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SEPTEMBER 2, 2011 7:59AM

On Being Gay

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GayI don't think anyone who has ever read one of my books or blogs is unaware that I'm gay. But heterosexuals probably cannot appreciate how wonderful it is to be able to say it. I was raised in a world in which to be who I am was to walk through a minefield: any wrong step on my part which might make my being gay public knowledge could have had serious--and possibly physical--repercussions. I could have lost my job, been thrown out of my apartment. I could be--and was--arrested and thrown in jail (albeit very briefly) for "lewd and lascivious conduct" in a classic and all-too-common case of police entrapment. And as a homosexual, I had absolutely no protection or recourse under the law. And I was not alone; there were then, as there are now, millions like me. 

But the purpose of this blog is not to be a broad overview of being gay, or an attempt to speak for anyone but myself, but rather to examine, as I am so wont to do, just what factors contributed to/resulted in my becoming a homosexual rather than a heterosexual. To me, the answer is simple: just as I was born, as are all babies, with blue eyes but predisposed to have them turn brown, I was born predisposed to be gay. While I could not define the word "gay" when I was five years old, I knew instinctively even then exactly what and who I was. And I have never, for one second of my entire life, ever doubted who I was, or wanted to be anything else, or doubted that I had the right to be who I was and am. 

From infancy, the world has always overwhelmed me with its complexity, its contradictions, its infinite frustrations, and its lack of what I consider to be the most basic logic. Though I had the unconditional love and support of my family, I always felt like an outcast, and I early on fixated on those I wanted so desperately to be. Since after discovering, to my abject horror, that girls were physically different than boys, my fixation was naturally upon other boys (and later, I should emphasize for those who see pedophilia lurking behind every tree, my attraction changed to men). I've always been attracted to those I wanted to be like, who had grace and, in my eyes, beauty, and all those things I felt I lacked--but mostly those I wished I looked like. 

From the time I discovered sex I, always insecure and self-deprecatory, would find a euphoric validation when someone to whom I was attracted would for whatever reason also be attracted to me. Always a believer in fairy tales and good things, I yearned for romantic love and was fortunate enough to find it a few times, a year or two here, six years there, nine years somewhere else. But romantic love requires two individuals, and it is difficult for any human being raised in a society which considers them perverts and abominations in the eyes of God to maintain a relationship, as much as they may want it. 

Being gay is an integral part of who I am as a human being...perhaps a more important part than being straight might be to a heterosexual. I am proud of being gay in that it has allowed me to withstand the pressures and idiocies of the world in which I live. I simply cannot comprehend notbeing gay, a fact which, living in a heterosexual world, only increases my sense of alienation and not belonging. 

The passage of years first robs us all of youth and any physical attractiveness we may have had, then slowly edges us out of the mainstream. This is particularly true of the gay culture, where youth and beauty are a premium. I, though never as beautiful as Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, have found my body, if not my mind, becoming the portrait in the attic. 

Yet I still, in my mind and heart, am who I was so many years ago. I still ache to be like the beautiful young men who pass me on the street without so much as a glance. It's not a matter of self-pity, merely of fact. 

But unlike so many gays who find--or will find--themselves in the same position as I am now, I have the ability, as mentioned in a recent blog, to step into other worlds I have created, where I can be, and am, all those things I have always wanted to be: where I am forever young, and forever gay. 

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 for information on Dorien's  Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

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Ah the vanity of youth. Never being one of the beautiful chosen boys, I find age and wisdom a much better place in this twisted up world we live in.
Your complaint about aging and the loss of physical beauty ached in me because I feel that very keenly, too. Writing is wonderful, isn't it? We can be godlike creating whole worlds for ourselves to inhabit, with we whom please, and also share those worlds with others.
"Yet I still, in my mind and heart, am who I was so many years ago." Being true to yourself is beautiful. It draws people to you. You are beautiful to me.

Now that I am losing the physical cuteness (I hesitate to say beauty) I have finally gained some badly needed self-confidence and I am happier for it.
Thank you all for your comments...they provide what I am always seeking: validation.
Dorien, we are all no more or less than who we are. That there are wide differences is moot. Rather than pride based on your sexuality, try having pride in being a good and just person. I may have been the odd exception to the rule since growing up in an era when being gay was a bit worse socially than being a rapist or murderer, I never picked up that hate. I understand I think , what your point is but I have a valid one too. I don't know gay people, or straight people, I only know good people and bad people and the sexual part of them plays no part in my world. I've tried to raise my kids that way too.
You're right, of course, Bobbot...and were there many more like you. For whatever reason, I have always seen my being gay as knight's shield against the world's slings and arrows, and to in effect say "I am who I am and nothing you can do or say can change that. I may be standing alone, but I'm standing."
I almost cried when I read this. "The most basic logic - I was predisposed to be gay." Over the years, I have had people pose questions to me about my 33 year old son that have astounded me. Can you help him get "fixed?" "Why would he choose to be gay?" And so on.
Frustration indeed.
Thanks for writing about this and sharing your thoughts!
Hmmm. Buddhism and other Eastern worldview systems teach us about (or rather, remind us of) IMPERMANENCE and not holding on to what is transitory, such as youth, because to ache for the impermanent to be permanent is only to set oneself up for pain and suffering.

