Category Archives: Gender and Sexuality

Masculinity and Sexuality

My friend, James, once commented to me that in our society, masculinity is a terribly fragile thing. To underscore his point, he offered an example: ?If a guy likes flowers, it?s automatically assumed he?s gay.? I?m certainly inclined to agree with James on his observation, but I also have to admit that I find myself wondering what being gay has to do with one?s masculinity. After all, I?m gay, and I consider myself 100% male. My masculinity is not up to debate.

Because of this conversation, I started wondering why this idea that gays are inherently ?not masculine? comes from. And while I considered all of the stereotypes which are the source of James?s lament, I decided that the matter had to go deeper than that. So I dug deeper, and realized that the real issue is deeply routed in how our society ? and especially the men in it ? have viewed sex in general over the past few decades.

Sex and sexual prowess has been the primary determination of a man?s masculinity for quite some time, now. Indeed, the only other factor of masculinity that even comes close to degree of importance is athleticism and physical strength. To comfirm this, one merely needs to go back to the high school locker room and pay attention to the two things that teenage boys brag to each other about: How great they did at the last game and what girl they ?bagged? over the weekend.

When you look at it from the most common view in our society, sex is all about the man. The man is the active partner, doing his thing to the woman, who is often seen as just laying there and letting him go at it. If she gets any pleasure from the experience, that?s fine. But even her pleasure is often seen merely as a sign of the man?s prowess and ability in bed. After all, anyone who watched the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine tells Jerry that she always faked orgasm whenever the two of them had sex knows that Jerry was far more concerned about how this demonstrated a lack of his own skill in bed than any sincere concern for Elaine?s lack of pleasure. Based on my own observations and conversations with people, I think it is safe to say that this is a clear case of television portraying a strong cultural trend.

But obviously, this paradigm only works when the sexual activity in question involves both a man and a woman. When you introduce a sexual situation which only involves men, this paradigm less becomes comfortable. Suddenly, rather than the activity being all about the man and the woman being a more-or-less passive participant, you have two men. Under this paradigm ? and it is only natural for us to try and squeeze any situation into our current paradigm because we are comfortable with it ? you are left with the problem that suddenly, one of the men must become passive and let it be all about the other man. Suddenly, a man has to subject himself to the needs and whims of another. This is a scenario that most men in our society cannot comprehend, and it makes them uncomfortable.

This passivity is something which men in our society have been taught to avoid as a rule. Indeed, in this sense, the idea of passively submitting to another man?s sexual prowess also collides with the competitive, athletic, and physical strength components of our understanding of masculinity.

Interestingly, some society?s ? and even some segments of our own society ? have dealt with this dissonance to some degree by only ostracizing gay men who take on the ?passive? role in male-to-male sex. In our society, you can see this by the fact that many men seem to be disgusted by the idea of ?taking it up the ass,? but remain relatively quiet about having anal sex with a receptive partner ? male or female.

The solution to this, of course, is to develop a new paradigm of human sexuality that does not rely so heavily on a strict dichotomy between passive partners and active partners, as well as coming to appreciate the importance of a receptive ? be it actively receptive or passively receptive ? role in sex. Not only will this help undo the divide between masculinity and homosexuality, but it will force us to further explore a broader and deeper understanding of masculinity.

Thoughts on the recent “Older Brother” study by Anthony Bogaert

I originally wrote this for Writers On The Loose. I decided to cross-post it here to my own blog.

Yesterday, Zjabs wrote a column in which he linked to an L.A. Times article about a study suggesting a link between birth order amongst males born to the same mother and the probability that each male would be gay. Given my own recent column on the origins of sexual orientation, I thought it appropriate to take a closer look at the study. To that effect, I did a Google search and found a reprint of the researcher’s own write-up on the study. I would encourage anyone who is interested in this topic at all to take the time to read this more scientific article, as it provides a lot more details and gives more clarity as to exactly what conclusions can and can not be reached from this study.

