257. torschlusspanik

flo-WIT

“Torschlusspanik.”

This is one of those supposedly untranslatable German words. The definition from Wiktionary seems to capture the essence, though: “the feeling that medieval peasants had when the castle gates were closing for an upcoming onslaught by enemies.”

I like that there are concise words for complex concepts like this.

In way of advance warning, this post might be a tad ranty in a hopefully measured way. Also: this post is not about you or your relationship. It’s about the way in which religion and the way it influenced my upbringing has completely fucked over my life and the lives of so many other people. Trauma manifests itself in different ways for everyone, and with this recent foray into EMDR, I’m noticing more about the way my trauma expresses itself.

Okay. Deep breath, everyone.


First, an Alanis Morissette lyric:

And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away.
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me.
You oughta know.

For a long time post 2011, I often listened to this song with Seth in mind. Someone at karaoke once opined that I wasn’t singing it “orgasmically” enough. After reminding myself that it’s not acceptable to rip people’s faces off, I explained that it’s not a song about sex.

It’s a song about being fucking pissed off while simultaneously a complete wreck.

This describes me from about 2011-2013, a time when I was dealing with both the loss of my faith and catastrophic heartbreak.

However, it hit me the other day that I can also contextualize that song about my parents.

A few weeks ago my EMDR therapist asked if I’d forgiven my parents. I wasn’t sure if I was still angry at them, because it feels like they died a long time ago.

I mostly just feel sad.

But I am still angry: outraged at how they lied to me, how the emotional and psychological abuse my sisters and I suffered at their hands was couched in such “loving” language. Of course, they believed (and still believe) that they were doing right by us. After all…

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

They truly believed that a religious upbringing was the best possible thing for us. So long as you don’t think too hard about it and spend your entire life in the evangelical Christian bubble, it might be fine. But if you find yourself an outlier at all within that community (figuring out that you’re gay at age fifteen, for example), it takes an incredible amount of self-delusion to not question or doubt.


Yeah, it’s never gonna happen, is it? No, sir.
No, we’re never gonna get the prize—are we?
No, it doesn’t make a bit of difference—does it?
Didn’t.
Ever.
Fuck it!
– Sondheim, S. (1990). Another national anthem. On Assassins (2004 Broadway Revival Cast) [CD]. Bronxville, NY: P.S. Classics.

One of the things my EMDR therapist had me do last month was write out short- and long-term goals for myself. Where do I want to be next month, in six months, etc.

One of my near-future goals is to start dating again, which simply seems unfeasible right now because I appear to live in the land of Lost Boys gay men who are stuck in an eternal boyhood, while I’m a somewhat gruff (but amicable) misanthrope.

And what I keep running into is this fear that it’s never going to happen for me, and that I’ll end up like the character of Vivian from Margaret Edson’s Wit: highly respected but utterly alone and without a partner to support her in an extreme crisis. As it is, I have friends, but their allegiances are to their significant others. And how long can I sleep on their proverbial couch before overstaying my welcome on their time and attention?

The sense I’ve become more aware of lately is that of indignation. I’ve watched (and even helped) countless couples fall into relationships (sometimes serial relationships, one after another) with relative ease and nonchalance. I can’t help feeling they don’t deserve any of it, that they can’t truly appreciate their blithe happiness without having experienced the abject despair and loneliness that has been my existence for the past twenty years.

Of course, everyone’s story and struggle is there own. I’m not privy to volumes.

It’s not just dating. I recently received another rejection letter, this one for a scholarship. There was the internship this summer; before that the graduate assistant library job that someone else got. It seems that my life is this constant, uphill battle where I have to fight for every scrap and crumb while others seem to have things virtually handed to them.

When’s it going to be my turn?

So it’s really difficult not to feel that other people don’t deserve the relationships and the opportunities that they have when I feel that I’ve worked twice as hard with no results. Of course I don’t know their stories and struggles. But I’m tired of my life seeming marked and defined by failure and disappointment.

Sure, I could simply keep redefining “success” and adjust my expectations. But at what point does one say, “This just isn’t working”?

Because it’s infuriating watching silly, flirty, vapid gay boys find long-term boyfriends (who they’ll probably dump in a year), realizing that the guys I’m attracted to are never attracted to me, or recognizing that the reason most of my hetero friends are partnered is because their pool is that much bigger.

When I say “It’s probably never going to happen,” it’s out of fear of further dashed hopes.


Even though I don’t believe in the supernatural, there’s this feeling that all the rejection and disappointment is somehow part of my penance for 28 years as a fundie Christian. I didn’t know any better, but I’m still going to be punished.

Yes, I know.

It’s bonkers.

256. amaranthine

Apologies for the gap in posting. I’ve started so many drafts the last couple of weeks, and then a project or an emergency comes along, or I simply don’t have the energy to write, or I start something and then lose the train of thought.

A few months ago I started with a EMDR therapist, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

The goal of EMDR is to reduce the long-lasting effects of distressing memories by developing more adaptive coping mechanisms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements. EMDR was originally developed to treat adults with PTSD; however, it is also used to treat other conditions and children.

It’s supposed to be helpful for individuals who have experienced a trauma of some kind, and growing up gay in a fundamentalist household probably counts as some kind of traumatic event. My regular therapist suggested a course of sessions (typically 8-12 in number) after events in December made it clear that triggers from early childhood are really preventing me from moving forward.

The challenge is doing all of this while in school and working full-time. Good thing I’m not dating anyone right now, eh?

Speaking of dating, I’ve been keeping an eye on the calendar, and this Thursday will be three years since I broke up with Jay, my last boyfriend. Singleness is one thing I seem to be obsessed with at present. Although I’m bracing myself for the worst case scenario of never meeting anyone, whenever I encounter a nice guy there’s a part of me that still thinks, “Maybe this guy, somehow, is the one.”

