If I Had A Magic Wand….2014 Edition

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It’s December and in  a few short weeks we’ll be exposed to the yearly custom; The New Year’s Resolution. While most people find the exercise abhorrent and cheesy, we still think, ponder and hope and want to make lists between the highs and lows of holiday parties and the guilt and happiness that comes with them.

New Year’s resolutions are of course a reflection of us all wanting to do better. Humans have that unique quality unlike most mammals that we get up in the morning and can make a conscious decision to be a better person; to rise above eating, surviving and reproducing.

Rather than ask our friends and acquaintances what their New Year’s Resolutions are we should be working on a blueprint for Our Ideal Life and what we are going to do next to get there.

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We all would like more money and the freedom that financial security brings. To be able to have the time and energy to have high quality experiences with our friends and loved ones. We all want to have meaningful work that not only makes the world a bit better because of us, but gives us the recognition of being part of a successful community. We all hope to find and keep that special person in our lives that brings us emotional and physical satisfaction.

But all of the above are larger than life generalizations. Just wanting them is not enough. Margaret Cho once said that she dreamed of being surrounded by muscular men. She didn’ realized they’d all be gay. “I should have been more specific!” she exclaimed. And so we have to do that too. How much money would it take? How long would it take to get there? How would you do that? What do you need to do next?

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What type of work would make you happy and fulfilled? Who do you know who is doing that type of work? How did they get there? What have you done in the past that has made you feel successful? appreciated? What do you need to do next?

What does your ideal day look like with a partner? What do you do in the morning? What does he/she look like?  What are your deal-breakers? What can you  accept as a financial burden with a partner? (no, two cannot live as cheaply as one).  here are you looking for a partner? online? church? gym? How has this worked out so far? What do you need to do next?

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A Walk in the Woods With a 20-year-old Gay Man

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.

 

This Time I’m Wearing My Own Clothes To My Wedding

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This Time I’m Wearing My Own Clothes To My Wedding

One week from today I will be married in the rotunda of San Francisco City Hall. My soon-to-be husband and I have been together for over ten years and even though we keep saying to ourselves nothing will really change…it really does feel some kind of wonderful to have it finally happen.

You see for us, gay marriage was not even a dream a decade ago. I was born in 1950, he is a year older, born in 1949. We both married women in our early 20s thinking that society would never accept our hidden desires; to have a stable emotional relationship with someone you were physically attracted to. Homosexuality was still listed as a deviant behavior in the medical books on the day we both married women in the 1970’s. In a rented tux, in a world that called me sick, I vowed to uphold the laws of Moses, swear undying love to a woman I had sex with while dreaming of a man’s body. Six groomsmen and my own father in clothes we did not own stood by me and witnessed this expensive, religious, lovely charade.

I am not making excuses for entering into my first marriage with false pretenses. I knew I was gay, experienced gay sex before my wedding day, and knew it was going to be a tough go. But I think a lot of straight grooms have second thoughts on the big day for as many good reasons; doubt, honesty, pressure to conform, family obligations, etc.

I did hurt my ex-wife’s expectations of her life plan. Well more than that actually, I probably ruined her life for a few years with my coming out. She had suspicions of course, but you really only see what you want to see and even though my teenage son figured it out one afternoon when I eyed a hot waiter while he eyed a buxom waitress at the same restaurant.

This time will be different. Not only have over four decades passed, but a seismic shift in the political, religious and societal scene on marriage equality. My fiancé and I shopped together for the slacks, shirt, sweater and even matching belts that a city clerk will preside over our union. To be frank, the rabbi that married us had the personality of a cardboard box and left the rabbinate a month after my first rented tux wedding to become an accountant.

In my own skin, in my own clothes, with full love and devotion, I am getting married next week. Sorry about the first one, I had my doubts, remember?

Photo by docnate75

The New Seven Deadly Sins and the Internet Haters of Spencer’s Home Depot Proposal

We are all familiar with the Christian version of the seven deadly sins: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony. These are known as Cardinal Sins…making them even more ominous. Lately there has been a revision. The new ones adjusted for our economic, political and new sexual issues are: Apathy, Cruelty, Duplicity, Hypocricy, False Morality, Abuse of Power, and Cultivated Ignorance. At first, the revised sins look like a rehash of the first but on more careful examination you can see the subtle differences.

