• Archive for June, 2013

    Prelude to a Gay Wedding: Beyond Skin Deep

    June 23, 2013 // No Comments »

    535910_10200807671332340_306206481_nIn a recent post, I asked Dan and Joe why they think more gay people don’t seem to be seeking a lifelong relationship with just one person, be it called marriage or something else. There are plenty of folks who are, for sure, but even in states where gay marriage is now legal, the altars aren’t busy with gay couples taking their vows. Why? Joe and Dan seem so happy in their life together, that I wondered why, to the extent the stereotype is valid, do many gay guys settle for brief, sexual relationships that seem almost terminal from the start. And why are they terminal from the start, if that is the reality and not just a perception?

    Joe and Dan both seemed rather passionate about the topic, so I asked them both to write out their thoughts on the matter. Last time we heard from Joe. Now, it’s Dan’s turn.

    DAN:

    I think it’s less a stereotype and more a reality. But like I said before, you have to ask why this is so. It’s not enough to just write off gays as not wanting or being capable of maintaining long-term relationships. There are reasons, I think, that gays tend to struggle forming solid relationships.

    I think many of us who are gay go through a “phase” when we come out and are new to the community where we hook up as much as possible to compensate for the years of “closet life” and not being able to share affection with another human being. Most gays in the past didn’t get to go through the experimentation and dating phase of the teenage years, and so they go through it later in life when they come out, sometimes in the 30s or even later. I went through my phase, just as Joe went through his, but some gays never leave theirs. They get stuck in it, which is why, at least in Atlanta, that we have so many forty- and fifty-somethings still wearing Abercrombie, going to bars, and expecting to meet “Mr. Right” every night. It’s the only thing they know, because they were never shown anything different. They’ve never had examples of anything else, and often they’ve been told they can’t have anything else.

    We gays often are a community of skin-deep individuals, and relationships cannot be just skin deep in order for them to last forever. We learned from a young age to hide what we really feel and think, to bury the most intimate parts of ourselves because we were taught that it was bad to be gay, and many of us in the gay community have never unlearned that, so we stay very surface level in our relationships, even with other gays. We tend to define ourselves by what we have rather than who we are because, unfortunately, many of us don’t know who we are “the identity crisis Joe talked about”or we don’t like who we are because we’ve internalized all the rejection we’ve received in the past. So we focus on stuff we have instead. This can include having a good body, having a BMW or other flashy car; having more clothes and accessories than any man or woman will ever need, having lots of beautiful friends that can name-drop with the best of them, on and on. All of these things cause problems in straight relationships too, but I think they are a particular problem among the gay community, and they keep us having lots of sex but little depth or longevity in our relationships.

    Mobile apps like Grindr have only made the problem worse. It’s so easy to meet someone right now, have sex right now, and then never see the person again. You can have fun and never have to get to know yourself or the other person. I have friends who do this, and I feel so bad for them because if it begins with sex, it isn’t likely to end in a “forever” relationship.

    Having said this, I realize it’s especially tough in the gay community to meet other gay under healthier circumstances. Besides gay bars and parties, and mobile apps and websites like Grindr, where are gays to go and interact and get to know each other in a healthier way? I encourage my gay friends to check out accepting churches, outdoor clubs, etc., where the focus is less on meeting someone quickly and more on sharing a common purpose or goal with people you get to know over time.

    I really don’t want anyone to think that I am putting down the gay community in any way. I embrace it, love it, and participate in it in ways that I deem appropriate. At one point in my life, before I met Joe about two years ago, I was the guy in the tiny bathing suit bar tending the annual Joining Hearts Pool Party at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, but for me, that was just fun; it was not a life. I knew that I was not going to continue doing those things the rest of my life. Now I’m preparing to get married in a Methodist church right around the corner from my old bar-tending spot, and I am completely okay with that situation!

