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Sex Education Part 5: High School Dances

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There was an expected ritual to asking out girls in high school. Just asking, with a note or, worse, a direct question, was frowned on. There needed to be scavenger hunts, puzzles, elaborate ruses, or public embarrassment of some kind, just to ask. Why ask the girl directly when you could hang a banner down the hallway saying “Will You Go To Prom With Me, Emily? From Travis”, or when you could have the girl pop one hundred balloons and then rearrange letter squares from in the balloons to find out who was asking her? The more elaborate the ruse, the more interested in the girl you were.

Of course, I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16. And then, I was only encouraged to date Mormon girls. And I would be chaste, moral, and pure until marriage, which was still years in the future. Dating at 16 was an early way of preparing myself for marriage to a woman.

I was fully coming to terms with being gay at age 15, and I finally needed to tell someone about it. I went to the bishop, a family friend, and told him, ashamed, with my head hanging low, that I was attracted to boys. He responded with kindness and compassion, and informed me that I was special and God was giving me an extra challenge to prove my worthiness. He gave me a book written by prophets, one that talked about how evil homosexuality was, and then he sent me on my way.

I did my best to avoid sin at all costs. I played Mormon music in my room, put pictures of Jesus and the temples and apostles on my bedroom wall, and kept my thoughts pure. I did all I could to avoid masturbation and evil thinking, but there were times I failed. Every dark thought led to nausea and stomach aches, sometimes gastro-intestinal issues, and I was having regular stomach troubles and anxiety on a daily basis from the 8th grade on.

Before I turned 16, I thought receiving my patriarchal blessing would give me all the strength I would need to move forward. It would give me the answers on curing homosexuality, striking it from my system once and for all, I just knew it. But the patriarch was a stranger, and his words rang with authority, telling me I was a choice son of God who should not disappoint God in any way. He promised me a wife and kids in my future if I just lived worthy.

And then I turned 16, and dating was both encouraged and expected. I pretended a healthy interest in girls. I had to. It was the only way to get through it all. I was occasionally teased for being sensitive or feminine, and I was at times called dork, or fag, or sissy. The worst bullying happened in my own home, where my stepfather used name-calling, threats, intimidation, and volume to keep a tight hold on all of us, resorting to violence when necessary. He doled out love and fear in proportionate measures, and we never knew what was next. He called me “little fairy-boy”, and told me directly that he’d never wanted a son like me. In his crueler moments, he would say he understood why my dad left. But he counter-balanced it all on other days by telling me what a great kid I was, what a strong man I was growing into. His love came with healthy heapings of shame and fear, and it felt a lot like the love I had come to expect from God.

And so, I found ways to have crushes on girls. I chose those who had strong testimonies in the church, who were modest, who were pretty but not too pretty. I chose those who would respect that I was a good Mormon boy, and who wouldn’t expect anything physical from me. I sometimes chose girls who didn’t get asked out by other guys. And some of them got crushes on me, and I didn’t have crushes back. Some of them got hurt. I dated often. I double-dated with friends, guys I had actual crushes on, and I envied them as they danced with their dates and I danced with mine. The dates were always elaborate, pure spontaneous fun. There was movies and dinner, picnics in the park, silly board games, trips to the zoo or plays, hikes, and concerts. And there was always the school dances. several of them every year, and then the stake, or church, dances on top of those. Lichee, and Rochelle, and Tammy, and Malina, and Josie, and Karen, and Katie, and Meranda, and Malinda, and Larena, and Gelin, and Cathy. So many dates, some friendly, all respectful. Mormon dating. A young gay kid going on chaste and friendly adventures.

Sometimes we were lectured on morality and chastity at church. There was an emphasis on no pornography, no masturbation, no heavy-petting, no making out. Dancing was allowed, so long as hands were placed appropriately. Boys were told to keep thoughts pure and to stay worthy for our future wives. Girls were told that virtue was important above all else, because no one would want damaged goods when there were undamaged ones around. Sexual sin was bad, bad, bad, and just being gay was sexual sin already. I would have to work that much harder to prove God loved me. I had to be worthy of a cure.

I started my mornings with scripture studies. I prayed throughout the day. I sang hymns in my head. I did my homework, got good grades, was kind to my fellow students, reached out to the outcast and the misunderstood, and performed service for those I loved. I went to church on Sundays, paid my tithing, went to Seminary daily. I was a great kid. But I was constantly attracted to other boys, and it made me ill, and I started wondering how much effort it would take to prove to God that I was worthy of the cure he’d promised.

Over the course of a few years, I went on several dates with a high school friend named Karen. She was vibrant, beautiful, spontaneous, and fun. She wasn’t shy about her interest, but I remained carefully distant from her. I pushed and pulled. I wanted to date her to see if I could, but I didn’t want to because I lacked interest and attraction. I must have baffled her as she had no idea about the war happening under my skin.

One day, we sat in my car and talked, and she confronted me, asking me if I was interested or not. I was, I explained, but had a lot going on. She said if I was interested, I should show it, I said I didn’t know how to do that. She said it was easy, I should just kiss her. And I said I wasn’t sure how to do that. I’d never done that before, I explained. She rolled her eyes.

“It isn’t that hard to do, Chad,” she said, and she got out of my car. I didn’t call her back, and two weeks later, she had a new boyfriend. More evidence that something was wrong with me. I felt weak. I begged God for help. But I kept getting nauseous, kept dating girls, kept shutting my own heart and thoughts down. If I focused hard enough on church and school, God would cure me. He’d finally hear me.

He had to. He just had to. What other option did I have?

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Seeking Discreet Hook-Up

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I saw the ad for “discreet hook-up”, in the Men Seeking Men section on Craigslist. It was alluring.

