A Pornvasive Identity Crisis

Electronic technology will only bring us more information, more choices, more contacts, and more complexity. It will push us beyond all the old frontiers of identity—home, neighborhood, country, values, and the natural rhythms of nature. Our old touchstones for forming an identity will fail and we will have a pervasive identity crisis. -Yogi Bhajan, April 1995

The fundamental questions we must answer are: how is our identity being maimed by these so-called advancements and how do we reclaim our power so that we are not at the effects of our screens? Here’s one very personal (and to be honest, uncomfortable) admission…

12068474_10100780672233842_5515505154571984726_oI didn’t’ realize how much I had sunk into the sea of technology until I was nearly drowned by my own abuse of its excess. I was born in 1982, which makes me just barely a millennial. I was the last generation to be born before the internet and the first to feel its effects on my sexual development. I got dial-up when I was 16, which meant that like most horny teenagers I was consuming digital porn before I was dating. Unique to my age cohort is that for many of us, off-line and on-line sexualities were interchangeable. Looking at web-porn or sex-chatting with strangers was often a small piece of a larger sexual development that included plenty of real-time interactions with people you met “in real life” like good old-fashioned dinner and a movie or awkward blow jobs in the back seat of the car you borrowed from your parents. That wasn’t my experience, though; my sexuality was developed entirely online. How I have related to nearly every intimate or sexual experience was cradled wholly by web-browsers and imitated fully from porn-stars.

I was an awkward, shy, and overweight teenager with excruciating acne and crippling self-doubt. I came out as gay in 1998 while living in Gastonia, North Carolina. It had not gotten better yet. I was more afraid of rejection for being ugly than I was being homosexual, though. Coming out was rough, but coming into my own skin would prove to be even more vexing. There’s a stigma that only a certain kind of people look at porn—bad people! I see it as more morally neutral. It’s one of many distractions that can stunt our growth if we let it. Unknowingly, that’s what I did. Today I’m 36 years old and have yet to have a true relationship with another man who is attracted to me. I’ve had a string of odd non-sexual relationships with men, gay and straight, but any romantic or sexual feelings I harbored were not mutual. I’ve had plenty of sex, but never with anyone I was intimately connected to—at least at the time we were physical. There’s never been reciprocity in any of these encounters, a dynamic similar to the one-sided gratification of porn.

Pornography had its purpose, though. The first time I ever saw myself represented in another person was when I watched a gay porno online. It was the year before Ellen DeGeneres came out. Bob Dole was running for President and lots of people were doing the Macarena, but there weren’t many openly gay roles models. Ricky Martin was “Living La Vida Loca” in the closet. I was 14 and spending part of the summer at a friend’s house. One day, we found a hetero porn video in his older brother’s room. I was totally disinterested, except for the rare moments when the camera would pan onto the guy. That’s when I knew this lingering attracting I’d always had to boys was more than a phase. My friend had the internet on his computer downstairs; that night I typed “gay sex” into a search engine. Within minutes (well more like 20 minutes…this was the dial-up era after all!) I was seeing a tall, dark, svelte hunk of a man artfully penetrate the backside of a slender blonde lad. That was my introduction to what it meant to be gay: witnessing two anonymous and nameless men fucking for 5 minutes. I knew nothing about them; they knew nothing about me. Yet, with a powerful intensity, I ejaculated into a tissue with my eyes transfixed on their figures. I’d been masturbating for years, but somehow this was different. There was a rush of something that happened simultaneously, something more than just a sexual release; I felt this magnanimous energy flowing out of my body. It was magic and bliss all at once, laced with a lingering desire for something more, an aching to stay in this state of satisfaction for as long as possible, a yearning to transcend to a level of pure ecstasy. All of that from a shoddy video on a random Geocities website. This is how my sexual identity was born.

