Monday, December 31, 2012

How I Reconcile My Homosexuality and My Relationship with God

The recent post I wrote, titled "Let Your Feet and Dollars Speak," got me thinking about the role God plays in my life, and how I reconcile my homosexuality with my relationship with Him.

Before I go further, you should know the nature of my relationship with God has evolved over the past fifty-three years (although I've always felt close to Him), and my acceptance of my sexual orientation necessarily played a role in shaping it.  What works for me may not work for you, and, by sharing this, I do not mean to suggest my way is the only way for gay people to have God in their lives.  If you find something here that helps define the relationship you have with Him, great.  If not, consider this information only.  

I was raised a Catholic.  My father was raised in the United church, my mom in the Catholic.  It was more important to her that her children be raised Catholic (something about her fear for our souls, I think), than it was to my father to raise us United.

At the appointed times, I was baptized (which, of course, I have no memory of); attended catechism for a number of years (religious classes, once a week, which I hated); attended my first confession (I'm not sure what, as a boy, I had to confess); and was confirmed around Grade 7 (admitted as a full member into the Catholic church).

Throughout my childhood, my mom, sister, and I attended church almost every Sunday, often with her parents (my father joined us at Easter and Christmas only).  When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I started to go to church on Saturday evening, usually by myself, when I learned my weekly obligation to attend Mass could be fulfilled then. (Saturday evening, rather than Sunday morning, was a more convenient time for me, as it was for many parishioners.  Plus, our neighborhood church was small, and, in order for everyone to attend, Saturday evening Masses had to be made available.)

Catholics don't study the Bible like Christians of other denominations do; in fact, I don't remember ever seeing a Bible in our house as I was growing up.  Still, I was aware at an early age–perhaps more from hearsay and programs on TV than from the church itself–what the Bible supposedly says about homosexuality.

To reconcile attending church every week with the growing realization I was gay, I lived in denial.  I tucked away deep inside me the truth of what I was and tried to forget it there–for years, in fact.  I knew I was different, but, even in my early twenties, I prayed–hard–that the way I was different would pass.  As a Catholic, I wanted to be right with the church: I wanted more than anything to be straight, interested in girls.

Well, that didn't happen.  And, by my mid-twenties, as I began to tell select people (outside my family and close friends) about what I was–to test the ground and see if I'd still be accepted–I felt a distance necessarily grow between me and the church.  In my mind, I always imagined what fellow parishioners would think of me if they knew I was gay, or what they would say behind my back.  I couldn't tolerate the idea of them judging me, especially when I began to see many of them for what they appeared to be: more concerned with showing off their nice clothes and their perfect families–thinking themselves better than everyone else–than being humble before God.

I've never been able to tolerate anyone who's two-faced.  If you say one thing to me (what you think I want to hear), and I find out you've said the exact opposite behind my back, well, that's probably it for us.  You've shown me that I can't trust you, and, when trust is gone, not much is left.  

I tell you this because I began to see myself as two-faced: I attended church every week, letting everyone assume I was straight (because I wanted to be accepted), yet knowing I was gay.  If being a member of the church meant I had to be something I wasn't–had to be straight for the sake of pleasing those who sat around me, who I knew wouldn't accept the truth about me–then I no longer had any business being among them.

And what about my relationship with God?  I knew that God had made me the way I am; that is, I knew God had made me gay.  That being the case, surely, He hadn't made me gay so I'd be forever miserable in a predominately straight world.  Whatever I'd learned about God, I knew He loved me, and He wouldn't do that to me.  He wouldn't make me different from the majority of people so I'd have to fight what I was my whole life, so I'd have to deny myself the love of someone who happened to be the same gender, so I'd eventually end up burning in hell because I'd dared to live my life as a fully-realized gay man.    

I knew God would accept that I'd stopped going to church.  In my heart, I knew I was no closer to Him there, than I was anywhere in the world (in fact, I might even have been further away from Him, since I was sure He saw through the hypocrisy of many sitting in the pews and preferred not to be there Himself).

I knew God was everywhere.  I knew He was in every living thing, including me.  I knew God was with me at all times.  I knew I didn't have to be in a church to talk to Him or to be close to Him.  That I could talk to Him any time I wanted to, wherever I was.  Over the years, I've taken advantage of that many times.  

So my relationship with God continued, even though I was an out gay man and no longer attended church.  In fact, I believed my relationship with Him was better, cleaner, and purer, because it wasn't lived through the filter of the Catholic church, or any church, for that matter.  Because it no longer had anything to do with living up to the expectations of other human beings, in place to make my relationship with God conditional upon what they believed God's word meant.  I had a direct connection to God; He knew me, and I knew Him.  

Today, I'd say my relationship with God is stronger than ever.  I never believed for a moment that He'd abandon me because I'm gay or because I no longer attend church. And He hasn't.

I pray every night.  But my prayers do not usually involve asking for something; rather, they are about expressing gratitutde.  Every day, I say to God, "Please accept my thank-you for all of the many blessings and miracles I received today, because every single thing I have is a blessing, a miracle, or both."  And I often go into detail about what I'm grateful for in general (I call them the big six:  my life, my health, my relationship with Chris, food, clothing, and shelter), and what I'm grateful for that day. (Sometimes, I sneak in a special request, but my view is that God has enough on His plate without concerning Himself with my small problems.  When it comes down to it, I believe God gave us everything we need to look after ourselves, and He expects us to use it.)

On the subject of homosexuality, a friend once said, "You know what the Bible has to say about that," as though I should know better than to believe God accepts me as I am and overlooks my homosexual behavior.

I've thought a lot about that since, and my response would be different today from the stunned silence it was then.  Today, I'd respond, "No, I don't know what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, and I don't believe any Christian can be sure about what it has to say, either.  Over the centuries, the Bible has been rewritten and reinterpreted so many times, by so many people, producing so many versions, that none of us can be one-hundred-percent certain the prejudices of the men who wrote it didn't find their way into its pages.

"How can any one of us be sure everything in the Bible really is the word of God?  I didn't sit beside God when He wrote it Himself; I didn't see Him write that homosexuality is an abomination.  Nobody alive today did.  Besides, is that really what those passages have to say, or have they been misused by those who personally find homosexuality unacceptable, to support their bias, to prove God agrees with them?"

(Recently, I've come to the realization God intentionally put people with differences–whatever they might be–on earth to challenge those who think they have a sound understanding of God's word, who say they live by that word, and who claim they love everyone unconditionally.  When it's clear, from listening to them and from watching their actions, they don't.  It's easy to accept and love others when they're like you, when they fall in line with how you think they should, based on your reading of the Bible.  But I believe God's watching them, and He's shaking His head, disappointed in how they treat their fellow human beings.)  

In the end, my relationship with God couldn't be simpler:  there's me, there's God.  That's it.  That's all I need.  I'm accountable to Him and to Him only, not to a single human being who thinks he or she knows what God wants and doesn't want.  They know no better than I do.  They may come across as though they do, but they don't.  I don't listen to them; I ignore what they have to say.  My advice to them is, thanks for your concern, but I'll look after my soul.      

I listen to the voice of God within me.  It has always been there, and it will always be there, leading me in the direction I know I must go.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Key to Loving You

On Christmas day, I received a wonderful gift from a reader in Cape Town, South Africa.  

After reading a post I wrote here in July 2011, titled "Sex and Validation," he wrote the following:

Loved the article you wrote. 

"Is this enough?  I am a man.  I need to be loved.  I need to love myself.  I need to feel strong and to cry.  I need to feel alive and to grieve my losses.  I need to know that there is someone in this world who truly loves me.  I need to love someone.  I need a safe, stable and committed home.  Truth is, I need all these things much more than I need great sex [from The Velvet Rage, by Alan Downs, Ph.D., p.p. 22-23]."

That part to me was so amazing. It's exactly what I am trying to do, what is a major cause of my depression and promiscuity (which also involves drinking).

I have read "The Velvet Rage" and loved every bit of it. The problem is, where is the advice? How do you turn that into something good? How do you love yourself, etc.…

For the benefit of those who don't want to go looking for what I wrote to him, I've pulled it out and captured it below.  It's more or less a summary of what I've been writing about here for nearly two years, in literally hundreds of posts (which I invite you to have a look at).  

My hope is that, if you feel the same way the above reader does, you'll take something from this that's helpful to you.  Often, all we need to do is read a few keys words, or hear something familiar but stated in a slightly different way, that prompts us to make a small change to the way we see ourselves, to our routines, that sets us on potentially new and better paths.    

