Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Review: "All Out: A Father and Son Confront the Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men"

Lately, any books I've read with a gay theme, that I want to make you aware of, I've written about on the "This Gay Relationship" Facebook page.  But this book is so noteworthy, that I want to tell you about it right here.

All Out is by Kevin Newman and Alex Newman, father and son.  Canadians will know Kevin from the work he's done on various TV programs, such as "Global National" and "W5."  Americans will know him as the one-time host of "Good Morning America."  Kevin's been both a news journalist, travelling to some of the riskiest, war-torn areas of the world, and a TV anchor and interviewer.  In other words, he's credible and respectable.  (And, if this matters, he's also very attractive and well-built.)

When I first heard about All Out, I knew I had to read it.  I knew I had to read it for several reasons:

1).  Because it had a gay man in it, Kevin's son, Alex;
2).  Because it was a memoir of sorts for Kevin, whose career had fascinated me, and who I'd hoped would come clean, so to speak, about what had happened to him in his various roles, particularly on "Good Morning America"; and
3).  Because it was about a father and son relationship.

I'm going to back up here and say that, for those readers who know nothing about the relationship I had with my father–I've written about it here in detail, but not in some time–well, I didn't really have a relationship with my father.  He earned the income that kept our household running.  He drank a lot.  He spent a lot of time away from home, partly because of work and partly because he drank a lot.  He and my mother never seemed particularly close.  When he was home, my younger sister and I were more or less a nuisance to him.  He paid little attention to us, and, when he did, it was usually to yell, because we were doing something that prevented him from hearing the TV.  Or, worse, to hit.  He never showed me that he loved me, in a way that I recognized as love.  In fact, I went through my entire life believing he didn't love me at all, that he'd wished I wasn't born.

My father passed away in January 2013.  For about two years prior, I'd carried on a sometime email relationship with him, after not talking to or seeing him for well over a decade.  I'd hoped rekindling our relationship, such as it was, would give him the opportunity, as he grew older and more infirm, to connect with me in a way he never had.  But that didn't happen. He remained indifferent toward me to the very end.  I didn't mourn his death, and I don't miss him.  The way I look at it, you can't miss what you never had.

Back to All Out.

What I wanted from this book was to be taken into Kevin and Alex's father/son relationship–to see how it worked, what they'd had before Alex came out in 2004, at the age of seventeen, and what they had afterward.  Perhaps, on some level, I hoped to feel re-parented by Kevin, accepted by him, even though I'm gay, and even though Kevin and I are the same age.  I hoped to see what a strong relationship between a father and son looked like, because I'd never had one, and because, I guess, I still need one.

What I got was so much more.

All Out would not have succeeded if Kevin and Alex hadn't come completely clean about the nature of their relationship.  It would have been nothing more than another memoir, albeit it one about a father and son, with no teeth and nothing much to offer.  In other words, a waste of the reader's time.

But it's nothing like that.  Come clean Kevin and Alex did.  And I commend them for that, for the depth of their openness and honesty.  To use an expression common today, they "went all the way there," revealing deeply personal aspects of their individual lives, and their lives together as father and son.

I related to so many aspects of Alex's life–the fear he felt knowing he was different, facing that, wondering how he would come out to this family, and how they'd feel about him afterward.  The details of Alex's life were different from mine, but, in many respects, he wrote my story, and he did a beautiful job of it.  If you're a young person, and you need your feelings about being gay validated, Alex's story will do that for you.  

And Kevin…well, Kevin literally blew me away.  His chapters, taking him all the way from thinking he was perfectly fine having a gay son (when he wasn't), to dancing at Vancouver Pride, shirtless (because it was a hot day), with other gay men, even though his son wasn't there, are eyeopening, and revelatory, and satisfying in a way few books are.

In short, I came away from All Out with profound respect for Kevin and Alex Newman, what they did with this important and worthwhile book, and with the resolve to bring it to your attention, and to recommend it as heartily as possible.  

Please read All Out.  It's worth your time.  I guarantee it.


This is Kevin's interview with Scott Heggart*.


*Scott is right.  The reason why he wasn't bullied, in comparison to the other Canadian young man, who ended up taking his life, was because Scott was respected for his sporting ability, and because Scott didn't come across as gay in an obvious way.