“Discreet local athlete. Looking for discreet encounter with regular or semi-regular partner. Want someone who is fit, who knows what they want, who doesn’t ask questions, and above all, is discreet. Discretion is a must!”

Three “discreets” and one “discretion is a must”, complete with exclamation point! This guy was more paranoid than I was!

Back in 2011, I had only been out of the closet for a few months, and I was still too scared to show my picture in situations like this. I was only selectively out of the closet at that point, meaning only a few people knew that I was gay. If someone on the other end of that computer screen saw me… what if they knew me? What if they were in my ward, or worse what if they were a former client of mine? No, the risks were far too great.

So instead of sending the requested photo, I sent a description of myself. “5’11’’, 175. Not in perfect shape, but regularly go to the gym. Recently out. Seeking connections and could be fun to meet up.”

And when I checked my Email the next morning, he replied. “If you’re real and interested, send photos. I would send one, but I’m discreet.”

Discreet, okay, I get it already! I sent a quip back that I was uncomfortable sending a photo without seeing one in return. Then he replied, “Fine, but you better be good-looking. I’ll meet you in the front lobby of my apartment building. But don’t tell anyone you are coming. What time should I expect you?”

And so, after getting off work that afternoon, I found myself driving to an unfamiliar address. I’d passed this building a thousand times and never had reason to go inside. As I parked the car, I wondered what I was doing. This could be a woman, a troll, a con artist, an older man. Anyone can use any description from behind a keyboard. But in a situation like this, where we were both scared of exposure, it seemed that we both had a lot to lose, and that equal playing field gave me bravery.

Sex with men was still something very new to me. At this point, I’d only met up with a half-dozen guys, and all of them had been brief encounters with guys who, like me, had a lot to lose. There was the college student who’d looked like a grown-up Harry Potter, the tall model looking guy here on vacation, the rugged carpenter guy. All of them one-time meetings with guys I would never see again.

I was living in a fairly rural area of north Idaho, and meeting guys seemed difficult and confusing, especially since I wasn’t looking to date yet. The novelty of meeting random guys was already wearing off, but after decades in the closet, finding physical connections was proving to be a bit addictive. All those years of holding myself back, and now my adolescent self was screaming, and the hormones just wouldn’t quit. Kissing was amazing, touching was incredible, skin-to-skin contact was bliss. Orgasms now no longer brought with them crippling shame and nausea. Who knew sex could be this fun! All the previous versions of me from every age, 13, 16, 20, 25… they were all celebrating within me with every experience, shouting out, ‘Finally, Chad, finally!’ A quick encounter, even if unfulfilling, was titillating, sexy, a bit risky. But after a few days, I would already be wanting more. It was a little easier to drive west to Spokane, Washington, where they had a few clubs, places I could actually meet guys, but that meant late nights when everyone but me was drinking, and a long drive home. For now, random encounters would have to do.

After sending the stranger a quick Email saying that I was there, I headed into the apartment building lobby. I didn’t know a name, what he looked like, or even if he was married, and I would avoid asking any questions on purpose. If I could just shut down the ethics in my brain, maybe I could kick back and enjoy this. God, I hoped he was cute.

In the lobby, I took a seat, and casually looked at the décor. A minute later, the elevator dinged open and a very cute black guy walked out. I mean, very cute. Frizzy hair, caramel skin, full lips, athletic build, gorgeous brown eyes, lean and muscular with a perfect butt. He was wearing grey sweat pants and a black tank top. He stayed in the elevator as I stood up, looked me over for a minute, then made eye contact. Without speaking, or even smiling, he craned his neck, indicating I should enter the elevator, then he stepped back inside. I followed and looked over at him, extending a hand to introduce myself. “I’m Chad—“ I started, but he just shook his head no.

“Not yet,” he said.

The elevator rose to the seventh floor, then I followed him down the hallway, confused but also very interested. A few doors down, we entered his apartment, and he closed and locked the door behind him. The place looked more like a hotel room, not like a place that was lived in. It was too clean, too sterile, with black furniture and the kind of art on the wall that could be purchased at a place like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We stood there in the entryway and he finally looked at me.

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear your name. And I’m not going to share mine. If this goes well, it could be a more than one time thing for you. I don’t live here, but I come use the company apartment a lot, and can host when I’m here. But if you ever see me out in the streets, you just keep walking. I don’t want a hello, a wave, or anything. I won’t know you either. Don’t try it. Seriously, just don’t.” He paused, looking me in the eyes, then he pulled his tank top over his head. “Now you.”

I unbuttoned my own shirt as I looked over his very nice body. Lean, strong stomach, chiseled chest, a bit of curly chest hair. He kept talking.

“I’m a runner. I take care of myself. And I like the guys I am with to take care of themselves also.” He watched as I slid my shirt off, twisting his lips upward as he appraised me. “Not the kind of guy I usually go for. But I can tell you try hard, and you’ve got a cute face.” His eyes shifted up. “You’ve got some grey hair. How old are you?”

“33.”

“I’m 26. I like that you’re older, that works in your favor. Follow me. Leave your shirt there.”

I followed him into the sparsely furnished living room, avoiding flashing thoughts like ‘axe murderer’ and ‘narcissist’. He took a seat and looked at me. “You can go ahead and take your pants off,” he indicated, and I could tell he was a little bit aroused. I was confused, appalled, and intrigued by his orders all at once. A guy this handsome, maybe he could get away with it.

“If we are going to do this, I’m going to want lots of kissing,” he said as I unbuckled my belt, and I indicated that would be fine. “Before we do anything, I also want to make sure we are both clean. I’d like to shower first. Why don’t you join me.” It was a statement, not a question.