    I think as gay marriage spreads across the US, our community will slowly become more like the straight community, with lots of single people, divorced people, and married people. Just because we can get married in some states now doesn’t mean that all gays are going to suddenly run out and get married. There’s a lot of work we need to do to build healthier relationships first, but I do think that as more and more twenty- and thirty-somethings commit, become leaders in the community, and demonstrate healthy, loving, married relationships, the trend will spread. Hopefully, Joe and I are a part of that. Our wedding ceremony at the church will be open to anyone who wants to attend, whether they have received an invitation or not. We want people to see what is possible for them too.

    Posted in Gay Marriage, General, Joe and Dan, More Gay Stuff

    Prelude to a Gay Wedding: Dreaming About Forever

    June 16, 2013 // No Comments »

    216172_10150577941505451_320434_nIn the last post, I asked Dan and Joe why they think more gay people don’t seem to be seeking a lifelong relationship with just one person, be it called marriage or something else. There are plenty of folks who are, for sure, but even in states where gay marriage is now legal, the altars aren’t busy with gay couples taking their vows. Why? Joe and Dan seem so happy in their life together, that I wondered why, to the extent the stereotype is valid, do many gay guys settle for brief, sexual relationships that seem almost terminal from the start. And why are they terminal from the start, if that is the reality and not just a perception?

    Joe and Dan both seemed rather passionate about the topic, so I asked them both to write out their thoughts on the matter. In this post, we’ll hear from Joe. Next time, Dan will share his thoughts.

    JOE:

    I think it takes a certain amount of self-confidence and forward thinking to seek a lifelong relationship. Ever since I was little, I was a dreamer and thought about what my life would look like down the road. That for me always included being married and having children. When I started to accept that I was gay, that dream was shaken a bit, which I think happens to many gay people. The fact that being married to someone of the same sex has been seen as wrong or taboo until very recently creates quite a roadblock to envisioning that as a viable future. I am lucky because my brother married his partner back in 2000. If we had more examples of successful, respectable relationships like that to inspire people, I think more gay people might be able to see themselves in that situation.

    Also, I think many gay people go through an identity crisis whenever they get close to coming out. It’s right around the time you come to terms with being gay and decide that maybe it’s okay to admit it and embrace it. That in and of itself brings about a certain level of uncertainty as to who you are and what you hope to be. For many years, you tried to repress yourself and now trying to redefine yourself can be tricky. How can you possibly be in a relationship with someone else if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself, and a good sense of who you are? In my experience I think many gay people do seek relationships but that crisis of self prevents the relationship from being much more than what it is often: two people who are afraid of who and what they are. There’s a kindred spiritual connection there as they both understand what the other is going through. But just having that in common isn’t enough. Lifelong relationships are most successful when they have a lifelong purpose and goals that can grow as the couple grows. If the goal is only companionship, that tends to get routine quickly causing many people to seek something new and exciting. This can lead to infidelity or promiscuity. Dan’s and my “fairytale” relationship started with a few major common goals: raising children, the importance of family, spirituality, living a healthy lifestyle, and dedication to self and each other. As we approach this next phase of our relationship, we now seek new goals as a couple that stem from these and help us grow, building on the foundation that bonded us together from the start.

    Posted in Gay Marriage, General, Joe and Dan, More Gay Stuff

    Prelude to a Gay Wedding: Nurturing a Lifelong Love

    June 6, 2013 // No Comments »

    599204_4130921389587_544780450_nDessert arrives “time is short, and I still have so many questions”coffee ice cream for me, and butter pecan for Joe. Dan, I’ve learned, is diabetic, and settles for a taste of each.

    Why, I ask, do Joe and Dan think more gay people don’t seem to be seeking a lifelong relationship with just one person, be it called marriage or something else. There are plenty of folks who are, for sure, but even in states where gay marriage is now legal, the altars aren’t busy with gay couples taking their vows. Why? Joe and Dan seem so happy in their life together, that I wonder why, to the extent the stereotype is valid, do many gay guys settle for brief, sexual relationships that seem almost terminal from the start. And why are they terminal from the start, if that is the reality and not just a perception?