We have to change this.  As a society, we need to recognize there are many different ways of being gay, none better or worse than any other.  We have to let people be who they are, and accept them for who they are.  Until we get there…                      

My Best Life Advice

As I wrote in a post earlier today, most of the emails I receive are from young people.

Recently, I heard from a couple young people who asked for what I would call “life advice”–that is, advice not necessarily related to being gay, at least not directly.      

After giving their requests some thought, I realized I’m now old enough to be, in most cases, a parent to these young people. And maybe they don’t have the type of relationships with their parents where they feel comfortable asking them what they asked me.  Or maybe they don’t even have parents to ask.    

So, it's in the spirit of being helpful that I offer my best life advice–twelve points that have taken me fifty-six years to learn.  I only wish I’d learned them much sooner.  For the most part, I ignored them, because I didn't think they applied to me, or I'd have time later on to pay attention to them.  Later on is right now.          

Here are the goods, then.  If you’re serious about learning these, and making them a part of your life, I guarantee they’ll make a difference.  On the other hand, if you’re like me, you’ll wait until you’re much older.  Then you’ll realize that Rick, from “This Gay Relationship,” may have known what he was talking about, after all.  

Take them or leave them.  The choice is yours.  

1).  Recognize your self-worth.  It all starts with this one.  If you don’t get it, then you probably won’t get any of the others, either.  And, if you don’t value yourself the way you should, there's no time like right now to start working on that.  Do whatever is necessary to know and accept how valuable you are, just by being here.  After all, there is no one like you on earth, and you are here to do something no one else can.  Recognize your self-worth, and finally get on with the business of being you.  

2).  Eat properly.  I look at it this way.  Your body is a bank account.  Everything you put into it, or do to it, that’s good and healthy is a deposit (deposits are good); everything you put into it, or do to it, that isn't good and healthy is a withdrawal (think of withdrawals as bad).  If you eat nothing but greasy fast food, never exercise, smoke, drink excessively, take drugs, etc., you’re constantly withdrawing from your account.  Eventually, there won’t be anything to withdraw from.  Then what'll happen?  You better believe everything you do to yourself, good or bad, makes a difference.  When you get older, the reality of that really hits you in the head.  Why wait until you’re older to figure it out?

3).  Exercise regularly.  See #2). above.  Ideally, you should try to do some form of exercise (that is, get your heart rate up for an extended period) every day.  If everyday is too often, then three or four times a week, minimum.  Remember, exercise is a deposit, and deposits are good for you.  Put the phone down, get off the couch, and move.  The more you move, the better.

4).  Get adequate sleep.  I can’t stress how critical this is to good health.  There is no substitute for getting between seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.  Without it, your body cannot heal itself properly, and you won’t be able to function at your optimal level. I know what I’m talking about.  I suffered a period of insomnia a number of years ago and became a total mess. I never want to go through that again.  

5).  Believe in a higher power.  I don’t care who or what that higher power is–God, the universe, whatever.  Believe something is in control of everything that’s happening right now.  Have faith there’s a master plan, that your life is unfolding exactly as it should be (because it is).  Belief in a higher power will get you through the stuff of life, will help you believe what you’re going through, good or bad, is for a reason.  Learn from it.  When it passes (as all things do), you’ll be stronger than you are now.  And you’ll be in a better place to help someone going through the same thing.

6).  Practice mindfulness.  Live in the moment.  The bottom line is, you and I have this one moment only, right now.  So use it.  Get everything out of it that you possibly can. Stop obsessing about or regretting the past, and stop worrying about the future.  Believe you have only this moment, live like you do, and you’ll be so far ahead of the game.

7).  Create something.  The soul’s food is creativity.  It doesn’t matter what that creativity looks like–from coloring in one of those new adult coloring books, to writing poetry, to cooking, to whatever.  Creating not only feeds the soul, it says you were here, and your being here mattered.  Don’t deny your soul what it most needs to make you feel fully alive.  You know in your heart what you've always wanted to create.  Now, go do it.

8).  Be grateful.  I can’t overemphasis this.  When you’re grateful, you focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have.  And, believe me, you have a lot.  If you have food in your mouth, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head, you have more than many millions of people around the world do.  Gratitude is free (it's also freedom).  Gratitude is a way of life.  Gratitude tells you that you have enough.  Because you do.  Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude.  It’ll transform your life.

