281. maffick


Friday evening I had a pretty positive experience in my summer practicum class, and I have been trying to hold on to the feeling that went along with it.

We recently had an assignment to put together a mock resume and cover letter for our target jobs. I had an anxiety attack reading job requirements for entry-level cataloging jobs, realizing how much I still don’t know and how much is expected of candidates.

What I ended up taking away from Friday though was feedback that my resume and cover letter was actually pretty strong, that I know more than I think I do, and most everyone is worried that they’re unqualified for the job they really want.

It’s one of the downsides of ADD and anxiety that my brain tells me that I’m not good enough, that I’m far too behind and will never find a salaried job or able to support myself, and that no one will ever love me—or be willing to accept my crazy.

One comforting thing about the ADD community is that these kinds of feelings are almost universal, so it’s not just me.

Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how to manage my dating life as a demisexual, because dating doesn’t work the same for us as it does for everyone else.

Mainly, I’ve been thinking about attraction.

There are several different kinds of attraction¹:

  • Sexual attraction: attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s).
  • Romantic attraction: attraction that makes people desire romantic contact or interaction with another person or persons.
  • Aesthetic attraction: occurs when someone appreciates the appearance or beauty of another person(s), disconnected from sexual or romantic attraction.
  • Sensual attraction: desire to interact with others in a tactile, non-sexual way, such as through hugging or cuddling.
  • Emotional attraction: the desire to get to know someone, often as a result of their personality instead of their physicality. This type of attraction is present in most relationships from platonic friendships to romantic and sexual relationships.

What I have observed is that (at least in most people) most of these attractions overlap. They might overlap in different ways, and some attractions might be more dominant than others, but they seem to work in consort towards bringing people together.

For me, it’s rare for any of these to overlap. I might experience aesthetic attraction for a guy, but not have sexual or romantic desire for him. Similarly, I might be emotionally attracted to someone, but not aesthetically or romantically.

In short, sexual attraction is basically the last stop for my brain, which takes the long way around through every other type.

It’s rare to meet a guy who either understands this or is on the same wavelength. I’ve never met anyone like that, at least. Most gay men seem to run on aesthetic and sexual attraction, with little thought to romantic or emotional.

This is ironic for me, with my ADD brain, since impulsivity is a hallmark of the condition. Maybe it’s that sexuality is based in a different area of the brain, or that my sexual desire is bogged down by anxiety.

This is relevant because my previous sexual history back when I was much more active needs to be explained.

What I think was going on in those days was that I was applying a “fake it ’til you make it” mindset, working under the assumption that I needed to overcome internalized homophobia by having as much sex as possible.

What I learned was that I just wasn’t into the sex. A handful of the guys I found attractive, some I was sexually attracted to, but at no point did I encounter anyone I wanted to date.

A friend of mine pointed out later that some of that was probably where I was finding these guys—hookup apps, mostly.

Even outside that though, in social circles, work, and volunteer settings, I still never met anyone. Statistically, that should have happened, right?

Or were all my chances in my early twenties, when I was closeted?

Where does one meet a guy who’s fine with dating a guy who takes longer than others to connect? I don’t belong in the queer community, am unlikely to find a guy amongst the heterosexuals, and I’m too principled to change myself just to snag someone.

It seems a problem without a solution.

I skipped Minneapolis Pride again this year, mainly because I don’t need additional reasons to feel bad about myself.

It’s not a place where I fit in. I’ve never been much of a reveler, and my body image issues prevent me from wearing anything short of long pants and a short sleeve shirt.

Also, I don’t belong to any kink/fetish communities and my identity isn’t sexuality or gender nonconformity-based, which seems to be a big thing at Pride. Cataloging and role-playing games are more compelling, and I haven’t found any guys in those realms.

Maybe it’s just the community I find myself in now, but it seems like almost everyone I know is into leather, bondage, drag, pop culture, etc. A relationship founded on shared core values and a deep emotional bond feels almost outdated for my age group.

