Thursday, July 30, 2009

Militant Mondays at Temperamentals

The Off Broadway show The Temperamentals (written by Jon Marans, starring Michael Urie and Thomas Jay Ryan) is having a conversation series as a part of their talk backs on Monday nights. It's called:

a series of political talks Monday nights
The first panel is AUGUST 3 and will include:

Larry Kramer
(author of THE NORMAL HEART, co-founder of GMHC and ACT UP)

Bill C. Davis
(author of MASS APPEAL, political essayist for

Jon Marans
(author of THE TEMPERAMENTALS, Pulitzer finalist OLD WICKED SONGS)

Moderated by director Jonathan Silverstein, they will be discussing how far gay rights have progressed since Harry Hay's 1950 Mattachine Society and how far we have to go.


Sounds like a very interesting evening!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Internet Dating -- When The Man and The Photos Don't Match

I really need some advice, Dr. Bill. I started dating guys I met on the Internet a few months ago, and more often than not that guy who walks into the bar or coffee shop looks a little -- and sometimes a LOT -- different from the photograph[s] they've posted. I try to be kind and tactful but I really find it annoying, even offensive. How do they expect to get away with it? Should I say something to these guys directly? Should I just walk out and/or pretend I don't know them? How would you handle it? Frustrated in Boston.

Well, there's a good reason why I prefer to meet the men I date in person in a bar, at a party, or some other social situation. I have been in just the situation you describe and it is never pleasant or easy. Here are some thoughts on guys who don't match their pictures.

1.) Some people photograph differently from the way they actually look. They're not trying to pull a fast one; it's something they can't control. Sometimes, happily, an attractive man is simply not "photogenic" and looks better in real life than in their photos, which is a happy surprise. Not so happy when it's the other way around.

2.) On Internet dating sites people naturally try to put their best face forward. Some make the mistake of using shots that are a little too flattering. [Maybe we should all use our Department of Motor Vehicle photos and our dates will all be happily surprised when they meet us. On second thought, if we all did that we'd never get dates.] Some men don't have a great "sense of self" [or are delusional] and they don't realize they're sending an inaccurate impression of themselves. Some people don't update their photos for years because they honestly don't believe they've changed [and boy are they wrong!] That's fine for DMV photos, but not for dating sites.

3.) Then we have people who are [dis]honestly perpetrating fraud. They know perfectly well they look nothing like their photo. Oh, sure, you can recognize them, but they've put on fifty pounds, gone gray, shaved the beard, gone bald etc. etc. I believe you've fallen victim to these jokers.

Guys post old photographs for the simple reason that they feel no one will contact them if they don't. They figure most of us are too polite to say anything when they show up looking ten years older and fifty pounds fatter. They're convinced that they're so nice, so witty, so sexy [hot in bed without being hot-looking] that once we meet them in the flesh we'll completely overlook their flaws and even hop into the sack with them that very night. Of course they're dead wrong. They're almost a kind of predator, frankly.

How should you handle it? Do what I do. I have a drink or two and if the conversation flows, if I'm having fun, I figure at least it will be a pleasant enough evening, if not a sexy one, and I may stay awhile (but never too long). If the conversation doesn't flow and I'm bored I finish my drink quickly and I'm out of there. I can't worry about hurt feelings. They created the whole false situation in the first place, not me.

While thank goodness I've never been in this situation, if a guy shows up who looks nothing like his photo -- I mean you really have trouble figuring out who he is and wondering where he came from -- say good-night quickly. Even if you come to realize that it's the right person [but the change is so dramatic, say a thin guy of thirty now looking like an obese man of sixty] you have an absolute right to walk out. And if it's a completely different person, say the roommate of the guy you wanted to date, you also have an absolute right to walk out. Go, go, go, baby.

