Sex and the Single Gay Men: A Valentine’s Day Rapprochement

Attitudes - "Single Gay Man" Trucker Hats

There’s a lot more to being a single gay man than a dating site acronym

I’ve been at war with Valentine’s Day since I was old enough to understand what it means to be single. I’ll also admit to being insecure over the central theme of the date itself: being loved.

In my early twenties, I concluded that the unattached had much to celebrate; Carrie Bradshaw taught me that! The Sex and the City heroine made solo existence enticing, even seemingly preferential at times. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, when the gay parallel to New York City’s most famous fictional single person would manifest. Women have a framework for discovering the importance of being strong, independent individuals: it’s called feminism. We don’t really have a homo-parallel, though, that allows gay men to realize self-empowerment.

When we accept the fact that we are gay, most of us aim to find out what that means by finding another person to, well, be gay with.  We quickly attach ourselves to whoever will have us. In the process, we spend little time unearthing the beautiful complexities that are our own uniqueness. Often, we allow other people to mold our personalities and shape our futures. In the Midwest especially, there’s a certain way that religious guilt, lagging cultural awareness, and rural isolation combine with inner strife to create havoc. We look to ease the tension by hooking up with other people. Our boyfriends will be our saviors, even if we barely know them. Let’s be honest, though…Grindr isn’t exactly a gay emancipator!

I’ve long identified as a feminist, and for years, I hailed its mantra as the focal point of my pride as a single, gay man. Something was always off, though, and it’s a deep-rooted issue I’ve just recently begun to examine.

The simple fact is that gay men face a distinct set of issues that women, gay or straight, do not. We are marginalized differently, many of us having our dignity defrocked because we don’t live up to societal standards of masculinity. Our sexuality develops more aggressively, with pornography and casual sex being far more normalized than most of us want to admit. The social circles we form can get convoluted by body image wars, alcoholism and drugs, and a constant one-ups man ship in pursuit of chasing an Adonis like perfection. Oh, and did I mention the fact that we can’t really talk about any of this openly for fear of retribution from the religious right? There is so much inspiration to be drawn from feminist writings and icons, but we need our own movement of empowerment.

What feminism can’t offer to gay men is something that only we can give ourselves: love. Women didn’t need a movement to find love; they needed to get beyond pigeonholed roles, actually! In a world still hostile to us, and where we are often our own worst aggressors, we do need a movement toward self-reliance. We need to get secure in our identities as single people before we aim to couple with someone else. We need to celebrate our uniqueness, appreciate our success, and value our worth when we do. We also need to see examples for how we can stand strong as individuals first and lovers later on. Television shows like Modern Family and The New Normal, which are fantastically helping mainstream gay families, are great steps forward. The time is nearing for the next wave, though, when single gay men are celebrated in popular culture as the multi-faceted, ever-evolving beings that we are! Will Truman started this on Will & Grace, but focused too much on his co-dependent attachment to his straight best friend, Grace Adler.  Neither was particularly empowered by their status as a single person. We need to get beyond the fag hag motif. We have to liberate ourselves!

This year, I’ve decided to pull out from the war on Valentine’s Day. Instead, I’ll focus on learning to love myself and doing what I enjoy. Maybe I’ll even write a treatment for a TV show that is the gay answer to Sex and the City. What will you, a single, self-respecting individual, do with your time and your talents?  Your answer might just change the world—or at least your world!


Grindr: Gay Social Tipping Point?


Even when we’re surrounded by beauty, we’re always glued to our phones.

We’ve reached a tipping point in the gay rights movement: LGBT people and same-sex relationships are now the new normal.  History may one day find the invention of the Internet to be the single most significant advent in this revolution. It was only after the world could see our lives that people began to understand them. What, though, has technology done to augment our understanding of each other? That’s a complicated dynamic that we are still trying to untangle, even in this wireless era.

Virtual socialization has change what is possible for us to experience. We can now easily connect with people who are like us anywhere. Homosexuality was once a complex underworld of secret gestures, clandestine gathering spots, and campy code words that were relegated to big city ghettos. Not anymore; not in the 21st Century.