My prayer for all of you who want to love and be loved, and who want to be in a meaningful, committed, and monogamous relationship, is that 2013 will bring you exactly that.

But I also pray you'll heed my advice:

In terms of where is the advice that may help you get what you most want (love and a committed relationship), if I may be so bold, many of the posts I've written here (particularly since January 2011) will help you do just that.

But you must remember one thing:  you cannot make a relationship come to you.  In the end, you have no control over anything or anyone else.  All you have control over is yourself, but that's all you need.  It's from there that all of us obtain what we most want–if we are strong and patient and self-aware.

You are already ahead of many gay men, who are blind to the connection between homosexuality, self-loathing, promiscuity, substance abuse…and the love of a wonderful man. They are all related to and affect each other.  

So my recommendation is–and has always been–to work on yourself.  Understand, accept, and like who you are.  Be your own best boyfriend. Don't wait for someone else to fulfill your life, to bring you everything you think you'll gain by being in love and in a relationship.

Love yourself.  Go about your life being the best you you can be.  If you don't like who you are, appreciate being with yourself, enjoy your own company, why should anyone else?

Keep your eyes and ears open.  Be ready to take advantage of an opportunity that comes your way.  Don't be timid; don't hold back.  But don't live for it, either.  Live for being all you were meant to be.

There are no guarantees.  You may never have the love you want from another man.  On the other hand, you may.  But there's no reason why you can't be the love of your own life, why the relationship you have with yourself can't be enough.

When you get to this place, other men will see it in you.  They'll see the peaceful, confident way you pass through the world.  And rather than be needy and attract people to you who you don't want in your life, and who you'd never have a successful relationship with anyway, you'll attract the kind you want, those who will be the best for you, who will be able to love you the way you want, and need, to be loved.  

You need to take a leap of faith here and believe what I say.  It wasn't until I started down the path of liking, even loving, myself, for exactly who I am, that I was blessed to meet Chris, who I've now been with for over twenty years.

You can do it, too.  Just don't go looking for it.  It will come when you're ready.  Your job is to make sure you're ready.  The work you do on yourself will be the best time and effort you've ever spent.  Who better to invest in than you?  Trust me.  I know what I'm talking about.  

Read any or all of the posts I've written here on self-esteem.  Read my Thoughts for the Day, many of which are about learning to see yourself differently.  Read as many self-help books as you can get your hands on.  Seek counselling, if you can afford it (although you don't need it, as I didn't, if you're willing to do the work yourself).    

But never forget:  The only thing holding you back from learning how to love yourself…is you. How you see yourself.  What you feel you deserve.  Believing in your heart you're as good and as worthy as anyone else.  

Because you are.  We are all human beings, and, in terms of worthiness, we are all equal–gay, straight, whatever.  You must come to know this.  It is the key.       

All the very best, and I pray you realize just how special and important you truly are.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

On behalf of Chris and me, I wish you a joyful holiday season.  

And may your 2013 be filled with understanding, acceptance, and love.


My sincere thanks to all those who took the time to check out my blog this year and/or to leave a message.  I appreciate your kindness and support.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A New Approach to Coming Out

So it occurred to me the other day that most of us (gay people, that is) approach coming out all wrong.  Let me use my own experience to illustrate.

I was twenty-six-years-old on the day I came out, and, for the first time ever, I felt pretty good about myself, having the previous night attended my first gay dance (which also happened to be on New Year's Eve 1986).  There, I'd seen and met several sweet and friendly gay men, all of whom helped me look at gay men not as the older, leering creeps who'd come on to me when I was as young as thirteen, but as people just like me.  For the first time ever, I'd been able to relate to gay people, to think they, and I, were pretty decent, because most of them weren't so different from me, after all.  

Armed with, and empowered by, this revelation, I proceeded to tell my mother about myself over the phone.  Needless to say, it didn't take long to become weak and frightened all over again.  While my mother didn't react badly to my disclosure–that is, she wasn't angry, she didn't yell at me and make me feel worse–she was upset, enough to cry, which brought me back to that dark place all over again, of thinking there was something seriously wrong with me.  After all, how many times over the preceding years had I heard that was the case?  And, if there was nothing wrong with me, why did my mother cry?  It was impossible not to believe to the core of my being that my sexual orientation made me evil and immoral and destined for hell.

I think most of us approach coming out from that perspective.  Implied in the way we tell our families and friends about ourselves is the belief there's something essentially wrong with us.  Still, we find the courage to ask for acceptance.  We ask that the love we've come to count on from them, that most of us believe at the time we can't live without, isn't withdrawn.  "Mom, Dad, I'm gay, and I know it's wrong to be gay, but I can't help myself, because this is what I am, and I hope you'll understand and continue to accept and love me anyway, because I really need your acceptance and love right now, more than ever."

We need to put an end to this approach.  When you don't know any better–as any number of gay people, who haven't yet come out, don't–you buy into the misconception that being gay is wrong (believe it or not, there are some parents who would rather their son or daughter be a convicted felon than gay, which I find astounding).  And, while I don't suggest that you be an arrogant or militant gay man or lesbian woman when you come out, telling family and friends to take it or leave it, this is the way you are, and, if they don't like it, they can do you-know-what, I do suggest we approach coming out from the calm and peaceful perspective of knowing in our minds, in our hearts, and in our souls that there's nothing wrong with us, that we're all right, just the way we are.

Just because you're compelled to love someone of the same gender doesn't mean something is wrong with you.  Nothing at all is wrong with you, which anyone, who's been out for years and living his or her life as a fully-realized gay person, would tell you.  How can love be wrong, even if it involves someone of the same sex?  (Please note, I make a clear distinction here between loving someone of the same gender, and being promiscuous, which are not one and the same, and which my moral compass tells me is wrong, regardless of sexual orientation.)

The coming out process shouldn't be so fraught with emotional (and even physical) pain and suffering.  When you, as the gay person, know there's nothing wrong with you, you're in a better position to accept yourself, to be patient with those you love, who have difficulty with what you've revealed about yourself, and to help them on their journey to understand, accept, and love you, just as you are, as you rightfully should be.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let Your Feet (and Dollars) Speak (plus Follow-up)

I was ready to blast the Catholic church, after I read "'Fallen away' Catholics urged to return," by Douglas Todd, in the December 17, 2012 edition of The Vancouver Sun.

You want to know, I was ready to ask, why so many of the flock do something Sunday morning other than attend Mass?  How about because the Catholic church (and other churches, for that matter) has ruined countless lives–in the case of gay and lesbian people, by convincing them that being gay is wrong, resulting in widespread self-hatred and leading to countless problems, from difficulty finding life partners and to even suicide.    
But that's not where it's at here at "This Gay Relationship."  Not any more.

Some could argue, based on posts I've written in the past, that I had it in for organized religion in general and the Catholic church in particular (I've been a recovering Catholic for over two decades).  And that may have been true.  But I'm enlightened now, or at least I try to be.  In all areas of my life, I try to live by the dictum, "It is what it is"–meaning it's going on, whether or not I like it, and I can't control or change it.  So why go crazy trying?  Why waste my time?

The fact is, however wrong the pope and the Catholic church are, on matters related to abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and so on, their antiquated message has been the same for centuries, and, no matter how angry I get or how much I try, I will never change them.  Period.  End of story.

So what power do I have over the church, then?

On a personal level, I have the choice to attend Mass, or not.  To place money in the collection plate, or not.  And I choose not to on both counts.

The reality is, if enough people decide to withhold their attendance and their financial support, as has been the case for many years…well, you see what happens.  The church feels threatened, sees its revenue source dry up, and spends half a million dollars on TV ads, attempting to get people back, erroneously placing the blame for dwindling attendance on parishioners's busy lives and not where it should be–on doctrine.

And as a writer with a voice, I have this blog.

Let me tell you this:  In the past almost four years, I've received many comments and emails from people in countries around the world, most of them struggling to reconcile the religious teachings they were subjected to as children–telling them there's something wrong with them because they're gay–with who and what they know themselves to be. I've read their words, and I've felt their pain (because their pain was my pain not so long ago).  I know the church has no right to do that to them or to anyone.

Making a gay person feel horrible, even suicidal, about his sexual orientation, over which he has no control, is not the right of the Catholic church or any other church.  It's also not what the church should be about.

This is what religion does, Catholic and otherwise.  This is NOT what God does.