As we headed toward his bathroom, my brain flashed back to my first time at a gay club in Spokane just weeks before. It had been a freezing cold night, and there had been a line to get inside, with the club at full capacity. It had been after 11 pm and I’d been standing there shivering for 30 minutes when a very drunk gay man came stumbling out of the club with a couple of his friends, struggling to put on his own coat. He began talking loudly to the line of people outside.

“Sorry everyone, the club is full! They are only letting hot people in now!” As he walked by, he began rating everyone, in a very effeminate voice. “You aren’t hot enough. You don’t get in. You definitely don’t get in. But you, you can go inside right now! Look at you!” As he’d walked away, I’d been both secretly flattered to be the one pointed out as hot, and horrified at how he had treated the others. The newly out gay man who liked attention, and the social worker part of me that demanded social justice, were at war with each other.

Those parts felt at war again now, as I entered the shower with this man, feeling both intrigued and judged. He kept surveying me, as if wondering if I was worth his time, and that was a terrible feeling, and then he’d smile a bit and seem interested, and that was a fantastic feeling. And he looked very, very good naked.

When the water was warm enough, he handed me the bottle of shower gel and instructed me to wash him. I gave him a confused look, and he turned his head impatiently. Clearly, he was used to giving orders and having them followed. After I washed his back and he rinsed off, he handed me a straight razor. “Why don’t you go ahead and shave my back?”

He turned his back to me and I could see long, straight, shaggy hairs, haphazard across his back and shoulders. “You want me to shave your back?”

He didn’t turn around. “Yeah. It’s not like I can see back there. What, you can shower with me, but not shave my back? It’s no big deal, dude.”

This had to be some kind of joke. I hesitated with the razor in hand, and quickly plotted my exit strategy. I’d have to leave the shower, dry off, get dressed, and run away, ride the elevator back down to my car. I was here already. This was weird, but I was here already.

So for the next few minutes, I shaved his back. The razor was dull, cheap, and I worried more than once that I would cut him. I didn’t know this man’s name, and here I was engaging in this incredibly intimate act. Moderately long isolated hairs washed free, more than I had initially noticed, until his back was smooth and clear. When I finished, he turned around, clearly pleased, like I’d passed the test.

We kissed a bit there, then he pulled back. “Remember, after this, you see me, you don’t know me.” I rolled my eyes, agreed, and then started kissing him again. He interrupted one last time. “All right, daddy, now you’re in charge.”

Thirty minutes later, I left the apartment, after denying the sexy stranger a few very uncomfortable things he’d demanded. He’d been disgusted that I wouldn’t concede to his every request, even though technically I was supposed to be in charge at that point. But after shaving his back, I was done conceding. I never saw him again, though I did see that same “discreet hook-up” ad back up a few weeks later.

I drove away, smiling and teary eyed both over this new secret life of mine, and wondered what it would take to live, out and proud, and find encounters, ways to be true to all parts of myself, without shame. But the entire community seemed to be full of complicated guys, closeted guys, judgmental guys. I didn’t know where I fit in all of it yet. Eventually, I wanted a long-term relationship, but for now, Craigslist would have to do.

Independent Christian Bookstores

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“Thank you for calling Covenant Books, I’m Dawn, how can I help you?”

“Hi, I’m Chad. I wrote a book, a memoirs of my life. I’m looking for a literary agent and a publisher to help me get it on the shelves.”

I kept enthusiasm in my voice, even though I was a bit nervous. Calls like this challenged some of my greatest fears and insecurities.

“Well, Chad, congratulations on getting your manuscript finished!” The word manuscript felt strange, it wasn’t a word that was part of my regular vocabulary. I would have to get used to it. “Tell me a bit about it!”

And so I told Dawn a bit about my book, telling her that it was my story of growing up Mormon as a gay kid in large and chaotic family, about my attempts to cure my homosexuality with religion, about getting married to a woman and having children, and about finally coming out of the closet and finding myself.

This was the fourth or fifth call to a literary agency that I had made in the past few days, and one of the agencies had already mailed me an official “we aren’t interested” letter. I’d done this once before. Just after college, years before, I had written several comic book scripts and shopped around for talented artists to draw them. Only one of my several books ever made it to print, and it had taken four years, and several thousand dollars, to publish. And then I had spent many months traveling around and selling it, never quite breaking even, and definitely never making a profit. I didn’t want to have to do that all over again.

My book now, which I was calling Gay Mormon Dad had come on suddenly. After years of blogging and writing my story, suddenly the format and layout of the book had struck me like a bolt. I’d hidden in a hotel room for four days, where I wrote the first third, and then I couldn’t stop writing it over the following weeks. Some formatting, some edits and alterations, and suddenly I had a manuscript. But I had to have a literary agent in order to connect me with publishers if I wanted this read. This book was me, my very essence, in so many ways, and I felt like it had the power to change the lives of those who read it. It could inform if not inspire. It felt like a calling to get it out there.

Dawn listened to my passionate, nervous voice for a bit, and then confidently responded. I could tell that her words were rehearsed, she must speak with many writers every day, but I could hear the warmth in her voice as well. She sounded as though she loved her job.

“The first thing I need to make sure of, you understand this is not the Covenant Publishing that is a business affiliated with the Mormon church, correct? That is a separate one. We get calls sometimes, and your book has the word Mormon in the title.”

“Oh, I don’t think the Mormon church would have any interest in publishing my book,” I laughed.

“Okay, good. Well, let me tell you what we could do for you.” She invited me to submit a full copy of the book to an editorial team, and they would review it to see if it was a good fit, to make corrections, and to recommend any formatting changes. If the book was accepted, I would then sign a contract with the company and pay a “to-be-determined” fee. That fee would go toward a cover design for the book, the initial printing, social media advertising, and the publishing of the book itself. I imagined it would be several thousand dollars out of pocket, but I didn’t know any other way around it. I grew very nervous and excited.

