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.

 

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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

What Do We Really Have Control Of?

What do we really have control of in our day to day lives? Some of us believe that for the most part we are the masters of our own destinies. Others are convinced that your life outcomes are based on the zip code you are born in. A child born into a discreet poverty neighborhood with poor schools, a limited family support system and few relatives that are fully employed will have fewer lifetime options than children born elsewhere. Likewise the roll of the dice of genetics can give us height (30% higher wages over a lifetime for men) square jawbones and a pleasing face (teachers call on attractive children and give them higher grades than those deemed unattractive.) No matter how many times your mother and society say “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” we do anyways.

So given that we are born with a few marks for and against us, I feel it all comes down to how we relate to events. You have all seen versions of “Candid Camera” where unsuspecting victims are put in unusual situations and we laugh at how different their reactions are. But really this is a great learning tool. Imagine a coffee shop. Every day at 1PM you walk in, step up to a certain table and seat, and kiss the person on the forehead. You do that every day for a year, 365 days. Sometimes you will be smacked, sometimes you will be rebuffed, other times you’ll get a smile, a laugh, or get thrown out on your ass. Same event, different results. Why? Everyone at a certain time and place has a framework of how we see and react to the world. You might chance upon a person who has recently lost a spouse or relative and your peck on the forehead is just what they needed that day to come back and trust humanity again. You might be very unlucky and kiss a person who was sexually abused and the kiss on the forehead was part of the nightmare they lived.

What all this means is that you really don’t know how people will react to what you say or do at any given time. You make assumptions. Your brain is an excellent tool at filling in the blanks. By the way a person is dressed, their body language, their conversation, etc. gives us cues to make a ‘whole person’ out of the few facts we pick up. so what does this have to do with control?

We have the ability as humans to change our beliefs, either temporarily or permanently depending on our ability to figure out what the best reaction is to a particular event. Of course a hot stove means pull your hand back. Not a lot of control involved there. What about a stranger coming up to you and telling you that you are the handsomest man he’s ever seen? Do you rebuff him because your dating history is such that all men who act this way are pigs? What if he’s the ONE and this is his way of being honest and open?

You have a moment when an event comes at you that you can either get angry, get real, or get out. That very moment you and only you ARE IN CONTROL.

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