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.


274. draconian



black_forest_gateauA few months ago, I experienced something that hadn’t happened in a while.

Now, I’m not reticent about my sexuality.

True, I don’t talk about it non-stop, and (contrary to how much I write about the subject) it isn’t the sole thing that defines me. But if asked or if I am in company where gender and sexuality are discussed, I am not shy about opening up about my experiences.

So it takes me aback when I have to come out to someone.

This episode happened following a gathering of friends in November as we were discussing a post-Thanksgiving get-together at my house. One of our newer attendees asked whether the decor would be Thanksgiving-themed.

“Decorating really isn’t my thing,” I said, and then joked, “I tend towards more of a sparse Scandinavian style, myself.”

She gave a look of mock surprise. “What kind of gay man are you?” she exclaimed. She was mostly joking (I think), but there was a hint of true incredulity in her tone.

I got this a lot in the first few years after coming out. Women would assume that I wanted to check out hot guys with them and provide brilliant, witty insights on the male psyche in between shopping breaks or redecorating their living room.

Sorry, heterosexuals. Your token queer I am not.

However, the episode got me contemplating the assumptions people might make about me as a gay man (specifically, what I’m interested in and who I have sex with), the various tropes and trappings of gay culture, and whether or not it was helpful to continue identifying that way.

Since the end of this past semester, I haven’t had much to occupy/distract my mind, so I’ve been mulling over what it means to be demisexual.

The common usage is to treat it as an adjective: you might only fuck people you have a close emotional bond with, but you’re still gay.

“You’re still one of us,” seems to be the subtext.

However, the fact that I experience sexual attraction but rarely, and then only with men with whom there is a strong emotional connection, indicates that I seem to fall more on the asexual spectrum rather than the homosexual.

It’s not that I’m seeking a label to define myself by, or a tribe to identify with, but rather to better understand myself (short-term goal) and hopefully develop strategies for managing friendships and finding a partner (long-term goal).

The challenge of dating is summed up in an article by Emma Lord:

… while you can generally tell on a first date whether or not you’d want to be friends with someone, it’s nearly impossible for a demisexual person to decide whether or not [they’d] be sexually attracted to [you] without the element of friendship and trust already in place… And you can’t exactly explain your feelings to someone you just met, particularly in an age when not engaging in romantic or affectionate activity on dates is considered a rejection.

While I have expressed frustration with the hypersexuality of large parts of the gay community, I am still cognizant of the history and significance that underlies its various communities and institutions.

Pride parades, for example, emerged shortly after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, and was a radical and political act of defiance in an age when being out was illegal. Although derided by many now as commercial and mainstream, they encouraged unity and solidarity in the face of oppression and later as friends and lovers were dying during the AIDS epidemic.

Gay clubs, too, served as safe spaces for self-expression, identity building, and community networking. Same for institutions such as white parties, drag shows, and leather bars.

Writers and activists encouraged LGBT people to reject the heteronormativity they had been raised with, to throw off the shackles of “traditional” models of sexuality and relationships, and express their liberation via total sexual freedom.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya wrote in the Philadelphia Free Press in 1970,

“Homosexuals have burst their chains and abandoned their closets… We come to challenge the incredible hypocrisy of your sexual monogamy, your oppressive sexual role-playing, your nuclear family, your Protestant ethic, apple pie and Mother.”

So, I get that all that silently informs, shapes, modern gay life.

Yet it doesn’t feel like my history, my institutions, ones that feel true to who I am.

Thus, when someone assumes I am mad for decorating, dress shopping, strapping on a leather harness, or running upstairs for a quick romp in the sheets, it feels like a denigration of my needs, values, and identity.

That the only way to be is to be a gay clone.

There’s another variable at play, however.

Yesterday, I learned that a friend of mine is randomly connected to Seth. (Yes, that Seth, of the 2011 birthday.) I noticed my friend had commented on a post of Seth’s, and asked how they knew each other. Turns out they’re in a gayming group.

My friend wrote: “There’s an inkling at the back of my head that I should be wary of him, though.”

Even though it’s been nearly six years, the shockwave of that night still ripples, supernova-like, through my life today.

Seeing that name again, catching a glimpse of his thumbnail profile picture, brought a sea of unwanted emotions and memories back.

That incident, and a handful of others (where I’ve experienced attraction, decided to open myself to the possibility, and been rejected), left me distrustful of my taste in men and ability to make healthy romantic decisions for myself.

I seem only to find myself attracted to impossible guys, or to guys who will end up using me for sex or to stroke their fragile male egos until they got what they came for.

I don’t know if other guys, the George Michaels etc, are simply satisfied with surface-level intimacy, if that’s all they want, or if they simply experience it in different ways.

Can any of us know?

Am I this way because of genes… Seth… my parents?

Who knows.