To that effect, I think that Ms. Kaplan, the author of the L.A. Times article, has done the study a great disservice. In the very first part of the article, she suggests, “A mother’s antibodies may change with each boy, raising chances the next will be homosexual.” In including this statement in her article at the outset, Ms. Kaplan gives the impression that this is the conclusion reached in Bogaert’s study. This is entirely untrue. While it is true that Bogaert mentions this possibility, he also makes it clear that this is merely speculation on one possible explanation behind the real conclusion of his study. Indeed, Bogaert indicates that there is no direct evidence at this time to support maternal antibodies as a contributing factor in sexual orientation. So in this sense, Ms. Kaplan has run out ahead of the scientists she is talking about.

To be clear, Bogaert’s study is simply a statistical analysis of data on four sample sets of men. The relevant data concerned ages of the participants’ mothers at the time of their birth, the number of older and younger siblings of each sex they had, and the amount of time they were reared with each sibling as children. The study also incidated whether each sibling was a “biological” sibling (birthed by the same mother) or a “non-biological” sibling. This data was run through a number of statistical analyses to see if there was any strong correlation between a number of factors and the sexual orientation of the men. The only strong correlation found was that, statistically speaking, men who had a large number of older biological brothers were more likely to be gay.

In order to further determine whether this correlation was due to prenatal factors involved in the birth order or some other factors (such as the number of brothers raised with), Bogaert included a number of other factors in his statistical analysis. Bogaert spends a good deal of time explaining the rationale he used in determing what factors to analyze in order to exclude post-natal explanations, and I would direct everyone to his write-up for that information rather than trying to reproduce it here. I will say, however, that I found his approach rather thorough.

It is important to understand that what Bogaert’s analysis shows is that (1) there is an apparent link between birth order amongst biological brothers and the probability that each of them will be gay and (2) that link appears to be related to pre-natal factors (such as the speculation about the mother’s antibodies during pregnancy) rather than post-natal ones (such as childrearing factors or the psychological effects of interractions between brothers). It in no way casts any light on the subject of what that pre-natal factor (or factors, as there’s no reason to assume there’s only one factor involved). Indeed, Bogaert indicates that this is an area of research for other people — most likely those in the fields of biology and chemistry — and even cites some research being done in that area.

Bogaert’s statistical analysis itself will need to be examined more closely and duplicated. Most likely, further such analyses will need to be done to expand this study and address any gaps or methodological errors in it. Indeed, this study itself is a follow-up study of a previous one Bogaert had done along the same lines. So any attempt to read this particular study as “final proof” would be a tragic misunderstanding of the research process. Nonetheless, this study is vital in that it strongly indicates a valuable area for further research.


Last Monday while shopping at OUTlandish Gifts, I bought a white tee shirt with “2QT2BSTR8” on the front of it. Today was the second day I’ve warn it. I have to admit that I’ve been enjoying people’s reactions. Surprisingly (at least to me), a lot of people have to ask what it means (“Too cute to be straight,” if anyone is wondering”). What’s really funny is to watch how people react once I tell them. I think the most memorable incident was today with the guy at the T Mobile kiosk. Once he found out, his expression really changed. I somewhat got the impression that he wanted to make a negative comment about it. However, he also seemed to be struggling with the knowledge that he was in a bad position to do so, considering (a) he had originally asked me to stop just so he could read the shirt and (b) he still had to ask me what it means. It’s kind of hard to complain about someone “flaunting” his sexuality when you’ve gone through so much effort to figure out that he’s “flaunting” it. 😉

I didn’t get the shirt with the intentions of making such political statements, though. While it’s true that I got it to make my sexual orientation more visible, I did it for personal and romantic reasons rather than political ones. Truth be told, I don’t feel I’m visible enough. And as I’d eventually like another chance at love without having to force myself to suffer through going to gay clubs, I need to find other ways to let the guys know I’m out there. Besides, I know from personal experience how difficult it is to even consider expressing interest in another guy if you’re not even sure if he’s gay (and how emotionally upsetting it is if you finally get up the courage to find out only to find ot he’s not). So I figure I’ll save any guy who’s interested in me that bit of trouble.

