272. wabi-sabi


kintugi‘Tis the season for retrospection, I guess.

As we turn our faces towards the void of what lies ahead for 2017, I’ve been reminded while listening to the radio this week of some of the high points and low points of the past year. While there were definite low points, I still tend to balk at those who claim that 2016 was the “worst year ever.”

I’m pretty sure 65 million BCE was the worst year ever for the dinosaurs, and you could have your pick of years at the height of the Black Death’s rampage through Europe around 1351-1353.

Ditto during the years of the Great Depression.

1783 was a wretched year for the northern hemisphere when the volcano Laki in Iceland started a chain of natural disasters that led to the deaths of tens of thousands in Europe.

1968 was a pretty bleak year in the United States, with the Vietnam War still raging, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, deadly race riots across the country, and the election of Richard Nixon.

(There are more examples on this Reddit thread.)

Point is, 2016 may have been the worst year in the lifetimes of many under a certain age, but every generation has its go-to .

For me, this has been a year of transformation and growth:

That last one had been a huge source of anxiety for me over the past few years. I’d been growing increasingly less interested in sex, dating, and “dating” (i.e., casual sex), which definitely made me an outlier amongst gay men. Discovering that there were others like me, whose sexuality was defined firstly by emotional rather than sexual attraction, was an incredible relief.

However, this has also redefined my relationship to the broader LGBTQIA+ community. Even before demisexuality, I struggled to really find a place of belonging under the rainbow umbrella.

I am not queer in any sense of the word, am cisgendered, still have my natural hair color, have no piercings or tattoos, am comfortable in my masculine identity, and feel no need to “bend” how I present my gender.

Frankly, I have heterosexual friends who are queerer than me.

Likewise, I have struggled to find belonging amongst gay men. My personal experience is that it’s a community defined heavily by sexual activity and sexual attraction—flirting, hooking up, etc. Again, full disclosure, my experience with “gay culture” has been primarily limited to a subset in central Minnesota, which may not be representative necessarily of the majority.

However, many guys with whom I’ve had conversations, who could be considered “mainstream gay” (however you’d define that), do feel liberated in their more extroverted sexuality. Many came out of repressive homes and communities, and found belonging and community in the gay bars and fetish subcultures that make this super introvert very uncomfortable.

The massacre at the Pulse nightclub in June was a conflicting event for me in many ways. Fifty people were murdered because of their sexual orientation. On the one hand, it was a reminder that although we have marriage equality in all fifty states thanks to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, it is still not entirely safe to be openly LGBT or Q in the United States.

And it’s frightening to consider that the incoming presidential administration could overturn many, if not all, of the advances for LGBTQ rights with a pen stroke or judicial appointment.

Yet aside from a sense of shared oppression, I don’t feel drawn to “gay” spaces—bars, clubs, gyms, bathhouses, concerts, etc. Even “gaymer” events are off-putting for me, mainly because the sexual energy is almost emotionally deafening.

At the 2015 American Library Association conference in San Francisco, when I attended a GLBT Round Table social (and later an independently organized) event, even though we were all librarians, I observed how the gay (and, I presume, bi) men flirted about the room like bees, sizing each other up.

I just wanted to talk to someone about cataloging and archiving.

A few days ago this video came across my YouTube feed.

Dubious genetic explanations aside, I found O’Keefe’s assertion that LGBT people have unique qualities and perspectives for bringing communities together and facilitating healing to be very heartening. While I may not fit any stereotypes of how society envisions a gay man, I do believe that growing up as an outsider has made me a more compassionate, empathetic, and social justice-minded as a human being.

It’s one reason I decided to go into librarianship in the first place: I know what it is to be denied information that might broaden my mind and challenge my comfortable, preconceived notions about the world—and people.

And I can do something about that as a cataloger, an archivist, and as a librarian.

The reason I worry so much about sex, and the hypersexuality of gay men, is the knowledge that androphiles are my field of eligibles. As a demisexual, it takes a while to even recognize that I’m interested in a guy.

While I’m still trying to figure out if we have anything in common, he’s already decided that we should to go back to his place.

I worry that everyone else moves too fast for me, that no one is willing to wait for the intricate gears and dynamos of my psycho-sexual machine to determine if attraction will happen or not.

Will I ever find someone? (And where do I even look?) Will the attraction endure for me, or for him, or will he eventually get fed up with me and my cogitating?