And, if you've had enough of religion–just as I'd had enough of it around the time I came out over twenty-five years ago–and you know in your heart, as I do, that God accepts and loves you as you are, and what you are isn't bad or wrong, because countless millions of people around the world are just like you, and we can't all be wrong, and, at the end of the day, all we want is what everyone wants, to love and to be loved, and how can that be wrong?–if you know all this, then I challenge you to speak with your feet and your dollars.  Don't attend a church you know wouldn't support and love you, would make you feel miserable about yourself and even try to change you, if it knew what you are.  Why do that to yourself? You have nothing to gain.

No, we can't change the Catholic church, entrenched as it is in dogma irrelevant then and now, but we can sure send the message some of it's teachings are unacceptable by not showing up and by not giving money.  Just think, if enough people did that–hit the church where it really hurts, in the bank account–maybe then we'd see the change we know is long overdue.


I saw my first ad from last evening while watching TV.  I have to say, they did an impressive job.  The ad was compelling, and it's obvious the church got it's money's worth from the advertising firm they hired.

But it's still the same old church, with the same old rhetoric.  From the perspective of gay and lesbian people, there's nothing new about how the church now accepts and loves us for what we are.  So go home?  There's no home for me there.

Good thing God accepts and loves me as I am.  I'm home with Him.  He's all the home I need.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Disneyland As You've Never Seen It

Courtesy of

Something just for fun now.

I'd be willing to bet I'm not the only gay man out there who's totally obsessed with Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

If I had to explain the obsession, I'd say it has something to do with being robbed of a proper childhood (forced to grow up too fast), along with a whole lot of being bullied in grade school thrown in.  As a result, I'm an escapist, and if I could do that every time I wanted to at Disneyland, I'd be a very happy man, indeed.

Anyway, several weeks ago, I discovered a website that features the most extraordinary pictures of Disneyland and, Disneyland's sister park, Disney California Adventure.  I think you'll agree the pictures taken by the trio of friends, and talented photographers–who also happen to be obsessed with the parks–are just a bit more vivid and colorful and vibrant than anything you've seen before.

As I look at every picture, each one more dazzling than the next, I'm reminded of how inadequate every photograph I've taken of the parks over the years is, and of how they all more appropriately capture how I feel when I'm at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.

(By the way, for anyone who's interested, I've been to Disneyland twenty-one times in the last thirty-six years, the last time less than a week ago–December 6 to 11.)

Please take a look at  I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Courtesy of

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gay (Almost) Like Me: Tim Kurek's "The Cross in the Closet"

I want you to know Timothy Kurek.

When I was in high school, back in the mid-1970s, I read a book, originally published in 1961, called Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin.  For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Griffin, a Caucasian man, was assisted by a doctor to change the color of his skin, allowing him to pass as an African-American for a six week period in the late 1950s, as he traveled via Greyhound bus through some of the U.S.'s most racially segregated states.  Griffin kept a journal of his experiences, which became the basis for his book.

All these years later, about the only thing I recall from the book, other than the emotional impact it had on me, is how different Griffin's experience as an African-American man was from his experience as a Caucasian man, demonstrating how something as arbitrary as skin color could affect where one sat on a bus and even where one was permitted to go to the bathroom.    

Fast forward to October of this year, when I heard about Tim Kurek's book The Cross in the Closet.  The following, from, explains as well as anything what Kurek's book is about:

Timothy Kurek, raised within the confines of a strict, conservative Christian denomination in the Bible Belt, Nashville, Tennessee, was taught the gospel of separation from a young age. But it wasn't long before Timothy's path and the outside world converged when a friend came out as a lesbian, and revealed she had been excommunicated by her family. Distraught and overcome with questions and doubts about his religious upbringing, Timothy decided the only way to empathize and understand her pain was to walk in the shoes of the very people he had been taught to shun. He decided to come out as a gay man…, and to see for himself how the label of gay would impact his life. 

To get a sense of how difficult, not to mention courageous, this journey was for Kurek, you have to imagine the most conservative of Christians doing an about-face on something he adamantly opposes, and becoming that very thing himself.  Kurek writes poignantly about how his disclosure alienated him from many family members and friends, and how he had to effectively create a new life for himself, as an out gay man–finding accepting places to hang out, making new friends, changing the very nature of his daily routine.

One of the things I considered fascinating about Kurek's story is he found himself in exactly the same position we gay people do, only in the reverse.  Before we come out of the closet, everyone assumes we're straight, and our attraction to those of the same gender must be kept secret, lest someone find out the truth about what we are.  Well, in Kurek's case, as a supposedly gay man, he had to keep his real attraction for women a secret, to ensure everyone around him bought into him being gay.  

Needless to say, walking in another man's shoes was not only an eye-opening, but also a life-changing, experience for Kurek.

My intention with this post is not to judge any Christian who believes to his core that homosexuality is wrong; if I did, I would be no better than him or her.

Instead, what I thought I'd do is share with you a series of quotes from Kurek's book, which state more eloquently than I ever could what he learned from his year-long experience as a gay man (the challenge will be to restrict the number of quotes to just a few), and allow you to draw your own conclusions from his words.  

Kurek writes:

Why do I believe I'm any different, any better, than anyone else [because I'm a straight Christian]?  Why do my beliefs give me a sense of entitlement?  Everyone is human, fallible, and flawed, and it is not my job to determine who's better or worse.  It is my job to be myself and to learn as much as I can from anyone I meet [p. 62, ebook version].

If the God I claimed to serve was anything like the people I have encountered who had an adverse reaction to my being gay…then I did not want to know Him [p. 80].

"I just want people to know morality has nothing to do with [sexual] orientation.  The everyday relationship we have with God is all that matters.  The promiscuity you're asking about is a symptom, not the problem [p. 148]."

The implications of this perception, the unspeakable judgments [against gay people and others] that were my constant companions, have shown themselves to be more potently evil than anything I was taught to avoid growing up.  At least I have nothing to hide behind, anymore.  My faith has been stripped to the foundation, and I am not sure of anything I used to "know" to be true [p.198].

I wonder what would happen if…instead of preaching from soap-boxes and shouting through megaphones, or spending millions on political campaigns meant to hinder the rights of the gay and lesbian community…what would happen if we pointed the finger at ourselves?  What if we chose to live intentionally in community with everyone, regardless of our differences? What would happen if we shut our mouths and simply served the people in our neighborhoods and cities, without an agenda?  Would the message of Jesus survive? Would the gospel still be as powerful and applicable, in our modern context, if our methodology evolved?  I think so [p. 216].

I didn't know that loving your neighbor as yourself was contingent on the neighbor being a white Christian male, between the ages of eighteen and forty-nine–and straight [pp. 217-218].

But this year I have learned that a lack of diversity isn't good for anyone.  It is our differences that teach us the most about ourselves, about life, and in terms of faith, most important, about God [p. 224].

If only professed Christ-followers, myself especially, would align "Christianity" with Christ by removing the politics, pomp, and arrogance from our everyday expressions of faith[,] maybe then we could begin undoing the vast amounts of personal damage we have inflicted upon the very people Jesus has called us to love, people who are just as much the children of God as we believe ourselves to be [p. 228].

I've learned that gays and lesbians aren't anything like what we've always been taught. They are every bit our equals [p. 249].

And finally:

Most of all I am sure of my teacher empathy, who taught me that if we take a moment to step into another person's shoes before we open our mouths, we can learn more about this life and our God, than by any other means.  She is our greatest tool, operating hand in hand with love to create something dazzling, something that gives our breaths meaning [p. 284].

I admit when I first heard about Kurek's work, I thought, finally, not only someone who's straight, but also a conservative Christian male, is speaking up for us, telling those like him that gay people are no different from straight people, we all want the same things, and we all deserve the same rights.

But that troubled me.  Why, I asked myself, should a straight, conservative Christian male, pretending to be gay for one year, be a more relevant or credible source for all things gay, than a gay man himself, who's been gay his entire life, and who's said the very same things, in one form or another?  In other words, why listen to Kurek and not me?  Or, would Kurek be listened to more than me?  

As I read The Cross in the Closet, I reconciled any misgivings I had by reasoning that, if it takes a straight, conservative Christian man to open the eyes of those who use their interpretations of the Bible and their religious beliefs to judge gay and lesbian people, then so be it.  I happily accept the support from wherever it's offered.   In the end, I don't care how we get there, just that we get there.  