“The book would be available in certain places online, mostly in our European markets, and we would get it on the shelves in all of our stateside stores that want to order it. Most of these stores are independent Christian bookstores.”

“Wait, what?” I could hear the screeching tires sound effect in my head. My nervousness and excitement were replaced by a sense of dread. “Independent Christian bookstores?”

“Yes, we have a wonderful market across the country.”

“Dawn, my book in large part covers being gay, leaving Christianity, ending a marriage, and becoming an atheist, and it has references to gay sex.”

Dawn cleared her throat. “Well, like I said, our review team will determine goodness of fit with the company.”

“That isn’t the market for my book. There is no way this would be the right fit.”

For a moment, my brain flashed back to growing up Mormon in Missouri, and the hatred some of the other Christian groups had for Mormons there. I wondered if some of her initial interest in the book was due to the fact that I’d mentioned leaving Mormonism.

“Well, I certainly respect any decision you make. But if you’d like to try working together, we would certainly give the book a read and see how we feel about it.”

I thanked Dawn and hung up, drawing a black ink line through the name Covenant Publishing on my sheet of paper. Oh the irony, I thought. I envisioned the Christian mother in small town Alabama walking into her local Jesus Saves store and seeing a book called Gay Mormon Dad on the shelf. I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud.

Back to the drawing board, I thought, and I dialed the next number on the list.

 

He Said

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he said

“You’re husband material,” he said, looking into my eyes with candor. “And I have a terrible habit of only falling for guys who are bad for me. So I’m not really interested in seeing you again.”

“I made a huge mistake,” he said, looking away. “Making out with you sent the wrong message because I don’t think you’re that cute. But maybe we can hang out again some time.”

“Chad was the one who got away,” he said to a friend, who later told me. “He was sweet and good-looking and actually wanted to date me. But he expected me to text back, to put in effort. I know he’s still single, but I’m just not ready for that kind of guy.”

“You’re the kind of guy I could move across the country for,” he said, with those blue eyes right on mine, “and you’ve accomplished so much. I can’t do this, not until I’m someone who’s done as much as you have.”

“You’re friends are crazy hot,” he said, eyes mischievous on the dance floor. “But they aren’t my type. I prefer guys like you, guys more average.”

“I like everything about you,” he said with a reassuring lopsided smile, “and there is nothing I would change. I could spend my life with you if you just change the following things about yourself.”

“I love you,” he said, with sincere eyes much too quickly, repeating it often and consistently until I believed him. Then one afternoon, he shrugged, averted his gaze, and said, “You know, I’m just not feeling it anymore.”

“If only I wasn’t married,” he said.

“If only I was younger,”  he said.

“If only you were younger,” he said.

“I’m not ready for kids,” he said.

“Can you bring your kids on our second date?” he said.

“You have nice skin but you have some work to do on your body,” he said.

“I might be busy for a month or two but maybe I’ll give you call some time,” he said.

“I only like older guys,” he said.

“I only like younger, skinny guys,” he said.

“I only like beefy bears,” he said.

“It’s only been three days, but do you want to be my boyfriend?” he said.

“You’re not Mormon enough,” he said.

“I don’t date ex-Mormons,” he said.

“I like you, but not as much as I like meth,” he said.

“I like you way too much way too soon,” he said.

“I’m just not ready to date someone again,”  he said.

“I’m just looking for sex,”  he said.

“You actually look good now, what changed?” he said.

“Don’t call me handsome, it makes me insecure,” he said.

“I’m ashamed of myself as a person,” he said.

“I’ve never dated a therapist. Do you think I have depression?” he said.

“I’m not capable of trusting another person again,” he said.

“Yo keep a lot hidden,” he said, his brown eyes focused on me intently. “It makes me wonder what you’re thinking. It makes me wonder about you. You seem like a great guy. I mean, how is a guy like you still single?”

 

 

 

 

Sends Nudes: thoughts on gay sex and vulnerability

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Welcome to 2017, where, for many, sending pictures of genitalia is more comfortable than exchanging a first name.

I may never get accustomed to this, logging into a dating or chat app and having someone send me a photo of their erect penis, yet say they are discreet or shy when I ask for a photo of their face. A few months ago, during one chat, I got a dirty photo from someone I’ve never met, unsolicited, and when I said I prefer to chat a bit before going there he responded with, “Look, bro, if I wanted a chat, I’d call my mom. I’m looking to bone, not be your friend.”

In the gay male community, there have always been strong elements of sexual expression, and sexual oppression. In the generations prior to mine, men weren’t allowed to be sexual with other men without serious consequences, from being arrested to disowned to fired to attacked to shamed. For most of human history, there has been an element of danger to gay sex–it had to be private, it had to be discreet, it had to be secret.

In Brokeback Mountain, the first time Ennis and Jack have sex, they can’t look at each other and there is no intimacy. Ennis shoves Jack’s face forward and gives in to urges. After that, they develop an intimacy when they are alone, an affection and love toward each other through looks and handholds and private jokes. But in public, there can be none, no errant glances, no physical contact. If someone suspected their love, there would be public shaming, humiliation, lost jobs, and lost families.

And this became the culture of the gay male community, by and large, over the years. The wider public sent the message that gay men do not belong, that they should not be seen, and that they should be taught a lesson if they are seen.

“What they do in their own homes, I don’t care, as long as I don’t have to see it” and “I didn’t plan on hitting him but he looked at me funny and I would have been made fun of if I hadn’t fought back” and “Can’t we just round them up and put them on an island some place where we don’t have to look at them” and “If we let gay people teach in our schools, our kids will get AIDS and turn into fags” became normal messages on television and from church pulpits and around the family dinner table.