There’s another reason I got it, and this one is at least partly political. I got it as much for the part about being cute as I did for the part about being gay. In some ways, I’m currently at a point where I feel the need to express my own attractiveness despite not fitting some stereotype about what good looking guys are supposed to look like. So to me, wearing the shirt is about giving myself (and others) permission to think of me as “cute.”

Movie Review: Latter Days

This past weeken, I watched Lattere Days. This is a tale about a gay man, Christian, living in Los Angeles who meets, sets out to bed, and eventually falls in love with anotehr young man by the name of Aaron. Of course, Christian’s plans are complicated by the fact that Aaron is a missionary for the LDS church, just starting his two year mission.

The remarkable part about this movie is that it’s not just a movie about a young man from a religiously conservative background coming to terms with his sexual orientation and being excommunicated from his church (and presumably biological) family. This is also a movie wherein a cynical and superficial gay man begins to take a closer look at his own life and initiates a search to give it deeper meaning. In effect, this movie seeks to strike the balance between criticizing harmful repression and taking an honest look at the emptiness that can come from the superficiality we sometimes fall into while trying to escape the latter. In effect, both boys face their own demons as a result of coming into each others lives.

The scenes between Aaron and his mother after he’s found out and sent home are well done. Particularly, the scene where Aaron challenges his mother to actually look at him is quite incredible, and something that I think most gay people with religiously (or otherwise) conservative parents can appreciate on some level. Of course, even Aaron’s mother has her moment, when confronted with Christian’s act of love in coming to Idaho just to tell her how sorry he is for the loss of her son (at this point, Christian was falsely led to believe that Aaron had committed suicide).

This was truly a touching movie, and one I think many people will be able to connect with on one level or another.

Movie Review: FAQs

Apparently, I started an unplanned tradition when I wrote my previous review of the movie, Dorian Blues a couple weeks ago. This past weekend, I decided to watch the 2005 movie, FAQs, and I find myself with the desire to similarly review it.

First of all, let me just say that producer Everett Lewis did an excellent job in this movie. It’s a truly moving tale about a group of gay men (and one young lesbian, though she plays such a bit part, unfortunately) trying to not only survive in the face of the hate directed towards them, but to be themselves and thrive because of it. India — a young man living on the streets of LA after his homophobic parents disowned him — is rescued from a pair of gaybashers by an old drag queen, Destiny. Destiny gives India a home and begins to teach him to protect, love, and respect himself. Destiny, India, and Lester (a young lesbian Destiny similarly saved and “adopted” in years past) are soon joined by Spencer, who becomes India’s main love interest in throughout the rest of the movie. The plot of the movie then revolves around the dual themes of “saving” India’s would-be bashers (who turn out to be closeted queers themselves) and India trying to convince Spencer to give up on his plan to kill his parents, who had abused him until he ran away. These dual themes perfectly frame the central message of the film: Love conquers all if you just give it a chance. One of my favorite quotes from the movie was when India tells Spencer, “Our kisses are like bombs going off in the straight world.”

Of course, the movie itself had plenty of “bombs.” There are several highly erotic scenes in which various boys are shown caressing, kissing, and rubbing up against one another. And while no genital contact is shown (though there are a few scenes involving full frontal nudity in non-sexual settings), I imagine that this might be a bit “explosive” for some viewers. (Personally, as someone who often wryly jokes about “gratuitous straight sex scenes” in most movies, I found it a nice change.)

