274. draconian

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https://twitter.com/noahmichelson/status/813177921875677184


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.

269. titivate

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shadowTime for a monthly check-in, which is about all I can manage right now between school, work, and attempting to manage my ever-growing stress level.

All that to say, this might be a little scattered.

It’s Halloween and my social media feeds have been filled with photos of people’s costumes—or, in the case of many of my gay friends, technically just enough clothing to constitute a costume.

Halloween and its importance to gay men is one of many things that perplex this young-ish curmudgeon’s heart. I understand the historical underpinnings of the holiday and the appeal, but as someone who doesn’t even wear shorts in the summer, is currently wearing three layers, and finds unfocused sexual energy uncomfortable, it’s a weird festival.

Here’s what comes up when one Googles “halloween gay.”

gayhalloweensearch

A Pride.com article calls Halloween “every LGBT person’s fave holiday,” opining that “Gay people just love Halloween now, don’t we?”.

Search the hashtag #gayhalloween on Twitter or Instagram and decide whether or not to temporarily enable SafeSearch.

Samantha Allen at The Daily Dot wrote a great piece on how Halloween became the gay Christmas which is highly recommended. Basically, like Pride, it was a post-Stonewall response to living in a highly repressive time in the States for LGBTQ people. Allen writes:

On October 31, the curse of being queer in a straight world is temporarily lifted. All bets are called off, along with all the shame and fear we have been made to feel. For 364 days every year, many of us try to blend in but, on Halloween, we can proudly stick out…

It’s still the only night when acting gay is not only OK—it’s downright de rigeur.

So… I get that. I understand that for many LGBTQ people, reappropriating “queer” for themselves was empowering and liberating. However, for myself, I find conflating “queer” and “homosexual” problematic.

In my day-to-day life, I don’t try to blend in. I don’t play a role 364 days a year. I’m not effeminate, flamboyant, or gender atypical. To paraphrase David S. Pumpkins slightly, I’m “[my] own thing.”

I’m one bushy moustache, woodworking shop, and XL polo shirt removed from being Ron Swanson… if Ron were a liberal Democrat, vegetarian, and weighed 150 pounds, that is.

And frankly, twenty-eight years of my life was spent pretending to be someone else and I’d rather work at getting comfortable in this skin, doing any exploring of gender or sexuality on paper and in writing.


My therapist has observed on several occasions how much of my identity is based around being an outsider, an outlier, an “other.” It makes sense that this would be unconsciously incorporated into my identity as a out gay male, although it’s cultural institutions like Halloween and Pride that make it difficult for me to identify as a gay male. I don’t really fit in with the hypersexual boy culture that seems characteristic of many of my peers.

I’m more comfortable with the descriptor “homoromantic demisexual androphile” because at least that tells you something about my orientation(s). Physical attraction really only occurs when I deeply connect with someone. I’m a male who is sexually and romantically interested in other males with whom a strong emotional bond is shared. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that hookup apps like Grindr or Scruff are conspicuously missing from my phone.

In fact, two weeks ago on October 18 marked the one-year mark of the last time I actually had sex. I simply haven’t been attracted to any guys who would be attracted to me.

It’s all very confounding.

There is so much pressure in the gay community to hookup with anyone who is available, to be slutty, to radically eschew heteronormativity. That doesn’t leave much room for people like me who are primarily emotionally rather than sexually oriented.


I’ve known for a while that there are a number of well-defined psychological personas within me. These are at least four aspects of my personality that emerged and solidified over the years in response to different perceived threats or challenges.

There’s the tall, dark, quasi-menacing father/protector figure who becomes furious when I make mistakes or fail to achieve to his expectations.

There’s a morally ambiguous figure who is highly driven and a little bit sociopathic who pushes me to be ruthless with myself and others.

There’s an emotional hurricane figure who is an embodiment of my more animal instincts, who gets upset easily and easily flies into panic and/or rage.

There’s also the hurt, confused, and wounded child.

All four of these constructs interact with each other in different ways and would rise to the top of my consciousness to take control depending on what the situation called for. In this way, by separating and compartmentalizing these different aspects of myself, I could take control and protect myself.

Trouble is, after nearly 30 years of this I’m essentially walled into a mental fortress with four potentially volatile people.


While thinking through some of my motivations for wanting a boyfriend/partner, it finally occurred to me last week that the thing I really desire most is a sense of warmth that has historically been lacking from my most intimate relationships. Growing up, I don’t recall ever feeling that way about my home life or my parents. Mostly, home was associated with anxiety, fear, and suspicion.

So there are the usual things I’d want from a relationship: a sense of belonging, home, acceptance, and yes, a primary sexual partner.

But it was this desire for sense of warmth that expressed itself recently which took me by surprise, because I realized that so much of my life has indeed felt chilled, as if I’ve spent most of it wandering alone on a windswept moor or something similarly Brontë-esque. For once it would be nice to find someone with whom to share a hearth.