Eventually I got my own computer, Bob Dole lost in landslide, Ellen became the world’s most famous lesbian, and high-speed internet made jacking off to porn a whole lot easier.  For the next 22 years, I spent on average at least 20 minutes a day looking at porn, sometimes much longer, often going hours on an endless chase for satisfaction. I kept thinking that eventually I would meet someone who I’d enjoy being around, someone I could exchange this sexual ecstasy and energy of desire with in the flesh. That never happened. There were plenty of guys and plenty of sex. Some of it I enjoyed, some I encounters I just suffered through. Nothing I experienced in the flesh compared to how I could satisfy myself online, though. Somehow my sexuality, this intrinsic part of what it means to be human, was trapped inside a screen, never to blossom outside the contours of a seedy virtual reality. It never made any sense. It drove me mad. I hated my body for not resembling those models I’d see in the videos. I dismissed as boring or substandard any man I’d sleep with who couldn’t hold my fascination. I developed fixations on men who would never be attracted to me; I resented them for this strange and unrequited relationship I developed in my mind.

What I didn’t know is that my individual machinations were part of a larger a crisis unfolding. The old hallmarks of how we previously related sexually were rapidly deteriorating. Sex was no longer something two people did with each other. It became a product one consumed.  Sex was also no longer confined to intercourse, with sexual release found through images and videos that we could pull out of our pocket on our phones any time of the day. Sexual partners were not people we met—sex chatting with a stranger’s screen name on Skype or in a chat room often replacing the need for person-to-person interaction.  How we negotiated sex in the past clearly had not served us, yet how we were navigating this pervasive identity crisis was not exactly a bridge to enlightenment.

Something interesting happens when you start to awaken to higher consciousness: you can’t get away with continuing to perpetuate patterns that no longer serve you. You can continue the action, but you’ll start to feel a very different effect. Overtime, the consequences amplify. It’s not that the action has some new adverse outcome; you were just anesthetized to how low you were taking yourself.  When you’re on the path of growth, though, it’s part of the contract not to be stuck. For me, I had to physically feel the effects before I considered the uncomfortable shift of expanding my sexuality beyond the purview of a screen.

Not long after I started practicing kundalini yoga, I started to notice some distinct physical changes when I would look at porn. I would get this aching sensation behind my eyes that would develop into a throbbing pain in my forehead. When I ejaculated, I felt this instant depletion of energy. I was left with a raw and empty exhaustion that slowed me down for the rest of the day. Overtime that slowdown turned into completely being worn out. There were times I would get flu-like sick for days (and eventually weeks) for no apparent reason. I knew this was my body urging me to shift. At a certain point I just couldn’t ignore the reality I was experiencing: I could feel porn’s arresting effect each time I gazed at a screen. Yet, I found myself unable to escape its grasp. It was as though some force was drawing me in and taking with it my free will. Somehow these machines had become a high-tech jailer.

Kicking a porn addiction was about more than changing a habit.  Pornography was the foundation of my sexuality. I fundamentally didn’t have the framework to experience organic satisfaction. Yogi Bhajan talked about technology brining on a pervasive identify crisis; well, I was having a pornvasive crisis! How exactly do you rewire one of your most personal underpinnings? How do you grow into something authentic after a lifetime of understanding sex to be a manufactured commodity? How do you get to the other side of a crisis when electronic technology itself has become the touchstone by which you experience sex?

You recode your brain, and in doing so you set yourself free! There’s a meditation for overcoming addiction that will literally change whatever programming you have around compulsive habits. My teacher Harijiwan gave this meditation on my first day of teacher’s training. He said that if we did this for 40 days, whatever patterns or addictions we have that are holding us back will fade. If we did this every morning for just 5 minutes we could conquer our darkest haunting forces.

It took a while, but I finally committed to doing it. He was right—the patterns were changing, though not in the instant and easy way I had hoped. Meditation isn’t magic; it’s work. Mediations aren’t pills; they’re pathways. I continued to look at porn after I started the meditation, but there were noticeable physical changes. Within a week of practicing it, I couldn’t get hard looking at porn. I’d see the images and feel the desire but what was happening in my brain wasn’t connecting with my body anymore. I could only ejaculate when my eyes were off it, which made the whole practice rather futile. As I notched on more days with the practice, I started to experience sharp pain in my groin any time I ejaculated after consuming porn (that did not happen with an organic fantasy). As I approached the 120th day, which in daily kundalini practice is the point at which a new habit of consciousness is confirmed, the potency pornography once had was largely extinguished. I assumed it would take years of therapy and addiction counseling to kick this habit, but it turns out all I needed to do was stick my thumbs in my forehead and gnaw my molars silently chanting Sa Ta Na Ma for 5 minutes a day! We don’t get to the light through an endless analysis of darkness. It’s fitting that a simple meditation would be the key to liberation.