9).  Focus on the positive.  This one goes hand-in-hand with being grateful.  How easy it is to get caught up in the trap of negativity, to be brought down by the many minor inconveniences known as everyday life.  Resist that temptation.  Don’t let the negative get to you.  Don’t let negative people to get to you.  Don’t let any of it control you or how you feel. You’re much stronger than that.  

10).  Breathe.  If you are drawing breath right now, you have so much to be grateful for.  Sometimes, when things are really bad, all you can do is breathe.  Stop yourself.  Quiet down your body and mind.  Focus on your breathing.  Take a deep breath in through the nose, and let it out slowly through the mouth.  Do that several times, or as many times as necessary.  Release the stress.  Take back control.  Put your life back into perspective.  

11).  Be kind.  It’s so easy not to be kind, particularly in the cyber world, where some people, their identities unknown, criticize other people all the time–what they say, what they do, their creative efforts.  Practice the tried and true maxim:  “If you don't have anything kind to say, then don't say anything at all."  Look for opportunities to build people up, not to tear them down.  Don’t forget karma.  What you put out comes back to you, ten-fold.  Wouldn’t you rather have kind things come back to you?

12).  Share what you know.  We’re all in this together.  What did Charles Dickens say–all of us are fellow passengers, on our way to the grave?  Then, that being the case, we all have the chance to make each other’s journey a little more pleasant and enlightening and worthwhile by teaching what we learn.  Don’t hold back; give it away, readily and happily.  Someday, someone will do the same for you.                                            

Forty-Four and Stuck

Most of the emails I receive are from young people, usually in their early teens to late twenties.  The advice they seek ranges from, how do I come out to my parents to, how do I deal with my specific relationship issue.

But, this October, I received a couple of emails from a forty-four-year-old man, who I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.  I’ll call him John.  

In his first email, John said the following (note, all comments have been edited):      

I came across your blog about learning to love and accept yourself as a gay man.  Your writing gave me some hope.  I’m 44 and have been “out” for over ten years.  But loving myself, and accepting being gay, have been difficult, as much as I try to.  An inner anxiety always says there’s something wrong and shameful about who I am.  I want nothing more than to be at peace with myself.

After I responded to John’s email, I heard from him again.  Here, in part, is what he said:

Last night, I read all of the steps to loving yourself on your blog.  It helps to have some practical things to do.  I have been seeing a therapist for a year, and we have talked about some of the things in your blog.  Particularly, being mindful of thoughts, or mindfulness.  Observing thoughts and learning to recognize when my inner critic starts to antagonize myself.  I do feel I’m aware and more conscious of the negative thoughts and inner critic.  I try to use loving kindness mantras, such as “May I be safe.  May I be peaceful.  May I be kind to myself.  May I accept myself as I am.  May I accept my life as it is.”  Some days, I do better than others.  

Some specific thoughts that cause fear/anxiety/depression I feel are from my religious upbringing.  Such as, “Having sex with a man is a sin.  I am living outside God’s plan for my life.  I am abnormal.  I am not a real man if I am unable to love and cherish a woman.  I will never experience the love of a family and children.  My sexual desires and actions are a result of both psychological pathology and spiritual corruptness.”  There are more thoughts I fight, but those seem to be the biggest.

After leaving a Christian church about 10 years ago (because I was tired of fighting being gay and didn’t want to live a double life), I recently started going to an episcopal church.  The priest and I have met a few times for coffee, and he’s shown acceptance of me as being gay and doesn't feel it is wrong or sinful.  He said, ultimately, I have to find acceptance on my own, and believe that God loves and accepts me as a gay man.  I agree with him.  It is something that has to come from inside.  I just don’t know if I will ever be free from the anxiety and fear that is inside me.  It has affected my getting close to others, in relationships especially.  Because, if I cannot accept myself and love myself, how will I love another person the way they deserve to be loved?

I will read more of your posts on self-esteem tonight.  I don’t want to give up.

Whew!  That's a lot to take in.  

I didn’t say this to John, but his email got to me in a way most don’t.  It got to me because of how open and honest he was, laying out the details of his struggle, and, in the process, making me feel his pain.  The fact is, I could have been John, had I not made the decision, way back in January 1986, that I wasn’t going to live like John anymore.  