It is what it is.

259. iatrogenic


3263327644_df0767f4f3-1It’s Pride month again in Minneapolis, and another year finds me not feeling very proud… or particularly fabulous. Some of this does have to do with the attack in Orlando on last Sunday, that another bigot turned their hate into bullets, and how I don’t really feel like celebrating when so many people died and we have a majority in Congress who don’t give a shit that a bunch of dirty fags were killed in a gay nightclub.

Sorry—was that too harsh a paraphrase of Republican views on LGBTQ people, views they’ve obstinately held fast to ever since gay people started demanding to be treated like human beings instead of criminals?

Honestly, I’ve never felt like I belonged at pride events. Yes, the movement is founded on values of tolerance and inclusion, supposedly, but where is the young curmudgeon’s tent underneath the glittery rainbow umbrella? Everyone else is laughing and flirting and having a good time, while my inner Carl wants to yell at these damn kids to turn down that fucking EDM and put some clothes on!

I had a longish discussion with my therapist this afternoon about my ambivalence towards the LGBTQ community and my overall reluctance to participate in mass group events.

By nature, I am not a “joiner.” I’ll support from a distance, but unbridled commitment to a cause or movement makes me jittery.

The U. S. presidential campaign, for example. What ultimately turned me off to Sanders’ campaign was the seeming groupthink and aggressive enthusiasm of his supporters. (Feel the Bern? I thought that cleared up!) What makes me extremely uneasy about the Trump campaign is how it seems to be stoking a resurgence of racist American nationalism that comes dangerously close to what the rise of Italian fascism looked like in the 1930s.

So okay, I understand the historic and cultural importance of gay pride events, how they have built solidarity since the first Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970. Though increasingly corporatized, with hetero executives—as usual—finding more ways to make money off us LGBTQ folks, as a friend of mine wrote today in the Star Tribune, pride events remind us that “despite our differences, we can only fight for our freedom together.”

I simply prefer to “fight for our freedom together” in the quiet of a library or coffee shop, not talking to anybody.

Yes, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes, so shut the f*** up.

My therapist observed that I’ve talked about two opposing desires—the desire to find belonging but also to withdraw and secure my individuality. A need for and a fear of connection and intimacy that creates a tension which both drives and paralyzes me. Super.

Part of my ambivalence about the gay community is rooted in unresolved trauma from having lived repressed and in the closet for over a decade and still not having integrated my sexuality into my personal identity. Just as many people are thrust, unprepared, into becoming sexually active adults, we gays are expected to burst from the closet as fully fabulous gay men the moment we come out. That’s a tall order after spending ten years violently pushing down your attractions to cute guys so you don’t out yourself.

This differs from internalized homophobia, I think, because I’m not ashamed of being gay. Rather, it feels like just another fact about me, like the color of my hair or my height. And unlike some of my peers, it isn’t something I ever had to fight to claim as my own, so it doesn’t feel that important to me… something I take for granted.

I think the fighting part is key because the fighting would’ve meant that I believed I was something valuable and worth fighting for. I exist, but that has nothing to do with loving or valuing myself.

That brought me to the image of Miss Havisham a few days ago.

For anyone who didn’t go through a Dickens obsession at some point, she is one of the strangest and most fascinating characters in Great Expectations—a wealthy spinster who shut herself away in her ruined mansion that is frozen in time at the exact moment she received the news her fiancé had abandoned her on her wedding day. When Pip meets her in chapter 8, she still wears her tattered wedding dress and one shoe (she was putting them on when she received the letter), and her wedding cake sits rotting in the dining room. Consumed with bitterness, she conditions her adopted daughter to hate all men and seeks vengeance on the world by making Estelle into a cruel, sadistic heartbreaker.

There are many aspects of this character I shudderingly relate to. There’s a deeply twisted part of me that enjoys holding on to past hurts—my parents, my college choir director, Seth, Matt the bisexual tree scientist. I recite my litany of their wrongs, like Orual in C. S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, because hating them gives me purpose; and like Miss Havisham, I’ve locked myself away in an inner mansion of emotional distance where I can’t be hurt.

There I can feel sorry for myself, and over many years that dark blanket of self pity has become familiar, safe, even comforting.

There’s a sinister element of Estelle, too. At times, I’ve been the deliberately cruel heartbreaker in order to get revenge for how Seth used and then discarded me.

If I was used and hurt, then you deserve to be, too.

This fixation on the past—resenting the family I grew up with for not being the family I needed, ruminating on feelings I had for the first man who broke my heart and believing I’ll never feel that way again—it’s clearly counterproductive and unhealthy. It’s a story I’ve been telling myself every day for five years.

If the Orlando murders teach us anything, it’s that life is too short for bullshit like that.