(If I had one quibble about Kurek's book, it would be that it needed several more rounds of deep editing before publication.  The prose is awkward in places, and the ebook version is full of typos.  But that's the age we live in.  Many people choose to self-publish now–it's a lot easier to do than ever before–and a degree of quality is often compromised. I don't believe that, in any way, should negatively impact the message of Kurek's story.)

My hope is, regardless of who or what you are–gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian, whatever the case may be–I've piqued your curiosity about what Kurek wrote for you to check it out.  I believe he raises some important and insightful points, and I also believe it would be worth your time and effort to discover that for yourself.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There's Nothing Wrong With Being Gay

Cory Ashworth had this to say recently about his journey to self-acceptance as a gay man, in an article he wrote titled "The truth sets you free, says Vancouver disc jockey," which appeared in the Saturday, November 24, 2012 edition of The Vancouver Sun:

It would take a few handfuls of girlfriends, over two decades of denial and seven full years of hiding on the other side of the planet–in China–before I learned to let go of my fear, my shame and the idea that being gay was wrong [p. F3].

If any of you need further convincing, beyond what I've already written in countless blog posts here, that there's absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, then I urge you to listen to Cory.  

Perhaps this is the first time you've ever heard someone say there's nothing wrong with being gay.  Maybe you've heard for so long, and in so many different ways, that being gay is wrong, and evil, and sinful, that you've accepted it.  And, as a result, you believe there's something wrong with you.

Well, you don't have to believe it any longer.  Cory knows there's nothing wrong with being gay, I know there's nothing wrong with being gay, and countless millions of gay and lesbian people around the world, who have gone through their own struggles to accept themselves, are now out, and live their lives as fully realized gay people, know there's nothing wrong with being gay.  

One day, you too will know there's nothing wrong with being gay (I'm trying to say that as many times as I can, in this short post, to help counter all the times you've heard something to the contrary).  The only time any of us believes there's something wrong with being gay is when we're still in the closet, living in fear that our secret will be found out.

But, once you're out, you will know what all the rest of us know:  There is nothing wrong with being gay.  

Here, from the same article, is a closing quote from Cory Ashworth:

My dream today is that every single human [being] on the planet, regardless of all the pejoratives, has the courage to come out to say this is who I am, I am proud of me, I want to spend my life celebrating who I am.  Let go of shame, regret and any external pressure to be anything less than yourself. 

Amen!  I couldn't agree more.

Let this be the first day you say to yourself, there is nothing wrong with me being gay. That is the first step all of us take, hopefully sooner rather than later, to self-acceptance.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thought for the Day, #55

During the recent election in the United States, several states had marriage equality for same-sex couples on the ballot (it was passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State).

Here's what an editorial comment, originally published in The Ottawa Citizen, and subsequently appearing in The Vancouver Sun, had to say on the subject:

...If [marriage equality] is a right, then it's a right, and not subject to approval or removal by popular vote.  That's why constitutions protect basic freedoms and equal treatment under the law.  It's a protection against the tyranny of the majority [p. C3].

Amen to that.

In Canada, marriage equality has been in place nationally since the mid-2000s.  Before that, several provinces had approved marriage equality without taking it to a vote (including BC, the province I live in), but the federal Liberal government at the time had the foresight to make it a right across the country.  The world didn't come to an end as a result.  

Which is precisely what the federal government in the U.S. must do.  Individual states must not have the power to grant or withhold marriage equality for same-sex couples by popular vote, based on voters's personal or religious beliefs.  It is not their place to do that.

If it's a human right to get married, and gay people are human beings (last time I checked, they are), then marriage is a human right, regardless of sexual orientation, and not subject to the whim of those who don't approve at the ballot box for whatever reason.     

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lift the Weight of Being Gay

Image from
This past September, I received an email from a reader with whom I maintain an occasional email communication.  He lives in an Eastern European country and is a student at a university there.

In his email, he said he needed to take a break from being gay, that his focus had to be on the demands of his challenging studies so as to earn high marks.  

Then, last weekend, I received a comment on the "Barbra Streisand" blog post from another reader, who shared the following quote with me:

It is often a case of being neither glad nor proud to be gay, but finding the honesty and courage to bear its disadvantages.  (The quote is from Janet Watts, "Domestic Allsorts," The Tablet, November 21, 1998.)

Further, this reader wrote:  "Those words rang true for me.  I suppose that I couldn't embrace the reality of being gay as something that was cause for rejoicing.  I thought, though, that I could maybe move to accept the fact that this is who I am and get on with it. Even to do that would be a way forward from where I was (a place of having to cover [it] up...).

When I read the comment from the latter reader, I was reminded of the one from the former, and it seemed to me their messages shared common ground.  In them, I heard these two readers say that being gay was something extra they had to deal with, something they had to tolerate, something they had no choice but to put on and wear, like an oppressive garment.

Learning how being gay is for these two readers, and I'm sure countless others like them, makes me sad.  Sad, even though I understand.      

Before I came out, being gay felt like an enormous burden.  For many years, little else occupied my mind, I was so obsessed with it.  Not a day went by that I wasn't in some way reminded of what I was, and what I had yet to deal with fully–accepting myself and revealing what I was to those who were most important to me.

I managed the burden better some days than others, but, make no mistake, the anguish was always there.  And I remember literally praying–"Dear God, please don't let me be gay"–that the weight of being gay, threatening my very existence, would lift.  I wasn't sure how much more I could take.  I needed to be set free, and I couldn't imagine how that would ever happen.  

All these years later, I know now how it would happen.  The answer was always there, even if I refused to see it, even if it was arguably one of the most difficult things I would ever have to go through (but, I hasten to add, one of the most necessary).

So listen up, anyone who feels like my two readers:  The burden of being gay will never be lifted until you come to terms with it yourself.  One more time.  You must come to terms with being gay yourself, before the weight of being gay is lifted.  

This doesn't mean you must rejoice that you're gay, or celebrate it, or feel glad or proud or whatever (although, if you wish to, the choice is yours).  But it does mean you have to accept it.  It means you must say to yourself, "I'm gay"–two of the most difficult words you will ever utter.

Further, you have to say to yourself "I'm gay" and "It's all right to be gay."  And you have to believe in your heart that it's okay to be gay, because it is okay to be gay.  Take it from someone who's been gay probably a lot longer than you have.  It's all right to be gay.  I know what I'm talking about, as do all those who have also come out and gotten on with the job of living their lives.  And, one day, you will know it too.

The beauty of accepting that you're gay is that it's the beginning of a new life.  Getting to that point can take a long, long time–many years even–and it involves a lot of reasoning and soul searching and reconciling.  But it also gives you the strength and the courage to take the next steps to freedom.  And, if you're lucky, it gives you a glimpse of your self-worth and human dignity, both of which as necessary on your journey.

Being gay isn't something you should be forced to deal with, tolerate, or wear.  It's a part of you.  An integral part of you.  You would not be you unless you were gay.  And the only thing holding you back from accepting this part of you is your perception of it.  No one can help you make peace with being gay.  Only you can do that for yourself.      

All of us are different in one way or another, and in our differences are the gifts we have to offer the world around us.  Did I ever think, back in the 1970s and '80s, when I was suffering through the torment of being gay and taking my sweet time coming to terms with it, I would write, thirty-plus years later, a blog that would help people just like you understand, accept, and love themselves?  Not a chance.  (There were no computers or blogs then, and I was in a pretty messed up place.)

Yet, writing this blog–and having my life blessed by all the people who have connected with me through it–has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  And I would not trade that for anything.      

From the feedback I continue to receive, I know what I write inspires gay and lesbian people around the world, and it gives them hope that they will come through this difficult time.  I could not ask for anything more, and the fact that I'm able to do that because I'm gay, and have been on my own journey to self-acceptance, makes me happy to be gay.

I pray you will accept yourself, recognize the role being gay can play in your life, and find in your struggle the gifts you have to offer others.    


My thanks to the two readers who inspired me to write this post.  You are already making a difference.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"How Did You Find the Courage to Come Out?"

One of the most gratifying aspects of owning and running this blog has been that, even as I can't spend as much time on it as I did almost a year ago (since I'm busy working on the second draft of a novel), I continue to receive unexpected emails from people around the world.  Most of the emails I receive thank me for what I've written, and tell me how helpful my words are.  Often, I get an email with a question, as happened last week from a young man (country unknown).

His question was, "How did I find the courage to come out?"  I want to share my response to him with you, in the hope that something I wrote will help you on your journey to self-acceptance and to living your life as an out and free gay man or lesbian woman.