One of the problems that I had with this movie, however, was that it was too optimistic. There were several potentially dangerous scenes (some of which were created by an overly-optimistic India who tended to make unwise decisions) in which someone could have died, yet everyone made it through the movie virtually unscathed. The particular scene which bothered me was when Quentin — one of the bashers from the start of the movie — shows up at the boys’ home with a gun after having gotten their address off his answering machine from a message India told Guy to leave. Considering that the movie had been building up a highly distrought Quentin — who not only held a gun under his chin at one point, but also was shown firing said gun at a roadside sign fantasizing about killing his former friend “turned fag” — it just seemed like a poor climax. It also sends the message that doing something stupid like giving your home address to a known basher — even one you think is really gay and needs to be “saved from himself” — is okay. It’s not. It’s dangerous, and it’s stupid. So Lewis gets points taken off for being too optimistic and implicitly encouraging needless and foolish risk-taking.

In closing, I would like to say that I particularly liked the final scene. Without giving too much away, I will just say that I found it appropriately cyclical.

Dorian teaches to let go

I just finished watching Dorian Blues. It’s a curious movie that I had never heard of until I ran across it in Blockbuster’s tonight. I have to say that I’m glad I rented it, as it was well worth watching.

The movie centers on Dorian, a young man who discovers he’s gay and attempts to deal with his self-discovery in light of his less than supportive family. The movie takes us through his senior year at college, his conversations with his therapist, his first sexual experience, his coming out experience, his first relationship in college, the eventual breakup, and the resulting depression. All through these experiences, Dorian consistently demonstrates himself an intelligent and wonderful man, held down by past hurts and his unwillingness to let them go.

Most of Dorian’s problems stem from his relationship with his father, an overly demanding man whose general displeasure with his older son only became more intense when Dorian came out to him. This situation was further exacerbated by a mother who would do anything to avoid a confrontation and a younger brother, Nick, who loved Dorian but was constantly held up by their father as the “perfect” son, who Dorian should strive to be more like. This of course, created a strain in the two brothers’ relationship, though the two tried their best to support each other in their own way. This emotional baggage weight down Dorian in every aspect of his life, causing him to be bitter and edgy. This cost him more than one friend and even the perfect relationship.

In the end, Dorian and Nick — who had been visiting his older brother at NYU — end up making the trip back home to attend their father’s funeral. Their father had died of a heart attack due to stress — most likely due to the fact that Nick had been cut from Syracuse University’s football team earlier that week and had therefore lost his scholarship.

The bes scene of the movie was the conversation between Dorian and his mother outside the church just before his father’s funeral. In it, his mother confronts her son about the fact that he had become mean and disapproving lik his father. She tells him, “I want you to be a good man, despite the fact that your father was never good to you…and your mother never stood up to him and made him stop.”

I cannot express how appropriate this theme is. Far too often, coming to term with one’s sexual orientation is the easy part. The hard part is learning to let go of all of those past hurts and fears, as well as the defense mechanisms and bitterness that we tend to build up in the process. Learning to let go of these things so that they don’t continue to affect our current lives is a painful and difficult process. Watching this movie enabled me to revisit this lesson, identify with Dorian’s character, and experience this letting go process one more time.

And I have to admit that scene where Dorian is franticly brushing his teeth was well worth a laugh.

Wow, ten years….

Earlier this morning, I realized that it was April 1. I then realized that it was April 1, 2006. That’s exactly ten years after April 1, 1996. For those who might not be aware of it, April 1, 1996 was the day that I quit trying to “fix” my sexuality, and came out to both myself and my friend Merion. That means that as of about 8pm this evening, I have been “out” for ten years. So happy anniversary to me!

I’m not big on commemorating “life changing moments” every year. But for some reason, remembering my tenth coming out anniversary struck me as important today, so I thought I’d say a few things about it.

First of all, let me just reiterate that if you’re about to come out to your best friend and you find yourself prefacing your announcement with the phrase, “Please bear in mind this isn’t an April Fool’s joke,” you’ve probably chosen a bad day to come out. It’s something that Merion and I have joked about every so often for the past ten years.

