When Honesty is Bravery

I saw this post on Freshly Pressed about a month ago.  I thought it was great and wanted to share it here.  Please click on  Queer Confessions to read more from this great blogger.

I remember the first time I came out to anybody. I was a socially awkward fifteen year old boy living in Texas. I had no athletic prowess to boast, and my musical tastes were closer to my father’s than to my peers. For three years, I kept my sexuality a secret from everybody because I was terrified of being gay. I didn’t know any other gay kid or adult, so I felt lonely and misunderstood. The only thing that scared me more than my solitude was the very real possibility that others could hurt me with their words or fists if they found out that I preferred boys over girls.

At fifteen years old, I decided that I had lived under fear long enough. There was a reality show on TV back in 2001 that documented the lives of average high school students, including one gay youth; his visible gayness gave me the courage to share my secret with one person. When I came out to a friend in my youth group, I was frightened that he would make my life a living hell – and because my friend was the most popular youth in our very large church, he had the means to do so. But he did not make my life miserable; he said, “Thank you for telling me. This doesn’t change who you are. You are still my friend.”

That was almost 12 years ago, and since the winter of 2001, I have mastered the art of coming out to friends, coworkers, and family. I have told my conservative, evangelical friends about my sexuality, and I have come out to my liberal friends and colleagues. I have come out in intimate conversations and in public speeches before large crowds. I have come out to straight neighbors and gay neighbors, rich friends and poor friends, Christian friends and doubting friends; by and large, I am a better man for being honest about myself. I feel better knowing that I can be my true, genuine self around my peers, because I do not have to hide something that is a profound part of my existence. I can simply be, and I can simply be gay.

My friends remind me that I am a brave man for coming out. A friend of mine regularly tells me, “You are the bravest, most courageous person I know;” this same friend has a story of being delivered by the grace of God from a life of crime (including murder), counterfeiting money, gang banging, and homelessness. Another friend said that my decision to tell my story to a crowd of evangelical Christians numbering over 200 was, perhaps, the bravest thing he ever saw a person do. These comments puzzle me; I am simply being honest. Aren’t Christians supposed to be honest? And yet, in this society, honesty is bravery; it takes courage to tell the truth.

Two realities – one societal, and the other personal –  remind me why it is so important for my LGBT brothers and sisters to come out and make their sexualities known to their network of friends and colleagues. Extremists from the far right will call us monsters, abominations, and sick perversions; their subordinates will tacitly (or not so tacitly) agree with them. The extremists are content to shove us into boxes made of fears based on ridiculous stereotypes and assumptions, and they cannot see LGBT people as such – people. When we come out, we force all our neighbors to see that we LGBT people are their neighbors, their sons and daughters, their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters, their aunts and uncles and cousins. We show the world that we are their teachers, doctors, accountants, scientists, politicians, theologians, preachers, dancers, musicians, and athletes. We show the world that LGBT people, like our straight brothers and sisters, can have hope, can believe in God, can walk in faith and not by sight, can embrace a peace that surpasses all understanding. We show our enemies and allies alike that we are human like them: we breathe, we eat, we laugh, we cry, we hope, we dream.

However, I am constantly reminded two days a week why I must be out and why making my sexuality visible is so vital to my well-being. I work in a church that is hostile to the LGBT community, where the parishioners will sometimes make overtly homophobic comments, where I would be fired if the leadership knew my sexuality. I do feel like I live two lives – my normal life at home where I can be out with my friends and school colleagues, and a closeted life (although the closet is transparent) where I am trapped in fear and isolation. Because I am not out to anybody in my congregation, I feel like I have no connection to anyone, for I cannot truly be myself with those people. It’s enough to make me want to leave the church (but not the one, holy, apostolic Church); for the sake of genuine relationships and my own health, I must be honest about myself to my neighbors and friends.

If you are an out and proud LGBT person, I celebrate you and your courage!

If you are a closeted or partially closeted LGBT person, I am with you. Stay strong, and may you one day find a safe place to leave that prison of fear.

