Monday, March 31, 2008

Dating Trans Man

I am a gay man who is friends with a Trans Man who I like very much and find attractive. We've made out a couple of times but it's never gone any further. Recently he let me know that he wants to take our relationship to the next level. The problem is that, although he is definitely a man, he hasn't fully transitioned and still has a vagina. I don't want to hurt his feelings or lose him as a friend, but I have to admit that's a problem for me -- I'm into d--k. I feel like a bigot or something but it's just too big of a hurdle. Any advice? Anon.

You're not a bigot, you're just a gay guy who knows what he wants. Just as you respect your friend for being true to himself, you have a right to be true to yourself as well. [For the record a Trans Man is someone who was born biologically female but is male inside, and undergoes various procedures to look as masculine on the outside as he is on the inside. Unfortunately, many Trans Men cannot afford an artificial penis and when they can are disappointed with the way it looks. Therefore many retain female sexual organs.]

Trans Men, be they straight or gay, are in a difficult position because -- like it or not, and don't anybody kill the messenger -- a man with a vagina is still considered pretty exotic if not downright weird in our culture, even in the gay community. That perception will undoubtedly change over time. Also, while the public has known of male-to-female sex changes since the days of Christine Jorgenson, the opposite is not as well-known, which also will change over time. Gay men don't have a "fear of the vagina" as some have charged (an outdated, rather homophobic notion, in fact) they just have a disinterest in it -- it's not a turn-on. The same for straight women. Even bisexual individuals may not be attracted to a person who combines the characteristics of both sexes.

Some gay Trans Men find lovers in the edgier or "kinkier" members of the gay male community (or with each other). Yes, it sounds terrible, but that is how some have put it, and how some see sex with a man with a vagina. There's no point beating yourself up because you're not as -- for lack of a better word -- "kinky" as some.

If you were madly in love with this man, you might be able to overcome all obstacles (straight women have, on occasion, stayed with husbands who transition, for instance) -- but maybe not. It's likely that you would have a problem even with an "ordinary" man who for one reason or another lacked a male sex organ or had impotency problems. That doesn't make you prejudiced against Trans Men or anyone else. Just as the fact that you don't want to have sex with women who have vaginas doesn't make you a sexist.

My advice is to gently tell your friend how you feel. Assure him that you can give him friendship and love of the platonic variety. Don't lead him on by making out with him, even if you want to -- that's just not fair. He's got to know that it will not lead to anything of a lasting nature, or even to a hot sexual episode.

Be this guy's friend. If he's in love with you, it will be very difficult for him, and he may need to cut you out of his life to get over you. But maybe his feelings aren't that intense. Hopefully he will understand how you feel and you can continue to have a cherished friendship.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Operatically Speaking

Where did this notion come from that all gay men are obsessed with opera? I'm a gay man, and I like opera, but most of my gay male friends have never been and have no great interest in going. So where did this opera/gay men connection come from? BG

From the gay-oriented but essentially mainstream movie Philadelphia, in which Tom Hanks played a gay man who loved opera, and even described a scene from Umberto Giordano's masterpiece Andrea Chenier while Maria Callas sang the aria in the background. I like opera myself, but you're absolutely right that most of my gay male friends have no great interest in it. Ditto for musical comedies. Some gay men -- like some straight men and gay and straight women -- are into the arts because their parents were, and they grew up surrounded by culture. My parents went to see every Broadway show -- musical or not -- that was produced, and my mother and grandfather were major opera fans. Of course younger men in general tend to be more in tune with popular music, such as rock, rap, and hip hop, but there are exceptions.

For more on gay men and the arts, click here.

See you at the opera, baby!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Who's Gay?

Can you tell me if the following people are gay? Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Tab Hunter, Troy Donahue, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Linus Roache, Hermione Gingold, Ernest Borgnine. Anon.

Jeez, what a list! I have to tell you I haven't had sex with any of these people so I don't know if any of them are -- or were-- gay. Linus Roache of Law and Order played a gay priest in the film Priest, but that doesn't mean he's gay in real life. However, Tab Hunter is openly gay and wrote about it in his autobiography. To my knowledge, the late Troy Donahue, another blond pretty boy of the period, was not gay. A recent biography of Katharine Hepburn by James Robert Parish goes into the private sexuality of both Hepburn and Spencer Tracy -- fascinating stuff. Ty Power and Errol Flynn's alleged bisexuality has been discussed in a number of Hollywood biographies. Donald Spoto's bio of Laurence Olivier suggested the great actor had an affair with Danny Kaye. Some people feel that Richard Burton, a desperate, drunken, self-publicizing womanizer if ever there were one, was in reality a Don Juan homosexual. Never heard anything about Ernest Borgnine except that he was married to Ethel Merman, who was rumored to have had an affair with writer Jacqueline Susann and other women. British actress Hermione Gingold? -- don't know a darn thing about her private life. As for Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, people have yakked about the latter's sexuality, but as I've never had sex with Tom -- and don't really want to (and I'm sure he feels the same) -- I really can't say.