Then, in the span of several minutes, I go through the entire process of imagining our life together until the inevitable realization or discovery that he’s hetero, not available, not suitable, or (the more likely scenario) not into me.

At heart, I’m still a relentless optimist and romantic.


It’s the quiet, intimate moments with another person that I’m envious of. I’ve observed many such moments with other couples, moments that come after years of knowing a person, of learning about their foibles and faults and loving them in spite of and for it.

Thinking back over my nine-month relationship with Jay, and with every other guy I’ve dated, I tried to feel or find those moments, but it always felt forced and unnatural, like I was in rehearsal and just not getting the truth of a scene.

The underlying fear I’m beginning to unpack in EMDR is this feeling of being dead inside. I know, that’s cliche. But at last session a few days ago, I talked about the sense of there being a firm dividing line on my birthday in 2011 between my life prior to that moment and life afterwards. It’s like the moment when a star collapses and a black hole forms.

The fear is that I’m a emotional singularity.


Growing up in a household that was judgmentally religious forced me to create a fortress of walls, retreating to and hiding at the center in order to survive. If I’d been any other kind of person, or lacked resiliency, I probably would’ve caved long ago and become just another fundamentalist Christian drone, obediently following the marching orders of my pastors and the Bible, and being a good citizen of the church and of Heaven.

As it is, I fought to keep those secret, private parts of myself, doing whatever necessary to stay alive and safe. I kept my desire for men, along with rational doubts about the faith I’d been handed, hidden.

It did not leave me without deep wounds and scars.


Now that I’ve been out for five years, I’m worried that my lifestyle of privacy and seclusion became something of a habit, one that may take a long time to unlearn, if ever. There’s safety in being reticent and reclusive. I can observe everyone safely from the parapets and ramparts without the risk of having to leave.

Trouble with security is that it’s  also very lonely.

The sense of feeling old at 33 is not so much about age as it is about being 33 at this point in my life, when I’m effectively starting over and having to learn how to be “human.” It’s a sense that if my development hadn’t been artificially suspended for 28 years by my parents and upbringing, I could be so much further along right now.

Perhaps I could’ve learned how to flirt and properly date; had a number of relationships that taught me what it is, realistically, what I want in a partner; and probably been with a decent spouse for a couple of years by now.

… that is, if I hadn’t been fucked up by my parents and their hateful religion that teaches people to think of themselves as evil and worthless unless they say the proper magic words to an imaginary friend who is always watching and taking notes for your permanent record to determine whether you’ll burn forever in Hell when you die.

It’s all so cosmically unfair because I never asked to be born in the first place, let alone to neo-Puritans who fear sexuality, sensuality, and true intellectual freedom.


I’d like to be able to see couples (male couples, especially) without feeling a surge of hatred, jealousy, and resentment.

I’d like to be able to truly believe that I’m loveable, worthy of love, and that I’m capable of both giving and receiving it.

I’d like to think that the gay male community (with exceptions) isn’t comprised of mostly lost boys (the Neverland variety, not the Kiefer Sutherland) while any decent guys paired off years ago.

As much as the resiliency that kept me going and alive keeps me hopeful (albeit cautiously), I can’t blind myself to the reality that the situation doesn’t look good. I can keep myself busy and productive, but it won’t render me any less lonely.

255. vicissitude

One man he disappoint me
He give me the gouge and he take my glee
Now every other man I see
Remind me of the one man who disappointed me
— Apple, F. (2005). Get him back. On Extraordinary machine [CD]. New York City: Epic Records.


Blue_candles_on_birthday_cakeHappy a month and a half into 2016, everyone!

So far this year has been incredibly busy with school and a new (temp) job that still isn’t in my career field but isn’t entirely horrible in its own right. That seems to be the theme of things at present: not ideal, but also doesn’t make me long for the inevitable and final release of death.

As far as a school update goes, after about a month and a half break I feel as if I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. I’ve stopped eating regularly and my sleep schedule is wacked out, but that’s the essence of grad school, right?

The things I’m working on are things that seem to finally matter, mainly because they feel connected to innate passions and talents of mine—not things that any gibbon could pick up and do for $11/hour. I get energized and excited about cataloging and archives, and concepts like metadata standards and schema. Information access is important in our world right now, especially as we’re trying to sift through more data than ever in our history, and we need clever people who can make sense of it all.

At least, enough for most people to find the information they need.


Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. This fact did not escape me, nor did I forget. I simply chose not to acknowledge it. I did see an increasing number of memes on Facebook and Twitter that were trying to recontextualize it as a day to celebrate love of all kinds, including love for your friends and for yourself. That was nice.

Earlier this month I also turned 33, something I only reluctantly called attention to about five minutes after midnight on the day after my birthday, much to the consternation of friends who did remember and would like to observe it.

My decision for now is to stop calling it a birthday because my birth was something that merely happened, brought into a world that is no longer a part of who I am.

So this year I’ve decided to start calling it my Independence Day, because, as some of you may remember, it was five years ago that Seth dumped me on my 28th birthday… or whatever you call it when someone ends a one-sided friends-with-benefits relationship because they just met someone on a blind date and aren’t really sure where that’ll go, but they don’t see a future with you or a reason to continue giving you false hope anymore.

Happy birthday, indeed.

That was also the night I officially became an atheist. I won’t rehash the whole story, so if you’re new or need a refresher, go here. It’s a fun read, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

So the short of it is that I’d rather not observe that anymore. I need a different context, and reimagining that day as the anniversary of independence from my upbringing seems much more uplifting.

As Björk cries on Volta (2007): “Declare independence! Don’t let them do that to you!”