But I was twenty-six then, and John’s forty-four now.  FORTY-FOUR!  I couldn’t imagine sustaining the soul-crushing anxiety and fear and frustration I’d felt, trying to reconcile the sinful, repulsive person I was told I was, with the scared, innocent, and good person I knew I was, until I was forty-four.  I would have lost my mind, for sure.  

So I read John’s email many more times, and I gave it some thought over several days before I responded to him.  I want to share that with you now, in case, like John, you’re in the same place, and you don’t know how to get out of it.  

Here’s what I said:

You’re doing all the right things:
  1. You’ve seen a therapist to help you deal with some of the stuff in your life;
  2. You’re trying to be mindful, live more in the moment, be more conscious;
  3. You’re practicing “loving, kindness mantras.”  (Although may I suggest that rather than ask permission–“May I…”–that you tell yourself–“I am peaceful,” “I am kind to myself,” etc.  Feel the difference?)
  4. You’ve addressed the religion issue, as it relates to homosexuality, by leaving one church and joining another, where you feel more support; and
  5. You’ve spoken to your pastor, who’s given you meaningful and relevant advice.
In other words, you’re not sitting back, waiting for something magical to happen, so you can become the fully-realized gay man you know you could be.    

But something’s missing, isn’t it?  And while what’s missing maybe not be clear to you, it sure is to me.

You haven’t made the shift yet.  Let me rephrase that.  You haven’t given yourself permission to make the shift yet.  You’re so close–you can feel it–but you just can’t do it. 

The shift I’m talking about, of course, is the one in your head, where, finally, once and for all, you decide you are a wonderful human being, just as you are, and you don’t deserve to feel about yourself the way you do.  That you’re as entitled to love and to be loved, both by yourself and with someone else, as anyone who’s straight is.

John, it’s time.  Hell, it’s long past time.  You’re forty-four years old, for goodness sake.  How much longer do you want to go on like this?

Everything is helping you overcome your fear and anxiety about being gay, but you’re stuck.  Well, only you can unstick yourself.  ONLY YOU!  I can’t do it, although I’m giving it my best shot (in this email and in my blog).  At this point, the only way you’ll ever accept and love yourself is if you decide, from this moment onward, I will accept and love myself. Period.   

All that negativity I felt about myself in the past?  Gone.  I’m done with it.  It controlled my life, and my happiness, for far too long.  Now, today, this moment, I will believe not what people have told me about being gay–not what our culture or my religion has told me–but what I know to be true in my heart and soul:  I am a good person.  I deserve to accept and love myself.  I deserve so much more than what I am now.  

John, you have so much life left to live.  Live it as your authentic self, as the amazing, talented, wonderful man you are.  Live it from a place of inner peace, and acceptance, and love.        

I’m confident the five steps in my blog can at least start you on your journey.  The steps worked for me, and I know they will work for you.  But you need to commit to them, okay?  They are practical, simple, and do-able.  But they only work if you put them in place and keep doing them, day after day.

You owe this to yourself.  You owe this to the people in your life, who are waiting for you to be everything you were meant to be.  And you owe it to your future life partner, who’s waiting for you to embrace yourself fully, so you can embrace him fully too.

Do it, John.  DO IT!  Take the plunge.  It’ll be all right.  It really will.

If you're interested, the "Five Steps to Loving Yourself as a Gay Person" start here.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lonely Gay Couple

Three short blocks away from where Chris and I live lives another gay couple.  They've been there at least as long as we've been here (nearly six and a half years).  One is Filipino and I'm guessing in his early 40s; the other is Caucasian and I'm guessing in his late-40s or early 50s.

In six years, we've crossed paths with this couple and quickly said hellos.  They've always been cordial but aloof with us, and we've always been cordial but aloof with them.  We've never introduced ourselves–the opportunity's never come up, or we've never made the opportunity. 

And, honestly, I'd like nothing more than to meet them, or to have another gay couple as friends–to go out for dinner or see a movie with, or to go out to the local gelato shop for a treat on a hot summer evening.  It's just Chris and me now–mostly has been during the twenty-three years we've been together–and we could use some friends.  We really could.

The other night, I was reading through some of the search words readers have used to find my blog.  And no fewer than three out of ten were people who were older, in relationships, and wanting to meet other people like themselves.

Which made me realize Chris and I aren't alone (what a relief that was).  My experience has been that single gay men find it relatively easy to befriend each other, but gay couples don't find it easy to meet other gay couples, and I've wonder why that's the case.  I've wanted to write about this for years but didn't know what I'd say.  Perhaps, in the process of writing about it now, I'll figure it out. 