Hopefully some day all gay people will feel so comfortable and society will be so accepting that everyone will be Out and Proud and the guessing games will be over.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Falling in Love with Younger Man

I am falling in love with a man young enough to be my son (he is in his late twenties; I am in my late forties). We have a very good friendship and I don't want to lose it. I suspect that he is a bit lonely and relies on my friendship and company. I know I should do the sensible thing and not see him anymore before I get in too deep, but I know this would hurt him, and I know I would miss him a lot. I just don't know what to do. RR

A blunt question: Who is really the lonely one -- you or him? Young gay men occasionally develop attachments to older gay men who sort of become father surrogates to them. Meanwhile the older man is falling in love. Sometimes good, solid relationships can develop between two people of different generations, and that includes romantic relationships, but both parties have to share the same feelings. I suspect the real problem here is that you sense this young man only sees you as a platonic friend, whereas your feelings go much, much deeper.

My advice: Try and keep him as a friend, but replace him in your romantic and sexual fantasies with someone who can actually play these things back to you. The more time you spend devoted to this younger man, the less time you'll have to meet someone in your own age group, or at least someone of any age who can become a special person in your life. Don't spend all your time with this guy, as you probably do if you're as smitten as I suspect. Gradually your feelings for this young man may change, until he becomes a cherished friend, maybe the son you never had -- but not a love object.

The sad truth is that younger men often "rely" on older guys until they meet someone their own age and the friendship they have with the older guy then becomes less and less important. Some younger men end a friendship if they even suspect the older person has "feelings" for them, and it can be brutal. I'm not saying that that is always the case. As hard as it might be for you to do at this point, you will some day be able to see this fellow as someone you love but are not in love with, especially if you open your heart to the possibilities of finding someone else as a lover.

Don't despair over this situation. The forties is still young. Think of some happy future time when you and your lover and he and his lover can all get together as friends, a scenario that is certainly not impossible. In the meantime, get what you can from the friendship, but look around for someone else to fulfill your romantic and sexual fantasies.

Keep a positive attitude and Good Luck.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Market Value"

A question for your blog:

What would you say to a gay man in his 40s who did all the hard work to come out and accept his sexuality two decades ago, but who now finds himself isolated, without confidence, and without a sex life because of...a psychiatric disorder?

I've been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder since I was 19 and it's been a rough ride, with lots of ups and downs, crushing mood swings, hospital stays, and interruptions of employment. But through it all I managed to continue to be persistent and work on having an "out" gay life: making gay friends, being active in gay organizations, dating, and keeping myself open to the possibility of a long-term relationship some day with someone who would love me and be attracted to me regardless of my health.

But recently it's become hard indeed to be optimistic about my romantic prospects. Two years ago I had a series of terrible manic episodes, alienated a lot of friends, lost a lot of money, lost a good job, and even had minor skirmishes with police. I am still not working and I get by on some savings and a modest Social Security disability check. I have to watch my money closely. I don't have a lot of hope for working full-time again, though it might happen. I am lonely. I feel very awkward about opening up about my illness to prospective new gay friends because I don't know how they would react. I think, and I believe accurately, that most gay men wanting dates or relationships want people without "baggage" and would not look kindly upon starting a new attachment to someone unstable or whose problems carry a lot of stigma.

To put it another way, I am discouraged because I think my "market value" in the gay dating game has plunged since I was young. I'm 20 years older than when I came out. I'm not in the greatest physical shape, partly because medication caused me to gain weight and it's hard to lose it. I'm not working (except for volunteering, which is fun), and I think gay guys really look for people with jobs and financial stability. I know I have good qualities...I'm smart, well-educated, creative, a great listener, empathetic (in part due to the rough experiences I have weathered). And I have many fascinating stories to tell. But still I can't get past the idea that 99% of the guys out there want to steer clear of someone like me, and that all those years of struggling to come out and tell everyone proudly that I was gay were wasted. Nothing much came from it. I'm basically cut off from the larger gay crowd now.

I am in therapy to explore these issues (no surprise!), but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Yours, S.