The curse of being an introverted gay man on the asexual spectrum.

So what am I doing about this?

To start, I’m trying to be aware of when I’m attracted to someone, and what type, trying to think of them all like indicator levels. With this hypothetical guy, the overall rating is 43%:

Whereas with this guy, it’d be 78%:

Second, I’m trying to do better at boundary setting. This can be difficult for ADD brains, thanks to under-performing anterior cingulate cortexes, which regulate things like impulse control.

So I’m trying to be aware when my anxiety activates and resist the impulse to fall back on mirroring the other person’s behavior, which is how I find myself in unhealthy situations.

Having to write a manual for this from scratch is SO MUCH FUN.


93. sisyphus


Quick aside here from NaNoWriMo.

My friend Jenny just posted a link to an article on Ye Olde Facebook that was posted by Rachel Held Evans entitled “A Non-Zero-Sum Conversation Between the Traditional Church and the Gay Community“, which I guess is a re-post of an article written by a guy named Richard Beck. I thought about commenting but then decided to write my own quick rebuttal before plunging back into the writing fray.

For those who don’t care to read or explore either of these authors or their articles, let me sum up briefly. The thrust of the piece is that the gay community and the trad Christian community have mutually compatible interests in promoting acceptance, even in the face of fundamental differences in belief. “Both groups share a mutual concern in treating others with respect, love and dignity,” Beck writes. “We share an interest in the Golden Rule. We both want to be treated well.” He also rightly observes that trad Christians have an obligation as Christians to display kindness, hospitality and generosity – three things that the church lacks in spades.

He continues:

“The game isn’t zero-sum; it’s non-zero-sum. Fighting doesn’t have to be the only thing we have in common. There are significant areas of mutual concern, locations where we can drop our fists and partner together on important Kingdom work . . . Imagine how the conversation would change between the traditional Christian and gay communities if traditional Christian communities became, say, known for their guardian angel and anti-bullying programs and initiatives, often partnering with local gay advocacy groups to get this work done.”

This is a lovely, Utopian image where everyone gets along and is able to put aside their differences and work together to build a world based on peace and love. It’s a sentiment that many of my Christian friends express (including my two best friends, Mark and Emily) in their continuing work in building a church that fosters such a worldview, and is open to discussion and bridging that conversation with the trad Christian church in bringing about real and tangible change in how Christians and gay (and really anyone who is of a non-believing persuasion–Jews, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, etc.).

Well, forgive me for not jumping on the hippie bandwagon (to be sarcastic for just a moment) but I have experienced first-hand the “openness” of the fundamentalist church. And I can say that without hesitation that my friends will be fighting an uphill battle both ways to start that conversation; and maybe that says something of their love for people, and their willingness to not give up.

The problem with the trad Christian community and why I think this Utopian world will never come about is that their beliefs about the Bible and about this world will always prevent this. It’s why Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, James Dobson, Peter LaBarbera and the rest of the anti-gay crowd can say the things they do and still sleep at night. They honestly believe that they are doing homosexuals a favor by “proclaiming the Truth” (and yes, I am using the capital T there purposefully) in order to free them from their “lifestyle of sexual bondage,” which I think was something like the phrase Bachmann used once.

Underlying their actions is the fundamental Christian belief that this world is not all there is, and that a better world awaits those who love and follow Jesus after death. Amongst the Evangelicals is the additional caveat that you have to “proclaim him as your Lord and Savior.” Just try doing a search for “how to become a Christian.”

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9 (NASB)

It’s this eschatology that allows them to believe that the only thing that matters is getting to the right side in the afterlife. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS EXCEPT FOR JESUS. That “nothing else” includes sexual orientation, because obviously God created us all with a heterosexual orientation–right? So what does it matter if you have to live 70 years in total misery or loneliness if at the end of all that you have an eternity with Jesus?