Since we’re on the subject of dates, it’s exactly one month and nine days to the three year anniversary of the end to my last (probably final) relationship with the narcissistic fibromyalgic. On March 24th, I’ll have been single three years, without crossing paths with any realistic romantic partners in that span.

And from today, it’ll be four months and ten days to the two-year anniversary of the last time I was actually on a date.

Probably the biggest fear right now is of being alone for the rest of my life, ending up one of those people who die alone in their apartments, their absence unmarked for months until their mummified remains are finally discovered one day.

Is that likely to happen to me? Probably not. But still.


What probably bothers me is that though I want a relationship, I still don’t what I’d do with one. The only concrete associations I can picture are having a (relatively) dependable plus-one for events, and a (relatively) reliable sexual partner. But I know there has to be more to it than that, because why else (besides social convention) would couples stay together for decades if it’s merely a glorified fuck buddy arrangement?

Frankly, I haven’t met anyone who I could conceive of spending virtually every day with for the next twenty years (well, at least anyone who could also feel that way about me) , and beyond. And I’m skeptical about the chances of meeting anyone in the Midwest.

Part of the difficulty is that, after almost seven-and-a-half years “out,” I’ve come to the realization that I’m a demisexual, as described here:

Demisexuals aren’t suppressing sexual desire; it’s simply not there until a bond is formed. They can’t look at a stranger and think, “Wow, I want to f*ck him”—while they might admire a person for his or her body, the urge to have sex isn’t there until an emotional attachment is formed. The deeper the bond, the hornier they are. It’s a simple matter of the heart leading the pelvis.

It isn’t that I don’t have sexual desire. It’s just not that important without an emotional connection present… which does not appear to be how most gay men around me are wired. They’re: A) sluts and proud of it; B) already coupled (with a 75% chance of being monogamish); or C) emotionally compatible but physically not my type.

The irony is that now I almost get reverse slut-shamed for not being promiscuous, as if that’s the default “gay” mode. And I did try it for a while, but it wasn’t me.

So I’m not sure where to go from here.

Ah well. Back to library homework, I guess.

254. probity

Jessica_Jones_NetflixA few weeks ago I decided to check out the Netflix show everyone in my social media circles had been talking about.

Jessica Jones.

The Wikipedia article on the show offers a good summary: “Following a tragic end to her brief superhero career, Jessica Jones tries to rebuild her life as a private investigator, dealing with cases involving people with remarkable abilities in New York City.”

It’s an adaptation of a Marvel comic character of the same name. Based on the reviews of social media posts, blogs, and reviews, I thought it worth checking out, especially with its themes of dealing with trauma, recovering personal agency, and rebuilding one’s identity.

Without giving away any spoilers, the show certainly lived up to the hype. The main villain, Kilgrave, played by David Tennant, was alarmingly creepy and sympathetic at the same time. In a Guardian interview, Tennant described Kilgrave as having the power to compel people “to do whatever he says.”

Of his character, he added, “How can you tell if people are doing things because they want to or because you’re asking them to? How can you have any sense of what the world is or how the world should be if your world is so particularly unique?”

The show affected me in ways that were unexpected, particularly in the relationship between Jessica Jones and Kilgrave. At one point early on, Jessica rescues a young college girl who’s been under Kilgrave’s thrall. Once they’re back at Jessica’s office, she makes the girl say, “None of it is my fault.”

As the series progresses, Kilgrave compels people to do darker and increasingly destructive things, things that suddenly seem to them perfectly reasonable and rational once he asks.

The show asks some fundamentally unsettling questions about human behavior: namely, is Kilgrave planting desires in people’s minds, or is he just accessing something that was already there?


Jessica Jones triggered some pretty powerful memories and feelings, having been a willing prisoner of sorts myself for twenty-eight years. That’s something one hears a lot in circles of survivors of Christian fundamentalism. You can’t know that you’ve been programmed virtually from birth to accept:

  • everything in the Bible as inerrant and immutable;
  • anything a pastor or divinely-appointed leader (essentially, every adult male studied in the Bible) says as absolute truth;
  • that any natural human desire not sanctioned by your church as part of God’s design (and let’s face it, your church always gets it right and everyone else is headed down the road to perdition) is sinful and an abomination;
  • that there’s only one way to heaven, and that’s the path your pastor and your church sets.

It’s not that fundamentalist Christians are mindless robots who can’t think for themselves. However, for those raised in sheltered communities where there were no other voices, no alternative perspectives to challenge the Bible-centric conservative Christian views, and especially in communities where insiders are taught to fear and mistrust outsiders, the question of agency becomes much fuzzier and difficult to unravel.

So when I see videos of children at Creationist seminars proclaiming that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, that humans rode dinosaurs, and that evolution is a lie from Satan; or homophobic Christians at rallys with signs declaring that gay people are an abomination, I don’t see much difference between them and the people Kilgrave turns into murderous maniacs with just the merest hint of suggestion.

As the Jesuit saying goes, “Give me a child until the age of seven, and I will give you the man.”


I found myself identifying most with Kilgrave’s victims, individuals who wound up on the other side of what essentially comes down to rape, and are now unsure of where the line between before and after is. They didn’t want to do whatever it was Kilgrave compelled them to do, and yet the desire to follow his command was stronger. To violate someone’s agency and compel them to act against themselves and their own values is a deeply perverse act.

Right now, the word counter at the bottom of the page reads 666. The rational part of my brain says that it’s just a number. No special significance. Yet there’s another part of my brain that still sees that as a sign of the Antichrist, a being that is very real and will appear soon. I know that the latter thought is irrational, yet it sometimes still springs to mind first.

For me, and many others, the words “None of it is my fault” are nearly impossible to say, because they don’t seem true. All of those times that my mind and body were telling me I was attracted to men, but the part that was under the thrall of evangelical Christian teachings told me that was sinful and disordered… that was still me that believed it.