If we’re being honest, we’ve likely all had some entanglement that started out online. It’s a phenomenon that began on message boards, migrated to chat rooms, machinated onto MySpace, and now unfolds on our smart phones. Certainly this is not a homo-indigenous happening; statistically, more straight people have probably rendezvoused after a cyber convo. We understand what a hetero-normative society is, though; men and women meet, intermingle, and ultimately decide to co-mingle easier in a world where they are by far the larger majority. For a minority population, though, the ability to manifest an immediate connection creates complexities.

There’s something awesome about the ability for two gay boys in a small town to find out that they aren’t alone because the dating smartphone application Grindr shows they’re only a mile apart. There’s also something a bit scary about the ability to “special order” your significant other by chatting it up until you find someone who will go out with you. I know from experience.

Every time I’m on the infamous app, I’m longing for one thing: a person who gets me. The likelihood that he happens to be within the radius of my phone’s GPS is low. Yet, when I get one of those little red numbered replies, I put all of my hopes into the possibility that this person may be the one who I finally click with! Long before we actually meet, I’ve decided who he is and what he will do for me. Invariably, he’s constructed his own fantasy narrative about what I can do for him. Then we meet, and we completely disappoint each other. We’re so disillusioned by our own hype that we forget to consider the actual individual in front of us. We walk away. Or perhaps we stay, maybe for years, trying to turn each other into the imagined version we wish the other person would be. People aren’t canvasses for us to paint our own insecurities onto; we’re all beings with our own faculty. There’s something about the instant gratification of technology allowing us to conjure up an on-demand connection that makes you forget this really fast, though!

A lot of gay men I talk to, especially my younger peers, say they feel disconnected from the gay community. There’s a sense that midwestern isolation combines with the inherent drama of a small population for a toxic effect. This furthers the narrative for connecting online: the more sequestered you are from your surroundings, the more you’re likely to seek out community somewhere else. Are we getting any better at understanding each other, though? We find out who we are, in large part, by other people mirroring back what we offer. When we’re deflecting our own insecurities and hiding behind a screen name, can anyone truly see us?

Technology may have brought gay rights to a tipping point, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg for how we will ultimately fit into this modern age as gay individuals. I should probably stop trying to find my future on Grindr and dig deeper within myself to attract someone worthy of my own, unique energy. Maybe if we all did that we wouldn’t have to fight for people to understand us. When you know who you are, your truth is self-evident.

Naked Emotions

When you bare your raw emotions, you’re as good as dead.

Fiction. Ish.

“I can’t be naked with you physically because we’ve already undressed each other emotionally.”

That’s what he told me late at night while we were standing in the kitchen downing shots of tequila. Both of us were trying to numb a certain pain. He didn’t know how to be alone. I had no idea how to be with someone else. I needed another gulp of poison to wash down the words. Even in an inebriated state, I understood their meaning.

Neither one of us knew how to form a healthy connection. He was an intellectual who chased after twinky blonde guys whose waste lines matched their IQs. I was an artist who created disaster by falling in love with men I could never really have. He gravitated toward shallow bottom feeders who abused him mentally and physically. I was propelled to intriguingly complex men with vast potential who clearly had no interest in me sexually. He became muted accidently by the expressive cruelty of others. I was always conquered electively by unrequited entanglement. He had lots of hot sex and a leash to keep him close to his lover’s bed. I had endless lonely nights and the freedom to roam the world answering to no one. Both of us consented to such machinations. Perhaps we envied the other’s position. But if we did, we didn’t know how to move toward it.

An awkward truth always permeated our friendship. When I met him, I did what I always do. I made him my obsession. He was cute, fun, smart, and interesting…a package of essential qualities typically lacking in the wasteland of my home in Kansas. You can usually tell within the first hour if you’ll ever have sex with someone; with him, I knew the answer was a definitive no. I didn’t get interested in that first hour, though. At that point, he was merely a sex object, and not even one that I found particularly appealing. My fascination built over time. It wasn’t until I understood how truly multi-layered he was that I wanted him. By then, the friendship discourse had settled in. “Just friends” is how we described each other. It’s funny how the word “just” becomes a mitigating qualifier to something that was actually a lot deeper than a causal connection.

So, we were friends. Just friends. He and I.

