Tag Archives: self worth

Author, Interfaith Leader Chris Stedman Discusses Faith & Sexuality

chris sted

One of the most profound changes that occur after we realize that we are LGBT is how we begin to analyze every other facet of our lives. As a result of realizing our sexual identity and nature, we question the validity of everything we’ve been told to believe throughout our lives. From rules set by our caregivers that guide and discipline us to what our religious and spiritual leaders tell us about God, this becomes a time of great introspection and discovery.  Most notably the time is marked by a series of questions and what religion and our faith are able to bring to our lives. We question if we can still believe in a religion or rather teachers of that religion that being gay is wrong.

Faith is believed to be blueprint to our morality as it sets to guide us through all aspects of our existence. To an extent, faith is believed to be the figurative parent to our morality. We know that this construct of what faith means is different for everyone. As we have our own unique experiences and upbringings we discover that no two people believe in the same way. So when I was asked a while back to discuss religion and sexuality I had a hard time collecting my thoughts in a way that made sense.

Luckily through social media I had the great privilege of getting to know author and interfaith leader Chris Stedman and he was able to shed some light on how our beliefs growing up may effect how and when we come out. And as time went on he agreed to have a phone interview to learn about his latest book, Faitheist. This narrative work that is both biopic and applicable principles to today’s society chronicles Stedman’s journey of self-discovery as a result of initially wanting others to come  together and share differing ideas all the while building a sense of community and acceptance. This serves as a steady bridge for me to approach the subject of faith and sexuality.

I knew that discussing Stedman and his principles would provide clarity of my own thoughts on religion/faith in this discussion and how it could relate to the LGBT community. Let’s face facts; this is a sensitive issue regardless of your stance because our beliefs are always associated with our morality. We are passionate about what we believe in and too often when the subject comes up, especially when it relates to members of the LGBT community, emotions are heightened to a state where emotions overcompensate for reason. Facts are misconstrued and beliefs are treated as vengeful weapons against any opposition. I don’t want this discussion to go in that direction. That’s why reviewing Stedman’s position on the matter shows how differences in beliefs can come together.

BOOK-COVERWithin the first five minutes I learned initially as we discussed atheism and group identity how different my own beliefs are from Stedman’s principles but still related to so much with what he advocates. Always at the ready to having meaningful dialogue, whether that be on his blog or his twitter account, I know that we can discuss this without conflict. When he explained pluralism and how Faitheist demonstrates inclusion of all beliefs it helped erode this stoic, detached persona so erroneously associated with atheists because of their beliefs. Even when Stedman admitted he feels that most of those that have a belief in God or deities are wrong that does not prevent us from knowing one another. His belief does not condemn me or anyone else and we can still relate to each other.

To further advance the reasoning behind his principles, Stedman brought up that while growing up he felt that he couldn’t be both gay and a Christian. He then told me about a religious cross he wore as a symbol of his faith and how he received a lot of teasing and criticism. Of course he was not suggesting that this lead him to atheism but it is something we need to observe because it shows an example that as LGBT men and women we do not belong to just one identity or community. Dichotomies exist within our community that we often enough do not discuss and duality can affect many aspects of our lives. Not only in faith but in racial/ethnic minorities, and even gender and socioeconomic status… Stedman believes that when we talk about this it creates an ethos that will foster experience.

Stedman helped me realize again how cooperation and acceptance are paramount as he discussed how his experiences shaped this principle. When he talked about him growing up in what he described as an irreglious home, he became a born again Christian at age 11 after his parents separated. Before he recommitted to the church he read about different cultures and perspectives and it taught him a greater depth of empathy. Shortly after his parents separated he sought out religion for normality and structure, and a community that was willing to support him all the while giving guidance from a position of authority.  Felt their rigidity would provide clear answers.

As I write this I remember a song by George Michael, How you gotta have faith. The video was expressive about sexuality and having faith in your ability to love yourself. Looking back on it now I know the reason I was so drawn to this music video at 8 years old was because George Michael had a nice smile was doing throughout it was because of my developing sexuality. But it also made me question what faith was because I remember asking my mom after watching it what faith meant. She simply referred to it as “something you know to be true”.  At that time I wanted faith because I thought it was cool. But I did begin to seek out comfort from it.