The habit has been kicked, but I can’t say I have exactly solved this particular identify crisis. I still have no idea what real intimacy is nor do I even really know how to go on a simple date. I suppose that’s the next step: determining how to grow in a new direction that involves actual connection!  It’s time for some new touchstones.

Whatever happens to me is ultimately unimportant. What is important, though, is that everyone figures out how to overcome any limiting pattern or behavior that’s holding them back. We all have the power to heal ourselves. Just with this simple meditation you can overcome so much! I share this post because I know I’m not the only man to experience this particular addiction. I hope that in offering these words, I can offer a tool to help at least one person find some light!

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I am Thine: Fork-lift for the Mind

Humee Hum, Tumee Tum, Wahe Guru.  I am Thine, in Mine, Myself, Wahe Guru.


 

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I am Thine; We are all one. Simple phrases, massive impact.

A lot of thoughts run through our mind on any given day. If we’re being honest, most of those thoughts aren’t particularly helpful. There’s a lot of pointless inner-chatter and meaningless fantasizing that competes with space for imagined arguments you want to have with someone. Those evolve into grandiose tellings-off you want to give to that person vexing you which often leads to a rage-induced verbal mind brawl. As soon as your inner-anger has extinguished your adversary-of-the-moment, negative self-talk creeps in to cut you down even lower with a parade of mind-marchers picketing your very existence. These mental abstractions are jeering at you in Fred Phelps-fashion holding signs that read “you’re ugly”, “you’re not good enough”, “you’ll never succeed”, and “just give up.” Then maybe you’ll remind yourself that none of it is true. A loving thought will creep in. You’ll have a spark of inspiration, a tiny jolt to do something meaningful and productive. Then that guy who stiffed you money enters into your mind, and you’re cutting him down with your thoughts. You forget to act on whatever glimmer of positivity bubbled up to the surface. And that’s just the first few minutes of the day…

Sound familiar?

Overcoming the negativity of the mind is nothing new. It’s a challenge that technology exacerbates, though. Our human faculties give us enough mental challenges, but each time we pick up our electronic devises those challenges are amplified by text messages we have to respond to, Facebook posts that upset us, business e-mails we have to deal with, and drama from our friends and family. Then of course there’s the news and whatever Trump did that day.  So how do we reclaim our own power so that we aren’t at the effects of our screens—and more importantly our negative mind?

It’s simple: we have to change the soundtrack. We must stop listening to our own thoughts and start reprogramming our brain with a loving sound current. In Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, we have these helpful sonic devises called mantras that help us. Mantras are words, phrases, and sounds infused with specific meanings and energies that often form a song-like track. When we listen to or chant them we begin to change our brain—we literally clear away the negativity with the sound.

You might think this sounds weird, woo-woo, and New Agey. It totally is. But hey, we’re shifting into the Aquarian Age so some of our activities are going to be very peculiar, at least at first! The first time I heard one of my teachers say that just chanting mantras can transform your life I thought they were loony. But then I went along and chanted the mantra “Har” and I felt this incredible weight lifted. If this is was it meant to be crazy, I was totally fine with that. Five years later, I live a life colored by thousands of small miracles each day that were painted by mantras.

Today was one of those days that could have gone either way: really good or really crummy. I woke up this morning angry and pissed off at someone who I perceive as having deeply wronged me. Then I had drama with an Airbnb reservation and ended up on the phone with customer service for an hour. That’s never fun. In the middle of all that I downloaded a version of the mantra I posted at the top of this article and I started playing it in the background. After I got off the phone with customer service, a guest called me wanting to cancel her reservation that starts tomorrow for no real reason and expected a full refund (not our cancellation policy). As I was talking to her I saw the latest Trump/Russia news. Usually that would have been enough to set me off into a fit of rage! Granted I am sophisticated enough not to take that out directly or so harshly on people most of the time, but the inner-indignation usually sends me into a spiral of defeat where I nag at myself all day over how terrible the world and everyone in it is (including me). As I spoke to the woman, though, I heard her voice and stopped listening my own chatter. I felt justified in sticking to our refund policy, but something inside queued me toward compassion. For a brief moment I saw her as me and myself as her.  I agreed to let her out of the reservation and issued her a refund. Her dates later re-booked for what turned out to be a better reservation financially. It was a happy outcome for us both.