We got to know each other quite well over the course of several months. Therein lies the problem. I only ever go after guys I can’t have. My interest is only ever piqued when their desire for me is squelched. This is the point where we should both part ways, but long ago I learned a secret spell: instead of offering my body for a sexual connection, I can offer up my soul for a weird sort of meta-physical mind fuck. I can be the person who understands them better than they do themselves. I can be the one who makes them feel safe. I can be the only individual who knows their darkest secrets. I’m the one whose untenable loyalty and consummate kindness commands a part of them not even their closest lover will ever have access to. This keeps them coming back more often, and with more to give, than if I were actually blowing what’s in between their legs.

It’s an odd sort of voodoo I’ve enchanted over half a dozen guys with. I told myself he would be different, though. This time, the magic would work! Unfortunately, truth is the ultimate dispeller.

He would never be with me because we both knew too much about each other. Somewhere in the dance of our friendly courtship, he told me too much about his childhood, and I volunteered more than he needed to know about my adolescence. I knew too many of his secrets, and he held more than a fair share of mine. Details about our lives—small and large—amalgamated into a strange sort of shared tapestry. We blended.

I wanted to believe this was the making of love. But really, we both knew better. This was us not wanting to admit what we knew about love. In order to allow someone to love you, you have to first actually be in love with yourself. He knew that just because you’re having sex with someone you call your boyfriend doesn’t mean you’re actually in love with him; it means you don’t know how to be alone. I knew that my witchy efforts to coerce sex out of intimacy were futile, unfulfilling, and unfair; I was so afraid of my own body that I didn’t know how to let someone else enjoy it. Both of us knew the truth.

So one night, we found ourselves downing bad tasting, cheap alcohol for hours in a lame attempt to intoxicate ignorance. It’s a sad, simple fact: gay men are pretty much handicapped when it comes to achieving true intimacy.

And no, Maggie Gallagher, that’s not because God created Adam and Eve. The universe is challenging us to connect at different and higher levels. A man-on-man marriage of raw carnal knowledge and expressive sentiments is the latest trial in the human condition. Lucky for most, only the “G” and half the “B” in the sexual orientation alphabet soup have this has their karma. For he and I, this is our destiny.

We gay men are masters at compartmentalizing our emotions. We box up the most vulnerable pieces of ourselves so that no one will ever see how truly fragile we are. We hide this case inside a closet, and we hope no one ever discovers it. Inevitable, though, we let our guards down. When we do, we make sure the person who discovers our pain will never penetrate it. We’re so afraid of what’s on the other side of agony that we deny ourselves the ecstasy of real intimacy.

Maybe he and I really should be together. He could stop being shallow and co-dependent. I could stop living out fantasyland versions of my life in a lame attempt to copulate. He could just accept that the person he needs to be with is the one who knows him best, even if he turns him on the least. I could deal with a less than developed partner as long as I was getting the intimacy.

Or maybe I should just do what he said to me the morning after, when the tequila bottles were empty and we could both conveniently pretend those words from last night were never said.

“You should be with someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with them.”

He’s right. I should. But I probably won’t. That, it seems, is my fate.

Pin Up Sexuality

ImageYou can’t quite pin a person’s sexuality to a wall. Sure, you can produce alluring images that reflect a sexual act. You can create art that is titillating.  But you can never capture the true essence of a single person’s complex socio-sexual horizon by freezing it in time.

There’s an element of “pin-up” sexuality that permeates the gay community, and it’s particularly perplexing here on the range. We often turn to pornography or online hook-ups to satisfy our sexual appetites because the inherent isolation that comes with being gay in a place like Kansas leaves few choices for healthier outlets. We rarely talk about it, but those of us in the LGBT community have gotten used to our sexualities being highly compartmentalized. As a result, the sexual relationships we form are frequently fragmented or underdeveloped.

Before I lose you hetero-readers to the “ick factor” of having to think about gay sex, let me remind you that we homos have to stomach more than our fair share of opposite-sexing. Sexual health is part of a community’s vitality, so anyone who cares about living in a wholesome world should be interested in this “pink pin-up problem”. Open your minds a bit and you’ll see this issue is more about sociology than it is sin.

Today, we can get off by cueing up our smart phones. Access to sexual imagery has never been easier. When you’re formulating a sense of your own sexual identity, there really is no digital Pandora’s box. There’s so much more to one’s sexuality and sexual orientation that the carnal act of sex, though. Within that truth, a tangled problem tangoes.