Both of our narratives, though completely different in our youth were looking for answers to faith with different environments and outcomes but the stories do reflect how we search for meaning at a young age. Looking for answers to why we feel the need to belong and what that means for ourselves. I think one of the greatest lessons we learn is deciphering what faith means to our self-worth. No matter what one’s own beliefs of faith or non-faith you have to reach a point in which you rely on the strength that resides inside you. A willingness to trust that we are indeed made this way naturally as it was meant to be, by biology or God.

We know that there can be many obstacles that we face before, during, and sometimes even after we come out of the closet. One of the things that we question most is our belief in God. We begin to speculate if we were truly meant to be LGBT because of what we’re taught about homosexuality and wonder if our sexuality is natural. Faitheist is a narrative of someone’s own journey that is continually seeking a sense of community and a celebration of our various differences. The concept of pluralism the respects the differing opinions, beliefs, and philosophies without the need of ostracizing. It gives the reader a relatable account of coming to terms with faith and sexuality.

I loved how inclusive his work is in both his literary work and his ability to apply that people of all walks of life. Faitheist is at its most general definition a story of inclusion. I truly marvel out how when there is conflict of beliefs, whether it’s critics or social media can be done diplomatically. As we delved deeper into this interview I asked Stedman about if the nature and principles of atheism makes it easier for LGBT men and women to process and accept their sexuality and come out. Detailing later in a humble response noted that the issues that face as we process our sexuality and our experiences are not that simple:

 Once I began to question certain norms, it opened me up to questioning others, including the normative chris_wall01_300 (1)religious beliefs I had adopted. But I wouldn’t say that I became an atheist as a direct result of coming out, since I was a Christian for the first number of years that I was out of the closer as a queer person. Whether a queer person is religious or not, and whether or not that changes in conjunction with the coming out process, I think that there is a common experience of challenging assumptions and traditional ideas that most of us experience as we come out.

This is one of the reasons that I discuss the topic of coming out so much. Because so often when a person surprises one aspect of themselves, they are likely suppressing their ability to actively question other aspects of who they are. During our conversation I was completely fascinated with the empathy and compassion expresses throughout his work and his pluralistic approach. Onward as we discussed more about the principles he felt necessary like open dialogue are necessary to bridge understanding between belief and non-belief:

 Sometimes it isn’t always clear which came first, but they necessarily inform and support one another. Meaningful dialogue, where all parties listen and strive to understand, engenders compassion and empathy; likewise, a compassionate approach enables dialogue in the pursuit of common ground, making it more accessible and more effective.

It takes people out of these their comfort zones when we discuss differences. When we hear stories about conflicts driven by media that are divisive “conflict is the exception to the rule” he stated which suggests that instead of defending their own beliefs we are simply arguing to see who’s right. So we need to approach of our own stories, our own identity as a whole, and not just about what we believe. It’s all about humanizing our differences.  Options that both Stedman and I did were not afforded growing up.

But this made me think about the process more and how difficult it can be as a result of religion so I asked if he felt this would eliminate prejudices.  We know how religion is used against this community so it’s understandable why many feel that if religion no longer existed that we would have an easier time processing and accepting our sexuality. However, during our conversation this assumption was the one thing that Stedman disagreed with most.

Stedman did not feel that the elimination of religion would lessen our issues as we are naturally have the dynamics of tribalism and a feeling of wanting to fit in with the majority. After thinking about it for a while I see why he came to that conclusion. We will always want to feel like we belong and as a result any inherent differences would potentially stagnate acceptance. It’s also important to note that Stedman expressed that the first people to accept his sexuality were his brothers and sisters from his church before realizing he was an atheist. He hadn’t accepted atheism until years after he came out.. So it is not about beliefs in God, it’s about tribal natural need to belong.