If you are a straight ally, thank you of your support and love. We need you as friends and advocates.

Happy National Coming Out Day!!

The History of Coming Out

In the Beginning, There Was a March

On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE.  The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg, a founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O’Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.

To this day National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly.

2012- Come Out. Vote.

Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2012

Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or as an ally, countless American musicians, athletes, politicians, news anchors and actors have advanced the movement for equality this year. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of this year’s standout coming out moments in pop culture.

Frank Ocean

Singer, songwriter, producer and hip-hop icon Frank Ocean came out this summer as bisexual. In a beautifully written letter on his tumblr, Ocean said, “I don’t know what happens now and that’s alright. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore… I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now.” Ocean’s coming out garnered support from several hip-hop artists and media moguls, including Russell Simmons, who tweeted, “Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. His gifts are undeniable.  His talent, enormous.  His bravery, incredible.  His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.” Ocean’s coming out helped to prompt an ongoing dialogue within the hip hop community about sexuality and equality.

Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe not only helped lead the US Women’s National Soccer team to an Olympic gold medal this summer, but she’s also played an important role in paving the road to equality for LGBT athletes. In an interview with AfterEllen earlier this year, Rapinoe spoke with joy about her life as a gay woman: “I’m obviously very proud of who I am. I couldn’t be happier with who I am. [Coming out] was something that was important to me.” Rapinoe’s likability and charm has earned her a widespread fan following since 2011’s World Cup, and the self-confidence she projects continues to steer the sports world in a direction of openness and acceptance.

Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel)

Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel came out this year as transgender and began her transition to living as Laura Jane Grace. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Laura recalls coming out as trans to her wife, Heather, and Heather’s reaction is an example of unconditional love: “He told her he was transsexual, and her response was, ‘Of all the things you could have told me, that is the least worst.’” Heather notes, “My friends have been like, ‘What about you?’ But I’m fine. I just want him to be who he is, and for us to get on with phase two. You know. Just… charge!” Laura and Heather have a young daughter, and Laura explains, “The thing I keep coming back to is that there’s no better example I can set as a parent than being true to myself. I hope…that’s what she learns from me.”

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper came out this year and emphasized the joy his identity brings him. “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” He went on to explain the significance of being recognized as an equal human being: “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.”

Barack Obama

Perhaps the most famous of this year’s coming out moments came from President Obama, who came out as a supporter of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. His announcement came on the heels of North Carolina’s vote to pass Amendment One, which barred same-sex couples from marrying, banned recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, and stripped away other vital protections for unmarried North Carolinians and their families.  Obama is the first president to ever declare his support for marriage equality, marking a historical moment for the LGBT community. President Obama declared, “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Read more on the Human Rights Center page

PRIDE at the White House

I found this article about President Barack Obama having a reception at the White House to celebrate gay pride month.  I thought it would be a good idea to post it on my blog since the Pride Parade is in Chicago this weekend.  For those who are unaware, June has been celebrated as Gay Pride Month since the Stonewall Riots in 1969.  I think this is huge step forward.  Things definitely aren’t perfect, but they are moving in the right direction.  I’m hopeful for more positive change for all LGBT people in the future.

Proud About Pride at the White House

Simi Singh JunejaSimi Singh Juneja

My sister emailed me her invitation to the White House to celebrate LGBT Pride. I had to take a pause. Never in my or my children’s lifetime would I ever have imagined that a sitting president would stand up and welcome her — that he would see her.

I have issues with being seen…

As the third daughter of Punjabi Indian immigrants who landed in Statesboro, Georgia — a one-year-old with wavy green lines across my baby-faced, curly-haired green card photo — I figured as I grew, the best had already happened because we reached the land of opportunity. In a family of five daughters, it was easy to get lost in the sheer volume of siblings, and the intensity of my parents establishing a new life.