Gay people often see themselves represented for the first time in a porno. That’s a jarring statement that deserves some consideration.

If you are heterosexual, when did you first see another person emulate your sexual essence? If you had straight parents, it was the moment you were born. If you didn’t, I’m sure it was only a few minutes after that! We live in a heterosexual society. We’re saturated with boy-girl narratives in all elements of popular culture. Movies, books, and songs are full of opposite-sex tales. We form our identities, in part, by associating ourselves with representations of who we can become. We color our lives with the paints of others. Our sexuality is one of many elements to who we are, but what happens when there are few representations to draw from?

We want so desperately to know we aren’t alone; to be reassured that we aren’t the only one. That means we’ll go anywhere to find ourselves.

The consequences are complex. Pornographic images produce unrealistic expectations about body image and sexual pleasure. They’re devoid of humanism, making sex a solo activity, and later sexual encounters potentially awkward. Porn is also exclusively focused on sex as a corporal act. To be truly sexual, one has to bring their whole self to their partner. Spirituality, intellect, and sociability matter to LGBT people, too.

It’s easy to “pin up” our sex lives, though.  There aren’t many places outside of clubs or bars to meet gay people in this town. A holistic community is still very much in formation. In the mean time, a lot of us are bumping into each other on Grindr or conversing via Craig’s List. No one teaches you how to be intimate with a person of the same-sex. Even the most supportive of parents probably don’t know how to talk to their gay kids about how to form an appropriate relationship. There’s that “ick factor” again. It’s uncomfortable, so we avoid it. Can we afford to ignore the health problems that it parallels, though? AIDS hasn’t been eliminated. People still get infected with HIV. STDs happen. Beyond the body, though, there’s the soul. We all deserve more than a social media dating app profile.

There are more positive LGBT representations now than ever before in the media, but what about our local community? Celebrities have marginal impact on forming our identities; it’s the people in our daily lives that make indelible imprints. Coming out is a public health issue. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a lack of gay representation will lessen the chance that your kid will be gay. We homos don’t have much choice in the matter. The choice is in how we all live our lives. If you’re straight, encourage your gay friends to talk to you about their dating life. Try to help them out if they’re alone by introducing them to new people. Check in your “inner-ick” at the door. Don’t let someone you care about compartmentalize an important aspect of his or her life.

Let’s stop pinning up our sexuality and start owning up to the wholeness of who we are.

Mine the Void. Fill the Chasm.

When we go to a bar, we have an agenda. Refreshing, tasty beverages are not what most of us seek when we walk into our favorite watering holes. There is no natural lust for alcohol that beckons us to imbibe. There is, however, a yearning for connection imbued in each of us. We buy drinks, dance with strangers, and take random people home in hopes of filling a void. We believe others will give us what we cannot give ourselves.  We are always disappointed.

You do not have to be gay to have this experience. For people who are, though, the emotions are compounded.  We are not just looking for a partner when we intimately connect with someone of the same sex; we are often trying to find ourselves inside another person. No one really knows what it means to be “gay”; we hope to find another person who can teach us, though. That dynamic is an equation for ascertaining emptiness.

There is no greater catastrophe than a life unfulfilled. Yet, most would admit that something is missing. Every person who is gay has experienced some kind of rejection; we seek shelter in the arms of others. Intimacy cannot be manufactured, though. It cannot be found on Craig’s List. It cannot be ordered up on smart phone aps. It also cannot be served at a bar. That gut-level unsatisfaction so many of us feel everyday is really an imbedded barometer reminding us that we need to get our internal house in order. And so, we try.

We are sitting at a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon, the latest issue of The Advocate our only companion.  We feel lonely. We want to be connected. So we pull out our iPhone and log onto Grindr! The gay-dating cell phone application displays diagonal rows of dozens of men within a few thousand feet from us who we can talk to. We zero in on a shirtless guy with scant information about himself in his profile. We chat it up.

We decide during the nascent texting/dating ritual that this avatar will be our salvation. The shirtless man behind the pic will fill our void. He will see the beauty of our soul. He will love our quirky tastes, laugh at our jokes, and explore the world endlessly by our side. He will give us everything we deserve.