These guys are just wasting your time and mine and even their own. The thing is, nowadays people go for all kinds of types, including the follically challenged [like me], the morbidly obese [whom I see being cruised all the time], anything and everyone. We can feel sorry for fellows like these who post seriously out-dated and misleading photographs, but we also have a right to date the person we see on the web site, not a "bizarro duplicate" [like out of the Superman comics].

We can't all be young, slender, pretty boys, so we should just be ourselves, eh?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting "defensive"

As noted previously, I will occasionally respond to a longer comment on a post by starting a new post. This comment was in response to my post on Gay Men, Women, and "Sexual Fluidity:"

Dear Bill, I am very disappointed that we will not be able to continue our discussion in person. I stopped posting because I was invited to be a discussant at the gay/bi debate at the LGBT Center in NYC this Wednesday at 8 PM, and I asked that you be one of the gay discussants, so I thought I would be able to talk to you in person. How unfortunate that you are traveling.

You have illustrated my point exactly in this discussion. Prejudice and privilege is when it is assumed that bad things happen to people because of their inherent badness. I know it is a weird thing for a gay person to wrap his head around the notion that he has gay privilege, but relative to bisexuals and transgender people you do. The things I said to you were all that you were biphobic, or had internalized biphobia. However, you called me rigid, resentful, negative, etc., and let through a comment about posters (and since, I was nearly the only poster, this has to be about me)"can you imagine being attracted to both men and women and you still can't get laid on Saturday night?"

Therefore, I am a bad bisexual, and everything a gay person or Lesbian has ever done to me is my fault; the badness lies in me and my sexual orientation. I challenge you, since you cannot be there, to ask a friend or friends of yours to go to the talk and judge me as a person. See how bitter, resentful, angry, ugly, and unable to get dates I really am (oh, and you also called me immature - I'm 55 years old, BTW). Or are you afraid to see that just maybe gay people do really ugly things to perfectly nice bisexuals, just because they can (just like your insults and name-calling of me illustrates)?

I didn't really engage in what you label "name-calling." I made some judgment calls based on your tone and what you had to say, but I didn't call you "names" like fag or dyke. Frankly, if I called you "rigid" or "resentful" etc. it wasn't name-calling, that was simply how you came across. I have certainly never said that you were a "bad bisexual" or a "bad" anything else. Show me one occasion when I said that it was bad to be bisexual or that bisexuals were bad people! I didn't say what you wanted me to say so that makes me a "bad homosexual guy" in your mind, I guess. Therefore since you see me as a bad, supposedly bi-hating gay guy, that must mean that I see you as a "bad bisexual." Nonsense.

I have a feeling that you're a "late bloomer" because you carry the self-absorbed angst and the jump-to-conclusions attitude that you normally find in the very young, so I suspect you came to terms with your sexuality comparatively recently. [And let me make it clear that immaturity has nothing to do with age.] So while initially I was quite surprised that you're actually older than I am, I think that, in part, explains why I came to my erroneous conclusion. I could be wrong, but I also suspect that at one time you were in love with a lesbian and got very hurt when she broke it off. You're convinced it was because you were bisexual. Maybe. Maybe she didn't buy it, couldn't understand it, or maybe she "just wasn't that into you." I'm not saying it was your fault, or hers, but perhaps you just have to understand that in both gay and straight relationships sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't. I believe there are many bi-identified individuals who are actually in loving, long-time relationships with gay partners.

I, on the other hand, came out in my twenties and was active in the country's first militant gay rights organization, New York's Gay Activists Alliance. [Perhaps the "privilege" that you think you sense in me has more to do with the fact that I've been in this struggle for many more decades that the vast majority of my few detractors.] The president at the time that I joined GAA was bisexual. I don't recall he, I, or anyone else in the group wanting to fight for special privileges just for homosexuals while excluding bisexuals or transsexuals. You hate to hear this, you've been so spoon-fed wrong-headed data by insecure people with agendas, but you just don't have your facts straight [no pun intended].