Here, in part, is what I wrote:

You’ve asked me the question, where did I find the courage to come out as a gay man?  Below are some of my random thoughts on the subject, which I hope will be the answer you’re looking for.

I need to go way back here, because I’ve been out since January 1, 1986.  But, as I recall, for many years, I’d been getting closer and closer to accepting that I was gay.  At various times, I’d gone through denial and anger–I refused to believe I might be gay.  I call this my asexual stage, when I tried not to think about women, men, or sex at all.  

But, by the time I got to my early- to mid-twenties, I had to face the realization I wasn’t like other young men my age.  I wasn’t interested in young women, even though I found some of them physically beautiful.  When I saw myself being sexual (because I wasn’t until I turned twenty-six), it was always with another man.  And when I saw myself being emotionally connected to someone, settling down, and building a life, it was also with another man.

So I was different, and, no matter how I tried to turn my back on that reality, I couldn’t.  With that information, what could I do?

For me–and I’m not saying it’s like this for every gay man, but I’d be surprised if there isn’t an element of it in every one of our stories–I think I found the courage to come out when I realized it would take more courage to be what I wasn’t (straight) than what I was (gay).

Said another way, the risk of pretending to be what I wasn’t, at some point, became greater than the risk of losing those who were most important to me, when I shared with them the truth of who and what I was.  Think about that.  The risk of not being true to myself, and dying a little more inside every day that I wasn’t, was greater than potentially losing loved ones, because I told them I was gay.  Do you get that?  Does that make sense?  Have you gotten to that place yet, in your own journey to self-acceptance?

I’m not saying you should wait to some out until you're so desperate to be who and what you are, you simply can’t take living a lie one more day (like I did).  

I don’t know your particular situation, but I suspect coming out today isn’t nearly as bad as it was in the 1970s and ‘80s.  Every day, it seems, there are stories in newspapers concerning gay and lesbian people, and how things are continuously improving for them.  In some countries, like Canada, where I live (and states in the US), gay marriage is now legal, sending the message to the population at large that being gay isn’t what people thought it was all those years ago (thus breaking negative stereotypes).  There are numerous series on TV now depicting gay characters in more or less positive roles.  In other words, being gay isn’t what it used to be.  So I don’t believe coming out has to be as traumatic as it once was.

At the time I came out, I wish I had known a number of things (they would have made the job so much easier).  They are:  

1).  That it’s okay to be gay.  It really is.  Gay, straight–it’s all the same.  At the end of the day, all of us want nothing more than to love and be loved.  There’s nothing wrong with that, even if it’s with someone of the opposite or same gender.  First, give yourself permission to love yourself. Then, give yourself permission to love someone else.        

2).  That just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m not worthy or valuable.  I am.  I am just because I was born, because I’m alive, because I draw breath.  I am because all the horrible things that have been said about me, as a gay person, over the years, simply aren’t true.  I’m not an abomination.  I’m not immoral.  And I’m not going to hell because I live with and love another man.  How can love be wrong?   

3).  That life on the other side of coming out is so much better.  The world won’t end just because you’ve come out.  It really won’t.  Depending on your loved ones, it could be a little rough for a bit, but that will pass.  It’s the rare occasion when someone loses a parent or sibling or friend for good just because he’s come out as gay.  

Think about it this way:  You took time (I'm guessing a long time) to become adjusted to the idea of being gay, so give your loved ones time too.  In all likelihood, they will see you the same way they did before, and nothing will change between you.  Except you will be who you really are, and that can only improve, deepen, and enrich your relationships with others.

As far as the specifics of gathering the courage you need to actually come out, well, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a look at the posts I’ve written on my blog under the heading Coming Out.  You’ll find a lot of resources there.  Some will apply to you, some won’t.  Use what you need.  All of them are intended to help you through the process of knowing what you’re getting into and how to go about doing it.  Being prepared will help a lot with mustering the courage you asked me about.  

And if you have any questions about anything I’ve written here, or you want to keep the conversation going, I invite you to email me again.  I’m here for you.  I want you to know I’ll support you in any way I can.

Thanks for your email and your question.


By the way, no matter how busy I am working on my novel, I'm always happy to hear from readers, and I always respond back.  So if you have a comment or a question, feel free to contact me.  I'd love to hear from you.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Barbra Streisand

File this under the heading of "Things I Never Thought I'd Experience in My Lifetime."

On Monday, Chris and I went to the Barbra Streisand "Back to Brooklyn" concert.

For those of you who are HUGE Barbra fans, as Chris and I are, I'll let that resonate for a moment…

Think about it–a live Barbra Streisand concert.  The one-and-only, having never performed in Vancouver before, standing on that stage a few short feet from us, her beautiful vocal instrument filling the air.  As I type the words, I'm still shaking my head in disbelief.  

To put this into perspective, Barbra's performed LIVE on eighty-eight occasions–not in the past year… but since 1964, when she performed live for the first time.  She told the sold-out crowd at Rogers Arena on Monday evening that, as she performed in New York's Central Park on June 17, 1967 (later referred to as "A Happening in Central Park"), to a crowd of 135,000, in torrential rain, she forgot a few lyrics.

Ever the perfectionist (boy, do I understand that impulse), Barbra freaked out and didn't sing live again for twenty-seven years.  (In other places, it's been reported there had been threats on her life prior to that concert, as well.)  It wasn't until the early 1990s that she triumphantly returned to the concert stage.  

I remember reading about that eighteen-city, 1994 concert tour in North America and Europe, which sold out in one hour.  Chris and I were on a bus (this was long before we owned a car) on our way to Victoria, BC's provincial capital, for several days.  We had only been together for about a year.  

The Vanity Fair article went into detail about why Barbra hadn't performed in so long, and the preparations taking place for that first tour.  At one point, I remember turning to Chris and saying, "She doesn't have a right to do that–to prevent people from experiencing her live.  When you have a talent–a gift–like she does, you have an obligation to use it, to share it with the world, and nothing should stop you from doing that."

Of course, I've since moderated my opinion somewhat, having gone through anxiety and panic attacks, as well as agoraphobia, over the past two decades.  On a personal level, I understand now more than ever how Barbra could have freaked because of everything that happened (or could have happened) during that live performance in Central Park, how fear overcame her life, and how it could overcome any of ours, at any time (even if we think it couldn't).

I wonder how many of our lives are run by fear now, how many of our gifts have been silenced because of it.  Many gay and lesbian people, not yet out of the closet, live in fear constantly, of being found out, of loved ones discovering their secret, because they're just too damn frightened (notice the timely reference to Halloween) to be themselves in a world that's still not totally accepting of us.  It scares me to think about it.

I know for a fact I held myself back many years ago from choosing the career I really wanted to pursue, because I was filled with fear, because I felt the necessity to downplay my sexual orientation.  Through much of my young adult life, I attracted attention to myself for being gay, to the extent that I couldn't take it anymore, and I made the conscious choice not to be me.  Who knows where I'd be today if I'd had the courage to embrace my gayness back then, how the decisions I made would have been different.  

Don't let your voice be silenced.  To use gay vernacular, don't allow your flame to burn lower than it's intended to, or, God forbid, to burn out altogether.  Stop pretending to be something you're not.  Stop holding yourself back from being everything you were meant to be.

Perhaps that's why Barbra Streisand is such an icon to the gay community–because she's an inspiration; because she's a survivor, having overcome fear, proving we can all do the same; because her star has shone brightly for over fifty years, and her gifts continue to spread joy and magic.

The world needs your gifts too.  Don't be held back from offering them because you're too scared to be yourself.    

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Letter to "The Vancouver Sun" in Response to the Suicide Death of Amanda Todd, a Victim of Bullying

In many ways, I’ve waited nearly forty years to write this letter.

From about grade four to twelve, I was bullied relentlessly.  I was called names, physically abused in PE class, kicked, punched, tripped, my street clothes were soaked in the PE change room shower, I was shoved into my locker, sent chasing my school books down the hallway while everyone laughed at me–the list goes on and on.  Even as I walked down the runway at my high school graduation ceremony in 1977, diploma in hand, all of my classmates seated below on both sides, someone yelled out “Faggot” at me.  So I know a thing or two about bullying.

You are right.  It’s time to shame the bullies–to publicly identify who they are and make them accountable for what they do.

In the same way we have a national public registry for sex offenders, we need a national public registry for bullies.  Too severe?  Not when countless lives are ruined, and even lost, because of bullying.  A violation of privacy?  The right to privacy should be forfeited when you cross the line and become a bully.