We gay men need to learn this lesson. Badly...

And other lessons, such as that real beauty rests within the soul, not within the body, which is an animated piece of meat destined to return to dust...
Very true, Robert, but humans being human, logic far too often takes a back seat to emotion and basic desires.

And again, thank you all for taking the time to respond.
Great post. For me it's really complex being gay, between what I've been mistaught about it when I was younger, and then what I've learned is true to me since coming out. I'm always learning where it fits into my life, and I'm getting better at that. Writing really helps doesn't it?
I like the book Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. In fact, I have every book Wilde ever wrote. I also like Orwell and Conrad.

I am sorry the world is so cruel. It is though. However, this is your life and you do have it within you to make a space. A sacred space with just those individuals who are special for you. And remember heaven is the beauty of the world. That moment frozen in time when you are experiencing total bliss, hold on to it and remember it. Inside yourself is your soul and you get to fill it up and make it as you like. No on else does. So no matter what anyone says or does, you are a good person and good people are filled with goodness. I wish you all the best.
Hahaha!! You SOUND like Dorian Gray!! An interesting post, and it kept me reading. It did leave a little wanting in the area of substance. Perhaps, like TG within said, it is vanity. Your saddest part is the most candidly written: "But romantic love requires two individuals, and it is difficult for any human being raised in a society which considers them perverts and abominations in the eyes of God to maintain a relationship, as much as they may want it"... I can say that, as a heterosexual, I had to accept (with the same insecurities and body image) that the relationships I was pursuing had to have meaning and covenant and promises. I wasn't really happy romantically until I asked for what I thought I deserved. Blessings.
One of my most successful plays dramatized 20 years ago that:

Gay v. straight is, indeed, a matter of brown eyes v. blue eyes.

Being gay, in and of itself, should be a source of neither pride nor shame.
You're of course right, Gordon, that "Being gay, in and of itself, should be a source of neither pride nor shame." But it is to me...it is the pride of survival and of the ability to tell people who don't approve of me for being who I am to go f**k themselves. Took a long time, but I'm here.
I proud my eyes are blue still after many long years. I don't know why; it doesn't make me better than anybody else. If I can have such beliefs, why not you?

There's a modest pride in self-acceptance. It makes living a joy.
Martain, I couldn't agree with you more. An excellent analysis. Thank you.
Interesting what you wrote on the the thread because I too am always seeking validation. Not to turn the spotlight on me but briefly I was always told I would never amount to anything and because of that sick message tattooed on my psyche I constantly need that validation.

You are gay and so it is...they find me odd and it is also so but I would not want to be anyone other than I nor you, you I believe from what I've read.

I'll close in saying that I enjoy your writing. It speaks to me and I'm not gay just mildly pleasant at times.
Thank you, Blinddream, both for your empathy and for your...well, your validation. To be hurt is part of being human, but each of us responds to the hurt differently. And for too many, the negativity is indeed "tattooed on the soul." Well said.
I'm looking forward to the day people are judged based on their goodness, not on who they are attracted to.
Whether one is gay or straight, or, like most of us, asexual, is a small part of people's lives...what they do when there is nothing good on TV. It is certainly not anybody else's business.
I'm asexual rather than gay, but I've been explaining the concept of "pride" to people for about a decade as part of the autistic community... It seems very odd to see (as appeared in a Salon article a few months ago) neuro-typical people fail to understand the reasons or real point -- I had figured that the "I can't feel pride for an involuntary trait" reaction was because we auties tend to use language very literally.

What I usually explain is that there's two meanings for "pride"... One, the sort used for 'gay pride', is actually defiant opposition to the shame society has tried to instill in us: saying I'm "proud" to be an autistic really means I'm not ashamed of it. The traditional meaning (which you pointed out) fits as well: we're proud that even though society has doled out emotional & often physical abuse from an early age, we've managed to survive physically/emotionally as long as we have with our ability to care about others intact.