[hold for laughs]

It’s this view that will not allow any sort of conversation between gays and trad Christians, and I don’t know that Richard Beck or Rachel Held Evans really understand that. I have the sense that they grew up in much more generous Christian denominations that were more life-affirming and dignity-affording. Then again, maybe they do and like the pacifist protesters getting beaten down in the film Gandhi they know what they’re in for.

All I know is that until trad Christians back down from their position of biblical literalism and inerrancy, there can be no conversation, for to even back down would be to waver in devotion to the Word and to God, which means jeopardizing their eternal security. My own parents would rather hold to that notion: that if I continue to “live as a homosexual” that I will one day suffer an eternity in hell while they enjoy a blessed eternity with Je-sus. (No, my parents are not Southern televangelists, but it’s fun to make them sound like they are.

It was partly because of this that I became an atheist in the first place (and I’ll be devoting my 100th blog entry to the reasons why I am an atheist). Jesus supposedly stood for love, affording dignity to all persons and speaking out against hypocrisy. And yet his followers resemble more the men who allegedly put him to death, and are putting gays to death every day in one form or another. They will continue to fight against gay marriage and equal rights for gays. They will oppose anti-bullying measures because it “encourages the proliferation and tolerance of homosexuality in schools.” They will rail against the teaching of evolution, ignoring all evidence that contradicts and disproves creationism.

Because the bible told them so.

52. the locus of language in sexuality


I was just asked about this tonight, and thought I’d write a quick post about it:

“Are you a top or a bottom?”

This is probably the most frequent question that comes up amongst gay men when entering into a sexual relationship. It helps to define sexual roles and lay out expectations about who will be, for lack of a better word, fucking who; who will be “dominant” and “submissive.”

For me though, this type of language and labelling isn’t very helpful, and is more indicative of the hetero-proxy sexuality that has permeated the gay community since it came into the mainstream back in the 1960s. Without going into a lengthy discussion of Eva Sedgwick or Judith Butler, I posit that this sort of boxing of gay sexuality into “top” and “bottom” is a mere co-opting of existing and established heterosexual roles rather than the fostering of a true and authentic expression of the Mars/Mars interaction that takes place between men in a sexual relationship. It assumes that one partner will play the part of the “man,” and the other, by extension, the part of the “woman”, which by inference presumes that “gay sex” = “anal sex”, when there are far more expressions of eros than the few we make do with. Many gay men have no interest in that at all.

Furthermore, such language limits and suppresses exploration between partners, and locks them into predefined roles such as “dominant” or “submissive,” bolstering the idea that a “bottom” is naturally the passive partner in the relationship, and that such a pairing is one of domination and  subjugation rather than an egalitarian one built on mutual love and respect.

This is not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t have preferences for one thing or another, sexually speaking. There are some guys who truly enjoy being “tops” or “bottoms.” What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be defined and labelled by those preferences, just as I personally don’t think that I should automatically be labelled “gay” for having a preference for men, and more than mixed gender persons should be labelled “straight.”

Language like this has only served to divide us and promote stereotypes and misunderstanding. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”

003. first time


So after a visit to the library on Sunday I decided that it was time to have my first gay experience.

At Barnes & Noble.

In the gay & lesbian section.

That was lame. Sorry.

But in a way, it probably one of my first steps in coming out publically, if only in a small way. I started reading Bruce Bawer’s “A Place at the Table” and was absolutely floored by how he managed to pinpoint every issue I have with the gay community (and some I wasn’t even able to fully articulate).

In any case, I located the book in the store and my mind briefly shorted—not like I didn’t have a clue where it would probably be found, but the part of me that is still afraid of being outed, or of people thinking that I’m not straight. So I did what I usually do.

I walked straight into the lion’s mouth.

Turned right around, walked over to the business section and located the shelves. There it was, like a big, gay neon sign. In signage hunter green and white. So after sifting through copies of The Joy of Gay Sex, The Velvet Rage and copious amounts of erotica, I saw the “Arranged by author” label and went “Oh.”