On the registry (available online for the everyone to see), the bully’s full name would appear, as well as his school picture.  If necessary, because his parents are part of the problem and not the solution, their names would also appear, as would their pictures (taken from the DMV).

When the bully transferred to a different school, the principal would check the registry and decide if he wanted to admit that student (and under what conditions).  When the bully applied to a college or university, the institution would refer to the registry and decide if it wanted that young adult on campus.  When the bully applied for a job, the employer would consult the registry and decide if he wanted that person on the payroll.

Do you think these consequences would get the attention of a bully in-the-making?  I believe so, especially if the bully knew his reputation and future could be affected.       

Could you get off the registry and clear your name?  Sure, but not before you meet face-to-face with the one you bullied and offer a sincere verbal and written apology.  Not before you attend mandatory sensitivity training classes.  Not before you speak in schools about the evils of bullying and the negative impact it’s had on the life of the one you bullied, and your own.  Not before you complete other community work intended to take your focus off you and give you the bigger picture, such as helping out at support groups for those who are bullied, working at crisis centres, and so on.

As part of any zero-tolerance policy for bullying, bullies must not remain anonymous.  As strange as this may sound, I’m tired of the bullied getting all the attention; it’s time to draw the bullies out of the dark and shine spotlights on them and what they do.  Bullies must know up front what the consequences for their behavior are, and the consequences must be severe enough to be a deterrent.  In extreme cases, bullies should be incarcerated for their unacceptable actions.

As a civilized society, we must send the clear message to all bullies that we’ve lost our patience with them.  The time for action is right now.    


For more information about Amanda Todd's senseless death, please click here.   

Postscript (October 29, 2012):

So by way of update, The Vancouver Sun opted not to publish the above letter.  You think it might have had anything to do with my extreme views about what should happen to bullies? No matter.  I knew my position was extreme as I wrote the letter, but there was good reason for that.    

Since then, I've had time to think about bullies, and, although I still have little sympathy for them (given what they put me through in grade school), I recognize there are reasons why bullies bully.  And if we're serious about tackling the issue of bullying, clearly, we need to address it at that level.

The only problem is, I don't believe it's possible.  How can anyone, government or otherwise, mandate how bullies are raised at home so they don't feel the compulsion to lash out at the weakest of those who walk down school hallways, just wanting to be left alone?  If anyone has an answer, I'd love to hear it.     

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thought for the Day, #54

And I think too often with gay writing people look at it and think it's not universal.  But when you look at it, at gay men writing love poems to one another, what's the difference? It's love, and isn't love a universal emotion?  Whether it's articulated in gay terms or straight terms, both types of love are on equal footing.

(Quote from poet John Barton in "Let Me Be Your Ice," written by Raziel, located in Xtra!, October 4, 2012, #499, p. 13)

Thought for the Day, #53

Butches, effeminate gay men and others who can be "read" automatically bravely provide a vanguard for the rest of us.  We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Confidence and self-esteem are hard for everyone to come by, and it's a process, rather than a destination.... 

(Both quotes are from "Out, Proud and Ashamed," Dr. Pega Ren, Xtra!, October 4, 2012, issue #499, p. 11)

Thought for the Day, #52

We understand that all oppression is interrelated: that the treatment accorded blacks, women, gay people, all derives from the same source, that until we are all free, none will be free.... 

(From On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual, Merle Miller, p. 38)

Coming Out Day, October 11, 2012

Yesterday, October 11, 2012, was Coming Out Day.  Congratulations to all of you who had the courage to finally come out then.

For those of you new to my blog, the entire month of October 2011 was Coming Out Month at "This Gay Relationship."  I wrote twenty-two posts on all aspects of coming out–everything from how do I know I'm ready to come out, to coming out dos and don'ts, to a sample coming out letter, to why bother coming out at all.  If you have yet to come out of the closet and think you could use any of this material, I urge you to take a look at it.  I sincerely believe it would be worth your while.

Finally, in a post I wrote some time ago but can't locate now, I talked about what might happen if all of us who are still in the closet came out at the same time–how the world would have no choice but to sit up and take notice, how the world would literally change overnight.  Magnificent thought, isn't it?  No more closets.  Every one of us finally able to get on with the business of who we are and what we're intended to do, rather than waste yet more time and energy worrying about what might happen if our loved ones knew we're gay, and the possible (but unlikely) long-reaching ramifications of that.    
Merle Miller, 1919-1986

Then, in my reading last evening, I found the following quote in the footnotes from Merle Miller's "On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual," a classic essay written for The New York Times Magazine back in January 1971 and recently released by Penguin Classics.  In it, Miller, a well-known and respected writer, came out in the most public way, at a time when coming out was much riskier than it is for most of us now.  I share this quote with you below:

I sometimes wonder what would happen if we all announced it all at once, every one of us, the obscure and the famous and all those in between.  It would create quite a revolution; all by itself it would.  All those famous actors and singers and dancers and playwrights and novelists and songwriters and lawyers and CPAs and engineers.  And truck drivers and ditch diggers and grocers and butchers, you name the job and profession.  We're in all of them, not just in the business of selling divine Chippendale chairs to ladies who adore antiques.  And suppose all those tough, homosexual football and baseball players, instead of doing all those hair and shaving commercials, thus lining their pockets with gold, came out on television for homosexual rights.  And say they were joined by even a tenth of the movie and television stars who are homosexual?  A mind-twisting thought, isn't it?  [pp. 73-74]

I wish you godspeed in your journey to self-acceptance and eventual coming out.  It will be the best thing you've ever done.  It will be the beginning of your real life.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thought for the Day, #51

Over the past several months, I've received emails from a number of young gay men wanting to know how to meet someone, fall in love, and begin a relationship.  I've given them the best advice I know, based on my experience being in a relationship with my partner, Chris, over the past twenty-plus years.  

But, in my recent reading, I found several quotes from Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things, which constitute about the best advice anyone could ever offer on the subject, whether you're gay or straight.  I share these with you below:

...Your best course is to do what everyone who is looking for love does: put your best self out there with as much transparency and sincerity and humor as possible.  [p. 199, ebook edition]

We have to be whole people to find whole love, even if we have to make it up for a while. [p. 275, ebook edition]

Honesty is a core value in any healthy and successful relationship.  [p. 340, ebook edition]

And, finally, the best advice of all, the piece that tells us meeting someone, falling in love, and sharing a life together is nothing less than magic:  

The question about who you will love and when you will love him is out of your hands.  It's a mystery that you can't solve.  [p. 153, ebook edition]


I cannot recommend Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things more highly.  She is not your "Dear Abby" or your "Ann Landers" (for those of you who remember them as well-known advice columnists).  The readers's letters in Strayed's book, and her advice that can only be described as extraordinary, are as profound and as gritty as you'll ever read.

I believe this book will change you in ways you can't imagine.  Please read it.  I urge you.

Thought for the Day, #50

"I would never consider a person healthy unless he had overcome his prejudice against homosexuality."

(From "...George Weinberg, a straight therapist and author of a book on therapy called The Action Approach...," quoted in Merle Miller's On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual, p. 4.)

Thought for the Day, #49

I'd always been lonely, but self-hatred is worse than loneliness.

(From John Irving's In One Person, p. 165.)

Thought for the Day, #48

The screenplay [of the upcoming motion picture "Lincoln"], by playwright Tony Kushner (husband of EW columnist Mark Harris), excerpts only a portion of [Doris Kearns] Goodwin's book ["Team of Rivals"], focusing on the last four months of Lincoln's life and the political strategizing that helped push the Union to victory in the [U.S.] Civil War.

(The above quote is from the fall movie preview section of the August 17/24, 2012 issue of Entertainment Weekly, #1220/1221, p. 70.  I've bolded a brief section for emphasis.)

Not so long ago, the casual mention of Tony Kushner's married status to another man, Mark Harris, would never have appeared in an international magazine, like Entertainment Weekly.  For that matter, Kushner wouldn't have even been able to marry his life partner.

Today, these references appear more and more frequently–alongside those of heterosexuals's–each time legitimizing same-sex relationships, and proving what we share with our partners is no different from what straight people share with theirs.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Accept Yourself as a Gay or Lesbian Person

Recently, I received an email from a twenty-seven-year-old woman struggling mightily with accepting the possibility she might be a lesbian.    

