Monday, May 18, 2015

Post-Gay (Guest Post)


Over the past five months or so, I’ve heard from a number of readers who’ve asked about my next post–like, where is it?–wondering why I haven’t written anything new for “This Gay Relationship” in nearly half a year. 
There are a number of reasons for that: 
1).  Much of my writing time has been focused on my novel, which is going well (if slowly), but which continues to demand a lot of my time and energy.      
2).  I started a new blog last December focused on what I’m learning in the process of completing my novel (apparently, every serious writer should have a writing blog).  For those of you who are interested, it’s called “Rick Modien’s Writing Blog” (not a very original title, huh?), and you can access it here. 
3).  Continuing to write for “This Gay Relationship” depends on having something new to say about being gay, working through it, and coming out stronger and better.  To be honest, being gay hasn’t been a big deal for me lately.  Increasingly, it’s become just a part of my life, which is, I suppose, exactly what I’ve always wanted it to be.  (That said, I’ve recently come up with a few ideas for new posts that I hope to write, and share with you, very soon.)
4).  While I’ve been so busy working on my novel, I’ve tended to focus more on smaller bits and pieces to share with you, which I’ve done from time to time on the “This Gay Relationship” Facebook page.  These include articles I find on the web, reviews of books I’ve read, and so on.  If you want to take a look at that, please click here.
In short, please be assured I haven’t turned my back on “This Gay Relationship.”  I’ve only taken a break from it, which I’m now about to end, in a manner of speaking. 
Years ago, I made the acquaintances of several readers who either wanted to exchange guest posts with me, or who I asked to write a guest post.  Such was the case recently with Alex, a seventeen-year-old young man from the United States, who found my blog late last year and wrote me an email in early January of this year. 
Since then, Alex and I have gotten to know each other through an ongoing email correspondence (as well as the occasional Skype session) that has seen us discuss a number of topics over time.  I consider him a friend, and he considers me a friend as well as a mentor.  We’ve had some serious “discussions,” but we’ve laughed a lot too.
I admire Alex as a person–his youth, vitality, ideas and opinions (although we haven’t always agreed on everything), and his ability to write.  For some time, I thought about inviting Alex to write a guest blog post for “This Gay Relationship,” because I wanted to feature a sample of his writing on my blog.  I raised the subject with him, and even gave him a topic to write about, if he couldn’t think of anything himself (the topic was one I’d wanted to write about myself, but, when you read it, you’ll see why I wasn’t the right person).  Alex ran with it, and, over the last several weeks, we’ve worked together to prepare his guest post for you.
So, without further delay, it gives me great pleasure to present Alex’s guest post titled “Post-Gay.”  We hope you enjoy reading it.        


***

Post-Gay

by

Alex

 
I'm Alex.

I'm seventeen years-old.

I'm an American.

I'm a human being.

And I’m gay. 


But I also consider myself to be a post-gay teen.  I’m part of the younger generation today that doesn’t have trouble accepting who we are. My sexual orientation doesn’t define me.  Rather, it strengthens me.

But our world isn’t a post-gay one yet, is it?  For that reason, many people, young and old, still struggle with their sexuality.  Even in 2015.  Even though being gay today, especially in Western countries, is so much easier than being gay was in the past.

A little about my story.

I came out last year, in February 2014.  I’ve known about my sexuality since I was thirteen.  I hid in the closet for three years, not because I hated who I was, but because I wasn’t ready for the world to know about my sexuality. It’s a scary place being in the closet, not knowing what others will think of you.

I suppose one of the biggest reasons why I stayed in the closet was because I was worried about what my parents would think, and how they’d react to finding out I’m gay.  I may be a post-gay teen, but my parents are certainly not post-gay parents.  (I look forward to the day when parents won’t care one way or the other what their children’s sexualities are.)

Eventually, I found the courage to come out.  It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life, and it was definitely the most terrifying.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying that coming out is something to be avoided.  I believe we, as gay people, owe it to ourselves to be open about who we are.  But it’s still tough to do.