None of that is apparent by the few dozen lines of text we exchange, though. We decide to meet up at a downtown bar later that evening. In the flesh, it will click.

So we enter the bar with an agenda. We fail to consider that we are about to meet a distinct person with a whole host of issues and aspirations distinct from our own. We meet. We order a drink. Shirtless Grindr guy turns out to be pretty lackluster. He is rather boring. We have little to talk about. Or maybe we do. It is hard to have a real conversation with someone when you are holding at bay the disappointment that this person is not exactly who you wanted them to be.

Now, we have a choice. We can politely excuse ourselves and go home to a lonely night’s slumber. Or, we can invite our bland beau to our abode. The night’s machinations can either be tame or wild; the morning’s musings are pre-ordained. Either way, he leaves. The chasm remains.

It is within that space—that void—that redemption lives. The awkward moment when we realize the person we are drinking with is not the person we want is really the instant when we discover that pieces of us are missing.  We can wander the world, cruise every bar, and chat up every person in cyber space. No one we encounter will ever be able to give us what we have to give ourselves. Instead of going to out bars, we should probably be doing yoga, meditating, or just spending some quiet time reflecting on how to become the people we want to be.

When we do meet up with people, we should interrupt that awkwardness with something real. We should not be afraid to embrace the uniqueness that lies within. We should share ourselves with the people we find in front of us. We should receive individuals as they are. Our own agendas must be set aside. People are not canvasses for us to paint our insecurities onto. Everyone is their own masterpiece, worthy of faculty and symposium. Ultimately, we must fill our own gap. Only then can we receive the light of others.

This is not just a gay issue. Heterosexuals manufacture intimacy, too…and in greater numbers! There is a certain politeness in straight society that prevents the honest admission of what is really going on in most people’s lives, though. Leave it to the gays to shake things up a bit.

Let’s all try to fill our inner-chasms with more than just alcohol. Let’s stop looking for other people to make us whole. Let’s dig deep into our own firmaments. We can fill the void by mining the chasm.

Solo-Sex Marriage


Wide open spaces.

Life on the range opens us up to possibilities as vast as the flat land before our eyes. Those prospects can take us beyond tradition and to a deeper place. Sometimes, we find ourselves outside of our safety zones and in uncharted territory. When we do, when we must become our own trailblazer.

That’s what I have learned as a gay man living in Kansas who has always been single. Yes, in my almost 30 years of life, I have never had one real relationship. I’ve had to invent the rules as life happens. I live alone, creating myself as each day unfolds. Most people find it perplexing that an educated, dynamic, and well-regarded person would be met with such circumstance. Indeed, my chronic solo condition used to cause me great pain.

Then I got to thinking about exactly where it is I choose to live…

Wichita is a great place to raise a family. The city offers a very affordable, high standard of living. There are lots of big houses on large lots to rent or buy at relatively low prices. We have quality schools to educate kids. We have strong neighborhoods to give families support. We have vast amounts of churches to enhance spiritual and community growth. Generally, a slower pace and calmer way of living makes it a relaxed spot to settle into married life.

Not everyone chooses that lifestyle, though; and that’s not just because of sexual orientation!

A growing number of folks are eschewing traditional family life altogether. More and more, people are choosing to either defer marriage until later in life or forgo the concept entirely. Those who are single and remain in The ICT are finding themselves on the “family-friendly fringe.” We who are single and gay…well, let’s just say it isn’t same-sex nuptials we’re concerned with. For us, it’s a daily struggle to find contentment living in a solo-sex marriage.

LGBT individuals generally don’t feel the same familial and societal pressures to partner and reproduce that our heterosexual friends do. This leaves us plenty of space to build our own lives and forge meaningful friendships. That doesn’t mean we’re devoid of devotion, though. To live alone for the long haul is just as much a commitment to one’s self as a marriage is a solemn promise to another person.

There’s a lot of inherent joy that comes with simultaneously being gay and single. There’s a matchless air of freedom inherent with knowing you never have to legally be bound to someone else. You can eat anywhere you want to for dinner. You can go out to any club you like. You can take up whatever hobby interests you. You can travel anywhere in the world. No one else’s feelings have to be considered as you explore the depths of who you are.