As far as the person who left the comment about "not getting dates" -- for heavens sake, how paranoid can you be? You were not the only person who left comments and I'm pretty sure the guy was just making a joke and not singling you or anyone else out. I doubt if he even knows you. You continuously fail to see that I have an irreverent sense of humor, possibly because you have none?

Where is it written that all queers have to automatically agree with each other or else they're "phobic" this or "phobic" that? Can there be no questioning, no intelligent discourse, has no one the right to be on occasion politically incorrect or a doubting Thomas about this, that, or the other? This may infuriate you, but you should check out my post on my brother blog about the LGBT community and NPD.

It is my passionate belief that bisexuals and transsexuals, like homosexuals, face far more danger from the religious right and others like them, from all those who hate queers of all stripes, than they do from gay people who may relate more -- understandably -- to other gays than they do to bi's or transsexuals. I see nothing controversial in that viewpoint, but apparently others disagree.

As for that forum you refer to. Funny, how it was never listed in the LGBT center's list of upcoming events. Now I'd sound as paranoid as you if I suggested the whole thing was a set-up, wouldn't I? Believe me, I have been to enough forums over the years -- where people are supposed to have an intelligent, rational discussion -- where all it takes is a couple of irrational people unable to control their emotions to turn the whole thing into a tiresome shouting match. And to turn into a grim, humorless affair and a total bore.

I have a life outside the Internet. I generally allow people to leave comments and send emails, but that doesn't mean I want to continue the discussion out in the real world. Especially with people who for one reason or another may not always be entirely rational on a given subject.

Younger Man Older Man

NOTE: Occasionally I will respond to a comment that has been left regarding one post by starting a new post, as I have this time. This was a comment on my post on Falling in Love with a Younger Man:

Variation on a theme here. But I think the same outcome for me in the end.

The age difference is larger (I'm 42 and he's 19), and we've chatted online and webcammed for 6 months. We live in different cities and while we met briefly a few months ago just to hang out for a few hours, finally met this past weekend and pretty much spent the weekend together having a wild time (which included sex for two nights). I can't stop thinking about him and he says the same about me. Feels like love to me and I'm not sure at 19 he knows what that is, but he says the same about me.

I think there are only a few choices for the future here. Change my life to be with him, change the relationship and still be friends or totally end it. My heart wants the first one but realistically it has to be one of the other two. I'm not sure how to get to those stages though to be honest. I guess I'm having trouble building the courage to get there as well. Open to thoughts and opinions. Thinking I need to grow up here and "do the right thing". Rip the bandage off as it were and see where it ends up.

Like I've said in the past a successful relationship with such a large age difference is not impossible, but I'd be kidding you if I said it would be easy. You're dealing with a teenager, and no matter how mature he may be for his age (or not) he probably isn't ready to settle down with anyone, whereas you're at just the right age to do so. It sounds like you're having a wild sexual fling with a sexy young guy -- good for you, by the way! -- but while an infatuation can seem pretty intense -- it can certainly feel and hurt as much as love -- in the long run it's still just an infatuation. A few months of webcamming and a couple of nights of hot sex don't necessarily add up to a relationship. If a 19-year-old gets involved with an older man, there's usually some underlying reason for it. [I don't have to explain the reason why older men get involved with younger guys!] Is he trying to run from some bad situation? Is he looking for a father surrogate? Does he want to escape a bad family situation? Ultimately, what this young guy may need is a friend, but everything becomes complicated when you add in the sexual and romantic feelings you both have.

I probably don't have to tell you that when you enter into a relationship with a teenager [thank god he's an adult!] you're opening a whole can of worms, especially if he's still living at home. Befriend this guy if you want, have some mutually satisfying safe sex with him when you can, but as I've advised others, keep your eyes open for someone more age appropriate. 42 is still young. If you can have a 19 year old fuck buddy, boyfriend, what-have-you, you can certainly attract nice-looking men in their thirties and forties.