True: it was the fault of having been raised in that environment my entire life, of being exposed daily to that ideology, and of the people who were supposed to be my guardians, but it was still me that performed the action.

… it’s a deeply unsettling constellation of emotions.

For victims of Kilgrave, they can’t return to the person they were before. But for survivors of fundamentalist Christianity, there is no “before” to go back to. Only a past of lies.


The question I raised most recently with my therapist is whether I can ever truly escape the influences of the brain I grew up with—if I’m building a new identity with old tools.

Of course, my perspective is different now. My beliefs are radically different. Yet I still view relationships through a lens of fear. I still see myself as unworthy, worthless, and broken.

It’s how to move forward that is the challenge. When you have nothing really to look back to as a frame of reference, it’s disorienting to try to find a workable path on your own. Others can help, but it’s usually just you, the ghosts, and the demons.

Happy New Year.

253. deference

gaymenA quick update before I head back to working on my final project for this semester.

It’s so odd to be saying that again after having been done with my undergrad nearly eleven years, but here we are, working on a master’s in library science.

At least this time it’s pursuing a career and field I’m suited for!


A few weeks ago, a friend asked what kind of guy I envision myself with. After thinking for a few moments, I responded, “It’s difficult to say. Honestly, I don’t trust myself or my taste in guys anymore because the ones I’m typically attracted to end up being unavailable—either they’re not interested in me, or they’re already taken, or they’re straight.”

It’s to the point where my reaction to seeing an attractive guy is to simply shut down because the act of processing the cyclone of negative and conflicting emotions has become too exhausting.

But it’s the third category—straight guys—that has proven to be the most frustrating because it historically makes up the majority of my unrequited crushes. We gay guys do it all the time. We fall for the straight guy, not necessarily because he’s a challenge or a worthy conquest (or at least not for me), but because he’s decent, kind, uncomplicated, and adorable.

And finding a guy like that in the gay community, especially one who’s smart and reasonably well-adjusted… well, that’s like finding a unicorn.

But I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to this question of why I tend to fall for so many straight guys when I know it’s a doomed enterprise from the beginning. Could it be that I’m that masochistic? That it’s an unconscious means of controlling the situation by choosing a path that I at least know the outcome to? That I simply enjoy being miserable?


To answer this question, I’m turning first to a subject that I’ve also been giving some thought to lately: porn. Specifically, how it shapes our tastes and expectations as gay men, and how it redefines what we consider “normal” or “acceptable” about real life.

In other words, has fiction and fantasy so radically altered our perceptions of physical beauty that we reject otherwise decent, eligible guys [read = guys who don’t spend every spare moment in the gym, who may not have washboard abs, a v-shape frame, biceps and calves that go for days, firm pecs, etc] because they don’t meet the impossible standard we’ve come to expect from men in porn?

While the notion of porn addiction is (although, like any addiction, real and destructive) largely exaggerated by Evangelical fundies and prudish conservatives terrified by the idea of sex without shame or fear, exposure to porn is not without its mind-altering effects.

Well… here.

It comes down to a design flaw in our brains owing to the fact that we’re dealing with hardware several hundred thousand years out of date. Our brains still think it’s the year 20,000 BCE out there on the African Pleistocene.

Particularly for the male brain, sex is hardwired to the reward center of the brain—the ventral tegmental area or VTA, which is most often linked with dopamine. When you point an organ built to procreate and survive in scarcity conditions at a virtually endless supply of sexy images… well, here’s a passage from a 2013 Guardian article:

Many abused substances directly trigger dopamine secretion – without us having to work to accomplish a goal. This can damage the dopamine reward system. In porn, we get “sex” without the work of courtship. Now, scans show that porn can alter the reward centre too.


Aside from the brain and expectation-altering effects, I’ve also been pondering why so many guys are attracted to certain genres of porn, or to certain body types, or certain subcultures (jocks, leather, circuit boys, etc).

One theory I have is that these attractions are largely about guys trying to fulfill some unfulfilled experience in their formative years. For example, guys into jock culture, who may have agonized as closeted teen boys over the fit physiques of their straight classmates in the locker room in high school, it makes sense their adult attractions would include that fantasy.

(Obviously it’s much more complex and dynamic than that, and there are a myriad of reasons people find certain qualities or activities arousing.)

Porn is more than just entertainment. It’s about fulfilling virtually every fantasy ever conceived of, which is why Rule 34 of the Internet is: If it exists, there is porn of it.

For me, porn has only deepened my growing frustration with the seeming recreational attitude of many gay men towards sex, to the point where I don’t even bother any more. It’s made me resentful and angry, which has caused me to pause and wonder if that is how porn has reshaped my expectations of sex and intimacy.


Which leads us full circle back to my response to my friend’s question a few weeks ago.

Why do I always fall for straight guys?

My theory is that, just as the jocks may be trying to exorcise the demons from their memories of the high school locker room, I may be re-enacting my initial experiences as a deeply closeted gay boy in an Evangelical Christian community. Being surrounded by (presumably) straight and painfully attractive guys who were completely off limits shaped my brain and sexual attractions in ways that I’m not entirely sure can be undone.

Do they need to be undone?

Perhaps, if I ever want a realistic long-term relationship with a real guy who isn’t merely as a catalyst for resolving past identity wounds.

There’s the realization, too, that I don’t actually know what I’d do with a boyfriend at this point, or if there’s even enough of me to sustain a relationship. One deep dark fear is that I’m an empty shell, and he’ll wake up one day, see that, and leave.

This is a lot to work on.

For now, however, a paper calls.

252. inconnu

out-there-starisborn-videoSixteenByNine1050Our universe is all about building new life from death.