First, I'm glad you're in therapy, because, as I'm sure you know, some things can't be solved or easily resolved even by the great Dr. Bill, LOL. However, I do have some positive things to say to you.

It may be true that most people -- gay or straight -- look for people without "baggage" when they're in the dating game, but it's also true that there are very few people who don't have some baggage. Regardless of sex or sexual orientation, loneliness may increase with age and people begin --although it sounds terrible to put it this way -- "settling," or -- to put it a better way -- becoming more realistic that there are very few princes out there, and that if you expect perfection in a person or relationship you're going to be either disappointed or alone. On dating sites most people put their best foot forward and don't mention the negatives. Total honesty is admirable, but there's no reason you should discuss anything so personal with someone who's simply an acquaintance. I would dare say that most people, no matter what their problems are, don't start revealing intimate, possibly "negative," details about themselves until they've gotten to know the other person better. Who knows what baggage the other person is carrying? (Be prepared. Once you "confess" -- or at least bring up some of your problems -- after a suitable period -- you may be surprised what the other person may tell you!)

Some men will be turned off by your problems and move on. Others may have come to like you so much that they'll want to continue. Give them time to get to know you and recognize your good qualities before you reveal all. As for not being in great shape, don't worry about it. As I've said before not all gay men are exercise nuts, and some guys are positively turned on by pot bellies. If necessary, you can always start an exercise program. As for money, people tend to think all gay men are rich, when the truth is that there are plenty of blue collar, and even unemployed, gay guys out there who won't judge you by your income level. I mean, first of all we're talking about sex and companionship, simply finding someone who's compatible. Perfection is not required in a friend or fuck buddy. It may lead to a relationship, or it may not. This is true whether you carry baggage or don't. [As for a sex life, the guys looking to get laid on gay dating sites don't really care about your baggage as long as you have a d--k!]

Don't worry too much about finding a lover. The forties is still young. Friends can help ease your sense of isolation and they're less likely to judge you or expect perfection. Sometimes friendship can deepen into something more.

If you do try online dating, you can usually tell from a guy's profile if he's the kind who only wants Men With Bucks, Hot Bodies, or Perfect Princes. Such guys are generally full of themselves and so are their profiles. And they don't hear from as many guys as you might imagine, no matter what they look like. Guys who act like they're just so special and want the same are often a turn-off. I mean, they're on the same dating site as everyone else so maybe they're not so special. Maybe they even have baggage they don't want everyone to know about.

Never, ever feel that the struggle to come out was "wasted." Your problems would be worse and even more difficult to deal with if you were also struggling with self-hatred and non-acceptance. Continue to have a healthy attitude toward being gay. Believe me, the biggest barrier to finding a lover is internalized homophobia. Most gay men can sense this problem in other men and that's the one thing that they don't want to have to deal with. It's impossible to have a healthy gay relationship if you hate yourself or hate being gay, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's the chief reason many are not in relationships.

You have a lot on your plate, but remember that you're not alone. Not only are their many gay men who have similar financial and health/psychiatric issues, there are those who are dealing with being HIV positive (talk about a lowered dating "market value," although even that can be dealt with, as there are support and social groups for HIV+ men). You could explore the possibilities of getting into a support group for men over forty and I'll bet you'll find that most of the guys have problems of some nature (which is equally true in the hetero community). Everyone has problems of one sort or another; that's life!

So try to keep a positive attitude. Let people get to know you and like you. Nobody is required to tell a new acquaintance everything about themselves.

Best of luck! Let me know if there's anything else I can help with.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Crush on a Bartender

I have a big crush on a bartender at a local bar. He seems to be attracted to me as well. Neither of us have partners. But I'm afraid if it doesn't work out or even if it does and we break up, it'll be awkward to see him all the time. If the sex is lousy it will be even more awkward. What should I do? RP.

First, remember that one of the big perks of being a bartender is all the customers you have to choose from for potential sex partners. That may be all this guy is after, so don't start planning your life together just yet. Chances are he's tricked with several of the customers already. (Or it may be that he's reluctant to do so for the very same reasons you mention.) Second, even if the two of you have great sex and even become an item, it doesn't mean that you won't remain friendly even if ultimately one or both of you realizes the other is not the Man of Your Dreams. I know bartenders who are still friends with ex-lovers who regularly come into the bar where they work. While I recognize your concerns, one shouldn't pull back from an enjoyable episode or a relationship just because things may not work out in the long run -- no one would ever date!

If your chief feelings for this guy are sexual, and he suggests you get together, why deprive yourself of a possible good time? All of us have tricked one time or another with someone we might run into regularly and while it can be temporarily awkward if the evening wasn't so successful for one reason or another, it's easy enough to get past it. The other guy is probably hoping you won't talk about it just as much as you're hoping he'll keep it to himself. Some day you'll both laugh about it!