The truth is, if you're reading this, and you think I have answers as to how gay couples can meet each other for friendship, then I'm sorry to disappoint you.  If I had those answers, I'd have used them by now myself, and Chris and I would have a small but meaningful network of friends (because I don't believe in spreading myself too thin over lots and lots of friends, and I haven't had great experiences with friends in the past, which has made me leery about meeting new people).

As I write this, it occurs to me there are two types of loneliness.   

Of course, there's the loneliness you feel when you're single (which I'm still all too familiar with).  You may or may not have lots of friends, but, because you don't have that special someone in your life yet, you still feel lonely, like something's missing.  (Because I've been both single and coupled for long periods of time, I can tell you something is definitely missing when you're single–although many single people say they're happy to be single and wouldn't want it any other way.  I have my doubts.) 

And there's the loneliness you feel when you're coupled.  Just because you have that special someone in your life doesn't mean you don't feel the loneliness of not having friends outside of the relationship you can talk to and do things with, either singly or as a couple.

But therein lies the problem, at least for me.  Chris and I are secure in our relationship.  We've been together for a long time.  Perhaps one of the reasons why we've been so successful as a couple is because we haven't had the distractions of friends.  I suspect a good many relationships have failed because one or both people in the couple focused too much time and attention on their friends and not enough on each other.  I want to spend my time with Chris.  I want him to be my best friend, which he is.  It's just that I'd like our world to be a little broader than it is now, to include other people.

Why haven't either Chris or I introduced ourselves to the couple living a mere three blocks from us?  I can't answer for Chris, but I can for me.

Because I'm worried they already have full lives (as most people do), with a wide circle of friends, and don't have enough space to fit us in.

Because, even though they're another gay couple, Chris and I may have nothing in common with them (who wants our sexual orientation to be the only thing we have in common–that's not enough, at least for me, to sustain a friendship).

And because (I'm being honest here) I don't want, in any way, to jeopardize what I have with Chris.

I'm not saying the couple down the street have an open relationship–maybe they do, maybe they don't.  But, if they do, and one or the other takes a liking to either Chris or me–or by our interest in them as friends, they think we're open to playing around–things could get complicated.  And I don't want to shit in my own yard, so to speak.  Chris and I already had problems with a straight neighbor that caused a lot of grief, on both sides, and I don't want to go through that again.  I can't go through that again. 

So, for now, Chris and I remain a lonely gay couple, eager to meet other gay couples, but not sure how to go about it, and, if we're honest, not sure, in some respects, if we really want to. 

If we meet other gay couples, we want them to be the right ones.  By right ones, I mean people who like us, and who we like, as human beings (that is, have the same, or similar, values, etc.).  I mean people who support us and don't interfere, or try to tell us how to live our lives.  And I mean people who don't complicate what Chris and I have, because what we have is pretty terrific.

I guess that sums up where we're at now, and how I feel.  In writing this, I haven't come up with any answers to help us with our challenge.  If you've been in a similar situation, and you've figured out what to do, let me know.  I'm open to suggestions.          

Monday, August 10, 2015


Chris and I live at the far end of Metro Vancouver.  So, about every six weeks or so, we make a point of going into the city, visiting some of our favorites areas (South Granville, Kitsilano, downtown), favorite shops (Pottery Barn, Chapters, Chintz & Co.), and favorite restaurants (Stephos, Cactus Club Cafe, Milestones).

One of our other favorite shops is The Cross Decor & Design.  Located in Yaletown, on the corner of Homer and Davie, The Cross is unique among home decorating stores.  It's stylish, for sure, but also relaxed and cozy.  It's also playful and whimsical.  The Cross is a fun place to visit any time we're on an adventure in the city.     

A gay man works at The Cross.  He's short, a little overweight, and bald.  If I had to guess, I'd say he's in his mid- to late-30s.  His salt-and-pepper beard is attractive, as is his warm and easy smile. 

What really sets him apart from many places where gay men work is his friendliness.  Not fake friendliness.  Not the kind of friendly he has to be, because he's the employee, and we're the customers.  No, genuine friendliness.  He makes me feel like I'm a long, lost friend.  He makes me feel like he cares about us.  He makes me feel good being in The Cross. 