Now, not to scare you, but my coming out didn’t go well.  I live in a very conservative area of the United States. As such, my parents are very traditional and, of course, believe homosexuality is a sin–which they reminded me of during my coming out.  It was both difficult and painful to see my parents lose their composure, and to hear them say hurtful things.

But I’m glad I did it.  I don’t regret taking that big step at all.  It had to happen eventually, and I’m glad I did it when I was young, instead of waiting, instead of wasting so much time being scared and hiding my true identity. (After all, we only have one life.)

My parents and I are generally on good terms now, but I know they’ll never support me, nor will they fully accept that I’m gay.

But you know what?  That’s okay.  That’s perfectly fine.  Why?  Because what really matters is that I’m comfortable with who I am, not if my parents are comfortable with it, or my classmates, or anyone else.

One of the biggest lessons we’re here to learn is that it doesn't matter what other people think about us (and that includes our sexuality). It's a lesson that I learned before I came out, and it’s a lesson every gay person needs to learn, in order to live openly and happily.

Because it’s okay to be gay.

Being gay is in our DNA.  It’s something we could never change, even if we tried.

I’ve heard so many stories about people who've tried to "pray the gay away," who've tried "therapy," and any number of other things to change who they are. And it makes me damn sad (and upset) when I hear about them.  Nobody should ever feel like they have to fight who they are inside, who they were born to be.

Perhaps my being so accepting of myself surprises you.  It surprises me too.  After all, I’ve grown up in the Bible Belt, among the most conservative and devoutly religious people you could possibly imagine.

Yet somehow, despite being surrounded by all that, I've managed not to let it influence me, or how I feel about myself.  Unlike most people here, I'm extremely liberal and free-spirited. From the moment that I first realized I was gay, I accepted it wholeheartedly.

Actually, the first thing I did when I realized it was to talk to myself about it.  In that conversation, I told myself that I'd be all right, and that I knew I couldn’t change. But the most important thing I told myself was that God would still love me regardless of my sexuality, and that it could never be a sin to love.

After all, love is God’s greatest gift to us.  It’s why we’re here. To love, and to be loved.  Even if you don’t believe in God, you can’t deny that love is one of the greatest miracles of life.  It’s human nature.  It’s instinct.  And love isn’t exclusive to heterosexuals.  It’s part of all of us, regardless of our sexuality.

One of the biggest reasons why I am so accepting of my sexuality is because I’ve had wonderful role models all my life.  People like Lady Gaga, Ellen DeGeneres, and Elton John.  It's role models like them who inspire me constantly and show me that it’s one hundred percent okay to be who you are.

And, while I was gathering the courage to come out, I watched videos on YouTube of people like them–their coming out stories, their experiences.  And I can confidently say that if we didn’t have such inspirational gay role models and activists, I might not be as accepting of myself, and I doubt I’d even be out right now.  I owe a huge "thank you" to all of the wonderful people out there who’ve been so courageous in a world that hasn’t always been kind to gay people.

As someone who considers himself to be a post-gay teen, it's hard for me to see this darker, crueler side of the world. It's hard for me to hear about kids being disowned for being gay, to see all of the negativity and violence directed towards gay people, and to experience homophobia firsthand, even from my very own parents.

But what gives me hope is that although there is so much oppression, there are people willing to fight it.  Every day, more and more gay people come out, and every day, the LGBT community continues to fight for its rights. It's actually an exciting time to be alive, to be a witness to such a wonderful human rights movement–and to be gay.  It makes me proud to be a gay individual.

If you're reading my story, and you’re struggling with your sexuality, I want you to know that everything will be all right.  And I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Sometimes, it's easy to believe something you've been told all of your life, like “homosexuality is a sin," which a lot of religious people say.  But, at the end of the day, you must not listen to them.  You must listen to yourself, to your heart.  If you dig deep enough, you'll understand all that I'm saying–you'll understand that it's really okay to be who you are.

