272. wabi-sabi

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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.

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251. convive

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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.

107. defriend

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Okay. I didn’t actually see it, but after seeing the commercials I had no intention to see it either. And after reading the reviews—most, if not all, of which were unanimously negative—I’m not sorry I missed the pilot of ABC’s Work It. This only crossed my mind because I came down to cook dinner while the roomies were watching TV and a spot came on for it, which sparked a conversation.

Even as a non-transgendered person, I find the very idea of the show offensive on several levels (and most of the reviews confirmed my suspicions). It makes a few ugly insinuations:

  • Puerto Ricans are drug smugglers.
  • All a man needs to do to pass for a woman is don a dress, bra, wig and high heels, and talk in a higher voice (think Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot, which Work It wishes it could but has no chance of ever being).
  • The only reason women have sales jobs is because men want to sleep with them.
  • Men are insensitive Neanderthals.
  • Even when pretending to be women, men are still more successful than those dumb, tampon-sharing women they’re impersonating (who, by the way, can’t tell the difference between another woman and a man obviously in drag).

This is the station that just had a news anchor, Dan Kloeffler, come out publicly as a gay man in October of 2011. ABC Family was voted the most gay inclusive network during 2010-2011. Shows like “Ugly Betty,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Modern Family” have prominently featured gay characters. One of my favorite shows (up until the 5th season, when it all sort of fell apart) was “Brothers & Sisters,” a show my parents deplored due to the inclusion of three openly gay main characters—two of whom were married in the show.

So now for it to come out with trash like Work It?

Counterpoint this with an incident a few weeks ago on Facebook where I ended up deleting a friend after he said that Hulu was “acting up” and was “gay.” When I called him out on this, he came back with, “Oh, c’mon dude, you know what I mean.” *winkwink-nudgenudge* To which I responded, “No. I don’t know what you mean. Enlighten me.” The eye-rolling came loudly through the screen when he came back with, “Gay as in stupid. Not gay as in homo.” (“Homo”?) Then several of his friends rushed to his defense, saying that I was overreacting. One guy even chimed in, “Hey, guy, I’m bi and I’m not offended.”

Right, because… oh, nevermind, I’m not going to get into bisexuality in males, which is pretty rare and often a way of cowardly eschewing the label of homosexual—as if to say, “hey, I like pussy too!” Because real men like vaginas. Even the ones who also like la bite.

The moral of the story is that I ended up de-friending him over the incident. That may be a bit reactive, but it would’ve been one thing if he’d thought it over and realized that using that particular word as pejorative might be hurtful and offensive to gays and lesbians. It was how little he and those who commented seemed to care, and the fact that nobody noticed the insidious logic. Because it’s not like anyone has been maligned, mistreated or murdered for being gay…

“Gay” came into use as a pejorative in the 1970s: “That’s so gay.” It was a way of putting down effeminate (and therefore “gay”) behavior in men, and quickly became an easy insult amongst young people who adopted it as slang. Gay = stupid (read: “those dumb faggots!”). Because, as we know, all gays are stupid. Just like the women of Work It who’re too dumb to realize that their new co-workers are a couple of dudes in really bad drag.

What bothers me is not so much that drag is being used for a cheap laugh. It’s one of the oldest stand-bys in theatre. They say that laughter fills uncomfortable silences (I’m not 100% who said that though), and what makes people more uncomfortable than seeing a male pretending to be a female, temporarily emasculating himself in front of an audience? Of course, when we’re all in on the joke it’s funny.

It’s not so funny when you’re the joke though.

It speaks to these deep-seated fears we have as a society about masculinity and the fragile thing that it is. It can be undone in an instant, which is why a woman can have a lesbian “phase” and go on to be a “normal” wife and mother, but a man is gay for life if he has just one sexual encounter with another man. It’s why the gay character (male or female) is such a staple: think Nathan Lane in Frankie & Johnny; Harvey Fierstein in Mrs. Doubtfire; Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding. With few exceptions, their sole function is to provide a clever foil to the protagonist and sage advice via witty banter. They are rarely given external lives beyond this, and aside from a few cliched bits (which are almost always played for a laugh, such as in Internal Affairs, when the characters played by Andy Garcia and Laurie Metcalf realize they are checking out the same woman) are essentially treated as non-sexual.

It makes the gay character a stereotype, someone so impossibly larger-than-life that he or she could never really exist in real life. And therefore an entity to not be concerned about.

Yes, using “gay” may be a trope for most people. I doubt images of homosexuals being burned alive in the Middle Ages, “corrective” rape, teens hung in Iran, or of Matthew Shepherd tied to a fence post and beaten to death spring to mind for them. Nor were the creators of Work It intentionally making light of issues that transgender people face everywhere—and not just in the workplace.

Yet they’re unwittingly reinforcing the notion that to be anything less than heterosexual is to be less than human.

52. the locus of language in sexuality

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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.”

004. twisted

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Been listening to a lot of Chopin lately. No particular reason, I’ve just been in the mood. It’s one of the few gay things I do. Not that listening to classical piano makes anyone gay, but it just feels so stereotypical, right up there with listening to bel canto opera (Puccini, Verdi, Bellini, etc) and Judy Garland. It would be one thing if I weren’t Classically trained, but life’s been chaotic so it’s nice to go to a quiet, cathartic musical place and just unwind.

I played a lot of Chopin in high school and college and am just now coming back to it. It’s stuff I pull out for weddings and other events (his music is technically considered “easy listening”), but I always played it on days when I was feeling particularly stressed or upset because his music said everything my words couldn’t.

As if my mind weren’t spinning enough, in addition to the general busyness of my life, there’s also the fact of dealing with the divide between Christianity and homosexuality. The awful thing is that the minute I start feeling resolution in either direction, something comes along to upset all of that. For example, this whole week I’ve been talking with some new friends on the Gay Christian Network about some of these issues, getting other perspectives and experiences.

Then on Sunday I went to church with a friend of mine and all the old doubts started coming back—that maybe this isn’t the way that I was created to be. That maybe homosexuality is a sin after all. That everything I’d been resolving in the past week was little more than smoke and mirrors.

But then again, how can so many people on both sides of the aisle be right or wrong? Why couldn’t Paul have been talking about male prostitutes and pederasty when he wrote about homosexuals in Corinthians? What if the Church really has been wrong all these centuries as a result of the influence of Saint Augustine’s sexual hang-ups?

At the same time, just because two men or women are attracted to each other and are willing to commit for life, does that make their union right in the eyes of G-d? Could this all be part of the “futility of creation”?

The Church assumes that gays choose their orientation; that they “gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:27). That’s assuming that we were attracted to women in the first place and “turned to the dark side.” I have never been sexually aroused by a women. I may notice that a woman is attractive, but I do not desire her. This will come in the next post, but I have always been into guys, as long as I can remember. When I hit puberty it became more apparent that this was the case, but I don’t recall ever being turned on by girls.

There was another revelation on Sunday: I don’t feel accepted by G-d. This probably stems back to my parents, but deep down, past all the bravado and self-confidence is layers of self-loathing and self-hatred, and this sense that I will never be loved for who I am. That I am unworthy of love. Unlovable.

The Bible says that G-d loves me, but I have a hard time accepting that love; that He could love a broken and mangled gay guy like me.

Muirnín