When I learned that my younger sister was gay, I was terrified, confused, angry and worried. As the years progressed and I realized that this was not a passing phase, and more of a growing into who she was meant to be, part of her identity, I felt protective. As her big sister, I worried for her future and feared for her career. I know her heart and her strength. Living in the closet was never an option for her. It felt to me like a death sentence for her dreams. How was such a brilliant and talented woman going to navigate a country and a world that might not give her the dignity, respect and inclusion she deserved? She has never let anything stop her from living her life with integrity.

When she and her Southern Belle sweetheart decided to commit the rest of their lives to each other with a three-day traditional Indian wedding, my parents, sisters and I decided to “come out” to our communities and the extended family in India. My mom called her 60-something younger sister in Gurdaspur and wrote a letter to her 80-plus older brother in New Delhi explaining that love was love and that her daughter was marrying a girl. We held our breath and waited for the worst. Instead, my mom’s sister showed up bearing gifts welcoming the newest Arkansan members of our family. My aunt danced the night away and joyously took first prize at a very competitive game of musical chairs after the rehearsal dinner.

In my lifetime, my sister has been recognized. She is seen. President Obama celebrated Pride at the White House and she was there. Words can’t express my pride in our president and our country’s courage. Nobody should be invisible to their own government.

And I can’t stop the tears…

A long time ago, on a sweltering southern evening, we sisters played on our smooth concrete driveway. We weren’t busy judging whom we would marry; we were laughing and counting nickels for the ice cream man. The world was spinning and we were home. As my sister and her spouse — and many other LGBT couples were welcomed to the White House, the world was still spinning and they finally got to go home.

Dating in the Homosexual World

I’ve been reading One Gay At A Time’s Blog for quite awhile.  He writes very honestly about his coming out process and his dating life.  He recently wrote a post about how difficult it is to date and find love in the homosexual world.  I asked to borrow it for my blog to help those readers out there that identify as LGBT.  It is written from the male perspective, but I think it is helpful for anyone who reads it.  Please feel free to click on the link to his blog above if you want to read more about his dating adventures.

If you’ve read my blog, you obviously realize how difficult it is to date and find love in the homosexual world. There are many extremely difficult aspects of dating and sex for homosexual men, most of which exist purely because there are fewer opportunities for homosexual men to date and find other men. This is of course not to say that such opportunities don’t exist. However, the fact remains that most dating advice, venues, and even websites are designed primarily for heterosexual couples, leaving LGBT men and women out in the cold.

So, what are some good ways for homosexual men to be able to enjoy active dating and sex lives? Fortunately, there are increasingly many opportunities for such men to do just that. But here are a few tips that may help you to get some ideas:

• To begin with, being open and honest about your sexuality is a great place to start. This is obviously a lot to ask of homosexual men who are not already open about their sexualities, but at the same time it is a simple fact that dating and sex will be easier the more open you are about what you want and need. Society, unfortunately, has a long way to go before it is as accepting as the gay community deserves, but things are getting better, which has led to more opportunity. Just the other day, Vice President Biden expressed his viewpoints on the issue of gay rights, and immediately, the White House went into a tailspin of damage control. This wasn’t an issue they wanted to dig up right now, but now it is. We shall see how it plays out.

• Next, take advantage of places in your area that are meant to accommodate homosexual dating. There are numerous such clubs and bars in most cities. So, while it is sometimes less than ideal to have to seek these places out in the first place, they can also provide a great location and opportunity to meet other homosexual men. Maybe you’ll simply make a friend at the bar. Chances are that person has other gay friends. Friendships lead to relationships as well.

• You can also take advantage of the same types of opportunities online. These days, there are actually plenty of homosexual dating and sex related websites online, all of which can be helpful for meeting potential partners. These sites actually tend to have much higher success rates with leading people to sexual encounters, but it is also possible to find a lasting relationship on these sites as well.  To go a step beyond that, you can even find stuff on sites like adameve.com specifically designed for homosexual couples!