Everyone deserves to live their life fully, regardless of their sexuality. Each and every day, we as a gay community become more and more accepted.  And I’m confident that, one day, being gay won't be an issue for any of us anymore.

Gay or straight, babies will be born into a world that won’t care about sexuality–into a truly post-gay world.  And, although there may be those few who remain anti-gay, love and compassion will always overshadow them, and hope and acceptance will win every time.

Thanks for reading my story.

"Happiness can exist only in acceptance." - George Orwell

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hawaii

The month of December is getting on, and I haven't posted anything yet.

On the eleventh, Chris and I returned from nearly two weeks in Hawaii.  While we were there, a couple of people took pictures of us together–one an employee at the Honolulu Coffee Company, in the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel, and the other a man walking down the pier at Waikiki Beach.  I've included both pictures here.  One of them will end up on our customized Christmas card next year.

If you have one, which is your preference?

(By the way, the hat was a lot of fun to wear.  I didn't think I had a hat face, but maybe I do.)

  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Chris and Me, November 2014

Time to ditch the picture of me wearing a cast; that's so October.  (By the way, I know I didn't post anything in October.  It was a rough month, considering…)

This past weekend, Chris and I were already thinking about our custom annual Christmas card (you can never be too prepared for these things).  To that end, we brought our camera and tripod to Queen Elizabeth Park on Saturday, and wouldn't you know it, the first picture was the best of the ten or so we snapped.  This was the one we used for our 2014 Christmas card we send to everyone (except each other, of course).

And look…no cast.  That doesn't mean I'm not still recovering.  I'll be at that for some time to come.  But I can give a good semblance of normalcy in a picture, can't I?

(By the way, I'm thinking of writing a post on the aftermath of wearing a cast for six weeks.  But I don't know if I'm up for it yet.)

I hope you like the picture.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Cried…


I cried.

I cried…first on the side of the road, the sky clear, the air late-summer crisp, my bicycle propped against the stop sign. 

A few moments earlier, I’d seen construction ahead, two cars traveling in the same direction as me, the flag-person waving them through.  What I had not seen was the uneven pavement, the opposite side of the road four or five inches higher.  Not until it was too late.  That's when I lost control of my bike, crashed hard, fell on my left arm, my handlebar cutting a deep groove in the new pavement (it’s still there).     

Dazed, pain searing my arm, I  stood, maneuvered my bike upright with my right arm and hand, wheeled it out of traffic, asked the flag-person to call an ambulance.

“You need an ambulance?”

Yes, fuck yes, I said to myself.  Did you not see me slam into the road?  Look at my left arm.  What’s wrong with you?

I was shaking, in shock.  After I fell, I looked down at my arm, to the wrist, saw something poking up under the skin.  Blood dripped down my hand and onto the road from a wound I couldn’t see.  Fuck!  I guess I wouldn’t just shake it off, get on my bike, ride away into the beautiful morning. 

I thought I’d keep standing, use my right arm to prop up my left, while I waited for the ambulance to arrive–that is, if the flag-person had called one.  But I couldn’t.  I sunk to my knees in the gravel on the shoulder, shaking, scared I might lose consciousness, collapse.  Better to fall from a kneeling position than from a standing one.

Then she was there.  I don’t where she came from, but she joined me on the ground, began to wrap medical bandage around my arm.  Pain shot through me, I tried to pull away.  When I looked at my arm again, I saw a hump where there shouldn’t be one.  I freaked.  She said her name was Tara, told me not to look, take deep breaths.  I leaned my head into her neck for support.  She told me she understood, said she was a mother.  I needed to hear that.  I needed a mother.

“It’ll be all right,” she said.  “The ambulance is on its way.”

“Thank you, thank you for being here,” I said, between sobs.  “I really appreciate your help.”  Breath grabbed in my throat.  “Oh, fuck, it hurts.”

“I know it does,” she said.  “I know.”  I shook harder.  “Hang on.  You’ll be okay.”  I pushed my head into her neck and bawled, the pain more intense than any I’d ever felt.

