An entry for the GSA Contest.
|Letter to my gay son
My dearest son,
My first lover, when I was your age, was a man eleven years older than myself. He frequently said that ours would always be a difficult life, and although he had tried bisexuality, he determined that his real sexuality was being gay. A hard life. Those words come back to me every day of my life, and it's now 35 years later.
It is not a life I would recommend for anyone not already 100 percent sure of who he is. And then, as has been my case, the periods of loneliness can be exhausting. I have never had any doubts as to my sexual orientation: at eight years old I knew that girls would be my friends but boys the object of my sexual desire. It is still true. I have never been able to hold a close friendship with a man, either gay or straight, if he is not also at the same time sharing my bed. I think I do not represent the gay community in general here, but I can only speak to you through my experience.
Learn about yourself. Learn why you can't be monogamous, if it's a relationship you seek. Learn why you can't commit to a relationship if you've spent more than five or ten years butterflying from one flower to the next. Ask yourself "why this incessant quest for the perfect man?" And force yourself to answer the question. For in the end, what awaits most of us is loneliness. If we are not monogamous and have not found the ideal partner in life, what awaits us at the end is solitude. There will be no one to hold your hand when you go through chemotherapy, when your sexual escapades have put you into contact with one of the hepatitis viruses and you must spend a month in the hospital, alone; no one to hold your hand when you're on your deathbed, because frequently partners will not be considered as close family members.
It's easy to say , at twenty-five, "this won't happen to me, society will evolve." Yes, in the big cities society has evolved somewhat, partly because of the gay population living there, but it's simply that life in the biggest cities is so busy that no one takes any more notice. In the rest of the world, it is not quite so. If you like the calm of the country life, it will be even more difficult to be openly gay. Remember "Brokeback mountain?" That was not just a movie about life in the 60's. It still is like that most places in the world now in 2006. People are ordinary, have ordinary lives with ordinary expectations and we have no right to belittle them for not having evolved socially. We can't fault them for not having a higher education. Think of many of our intelligent, well-educated parents who should know better intellectually, but who have spurned us emotionally. The reaction of the modern world to the gay community still happens on the emotional level and not the intellectual.
Be proud of who you are. But to avoid being automatically placed within the stereotypes, learn who you are. Why do you feel that you need to scream loud and clear "I'm gay." What attention will that bring to you, and is it really the real attention or recognition you seek?
We can rarely hold hands with our loved ones in public. Kissing is almost unheard of. Yet we must all have the strength to watch straight couples manifest their love for each other on a daily basis. It's a hard life. If your need to publicly manifest your love is so strong, it will be better to move to a huge metropolis, like NY, London, Paris or Berlin, where by blending in, you also simply become a number. Even in the mob, you will always need to be on the lookout for those making trouble for those who cannot defend themselves. We can't all be prizefighters, prone to violence, but if you insist on kissing your lover at noon on a street corner with lots of people around, you may have to learn to defend yourself, and not just against the verbal taunts. There is a reality of homophobic violence; in our troubled times people are less and less tolerant of the differences between us.
So, blend in. That doesn't mean lying about who you are. But if you gain respect for your competence in your professional life and your bonhomie among your family and friends, chances are once they find out you're gay, you will still be accepted for the good person they have always known.
We gay people are human beings. We cannot qualify ourselves first as gay and then as a man. Think of the problems this attitude causes between the Jews and Arabs. Both populations forget that they are first and foremost human beings, viewing themselves uniquely as religious subjects who force acceptance rather than negotiate it. Both populations have forgotten about the tolerance we all seek in life. But remember, the more different you appear to people, the harder it will be for them to remain tolerant.
I have frequently found the gay community intolerant. They expect the heterosexual community to accept such socio-cultural defying concepts as mono-parentism, gay marriage, tax deductions and an equivalent of the heterosexual legal status. Kissing and handholding, plus the right to appear half naked in public. We desire the right to do anything and everything normally accorded to the straight population because with them it's socially excepted, and has been for as long as mankind has existed in organized society.
Most of us are too militant about it, and through this attitude we push many people away from our cause. We are, unfortunately not social equals. The great majority of us are childless, our sexually active rampant lives provide no strong model for how to successfully deal with interpersonal relationships, and most of us have no contact at all with the children of our future generations. I feel an intolerance in our community; we feel like instant acceptance is automatically owed us and we refuse to accept that we are still a minority in life, going against the grain of generations of socially established patterns, whether we hail from the US, France, England, Turkey or China. We cannot, unfortunately FORCE our difference on the people we encounter in our daily lives. That usually backfires. We must work within the framework of the established patterns of the heterosexual community with whom we cohabit. It is necessary to first prove our worth, and then calmly and slowly explain why our sexual preference has nothing to do with how we will relate to our siblings' children, or the performance we are capable of in our jobs.
Many gay men are sex addicts, like alcoholics or drug addicts. The same attitudes are found in the straight population, but it is more noticeable in the gay community and therefore easier to stereotype. And whether this lifestyle (how I hate that word!) is yours or not, straight people usually assume that you are that way. So you must be strong enough to take on the "problems" of the entire gay community, being able to justify yourself, as well as your brethren's choices should the subject come up with family, friends or colleagues. We are continually forced into a position of justifying ourselves. Because our choices go against the easy understanding of 95 percent of the human population on earth. And we scream "Equality"?
I sound bitter here, as if I have nothing but disdain for my brothers. This is not true. Yet the gay community does not help me, for my daily life is in the real world, not in a microcosm of safety that many are able to build for themselves by living exclusively in the ghetto. And I defy most of them to tell me how happy they are there in the ghetto. There are more substitutions for happiness, but many of us are lost souls, erring on the wrong path in life, and we wake up each morning, wherever we are, not feeling any happier. How many of us ask the question "Why" and end up having the courage to look the answer straight in the face and do something about it?
So, I have run a full circle. The hardest lesson to learn in life, my son is to know yourself. Understand yourself. Only then will you be able to truly help others understand why you have been placed on the rocky path that will be yours for the rest of your life.
With all my love
your devoted father