And so gay men learned to hide, and to have two lives. In one life, they had jobs as teachers and doctors, dancers and hair dressers, social workers and CEOs, police officers and judges; and they had families with mothers and fathers and often wives and children; and they had lives, on their local bowling leagues or PTA committees.

And in their other life, the gay men noticed handsome men around them and hoped to catch their eye. They learned of public spaces to meet other gay men, in public parks or on the third floor or the local library behind the biography section or in the alley behind a particular club, or in the local gay club or bath house, although those were a bit scarier. And they learned to relate to other gay men on a purely physical level, focusing solely on sex and body image, shaming those that were not their idea of physically perfect or those who wanted some sort of emotional connection. They learned to mask feelings with alcohol and drugs, often to enhance the pleasure of the sex, and then they stepped back into their daily lives.

These social and psychic trends seem pretty rampant in the gay male community among men who, primarily, grew up divided within themselves, longing for acceptance, community, understanding, validation, and love, and who instead divided themselves up into spaces where vulnerability is frightening and sex is simple.

All that said, there is nothing wrong with sex in any of its forms, so long as the person engaging in sex is educated, honest, and ethical with themselves and others. Engaging in random illicit sex with a stranger, a threesome with a few friends, or even a bathhouse orgy, those are viable options for gay men, but they won’t serve as healthy alternatives for loneliness, depression, self-shame, family problems, or religious discord. The person who chooses to be sexually active should do so from a place of self-acceptance and confidence, and the ability to realize that the person or people they are engaging in sexual activities with are also human beings who have stories and families and needs.

I viscerally remember the radio commercial from my youth where the deep voice stated, “Remember, sex lasts a moment. Being a father lasts your whole life.” And there is absolute truth there. The man who chooses to engage in sex should be able to recognize the risks of pregnancy, the potential for STDs, and the ability to realize that the human heart is a part of sex, both for him and for the other person involved. (And yes I realize that gay sex does not result in pregnancies, but the other truths hold valid).

So go, have sex. Have fun. Have adventures. But know yourselves first, and know your motivations. Look at your trends. Can you only have sex when drunk? Are you only seeking to dominate someone else? Can you look your partner in the eye and have a conversation? Are you seeking to escape the stress and expectations of an unhealthy marriage, religious obligations, or the family you’ve built around you? Do you reject anyone who isn’t your ideal of human perfection, your exact type? Do you realize and acknowledge that there is another person there with a story, with needs, with struggles and situations different but just the same as yours? Do you understand the history of where you’ve come, and do you have an eye on where you are going? Do you think that having someone in your bed will take away your pain and loneliness and make you like yourself?

I guess the take away I hope others to get in reading this is just to know yourself, to question your motivations a little bit, to explore your concepts of vulnerability, and to be able to realize there is another person on the other end of that exchange. The world is about more than naked pictures and quick sex, it’s about safety and kindness and attraction and love. But that has to be toward yourself first.

 

 

 

Rock Hudson liked blonde boys

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Rock Hudson grew up when men were men.

And he liked men who were men.

Masculine men. Blonde, blue-eyed military men. Men with strong chests and big shoulders, big biceps and strong backs, thick legs and firm butts. Men who could drink themselves under the table, who liked steak and potatoes, and who looked incredible without ever having to set foot in the gym. Men who could hack down a tree with an axe. Men who pursued women, yet still liked men on the side. Men with power and ambition, and who knew how to get ahead. Men who held a cigarette between their index finger and thumb and smoked the masculine way. The straighter and more masculine the man, the more Rock Hudson wanted them to be gay.

When Roy Fitzgerald first became Rock Hudson, the stage name slected for him by an older gay Hollywood agent Henry Willson who knew good looks when he saw them, he was a fish out of water. He had fooled around with boys in the Navy, but it was all very hush-hush, and Hollywood was full of gay men. He realized he turned heads. Even with his ill-fitting clothing (he was 6 foot 5) and his body odor (he refused to wear deodorant, considering it effeminate), he approached Hollywood with a wonder. How had he gone from small-town America with a doting mother and an abusive stepfather to a world like this?

And after he became an international movie star and sex symbol, he had a big house on a hill and a fast car and the men were suddenly everywhere. But he realized rather quickly that being a movie star can be intimidating to others. Men were shocked that Rock Hudson actually wanted to be with him, and they got shy when things turned sexual.

Though he may not have started with one, Rock Hudson developed an ego. He expected people to take notice when he walked by, wanted their attention and applause. He settled down a few times with a few different blonde boys, men who were the right balance of physically perfect, driven, masculine, playful, and devoted to him. Men who were discreet in public, and affectionate in private.

He even married a woman once, Phyllis, just to see if he could. And he loved her, he did, but there were men out there, so many men.

Ego seems to come at a price, however, for when someone feels they are the most important person in the room, those someones tend to doom themselves to quite a bit of loneliness. No one can match the ego, and so no one can feel the void. And so there was the sex, and the alcohol, and the nicotine, and the cocaine, and the trips around the world. But the void just kept screaming.

A few years into making movies, Rock Hudson had to realize that there was always a next day. After months of being paid a million dollars to laugh with Elizabeth Taylor or to strong-arm Doris Day, there were the quiet months at home before the next movie came along. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were the sex symbol movie stars, and the character actors who supported them. And then a new era came along, when the character actors who weren’t sex symbols started getting the top billing. The public suddenly wanted to see Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, not Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

And the void got louder and still couldn’t be filled.

And like any human, Rock Hudson was complicated. He was giving and kind, young at heart, insatiable. He didn’t trust easily, and when he did he trusted well, yet broken trust could be impossible to regain. After a few years in the business, he could brilliantly convey emotion on the big screen, yet he couldn’t share his feelings even with his lovers and closest friends.

