workout together again. You have great movie marathons and dance parties to occupy the lonely nights or just because you love to dance. Road trips and music concerts become your freedom anthems. You cry together over breakups and laugh after your latest conquest in the arena of love. She defends your honor and stands by you

They are most likely one of the first people we tell that we’re gay, if not the first. And even though they have always known they quietly sit as you shed copious amounts of tears and console you, all the while allowing you to tell your story. Even though they will never completely understand what it’s like to be different they do everything in their power to make sure you don’t feel different around them. They let us know that it’s okay to be who we really are and let us know that there is always someone there no matter what anyone else thinks.

Often  they are the voice of reason that talks us through the pained experiences that we encounter every day. Not only do they witness the trials we face as gay men when we are ridiculed and harassed, but also when we are facing that prolific battle of accepting ourselves internally. Because we all know that there is so much more than saying the words “I’m gay” when we come out. They stand there with us to lift our spirits and tend our wounded hearts and egos.

They will rally at our first gay pride parade and compare notes on deciding if the insanely hot guy that walked into the coffee shop plays on our team or team hetero and then have some of the most intricate dialogue to see who’s right. Throughout so many first steps that we take as gay men are greeted by the solace these women provide.

They will listen to you when you both attempt to decipher the biggest mistakes made in both past and current relationships. They will listen for hours on end to the endless mounds of exposition that you give on life because you do not understand why relationships have to be so damn complimented. They simply have a way of making everything in life a little more glamorous.

They grant us a smile just because they want to brighten our day. To assist in the most mundane of tasks to the wildest of adventures. From our resounding victories and conquests in love to the devastating life altering despair of ending relationships, they are there for us. To the casual outside observer, the dynamic of a gay man with a straight woman as best friends would resemble a tv sitcom. And maybe in some ways it is a little like Will & Grace. But it’s not all sunshine and smiles.

When we’ve done something wrong, they won’t let it slide.They will call you out on your crap faster than anyone else. They now when to coddle us and when to tell us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, to pick up, dust off, and get back in there and fight for what we want. It is not asked for it is demanded because they often see the strength that we are unable to in our more fragile moments. They challenge us to challenge ourselves to be better  men than we once believed.

By now you know who I’m referring to. They are referred as the hags of our communities. And I know there’s another word that goes before that. A word that we are called when we are bullied and beaten and threatened. A three letter word that can haunt some of us for our entire lives because it is associated with being weak. And we are not weak. And neither are the women that stand by us and as a result I refuse to say it, because for me it is a word of disrespect no matter the context.

See these women are not accessories. They are our friends. Too often we lose sight of that and treat these treasures like the latest fad that can be ditched at any time. They are not the sidekick to our superhero complex, there merely to provide some form of comic relief to our overdramatic lives.  These women are in the thick of it right along with us. To many of us they become a never-ending source of strength when we are at some of the most vulnerable times in our lives. These women have a somewhat detailed account of the experiences we go through every day. They love us. So why would we ever degrade the magnitude if their significance by calling them a hag?

I know that most of us do not treat these exemplary women that are in our lives in such vapid fashion. But this is for the ones that do openly, or may not recognize that they do. I also know that it’s about semantics. I know that words only have the power that we allow them to possess. But it still needs to be said from time to time that these magnificent women are not to be the brunt of our jokes whenever we’re feeling vindictive or projecting our own insecurities upon. They do not exist to merely serve our purposes, both deep and superficial in nature. They are not and should never be at our beckon call. They are people just like us. They are not hags. They are our friends. One of the best kind.

How Us Gays Being Vain Isn’t Such A Bad Thing

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I believe one of the biggest criticisms both from society and from within the gay community is considered vain, selfish group of men. A very accepted belief is that above all else, we are obsessed with vanity and value the latest trends in fashion and hair. The more money we have, the more we can spend on improving how we look until we reach this ideal of perfection  The more risks we take in the latest fashion and toned muscle definition of our bodies, the more admiration we gain from supporters and more envy from our adversaries. And every gay man has to meet this standard in order to be an accepted member. That we are only concerned with what we can literally see.