What prompted her to write was a post she'd read of mine, in which I ask pointed questions to prompt the gay individual to consider what is the absolute worst thing that could happen if he or she is gay.

My reader had plenty to say on the subject, and her thoughts and feelings came across as not only conflicted but tortured.  The pain she felt was palpable, and my heart went out to her, because I knew she didn't need to feel the way she did.

For several days after I read her email, I thought about how I should respond, and last evening, I sat down to connect with her.  It was perhaps one of the most passionate responses I've ever offered–where I basically pounded it out on my keyboard, letting the emotions take me where they did and dictate what I should say–and I want to share that with you here, in its raw form.

My sincere hope is that something in what I've written will help you down the long path toward accepting yourself as a gay or lesbian person.  My words are from the heart, and my intention is to reach yours with them.  

Living in Canada, being out of the closet for over twenty-five years, and in a relationship for twenty of those, perhaps it's easy for me to say this, but where I saw the answer to this question going was:  Unless someone dies as a result of your being gay, then being gay is not as bad as you think it is.  And you know what?  It really isn't. 

I can't presume to know the circumstances of every single gay and lesbian person living around the world and reading my blog, but, with the perspective I have on being gay now, at my age, I can tell you it's nothing more than a facet of who I am.  Being gay is neither good nor bad, despite what your family, friends, co-workers, culture, religion, or even you might think.  Being gay simply is.  As a gay person, you should bring no judgment to being gay.  It's time to stop fighting what you are.

If you are gay–which it sounds like you are–then be gay.  You might think now that being gay is the end of the world, but I assure you it isn't.  Many, many people from every corner of the globe have accepted their sexual orientation, and they are getting along just fine.  And guess what?  You will too.  

No one is saying there won't be sacrifices.  No one is saying you couldn't possibly lose family members or friends or loved ones along the way.  But, if you do, on the basis of your sexual orientation alone, then they weren't yours to begin with.  Their love for you was conditional.  If they are truly yours, they will love you, all of you, including your gayness, because that's a part of you.  It's really that simple.

You may not believe this, but, in most cases, the only thing preventing gay people from accepting themselves…is themselves.  Think about that.  

Sure, other people in your life may not want you to be gay.  Maybe they think hell and damnation will befall you, in this life or the next, because you love someone of the same gender and, yes, even have sexual relations with someone of the same gender.  But they are wrong.  

There are many gay and lesbian people out there already who have lived openly gay lives for years, and their lives have not fallen apart.  The earth hasn't opened up and swallowed them. They are going about the business of being who and what they are in the very same way you are, with the only difference being that they've accepted who they are.  They recognized that there is nothing wrong with them because they're gay, and they're right.  Nothing is wrong with them.  Despite what those around them might think or say. 

The bottom line is, you can't live your life for everyone else.  You only go around once–one time–and you are responsible for living it the very best way you know how.  For a gay or lesbian person, that is being authentic according to who and what he or she is.  It's only once you live authentically that you will fulfill the purpose for which you were put here.  

So stop obsessing about being gay, and cut yourself some slack.  You are perfect just the way you are, and don't you forget it.

It's obvious you are conflicted about your sexuality (I hear the pain in what you write).  Maybe you'll discover you're bisexual, but, based on what you've written, you're probably a lesbian.  

So make the shift in your head that that's what you are, and get on with the business of being it. Only you can do that for yourself.  We still live in a world where your country and your culture and some of the people in your life will never give you permission to be gay.  So you must give that permission to yourself.  

If that's what you are, then be it.  End of story.  Stop riding the fence.  Stop thinking you must be one way when you're not.  The only difference between a gay person who accepts herself and a gay person who doesn't accept herself is a shift in how she sees herself.  

Start thinking more positively about who you are–all of you, not just your sexual orientation–and you will find self-acceptance.  It's there for you when you want it, when you're ready to take it.  Take responsibility for yourself.  

Ironically, you don’t think you have control over this, but only you have control over it.  To hell with everything in your life that tells you being a lesbian is wrong.  To hell with all of that.  You have bent enough to the whims of everyone else (which accounts for why you are so conflicted).  Now, you must be yourself.

My blog is full of posts that would probably do you a lot of good.  You suffer from the same thing virtually every gay person does: self-loathing.  

Well, it’s time to change all that.  Take a look at what I’ve written under the heading of “Self Esteem.”  Read how I learned to accept and love myself.  If I can come from where I was–hating every single thing about myself and believing I was little better than a worm in the garden–then you can too.  Don’t delay one more day.  Open your heart to what I say.  Keep telling yourself you are perfect just the way you are.  

At twenty-seven years old, you’ve already wasted too much time hating who you are because of your sexual orientation.  There’s no reason to let the hating continue.  Accept that you are gay, that the sun will still come up tomorrow, and get on with living your life as fully and as authentically and as passionately as you can.  The world is waiting for you to be everything you are.  Don’t make it wait one second longer.

I sincerely hope this has helped, but there is only so much any one person can do for you.  The rest is up to you.  I hope you see that.  Self-acceptance is nothing more than taking responsibility for yourself.  It's as simple as that.

My thoughts are with you.  You really can do this.  I know you can.    

Friday, August 24, 2012

Excerpt from "For The ♥ Of David"–A Novel in Progress

Some of my long-time readers may have wondered why I haven't been as engaged in writing my blog this year as I was last year.  Well, the reason is because I've spent most of my writing time working on a novel, which I've titled For The ♥ Of David.

I've decided to share an excerpt of my novel with you, from Chapter 20. Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress and requires a good deal of ongoing rewriting and editing. But I couldn't be more excited to give you a peek into the story that's occupied my mind, life, and heart for almost three years.            

My hope is that, by the time you finish reading this excerpt, you'll want to know more about Brian and David, what brought them to this point in the story, and what happens to them next.

Be aware this excerpt contains some sexual content, which is critical in the telling of the story but which may make some readers uncomfortable.  Please use your discretion accordingly. 

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from For The ♥ Of David.  I welcome your constructive comments or feedback.


Afterward, David drove us home.

On the sixth floor, the elevator door opened, and David got out.  We talked for several minutes, about nothing really–as usual, he did most of the talking–and I held my finger on the button to keep the door from closing.

Then, David got back on.  "I'll ride up with you," he said.  "No use holding the elevator."

Moments later, the door opened on the sixteenth floor.  This time, David stayed on, and I got out.

Again, he kept talking.  It's not that he had much to say, he just went on about whatever came into his head.  

When it looked like we could be at this for some time–that is, when I realized he didn't want to be alone–I asked him, "Would you like to come in?"

"Oh, no, no, I have some things I need to do," he said, gesturing to downstairs.  He looked at me.  "Well, as long as you're offering."

In my bedroom, I changed into a T-shirt and sweatpants.

"Would you like something to drink?" I asked David.  He said no, he was still full from dinner.

When I walked into the living room, he was laying on the sofa, his head resting on a side cushion, his long legs folded beneath him.  I'd never seen him like that, at his place or mine.

"Do you want the TV on?" I asked, sitting down on the sofa at the end of his feet.

When he shrugged and didn't answer one way or the other, I turned it on and lowered the volume.

I picked up the latest issue of Architectural Digest from the seat cushion to my left and placed it on my lap.  David looked up.  "I saw that at the store today," he commented, but he added he hadn't bought it yet.

All I kept thinking was, who is this David?  In all the time I'd known him, he'd seldom settled down longer than a few minutes at a time, instead bouncing around, dropping snide, obscene, or sarcastic remarks like small bombs, calculated to get attention and laughter from those within earshot.  The David to my right was an impostor–low-key, serene, even vulnerable.  This version confused the hell out of me; I didn't know what to make of him.  

Idly, I paged through the magazine and glanced up at the TV.  From time to time, I turned to David, but he didn't look at me.  His gaze stayed on the TV, the audio low and muffled, and I watched as fatigue slowly overcame him, and his eyes began to close.

Several minutes later, he turned around on the sofa and faced the back cushion.  His legs still bent into him, he reminded me of a child, home sick from school.  

"Are you cold?" I asked quietly.  "Would you like a blanket?"

He shook his head.

For some time, we went on like this.

Then, unexpectedly, David stretched out his right leg and rested it across my lap.

I stiffened.  What the hell is he doing? I asked myself.  

Apart from pecking lightly on the lips and embracing quickly whenever we got together, we'd never touched each other.

Sometimes, when we'd been out for a walk on the seawall, the back of his hand had brushed against mine.  One recent, warm evening, I counted this happened five times.