Rock Hudson lived his life in the closet, denying rumors of his attractions to men right up until the very end. In the last months of his life, as he lay weak and dying from AIDS, he wanted his story to be told. He hired a biographer, he encouraged his friends to be open with their hearts and stories, he came out publicly as homosexual, though he had denied the same claim for decades before it.

And at the end, at the age of 59, he was weak and small, though still 6 foot 5, and he went out of the world as quietly as he had entered.

In the end, like so many stars, he got what he wanted… he made sure the world would remember Rock Hudson, the identity created for himself.

But I would much rather remember Roy Fitzgerald.

Becoming your Boyfriend

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Last Friday night, I went to a house party with a few friends, just a simple birthday get together with drinks and meatballs, cheese and chips. I made small talk with a few people, ate a few bites, played with the cute dog that lived there, and watched the people.

Every time I think I know every gay person in Salt Lake City, I attend a party like this where I know one out of every twenty that are there, or I go out to the club and see 300 people I’ve never met.

But as I watched these strangers come in, I realized that nearly everyone there was partnered. And then I realized that each set of boyfriends weirdly looked like each other. At first, I noticed this curiously, then I was amazed, then baffled, then maybe a little flummoxed. It was uncanny.

Josh and Ben both had on ball caps and had grown their beards out to several inches, and could easily pass as mountain men. They had tight t-shirts on, jeans, and boots. They were groomed and dressed the exact same…

Matt and Tyler were both in their early 30s and were affectionate with each other with back pats, hand holds, and across-the-room glances. They were both well-dressed, both slightly balding, and both about 20 pounds overweight.

Jerome and Adam seemed literally cut from the same cloth. They both had the same muscular build: strong chests and shoulders, thick arms, strong legs, and bubble butts. Both wore shirts that showcased their muscles and tight jeans. Both had trim mustaches on their top lips. Both had dark hair and dark eyes.

The trend continued, every couple looking different from every couple, but each boyfriend looking the same.

After the party, I went out to a local gay club with a few friends, and I noticed the same trend. Two beautiful Latin men dancing, with the same haircut and movement; two tall skinny “twinks”; two muscly men with parted hair and glasses.

I pointed this trend out to my friends and we began reviewing my close friends who are partnered, and realized the trend holds true, with only a few exceptions. Boyfriends seem to gain or lose weight together, to dress similarly, to have the same grooming habits.

At coffee with my friend Steven the next day, I pointed out a couple we know. “Look at them! They didn’t use to look the same, and now they are the exact same! They have the same jeans on, they both have their hair buzzed!”

“Come on, Chad, there are still differences,” he chided.

“What are they! I can’t see them!”

Steven smiled broadly. “Well, only one of them likes to knit.”

Some men seem to only date men that look like them. But for those who don’t, once you are partnered, just give it some time. You’re bound to become your boyfriend over time.

 

The 12 Guys you Meet on Grindr

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Oh, Grindr.

Grindr is a phone app used by gay men to meet other gay men nearby. Urban dictionary defines it as “Location based iPhone/iTouch App for gay, bi, and curious men to meet. Uses GPS technology in your iPhone and WiFi in iPod Touch to determine your exact location and instantly connect you with guys in your area. View pictures, stats, and map locations at a tap. Totally discreet because Grindr doesn’t ask for your email address or require account registration.”

You download the app and create a basic profile, in which you can upload a photograph (some choose to keep this blank), share a few of your statistics (height, weight, relationship status), and type just a few lines about yourself and what you are looking for.

You open the app on your phone by clicking the small yellow box with the black cat mask on it. A grid of boxes opens up, each box representing a man who has the app also opened on his phone, and the boxes arrange in order of how far away they are from you. (In large cities, walking a few blocks means entirely new groupings of men. In more rural areas, the closest man might be 70 miles away). To look at the photo and profile, you simply click on the image, and you click on a message icon if you want to send a message to that person. You can also upload more photographs from your phone, or take live photographs, to send to the man as well. Finally, you can send a GPS ping that shows him exactly where you are on a map, making meetups easy. Often addresses and phone numbers are exchanged, and conversations continue once the app is closed.

Now it is no secret that men, straight or gay, are and always have been very sexually driven. Much energy is given to the thought of, pursuit of, and acquisition of, sex. When straight men are dating women, basic kindness and charm seem to be part of the process. When it comes to men dating men, however, it often seems that all bets are off. And now, in the age of instant gratification, where we can look at a box of photographs and immediately determine our level of sexual interest based on a photo, some shared information, the content of a message, or a misspelled word and determine interest and attraction sight unseen, it has never been easier to find sex.

I find Grindr amusing. When I have it downloaded, I have generally tried two separate approaches in my profile. Approach one: a simple photograph of myself (clothed and smiling) with no other information. Approach two: a simple photograph of myself (clothed and smiling) with a small blurb that lists my age (36), height (5’11), weight (180 lbs), and a few lines saying something like “Educated professional looking for chats, new friends, or dates. Not here for hook-ups. A little charm and consistency go a long way.”

Some guys download Grindr to chat, others to easily get laid, some just to see who is around.

Following are twelve conversations, or variations thereof, you will definitely have on Grindr if you have the app. Maybe you have had some of these word for word.

1. the Bots

His profile: a relatively handsome guy with a basic age and weight listed.

Him: Hey, you’re cute.

Me: Thank you, you too.

Him: I’m new here. My battery is dying. May I have your number?

Me: You’re a bot, aren’t you?

Him: Click this link to come watch me on camera. The credit card request is just to verify you are of age.

Me: *block*

2. the Bros

His profile: generally a headless muscly torso with a tagline that says something like “Masc seeking Masc, not into fems”

Him: Sup.