History often associates vanity or self-appraisal as narcissistic, selfish, or even evil. In religion it’s referred to as a symptom to one of the seven deadly sins. It’s believed that being obsessed with vanity is a corruption that will lead to other foul acts against humanity, leading us to destruction and devastation.  Strangely enough I always struggled with the concept thinking, how can something that possesses beauty ever be wrong? Through religion and sage wisdom of golden rules by caregivers, we are taught to be antithesis of this concept. But I don’t believe we take it to such an extreme level. Vanity is seen as superficial and a waste of time. It’s a concept that has broadened to not only how we see ourselves but also how we see others and appraise them.

Of course we know that, as a whole we are not that shallow. We rally behind support and organize for equality so that we are treated equally. We do humanity work and try to heal our resource-depleted planet. Though we do have faults we have a community that has unity and togetherness, it’s just sometimes we lose sight of that like any other group of people. We are so much more than looks and I believe we all know that. Because of our sexuality we inherently possess attributes to promote harmony among our brethren. But more importantly why is vanity such a bad thing? So what if we like things that sparkle and beauty in all physical forms?  Is it wrong when we refuse to leave the house on a bad hair day or sculpt our bodies to resemble the Grecian Adonis’s of ancient time? Okay that descriptor was a bit much. Not all gay men are obsessed with these things but all of us are vain. All humans at some level are concerned with how things appear on the outside.

As I’ve mentioned before this is all due to the fact that, as men, we respond most to what we see first. No matter the degree to our other senses being stimulated, we enact on what is seen. From the evolutionary standpoint it gives us the ability to process our environment for signs of danger or something that benefits our lifestyle. Since we are born to examine a physical nature of others we process what we’re attracted to and depending upon other variables, decide the kind of interaction we desire from others. While we are no longer have to be of such an archaic nature, we still need to survey what could be beneficial by what we see first. So we showcase and attempt to portray what others see as attractive and desirable.

Admittedly I can see how people that know me would be thrown off by me taking this stance. Because I’m a hippy by nature. I am not too concerned with how a person looks or so much with how great a shape they’re in or what they wear. But I am human as well that has the same yearnings and desires. Even though I may not put much effort into what clothes I wear I still appraise how others will perceive how I look. I’m attracted the physical form just likes everyone else. The principle of balance is what I apply to vanity. That you can admire someone’s new edgy haircut and firm, toned body. But I now that it’s not the only thing that makes someone beautiful.

We spend so much of our growth period as adolescents and early adulthood struggling with what society demands of us and how our sexuality contradicts that. We’re told what a man is supposed to wear, what to look like, to even what type of woman we’re supposed to love and marry. Then we reach a point of acceptance only to go back to the same stiff, archaic way of thinking? I don’t think so. We begin to modify the things that we can until we’re able to be out in the world. We begin to shape how we dress and how our bodies look in order to have control of our environment. And then we finally are able to reach that moment of accepting it regardless of what society believes we should look like. The process to fully own how we look and then begin to like how we look. That is vanity. Because as we process being gay we constantly have Self-appraisal telling ourselves that we are attractive despite what society wants us to look like. Vanity can build our esteem.  And we continue that onward as we like as we truly are.

Even when we say we aren’t looking for what’s on the outside that isn’t necessarily true. When someone who loves to have an intellectual conversation< like I love to do, we look at how they look too. It is not always the best indicator of intelligence but if you’re attracted to say, the nerdy geeky type you look for someone that physically fits that description right? You know that most likely you won’t find that in a gay club but you may find that in the local coffee shop in Chelsea or some local Barnes & Noble or even the comic book store. Our appraisal is based on what we like. And even though we don’t have the exact same definition of what beauty is, we still seek out what we attracted to in the same way; by using our sight.

Beauty, in any form, allows us to transform not only how we see ourselves but also what we feel. Being able to effortlessly put together a look to emphasize and accentuate all our great features promotes us creating harmony. This sense of accomplishment we gain from it helps our own self esteem. And then we look for more long lasting ways of feeling that way.  Because let’s be honest, we want the hot guy to notice all of our hard work. It is definitely not the most sustainable way to keep a relationship going but it is how all relationships start. That’s how we attract others to us. You can pretend as much as you like that you’re above it all, but it does you a disservice to ignore that this is true.

So to me vanity is a gateway. It taught us more than society was able or willing to teach us. So I ask again how striving towards beauty can be a bad thing. To display ourselves in a certain way to draw praise from other people? Balance. Knowing that it is not the only thing that makes us have worth. Accepting that what we possess inside is more sustainable and longer lasting than how we look. Too much of anything can be bad for us. But having little to no high appraisals of ourselves can be just as detrimental.