"Don't read anything into it," David had cautioned me, when he sensed I thought something funny was going on.  "It's just an accident."

Five times?  

Holding the issue of AD above my lap with both hands, I looked down at his bare, hairy foot on me, then over at him, calmly and quietly resting at the opposite end of the sofa, his eyes closed, his body motionless.

Still, his foot freaked me out.  Should I say something, I wondered, ask him what the hell he thinks he's doing, tell him to move it?

Or should I say nothing and let him leave it where it was?  It wasn't hurting me.  In fact, I had to admit it felt kind of good, satisfying.  I was happy David felt at ease enough with me to make himself comfortable.  For a moment, it seemed as though we were a couple, settling down for a quiet evening at home together.  I hadn't felt that way in years.  Maybe I never had.    

I put the magazine down on the sofa and stared at the TV, seeing nothing, taking in the sensations of being so physically close to David, to another man.  I did not touch his foot.

Then it moved.  Its toes curled and began to press into my lap.

I looked over at David, wondering what was going on.  Perhaps he was adjusting his position, making himself more comfortable, nothing more.  He continued to face the back of the sofa–his eyes closed, his face expressionless, his body still–while his foot moved as though it were separate from the rest of him.

It became increasingly active, beginning to rub me through my sweatpants.  I felt my penis stir. The rubbing continued for several minutes, his foot applying increased pressure, becoming more purposeful in its task.

I looked down at what was going on in my lap, dumbstruck.  I did nothing.  I couldn't do anything, I felt paralyzed.  

To look at David laying so peacefully, you would have thought his foot had a will of its own.  Who knew what it's intention was, what it was so determined to do?

I learned soon enough.

In a few minutes, his insistent toes found their way not only under the loose waistband of my sweatpants but also of my shorts, and they were moving downward.  They made contact with the head of my partially erect shaft, and with that sweet spot just below. All the while, I stared at what was happening in my lap, wordlessly allowing it.  

Still laying down, his eyes closed, his face without expression, David shifted onto his back, as if moving in his sleep.  In that position, he was able to use his large and index toes to grasp me.

I was stunned and mute, waiting to see where this would end.  When it became clear, as I looked down at my bare, erect dick, and at David's toes, stroking me up and down, I found my voice.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

I'd awoken the old David.  All at once, he leapt from the sofa, bursting into laughter as though possessed, scaring the hell out of me.

"Pretty talented foot, huh?" he asked between whoops of laughter.  I watched as his hands began to unbutton his shirt.  "Looks like someone's up for fun tonight," he continued.  "Literally."  As he nodded at the bulge in my sweatpants, he tossed his shirt on the sofa, opened his belt, and unzipped his pressed jeans.

I watched in horror.  His getting undressed unnerved me.  I'd never seen his body naked, covered in all that revolting fur he'd laughingly compared to Grover, from Sesame Street, that first time we'd talked on the phone.

How had our evening together, starting off so peacefully, and with such promise, turned into this?  I felt as though the room around me was spiralling out of control.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said.  I told him I'd been sitting on the sofa, relaxing, minding my own business, enjoying the evening together, when this foot began doing things I didn't understand.  "I had nothing to do with this," I said.

"But you didn't say anything, did you?" David asked.  "You didn't stop me.  You knew as well as I did what was going on, and you did nothing."

"I was too shocked to do anything."

"Oh, what a pile of shit," David said laughing.  "Just admit it–you want this as much as I do."

"No.  I don't," I objected, shaking my head.  Seeing David wearing only his boxers then felt foreign to me, inappropriate, even disgusting.  "Just because I have an erection doesn't mean I want to have sex with you."  I realized how contradictory that sounded. "You're the one with the 'talented' foot, rubbing my crotch, remember?  Not me."  

Still laughing, David bounded for my bedroom around the corner, his underwear now off, his erection bobbing in front of him.  I heard him crawl inside my bedding, all the while giggling like a little girl.  

"You have this all wrong, you know?" I called from the living room.  The laughter in the bedroom continued.  "You might as well get out of my bed," I added a few moments later.  "We're not having sex."

The idea of getting into bed with David, let alone being intimate with him, mortified me.  Seeing him naked for the first time turned me off, not on.  I couldn't imagine touching him without becoming physically sick to my stomach.

Besides, David was a friend, not someone I'd considered having sex with–at least not since the first time we'd met (and even only slightly then).  I'd heard about sex between friends, and how close friendships had been ruined that way.  Being intimate with David would change everything.  How could it not?  

As much as I'd begun, unconsciously, I see now, to put some distance between David and me, I didn't have so many friends that I could risk losing one, because we'd been stupid enough to cross that line, to treat each other like a one-night stand.

"Sure we are," David said, still giggling, although less enthusiastically now.  "Come here."

Reluctantly, I walked to the door of my bedroom and looked in.  There, in the darkness, I saw the mound of David's body under my sheets and quilt, his head on my pillow.  You would have thought he belonged there, that this was not the first time he and I had been here.  

I leaned against the doorframe, looking at the goofy smile on his face, the excitement in his eyes, and I shook my head.  I couldn't believe we'd been relaxing together on the sofa just a few minutes earlier, and now, he was naked in my bed, thinking the two of us were going to have sex.  

It wasn't going to happen, no way in hell.  I'd make sure of that.  

My thoughts turned to how I'd convince him to get out of my bed and into the living room, where he'd put his clothes back on.  Then, the boundaries of our friendship still in tact, he'd unceremoniously leave my apartment.  In the days to come, we'd be able to look at each other again without feeling embarrassed, and neither of us would ever mention what almost happened.  He'd thank me later for my level head and good sense.

"Come lay with me, Brian," David said then, opening the sheets to me.  

And, just like that, his mood changed again.  As he spoke, he was different, subdued like he'd been at the restaurant earlier in the evening, where we'd enjoyed a peaceful meal together.  A calmness had overtaken him.  He was no longer laughing, not even a giggle.

"I'm not having sex with you," I said.

But the tone of my voice surprised me.  It didn't sound nearly as determined as before. Had David noticed?  I hoped not.

"What's the problem?" David asked, his voice low and soothing now.  "You're single. I'm single.  No one's going to get hurt."  He paused.  "It's just a little fun," he added, quieter still.  "Nothing more.  It doesn't have to change anything, if we don't let it."  

When I continued to object, with less conviction than I intended, he stopped me.

"We love each other, don't we?" he asked.

I suppose we did, in our own way.  I'd never thought of it like that.  I'd never considered two close friends could love each other, probably because I'd never had a friend as close as he was before.    
"Take your clothes off and come lay here with me," David continued.  His voice was so inviting now.  I felt my resistance breaking down.  "You know you can trust me.  I won't hurt you."

By then, I knew anything I said would betray me.  

I paused.  I watched him look at me from under the covers and slowly stepped into my bedroom, where I'd slept for over two years, where I hadn't brought even one man in that time.  In some strange way, the room, and everything in it, no longer felt like it was mine.  

Hesitantly, I began to undress.

David had never seen me naked before either, and I didn't want him to now.  What would he think of how I looked with my clothes off?  Would he be reminded of why he told me years before that I wasn't his type–because, I discovered later, I didn't have the looks or the body or whatever it was that made him look at one attractive man one minute, and another the next?    

With his calm, reassuring voice, David told me everything would be fine.  He repeated he wouldn't hurt me, promising we wouldn't do anything I wasn't comfortable with.   

Naked, I got into bed, laying as close to the edge of the water-filled mattress as I could. My back to David, too frightened to face him, I held the covers close.  He moved toward me and wrapped himself around my body.  We were spooning, even though I didn't know what that was.  

At first, David and me naked in the same bed together was one of the most unusual experiences I'd ever had, and it took everything I had not to get up, not to flee into the living room and pretend none of this was happening.  

Still, there was something about being there with him, even in our vulnerable state, that felt oddly right, as though it were meant to be, on that particular night, at that particular time.  After all, it was just the two of us, wasn't it?  And no one would ever know what we did.    

"I'm so scared," I whispered, exhaling the words.  I couldn't stop myself from shaking.

"There's nothing to be scared of.  You're safe with me."

David held me firmly against his warm, hairy, and consoling body, saying little, focusing only on helping me feel secure.  It wasn't until some time later my teeth stopped chattering, and my body no longer shook.  

Eventually, after we'd laid quietly for a long time, and I knew I belonged where I was, I found myself willing, when David asked, to make love to him.