182. muster


Pride FlagSaw a caption a few weekends ago on one of the blogs I follow that read: “Don’t go to bed alone this #PRIDE weekend.” It accompanied the picture of an adorable, lightly bearded guy in briefs laying in bed with a sexy “come hither” look.

I certainly wouldn’t have kicked him out of bed, but that’s not exactly the kind of thing I go for these days.

Minneapolis Pride (or “Gay Pride,” as my mom refers to it) was a few weeks ago at the end of June. And I decided to skip it entirely this year. My friends (gay and straight) who found out I didn’t go reacted with surprise to horror.

“But, it’s Pride!” they all seemed to be saying. “Isn’t that, like, gay Christmas?”

I didn’t go the first couple years after I came out, partly because I wasn’t interested, but mostly because I didn’t know anyone to go with. My first few years as an openly gay man were lonely, truth be told. Aside from the handful of hookups I had in the months after I broke up with my first boyfriend, I didn’t know many other gays. It really isn’t until late last year that my circle of friends became much more gay-weighted.

My first Pride event was about two years ago, when I went with Kristian, a guy I dated for a few months. Last year I manned booths for Minnesota Atheists and the HRC, the latter at which I got badly sunburned and a mild case of sunstroke. There were plenty of hot, virtually naked guys to look at; plenty to drink (if you don’t mind cheap beer that’s overly priced and that one has to get cash for); and plenty to do, but that was about it.

This year… I dunno. It feels as though I haven’t stopped moving since relocating to Uptown at the beginning of June. There’s been a lot to do with cleaning and making my new apartment liveable (there were three straight guys living here before me, and the managers didn’t do much to clean up after them when they moved out), and also simply socializing with people now that I’m so close to everything in this area.

Another factor was the passage of both the marriage bill in Minnesota and the overturning of section 3 of DOMA, and knowing that there were going to be a ton of couples there, many of which were likely planning weddings. And there I’d be, by myself (even if it was with friends), and feeling like that there’s this special, exclusive club that I’m not a member of.

Mostly it came down to my frustration with just not feeling like I belong in the “gay community.” I realize that there are a lot of people who also feel this way, and also that there’s no monolithic way to be “gay.” Hell, the whole premise of the LGBT movement is diversity, right?

So why didn’t I feel that I really belonged at Pride?

Part of it is the party atmosphere that seems to pervade both Pride events and gay male culture in general. It’s one orgiastic celebration of… something. From the pounding shitty house music to the drag queens to the raucous laughter… it’s not really my cup of tea. I don’t do well with forced merriment. It’s the garlic to my vampire — a sure-fire method to keep me away.

I just don’t feel very “gay.” All I share in common with most gay men is our mutual attraction to other men. That’s about it.

  • I could care less about Perez Hilton, Ru Paul, fashion, gossip, or pop culture. I’ve managed to remain relatively Glee-free, and intend to keep it that way.
  • Gay bars? Too loud, crowded, and mostly full of obnoxious twinks. Or older men who still think they’re twinks.
  • Calling other men “her” or “miz”? *Gag.*
  • Obsession with show tunes? Only if they were penned by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Jason Robert Brown, Noël Coward, or Kurt Weill. Aside from Sondheim, most gay men I know haven’t a clue who the other three I listed are.
  • “Opera queens” sobbing over Romantic operas (e.g., Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti)? Not me. Edward Rothstein penned a New York Times essay in 1993 about the intimate relationship between gay men and opera. In it, Wayne Koestenbaum is quoted as saying: “We [gay men] turn to opera because we need to breathe.” Spare me that bullshit. I will say that, thanks to my friend Matthew, I have a growing appreciation for Wagner, but it feels more akin to collegiate admiration than the growings of a deep, abiding passion.

There have been times in the years that I’ve come out when I’ve felt pressure to “act” more “gay,” as if people (especially my women friends) expect me to be more like the stereotype of a gay man — i.e., queeny, witty, frivolous, overly dramatic, etc. And that’s not me. What I said when I came out holds true today: I’m the same person I’ve always been, albeit more honest.

Basically, there is virtually nothing “campy” or feminine about me, not because I’m self-loathing but because it doesn’t interest me. This is a primary reason I feel alienated from the gay community. I don’t feel that I “fit in.” I feel no need for luxury, as epitomized by “old guard” gays like Liberace. In terms of decorating and clothes, I prefer a sparser, more “masculine” style. The music I like tends to be angular, rhythmically and harmonically complex and muscular and characteristically unromantic, a fact that scandalizes most of the gay men I share that fact with.

Also—I don’t want to have sex with every guy I see, nor am I capable of doing so. (Thus, why gay clubs don’t really appeal to me.) Honestly, I don’t see guys as meat, or as conquests. I have to really connect with someone to get to that level of intimacy.

In short: I’m me. An iconoclast. And always will be.