Attempting to think in even more abstract terms I asked Stedman if he felt that atheism was more a philosophy than a grounded, secular belief. When he decided he didn’t believe in God it was sadness and the way he expressed this epiphany felt to me that he was describing the loss of a loved one.  Letting go of a concept that you have believed in your entire life has to take some time to process. But atheism brought comfort to Stedman because it taught him fortitude and a faith in himself because no one else could accomplish his goals and overcome any challenges. It motivated and empowered him to become more active.

The incentive of taking ownership becomes stronger and more rich. This concept reminds Stedman to live in the moment as time is finite. It suggests that at some point when we are accepting who we are that we have to take the initiative to persevere no matter what. We have to take control of our challenges and look at our actions in how they will affect that outcome. Being LGBT teaches us that it is up to us to make our lives and our environment better. It may not always come easy or in the time of our choosing but when we hold ourselves accountable for the direction our lives are going it truly invites us to be who we are. It encourages us to live. This point is what resonated with me the most during our discussion. You become appreciative of time when you know it is limited.

It’s important to note that Stedman and I are not suggesting that this discussion was meant to suggest we believe people who are LGBT and in the process of coming out would have an easier time if they became atheists. Far from it. But I do believe those that are going through this process should be ready for how this aspect may have on a subconscious level affected many other facets of their lives and personality.

I believe what Stedman expressed both in his book,  and in our conversation, is that examining our beliefs in all areas of our lives gives us a greater sense of self. Throughout this process that we go through in coming to terms with our sexuality and our beliefs we have to trust ourselves more than anyone else, regardless of whether or not you believe in God. Homogeneity is celebrated in our community more than individuality and Faitheist provides examples of how we can approach our different outlooks with diplomacy.

The biggest advantage to reading Faitheist or starting any discussion about faith is that dialogue will allow you to process your opinion and your beliefs openly. No matter those beliefs, with an open mind you can be honest about them and I will always advocate for that. We need more dialogue and opinions and beliefs not only in this community but society as a whole. You can have meaningful relationships with people of different backgrounds and beliefs with respect. This interview along with Stedman;s book accurately and passionately demonstrates that faith is not synonymous with morality. Morality should always be met with humanity and respect. We have to always remember that when we talk about faith, no matter what you believe. But we have to be willing to make that first step. So reach out. Talk.

Is He A Top Or A Bottom?


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.

Brokenhearts Clubs and Vulnerabilities Show, These Are Our Valentine’s Day Woes


We are officially in the season of love. A time we know will soon be perfumed with flowers that bloom and sweeten the air. The days become longer now and the sun greets us after a long hard day’s work. Our urges to hibernate from the cold ebb away and our mood is lighter with each passing day. We are more likely to seek out new people and places to go and endlessly imagine all we want to do when summer arrives. By nature, we as gay men are more expressive in how we show love and just become so much more livelier during this time of year. We begin to listen to more songs that speak to the beginning of love to welcome new possibilities…but this time is not all rosy.

Even though we love all aspects of love this is also the time of year when we measure our entire worth based on whether or not we have a relationship. The subject of love is always looming to the point that it feels like it’s taunting us because we are examining what love or lack there of, we have in our own lives. And we begin to dread the international day of love. A day that is penned as the day of expressing our love turns into a diatribe about shattered hearts from inflated egos of our exes. We being to relive betrayal from infidelities and show apathy towards love that did not last. We lament on missed opportunities that we fear may never grace us again, Love consumes us in every aspect of our lives around Valentine’s Day.

If we’re single, we incessantly examine if it is the men we’ve been pursuing in the past calendar year. So we begin this at first objective list of what we are looking for in our potential soulmate, with trepidation and fear. It starts off innocently enough. First we may wonder are we looking for the wrong attributes in a man, how that can be tough.  We ask if our standards too hard to obtain. Should we settle for the guy that completely lacks ambition but looks great naked, or should we abstain?  Is the city I live in just lacking in worthy men or can we never win at love again? And then we turn this one day into the biggest self-deprecating examination into our looks and personality.

