Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Total Acceptance? Hardly!

I get the idea that many young gay people today think they live in a world of total acceptance. It's as if they've never heard of the ex-gay movement, the fight against gay marriage equality, the Republicans and their "family values," the fact that in some third world nations you can be put to death simply for being gay --and that you can still be fired in many states in the good ol' US of A just for being homosexual. And what about all the people who are still in the closet, using beards, on the down-low? Yes, things have improved a lot since the Stonewall riots, but why do some young people act as if gays are accepted everywhere? Are they in for a rude awakening? JS,

I'm afraid so. Older people, especially those who remember the days of raids and constant oppression and the days before hardly any public figures were out of the closet, are in a unique position. They can tell how much better things are, but their remembrance of the not-so-good old days reminds them that rights can often be a fragile thing, and a lot of bad attitudes don't go away, they just go underground. Anyone who thinks homophobia is a thing of the past is either living in fantasy land or is a fool or both.

Many younger people, especially those who work in the movement, do know that the struggle is far from other. But there are those who have loving and accepting straight friends and who live in big, comparatively liberal cities (with gay rights bills to protect them, of course) and since they've never experienced oppression in a major way, they think it's a thing of the past. Sadly, all it takes is one ugly experience -- someone hurling slur terms, a gay-bashing -- and they instantly become aware that homophobia is alive and well. Many of these people, while homosexual and out of the closet, don't have an especially strong gay identity, either. The gay cause is not their cause, more's the pity.

In a way it's good that many of these people of any age feel secure; it's better than the constant paranoia many gays used to face. The downside is that it makes them feel there's nothing left to struggle for. They see AIDS as an eighties issue (but HIV and AIDs are still with is, and still a threat), and Gay Lib as a quaint thing of the past. But there are still too many gay/homosexual people who do not feel good about, or accepting of, their sexuality, and this includes many who are out of the closet. And there are a large mass of closet cases out there who cut themselves off from gay culture, self-acceptance, and enlightenment.

The good news is that the percentage of gays who are Out and Proud is probably higher than ever before. And we continue to make advances, be it gay marriages, gay/LGBT rights bills, and so on.

But there's a looooooooooong way to go, and everyone must remember it!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blacks More Homophobic?

I have heard of a report which suggests that black people are more homophobic than white. Is this true? Anon.

Actually one study suggested that white people were more accepting of gay marriage than black people. And there are (mostly white) homophobes who are saying that if gay marriage is accepted it will supposedly help deteriorate the black family because black men (I assume they mean those on the "down-low") will not marry the mothers of their children. But since most of those down-low guys (who belong to all ethnic backgrounds, not just African-American) are deeply ashamed of their homoerotic feelings one can't imagine them marrying one of the guys they have sex with.

Let's keep things in perspective. Yes, there are homophobic African-Americans, and yes there are racist gays. But there are also Out and Proud Gay African-Americans as well as many straight African-Americans who are committed to Gay Rights (just as there have been many gays who have been committed to the civil rights struggle for blacks.) The fact that some members of minority groups have issues with other minority groups should not be used as an excuse to tolerate bigotry of any kind. Gays who may have conscious or sub-conscious racist feelings should not think those feelings are justified simply because there are homophobic African-Americans.

Our Gay Black Brothers and Sisters have a tough enough time belonging to two misunderstood minority groups. Let's not make it worse for them.

As for the homophobes, whatever race they may belong to: Let's do our best to educate them, and if that doesn't work, give them a good swift kick in the pants!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dressing to Advantage

Am I out of date or is there still a gay dress code, something that tells you if someone is a top or a bottom, into kinky sex, water sports, and so on? Or has all that been done away with? Don't get out to bars much these days. Anon.

I'm not saying that that's all been done away with but it does seem a little dated. I personally never ascribed to the business of dressing in a certain way or wearing certain items -- color-coded hankies in your left or right pocket and so on -- to reveal your sexual tastes. I believe that sort of thing was once more common in leather bars. If it's still practiced by some guys, I don't know.

I suppose if you wear tight jeans with a big hole cut out showing off your buns, well I'll let you guess what that means -- and I'm sure you can, even if you haven't been in a bar for awhile!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Unrequited Love Strikes Again!

I am a 32-year-old gay man. I have a friend I'll call Harry who is 35. He has a blog and writes all the time about a man he calls Joe, with whom he is in love. Mutual friends keep telling me that I am Joe, and that Harry is totally besotted with me. I care about Harry very much, but my feelings are strictly platonic and can never be otherwise. I looked at his last blog post tonight and for the first time the blinders were off and yes it became clear to me that I am "Joe." I went back and read the other posts and really don't know what to do. Our mutual friends are correct -- Harry is completely in love with me. I'm flattered -- but I just don't feel the same. From what he says on his blog, he seems to know it's hopeless, but people keep leaving comments telling him to tell me how he feels -- that's the last thing I want. What should I do, Dr. Bill? Wish I Weren't Joe.