Still, I have met happy couples who had even more than a twenty-three year age difference. There were complications, there always are in these situations, but if the two of you really do come to love one another that strongly, who knows? You're the older person, but for all I know he could be much more experienced. If this is your first big gay fling, I'd say keep things in perspective and take it slow.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Was Michael Jackson a Transsexual?

Was Michael Jackson transsexual? Anon.

Well it might explain a lot if he was. According to biographers, new evidence is coming out that he engaged in sexual relationships with men, so it is quite possible that Jackson was homosexual. If he ever spoke to anyone in regards to realignment surgery -- in other words, about getting a sex change -- that may eventually come out. Until then, there's no way to know for certain. Jackson's increasing "feminization" may have been part theatrical, part stereotypically gay, part glamour -- or it may have been that he genuinely felt he was a woman in a man's body. So Jackson may well have been an unacknowledged transsexual. If he was gay, he was certainly not out of the closet, and was probably plagued with issues of self-hatred. I doubt if he would have felt much better about himself if he were transsexual. All of his surgeries and cosmetic changes (and cosmetics) made him kind of edgy, but apparently he was only willing to go so far. Raised in an environment where people just didn't talk about such subjects as homosexuality [romantic and physical attraction towards your own sex] and transsexualism [being a different gender than the one you were biologically born into], Jackson was probably quite confused.

In any case, it is doubtful that (especially during his most successful periods) he would have come out as either gay or transsexual for fear that he would lose his fan base.

Had he lived, who knows how he might have identified in the future?

Artistic Gay Guys

Why are gay men more artistic? -- just asking. Anon.

Just telling -- we aren't more artistic; it's another stereotype. While personally I think it would be a big plus for the gay male community if we were all great artists, the truth is we're a very diverse bunch of guys. If gay men were more artistic than straight men -- and some people in and out of the gay community really believe this -- that would mean that most actors, dancers, painters, symphony musicians, opera singers and so on would be gay. But although there are certainly gay men in all of those fields, there are plenty of heterosexual men as well. I really don't think there's a correlation between sexual orientation and artistic ability.

In certain industries, such as fashion and haircutting, the gay men at least seem to be a little on the stereotypical side, which may be why they've become associated with those industries. But surely there are less obvious gay men in those industries as well, not to mention heterosexual guys. Heterosexual fashion designers may seem like an oxymoron, but I've no doubt they exist.

People in the arts were once looked down upon (and in some cases still are) as being immoral, especially actors. So people found it easy to believe that actors tended to be gay, because gays were supposedly immoral. Also, some gay men -- who were outsiders -- weren't so hung up on being involved in professions that weren't considered "manly" enough. Think of all the actors even today who drive race cars because they think acting isn't a macho enough career for a guy. Talk about being insecure!

Of course I know gay men who are artists and who appreciate different forms of art, music, culture etc. But I also know a great many gay men who are not only not artistic, but who have no great appreciation of, or particular interest in, the arts.

In other words, while some gay men want to go to the opera, others would just as soon see the latest installment of Friday the 13th. [Or watch or play in a football game.]

And some, like me, enjoy both.

The Downlow

Can you explain to me something about the "downlow" or "lowdown" or whatever it's called. Something to do with closeted men who are gay or bisexual. Is this just in the black community? I'm a straight woman but I'm curious about this phenomenon. Anon.

The downlow is an expression first used in and about the African-American community -- popularized by a major article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine some years ago -- but it's a situation that occurs within all ethnic backgrounds. Someone on the downlow is a person who is publicly straight but privately homosexual or bisexual, engaging in homosexual acts and occasionally relationships on the sly. Generally we're talking about men married to women who regularly engage in sex with other men. Despite this -- and because of the straight lifestyles they lead, not to mention the guilt and shame they feel -- most of these men think of themselves as being straight. They are not -- they are just in denial, suffering from internalized homophobia. Closet cases, in other words.