    Joe suspects it’s a crisis of identity. “When you’ve been told all your life that what you are and what you want is not ok, or even very bad”, Joe says, “and then you see a lot of examples of the gay stereotype being lived out, and you suspect it isn’t love but instead some kind of physical substitution, it’s hard to imagine a healthy marriage for yourself. I’ve always been a total romantic and very traditional, so I’ve always dreamed of being married and having kids just like the rest of my family members.  So that helped me truly believe one day I would.  Also my brother married his husband back in 2000, so I had an example early on of what was possible for me. The ideas that being gay is not an affliction and that marriage is an option are very new concepts in our culture. I think as time goes on, you’ll see a lot more gay people wanting and believing in that one-person-for-life relationship, and making it happen.

    Dan agrees: “I think as gay marriage spreads across the US, our community will slowly begin to look more and more like the straight community, with plenty of single people, married people, and divorced people.”

    Dan also says he thinks the stereotype of gays being overly sexual early on in relationships, and often promiscuous for years after coming out, is largely true. “I think it’s less a stereotype and more a reality” But, Dan cautions, “You have to ask why that’s the case. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘See, gay people are immoral,’ or whatever. Many gay people don’t come out until they’re 25 or 30 or even later, so they never went through a normal pubescent teenage phase. They didn’t get to go through the bad relationships, the mistakes, and the random hookups that teenagers often go through. They’re doing that now at 25 or 30. Part of maturing is working through that stuff. Joe and I both had to go through our own maturing phase, and hopefully we’re a little wiser now. We’ve taken the physical side of our relationship very slowly. We talked early on about how we wanted to save some things for marriage. We want to be an example of that kind of maturity for our kids.”

    “And maturity,” Joe adds, “requires a lot of honesty and transparency with your partner. That’s also hard for a lot of gay people. Think about it, when you’re coming out and acknowledging that you’re gay, that’s as vulnerable and transparent as you can get.  If that level of honesty was met with shame, hatred, or disgust, you often shut down, stay surface-level in your relationships, and not risk being open like that again. I think that’s why a lot of gay relationships never go any further than the physical. Sex can remain surface level. Many gay people don’t know how to be and are often encouraged not to be really honest about their emotional selves, which prevents the kind of intimacy and depth necessary for a truly loving, lifelong relationship.”

    Joe and Dan certainly seem honest with each other. I learn that they have a “no secrets” policy between them. When they find some other guy attractive, they say it.970598_10101673935616463_1679808484_n “It’s how we prevent temptation from getting a hold of us,” Dan says. “It’s unrealistic to think we’re never going to be attracted to anyone other than each other. That’s human nature.  If you start hiding things like that, it gives intrigue and mystery a chance to build into something that could come between Joe and me. We don’t want that, and so we just say it if we think somebody else is attractive. Maybe that approach wouldn’t work for everyone, but it does for us. And most of the time, just admitting the attraction to whoever the other guy is takes the excitement out of it. It reminds us that what we have together is so incredible.”

    Our checks arrive, and we have to wrap up the conversation. Joe and Dan both seem to have much to say about this topic, so I ask them to write out later their extended thoughts when they get home (which I’ll share with you soon).

    We pay and then step outside into a warm, late-spring evening in Charlotte. I thank them for their time and perspective, and tell them how refreshing it is, and how much hope it gives me. I mutter something about how I become cynical about ever finding a guy who wants this kind of one-man-for-life, unbreakable commitment. That’s when Joe says something I’ll never forget: “You have to fight that! If you let yourself become cynical, you become part of the system. You become the problem.”

    We hug, exchange goodbyes, and go separate ways, but that last line hangs with me all the way home. If I let myself become cynical, I become part of the system, and probably ensure I never find what Joe and Dan have.

    Posted in Gay Marriage, General, Joe and Dan, More Gay Stuff