Society makes it so clear that our kind (gay, autistic, etc.) is inferior, so we become obsessively attached to whatever ability/trait we're praised for... I have to warn against sticking with appearance as the big defining factor, though -- my mother did that due to her narcissistic personality disorder with catastrophic results. Becoming unhappy about the effects of aging made her not care for herself well enough, which accelerated her aging a LOT, and a dour expression became her habitual one so she doesn't look like she'd be pleasant enough to befriend. She would've been a lot better off getting intense help learning to value her talents more & to handle the effects of age...
WOW, so many of us perceive the lack of recognition of who we are or think we want to be as children -- it is not exclusive to being gay. Congratulations for knowing from very early on who you are, what you wanted. That is rarer then any uniform or even modicum of our perceived acceptance by any in our lives at one time or another.
An obsession with youth and beauty is not exclusive to the gay community; many people, from all walks of life, are captivated by it. Certainly there is a serious down side to such an obsession — but there are positive aspects as well. Simply, youth and beauty signal that the organism is at its most vital and alive. A responsible focus on health, fitness and self-care helps to maintain a vibrant and robust body — and mind — throughout our lives. No sane person can argue with the value of such an aspiration.
As the Heterosexual Dictatorship (Christopher Isherwood's ever-useful term) insists on our bing ashamed for being ga, Gay Pride is political militancy at its most absolute.

Im 64 year's old. I came out in 1961 -- and never looked back. Being gay meant belonging to a charmed circle of artists and intellectuals : Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, John LaTouche (http://denniscooper-theweaklings.blogspot.com/2011/09/david-ehrenstein-presents-john-latouche.html), Joe Brainard, Andy Warhol (just to speak of then-contemporary reference points) Being "out" was quite avant-garde back then. Even after Stonewall it was cuttign edge. Now the closet is collapsing. In less than a generation it will be entirely gone. Still it's not all Neil Patrick Harris. We've got to fight for our lives 24/7 -- as Lawrence King's murder proves beyond a shadow of a doubt (http://fablog.ehrensteinland.com/2011/09/02/just-trying-to-get-in-the-head/)

It's not comparable to eye color at all.
Really a great piece of writing! It worries me that in 2011 we are still dealing with this issue. This is not just a gay or straight matter it’s a civil rights one. In my view all members of a society are entitled to protection regardless of sexual orientation, creed, religion and so on. A sense of “pride” would be in order if we all lived in harmony with each other.
I can't tell you all how delighted I am at the response to "On Being Gay". A great dialog, here, with fascinating and thought-provoking points of view. This is what the internet is/should be about. Thanks to each of you for taking the time to express your thoughts.
And forever you, as you are, celebrating your life. Good for you. And well written. Well closed.
"The passage of years first robs us all of youth and any physical attractiveness we may have had, then slowly edges us out of the mainstream. This is particularly true of the gay culture, where youth and beauty are a premium."

I wonder why this is, because it seems to contradict what most gays and lesbians want: mainstream acceptance, at any age. Physical beauty is such a flimsy, insubstantial thing and often there's nothing behind it. And youth so frequently lacks depth, which is very unsatisfying, wouldn't you say? But if you feel young and beautiful inside, at any age, then to me that's close to enlightenment.
i'm not sure i get this. i understand this piece. getting old or getting older. retreating to a "comfort time. " aging has no sexuality or identity, it just is. i'm aging as i write this. linking it to being gay. what's the connection. because you're gay tyhe "struggle " and coping mechanism is better. or is it that in the political correctness of the link i have to indulge you?
Ah, MJ...you certainly do not have to "indulge" me in anything. Perhaps the blog was simply a matter of "you either get it or you don't". Luckily, most did.
A bit (octogenarian) tired? Sad? Bewildered? "Hoping for hope" (or realism) ... off the phone an hour or two ago with one of my longest friends. We were friends before he "outed" as "gay"; we are friends now still. [I am -- if this disclosure is necessary? -- female/heterosexual, and equally OLD, :-(. It was good to connect again (over 3,000 mile and ?"it's none of your business how many years" [;-)]), by telephone. A mutual long-ago friend wrote me after visiting him recently that he "looked terrible" (adding, and I quote: "He looks awful (hard to imagine) but his mind was working very well". Yes, it's hard for me to imagine that he "looked terrible". [He had a long successful career based on his photogenics (so to say).] But it was great to have a good feisty laughing (I'm deaf) conversation!

Given all that, my question of/for the moment: Where is the comment I so appreciated from the comment-er who said he wasn't "gay", but "pleasant"? [??!! ;-)]
Good question, podunkmarte. Now all we need is a good answer.
When I was in my early 40s, I called an older gay friend to complain that, at a recent Gay Pride event, I was totally ignored by all the hot boys out on the street that day. I, who was accustomed to glances and outright stares from guys checking out the "wares," couldn't understand why, suddenly, I was being ignored.

"Ah," said my friend, "You've joined the 'Invisible Army.' In the gay world, after you've turned 40, you become invisible to the younger generation."

And he was right...to an extent. It was incumbent upon me to find my relevance to a younger generation. And my journey is no different, I'm sure, than an aging hetero's: My value to the younger generation is as an elder, to try to pass along to those interested in knowing that which I've learned along the way.

I still yearn from time to time, as you remark in this piece, to play with the puppies, but I wouldn't trade the loving and reverential relationships I've developed with the young gay men in my life for a single fleeting sexual moment.

Thanks for this. Rated and shared.