• Finally, the best advice for a homosexual man looking for relationships and sex in today’s society is not to treat yourself any differently from anyone else. Not long ago it was difficult for homosexual couples to feel comfortable in public, or doing certain things that heterosexual couples don’t think twice about. But again, society has progressed to some extent, and it is now far more common to see openly homosexual couples in public and in dating scenarios. Embracing this change can lead to a far more fulfilling relationship, and is something that should definitely be taken advantage of.

You need to manage your expectations and set limits. Know what you are looking for and don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked. It’s going to be a journey, but be sure to relax and enjoy the scenery while you’re searching for the love of your life.

Love is Love

I’m wearing a wristband from the Human Rights Awareness week that says “Love is Love”.   I like this quote because it is basically saying that love is not bound by culture, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or any other thing we humans use to separate one another.   I heard a student say last night that it is human nature to want to categorize and put each other into groups.   I don’t mind being part of a group.  What I do mind is people believing I shouldn’t talk to, be friends with, date, have sex with or marry someone outside of that group.

I don’t really write on my blog about my personal beliefs too often.   This blog is about helping students and anyone else who may read it deal with relationship or sexual issues.   However, in today’s post I want to share my perspective on love and relationships.  I’m of the mind set “live and let live”.   I have my own beliefs about things, but I don’t like to impose those beliefs onto others.  If what you’re doing makes you happy and it isn’t hurting me in any way, then it really isn’t my business.   Some people think as a counselor it is my job to tell people what to do.  It is not.  It is my job to listen to people’s stories and try to understand where they are coming from.  I then try to offer my knowledge on the subject to help a person understand why certain things may be happening in their life.  I may ask questions or offer speculations based on past experience.  It is then up to the person in my office to use that information to make their own decisions about things.  Unless I think someone may hurt themselves or someone else, I usually don’t tell people what to do with their lives.

Like I said, my main job is to listen.  I have heard hundreds of personal stories.  I have been given a gift of being able to put myself inside those stories and feel, in a way, how those people felt.  It has really given me a unique perspective on life.  I feel like I experience a lot of things second hand that I myself may never live through.  Kind of like reading a book or watching a movie.  I can get caught up in someone’s story.  Because of this I feel like I have been in all types of relationships.  I have seen love cross all kinds of lines and cause people do things way outside of their character.  Love is an enormously powerful emotion.  This is why it bothers me when people want to put restrictions on it.  In my mind the only restriction is to protect yourself from someone who is trying to hurt you.  You may still love them, but you don’t deserve to be hurt by someone emotionally, physically or sexually.  That is the only line I draw.

I have watched all different types of couples in love.  Never once have I seen a couple and determined how much they were able to love each other by their skin color, sexual orientation, gender, age, religious faith or cultural background.  If you’re black does that mean you would have the best relationship with another black person?   Maybe, but maybe not.  Maybe you would relate or get along better with someone of a different racial background.  When people say a man loving another man isn’t “right”, I wonder what does that mean?  Right?  When I think of love being “right” I think of it as not being hateful.  My love isn’t “right” if I am being mean to the person.  Or if I’m ignoring their needs.  Or if I’m impatient with them.  Or if I hold a grudge against them.  Those aren’t “right” ways to love someone.

However, saying that two men loving each other isn’t right.  Or that an Asian man can’t love an Irish woman.   Or that there is no way a person could fall in love with both a man or woman (meaning they are bisexual).  Or a Christian shouldn’t love someone Jewish.  Really?  Who am I to make those claims?  I get to choose who I want to love and that is it.  I don’t get to choose for anyone else or define for them what love is.  America is supposed to be the land of the free.  You should be free to love whoever you want.  Why does anyone else care?  I’m not sure how to answer that question.

I do agree that crossing certain boundaries isn’t always the best or right decision for everyone.  It may not be good for you to marry someone outside of your culture or religion.  Your religion or cultural background may be a huge part of your life and you want to share that with the person you marry.  That is great and you should follow through with that decision.  However, don’t think everyone else feels the same way.  You may not “get” how a woman can be attracted to another woman.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t right for those who are.  What may seem strange or different for you, may be normal or good for someone else.  You get to determine what works for you.   I don’t believe you can put a boundary on love for other people, it just doesn’t work that way.