Some time ago, this man introduced himself to me.  Chris was off doing his thing elsewhere in the store, and this man and I came into contact with each other.  He told me his name, but I'm ashamed to admit I'm not good with names, and I've since forgotten it.  Let's call him Brian–as good a name as any.

I happened to be talking with Brian while Chris walked up.  I introduced Chris to him.  Brian was equally friendly with Chris.  He had to have known Chris and I were a couple; he's seen us in there together before.  The three of us talked for a few minutes, minor stuff, connecting.  None of our conversation felt forced.  Brian's warmth came through.  He's a nice man.

Weeks later, when Chris and I returned to The Cross, I saw Brian again.  He made a point of talking to me.  Again, conversation was easy.  He was warm and friendly, like he'd been before.  When I told him I had to go, he said it was good to see me again.  I believed him.  It was good to see him again too.

Whenever I go into The Cross, I hope Brian will be there.  I hope I'll have the chance to talk to him.  He's one of the reasons why I like to go in to The Cross.   

Lately, I've found different places to work on my novel.  There's the Silent Study room at the local public library (where an old Asian gentleman peers at his computer screen through a tiny magnifying glass and slurps on his own saliva, which is very distracting).  There's the lobby at The ACT (Arts Club Theatre).  Sometimes, there's a local coffee shop.  And, about once a week, where I indulge in a grande Mocha Frappuccino nonfat no-whip, there's the Starbucks location closest to where Chris and I live.

A gay young man works at Starbucks.  He's short, sports a thick head of neatly-styled hair, and a thin beard.  If I had to guess, I'd say he's in his early-twenties.  He dresses in the latest fashion, wears glasses, and smiles quickly.  Then it's gone.  I'll call him Paul. 

Everything Paul does is quick.  He's like a whirling top around that coffee shop.  He's here, he's there, looking after this, then that, and that.  He's not shy.  He knows a lot of people, and he interacts with them without holding back.  In years past, he'd have been called a "going concern."  He makes things happen.  People seem to like him.

The first time he saw me, I was sitting at the table closest to the door.  He was just coming on to his shift.  He gave me a lingering look, the one gay men know as an acknowledgement of each other's sexual orientation.  No smile, no nothing.  Then he was gone.  He's avoided looking at me since.

One day, after I'd ordered my mocha frap, I stood in the area where people wait for their drinks.  Paul happened to be making the drinks then.  

In the past, when my drink's been handed to me, I've always gotten a smile from the Starbucks employee, and they've always made sure I had a straw to enjoy my drink with.  In other words, they've been friendly.  They've made an effort to be pleasant.  They've made me feel appreciated, like they were happy I came in that day.  

When Paul realized he was making my drink, he seemed to move even faster than usual.  Mocha frap in hand, he whipped it across the counter at me and blurted what it was.  No smile, no straw–no appreciation for coming in that day.  He couldn't have turned away from me fast enough to return to whatever else he had to do.

These past two weeks, Paul hasn't been working in that Starbucks location when I've been there.  The other employees, mostly young women, have been so nice to talk to, so friendly.  Especially the one usually taking the orders.  She's opened up to me, and we've chatted a bit.   

For me, at least, the atmosphere without Paul has been easier, more relaxed.  I feel comfortable when he's not around.  Maybe he's moved on to something else.  I hope.

Update as of August 12, 2015:

Nope.  Paul hasn't moved on to something else.  He was at work today, just as indifferent to me as before.  Oh, well…

Friday, August 7, 2015

Advice to a Young Reader

For those of you who follow my blog, and keep checking back from time to time to see if I've written something new, thank you.  I appreciate your interest.  And loyalty.

No doubt, you've noticed I haven't written anything for a while.  In the introduction to a guest post a month or so ago, I explained why.  But I want to add that, for me anyway, when you haven't said anything for a while, you want to be sure that, when you do, it's worthwhile.  That someone will get something out of it.  I hope that's the case here. 

Let me set this up.  

Over the past six-plus years, since I've had this blog–but especially since I've made it about helping gay people build the relationships they need with themselves–I've received emails from many gay people, mostly young men and women.  Some write a single email with a burning question, which I answer as honestly as I can.  Others become friends and continue an email exchange with me over time.  