*

I cried…when the ambulance arrived.  Finally.  FINALLY!  What had taken so fucking long?  I heard someone say fifteen minutes since the call to 9-1-1.  Too long.  Far too long.  Weren’t they supposed to get there faster?  Much faster? 

The paramedics asked how I was doing, where the pain was, could I stand up on my own, walk over to the stretcher with their help, get on it?  I said I thought I could.  Anything to get to the hospital faster.  The pain in my arm was so severe, I could scarcely open my eyes, see where I was going, what was happening around me. 

All I wanted was something for the pain.  Give me something for the fucking pain, will you?  Put me out.  Let me come to only after I’ve arrived at the hospital, after surgery’s over.  Please.  PLEASE!  I don’t want to know, feel, anything that goes on.

In the ambulance, the paramedics asked me questions.  I answered them, bawled, wiped my face with the back of my right arm.  They told me to take deep breaths, keep sucking on a mouthpiece delivering some sort of gas (or was it just oxygen?).  It didn’t smell anything, put me out, or even deaden the pain much.  It just seemed to calm me down.  A little, anyway. 

Still conscious, I was aware of being in the back of an ambulance racing down the road, the siren, the pain burning up and down my arm, the IV going into my right hand.  I cried, knowing I was finally being looked after, knowing I was in a worse mess than I’d ever been, knowing how upset Chris would be when he spoke with Tara (who’d called him and left a message while we’d waited; who’d said she’d make sure my bike got home safely).

*
I cried…in the emergency ward at the hospital.  “Help me!” I yelled out.  “PLEASE, HELP ME!”  Someone there said I was being helped, his tone impatient.  People scurried around me.  Lots of people.  More questions.

“He’s in a same-sex relationship,” I heard a female voice say.  How did she know?  Must have spoken with Tara.  Somehow, everyone knowing comforted me.  Thankfully, no references to a wife.  No clarifications necessary.  No potential embarrassment.  I didn’t need that.  Not then.

“We have to get you out of these clothes.  Does what you’re wearing on top have any meaning to you?”  I told him it didn’t.  I heard the scissors cut, felt the fabric release around my arms, neck, and chest.  Next my shoes were removed, my shorts and tights pulled down, my underwear taken off.  I was naked, shivering.  Someone covered me with a blanket.  It was warm, felt good.

Thankfully, the fingers on my left hand hadn’t swollen yet.  The emergency staff removed the ring Chris had given me to mark our twentieth anniversary, a couple years earlier, without cutting it off.  Or whatever they do in those situations.

I was sat up, checked over, laid back down.  I was told to keep breathing the gas, to prop up the mouthpiece with my good hand so I could keep sucking on it.  I sucked, deeper and deeper, hoping the more I took in, the more I’d be knocked out.  I wasn’t.  I felt numbed, dizzy, but the pain was still there, rolling up and down my arm, throbbing, only a little more dully.

I heard someone say I needed surgery, but I couldn't be operated on for a while.  The OR was booked for the day.  Great.  But the bone in my arm had to be reset.   

Please, God.  Please make them put me out for that.  Please don’t let them tug on my arm while I know what’s going on.  While I can feel it.  PLEASE!

I woke up.  I don’t know how much time had passed.  I was still in the emergency room, only a few people around me.  My arm had been reset.  I’d been given something for the pain, but I still felt it, knew it was there.

When would Chris arrive?  I wanted him there so badly.

*

I cried…that evening, after I’d been wheeled into a hospital room with three other patients, following surgery, Chris appearing at my bedside after waiting for hours.

The rest of that morning and all afternoon, I’d waited in the emergency ward for him.  Someone had told me Chris knew what had happened.  I thought he’d be there any minute; I wouldn’t have to go through this by myself.

But hour after hour went by.  I kept looking up from my bed whenever I heard a noise, expecting to see his face.  Instead, I saw the loved ones of other patients. 