023. phthongaphile

Colin Meloy and Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists

Colin Meloy and Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists

If I were the sort of person who had idols and celebrity crushes, this might be the moment for it.

Behold, my heroes!

A few weeks ago came the culmination of months of excited waiting and jumping up and down like a silly fangirl…

Rock the Garden 2009.

Why so ecstatic, you ask?

The Decemberists, that’s why. Only my favourite band in all of creation. And they were headlining the concert!

I feel kind of bad. In this picture they were standing off to the side watching the band right before them, Calexico, perform and I first saw Jenny and distracted everyone around me by pointing her out, leaning over the side of the rail trying to see the band. Then frontman Colin Meloy appeared, followed by Chris Funk, and then honourary Decemberists Becky Stark (of Lavendar Diamond) and Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond).

Needless to say, I was completely beside myself. And part of me felt bad that this band was putting on a great show and all I could think about was the next band.

It’s not like I have a crush on Colin Meloy or anything. For one thing, he’s not my type at all. I do have a little thing for Jenny Conlee though, kind of a keyboardist crush. Her work on Crane Wife was exemplary (especially on “The Landlord’s Daughter” from the epic track No.2, “The Island”). They’re just really, really good!

Yea, even amazing!

They are currently touring with their new album, the 17-song folk rock opera The Hazards of Love. From what I can decipher of the plot, it’s about Margaret, a maiden who falls in love with the shape-shifting William (faun by day, human by night), the son of the [jealous and possessive] Queen of the Forest. What follows is a twisted tale of love, perversion, infanticide, kidnapping, haunting and drowning.

And the music is divine. However convoluted the plot may be, the music is some of the best and mature that Meloy has written so far. And I got to hear him live!

Shara Worden as the Queen was absolutely incredible in her silver glam rock pants, working every angle in her performance. She just exuded sex. If I were straight… well…

So that’s all I’ll say. Go out and buy the album. Hazards of Love. Prepare to be amazed.

So that was two weeks ago.

This past weekend was Twin Cities Pride—the third largest in the nation, according to festival organisers. In 2006, Minneapolis had the fourth-highest percentage of GLBT persons in the adult population, with 12.5%. (That figure may be higher now.) Not surprisingly, the area has an active arts and theatre scene, boasting the highest number of theatre companies per capita in the nation (including the Guthrie)!

This year, even though it’s my first “out” year, I decided not to be in attendance. For one thing, the sight of drag queens and the like does absolutely nothing to boost my pride. And while the sight of shirtless, chiselled, muscular boys wearing next to nothing was temptation enough to go (I do like me hot some shirtless men), I can now see that anytime on my way to work. [insert goofy grin]

But pride in what? I ask.

I won’t go on about that because it’s a moot point and I’ve ranted about this before. I don’t aspire to be a woman or surround myself with gay icons or role models (e.g., Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, Joan Crawford, Bette Midler or Cher), pursue promiscuity and multiple sex partners, go out clubbing (I can’t dance worth anything and refuse to make a fool of myself in public that way) or play into any of the stereotypes that culture expects me to fit as a homosexual.

As a blogger wrote recently,

If we want Joe Public to understand that GLBT is not about sexual deviancy, then half naked, leather wearing, whip carrying people are not exactly sending the message that we want them to understand . . . Is the purpose of the parade to widen societies acceptance, to honour our peers who made the parades possible in the first place, or just a party? If it’s one of the first two, then I think it damages everything that we want society to understand and also devalues everything that the earliest parades and marches worked to achieve.

It’s just not something that I’m comfortable with. I’m not “Loud and Proud.” My sexuality is something I treat with reverence and respect. It’s not a political tool or an activist badge. For me, it’s very personal, and I refuse to see myself as different. We’re just people.

As my boyfriend and I have discussed on many, many occasions, straight people don’t have pride festivals. They don’t flaunt their straightness in front of everyone and expect the general public to just accept them. Of course, they are accepted by Joe public and enjoy all rights and privileges therein:

  • Parents don’t have to explain to their kids what a couple stealing a kiss or just full-on making out is, unless said PDA gets so gross (as in, misdemeanour) to the point of calling the cops.
  • Old ladies don’t scowl at a man and a woman holding hands (and more) in public. Unless they’re just bitter old hags who scowl at everything…
  • Christians don’t show up to protest with hate signs at their weddings.
  • Straight people aren’t beaten to death just for being straight.

Granted, at Rock the Garden there were some very public heterosexual displays of affection (including a couple haxing sex on the lawn, according to a friend of mine); and honestly, shirtless guy with his hands all over his girlfriend right next to me made me uncomfortable.

As did the drunk guy trying (and I mean trying) to dance with his girlfriend. And hitting blond girl in front of them in the head twice as he attempted to twirl GF. Things were not working well for them that night.