What you'll find below is a response to an email I received several days ago, from a young, foreign student in a major Canadian city, who I've corresponded with, on and off, for over two years.  He's struggling with being single and lonely, and he wanted to know how he could meet other young men.  Here's what I had to say, which, if you're in the same place, I hope you'll find helpful.  


Your question, about how to meet more young men to date, is the twenty-five-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it?  If I had an easy answer, I could share it with lots of young people like you, and potentially make a lot of money. 

As I thought about your dilemma over the past few days, it occurred to me you’re approaching it from the wrong angle.  I believe that, if you go out specifically looking for something–or someone, in this case–you probably won’t find it.  That is, if you deliberately try to find someone you’ll be interested in, you probably won’t. At least that was my experience, and it’s the experience of many gay men I’ve known or heard from through my blog.

Believe it or not, you are already doing the things that will help you be successful at what you want.  You're socializing with friends.  You have a job.  And you’re working out and looking after yourself.  These are all ways to feel better about yourself, to build your confidence, and to network with other people.  They certainly beat sitting at home, never putting yourself out there, and wondering why you haven’t found someone yet.

So keep doing what you’re doing.  Keep building yourself up, physically, mentally, and spiritually. All of that will not only increase your confidence, but also it will make you more the kind of well-rounded person young men will be interested in. When you feel better about yourself, you’ll send out the right vibes to people around you.  And, when you see someone you like, you’ll be more inclined to approach that person and initiate conversation.  There is no substitute for working on yourself.  It will help you in all areas of your life.

If you don’t already, you probably should frequent gay bars and clubs.  A lot of people will tell you that you'll never meet a quality young man there; I might have said the same thing myself about twenty-five years ago, when I went to the clubs weekly and had no success at all.  But, then, on a fateful evening in June 1992, I met Chris at a club.  And, twenty-three years later, we’re still together.  It worked for me, and I know it's worked for a good many gay men like Chris and me. 

The thing about gay clubs today–which I’ve only read about, since I don’t frequent them any longer–is there are fewer of them than there used to be, and they don’t draw young, gay men like they used to.  Back in the day, gay clubs were the only safe places gay men could go to be themselves.  With greater acceptance of gay people in general, particularly in countries like Canada, there are other options.  The challenge for you is to figure out what those options are.

So let’s say you like photography.  Without going into it thinking you might meet someone, perhaps you should join a photography club.  Not only will you do what you like, but also you’ll meet other people–that you wouldn’t otherwise–and you might even meet another gay, young man who likes photography too.  See what I’m getting at?  What are you passionate about?  What do you love to do?  You might even find a group frequented by gay men who like to do the same thing.  You never know.  In the area where you live, I’m sure there are lots of options.  You just have to do a little research.

Regarding online dating, I haven’t tried it myself (fortunately, I haven’t had to), but I’m thinking some sites are probably more reputable than others.  Some will be hook up sites for sure, but others, like the gay equivalents of the legitimate straight online dating sites, will be much better, with a higher-quality clientele.  

You could do like my sister did when she used online dating sites to meet the man she’s now been with for eight or so years:  When you connect with someone, and you both seem genuinely interested in each other, communicate online for a period of time, getting to know each other better before actually meeting.  My sister didn’t meet her fellow in person for five or six months, during which they emailed each other, eventually spoke on the phone, and exchanged pictures.  If a young man you’re interested in online doesn’t care to wait that long, and you’re not yet comfortable meeting him in person, then you know he isn’t the one for you.  Let your heart and your conscience be your guide.  You'll know when it's the right time to meet someone.  When you do, make sure it's in a safe, public place, and never get drawn into anything you’re not comfortable with.  Never allow your need to meet someone to override your common sense and decision-making ability.

I’m proud of you for taking my advice about not giving yourself to someone physically until you love him.  That said, in the perfect world, that would be great advice to follow, but, in the real world, it may be unrealistic.  

There’s a big difference between throwing yourself at every man you see, because you’re desperate for physical attention and gratification (which a lot of gay men do), and being with the occasional young man you find attractive and feel a connection to.  See the difference?  In the former case, you think only with your penis; in the latter, you think with the head on your shoulders.  As long as you think with your head, as long as you remain in control of what’s going on, and as long as you respect and love yourself not to get involved in something that’s counter to what’s most important to you (that is, your values, etc.), then you should be fine.  