I remember that night with some amazing details. I remember meeting Merion in the small alcove where our Small Group Bible Study (the one I was helping to lead and that Merion used to attend) met on Wednesday night. My stomach was all in knots and I think I was visibly shaking. It took me several long moments of hesitation to get the words out. I had a certain feeling like this was it. Once I took this step, there was no going back. And it’s hard to jump off the proverbial cliff like that. Ultimately, I’m glad I did and I’ve hardly looked back since, but my perspective was quite different back then.

Merion was momentarily stunned. I’m not sure whether she wasn’t expecting it (if so, she may well be the only person who hadn’t at least suspected something was up by then) or if she was just so surprised that I decided to tell her. She did tell me she was honored that I told her, which I sort of understand all of these years later. To me, it only made sense at the time. After all, she had come out to me the previous year.

I think that part of the reason thinking back to this event ten years ago is that it was my first “big change.” Considering the number of changes I’ve been through in the last ten years — including several changes in the past year — thinking back to the event that “got the ball rolling,” seems appropriate. I mean, on March 31, 1996, I was a “straight” (okay, that’s not entirely true, but that’s another complicated topic) evangelical Christian with highly conservative political leanings. The next day, I officially took the first step towards becoming the person I am today, a gay witch with a mostly left-leaning political outlook. Had you asked me back then if I ever thought I’d be where I am today, I think I would’ve laughed. Maybe even offended.

Isn’t life strange?

Thirty Days

For the first time ever, I watched the show “Thirty Days” tonight. My friend Beth told me about it, and I wanted to check it out. I particularly wanted to watch tonight’s episode, as it was about a young (mid-twenties) conservative Christian from Detroit who went to live with a gay roommate in the middle of San Francisco’s Castro District for thirty days. I was pleasantly surprised by the show, and I wanted to take a few moments to review and critique it.

To be honest, when I originally heard about the details, I wasn’t entirely thrilled. I took issue with sending the guy to San Francisco. San Francisco is the “gay mecca” of the United States, and as such, I don’t feel it’s a very accurate representation of the lives of most gay people. Those of us wholive outside of San Francisco (and possibly NYC) tend to live more isolated lives and have to deal more directly with straight people much more often. As such, I wasn’t sure that sending someone to San Francisco was the best way to give them a clear view of what it’s like to live life as a gay man.

Having watched the show, I have to admit that I find it necessary to reevaluate my opinion. An essential byproduct of sending Ryan to live in the Castro District was that it caused Ryan to be the one who was isolated. He was a straight, conservative Christian surrounded by a bunch of gay guys. If Ryan really thinks about that experience (and I get the impression he did and will), it probably gave him a much more clear idea of what many of us experience every day than we realize. This understanding would come to him by being in an analogous situation himself.

He got a first taste of this kind of experience his first night in town. Ed, Ryan’s thirty-something roommate for the month, took him to dinner with eleven other gay guys. Having watched the footage, I have to admit that I hope the dinner conversation was highly edited. Every conversation focused on homosexuality and issues relating to it. And in a number of instances, the twelve gay guys put Ryan a bit on the defensive. (I have to admit that Ryan handled himself relatively well under the circumstances, too.) At one point, one of the gay guys even asked Ryan about how many times he’s had people on the street throw beer cans at him. Ryan said never, and the person who asked the question indicated that it had happened to him more than once.

While there, Ryan also attended MCC services on at least two Sundays and had a number of meeting with the minister. To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed with this part of the program. If what I saw was an accurate representation of the MCC, I don’t think I’d be impressed at all. They aired brief segments from two of the services that Ryan attended, and both services went on about homosexuality. If this is a regular practice at every church service, I would have a serious problem with that, as there should be more to religion and spirituality than just sexuality. (And this is coming from someone who serves a goddess who values sexuality extremely highly!) Similarly, Ryan’s meetings with the minister appeared to focus entirely on the topic of homosexuality, and there was a lot of head-butting there. It just seemed to me that there should have been an equal amount of searching for common ground as there was in arguing over this one topic. (Though I do give them credit for apparently keeping it more or less civil.)