Where was Chris?  Why was he taking so long?  He should have been there already.  Surely, he’d take the bus from downtown Vancouver, not wait for the first train to leave around three-thirty.  I needed him.  Didn’t he know that?

I asked one of the nurses, wearing street clothing, a sweet-smelling perfume, what time it was.  She told me.  I said I didn’t understand why he wasn't there yet.  She asked if she could call someone for me.  I told her Chris had already been contacted, but gave her his name and phone number anyway.  She called, left a message. 

A while later, the phone rang.  She looked at me from the desk, mouthed, “It’s him,” shook her head.

“Would you like to talk to him?” I heard her say into the phone.  She transferred the call to a cell, brought it over to me.

“Where are you?” I asked. 

Pause.  “I’m still at work.”

“What?”

“I can’t get away.  I didn’t tell you, but I’m Mark today.  Then someone called in sick.  Other people have the day off.  There’s no one here.  I can’t close the office.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I can’t leave until the usual time.”

“Four-thirty?”

“Yes.”

“So you won’t get here until some time after six?”

“I can’t.  I’m so sorry.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Hopefully, I’ll be in surgery by then.”

“I’ll see you after surgery, okay?”

“Okay.”

*

I cried…Chris now standing beside my bed.

“What’s wrong?  Why are you crying?”

“I’m just glad you’re here, finally.”

But it was more than that, so much more.

The hospital staff had been great, all of them; I couldn’t have asked for more compassionate and dedicated caregivers.  But Chris’s face was the one I’d most wanted to see. 

For the first time since the accident, I felt safe again.  Chris was with me.  I’d be all right.

The weight of the day overcame me, and I couldn’t help it–tears came.  I had no control over them.

How had I gone from riding my bike on a glorious morning one minute, to kneeling on the side of the road in the gravel the next; holding my arm, seeing shapes under its skin that shouldn't be there, my fingers bent at a contorted angle?  I cried because I needed to, because I was overwhelmed by everything, because I had to let go.

*

I cried…when Chris returned to the hospital the following day.

This time, he brought a small bag of assorted Lindt chocolates he’d bought on the way over.  I took one into my mouth immediately, trying to mask the taste of breakfast from earlier that morning.

A lunch tray was placed on a table beside my bed.  Chris helped me with it, opening containers, feeding me as necessary.  I felt so cared for, so cherished.  Not that I usually didn’t. 

But this time was different.  I wasn’t me.  I was dependent, vulnerable, childlike.  Chris’s generosity and selflessness moved me.  All the things he did made me feel connected to him like never before. 

“Why are you crying?”  The same words from the night before.

I shrugged.  “Because you’re being so kind to me.”

He seemed put off by that.  “Of course I am.  Why wouldn’t I be?  You’d do the same for me.”

Yes.  Yes, I would.  In a heartbeat.  Count on it.

*

I cried…the following night in Chris’s bed.

I hadn’t thought I’d be home yet.  The surgeon had said I could probably leave the next day.  I thought that unlikely, but what did I know?  When he came to see me in the morning, he said there was no reason why I couldn’t be released.

At home, still feeling sore, and vulnerable, and fragile, I got into bed with Chris, unable to find a comfortable place to put my arm in its heavy plaster cast.  Chris held it up for me, took on the weight.  Later, as we chatted quietly, he twisted his arm so he could cup my sausage-like fingers, protruding from the cast, inside his.  The sweetness of the gesture made me cry, I couldn’t help it.  And it opened something inside me.

I cried because I was sad–sad that all this had happened.  In fifty-five years, I’d never broken anything, been seriously ill.  I took care of myself, was in good health.  I didn’t do anything foolhardy, tempt fate.  Bad things happened to other people, not to me, right? 

Wrong.  None of what I'd done, all the precautions I'd taken, mattered.  None of it had prevented my bike from crashing, me from landing on my arm, fracturing it in two places.  None of it made me immune from the reality of what lurked out there, ready to strike at any second.  The thought of that scared the hell out of me.  It also upset, disappointed, and saddened me.