I’m been singing that mantra all day since! Let me tell you it does wonders in traffic! If there’s anything that pissed me off more than Airbnb customer service it’s driving in Venice. Narrow streets congested with drivers WAZEing their vehicles around parked cars, bicycles in the middle of the road, dog-walkers staring at their iPhone, and those helmetless BIRD scooter riders who think they’re invincible is enough to give the most zen of Swamis road rage. Normally I find myself in a swirl of stress and quickly get bogged down by the anxiety of the obstacle-course nature of it all.

Today was different, though. 

Humee Hum, Tumee Tum, Wahe Guru. I am Thine, in Mine, Myself, Wahe Guru.

Humee Hum connects us with our own consciousness, the force that’s “us” beyond our mind Tumee Tum links us to the truth that we are one with the other person’s consciousness. Wahe Guru is an expression of universal connectedness. It’s sort of like Buddha, Jesus, and Allah toasting their glasses and taking a shot of love together.

As I belted out those words line after line, moment after moment, I felt this incredible connection to everything around me. I saw all the people and their varied ways of traversing not as obstacles to overcome but as manifestations of a grand creation I’m privileged to be part of. I typically absorb frenetic energy, but today with this mantra on my tongue I literally felt like I was several feet above everything on the road. Those words elevated me.  And that person who I woke up so angry about? I was able to sing the words and send good energy their way. Sometimes we don’t have to change how we feel about a situation to change how we handle its effects.

Somewhere in the cosmos is the innocence in each of us. This mantra taps us into the idea that we are not separate. It cuts through the chaos of the mind and tempers the some of the negative effects of our phones! I am you. You are me. We are each other. Each time we recognize this, we reclaim our power by tapping into our true essence of love and compassion.

Old Touchtones, New Touch-screens

Electronic technology will only bring us more information, more choices, more contacts, and more complexity. It will push us beyond all the old frontiers of identity—home, neighborhood, country, values, and the natural rhythms of nature. Our old touchstones for forming an identity will fail and we will have a pervasive identity crisis.

-Yogi Bhajan, April 1995

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As a self-employeed “Aquarian entrepreneur” who runs a gig-economy business, my iPhone has become an extension of me. I’m not alone.


There’s no definitive date for when the Aquarian shift began, though I suspect it was the release of the first iPhone in June of 2007 that jolted the transition. People had been carrying handheld computers in their pockets for many years, but it was this technological milestone that truly began the steady march toward a digitally-focused existence. The existing social order accepted that technology was a tool to augment reality, and at first cell phone etiquette reinforced this notion. In the early days of the iPhone, it was quite common to be invited to interact with a person’s new device. I’d run into a friend at a coffee shop, and she would gleeful show me all of her new pictures and explain the latest app she had downloaded. The phone was an entry point into her world, a way for us to better relate to teach other. It was a conversation starter as much as a connector. It could be put away as easily as it could be picked up. A face-to-face chat over java with full focus from both parties was the norm, such rendezvous uninhibited by incessant dings, pings, and rings. At first, that is.

It all changed so quickly. Syncing easily with the emerging phenomena of social media, these shiny devices were how we were going to say connected. Every time something new happened on Facebook, we’d get a notification and have to see what was going on—right then and there! It was rude not to respond right away, ruder than only half-listening or outright ignoring whatever the person in front of you was saying. Whatever was going on inside the glass of our devise gradually became more important than what was happening in front of us. We never spoke about this or decided this was true, but our collective actions affirmed a new order. Eventually, we stopped sharing our phones with each other and developed an increasingly intimate relationship with a glass screen that was constantly transfixed before our eyes, the auto-lock blackness constantly showing us our own reflection. It was the people we knew who had always had the most profound impact on our development. Now that was changing. These phones were a signifier that we would soon be called to go within to grow.

