A Walk in the Woods with a 20-year-old Gay Man
Through my visibility on social networking sites like WordPress, Facebook, and Blogtalkradio, I occasionally get a message from young gay men in various stages of coming out, political awareness, and relationship issues. I enjoy the interaction with these men, as I see in them a younger, very naïve, and less cynical me.
Usually we have long IM chats or an occasional phone call. I have never met any of these men face to face as most of them usually are living in less than gay-friendly locales increasing their need to reach out into cyberspace for a Real.Live.Contact.
One young man (we’ll call him Joey) was a 15-year-old living in Canada, attending a Catholic boys school, and wanted to know: “How do you really know if you are Gay?” While there are many ways of answering this, I have been blessed with a marriage to a psychiatrist and when I get one of these simple questions, I merely nudge him in bed and ask, “How does one know they are really Gay?” His answer; quite simple, “What do you focus on when you masturbate?” Nailed that one. So I asked Joey that question and he said, “Yep, thought so. Now what?” That wasn’t as easy as he was not out to his family, his classmates, etc. Nor did he know of any safe outlets in the Toronto area for LGBT youth services. I did suggest a few books he might read and some websites specifically geared to his demographic. I heard from him a few times after that. He came out to his best female friend. His mother discovered gay sites on his computer and she did embrace his coming-out. He did find a youth group that I believe he is still active in. He did call me in a panic the first night he went to the group. The poor kid lost his virginity 10 minutes after arriving on a trip to the men’s room. Oh well, no way I could have seen that one coming. All in all, I chalked that one up as a success story.
The rest fall in categories from a few sporadic questions and then never hearing from them again – to regular contacts peppered with new questions and experiences, not unlike what you would share with a close friend. But yesterday, I had a new one that opened my eyes that suggested to me that the future isn’t entirely that bright.
A young college student, Evan, 19, messaged me about a week ago complementing me on this blog as well as my Facebook profile on my Internet radio show. (www.blogtalkradio.com/stonewalllive) He was pretty much still in the closet, had not had sex yet with either a male or female, but was very much aware that he was gay and attracted to men. There were some red flags that I did detect but deflected as best I could. He liked my body, said I was hot and his type; to which I quickly showed him my recent wedding album and started talking about seeking relationships with available men. I gave him some anecdotes about the classic gay man longing for the straight best friend or the already-partnered gay man and explained that this was normal in the journey of finding people to interact with.
He explained how difficult it was to be in a Christian University with a roommate that was obviously not gay friendly. He said he had some trouble identifying with the “out and proud” gay “lifestyle” that he witnessed at the school, which had a Gay Straight Alliance filled with “marchers, drag queens, and perverts” (his quotes)
I chalked all this up to being young, inexperienced and having a bit of self-loathing. Come on! We’ve all been there to a degree. I remember telling myself many times that even though I would be an out gay man I would never 1) March in a Gay Pride Parade, 2) Dress in drag, 3) Bottom, 4) Get married to a man, 5) Understand Transgender men and women. Well, I’ve done all 5, and I am proud to say they fell pretty quickly. But everyone has his or her own speed on this journey and I promised myself I would not judge. I only told him of my own initial thoughts and how they evolved over time as I met and grew to love my gay life.
But all that changed yesterday. While discussing what type of person he would like to date, I casually mentioned that he would do better after he became a bit more comfortable with his sexuality. In 2013 I knew that if and when he wanted to date/get laid/hookup all he had to do was hit the Grindr or A4A application and he was good to go. Evan was a 6-1 swimmer and martial artist with a quick smile and good eye contact. (we had a few Skype sessions). I explained that the closet was not a sexy place and some men might find it a negative point in continuing a relationship/second date/etc. He explained that he was not going to tell anyone that he was not out to his family and friends and that he was an expert at compartmentalizing. I told him I thought that being pretty open and honest made for better sex/friends/life. His answer:
“My personal life has nothing to do with who I have sex with.” OK I thought…then things got worse. He then said, “And I hate that you think gays are different than straights. We aren’t. We are exactly the same just like to have sex differently. Fuck you and all your rich old pervy men who want to mold us into some kind of gay-rights clones.”
Like most gay men I’ve had enough therapy, both formal and on-the-job to know that sometimes outbursts like this stem from a deep internal conflict that the OTHER person is having, not what you said to them. Knowing all that, I still was pissed and it being the Internet, I excused myself and signed off.
Then I got to thinking.
What was Evan going to be like in 10 years? 20 years?
My hope of course, was that he was going to have an evolution and become an intelligent, well-rounded young man with integrity. He would bounce around for a bit given his strict religious background, but eventually settle down with a partner and either adopt a baby or have children by surrogate. I had their same-sex parent-teacher night in my dreams when I had a cold hard thought.
Maybe this is all he’s going to be. Another cynical, sometimes-substance-abusing, dance away lover who feels all men are merely sex objects and that the gay community is so screwed up, nothing can be done about it. He’ll move from gay mecca to gay mecca, hit the circuit parties, sculpt his body, but never getting the gold ring. In other words, end up where a lot of guys I know; envious of those in long-term relationships; never seeing that their initial outlook on gay life never changed.
I’d like to say that I went back and found Evan and spoke to him again. I did not. He vanished, profile and all. Perhaps he found another gentle ear.
One can dream.