Are we too fat? Too skinny? Too tall? Too short even in top hats? Too much or not enough muscle? Too little ambition with not enough hustle?  We will go on dissecting every single inch of our bodies with great care, to find a flaw that is not there.  Then we examine our faces as aging in the gay community is hardly granted any graces. We’ll ask if our eyes are too close/far apart, and if our noses are too big/small by just an ounce.

Are our brows too pronounced or are our ears too big by just an ounce. Do we allow our scruff to sprout or just all hair out. Should our clothes mismatch or is there another reason we can’t find the ultimate catch. We’ll pull at our lips to see if they’re gigantic or in desperate need of snips.  Is it our voice or a bad accessories choice, our walk our smile too wild, our laughs, our dancing has too much prancing… It all begins to sound like a bad rhyme in our heads.

We’ll ask ourselves if we’re too needy or too detached. We’ll begin to wonder if we’re not affectionate enough or if we flirt too much with other guys. Are we too political or not worldly enough. Maybe we’re just boring/bland or too adventurous and spontaneous. Ponder extensively if we don’t communicate enough or know when to leave well enough alone. Could it be we’re too dry or never takes anything seriously. Are we too trusting or should we have trusted our instincts. Maybe we’re too cocky or too insecure. Constantly questioning how our past is affecting our present.

No matter how much friends and loved ones convince us otherwise. Their words are hallow to us now and facetious to boot. We feel patronized because we want to see what the guys we pursue don’t like about us. We’ll listen to sad songs, write sad, dark poetry and darker clothes. We get angry at even the slightest mention of love, the one thing we crave with our entire being. All we crave is to feel anything other than this constant drive to fill this void placed in our hearts.

Single people aren’t the only ones that do this. If we’re in a relationship we are constantly evaluating if that relationship measures up to not only our standards but the standards of everyone else. Wondering how to spice things up and try new things. Speculating at how truthful those relationships that make everything seem easy when you have to put so much work into your own. Wondering why the passion has left your relationship. Maybe even if only for a minute wondering if the love has ended and you both settled for comfort.  Also, you’re wondering if he feels the same way. So the day of love becomes a critique of both yours and his performance up until this point.

I have been through all of these stages just like everyone else, especially when I first came out. So often we critique ourselves to our communities standards whether we blindly follow them or not. It resulted in bad hair experiments and excruciating muscle building regimes. Attempted a really bad clothing makeover. Stared at myself in the mirror off and on for hours readying myself for discovering something heinous that was preventing me from finding “the one”. Made a list and called my exes to see what I could’ve done differently. Secretly studying other happy couples seething at how effortlessly they made their relationship seem and comparing how my interactions with past loves measured up. Hey, I’m human just like everyone else.

I was examining what I’ve done right or did wrong in all aspects of my life for the pursuit of love. Wondering what other measures I could take to make myself more desirable both inside and out. Inspecting my body and my behavior to see what I thought others would see, through their eyes. I did this regardless of whether or not I was in a relationship or not. Constant speculation of failed relationships and lack of consistency when I had a boyfriend. All these negative thoughts about myself going round and round like a bad rhyme.

Then I remembered what love really was. How the beginning wraps you up in euphoria. How when he mentions your name you get week in the knees. How hearing his name can make your day infinitely better. The little things like small notes or buying your favorite brand of cereal to show you he cares. How kisses are electric and holding hands makes you feel immortal. How love gives you the strength you never thought you had. How you are more focused than ever on your dreams and making them come true for the both of you.

Or when after a long very difficult end to a relationship you are able to look at yourself in the mirror and smile. That even though you want love, your life is what you worked hard to make of it. That loved ones are there for you to make you laugh and smile. And even when you are not alone you are not lonely. All those moments came from confidence  They come not just from the fact that someone loves you, but also the belief that you are in fact worthy of love. And that you love yourself.

Both of those moments of strength came from self love. And as the depth of how I loved myself  grew so did the love I gave and received from others. The point of this is first to not let this day be a measurement of how successful you are in the arena of love. Too often, in the season of love, we forget to love ourselves because we are too busy evaluating what love is given to us. What constantly ask what kind of love we want in relationships, whether we’re looking for one or attempting to reinvent the one we’re currently in. Being single is not a weakness and being unhappy about some aspects of your relationships is not the end of love. And we should also remember to give the same kind of love we are seeking to ourselves.