However, in observing interactions and pairings, it appears to be so easy for everyone else. And frankly, one doesn’t find a relationship at my age and station in life.

262. conciliate

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“Over the course of just a few years, as I would go home to Spokane to visit [my friends], instead of them asking me what TV show or movie I’d been in, they asked me if I’d met anyone. And I was sort of asking myself the same question—and with growing concern. I thought: “Wait a minute—when did I go from being the cool one that people envied to being the one the people were a little worried about?”

“And I watched my friends’ marriages become longer, more knowing marriages; and their kids getting big and bigger; and the walks after dinner with the dog; and all the talk about the lake cabins. And I began to wonder if maybe they hadn’t made all the right decisions.” – Julia Sweeney, In the Family Way


elegant wine glass broken on a dark background

It’s been an intense last couple of weeks since last we met.

Let’s work backwards from today.

Last Thursday my housemate’s dog was attacked by what we’re 99% sure was a coyote.

Around 11:30pm, I looked in the back room and there was one dog sleeping but not the other, which gave me a bad feeling. When I went outside to look for him, I found him about halfway out in the middle of the backyard, collapsed and bloody.

I quickly bundled him inside, unsure of how badly he was hurt. We called the nearest 24-hour vet clinic and drove him over. He was in rough shape, with more lacerations and bite marks than we initially saw, and ended up being there a few days until he was eating again and moving around.

He’s home now, on some pretty fantastic pain medication, and slowly recovering, but it was horrific to find him like that.


Going back further, a week prior to the coyote attack, I was physically assaulted at a friend’s house.

Yeah.

The short version is that me, my friend Ben, and Jason, a housemate of my friends, were talking. He and Ben were in a heated discussion about the causes of the ’91 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and at one point Jason (who is a veteran) held up his arm to display a scar from a bullet wound, as if definitive evidence for his position.

As politely as he could, Ben said something to the effect of, “Just because you were wounded doesn’t mean you’re right.”

(In hindsight, we should’ve realized we weren’t dealing with a rational person.)

This is when Jason stood up and yelled at Ben: “Get the fuck out of this house.”

When we both just stared at him in dismay, he screamed “You think I’m kidding?”, marched over, grabbed Ben and physically tried to throw him outside.

At this point, out of concern, I tried to intervene.

All of this happened in the span of about fifteen seconds, and at some point I should’ve realized how stupid that was. However, I have no experience with physical violence, preferring to leave physical altercations to the Cro Magnons among us.

So this is when Jason grabbed me by the throat, shoved me backwards into the kitchen, and slammed me against the wall several times. I don’t remember much about the attack, but it was horrific. I’m still emotionally shaken from the incident, haven’t been sleeping well, suffering from flashbacks, etc.

All symptoms of PTSD.

Yay. Because I need more emotionally damaged shit to deal with.

The next day I filed a police report, and the officers basically told me that since I wasn’t injured enough that there wasn’t any grounds to take any further action since the city is bogged down enough with violent crime and domestic abuse cases as it is.

To top it off, my friends that he lives with, who I’ve known for some time and whose wedding I was in last year, have no plans to evict him from their home, though he attacked me, unprovoked.

Basically, my relationship with my friends is now strained because, although they acknowledge he was squarely in the wrong, they’ve refused to take any punitive action against Jason, arguing that throwing him out would do more harm than good.

And turns out that, although I filed a police report, prosecutors are unlike to press charges because I wasn’t injured enough.

So no, I’m still not okay.


My therapist had a few observations to make about all this when we met on Monday.

Aside from my personal safety, she’s concerned about the ultimatum that I made a few days after the attack to the homeowners that so long as Jason continues to live with them that our friendship can’t continue.

Frankly, I’m concerned too, since it continues a pattern in my relationships that whenever I feel threatened or put in an impossible situation (such as with my parents, who saw nothing wrong with wanting me to be part of the family while they continuing to hold hateful and bigoted views about me).

Yes, I cut off my parents.

I cut off friends I’d known for years from college and church who opposed marriage equality in Minnesota in 2012.

I cut off friends who remained friends with Seth after he dumped me in 2011, interpreting that as their taking his side over mine… and turning against me.

Essentially, my therapist mused, growing up in a household where everything was closely scrutinized through a lens of Reformed, Atonement theology, and where I legitimately felt in peril for much of those formative years as a closeted gay man, it’s natural that I’d still be on high alert, fearful of people turning on me or attacking.

How is that past orientation limiting my present relationships, I wondered. Is it?

How is that narrative script of fear causing me to become intractable and stubborn, and how is it closing me off to future happiness?

How, like Uncle Andrew in C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, do I cleverly defend myself “against all that might do you good!”

But more on sex next time.

Because you really wanted to know, right?