Like the creation of the world from the body of Ymir the frost giant in Norse mythology, the elements that made life on this planet even possible originated in the violent deaths of massive stars billions of years ago.

We are born from death.

We even owe the birth of our own home star and the formation of our solar system to the deaths of the star (or stars) responsible for the nebula that birthed it, a process that took 50 million years, give or take.

Most stars in the observable universe are about as big as our own—average. They lead mundane lives for the most part, about 10 billion years, fusing hydrogen into helium.

When one of these stars can’t fuse its elements any further, it expands to twice its original size, into a red giant. The outer shell is cast off, most of its matter is blown out into space, and the remnant shrinks down into a white dwarf, which will continue to shine for 80 to 100 billion years.

However, when a star greater than about five times the stellar mass of our star dies, it goes out spectacularly in a supernova, a violent explosion that scatters the star’s guts (and heavier elements) into the cosmos.

If the star is large enough, though, even the resulting explosion isn’t enough to overcome the star’s own gravity. The stellar remnant collapses on itself, collapsing right out of existence until an impossibly dense singularity forms—a black hole.

Like anything with gravity, they attract matter. But unlike most objects, black holes are dense and powerful enough to pull in even light: thus, why they are called “black,” because not even light can escape.

We now know that supermassive black holes lurk at the centers of most galaxies. They may even be vital to galactic formation.

Out of death, life.

That’s all to say, I had a meltdown on Friday evening.


Black_Holes_-_Monsters_in_Space

It’s been a while since I had one, because all in all, my mental state has actually been pretty good lately. I’ve been able to focus on school and on developing as a librarian.

However, a few weeks ago I was invited to a dinner gathering hosted a gay couple who are friends of mine. The other guests were another gay couple, who did the cooking.

And it did not go well… for me.

Although my friends tried to include me in conversation, the other couple barely acknowledged my presence, bringing up topics like expensive vacations they’ve taken as a couple, discussions of couple’s issues, or challenges of gay parenthood as a couple.

The message was clear: as a single person, I was unworthy and invisible.

A normal, healthy person might say: “These people are pretentious, fucking assholes. Fuck them and their shallow snobbery.”

Instead, it felt like a validation of every insecurity I have about being single.


477f73c8c712858510310c472b0d982fThe meltdown in question happened at a small gathering at the house of the same friends who hosted the dinner party. They’re in their early forties and recently started up a sexual *whatever* with a local twentysomething guy.

Overall, it seems to be a good thing for them, with everyone getting what they need from the arrangement.

However, I am careful to remind these friends whenever they start to share details that I don’t want to hear about it.

For starters, it’s been ages since I had sex, and I arrived at the conclusion recently that I just can’t have sex with anyone I’m not in love with (and vice versa).

Meaning that, with most gay men as they are, and at my age and relatively nascent progress in rebuilding my life post-fundie Christianity, it seems unlikely I’ll ever find someone.

Or get laid.

So, as Miracle Max might say,

Miracle Max


So, Friday night.

Maybe someone posted a couple’s selfie or a chipper new relationship status earlier in the day, but I showed up feeling hateful towards the world. My friends’ new boy was there, and I couldn’t stop from hating the three of them and their playful, flirty familiarity.

In short, towards the end of evening and after several drinks, I went off. And when I go off in that state, I can be nasty and cruel.

Which I was.

Spectacularly.

Basically, it’s beyond aggravating to see everyone getting what they want when things appear so bleak for me. To see how fun, easy, and recreational sex appears to be for so many men in this community, and knowing that that’s not for me.

Plus, it’s galling that virtually every guy I’ve dated is in a long-term relationship now (including Jay and Seth), which summons images of facing the next however-many years alone, braced against the icy and lonely winds of other people’s happiness.

It’s like a prolonged shot of some craggy shoreline in a bleak Bergman film. (Aren’t they all bleak?)


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Right now, I feel rather like an emotional black hole at the center of my personal galaxy. I seem to attract good, quality people, and I’m reasonably attractive, but few can drift too close without getting hurt.

My formative years were about unknowingly internalizing the Christian belief that I’m a worthless, sinful piece of shit. Family and community life taught me that the basis of all relationships is fear.

Now I fear that love of any kind won’t be able to reach me without being mangled, or escape my gravitational pull to get out to someone.

How does one rewrite that script?


Today I watched a TED talk by Jean-Paul Mari about PTSD. He said: “You feel like you want to die or kill or hide or run away. You want to be loved, but you hate everyone.”

I may not have survived a war, but I did survive the trauma of fundamentalist Christianity. And I can’t banish the dreadful thought that I survived only to emerge dead on the vine.

That doesn’t ring intellectually true, but it certainly feels true…

251. convive

TCGCMLast week I received an invitation to the annual Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert. This year’s title/theme is “Under the mistletoe: a holiday romance.” As much of an institution as TCGMC certainly is for Minneapolis, for me, their programs have always been far too campy and saccharine.

It’s a personal preference thing, and there are plenty in the community who enjoy what they do. But it’s also emblematic of my feelings about the gay community here in the Twin Cities, and in the Midwest in general.

What struck me about the photo above is that I’ve long perceived (but couldn’t put my finger on for a while) that many gay men seem stuck in a state of prolonged teenage boyhood.

This makes sense from a psychological standpoint. The teenage years for many gay men were lost to the closet, and many spend the rest of their lives trying to get that back, or to somehow relive those years.

But it does mean that the silly, flirty, happy-go-lucky attitudes of many gay men, of gay culture, and groups like gay men’s choruses grate on my increasingly Scottish-like nerves, like fingernails on a chalkboard.