Yet a solo-sex marriage is actually quite the polyamorous affair. When your focus isn’t just on one person, you have the ability to invest in lots of people. For me, that’s meant building some very meaningful friendships, the depths of which transcend the layers of many legal marriages. I know more about my best friend Mary than most husbands do their wives. I’ve connected with my friend Trishna on a deeper emotional level than a lot of boyfriends will ever connect with their girlfriend. I’ve had more fun dancing at loft parties with my friend Lynette than I probably would have had grinding on any guy I’ve ever been interested in dating. In all of my relationships, I’ve invested part of myself in another person and gotten a piece of me reflected in their eyes.

In cities like Wichita, though, unconventional joys can only last so long before tradition takes root. Most of my really good friends have moved away because, while Wichita is a great place to raise a family, it’s not a good place to be single. That’s especially true if you are looking for a mate. Sperling’s Best Places rated us the #2 worst city for dating in 2011. In 2004, another study had us at #3; we increased, but this is not a list on which you want your rank to rise! People who are raised in Wichita are all too aware of the realities behind the numbers. They often move on to greener pastures, off the range.

Though there are many joys that come with being partner-free, no person wants to be devoid of connections altogether. Most of us want a life full of friends. Many of us want to experience love at least once. I’ve gotten to know myself quite well as I’ve lived in my solo-sex marriage on the range for the entirety of my twenties. When I’m not connected with friends and not sharing my daily life with other people, though, I feel as though the sum of me is lost. I develop by allowing parts of others to fertilize shares of myself. Left alone too long, I can feel a withering away of my best parts. I know the years by recounting the people who shared them with me. It’s good to be alone so that you can truly know yourself; but you must also live among so that you can share that self-cultivation.

I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that, while the prairie lands of Kansas hold vast potential for shaping an unassailable sense of self, lasting connections with others will have to be explored off the range. Wichita has been a great place for me to find myself, but as I embrace the person I’ve uncovered I know I’ll have to go elsewhere to fully share him. I’m not alone in this line of reasoning. This is the heart of the city’s “Brain Drain” problem that sewers away young talent. It’s also the central point of the simultaneous “gay-away” that chases off our LGBT occupants.

Having to choose between one’s self and one’s home is unfortunate. The beauty of Kansas, though, isn’t just the enormity of its land; it’s the profoundness of the people the land shapes.  The real home on the range is the home one finds within. Maybe this land was settled so that people could come here to know themselves first, then then blaze trails elsewhere with others by their side later. If so, everyone should have a Kansas sojourn.

Really Deep Wounds

ImageIt isn’t words that matter so much; it’s the meaning behind them. Intentions add definition, giving profound significance to expressions. When comedian Tracy Morgan “joked” to a Tennessee audience that he would stab his son if he were gay, he failed to understand that negative aims often cause deep wounds. As a culture and as a community, we’re just starting to wrap our minds around the effects of those lacerations.

Recent headlines show just how deep this cuts. There’s a study that was just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that finds gay, lesbian, and bisexual U.S. high school students are more likely than heterosexual students to engage in self-destructive behaviors such as disordered eating, smoking, drug use, and excessive alcohol consumption. Some might point to this as evidence of a moral decay inherent with homosexuality, but doing so dismisses a larger truth. A different study done on the same population revealed that LGBT youth were nearly two times as likely than their straight peers to be bullied in school as well as be sexually and physical harassed. They also make up about 1/3 of all teen suicide cases. When darts of venom are thrown our way, we tend to internalize their poison. Negativity gets projected onto us from the corner of someone else’s insecurity. As a result, we emulate behaviors that bring us down farther than any attack someone else could launch.

When I was a sophomore, going to high school felt more like entering a battle field than it did an institution of learning. More people referred to me as “faggot” than they did “Jason”.  Navigating the hallways in between classes was a treacherous journey full of spit wads, back slaps, and violent threats. The bathroom was a dangerous place; I was assaulted there early in the school year and learned to just hold it in. The gym was even worse. To me, P.E. stood for “physical endangerment”.  There was a boy in my class who had an odd fascination with my sexuality. His name was Anthony. He made a mockery of my identity in the locker room with lewdly bombastic sexual gestures that made many of the other guys roll with laughter. The day he sexually assaulted me was no laughing matter, though. That was the day I began to internalize the poison; it got deep into my bloodstream.