As I consider the theme of loneliness in 2016, I recognize the need to resolve it somehow, to rethink my perspectives.

Good riddance to this year though.

166. glissade


christmas wreathHappy Boxing Day, everyone!

Well, we made it through another Christmas without being swept away by some long-foretold doomsday disaster. And I made it through my first family Christmas with a significant other, which is noteworthy. This is the first year I’ve been with a guy for a major holiday like Christmas. Last year I spent it depressed, mostly holed up in my room, alone and drunk, so this was a nice change of pace and scenery.

It’s also been a full year since I told my parents that I didn’t want any further contact with them, so long as they believe what they do about homosexuality. Since being outed to them by my first ex-boyfriend in November 2010, they’ve had plenty of opportunity to reconsider their conviction that homosexuality is unnatural. They budged a little on the notion that it’s “uncurable,” which for them means that I should be living a lonely and celibate life. So there’s no real change from 2010.

Last fall they said that they would never acknowledge any romantic relationship of mine with another man, or come to any wedding or commitment ceremony of mine. This was a particular slap in the face, considering how big of a deal my younger sister’s wedding was, and knowing that I’ll never experience that kind of celebration. She has three kids now with her husband, and my family would never dream of pretending that they’re just friends or roommates. Yet that’s the life they deem appropriate and reasonable for me, all because I fancy men instead of women.

The last exchange between my dad and me took place on Christmas Day of last year. I’d stopped by to write him a check for the last of the money I owed him for car repairs, after which I told my parents that I wanted nothing more to do with them because of their beliefs about my sexuality. He made a comment about how he didn’t think my “lifestyle” was making me very happy, how Jesus could’ve helped me “be straight” if I’d let him, and how I’d “never really given Jesus a chance.” I responded that my unhappiness had to do with the fact that my entire world had been recently tipped upside-down, and on top of that my family thinks I should be content being a second-class citizen, both in society and in their company. I asked if he knew the difference between sadness and clinical depression, and he remarked that “Jesus is bigger than depression.”

To which I replied, before slamming the door behind me: “I spit on your Jesus.”

That was last Christmas.

This Christmas was spent with my boyfriend Jay and his family. I had some anxiety in the weeks leading up to it, not so much about large numbers of people but rather about gift-giving. In my family, or at least among my siblings once we were older, gift-giving always felt like an exercise in posturing. The gift had to be nice enough to show that you spent a decent amount of money on someone, but not so expensive that it looked like you were showing off. It was the thought that counted, so long as the thought was interpreted in the right way.

Add to that the fact that for me it’s so hard picking out gifts. Something has to jump out at me as being just the thing for a person. For example, Jay’s uncle has some pretty right-wing political views, and a few months ago I was at Barnes & Noble looking for another book and saw a book by David Horowitz, The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and sixties radicals seized control of the Democratic Party. I thought, “That’s perfect!”

As for the rest of his family, it’s hard to get a read sometimes. I was worried about them seeing me as rude or that I didn’t really try, and that therefore I’m a bad boyfriend and not really a part of the family. A few weeks ago a friend of Jay’s sister came over and played a game with us, and I felt like everyone liked him way more than me. My rational mind was saying that they have more of a history with him, and that’s what’s going on. My lizard brain was saying that everyone was wondering what I was even doing there.

Family is tricky for me, for many reasons. As I’m learning in therapy, I was never able to connect with my family growing up (at least during my teen years) because I was so preoccupied with trying to hide from them and everyone else the enormous fact that I was gay. And, as I feared, they are unable to accept their gay son for who he is, which means that we can’t have a relationship.

In the summer of 2011, while I was staying with my parents while finding a new place to live, my dad and I had an argument. This isn’t out of the ordinary since we’ve fought most of my life. We were on the topic of sexual orientation, and he growled, “You’ve made your whole identity now about being gay! You’re so focused on it!”

I said: “Yes. Because I am gay. Contrary to what you think, it’s not some separate thing apart from myself. It defines who I am, just like your being married to mom defines you. And someday there’s going to be a man in my life who forms the other part of that central relationship for me. And you refuse to acknowledge that part of me. So yeah, I’m kinda focused on that right now.”

I’ll never know what it’s like to have my own parents love my spouse in the way they love my sister’s husband. I’ll never know what it’s like to introduce the man I love to the people who, for better or worse, I spent most of my life with and who raised me. That’s not an easy pill to swallow.