From our politicians to the Kardashians to our sports heroes, we can see many examples of all seven of the new sins on our televisions, smartphones, iPads, and of course print media. This blog was going to be a careful discussion, complete with examples and analogies (thank you Mrs. Kolodny, my 10 grade High School English teacher.) But then I saw “The Proposal” one of now several million that witnessed and cried through, “Spencer’s Home Depot Proposal” now a YouTube legend.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, unsuspecting Dustin goes a Home Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah with his roomate to look for supplies for a party. In a deserted aisle he is escorted to a raised platform, puzzled he sees a choregraphed flash mob dancing and lip-synching the song, “Somebody Loves You,” by Betty Who. Soon his family shuffles out, complete with parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. He is recording the event on his phone for his boyfriend, still oblivious that this is a marriage proposal. Soon his boyfriend comes out for the finale, and on bended knee with ring the proposal is complete.

I cried. No really cried. Had to get up and get a paper towel cried. I immediately went to Facebook (doesn’t everyone do that when they have an emotional experience today?) to post and proudly declare my own love for my soon-to-be husband. What I found there was 1. I was a few hours late (no big deal) 2. there were people who HATED the video and not for the usual reasons. You see it wasn’t homophobia that was rampant..it was my own LGBT brothers who were hating on Spencer and Dustin. “It’s so 2008 those flashmobs” “They won’t last a year” They probably have accounts on GRINDR and A4A” (gay hookup sites) “Of course he got a proposal, he’s hot” etc. etc.

A few things ran through my head as I read the negative comments. First, did ANYONE notice that this was Salt Lake City – Salt Lake Fucking Mormon City – where they raised millions to pass Prop 8 writing discrimination into the State of California’s laws. And it was inside a Home Depot a large corporation (granted, they have good record with LGBT rights). Second, they are in their early 20’s and the parents and siblings were there? Seriously? You are hating on them? When most of us were in our 20’s we were so far in the closet we knew everyone’s shoe size. Our boyfriends were still “roomates” or “good friends” and we all had at least one relative who would rather not breathe the same air as we do much less have our small children witness a gay marriage proposal.

No, what I saw on my list of friends on Facebook hating on Spencer and Dustin was a generational gap fueled by several of the New Seven Deadly Sins, Hypocrisy and Institutional Ignorance at the forefront. There is a new world out there with our young LGBT brothers and sisters that we may never fully understand, but should accept with open arms. They truly are standing on our shoulders, our fight was won and we should celbrate them, not diss them. Congrats to Spencer and Dustin, I’m going to watch it again and have a good cry.

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Are we ‘shoulding’ all over ourselves? A Yom Kippur Tome

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Like many Jews I am not very observant …not by most standards. I know of the holidays being brought up by observant but cynical Jewish parents, went to Hebrew School, got married under a chupah (yes I tried) and went through the motions on all holidays at synagogue; waiting – waiting- patiently waiting to feel it. Never happened.

I am not an Atheist. I do believe in a higher power, a universal life energy that goes beyond present understanding. My partner and I do light candles on Shabbat – rarely – but we do it. We are full paying members of an LGBT friendly and affirming Reform Temple and my three appearances a year there reminds me that so many others seem to know what they SHOULD do.

Today at the gym (all gay men go to the gym on Friday – it’s the law like going to the mikveh after a period) an older Jewish gentleman that I barely know waived his finger at me at said, “Remember, no food tomorrow” Something inside me clicked and I snapped back, “Don’t wave your fucking finger at me…ever!” I know that it was rude and crass, but in that moment I was shutting the door on my parents who taught me to do as they say, not as they do, my Hebrew School teachers who had no idea how to teach much less convey what their brand of Judaism was about, and all the finger wavers in my life that have told me what I “SHOULD” be doing on Yom Kippur.

I am a good Jew.