If you don’t understand or are afraid of something, then ask.  Educate yourself.  Listen to someone’s story and really hear what they are saying.  I get that privilege every day.  It has helped me to become a very accepting person.  I know people who write to prisoners who have committed serious crimes and are never getting out of prison.  Yet they fall in love anyway.  I don’t think I could do that, but who am I to think that it can’t or shouldn’t happen to someone else?  Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

My point is to try to be open to possibilities.  Try to accept that love is beyond some boundaries that you may not be comfortable with.  Again, you may not be able to love someone who is very different from you, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen.  Work to be more tolerant and kind to others and accept love in whatever form it may take.  I’ll get off my soapbox now.  Thanks for reading.

Is Being Gay a Choice?

It’s not easy being gay.  In a world where heterosexuality is the norm and homosexuality has often been seen as wrong or disgusting, the LGBT community has worked tirelessly to declare that sexual preference is not a “preference” at all.  There are several studies linking genetics as part of the biological reason some people are born gay.  Some people still want to argue nurture vs. nature, however most of those people are straight.

Lately there has been more debate about this in the public due to the actress Cynthia Nixon, who states there’s more than one way to be gay.   Actress Cynthia Nixon, whom we know as Miranda Hobbes on Sex and the City, has always been a peculiar case study for the LGBT community: she was happily in a relationship with a man for 15 years (they even had two kids together), but she’s been in a relationship with a woman since 2004.  Though her sexual orientation seemed to have made a switch, she has said in the past that she didn’t feel like she was necessarily lying to herself or hiding anything.  “I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman,” she told The Daily Telegraph in 2007.  “But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.”  

Many gay activists call her midlife switch in sexual orientation disingenuous, and Nixon chose to defend her relationship by controversially stating that for her, homosexuality is a choice. She explained to the New York Times Magazine:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.”

Cynthia Nixon also refuses to call herself bisexual.  She genuinely states that she was straight before, but she’s gay now. Political blogger and gay activist John Aravosis called her out on the supposed misnomer of her sexual orientation: “It’s not a ‘choice,’ unless you consider my opting to date a guy with brown hair versus a guy with blonde hair a ‘choice.’ It’s only a choice among flavors I already like.  And if you like both flavors, men and women, you’re bisexual, you’re not gay, so please don’t tell people that you are gay, and that gay people can ‘choose’ their sexual orientation, i.e., will it out of nowhere.  Because they can’t.”

My opinion is that I can’t judge what Cynthia Nixon feels or believes.  All I know it isn’t how other people feel or believe.  Maybe some people are able to choose to be attracted to the same sex after many years of being attracted to the opposite sex.  I’m not sure, Cynthia Nixon is the only one I’ve read about or talked to that claims this.  So, I do think this is very rare.  I do know that until recently a lot of LGBT people felt they needed to hide their sexuality.  A lot of them worked hard to deny certain parts of themselves.  They fell in line with their family or cultural beliefs and got married and started a family.  However, inside they still knew they were living a lie.  Some of those people finally came out and are now in same sex relationships.  They would not define themselves as bisexual or say that they chose to become gay later in life due to stresses in their marriage. They’ve known for a very long time they were gay, and only chose to live their life out as a gay person publicly later in life.

It is true that some people in the LGBT community realized they were gay when they were very young.  Others were ignorant of the fact until they were in their teens or twenties.  This still doesn’t prove it is a choice.  All I know is what people tell me about their experiences.  I don’t know too many gay people who would willingly choose to upset their families, lose friends, give up certain hobbies or sports, be discriminated against, always feeling out new situations and jobs to see how receptive others are to them being gay before coming out publicly.  It isn’t easy.  If you talk to anyone who has been through it, you would know there are a lot of times they wish they could choose to be straight.  Just read Ty’s blog post, If I Had A Choice for confirmation.