Well, I've been in this situation from both sides and it ain't ever easy. There are a few things to keep in mind.

1.) This is very awkward for you, yes, but his unrequited passion is probably killing Harry. I recognize he's a friend you care about and you don't want him to get hurt -- and that the last thing you want is to have that conversation where you have to let him down easy (and as I said it's never easy) -- but what you're going through is nothing compared to what he's going through. If you keep that in mind it will help you keep things in perspective.

2.) His feelings for you may be an intense infatuation but not true love. Still painful, but easier to get over. Even if it's the latter, your rejection of him won't ruin his life. He thinks it will, but more likely it won't.

3.) I would suggest not doing anything now. Even though he's posting his feelings on his blog -- maybe hoping you'll read it and tell him what he wants to hear -- that doesn't mean he wants you to confront him, especially if your feelings are not the same as his. Often people are able to work through these unrequited feelings on their own, or they realize they prefer you as a friend, or they meet and fall for somebody else. No action may be required at this point.

4.) If he does declare his feelings for you out in the open, don't freak out. Tell him how much you care about him and how much his friendship means to you. Don't give him false hope, but tell him all the things you admire about him. Say it's a shame that your feelings aren't quite the same as his, because you're probably losing out on something special. But that there's nothing you can do about chemistry or your feelings. Tell him he's attractive, but be careful not to patronize.

Some people in your situation try to keep from hurting people by saying they're not ready for a relationship, or they only like a certain type (whom they make as different from the person they're talking to as possible) or they don't want to screw up a perfect friendship and so on, but I think in the long run it's better to be honest and avoid the obfuscation.

However if you just can't bring yourself to be blunt with him, one thing you might say is that you've gotten so used to him as a friend that it would just be too strange and downright unsettling to have him for a lover. Now this might sound like pure b.s., but the fact remains that many friends who are attracted to one another don't want to take it to the next level for that very reason. It's not just that they might spoil a good friendship, but that being lovers engenders a whole new level of angst, jealousy and primal emotion. Couples who break up often think to themselves, "if only we'd just stayed friends -- or f--k buddies!"

Things may just play themselves out without your having to say anything, but if he does reveal his feelings to you, I hope I've given you some options. Remember, that he may need to end the friendship if he feels he just can't stand being around you once he realizes you'll never be lovers. People aren't being mean when they do this -- it's an acknowledgement that they can't get over you if they're around you all the time.

But maybe he'll be able to think of you just as a cherished friend, and find somebody else to share his life and bed with.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


What do you think of gay people who insist that certain people who are straight are really gay? Is it fair of them to slander these people by insisting that they're gay? Do you think that's right? Anon.

Slander??? I reject your whole premise. Unless you think there's something wrong with being gay -- which I certainly don't -- then a person is hardly committing slander by suggesting that someone is homosexual. There is a big difference between a homophobic person "accusing" someone of being gay or someone suggesting someone is gay as a way of putting them down (as if being gay is something to be ashamed of) and someone who is either gay or supportive of gays suggesting that a certain individual might be gay in a non-judgmental way.

I don't think it's right to say that someone is definitely gay when you don't know for sure (and certainly if you know or think the person is genuinely heterosexual) because a.) it's inaccurate and b.) it could lead to discrimination against that person (although some people think every straight person should walk in our shoes for awhile ... )

Sadly, today you can be accused of libel or slander for saying someone is gay if they're not (or even if they are, in which case you better have plenty of their same-sex partners available to testify on your behalf), even if you yourself are gay or pro-gay. Homosexuality is still considered something dirty, a filthy little secret, by far too many people.

On American Idol judge Simon Cowell was always "gay-baiting" host Ryan Seacrest by passing remarks suggesting he was homosexual (in time Seacrest did the same to Cowell). It was not only offensive and homophobic, but it added nothing of intelligence to America's discussion of homosexuality and perpetuated the stereotype that being gay is something negative. Just as bad, people theorized that Cowell had to be gay himself because he was "bitchy," another stereotype applied to homosexual men. To suggest that all gay men are big bitches is as ludicrous as suggesting that no straight men can be "bitchy" -- and they can be, believe me!

Gay people often wonder about or suggest someone straight-identified is gay because we know that even in the 21st century there are a great many homosexual people in the closet, leading straight lives, on the down-low, or who consider themselves heterosexual even though they have same-sex encounters on a regular basis. You''ll have to forgive me if I'm a bit cynical (or realistic) on the subject, but I've had years of experience.

Besides, how do you know we're wrong when we say someone you think is straight is really gay?

Maybe we know more than you do?