(Brief aside on that last bit: Over the past few weeks I’ve caught myself, as Clara Oswald might say of the Twelfth Doctor, “going Scottish.” It’s not quite cantankerous or curmudgeonly, but it is a whole lot of not censoring myself quite as often as usual.)

Because rather than spend my adult life trying to get those teenage years back, my response to that loss was to go in the opposite direction and distance myself entirely from that mode.

Some of it may be that as a child I couldn’t stand childlike or childish things. I couldn’t wait to be an adult. The world seemed such a grim and serious place, and I couldn’t understand how other people couldn’t see that.

Maybe that’s why I stopped smiling around age seven or eight.

Maybe depression was manifesting itself that early.

… regardless, I’ve never been a very playful or flirty guy. Even my sillier moments are colored by a serious approach. I’m not without humor, but there’s always a darker edge to what I do.

On Monday I discussed some of this with my therapist, and one of the things to come out of that session was the fact that I was also conditioned growing up to be suspicious of any fun pursuit or worldly pleasurable—even though, according to the Bible, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”

In short, anything enjoyable might be one of several things. It might be:

  • demonic temptation from Satan;
  • something good that will distract us from taking pleasure in Jesus;
  • a test from God to see whether we’re willing to forgo momentary pleasure for the sake of the Jesus.

Because the evangelical Christianity I grew up in taught us to set our minds “on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” warning us not to “love the world or the things in the world.”

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

In short, nothing really mattered unless it was going to count in heaven. My mom would often say something to this effect if she thought we were making too big a deal about something that wasn’t spiritual enough.

(I feel the need here to point out that my mom really is a warm and friendly person. She’s also deeply inculcated with fundamentalist Christianity.)

The consequence of this is that at age 32, I still mistrust anything good that comes along, or feel the compulsion to find the negative in it. It’s a coping mechanism to guard against hurt and disappointment that came with being cut off from the ability to truly enjoy anything, and to guard against the disappointment that I inevitably expect is just around the corner.


This is no way to live, of course. I’m constantly aware of how relatively little time I actually have on this little planet and how stupid it is to not be taking advantage of every moment to celebrate being alive and experiencing everything possible.

However…

There are, frankly, a lot of things that I’m just not interested in or into.

Like silly, gay flirtiness. Hookup culture. Most of the things gay men around here talk about.

Not into it.

Not into camp. Not into queer. Not into theatrics. Not into fetish. Not into Peter Pan antics.

Honestly, it’s too tiring, and I don’t have enough energy these days to handle any of it, what with the barely sleeping and forgetting to eat because my head feels as if it’s been sellotaped to the back of a speeding bus being driven by a terrified monkey.

Hopefully life will slow down once I’m done with grad school.


A friend asked a few days ago what I am into given that I seem to know so specifically what I’m not into. “Curiosity,” was the eventual reply, “Intellectual, emotional, social. A Douglas Adams-esque knack of being able to laugh at all of it while still taking it somewhat seriously…

“A sturdy sense of self that comes from not giving fucks about what anyone else thinks, rather than from getting that from the surrounding culture. Kindness. Rationality. A sense of self-directed purpose. Someone who doesn’t need me but still wants me there…

“Is that specific enough?”

Of course, that’s what I would’ve said with a few days to ponder and then respond, which always seems to be the case.

And I don’t know if anyone like that even exists.

… not real hopeful on that point.

250. oneiric

open_doorThis post might get me in a spot of trouble. We’ll see. Bear with me.

Yesterday I saw an article in my Google News feed by Charles White on Breitbart.com with the provocative headline “Straight People Have Ruined Gay Rights.” The website is named after the late conservative scumbag Andrew Breitbart, and usually publishes right-wing trash.

But aforementioned headline did catch my attention.

In summary: Heteros have ruined gay rights and culture by co-opting our movement in order to feel good about themselves for helping us poor homos. And if I’m reading White correctly, he sees the price of equality as de-queering ourselves to take on the appearance and values of mainstream hetero culture—to be less offensive. Less gay. Furthermore, we’re expected to put up with hetero curiosity and even voyeurism as part of our “assimilation” into the mainstream. “Queer spaces are becoming zoos for straights to stare at us,” White declares.

While I don’t agree with much of what he had to say, the article did inspire an interesting conversation on my Facebook wall about the existential crisis the American LGBT community seems to be moving into in this post-Windsor/post-Obergefell era. That’s not to say there aren’t still miles to go for gay rights and equality. Because there are.

My friend Nick started off by pondering whether the “existential loneliness I perceive now [is] because I am gay or simply because being forced to re-evaluate my being gave me outer perspective?” He added,

Gay culture was a thing largely born out of necessity in light of the persecution we faced; it’s the only reason we had the four letters of GLBT to bind us at all.

Now that it’s not so required, fashionable even, you can’t honestly expect it to maintain the fabulous momentum it once had.

In a longer comment he wrote:

If you’ve ever watched the Celluloid Closet, you get a firm idea what the gay culture mentioned in the article above was based on, where our securities were built… Creating a code of behavior to repel the sadistic beat-down the rest of society enjoyed inflicting ended up paying off, and it was refined by the sacrifices we were forced to make…

In that time frame, the theatrics were guided by the resources available. I think gay men today capitalize on this the most effectively of the GLBT, but the legacy has run its course. If the community wants to re-radicalize so badly there needs to be a new image, a new alluring icon to draw us together. In my circles, the providers I’ve met with agree with me on principle, but we have yet to see something to reflect off of… I see the trans community working in this light, not so gracefully at the moment, but it IS working.

If gay men want their “richness” back they will have to work for it. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish, but it can be done with some people of purpose guiding the helm. I just hope those people approach with empathy and kindness at the core of their purpose.