If your feelings for the guy are romantic, a sexual episode may be just the thing to take the edge off and to help the both of you get to know each other a little better -- as long as you remember it's just casual [and safe!] sex. But be cautious! He may be of the "fuck 'em and forget 'em" variety. If he's especially attractive he probably has lots of guys to choose from. (Anyway, I know you're not in love with this guy or you wouldn't care about any of this -- you'd just want to get your hands on him, literally and figuratively!)

Another thing to remember is that some bartenders (and customers) are flirtatious with virtually everyone. It's part of their personality or a way of getting tips. If you proposition him you might find out he's not very serious. Better to let him make the first move. (In my experience most bartenders are not bashful about going after who they want.)

That being said -- nothing ventured, nothing gained. I hope I've helped a little in helping you decide whether or not you should go home with this guy, assuming one day he'll ask.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is My Mate Gay?

Hey mate I'm in my last year at school and I don't really wanna come out at school, but I have fallen for my mate, who has hinted to me he might be bisexual, by saying stuff like he has got off with a guy when slightly tipsy b4, but I don't wanna risk losing the friendship and ruining my whole school life by telling him how I feel. Do you have any tips at all in ways I could find out for sure that he is in the same boat as I am, and whether we could have a relationship without either of us coming out until we leave school? m.

Aside from intimacy, there's no absolute, positive way to tell for certain if someone is gay or bi (okay, an older person might be able to pick up certain indefinable signs that a younger person might not), but your mate has already hinted that he's fooled around with guys. The thing is, is he trustworthy? Was he telling the truth or only trying to find out if you're gay? Of course, if it's the latter, then he might be gay himself and as interested in you as you are in him (or at least hopes for some support). The trouble is that even if he's gay he may not be willing to admit it to anyone at this point, even you. And if you seriously think that he's likely to blab to everyone about what you've told him about yourself then you obviously don't think he's to be trusted just yet.

I suppose you could start a conversation with him on the subject without making any actual disclosure. You could say a closeted friend or acquaintance came out to you and see what your mate's reaction is. If he's positive and sympathetic, that's a start. He may confess all. [And for all you know, his mentioning of the gay incident that occurred while he was "tipsy" may have been a way for him to see how you felt about it, a starting off point for his own coming out. He might have been trying to see what reaction you would have to his own disclosure.] At least it will begin a dialog on the subject that may help you make a determination one way or the other. And his reaction to this imaginary person's coming out may also give you a hint as to how he'd react if he knew you were gay.

But be careful. When you're infatuated with someone, it's all too easy to imagine they're gay -- or at least that they're comfortable with their sexuality -- when they aren't. His saying that he got off with a guy, if true, is a red flag, of course. I can tell you that 100% hetero guys do not have sex with other guys even when under the influence. But whether he's comfortable with this or looking for a relationship is another story. He may not yet think of himself as being gay or even bi.

If he does come out to you and vice versa, don't immediately tell him about your deeper feelings for him. Give him time to digest the news. Even if he's gay, he may just want you for a mate. And he may not want to date you or anything else until you're both out of school. Yes, gay people can date each other while still in the closet, but of course it's easier when both are Out.

But the most important thing to remember is that Gay is Good. Have pride in yourself and all the rest will follow. Even if this mate of yours is not gay, not ready, or just not interested, there are many other young men out there waiting to meet you! Remember, when you're ready for intimacy, stay safe, and look forward to all the wonderful years ahead of you.

If you have more questions, let me know. Good luck!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gay Men and the Arts

Why are so many gay men attracted to the arts? Just asking. BB.

Just answering, I think the whole business of gay men and the arts is another stereotype. Sure, there are lots of gay men who appreciate or who are in the arts, but there are also thousands and thousands of straight actors, musicians, painters, composers, authors, art fans and so on, yet for some reason nobody ever says that heterosexual men are attracted to the arts. If a higher percentage of gay men are attracted to the arts -- and that's a big if -- it may be because gay men may feel freer to indulge in less "macho" pursuits (such as race car driving, steel work, etc.) -- they may feel less pressure to conform -- whereas some straight guys (and closeted gays) may feel that some "soft" or intellectual professions (writing, composing) are not "manly" enough and may raise eyebrows. Of course, the reverse is also true in that some gays (especially closeted ones) and straights overcompensate by taking up the most macho professions they can think of. [And think of all the actors who take up race car driving because acting, to them, is not a manly enough profession.] Lots of men, gay and straight, resist high-brow arts such as opera and ballet because they think of it as "girlie" or something, but it's only their loss.