I cried because of how good Chris had been to me, how, without complaining or thinking of himself, he’d attended to my every need.  How he’d done things for me I’d never imagined he would, shown, in every single task, how much I meant to him, how much he cared for me, how much he’d been affected by what had happened too.  Of course, we know our loved ones are there for us.  But, sometimes, they’re given the chance to prove it even more.  And Chris had proven it.  Over and over again.

But, most of all, I cried for the fraud I felt I was.

Over the years, I’d preached to countless readers that they must love themselves, believe they deserve their own love and that of others.  Believe they deserve good things happening to them, because they are worthy.

But, there I was, snuggling with Chris before bed, believing I’d gone from being an asset in our relationship to a liability, an inconvenience, a nuisance.  Same old story:  As long as I produced something, earned my keep, I was worthy of his love.  Otherwise, I wasn't.  That I still felt that way hurt.  It hurt a lot.

Had I really learned nothing over the years about my intrinsic self-worth?  Did I still believe, somewhere deep within me, that I was less than everyone else, that I didn’t deserve Chris, his kindness, or his love?  Why hadn’t I been able to accept his selflessness at face value, and not think he was doing it because he had to, or because it was the decent thing to do, or because he would do it for anyone? 

How could I continue to write my blog, counsel people about loving themselves, when, obviously, I still had work–lots of work–to do on myself?

I cried.  The tears that fell were the bitterest of all.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Astute Observations from a Recent Reader

I have to share this with you.  It's a response I received from a recent reader to a post I published here some years ago titled "The Trouble with Many Gay Relationships" (if you wish to read the post, you'll find a link below).

Every comment Simon's written me, on a variety of posts, has been noteworthy, but this one goes a little deeper and is, to use a common expression today, brutally honest.  I hope you'll appreciate what he says, especially if you still insist on finding Mr. Right (a myth, by the way).

(Note:  For clarity, I've edited Simon's comment slightly, but I've left in a few words some readers might find offensive--they are original to the comment and help set the tone for the piece.)

Thanks, Simon.  I look forward to hearing from you again.

*
It's true, and very very sad.  The world has so few models for healthy relationships, and the gay world has even fewer.  This notion is self-perpetuating, really.  If we don't have models for healthy love, then who are we to aspire to be?  Oh, fuck it, just go get laid...that's what men are meant to do, etc. etc. is the main rebuttal.  Why not try to become that healthy role model, as best as you can?  Why not seek out role models instead of magazine models?

The ease of getting laid as a gay man, coupled with the ease of communication and instant gratification in the new digital age, gives us a lot of distraction from ourselves.  It's a permanent candy store mentality.  By the time we find someone we click with (and it's always an accident), we don't know what to do.  So we stare into our phones, and dream of getting free from them.

I know many men who were presented with someone that worked well for them, but they got bored and dumped them to be single again.  How many times can a gay man do that?  Just as many times as he can, given the current climate of instant gratification, until he's left a graveyard of lost love in his wake, and wonders how it got there.

At this point for him, it's all too easy to keep self-medicating with sex, claiming that no guy is good enough to really partner with, and maybe going so far as to be honest that they really aren't either.  

"Hey, I need to have a partner that's attractive.  If he isn't attractive, then it isn't going to work!"  I've heard this one a lot.  I've even heard the laundry list that some of my gay friends rattle off, which would include all the attributes they require, many of which they don't even possess themselves.

Well, "attractive" is something that morphs in time.  What's attractive to you in your youth can be very different from that in middle age, and ideally it should be, I think. When I was young and coming out, I wanted someone young and boyish looking like myself, and I never got to have that.  I got interest from older guys, and was all, "Um, no".  When I got older, I wanted guys my own age, and these younger, boyish-looking guys are simply cute, but not interesting to me now (even though I did get to have a few fun encounters with them in my 30s).