I thought Nick makes some excellent points, and I largely agree with him. I responded to him:

When I look at the various expressions of gay/queer culture, outrage, and/or activism, these seem rooted (but also stuck) in modes of the past.

Looking at the struggles of basically every immigrant group that came to this country in the 19th and 20th centuries, the problem was one of balancing integration with establishing a unique cultural identity. German, Irish, Chinese, Russian, Greek, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Jewish, and other Middle Eastern groups immigrated here from 1850 to 1930, and almost all faced opposition from political conservatives at the time.

The LGBT community are sort of “immigrants from within.” We’re relative newcomers to the American landscape, with our strange customs and peculiar ways, but we’re rapidly gaining greater acceptance in ways that just a decade ago were unthinkable. This is why I somewhat question the notion of re-radicalization. Fight for our equal rights as citizens of this country, yes. Challenge toxic, outdated gender norms. Combat bigotry wherever it lurks. But if we want full inclusion and acceptance, we can’t continue to carry ourselves as outsiders.

Personally, I think the future of the LGBT community is in joining with other social justice movements to advocate for feminism and egalitarianism, and eliminate patriarchy, misogyny, and bigotry. Because I don’t think we need another icon or subculture to rally around like we used to. Post-Obergefell gay culture needs to be built around the core notion of authenticity.

I might be stepping on some toes in saying this, but there is a sort of monolithic “gay” ethos and style that is not exactly but also kinda rigidly enforced. And I question how much of that comes from authentic individual expression and how much is conformity borne from a need for belonging to and the protection of the gay tribe. Queer identity itself is direct action against the rigid hegemonic gender binarism of the patriarchy.

If that were no longer there and everyone was free to explore and express themselves in ways that were true to themselves, would the queer identity even be necessary?

My friend Steve chimed in that “the problem outlined in this article and the commentary is predicated on a false assumption: that gay people are all the same.” And he’s right. Each letter in the acronym represents its own unique community, with cultures and needs of their own.

So I guess I’m really talking about gay men here, because no other group on the LGBT spectrum has as recognizable or as well-defined a culture.

But I think the much larger question that we’re all getting at is: what does it actually mean to be openly gay and not oppressed? (Again, see my note above about how we still have miles to go to reach full equality.) What would it look like if “homo” weren’t in contrast to “hetero”?

What’s next for us?

249. obstreperous

BaR_twitterSorry about the gap in posting. Grad school started up again in September, and on top of working full-time, doing music for Sunday Assembly, and serving as secretary for the campus archivists group, I’m also taking two fairly demanding courses, both in cataloging.

So time is extremely limited.

Of course, because I’m apparently a masochist, they’re both in the same subject area—cataloging—except that one is a beginning-level organization of knowledge course, and the other in advanced cataloging. Because I’m ridiculous.

But I’ve also discovered that really enjoy cataloging, which I wasn’t expecting. Homework (which usually consists of actual cataloging activities, such as identifying Library of Congress subject headings, looking up RDA rules for classification, or consulting LC authority files) is thoroughly enjoyable.

I could seriously spend hours doing this. It’s so relaxing.

So there’s that.


Had a mini grieving moment on Saturday, following by a minor meltdown in the evening.

I came across some recordings that I did in 2007 of music written for a play and performed with friends of mine. It’s music that I’m actually quite proud of, some of my best work, and overall that was a nice time in my life. It was the year before I came out, so it was actually a pretty turbulent time emotionally and psychologically, but working and creating made for a refreshing oasis in the midst of what was otherwise dark chaos.

It hit me while putting the tracks together that I really don’t write music anymore, and currently have no inclination to do so. Maybe I will again, someday, but for now that seems to be done. Wrote about that a few months ago when the Source Song Festival came around again, but it finally sunk in, like the awful significance of the death of someone close to you hitting home all of a sudden, that that part of my identity, the composer and classical musician, is gone.

It’s a striking absence considering how many years and how much effort I put into becoming a musician and composer. Hours spent practicing and writing, working on projects with friends, struggling to get my work out there for it to be (hopefully) discovered, and then finally accepting the inevitable conclusion that this wasn’t

This came up in the most recent meeting with my therapist, on Monday. The past few months I’ve been gradually stripping away the final vestiges, exorcising the remaining ghosts, of that now-defunct period of my life. It was an identity designed to please my father, the people in my life who I looked up to and respected, who all said that music was my divine calling (or however they phrased it—not quite so dramatic as “divine calling,” for sure).

I started writing music around age fourteen or fifteen, began a bachelor’s in music composition at seventeen, tried for years to make a career as a composer, failed, and finally wrote my last “serious” composition last year for a wedding.

Music formed the core of my identity for over fifteen years, and now it’s gone.

So it just hit me how much much time and effort passed investing in that identity, and how much of both was wasted when I could’ve been putting that into pursuing authenticity instead.

And, of course, that thinking shifted over into my personal life and into looking at the wasteland my romantic prospects are at the moment, how everyone else seems to be settling down or moving forward to getting what they want while I’m looking more every day like a tiny rowboat that’s drifting out, alone, into open water.


I’ve also been more aware recently of a sense of discomfort around intimacy, of both the physical and emotional kind. There are times when I can fake it in social settings and am able to pretend for some reason or another.

Fundamentally, I believe that this discomfort is rooted in a fear of disappointment, of hurt, or both, and not wanting to get involved with a guy when it’s unclear where his intentions are. Because frankly, I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with bullshit of that kind.

And there’s the lack of trust that I have in my own judgment around the kind of guys I typically fall for. The last couple of guys I’ve been interested in or merely attracted to (and we’re talking about four or five over the last two and a half years) have either been emotionally unavailable, already taken, or hetero.

The conflict is in the reality that I seem to be surrounded by gay guys who have no qualms about having a fuck buddy, or just fucking someone who they’re into, seemingly without hangups or interest in where it goes. They just go after what they want.