It's all a load of crap, of course.

There are countless gay men in professions who have nothing to do with the arts, everything from dentists to football players. Now that the huge gay bear community in particular is getting more and more attention it's becoming apparent that gay men can not always be easily categorized -- we come in all varieties. There are a great many gay sports fans and athletes, for instance. Some gay men who are well-rounded individuals will watch a football game one afternoon and go to the theater at night. Ditto for some straight guys.

Gay men come in all shapes and sizes and have all kinds of interests and professions. The same is true for lesbians.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Crooked penis question

As a young gay man, I find your blog not only entertaining but incredibly informative. I’ve asked myself quite a few of the questions you’ve answered like, “are most gay men alcoholics?” I wanted to ask you about a particular erectile dysfunction many of your readers are sure to find very interesting—penile curvature. I’ve been face-to-face with this issue, but most men don’t realize that more than 1.4 million men in the U.S. suffer from penile curvature. This ailment is called Peyronie’s disease and it’s characterized by the formation of a plaque or hardened scar tissue beneath the skin of a man’s penis, which may lead to a painful curved erection. Have you heard of it?

The scariest part is that 50% of primary care physicians don’t think there is a treatment that works. There is this community called that is helping to set matters straight (pun very intended). The site equips men and doctors with information about signs and symptoms, and a full listing of the treatment options and how well each works. It also has a physician finder.

Since penile curvature can be a touchy subject, I figured you talking about it might motivate men and their partners to address the issue. There’s a public forum for the community where men can anonymously share experiences amongst themselves.

I’d love for you to take a peek around the site and share your feedback with your readers. Feel free to contact me with any questions. YG.

Many thanks for this information and for your comments. No, I had not heard of this and I'm happy to share information about it. Peyronie's is caused by an injury (sometimes during sex) or other kind of trauma to the penis, and is characterized by the formation of hardened scar tissue beneath the skin of the penis that my lead to curvature and pain during erection. Typically it affects men aged 45 - 65, but mostly in the mid-fifties. Sometimes surgery is required to repair the damage, but doctors carefully discuss the options with the affected patient and his partner. There are things that can be done for this!

The web site cited above provides much information about this, as well as support for sufferers.

Thanks again for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Looks Discrimination

Although I am young, 24, I do not have the requisite 'hot body' or 'handsome face' that seems obligatory if you are to get a lover in the gay world. Hot guys turn up their noses at me, and I am forced to have sex with trolls. So what advice, Dr. Bill, would you have for those of us who do not fit into the required hot looks category? Anon.

"Forced to have sex with trolls," huh? Do you see how hypocritical you're being? You complain about not being good-looking enough to attract hot guys, then you turn around and put down the men who are attracted to you because they're not hot enough.

In other words you're exhibiting the same superficial mentality of the men that you say "turn up their noses" at you.

Gay or straight, it's easy to get bitter if you're not conventionally attractive in this world. But there's so much more to landing a man than good looks. I know guys who have such a dynamic personality, warmth and humor that they can practically talk their way into anybody's bed. (I am by no means conventionally handsome -- nor young by today's standards --but I'm often surprised how young and attractive many of my partners are.) A lot has to do with self-confidence and your own attitude toward yourself and others. If you walk into a bar with an "attitude," glaring at all those around you who dare not to be attracted to you, you
will probably turn off anyone who does find you attractive.

Let's get past this hokey, old-fashioned notion that all gay men -- or even most -- are superficially obsessed with youth and looks. Sure, everybody likes a good-looking guy, but you have to expand upon what "good-looking" is. In the gay bear community, for instance, paunches, bald heads, and hairy bodies -- turn-offs to many gay men -- are assets. There are other attributes, such as masculinity, a sense of humor, a sheer vibrant sensuality, that can make up for a lack of traditional good looks.

You can't blame "hot" guys for going after other hot guys when you yourself are doing the same thing.

The truth is most men -- gay or straight -- do not conform to the buff body, chiseled features stereotype of the professional male model or porn star (not all of whom are universally lusted after in any case. I frequently see models and porn stars that I am not in the least attracted to, and vice versa, I'm sure). But most men still get laid and find love, right? Stop being trapped by your own narrow vision of what's attractive.

With a new attitude, less hatred for yourself and contempt for others who don't fit neatly into the "hot" category, you may find not only hot safe sex but love.

Remember that some of those "trolls" are in their own way attractive men who are looking for love just as you are.