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


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.


Put This In Your Bowl Of Soul Soup And Eat It


I try to cover every facet of the human experience we gay men face every day and gravitate to discussing the interpersonal relationships as well as our own internal processes. The process allows me to understand why some of us the things we do to each other and to ourselves do. Because my nature is that of the eternal inquisitor, I try to as succinctly as possible relay those topics in a way that allows thought and discussion all the while leaving the reader to make their conclusions. But I don’t know everything. I am nowhere near that. I still have trouble programming my DVR and walk into walls at least twice a week so I don’t pretend that I know what’s right for everyone, or sometimes even myself.

When I was talking with a group of friends on iMessage today, one of the contributors to the conversation asked what is good for the gay soul. To elaborate, he wanted us to discuss what are the quintessential things that we gay men need to know about the world and how that will affect us. Will it challenge our beliefs or strengthen them.  I don’t think I’ve heard of it used that way before. I mean I’ve heard the incessant almost never-ending modifications to the book Chicken Soup For The Soul, but never has there been a gay friendly version of that. I asked myself in all the things that I’ve learned and tried to encapsulate all of that into a coherent train of thought, which is hard for me sometimes because I ramble.

One of the first things I learned about being gay is to truly accept people as they are in this world. That no matter how much I can’t stand how other people treat each other, that I do not always know the reason behind it. I can’t change the way in which they choose to treat other fellow human beings. I can’t change how people sometimes treat each other in this community.  Even with all that, I can’t allow their behavior to affect how I treat others. That I alone am responsible and accountable for that. I hope that the respect and civility I show will at least let people consider how they treat others. So the Serenity Prayer, basically. I may not be religious, but at least I can find some validity to treating other people well.

To truly accept myself. All 6’4 177 pounds of me. The uncooperative curly mop of hair. The obscenely big clunky feet. That I am not the standard of beauty or attractiveness  that some gay men are accustomed to nor ever will be. That I mess up and get things wrong. That I can be too generous and never tell someone no. To accept that the first two things people will always see first is my race and possibly my sexuality. That some people just do not like me no matter what I say or so. And there are some people I don’t like either. That sometimes I will make the same mistake twice. That I will always reach out to help someone when I can. I’m different and that’s okay. Self love is best love.

To laugh at myself and not take things so seriously all the time. I love to laugh and it often can change my perspective if only for a moment is worth it. Gives me a moment to assess almost any. Do you know how embarrassing I am when I try to flirt with a guy? Awkward faces and inaudible stuttering. Even my walk becomes that of a hermit crab. Completely inhumane and just weird that is sometimes accompanied with rejection. I laugh at that (after some time has passed of course). It’s what has made the whole experience of dating at the very least, a lot more entertaining.

When to let go of unhealthy relationships. This includes those of every variety. From long-term friendships to work colleagues to lovers. toxic relationships have a way of affecting every other facet of your life, most of the time we don’t realize it. That one bad relationship makes us skeptical and so guarded that we eventually don’t allow the good things come in. If someone is bringing more negativity to your life than positive attributes than what’s the point of continuing them?

To know that as people are different, their perceptions are different too. The way that I romanticize love in relationships is not how every other gay man sees the world. But when I fully came out I learned very quickly that this is not the way everyone else thinks. Some men don’t want to be wooed and swept off their feet. The only love affair they are interested in is comprised of splitting the hotel bill to have a one night stand in. And that is okay to be that way. And it’s okay that I want to be someone’s Prince Charming. Accepting that what they hold as their own truth does not necessarily men I find the same meaning.

See all of these things don’t just relate to a philosophy of gay life, regardless of sexuality. Simple little things that I remind myself of when I think of my interactions with others in this world. And this is simply my process. It’s not advice, it’s the rules I made for myself as I”m sure everyone else has their own. I think it’s important for each of us to know those things about ourselves to live the most authentic, self fulfilled lives. And if you don’t like it, then get your own bow of soup.