Now I am not saying that all gay men should be shallow, image obsessed caricatures that the media loves to stereotype us as because that would be ridiculous. We should still accept people as they are, especially because of how we are treated sometimes. We know that looks aren’t everything and that it’s not the only thing that attracts us to others. And we know that when people don’t meet our standard of beauty that you don’t have to knock anyone down to elevate yourself. I’m saying that appreciating and aspiring to beauty is not always a bad thing. Self-appraisal instills worth within ourselves and those around us.  A little self-worth goes a long way.

 

Gay Men: Do We Fight Too Much? How Can We Make Our Community Stronger?

As some well know I’m a flipflop wearing (of course with no socks) free loving hippy and often do I pensively ponder the infrastrcuture of the LGBTQ community, particularly among gay men and how we relate to each other and how we communicate.

The same multifaceted questions are always actively firing up my synapses: Do we depend on cultural references and music icons more for support and wisdom than we seek from each other? Are our collective goals and progress stagnant and too convoluted? Do we fight with each other too much? Are we disconnected? How do we learn from each other without deprecating one another?

I recently came across an article written by LGBTQ activist, writer, and media public speaker Jordan Bach that discussed his recent experience on the Morning Jolt show on SiriusXM 24 hour LGBT radio channel OutQ. Bach originally appeared on the show to discuss “personal (and collective) development”. Unfortunately,  the host was more focused on Bach’s age rather than his message. Bach commented that the disagreement displayed fragmentation and dissonance in approaches and stated:

“I think illustrates not only the widening emotional and spiritual gap between gay men of different generations, but also the jarring disrespect with which gay men often publicly treat other gay men.”

Interesting and intelligent perspective though I worry about what spirituality means separately to other gay men and the fact that it’s more common to find the absence of said belief than a inference to a collective ideal. But that in and of itself is semantics and I do greatly agree with the sentiment. Also, I agree with Jordan that our society has a notion that with age comes wisdom and that is not always true. In my none too important opinion you limit your ability to advance, to obtain wisdom and learn and grow when you limit the source of knowledge. Knowledge is subjective, fluid, and malleable. I’ve acquired wisdom from all ages and seen those twice my age act as though they are children.

Further Bach wanted to reiterate what his intent for the community and what must be done to become stronger:

“My intent has always been to inspire gays to discover the best in themselves, and so I want to start having discussions about personal issues that affect us, like body image, relationships, and life purpose, in a way that is enlightening and uplifting, not sarcastic or overly eroticized.”

Despite the unfortunate interview Bach want to make sure that his message is distinctly and clearly understood and that with progress and awareness we can grow and evolve:

“My prayer is that gays everywhere should begin the inward journey, shifting our collective energy en masse, not looking back in anger or forward in fear but inside right now in awareness of all the places in our hearts where we ourselves are holding judgement and unforgiveness, that we might all be more swiftly delivered to the bright future that awaits us.”

Joe Kort, Michigan psychotherapist and writier for GayLife.com, discussed the concept that in our community an internalized homophobia, or LGBT that hate themselves for being gay as well as the homophobia that is directed from society, has become pervasive and detrimental.

Kort notes that this phenomena is why gays and lesbians will say someone acts “too gay” are over effeminate.  This also makes me think of the dreaded terminology “straight acting”. Kort explains that this is because of . In conclusion Kort felt that in oder for our collective community can advance we need to communicate with each other “honor our own competence and each other’s, and support one another “. Kort feels states how this is obtained by offering this solution:

“checking on dates of each other’s events, national and local, held by businesses similar to our own when we can. We should talk to each other about how to stand together for our common good and not feel threatened by one another. What an impact our GLBT businesses could make if we put our heads together and supported each other, allowing for more than one reality and honored each other’s viewpoints. Isn’t that exactly what we’re asking from those outside of our community?”

I don’t and refuse to act as if everything within the gay community is perfect or that there isn’t always room for improvement. I think that as we grow and learn about ourselves. And whether I agree completely or not with Bach’s or Kort’s approach is irrelevant (as I do in most aspects), I do agree with the passion and conviction to always strive and support the community.

To foster productivity and understanding because we will collectively and personally be stronger for it. In my none to important opinion questioning our productivity as a collective is how we improve, notyice and correct what’s wrong as well as pontificate the things we do right. I do believe it’s definitely something to think about to discuss.