Me: Hello.

Him: Hey.

Me: Hello.

Him: Looking?

Me: For sex? Not at the moment.

3. The Skanks

His profile: Grindr doesn’t allow nudity in profile photos, but imagine whatever is closest. Photo will be something like a close-up of his underpants, another headless torso, or him in tight shorts turned around and grabbing his rear. A few brief sentences like “Willing bottom, ready to take your load. You host. Ready now. Don’t waste my time with chat. Not into fat guys.”

Him: {unsolicited photo of his penis, or perhaps of him bent over}

Me: Wow. That was… well, good for you.

Him: Looking?

Me: No thanks.

Him: Where’s your pics?

Me: I don’t share nudes.

Him: Come on, you’re hot. Let me take your load.

4. The Very Persistent

His profile: Normal looking guy of any age, a few stats listed about himself. A blurb saying something like “Average guy looking for a real connection.”

Him: Hi.

Him: Hi.

Him: Hello?

Him: You’re cute.

Him: Are you getting my messages?

Him: Hi.

Him: Hi.

Him: Hello?

Him: Are you there?

5. The Martyr

His profile: Usually an average guy of any age with a pleasant smile. Profile reads something like “Aren’t there any good guys left in the world? Tired of being single. Think maybe I’m the only decent guy left.”

Him: Hi there. How are you?

Me: I’m fine, thank you. How are you?

Him: Wanna go out some time?”

Me: I’ve got a pretty busy week with work right now, but we could chat a bit.

Him: Whatever. You’re just like all the other guys. Why won’t you come and meet me?

Me: Well, I’m not looking for sex. And I’m working right now.

Him: Who said I was looking for sex!

Him: Why would you think that about me!

Him: I just want someone to cuddle with! I didn’t even want sex!

Him: You’re just like all the others!

Me: Whoa, I said I’m working right now. Relax, man, it’s Grindr!

Him: #### you! (block)

6. The Cheater

His profile: Good-looking guy, shirt on or off, with a blurb saying something like “Partnered to a good guy, yes he knows I’m on here. Just seeing who is out there. Not interested in sex usually, but you never know.”

Him: You’re hot. Want some company?

Me: You’re partnered…

Him: I am but I want you.

Me: Are you guys open?

Him: Nope but I know he cheats on me and I don’t say anything so it’s my turn. Come over.

7. The Polyamorous

His profile: Generally a photo of two partnered guys (any age or appearance) with some listed stats and a small blurb like “Happily married and occasionally seeking a third for fun. I’m top, he’s bottom.”

Him: My boyfriend and I are looking for a third. Interested?

Me: Not really my style. I’m down for new friends, though.

Him: No thanks.

8. The Very Descriptive

His profile: Usually either a black screen or a stock photo of a sandy beach, a “keep calm and carry on” meme, or a cartoon character. No stats or words listed.

Him: I’m laying all horned up in my hotel room with porn playing on the TV. Looking for two guys to come over and make me their slave while I’m handcuffed and blindfolded. I’ll leave the door unlocked. I’ll take both of your loads and then you can just leave me there. Interested?

Him: {location ping sent}

Him: {photo of genitals}

Me: Well, that is quite a way to begin a conversation. You want all that and you’ve only seen a face photo of me?

Him: {silence. he’s already cut and pasted the same information to every other guy on the app}

9. The Narcissist

His profile: A photo of a very good-looking all-American type guy. A few lines read “Don’t waste my time. Good-looking guy seeking fit athletic masculine guys who are down to clown. If I don’t respond, it means I don’t find you attractive.”

Him: Hey stud.

Me: Hi back.

Him: I’ll get right to the point.

Him: You are one of like 2 per cent of guys that I actually find attractive. I’m a top hosting right now. Why don’t you come over?

Me: You’re certainly very handsome, but I’m not really interested in random sex. Would you like to meet for coffee some time?

Him: I’m not looking for a relationship, dude. Come over, or don’t.

10. The Discreet

His profile: No photo, no words about himself.

Him: Hey there.

Me: Hi back.

Him: Do you have more pics of yourself?

Me: You can already see one of me. Can I see one of you?

Him: Dude, I gotta be discreet. I’m not out yet.

Me: That’s cool. I understand.

Him: Wanna meet up some time?

Me: I still don’t know what you look like.

Him: Yeah, I’m discreet.

Me: Yes, I know. You said that.

Him: So you have more pics?

11. The “Back-in-the-Day” Guy

His profile: An attractive picture of a shirtless relatively fit guy. Age listed at 45. Nothing written.

Him: You’re really cute.

Me: Thank you. I like your photo.

Him: Thank you. Want to get together for a walk some time?

Me: Sure, that sounds fine.

**At the meeting, you realize he is actually 58 and weighs about 30 more pounds than he did in the photo, which was taken 7 years ago. He acts surprised and upset when you comment on his misrepresentation.

12. And finally: The Disappearing Nice Guy

His profile: Good-looking guy with basic stats that seem honest. He actually takes time to write out a basic profile. “Busy professional with lots of interests. Looking to meet a nice guy. Hoping for a relationship, but down for fun in the mean time.”

Him: Hey, I really like your profile.

Me: I like yours too. How is your week going?

Him: Really well. And yours?

Me: Good! Hitting the gym soon. Big plans for your evening?

Him: Just relaxing at home. Would you like to get together for coffee some time?

Me: I would like that. When works for you?

{2 days later} Me: Hey, haven’t heard back from you… Still want to get that coffee?

So after reading all this, you gotta be wondering why I’m on Grindr. Easy answer. I like to believe I’m that ever elusive 13th guy, the one using a convenient phone app in an effort to meet quality guys for dating and hoping for a substantial connection. We all have our reasons for being on Grindr, but ultimately, using the app is like checking the fridge to see what food is there although you aren’t hungry.