Pisces is symbolized by two circling fish biting at each other’s ends. In the final days of the Piscean era, we unconsciously decided that we’d chased our tails long enough.  Human connections are fraught with drama and give way to distractions. Most of us weren’t starting relationships to evolve; we just had needs to be satisfied. We looked to others to make us less lonely, feel validated, be sexually satisfied, and escape whatever insanity was going on in our minds. In the Aquarian age, we won’t relate to each other like that. There will be more ownership of one’s purpose and more thoughtfulness to how we engage with others. We won’t see people as extensions of ourselves or vessels for our own satisfaction. Rather we will appreciate the unique faculty that is the individual, accepting people as they are and celebrating their purpose on the planet. Knowing people authentically is how we will grow. We will bring our best selves to interactions because we will understand that lower emotions like anger, jealousy, and guilt come from the insanity of our mind and are not the fault of others. We will live by the ethos that we are 100% responsible for our own understanding.

Clearly, we have a long way to go. If the Golden Age is only 16 years away, though, we’re in for some rapid changes. Maybe that’s why shit is going to hit the fan in a big way. It’s always messy when we are forced to change. Every time the screen of our phone goes dark, a force beyond us is beckoning the way forward; we are shown ourselves so that we can go inside to receive the answers. Yet we constantly queue up our home screens to call up literally thousands of distractions each day that keep us as far away from our authentic selves as possible. It’s hard to know who you are or what you are here to do when you are lost inside a peep-hole of someone else’s drama. It’s easier to read the post about your friend’s lunch or watch the news about Trump’s latest Twitter tirade than it is to drop in to what’s actually going on inside you. These phones and the unspoken order of compulsory real-time availability they come with are perhaps the last great distraction. I say last because I am not sure we could become any more disconnected from reality than we are now. Surely new iterations of “smart-devises” will come, but they will all just add depth to the phenomena that is already here and affirm the inevitable. Everything we know is fading away. I wonder if this is how it was in the last days of Atlantis: the pervading sense that there had never been so much advancement and opportunity quietly colliding with a disaster that would wash away this evolution from the annals of history.

If we are to survive this next shift, we must get honest about how technology has affected us on the individual level. We aren’t going back to the way it used to be, but surely we can show up better for the way it is now. The fundamental questions we must answer are: how is our identity being maimed by these so-called advancements and how do we reclaim our power so that we are not at the effects of our screens?

Next week I’ll share some of my own experiences with these questions and I hope everyone who reads this will do their own introspection and sharing as well!

Total Eclipse of the Smart

Version 2We live in the age of information, with finger-ready access to data and facts on any subject. Most of us carry a portal to the world in our pockets, our cell phones the entry point to knowledge once housed in grand facilities and available only to those privileged with admittance.  Smart phones have somewhat democratized information access, yet they’ve also dumbed us down.  Overloaded with text messages, e-mails, breaking news updates, Insta-pics, and Facebook feeds, we simultaneously see everything while knowing nothing. It’s an accomplishment just to clear out our in-boxes and read through our feeds, and those digital demands can siphon energy away from more natural pursuits. In the information age, we’ve traded action for access, reflexively severing the most dynamic parts of ourselves onto an onyx screen.

Yet even in the most diluted of circumstances, each of us knows who we really are. There’s a deep knowing and understand that cuts through the distractions of any age to connect us to our higher, most authentic self. The time is upon us to remember who we really are and start acting on our own instincts!

I’m sitting outside right now at the La Brea Tar Pits writing this column as the solar eclipse is happening. I forgot the buy the glasses, and yes, I have peaked up a few times for a brief second at the sun; hopefully I won’t go blind! While I’m not privy to the solar views the dozens of excited people around me are seeing, I am very much connected to the energy of this moment. I’m in the sunlight soaking up the deepest possible meaning of what is happening right now on our planet, and in particular in our country. This total eclipse is all about examining what we’ve been hiding, uncovering the brightest parts of ourselves we’ve allowed to be eclipsed by the demands of the day and of this age. It’s a moment of collective and individual accountability.