They took Ryan to a gay bar. Let me just say “Wow!” Ryan did not find that the greatest of experiences, and I can’t say as I completely blame him. There were a large number of barely dressed men (some looked to me as if they were running around in only briefs), and it definitely had the “meat market atmosphere” — even moreso than the two clubs I have been to. One of the patrons picked a (verbal) fight with Ryan, which I felt was rather stupid. Though on the flip side, having had conservative people pick similar kinds of fights with me, I do have to admit that I felt it wasn’t an entirely bad thing for Ryan to have to experience.

After that, Ed felt that Ryan was getting too frustrated and upset. So Ed took Ryan to join a gay softball team. I found it interesting that the team actually played in a league where all the other teams were (mostly?) straight. It was nice to see that the team wasn’t totally isolationist in nature, and played teams that were not all-gay.

During his time playing softball, Ryan got to spend time with his team’s coach, Charles. Ryan gained a lot of respect for Charles, realizing that he broke all of the gay stereotypes. And later, Ryan got to hear Charles’s coming out story. Charles was one of those (hopefully) rare people who actually got thrown out of his house by his parents (he was 12 at the time) when he came out. Charles also indicated that at the time, he was highly religious and “went to bed every night, praying to wake up and be ‘normal’ the next morning.” Ryan was very silent about this, and I think this story really confronted some of his own preconceived notions.

Ryan did make a few enemies at the local “gay chapter” of the VFW. Being a Reservice, Ryan has strong opinions on gays in the military. This did not go over well with the veterans he was speaking with. Both sides got quite upset. However, it did lead to an interesting discussion with Ed later that same day. When he got back to the apartment, Ryan and Ed talked about it. Ryan asked Ed to try to understand why a bunch of straight soldiers might have a problem with having a gay guy in the barracks. (Personally, I think straight guys have a problem with it because they’re afraid gay guys will treat them as poorly as they themselves treat women, but that’s besides the point.) Ed then turned around and asked Ryan about a hypothetical question. He asked Ryan to suppose that things went really bad in teh Middle East and that the United States found themselves at war with the whole region. This would probably mean that they’d have to reinstate the draft. So Ed asked Ryan to suppose that he (Ed) was drafted and ended up in Ryan’s unit to serve during war. He asked Ryan whether he’d rather put up with Ed as a gay man serving with him or possibly not having enough manpower beside him to keep him and the rest of his unit safe.

Ryan actually admitted that he had to contradict himself. He admitted that having gotten to know Ed as a person over the past several days, he’d have no problem serving with him specifically. In fact, Ryan admitted that he felt that Ed had a lot to offer the military. As such, Ryan found himself having to reevaluate his blanket statement about gays in the military, and I respect him for having the integrity to admit that.

Ed also took Ryan to meet his family, which was an eye opening experience. While there, all of the men (Ryan, Ed, Ed’s father, and Ed’s brother) shot firearms. In a brief interview afterwards, Ryan admitted that it gave him a chance to see Ed as not just a gay guy but a brother, a son, and an uncle. And he was amazed at how his family treated him.

Ryan also attended a PFLAG meeting, where he got to talk to a father whose daughter came out to him her sophomore year in college. He got to listen to this father talk about his fears and worries, and his desire to see his daughter treated with the same respect and dignity a her two straight brothers. Ryan said this also touched his heart.

There was a lot more that happened, but I’m not going to go into everything. These are the experiences that really struck me, and I wanted to share them, as well as my brief thoughts in them. In closing, I’d like to talk about the brief segment in the show where Ryan eventually went home. He spent his first night home showing photos to his family and talking about his experiences. They only showed about thirty seconds to a minute of the discussion, but it was amazing to watch. His family asked all kinds of questions, and it seemed to me that Ryan was a bit troubled and shocked by the questions. Ryan himself admitted that when he got home and talked with his family that night, he really saw how much he had grown. He saw his own earlier attitudes and how much he had bought into the stereotypes reflected in his family now. He said that realizing how much he had bought into the stereotypes was the most powerful result of the experience. He found himself having to reevaluate his opinions.