It’s not guilt or anything that holds me back.

It’s fear of getting hurt.

So I can’t do fuck buddies.

Five years ago I was able to, in the months after breaking up with Aaron and then the debacle with Seth. And maybe that’s part of it—that I’ve done the sex-for-sex-sake thing and have no desire to revisit the emptiness that it became for me. Maybe it works fine for other people. For me, it was a lonely experience, especially when being with other guy’s boyfriends.

Yes, I was the “other guy” for a time.

Plus, there are new anxieties about getting older as a gay man, about the slowing-down of my body as I get into my thirties, how I’m no longer the supple young thing that guys were into. I don’t have time (or money) to spend at the gym, and I’m worried that not taking care of myself exercise-wise will eventually come back to bite me later, both in the sense of my health and in attracting romantic partners when I’m finally able and ready to pursue that.

Just a lot of anxieties overall.

I need to step back from this for now and pursue things that bring me joy and happiness.

248. quiddity

GoldRingIt’s the last rose of summer.

The autumnal equinox is three weeks away, the days are getting shorter, and grad school starts up again for me on Friday. I’ve read over the syllabi for my two cataloging courses this coming term and it’s perverse how excited I truly am to finally dig in to this subject.

And in keeping with all of the changes in my life over the past couple of months, I’ve now decided to stop wearing the gold ring my parents gave me as a birthday present around age fifteen or sixteen. I can’t quite remember which birthday it was, but fifteen sounds about right.

So eighteen years, I’ve been wearing it.

A simple gold band that has confused and intrigued countless numbers of people—many of whom assumed it meant I was married.

I’m not even going to think about how many guys assumed it meant that I was unavailable when in reality I’ve been quite available all this time.


The official story I’ve told people about its origin is that it commemorated the first time I made it through The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which isn’t entirely untrue.

I’d actually finished the series around age thirteen, so it was more a belated token, a symbol of my undying love for Tolkien’s world. By age fifteen, I’d read the entire trilogy about four times and had made the first of several aborted attempts at getting through The Silmarillion.

The nerdy birthday present story always makes for an easy out for having to explain a much more complicated picture. It engenders amused if not outright delighted reactions, from “That’s so cool!” to “That’s unbelievably nerdy!”

And, of course, I get asked about whether fiery Tengwar letters appear when the ring is heated, which it doesn’t, and if I’ve looked, which I haven’t. Frankly, I read the books long before the movies were made.

I’m not a connoisseur of cheap tricks!


Like the One Ring of Tolkien’s world, the truth about my gold ring is more layered than meets the eye, and requires some specialized knowledge of arcane cultures.

Specifically, purity culture.

Promise (or purity) rings came into fashion in evangelical Christian culture during the 1970s, around the time Christianity was finding its own version of Catholic kitsch. This was also in the wake of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, when fundamentalist Christians started pushing back against what they saw as insidious decadence and rampant immorality of secular culture.

(And yes, it was entirely demonic in origin.)

The ring was to be worn as a reminder of the vow to remain sexually chaste until marriage, when it would be replaced with an actual wedding band—divine permission to finally get it on.

By the time I was a teenager in the mid-1990s, “purity rings” and the public signing of purity pledges by adolescents were commonplace in churches. Undoubtedly horny teens, conditioned to fear their own sexual natures, took part in public church ceremonies where they signed pledges to “take the high road” to defy a culture that urged them to “just give in.” The pledge was a promise to abstain from all forms of sexual activity—including masturbation.

Once a year at my church, teens were invited at one point in the Sunday service to come to the front to sign a large poster and take that vow. It was partly inculcation and largely peer pressure, but it was mostly shaming.

So there are Christian men’s support groups for battling sexual temptation; software that actually notifies a designated and trusted friend if you look at “dirty” websites; and books like Every Man’s Battle, to shame young people for their otherwise normal sexual urges.

I’ve no idea if I signed one of those pledges or not. It would’ve made an excellent cover, seeing as I was realizing then that abstaining from sexual activity with women wouldn’t be a problem.


Thankfully, my ring had nothing to do with any of that, although it was obliquely related.

On the inside of the ring is engraved a reference to a Bible verse: 1 Timothy 4:12,

Don’t let anyone look down on you because of your youth; on the contrary, set the believers an example in your speech, behavior, love, trust and purity. (Complete Jewish Bible.)

Boys in Evangelical circles don’t get quite the heaping of shame about sex and their bodies that girls do. Rather, young people are taught that men are sexual beasts who’d run amok if not for the controlling influence of women—and the Holy Spirit, of course! God, in his infinite wisdom, gifted men with insatiable lust that’s supposed to be expressed only in the bedroom, between one man and one woman whom the Lord joins together for life, regardless of whether they’re even sexually compatible.

But why worry about whether you’ve made the wrong choice in a life mate, or wonder about what it might be like to have sex with other people? God took time out from creating the universe in six days to match-make for everyone thousands of years into the future, ensuring each of us a mate for life!

… except for the ones he “blessed” with singlehood.

Naturally.

DontMasturbate

For me, however, the ring had a more sober meaning.

The verse was a signal from my parents that I was transitioning into adulthood, into manhood, accountable directly to God for my life and the choices I’d make.

I was supposed to start taking on the mantle of a godly man and leader, the kind of man a godly wife needs to be the Christ-like head of our household.

Thankfully, things didn’t go according to plan.


Their message impacted me in a way they couldn’t have anticipated.

I wasn’t a kid anymore.

I could think for myself, take responsibility for my direction in life, and not merely abdicate that power to someone else.

It would take thirteen more years to figure that out though.

Now, my hand is a blank slate—rather like my future.

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