Collectively, there’s no doubt that the United States is in the midst of a dark chapter as a country. We’ve seen an ideology of racism, sexism, and xenophobia emerge from shadows many of us thought were banished decades ago.  We’ve seen greed as a guiding force in nearly every institution. Corruption is now a primary characteristic of many of our leaders. Our new President is a narcissist, uninterested in facts, insecure about his own abilities, and powered only by the accolades of others. It’s easy to be upset at Donald Trump, and while we have every right to be outraged, this moment demands that we ask ourselves how we got here.

We’ve spent the past decade staring at ourselves, our eyes transfixed by an electronic screen that ultimately reflects back to us whatever we want to see. When the Narcissus of Greek mythology looked at his reflection in the water, he became so enthralled by what he saw that he couldn’t pull himself away, surrendering his will to live to an image that eventually killed him because he couldn’t pry himself up from his own beauty. Our smart phones are a 21st century pool, and the world we’ve created inside them has every bit as much power over us as Narcissus’ reflection! Energy knows no ideology; all stripes of thought have been part of what lead us to this moment. While Trump appeals to only a segment of the population, and while the majority of us voted to have a different leader, collectively we’ve been unconsciously culling a dark, self-motivated energy that merely manifested physically in the form of President Trump.

On an individual level, each of us knows how we’ve been playing it small. For myself, I know that I’ve spent WAY too much time obsessing over the latest “breaking news” and listening to echoes of political commentary and not enough time taking action on issue I care about. I’ve wasted hours reading mindless political articles and not enough time writing about higher truths and deeper concepts. For all the time I’ve spent as a political spectator over the past year, I could have written a book and been a novelist by now! I’ve played it small socially, too. I’ve mindlessly surfed my Facebook feed instead of connecting with actual people and deepening friendships. I’ve chatted up strangers on Grindr I never had any intension of actually meeting instead of attempting to connect with guys in a real and authentic way. In short, I’ve allowed technology to dim my own light as much as this eclipse has darkened part of our world today. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

I’m determined to make this moment count, though, and for this eclipse to be the end of the shade I throw on my own light!

This morning I was doing a kundalini meditation to align with my creative flow. It’s a specific kriya for breaking free from that which holds you back so that you can take positive steps forward to live out what you instinctively know is your mission in life. It’s the perfect action for the moment! With eyes closed and arms stretched out at the heart center, right hand placed flat over left, I recited the mantra Hari Nam Sat Nam Hari Nam Hari Hari Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Hari. According to the teacher Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, “The first part of this mantra aligns the powerful creative flow of life (Hari Nam) with your personal identity and destiny.  The second line aligns your intuitions with your intention so the unseen hand of spirit supports your fulfillment.”

It’s a simple mantra really, but over the course of 11 minutes my mind started to wander. Every time I would think about what I was having for lunch, how much my arms hurt, what I needed to do later in the day, etc. I would lose focus and mess up the chanting, getting frustrated and feeling like a failure. As soon as I would calm my mind and focus on the words, though, I could seamlessly recite the mantra and feel a powerful energy envelop me. In this moments, I felt unstoppable. I went in and out of this dance of alignment and misalignment for several minutes before having a realization: when we focus on the work we know we’re here to do, we ARE unstoppable. When we get distracted by our own thoughts—the Narcissus within us— we lose sight of our true power and purpose and it can often feel as though we’re drowning in our own frustration. I understood in that moment that our truth lies in taking action on what we intuitively know we’re here to do, and that in doing so happiness and harmony flows naturally to us.

ig_20987021_1920377438236866_6799378810950123520_n-1503327834_600It’s a lot easier to just dive into our smart phones than it is to use our talents to serve the highest good. Too many of us have dimmed our light at a time when we’re being called on to shine bright. We can see where that’s gotten us. This total eclipse moment is an opportunity for all of us to examine our lives and decide what shifts we’re going to take.  We need to all take a moment to get very clear about what our mission is—what do we need to be doing in this moment to best serve the world? What talents do we have, what skills do we possess that we need to hone? What seeds are we going to plant and what work are we going to do over the next several months?

The time is upon us to stop staring at our smart phones and start doing something more dynamic with our lives! With each of us committing to small, right actions daily, we can emerge from this collective dark shadow just as the sun emerged after the brief moment of darkness today!

PS) I highly recommend trying the meditation I mentioned above! Click here for details and instructions.

Grindr: Gay Social Tipping Point?

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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.