My inner librarian looked down at me over his horn-rimmed glasses and poked me.

There it was. In paperback, even!

Here’s an excerpt from the author’s note:

If to many gays “homosexual” sounds like a clinical diagnosis, to many heterosexuals “gay” sounds like a political statement . . . I tend to favor “gay” when discussing subculture-oriented individuals and “homosexual” when discussing individuals who are more mainstream-oriented. I’ve chosen not to use the word “queer” which is favored by some gay activists and academics but turns off almost everybody else, gay and straight (13-14).

The book begins with an account of the author observing a “lean and handsome” teenager standing at a wall of magazines, anxiously working up the courage to pick up a copy of a gay weekly.

The image of gay life promulgated in these publications did not reflect actual gay life in America; rather, they presented a picture of gay identity as defined by a small but highly visible minority of the gay population . . . What was wrong was the image that they projected had, for decades, strongly influenced the general public’s ideas about homosexuality. Thanks to their extraordinary visibility . . . many heterosexuals tended to equate homosexuality with the most irresponsible and sex-obsessed elements of the gay population. That image had provided ammunition to gay-bashers, had helped to bolster the widely held view of gays as a mysteriously threatening Other, and had exacerbated the confusion of generations of young men who, attempting to come to terms with their homosexuality, had stared bemusedly at the pictures in magazines like the Native and said to themselves: “But this isn’t me.” (19)

This has been one of my primary hang-ups with coming to terms with my homosexuality—the fact that I’m not like them. I don’t fit the “profile” (whatever that means). Bawer goes on to write what he wanted to say to that kid at the magazine wall, and presumably what he wants to say to every young man who feels the same way (including himself at one point):

“Being gay doesn’t oblige you to be anything—except yourself . . . You’re you. You’re the boy you’ve always been, the boy you see when you look in the mirror. Yes, you’ve always felt there was something different about you, something you couldn’t quite put a name to, and in the past few months or years you’ve come to understand and to struggle with the truth about that difference. You’re beginning to realize that the rest of your life is not going to play out quite the way you or your parents have envisioned it. You didn’t want to accept this at first, but now you know you have no alternative. And you want to be honest with yourself and your parents about this; more than anything else, you want to talk to them about this momentous truth you’re discovering about yourself. But you can’t bring yourself to do so, since you’re pretty sure they’d be angry. You resent them for this. And on top of that you despise yourself, because even though you’ve always talked to them about everything, you’re hiding from them a very important part of who you are, and because—even though you didn’t choose to be gay (who, after all, would choose to experience the fear and loneliness and bewilderment you’ve known?)—you feel as if you’ve done something awful to them by being this way. (20-21)

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. As a Christian, add to that the fact that I felt that I’d betrayed my faith, G-d, my family, my church, and damned myself to an eternity with the other sodomites, empire-builders, autocides, gluttons, and highwaymen of the seventh circle of hell. So to read those words actually brought tears to my eyes. I’d known that there were others who’d shared my experience, but to hear it stated to succinctly and accurately was rather disarming. And heartening.

One of the things that characterize us silent gays is that, unlike the more visible minority of gays, we tend not to consider ourselves “members” of anything . . . Yet as the debate over homosexuality has escalated, some of us have grown increasingly impatient—impatient with the lies that are being told about us by anti-gay crusaders; impatient with the way in which TV news shows routinely illustrate gay rights stories by showing videotape of leathermen and drag queens at Gay Pride Date marches; and impatient with the way in which many self-appointed spokespeople for the gay population talk about the subject. (26)

He uses the phrase “professional gays” to describe these activists, and that’s a pretty good way of putting it.