You just open the door and hope maybe something will catch your eye.

Men Seeking Men

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It was a Saturday night and, lacking anything better to do, my best friend Kole and I walked down to the gay bar a few blocks from my apartment, a divey little place with tables and chairs and a nice back patio. We showed our IDs at the door and walked the perimeter of the place, looking at the patrons as they nursed their drinks, everyone checking everyone else out.

“Let’s just get one drink,” Kole said. “My treat.”

I hesitated. “I drank last night. Not really sure I want anything.”

“Come on, two bachelors out on the town on a Saturday night. One drink.” Kole smiled and I rolled my eyes.

“All right, one drink.”

“What do you want?”

“Surprise me.”

Kole walked over to the empty bar and smiled at the bartender. “We’ll take two drinks, something sweet. Surprise us.” Then for the next few minutes, the bar tender mixed different colored beverages in two mason jars, stuck straws in them, and handed them over. They were much larger drinks than we had planned, but when in Rome, and soon we were seated at a corner table taking sips as we talked about life.

Kole is a unique friend, and one of my favorite people. We can laugh, be obnoxious, and be adventurous, and we can kick back and be serious and there for each other during the tough times. We spent some time being snarky, laughing about inside jokes, then the buzz from the sicky-sweet started to kick in. Normally, I’m pretty happy when drinking, I get silly and want to dance. That night, though, the alcohol seemed to have the opposite impact, and I got sad and serious.

Kole, who had recently broken up with the last guy he was dating, lamented about the simple things it takes in relationships to help him be happy. He took another sip from his drink. “Have I ever told you about the date where I knew I fell in love Todd?” Todd was Kole’s ex-husband; they had split just a few years ago after Todd had cheated on Kole with a younger guy.

I shook my head. “You haven’t.”

Kole twisted his lips up, a bit sad, thinking. “I had to cancel a date with him pretty early on in the relationship cause of some family stuff. He checked in on me, didn’t get mad, and later he picked me up and took me for a picnic where he had all of my favorite foods prepared. None of it went together. Vanilla Coke, Stovetop stuffing, and Twix bars. He did all of those things just for me. I knew it then. We had a good marriage for a long time, and I could overlook the bad things cause he did sweet things for me. He always had a Coke and a candy bar waiting for me at home when I had a bad day. He was always there when I came back. But over time, things changed. He started lying to me, then cheating. I think I might hate him now. But I can’t seem to find anyone who will care about me in the same way.”

I thought for a moment, looking at Kole with narrowed eyes as I came to a realization. “You know why dating isn’t working for you, don’t you?”

Kole shook his head, surprised. “No. Why?”

“Because you are looking for him.”

“Him?”

I nodded, sitting my drink down after one more sip. “Yeah. You are looking for your ex-husband. Or at least the way things were when things were good with him. You’re looking for someone who does things the way he did things.”

Kole looked surprised, then tilted his head as he chewed on that information for a minute. “You’re right. I can see that. But is that so wrong?”

“It absolutely isn’t wrong to want to be someone’s priority. But you’re never gonna find that. I mean, sure, you can find someone to date and care about you and put you first, but they won’t ever do it in the way that he did. It will be in the way they do it. Instead of picnics, it will be notes on the mirror, or instead of Cokes, it’ll be bear hugs at the end of the day. I closed my eyes tight, feeling my head spin from the alcohol a bit, like little wires of stress loosening in my brain. It felt wonderful. “I mean, we all look for what is familiar, right? And we all seem to turn down whatever doesn’t match that.”

I leaned forward in the chair, having some sort of epiphany on dating in my alcohol haze, like suddenly it all made sense. “We’re in the age of instant gratification, right? Look at all the lame reasons we rule people out for dating. They didn’t text back fast enough. Too old, too young. They only bottom or only top or aren’t versatile enough. They don’t have the same kinks I do. They’re too tall, they’re still in college, they want kids or have kids or don’t want kids. They’re too sensitive or not sensitive enough. They smoke, they are a recovering addict, they live too far away.”

I sat back then, gesturing with raised hands and talking just a bit too loud. “Everybody’s ruling everybody else out because they aren’t a picture perfect expression of exactly what they are looking for. And we’re gay, which makes it worse. Men are all logical, more head than heart anyway, and growing up gay meant hiding yourself or feeling broken or whatever. The cards are totally stacked against us.”

I rested my elbows on the table and put my head in my hands, suddenly tired. I half-expected the Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby to come on. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”

It’s just how it all works. Adam wants Ben who wants Charlie but Charlie only wants what David and Edward have and Frank doesn’t think anyone wants him and George doesn’t want anyone.” I took my long last drink, slurping up the remains from the ice cubes at the bottom, impressed with my alphabetical naming skills.

“But you’re totally gonna find someone, man. You’re one of the good ones.” I looked up, my brilliant speech finally concluded. I reached over the table, grasped Kole’s hand with a tight squeeze. “One day at a time, brother.”

“You too, Chad.” Kole squeezed my hand back, and then suddenly I was laughing, my chin dropped to my chest and my eyes closed. “What? What’s so funny?”

I laughed harder. “It’s Saturday night and we are buzzed in a bar and having this conversation. Oh god, we are those drunks.”

Two days later, Kole and I got coffee together. As we chatted, we took out our phones and opened up Grindr, the gay-chatting app. We compared notes on the guys we were looking at, starting chats with some, ignoring others, being ignored by others still, ruling out this one for this reason and that one for that reason, just like every other gay in the city.

And on another Saturday night soon me and Kole and so many others would wonder why we hadn’t found the one yet.

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