If I’m going to believe anyone, I’m going to believe the people who are actually going through the experience of coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  They are the ones who can tell me what they know and what they feel.  I can’t judge for them.  They all tell me they know they were born this way.  I know I didn’t choose to be straight.  I can remember crushes on boys in kindergarten.  I don’t think I really knew why, it just happened that way.  It was most likely stamped in my genetic code.  So why would I think someone who is gay would have a different experience?  They just like to rebel against society?  I don’t think so. 

I hope LGBT people continue to speak up and fight for their rights.  The more people see it and start to become aware and more educated, the less controversial this whole issue will be.  At least that is my hope.  I give them my support and hope I can encourage them in any way I can.  Live and let live.  Love people for who they are, not who they are attracted to sexually, because at the end of the day does that even really matter???

Leave Your Assumptions At The Door

Dating a gay, lesbian or bisexual person comes with the same mistakes that can be made in any dating configuration you can imagine.  However, here are a few unique issues I’ve heard in my office that you should be aware of.  Of course, I’m not speaking for the whole LGBT community, but you may have come across a few of these if you are out there dating.

First, I know a lot of ignorant straight people have assumptions about dating in the LGBT community.  However, I’ve been told that there is also stereotyping within the LGBT community.  If you are out there dating, try to throw those preconceived roles out the door.  I’ve talked to students who feel limited to certain roles because of the way they dress or act.  Just because a student identifies as a butch and their date identifies as a femme or lipstick in no way means the femme should want her date to act like a man.  If she wanted someone who acted like a man she would be dating one.  Also, just because some gay men are very open sexually does not mean all gay men want sex and are open to it on the first date.  Some gay men are looking for life partners and would rather go slowly when first dating someone new.

Just be yourself and don’t try to portray yourself as anything you are not.  Not everyone is going to like the same things you do or be attracted to how you look.  That doesn’t mean you have to compromise or change yourself to get a date or make them happy once you’re on the date.  If you are more conservative than your date, you may have to turn them down when they want to have sex and you aren’t ready for that step yet.  They may think you’re crazy, but not everyone will think that way.  It pays to wait for what you really want, even if it isn’t easy.

My point is, look how you want to look and be happy with your choices, no matter what other people may think about it.  If you want to sport a certain look, go for it.   If you are more feminine, show it off whether you’re gay, lesbian or bi-sexual.  If you love to work out and stay fit, don’t let the stereotypes stop you from being you.  Do what fits you and your lifestyle.  If you feel good about yourself, then you will be more confident when you are out on a date.

I also hear about assumptions being made about bisexual people.  Some people feel they are truly gay or lesbian and just don’t know it yet.  I also hear they are greedy and want to have sex with everyone.  This isn’t always true.  It also isn’t true that just because someone dated or had sex with the opposite sex before they came out that they are truly bisexual.  Get to know the person before you jump to conclusions about their lifestyle.  If you are bisexual, you’re the only one who really know why you do the things you do.  Only you can truly define who you are.  Don’t let others convince you to be something you aren’t just to make them more comfortable.  Eventually, if you want to settle down, you’ll fall in love with a PERSON just like the rest of us.

It is also important when you are dating not to assume because someone looks a certain way that you know everything about them.  Most students tell me they are attracted to a certain type of lesbian or gay man.  They also describe being disappointed when the person they are attracted to doesn’t quite fit into their ideal mold once they get to know them.  The point of dating is to find out what you like and don’t like in a person.  Eventually you fall in love with a whole PERSON, not a label.  You may be surprised when you fall in love with the masculine gym rat when you usually go for the more dramatic flamboyant type of gay man.  Remember, there is a lot underneath the surface!  Someone may look different than your usual “type” but you fall in love with their mind, how they treat you, and you love how you can talk for hours about anything.  Also, don’t always assume that opposites attract.  Sometimes people who are more alike in looks and hobbies find love too.