Open the door just a little to sweet and comforting physical contact with another young man.  You don't have to go all the way, if you don’t want to.  If he wants oral or anal sex, and you’re not ready to do either with him, let him know.  And don't allow him to convince you to do something you don't want to.  If you feel any pressure from him, no matter how much you might like him or feel a connection to him, he’s not the one for you.  If he respects you the way you should respect yourself, and he’s perfectly fine with your decision not to have oral or anal sex, then you have a quality young man on your hands.  Maybe oral and anal with him isn’t in your immediate future, but it could be down the road, once you know each other better, and once you feel more inclined to share yourself with him in that way.  The choice is always yours.

I know how it feels to find yourself in a social scene where you don’t fit in.  That describes me perfectly, when I was your age.  First, I didn’t fit in with my fellow classmates at school, because I knew I was different from them, and because I knew, back then, if they knew I was gay, they wouldn't accept me. 

But things got no better when I met other gay, young men like me.  They did things I didn’t like.  For example, they smoked (a lot), and they drank a lot.  In many cases, they did drugs and had a lot of anonymous sex.  You can’t imagine how frustrated I felt when I thought I’d finally found my people–the people I should be comfortable with–but I still didn’t fit in, because I was so different from them.  

So it’s difficult, but it’s also necessary, to stay in some sort of contact with other young, gay men. Although you might not think you’ll feel comfortable, you won’t know for sure until you’re there and try.  Don’t color every upcoming experience with what you know of that type of experience from the past.  Keep yourself open to meeting new people and having new experiences.  Even when you feel uncomfortable and end up leaving, you’ll still develop social skills that will help you in the future. Every experience you have will contribute to helping you become the young man you were meant to be.  And you never know–you might just find the love of your life on one of those occasions.  You certainly have less of an opportunity to meet someone who will be important to you, in terms of being either a good friend or maybe even a life partner, if you don’t make the effort, if you don’t try.  Make sense?

You are so kind to call me a mentor.  I appreciate being a positive influence for you, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.  I sincerely hope I’ve said something here that helps you on your journey.

One last word:  Everything you’re doing now is exactly what you should be doing. Your life is unfolding as it should.  Just because you haven’t found someone to date yet, someone to call your own, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.  It just means the time isn’t right.  I believe–even though some people think I’m misguided in this–that, when it’s meant to happen, you will meet the young man you’re supposed to.  I say that because, in my own life, it was true.  

I wish I’d met Chris ten years before I did, but God or the Universe or whatever had other plans for me.  I wasn’t ready yet.  I see that now, but I didn’t then.  I would have made a horrible life partner ten years before I met Chris.  In some respects, I still made a horrible life partner after I met Chris.  But I believe I’d done enough work on myself–was well on my way to being who I needed to be–to get and keep a long-term relationship.  

So many young people, gay and straight, meet who they believe are their life partners before you’re truly ready.  What you must keep in mind–in addition to believing that, when the time is right, you’ll meet the young man you’re supposed to–is this time on your own is critical to your personal development.  Don’t shortchange that.  Don’t think the time you’re on your own is less important, or less valuable, than the time you’ll spend with a partner.  It’s every bit as valuable, maybe more so. This is your time.  This is your time to be everything you were meant to be as a single, young, gay man.  Use it.  Use it fully and with enthusiasm.

Sure, you’ll be lonely from time to time.  Everyone is (believe it or not, some people in relationships are too).  And, sure, you’ll wish you were with another human being, who makes you feel great because he’s with you and no one else–who validates you and makes you feel worthwhile.  

But the one you must always look to for the things you most want from someone else…is yourself. You must give these things to yourself first.  You must respect yourself first.  You must value your own company first.  You must love yourself first.  Only when you do all these things–or you’re well on your way to doing all these things–will you truly be ready to meet that young man who will love you the way you deserve to be loved, and who will change your life in ways you can’t imagine now.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Happy Twenty-Third

Us today in our outdoor living room.

Today is Chris and my twenty-third anniversary.

As I am every day we've been together, I'm filled with gratitude that both of us went to the same place, at the same time, and met.  So many things could have prevented that from happening.  Which just goes to show, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be.

I'm the most fortunate man in the world to have Chris in my life.  I love him with all my heart, and I always will.

Happy anniversary, Sweetheart.  Thank you so much for coming into my life, and for changing it in ways I could never have imagined all those years ago.  You are one special man.