I get the impression that his religious beliefs about homosexuality didn’t change as a result. To be honest, that’s okay (well, sorta). It would be unreasonable to expect such a change to happen just because of a thirty day experience. However, I did feel that he came away with a rather different perspective and that he did find his preconceived notions challenged in many ways. And I think that he should be commended to being open to that.

A blast from the past

Tonight, I was snooping through my old files that I pulled off my old computer just before I gave it away. And I found something that I had written quite a few years ago. I’m not sure whether I originally wrote it in 1997 or 1998. I figured I’d post it here for old times sake. Perhaps another time, I’ll look through it and see how much my attituded have changed since writing this.

Greetings. As I write this, April Fool’s Day is coming up quickly. This is a day where many people enjoy themselves and have a great time. However, this is a day that will always be extraordinarily special in my life. I’d like to take a few minutes and share that with you.

Traditionally, April Fools Day is a day to celebrate the comical figure “The Fool” and all of the foolishness that he represents. This celebration usually involves people playing practical jokes of some sort on each other, as this is probably The Fool’s greatest form of comedy. However, as of April Fool’s Day 1996, the day has become a day for me to reject destructive foolishness. You see, that particular April Fool’s Day was the day that I came to accept the fact that I’m gay.

Let me tell you a bit about my own experience. I was raised American Baptist and had always been taught that same-sex relationships were wrong. Therefore, when nearly all sexual dreams I had as a teen involved only men, I tried to convince myself that it was “just a phase”. During my sophomore and junior years in college, I came to realize that it was more to it than that; I realized that I was indeed exclusively homosexual. During those two years, however, I was determined to change that fact. I spent much aggravating months trying to suppress the feelings and desires that I had towards various men — including my roommate. This unsuccessful struggle continued through most of my senior year. I became increasingly frustrated until it came to a head on Saturday, March 30. That night, I had become so frustrated and tired of trying to change that I lay in my bed for thirty minutes considering slitting my wrists. Let me tell you, the statistics about gay people killing themselves because they can’t deal with their sexuality means a whole lot more to you when you almost become a part of those statistics.

Well, when I realized that night what I was considering, it terrified me. The rest of that night and Sunday are a lost memory to me. The next thing that I remember happened that Monday. I went to my friend, Merion, and asked if she could talk to me sometime. She and I agreed to meet in one of the dorms at about 8:30pm. When we got there, we found a private corner to talk where no one was likely to wander by. I then took a deep breath and told her. It wasn’t until I told her that I actually accepted it for myself. We talked for a while that night, and she reassured me the entire time. We have since become extremely close friends.

My life was quite chaotic after that point. Since most of my friends were conservative Christians, I found myself drifting away from them. At the same time, I began making other friends which would be more supportive in my upcoming hardships. I had to undo a lot of negative feelings concerning my sexual orientation. It was difficult work, but I found it worth it. It gave me a new sense of freedom that I had never experienced before. This sense of freedom has grown incredibly during the last two years, and is continuing to do so.

The reason I told you all of this is to give a framework for the challenge I wish to give each of you: Help put an end to the foolishness. You see, I spent years trying to deny my feelings for men. I then spent months trying to change those feelings. I did all of this because of the foolishness that this society teaches about non-straight sexual orientations. My acceptance of this foolishness almost cost me my life. I write this today in the hopes that it will help someone else put an end to the foolishness in their own life, possibly someone who may be — like I was — about to lose their life for that foolishness.

If you think you may be gay or bisexual, but have been afraid or unwilling to accept that fact, then I encourage you to stop the foolishness in your own life. You are a wonderful person and there is nothing wrong with you. There are others out there who have been there, and we want you to know that you’re not alone. Don’t let your self-hatred or other’s hatred of what you are destroy you. You deserve better than that.