There is no reason to believe that this situation occurs more among black men than white, Asian, Latino etc. It also has to be said that in the African-American community there are many Out and Proud Gay Males. It is frequently said that this kind of situation develops more in male communities where machismo is king, but men of all ethnic backgrounds can fall prey to old-fashioned macho attitudes and the insecurities they engender. Some men on the downlow identify as bisexual, but think other men are just for sex and women are for relationships; in truth, their shame over their homosexuality would in all likelihood prevent them from developing a committed relationship with another male, or from recognizing in many cases that they are essentially homosexual.

Gay Liberation -- 99% of which is in the head -- is the antidote to the downlow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Lover and His Friends

Hi, Dr. Bill, My partner and I have been together for over 2 years and I adore and love him very much. A few months ago, I decided to start coming out to NY for work, but we have a home in Seattle together w/2 cats. He travels quite a bit for work too. When we are home together, it seems that all he wants to do is stay in, make dinner, and watch tv. When I am gone, he is out almost every evening seeing friends, having dinner, movies, outdoor activities, and many other things that I've asked him to do before but he never has wanted to. I can't help but feel left out of it all and he thinks I'm "crazy" for feeling this way. His friends are always excited to see him and it seems he has something to do w/them every night...except when I'm in town. They'll call only to see him (w/out me) or wait til I leave. How do I overcome this feeling? Any advice would be so great! Thanks, Lonely in NY

I have to tell you that some people might wonder what the problem is if your lover just wants to be home alone with you when you're both in town. But I sense there's something more to it. Obviously it can't be that he's a homebody and you're a party boy because it seems that he goes out a lot -- just not with you. It could simply be that he'd rather spend time with you when you're both in the same city, and can see his friends when you're out of town. I mean, it would be worse if he was out with his friends every night even when you were in Seattle, leaving you home alone.

It does seem odd that you have never been out with him and his friends, almost as if he doesn't want you to meet them or vice versa. I presume that all of your information about his friends and his partying with them comes from your lover, so it could be that he's wildly exaggerating the good times he's having. There are two possibilities for why he may be doing this. A.) Some people need to have others think that they have loads of friends and are very popular, as it makes them somehow seem more desirable -- it increases their "market value." B.) New York is awfully far away from Seattle -- maybe your lover really doesn't like the fact that you're away in New York so much, and is hoping you'll come back permanently if you think he's having too much "fun" without you.

It's great to have quality time with your lover, but there are two things to consider. Is it really "quality" time or do you just sort of occupy the same space without there being any romance or good conversation (remember it's enough for some guys just to cuddle on the couch watching TV). And no matter how close two people may be, it's perfectly natural to want to go out sometime, hang out with friends, meet each other's friends, and so on.

The fact that you seem to have never met any of your lover's friends makes me wonder if, perhaps, he doesn't really have that many, or if most of them are bar acquaintances. [Frankly, it's hard to make really good, close friends, and most of the people we call friends are really just compatible acquaintances.] That may be why he hasn't suggested a double date with another couple or so on. And if that's the case he's going to need your friendship even more. Lovers should be each other's best friends, but of course they should go beyond that and be real lovers as well.

I would suggest insisting one night when you're both in town that you feel like going out and head for a bar -- with or without him. Hopefully he'll go along with you, and you may finally meet -- if not close friends -- at least some of the people he hangs out with. He may not be going out half as much as he says he does, or he may go out only because he is lonely when you're in New York. Maybe he feels that now that the two of you are together, you don't have to date. But he's wrong about that, as it's important to keep the romantic element alive in any relationship.

Don't confront him as to how many friends he really has because he might be very sensitive on the subject. If it turns out that he really does have loads of friends, tell him that they're part of his life, as you are, and insist that you'd like to meet some of them. Tell him that you love him, and love spending time with him, but part of the whole fun of being a couple is that you can go out together, meet new people, have fun and laughs, without being alone as some guys are [some people can handle this and make new friends easily; others are just lonely and miserable]. What's the point of being a couple if you can't do things together? Isn't that why so many people want to be part of a couple? Tell him having a lover doesn't mean you just stop doing things outside the home -- what fun is that?