But I know guys my own age (mid 40s) who are still hung up on getting a cute young thing...and sometimes they get one, and it's fun for a while, but that's how they still define 'attractive', and what must be for them to retain interest in a mate.

Ultimately, attitude is important.  If your attitude is that you will never get a mate, then you probably won't...or you'll get a masochist who wants to prove you wrong. If your attitude is that you deserve a mate, and where the fuck is he, well, then you'll attract a sadist who will tolerate your demands.

If your attitude is that you're willing to be open to it, and try to meet as many people as you can, in as many ways possible, while continually doing what makes you happy, and nurtures your soul, without a mate...then IF you do meet someone, you'll be more likely to discover that it's the right one. 

*

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Old Man Down the Block


When Chris and I lived in Victoria, an old man lived down the block from us.  Most often, we saw him walk past our townhouse, probably up from Mayfair Mall, a short distance away.  For a long time, I didn't know where he lived until I was walking down the street one day and saw him leave a decrepit-looking house.  In all the time we lived in the neighborhood, I never saw the lawn mowed there, the drapes open, or a light on.  Yet, there the old man was, by himself, trudging from the back of the house to the front, going about his business.  

Do you do this?  Do you make up stories about people you see?  Do you look at them and imagine what their lives are like:  who they are, what they do day-to-day, what their houses look like inside–that sort of thing?  I do it all the time, and seeing this old man got me thinking.  

See, I'm convinced he knew Chris and I are gay couple.  How could he not?  Sometimes, when he passed by our townhouse, I was alone, working in the small front yard, walking out the door, whatever I happened to be doing.  Maybe he would have been able to tell, just from looking at me, that I'm gay.  But, often, he'd pass by when Chris and I were doing something, like planting a tree, or watering our garden, or sitting on the front porch (a rare occasion in Victoria, since the wind is cool and incessant, even in the summer).  And he'd always look at us and smile, like he was interested in what we were doing.  Every time I looked into his eyes, I believe I saw a spark of recognition–that he knew about Chris and me, what we are, and he understood.      

Not only that, but I also thought he might be envious.  In the life I imagined for him, he never married.  Rather, he was gay himself, coming from a generation or more before me (assuming what I've read of a generation being twenty-five years is correct), when being gay was not only tougher than it was for me, but when it wasn't spoken of, when it was kept hidden, when, in fact, it was still illegal in Canada, because that was the case until 1969.

Back then, by my calculation, the old man would have been in his early 30s.  Who knows what he could tell me today about what it was like to be gay then?  Who knows how difficult it was for him to meet other young gay men like himself, how the stigma of being gay was so severe that he had to keep to himself, remain isolated for decades, not even imagining the possibility of finding someone, falling in love, and building a life together?  

When I looked at that old man, I saw envy in his eyes.  But I also saw regret.  Regret for how he was forced to feel about himself because of society's attitude toward homosexuality.  Regret for making connecting with other men like him so difficult.  Regret even for never experiencing love fully, for never being able to give of himself completely to another man.

Sometimes, when the old man passed by and smiled at me, I smiled back at him.  I felt so sorry for what I imagined his life story to be.  For how things were back then, particularly in relation to how they are now, when, despite the challenges Chris and I still encounter from time to time, circumstances are so much better for us than they were for him.

And I hope my smile conveyed to him that I understood his situation, and I wished things could have been different for him all those years ago.  I hope it conveyed that the life and love Chis and I share is not only a victory for us, but a victory for him too, and all the other men of his generation and before, whose lives were forced to take a different course because of nothing more than their sexual orientation, and their need to love and be loved by someone of the same gender.

I hope every time he saw us together in our front yard, he felt our implied thank-you for all the risks, large and small, he took over his lifetime, to help us, collectively, get to where we are today.  So that Chris and I can be openly gay, share a house, a life, a love, and be more ourselves than most gay men ever got to be in the past.  We owe a huge debt to those who came before us, who pushed the boundaries, who, in a sense, helped set us free.    

To the old man down the block, this one's for you.