If you have already accepted the fact that you’re bi or gay, then I’d encourage you to take another look at your life this week. Is there any internalized homophobia still lingering in your life? Are you still in the closet with anyone? If you are comfortable enough with your own sexuality and can do so safely, I encourage you to overcome these forms of foolishness as well. Don’t settle for partial freedom, my friend. There is much more out there to claim for yourself. Every day, I try to reach for that increased freedom a bit more.

Finally, I have a challenge for those who are in a position to do so: Help others stop the madness in their own lives. Make yourself available to talk with those who are still struggling with their own sexuality. Offer to share your own experiences and feelings with those who may approach you. It’ll help them out a great deal. I can’t stress how important this is. About sixmonths ago, I told Merion that I had been considering committing suicide two nights before we talked. She sat there in complete shock. Her only response was to wonder aloud what might have happened had she not been visitting campus that week. Neither of us are sure what would have happened, but I’m certainly glad that I never found out. But it serves to remind me that I don’t want to find out who I could have helped after it’s too late to do so. I urge each of you to keep that from being something you experience, too.

I hope that you will join me in my compaign to end the destructive foolishness of homophobia this April Fool’s Day. It is the best thing I can think of to do to celebrate my own coming out anniversary. The best thing that could happen to me next Wednesday is if at least one person decides to confide in me that they are gay or bisexual and seek my reassurance.

And do me a favor. If you see The Fool, give him a message for me. Tell him that my life continues to improve without him.

— Jarred Harris, aka Lorkon.

It’s a relationship

On one of the message boards I’m on, someone did something that somewhat annoyed me. I don’t think she (I think the person is a woman….) meant it the way I took it, mind you. She was just trying to stir up discussion. There are people who like doing that.

Basically, she started out asking for people’s views on homosexuality and bisexuality. Nothing unusual about that, I grant you. It’s a common topic that pops up semi-frequently on most message boards I frequent. And I really don’t mind it, other than the fact that it gets a bit boring to have the same conversation after about the fifth time. (And bear in mind that I had that conversation for the fifth time almost a decade ago….)

But then she went on to ask if anyone on the message board had a same-sex lover. In reality, I suppose it’s an innocent enough question. I’m sure that the person who asked it didn’t mean anything nefarious by it. But it bothered me, all the same.

I guess what bothers me is that it took the discussion from the hypothetical to the highly personal. She wasn’t looking to find out what people thought about same sex relationships, she was no looking to find out about real same sex relationships. I know she didn’t mean it that way, but it just felt like she was now saying, “does anyone here have a same sex relationship I can examine?”

I’m reminded of a comment made by Ellen DeGeneris (I probably butchered her name, I admit) on her first sitcom during its last season. One of her friends actually “outted” her to a couple of strangers. Afterwards, Ellen scolded him about this. She said that she didn’t like it when strangers found out she was a lesbian, because they often made her feel like she was a tourist attraction once they found out. “Look! The lesbian! Oooh! Get a picture!”

Truth be told, I’ve been there is a sense at times. At my last job — where I was much more public about my sexual orientation — I had a coworker who tended to see me as a curiosity to learn about. He’d often ask rather personal questions about my love life (or lack thereof at the time) and interests. I often felt like I was on display, or part of some sort of science experiment.

I know that this would probably surprise some of my friends — even some of my online friends — considering how plainly and openly I’ll discuss my love life and sexual interests and desires with them. But all I can say to that is that it’s different. With certain friends, you manage to build a certain level of trust and intimacy where you can talk about such things. There’s that sense that you’re sharing with someone who cares. I can easily share many personal things — both seriously and with a cavelier, joking attitude — with those I feel close to.

But I don’t have that with everyone. I don’t have that with my coworkers. And I don’t have it with most people on a message board. So I guess when someone starts asking about my love life — especially as a “matter of curiosity” — in such a public setting, it tends to bother me. Not that I think the person meant any offense by it. In fact, I didn’t take any offense by it. It’s possible to be bothered by something without actually being offended. (As I think about this statement, I realize that a lot of people don’t actually realize that.)

So, I kept quiet.