The loudest voices on both sides rely in their arguments not upon common sense, reason, and democratic principle but upon the exploitation of negative emotions, chiefly fear and anger. Radical gay activists trade on the antagonism of many homosexuals toward the parents who rejected them, toward the bigots who insult them on the street, and toward the men of power who treat them as second-class citizens; professional gay-bashers, for their part, trade on the ill-informed fears and suspicions that haunt the minds of millions of otherwise decent heterosexuals. (28)

[The presence of visible, rancorous homosexuals has] helped to spread among heterosexuals an appalling, and profoundly distorted, image of homosexuality—and, indeed, to yoke the very idea of homosexuality, in the minds of many, with the most far-out images of the 1960s counterculture. Radical gay activists’ advancement of the notion that homosexuals are a socially, culturally, and politically homogenous group, furthermore, has made it harder to for many heterosexuals to see gays as individuals, and in particular to make distinctions between the largely invisible millions of gays who lead more or less conventional lives and the conspicuous few who don’t. (32)

The central irony of gay history is that laws and social conventions regarding homosexuality have long had the effect of discouraging monogamous relationships and of encouraging covert one-night stands . . . Indeed, far from helping to foster among young people who discovered themselves to be gay the self-knowledge, self-respect, and sexual self-discipline that would make possible meaningful, enduring relationships, the mentally cultivated by the Gay Liberation movement tended to induce young people to throw self-discipline to the winds; self-knowledge, they were led to believe, mattered less than self-expression, self-respect less than self-indulgence. (33)

There is no one “gay lifestyle,” any more than there is a single monolithic heterosexual lifestyle. There is in fact a spectrum of “gay lifestyles.” Near one extreme one might imagine a gay man whose sense of identity is centered upon the fact of his sexual orientation, and whose tastes, opinions, and modes of behavior conform almost perfectly to every stereotype . . . Toward the other end of the spectrum one might image a gay couple that most heterosexuals would not even recognize as gay. They live not in a predominantly gay community but in an ordinary neighborhood in a big or small city, town or suburb . . . In its essentials, their “lifestyle” is indistinguishable from that of most heterosexual couples in similar professional and economic circumstances. (33-34)

This is one of the big reasons why I was hesitant to come out in the first place, and why I’m still careful about broadcasting the fact that I’m gay—I don’t want to be lumped in with that lot. I don’t go to gay restaurants or clubs. I shop at Target. I often dress like a lumberjack. I’m politically and morally conservative. I have no desire to be promiscuous, consider myself a one-man guy, and have no affiliation with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Queen Nation, or any AIDS-related organisation.

Like most adult heterosexuals, most adult homosexuals simply don’t want such a life [in a “gay ghetto” like Greenwich Village]. They were raised in conventional middle-class homes in conventional middle-class neighborhoods, and they want to spend their lives in similar homes and neighborhoods, and they don’t see why being gay should prevent them from doing so. Nor do they like the idea of inhabiting an exclusively, or even mostly, gay world: such a world feels artificial to them, feels like an escape from reality.

There is a broad cultural divide, and often considerable hostility, between gays who tend toward the two extremes of the spectrum. We might call them, at the risk of dramatic oversimplification, “subculture-oriented gays” and “mainstream gays.” Some subculture-oriented gays accuse mainstream gays of “acting straight,” the assumption here being that in comes naturally to all gays to speak and walk and act in a certain way, and that if you do otherwise you are suppressing your natural self; some mainstream gays, for their part, shake their heads at the stereotypical gestures and mannerisms of some subculture-oriented gays, which they see as a pathetic manifestation of the gay subculture’s lock-step mentality . . . Subculture-oriented gays often blame anti-gay prejudice on mainstream gays who refuse to put themselves on the line for gay rights and to make their sexual orientation known to their neighbours and co-workers; mainstream gays often blame anti-gay prejudice on subculture-oriented gays who way of life only confirms heterosexuals’ sense that homosexual men are a bunch of silly, effeminate, and irresponsible nonconformists. (35)

I don’t have much more to add since he pretty much said it all. My reading time will be a bit limited over the next few days so I’ll be posting fewer excerpts.