My mind had been trained to view each day as a battle when I was an adolescent. I suppose it’s natural that I went to war with myself as an adult. After that incident, I became shackled by shame. Negative self-talk permeated my idle thoughts. My body became an inconvenient orifice I was forced to live in. Life became a chore I had to get through. I entered politics as a way of fighting back. Every electoral victory I could achieve on behalf of gay rights was a punch in the stomach to Anthony.

There comes a point, though, where you can either twist someone else’s knife deeper inside yourself, or choose to pull it out for your own relief. When you stare down negativity, it runs away.

My ordeal happened in 1999. Much of the bullying I was subjected to was viewed as a normal rite of passage. Yes, it HAS gotten better. Today, you can download You Tube vides of the President of the United States and just about every celebrity telling you to hang in there. It might seem trite, but those videos are lifelines to more people that you realize.

The aforementioned 30 Rock Star reminds us that there are those who still need to learn the significance of positive intentions, though. When you joke about gay people being stabbed, you help instill a narrative that incites violence, both externally and internally. As he embarks on his “gay pride apology tour”, I hope Morgan will come to understand that negativity is nothing to fuel on.

I’m sure that many of you have your own war stories to tell. We all have our own shame to contend with. I hope that you allow your own negative energy to be released. You deserve to live a life of deep meaning, not deep pain.

Bite Back @ Valentine’s Day

As written for the BITE issue of Naked City.

Solo is Sensational

There’s nothing that bites more than being single this time of year. More than a simple day to force consumerism on the romantically entangled, Valentine’s has evolved into a full-on season. Even if you’re coupled, the Cupid hype can gnaw. The ruby-red pressure begins to mount as soon as the New Year’s Eve confetti is swept up. Nearly every store caters to the narrative that you’re nobody till somebody loves you– and is willing to spend lots of money on you. But you ARE somebody, and this February 14th, you should take the bite out of Valentine’s Day by biting into your own bliss!

It’s time to do that one thing you’ve always wanted. Is there a restaurant in town that you’ve been craving? You should go, and take yourself as your very special date. There currently is no local ordinance that prohibits an individual from dining alone on St. Valentine’s Day.  Is there a movie you want to see, but all your friends are on a date?  Go see it alone! The U.S. Constitution protects the right of single, adult individuals to publically assemble. Are you in the mood to dance? Venture out to a club, and sashay your sexy, solo self to the rhythm of the moment. While a legal Kansas marriage consists of one man and one woman, there’s no amendment banning single-sex dance floor movement…at least not yet!

Many are afraid of being alone in such situations, though, and that’s understandable. Several will cite fears of what other people will think of them if they are seen in public sans-partner. Others will claim personal uncomfortability with such bold public displays of self-solidarity. Why do we give other people so much power over our own satisfaction, though? And if you can’t sit down with yourself for dinner, what makes you think someone else will want to dine with you? Biting questions, I know.

The answers may be more tender than you think, though. Strong individuals make for stronger relationships. The more you know about yourself, the more you have to offer to someone else. Even if you’re partnered up, personal development is paramount. You have an identity and interest outside of your relationship that deserves cultivation.

Some of this language may seem supercilious, but isn’t the box we allow Valentine’s Day to put us into even more absurd? We’d all be a lot more fulfilled if we stopped waiting for someone else to make us happy and just acted upon the whims that bring us joy. Romance doesn’t define our existence. In fact, it’s the light that shines within each of us that is most attractive. If we don’t take time to fuel it, that radiance will dim.

So, bite back at forced romance, and get intimate with yourself this Valentine’s Day! Regardless of what your Facebook relationship status reads, V-Day is pretty much an over-hyped hassle for everyone. There’s bound to be something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself that you never have. There’s nothing that bites more than not doing what makes you happy!

The ICK Factor


When you see that word, it’s likely that its sexual nuance is the first thing that comes to mind. As a concept, though, “virgin” is more encompassing than simply describing a person’s first sexual experience.  To be virgin is to be untapped, undefined, and undeveloped; it is an empty slate with endless possibilities. Limiting that word to its corporal connotation only limits the essences of these potentials.