I believe that we should leave the world a better place. I understand “Tikun Olam” – literally fix the world. I believe people can make a difference in the world by treating others with respect and not doing to anyone what you wouldn’t want done to you.. – but – to many, I am not a good Jew – at least in their eyes. My sexual orientation that I was born with, my distaste of Orthodox Judaism, my global world view of spiritual acceptance do not sit well with many. I am an openly gay Jewish man with a husband. I believe that the Bible/Torah was and is a bunch of fairly tales meant to teach lessons, like snapping a dog with a newspaper.

So tonight I will go to Kol Nidre, I will sit next to my husband, and we will chant and occasionally hold hands. Tomorrow I am NOT fasting, I am going about my day as any other day. It’s sparring day at my Karate school.

I am a good Jew.

A Most Beautiful Man

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A most beautiful man sitting at the outside window table at Starbucks on Lincoln Road in South Beach, FL. He was dressed casually but crisply and you knew he just threw the outfit on from his closet without a thought; but the black fitted hooded pullover, cargo shorts, the leather flips – blended with his taught defined chest, muscular tanned calves and gentle wisps of just-the-right length arm and leg hair.

His face belied no worries, casual – gorgeous and almost ready for his male model photoshoot – like scores of others on Lincoln Road that day, but I was blessed with sitting not ten feet away drinking in his every pose.

I stared at him briefly – he never looked up from his book or focused on anything other than an occasional blank stare at the cacophony of pedestrians outside.

Just as I exhaled feeling satisfied to be in his presence, but slightly envious of his relaxed beauty – an elderly man – badly in need of a haircut, bath and meal, nervously crept up to his table walking past mine – and carefully pulled out the opposing chair to my Starbucks Adonis and began to sit down; folding himself awkwardly into the space with his complementary ice water, wad of napkins and shopping bags.

The most beautiful man looked up in amazement – not a word was exchanged between them – their eyes must have met for a brief moment and a slight look of disgust flickered in the most beautiful man’s eyes.

And with a wheezing exhale they settled in together from different worlds on an afternoon at Starbucks.

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Things I Totally Suck At

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If you have ever typed in “self-help” into Amazon, you would know that there are over 35,000 active entries of books you can buy that will ultimately change your life, if only in your wallet, and/or hard drive. We love to buy books, I’m not sure anyone really reads them, but that’s not what this blog is about.

Things I Totally Suck At

Like many Jewish Gay Men growing up in the suburbs I was not encouraged to play sports. God I tried, but with “don’t get hurt, don’t get sunburned, don’t get dehydrated, etc.” constantly being drummed by my mother, aunts, and grandmother it was pretty hard for me to get out there and get sweaty and dirty. I played violin. Yes, in elementary school, high school and into college – violin! And people were surprised when I came out??? really??

In my late 30s and early 40s I hit the gay body bug and began working out…America’s Gay Religion.
My body responded nicely as I researched, planned, and executed my workouts the same way I achieved my 3 college degrees (I got a 4th later but who’s counting?) But I was still a klutz, totally unco-ordinated. I could do my curls, my squats, my kick-backs. I could count carbs and shave my back all by myself.

I still can’t jump rope.
At all.

But when I started to think about what I really sucked at….not the physical, I realized that I have trouble remembering to say good-bye to people. Many times in a conversation I’ll just end my last sentence and get up and leave. That’s it! I have no idea why or where I picked up this habit, but a few friends have caught me and said, “Hey Nate… you’re leaving me hanging here!… you done? Tell me!” At first thought I thought it was because I was gay growing up. (Isn’t that the reason for all our negative behavior?) Obviously my low self-esteem was to blame for my abrupt departures. I never brought this up in my many therapy sessions or late night talks with close friends or lovers. There were bigger fish to fry. There was finding love, keeping love, marriage equality, HIV discrimination, where to vacation, who to invite for brunch; how could my pattern of not wanting to say goodbye be of any interest to anyone…including me?

20130825-102251.jpg One of my many attempts to be a physically co-ordinated man. That is me on the right fighting in a tournament.

Maybe someday I’ll figure it out. Maybe I won’t if anyone else has noticed this problem and has found a good way to tackle it, let me know. I’ll try anything except a rubber band on my wrist to snap when I’m misbehaving