If he comes to realize that, while you enjoy your evenings in, a full relationship should include intermingling with other people and sharing activities outside the home, hopefully he'll understand that there is a great joy in going out with your partner and sharing with him all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

Switching Gender

I'm sure that most transsexuals are really transsexuals, but have there ever been cases where someone who was not transsexual wanted a sex change for some other reason? Is Cher's daughter -- or son -- the former Chastity, a true transsexual or a lesbian who for some reason decided she'd prefer to be a man? Confused Connie.

Transsexualism is very different from homosexuality and I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject, although a little googling will bring you to web sites where you can find more information on it. Based on conversations I have had with Trans People I would say that most people who identify as transsexual and undergo realignment surgery are truly transsexual, because -- while the process may be "easier" than it once was -- it's still not exactly a walk in the park. On the other hand, people contemplating a sex-change are advised to speak to professionals who can not only help determine if they really are transsexual, but if realigning physically to another gender will still be the right choice for them. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

There have been cases of people who have been advised for one reason or another not to undergo realignment, and they go through the procedures anyway, going underground to get the needed drugs and hormones. I don't have to say what a bad idea that is.

I have no doubt that there have been a few cases where people who were not genuinely transsexual may have wanted to change their sex. Not knowing Chastity or Chazz, I can't say for certain what's the deal in this case. S/he would not be the first person who identified as lesbian and then realized she was or at least identified as (more or less) a straight male in a female body. It works in reverse for men who identity as homosexual until they come to realize they are heterosexual females stuck in a male body. Have there been cases where a guy is so horrified at the thought of being homosexual that he'd rather transform into a hetero female? Sadly, I have no doubt that this has happened, particularly years ago, but I believe it's very, very rare. Internalized homophobia carried to the nth degree.

There are drag queens whose lives dressed up as women seem much more real to them than the time they spend in "regular" male clothing. Are these gay transvestites unacknowledged transsexuals? Perhaps. Yet some get angry at the suggestion that they are not, deep down, guys after all. Others may have such a strong suggestion or fantasy that they are women at heart -- although not in the same way that a transsexual does -- that they might desire a sex-change to become fully female. An interesting question is -- if it's all a state of mind anyway -- are they transsexuals regardless of how they view themselves?

Most people make changes to improve their lives and become happier. If this works for Cher's daughter, all the better. if she is fooling herself, however, about who or what she really is, then it may not be a wise decision for her to make the switch.

There have always been people who have said "I wish I were a man" or "I wish I were a woman" but they shouldn't be confused with true transsexuals. Still, with the increasing acceptance and frequency of sex-change operations -- and the politically correct need some people have not to question anyone as to their orientation -- it is not entirely unlikely that some of these people will slip through the cracks. But they are definitely in a very small minority.

A final note: Most lesbians are perfectly happy being female, as most gay men are perfectly happy just being guys.

Weighty Matters

Why are lesbians disproportionately overweight compared to straight women? I have no evidence of this but in my experience it seems to be true. Anon,

Yikes -- talk about stereotyping! I don't know about your experience but I've seen and met lesbians of all shapes and sizes and have not seen any indication that most are overweight as compared to heterosexual women. As well, the "butch" stereotype only accounts for a small percentage of gay women. As I've said many times, the gay community is not only very diverse, but most gay people -- male and female -- do not conform to stereotypes, be they "nelly queens" or "butch, heavyset lesbians." These people exist, of course, and are entitled to as much respect as anyone else, but they are hardly the whole community.

I think many people, gay and straight, have trouble getting past stereotypes because A.) they are unaware of how really large (and I'm not referring to weight, LOL) the gay community is and B.) they see gay people as all resembling themselves [if they're gay] or the couple of gay friends they may have [if they're not].

Gay people may have weight issues, but no more so than the rest of the population.