Odds are that when you read that word, you also immediately think about sex—same sex. Let’s be honest. That probably makes some of you uncomfortable. It likely even grosses out many of you who consider yourselves to be open-minded. That’s because when we think of words related to sex, we often immediately think of how those words apply to us. A happy heterosexual going about his or her day who happens upon the word “gay” or “homosexual” immediately has their sexual identity subconsciously projecting unsavory mental images of themselves engaged in same-sex acts. ICK!

That “ICK!-factor” is the root of a lot of the stigma and problems gay and lesbian people face. You don’t have to be a bigot or a hatemonger to be slightly grossed out by another person’s private intimate practices. However, when that disdain manifests itself in discriminatory behavior (like not hiring someone for a job because they’re a lesbian or not buying advertising in a magazine because it employs a gay writer) well, that’s an entirely different matter.  When it comes to words and their subtexts, we need to get our minds out of the gutter!

Sex is actually a very small part of what it means to be a homosexual. Most of us are so busy working, spending time with our friends, being with our families, and occasionally relaxing that we don’t have a whole lot of time to spend in the bedroom. True, new relationships probably bring an uptick in libido. However, committed partners tend to find a carnal wane as the routines of daily life take hold. Sound familiar? The ratio of sex for heteros and homos really is a level field.

The field should be level outside of the bedroom, too!  More important than legal rights are social interactions. The “ICK! Factor” contributes to a lot of the reasons why straight people are sometimes apprehensive to mix with the gays. There’s a subtle fear that association will lead to amalgamation. The simple fact is that sexual orientation is not contagious. Either you are gay or you are not. If your mind is conjuring up unsettling imagery when you see or hear of homosexuals, it’s your thoughts that need to change—not the people you’re thinking about!

Just like putting “virgin” in a box dilutes its meaning, we’re limiting the holistic possibilities for homosexual people when we box up that word right along with it. Let’s take our focus off of sex and put it on to people. In doing that, our mind itself becomes like a virgin.

An Alternative Lifestyle

Grindr isn't really a great marriage partner.

“Are you still living an alternative lifestyle?”

That was the baffling question I was asked during a recent, routine doctor’s visit. It was a sincere topical inquiry that came up as part of my yearly physical exam. There wasn’t a glimmer of hostility in the voice of my doctor; she is a caring, adept physician. Now and then, the most caring of people are in need of a little enlightenment, though. For the record, while I am gay, there’s nothing alternative about that particular part of my lifestyle. Just like heterosexual folks, my sexual orientation isn’t something that’s going to change.

This incident got me thinking about what IS an alternative lifestyle, though. It seems to me that for people who are gay, the alternative is to live a lifestyle built on lies. Sadly, this still happens today. It’s a lifestyle that begins when someone with feelings of same sex attraction can’t muster up the courage to accept some of the side effects of honesty. The fear of rejection by others sometimes overpowers truth that is intrinsic. Few people want to live life alone. For those who can’t accept their own truth, others are unknowingly drawn into a fake reality.

Brides waltz down the aisle unaware that their groom is checking out the best man. Husbands are bewildered when their brawny guns can’t satisfy their wives. Children are conceived with hopes that their joyful arrival will fix all of the problems. Happiness becomes secondary to keeping up appearances. Often times, homoerotic desires are acted out with clandestine encounters.  Double lives become the norm. Secrets eventually get discovered, though. Innocent lives get ruined. It’s this perversion of authenticity that is the true alternative lifestyle.

We in Kansas pride ourselves on being sincere people. Indeed, honesty and morality are among the strongest of Kansas values.  Some with certain religious beliefs may believe that homosexuality is incompatible with morality, though. I would reference them to the Ten Commandments. Not telling lies is a very clear directive from up above. Inherent in that is not lying to yourself. People who are gay didn’t choose their sexual orientation, and they can’t change it. They can only change what they do with it. The choice is to be yourself or bring other people down with your own uncomfortability. If you don’t believe me, go ask a woman who was once married to a gay man. I’m sure she’ll give you an earful about what a real alternative lifestyle is like!

To answer my doctor’s question, I never did live an alternative lifestyle. For me, living an honest life has always been more important than living a socially accepted life. Kansans are quite keen on spotting fakeness.  Sometimes the secrets we think we’re hiding so well are actually being worn on our sleeves. The only alternative we have is to be ourselves!