It’s the same for straight people, no book should be judged by it’s cover.  Keep an open mind.  The fact is that not all LGBT people are going to have the same interests, goals, and views.  Your date may not care in the least what piece of legislation concerning gay rights is currently being fought in congress.  Just because your date looks butch does not mean she has season tickets to the WNBA.    Not every twink sings show tunes.   Be open minded when looking for someone to date and you may find the person you least expected turns out to be your true ideal.

Open Relationships

The concept of an open relationship is hard for my brain to wrap around.  I think to myself, “Why be in a relationship if you want to have sex with other people?”  However, I’ve heard that the concept is more accepted with gay men who are in committed relationships.  So I’ve decided to write a post about it and see it from another person’s perspective.

First, when it comes to sex, men and women are different.  Biologically speaking, men have more testosterone, which makes them more sexually driven than females.  On average, men want to have sex more often than women.  Along with that, men are more visual and are turned on more quickly by visual stimuli than women.  Also, women on average attribute more emotional connections to sex.  I believe studies have been done that prove that gay couples have the most sex, heterosexual couples have an average amount of sex, and lesbian couples have the least amount of sex.  This isn’t black or white and there are exceptions to what I’m saying.  However, on average I believe that is pretty accurate.

After listening to a couple of gay men discuss this issue I can see how an open relationship could work and actually thrive if done right.  Also, when talking to a few lesbian women, it was apparent that an open relationship would not be as welcome.  A couple of lesbian women stated that it would probably cause a lot of drama and jealousy in their relationships.  That leads me to believe that an open relationship may be harder for women than men in general, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.  I’m sure there are women, both heterosexual and lesbian, out there who could tell me they have had successful open relationships.  However, since I haven’t met those women personally, this post will be from the gay male perspective.

So, you may be asking like I did, why would two men in love want to have sex with others outside of their relationship?  I was told that it is possible to have a great connection with someone, to be even be in love with that person and still have the desire to have sex with other attractive men.  Some gay men aren’t ready to completely settle down or make the sacrifice to only have one sexual partner.  However, they’ve found a person they like to be with and spend most of their time with.  Instead of choosing to either sacrifice having a committed relationship or the option of having many sexual partners, some gay couples are choosing to have both at the same time.

The number one factor in making an open relationship work is to be open and honest about it.  Most of the time relationships have problems because of lies, not because of sex.  Each partner needs to be honest with the other one when they decide have sex with someone else.  Both partners also have to be willing to be as safe as possible while having sex outside the relationship.  There is no doubt that you are more at risk for contracting STD’s in an open relationship than a monogamous one.  You have to trust that your partner is taking precautions every time they have sex, and it would be smart to be tested for STD’s as often as possible.

I also asked about the jealousy issue.  I was told there really isn’t one.  From what I understood, an open relationship means sex only.  If the gay couple is out at a club and one of them meets someone they want to have sex with, they tell their partner and then go do what they want.  There isn’t an ongoing relationship with that other person or an emotional tie involved.  Or if the couple is in a long distance relationship they might choose to have sex with other people when they can’t be with each other as long as both partners are in agreement.

This is why my head has a hard time wrapping around this.  I think this has more to do with my personality than the fact that I’m a female, but I only want to have sex when I’m emotionally attached and committed to someone.  I think this is why you have to really know yourself before deciding whether an open relationship would work for you.  Some people are able to separate sex from emotion and therefore not get jealous when their partner is having sex with someone else.  Others may not enjoy or get anything but heartache from being in an open relationship.

Here is the reason why I think this type of relationship works better with gay men.  The relationship is between two men who think more alike when it comes to sex.  They have clear boundaries when it comes to having sex with other men, and are able to keep those boundaries intact by being upfront and honest.  In a heterosexual relationship I think a lot of men would consider the idea of an open relationship.  However, I think there would be some jealousy because they may expect their female partner to become emotionally attached when they have sex with other men.  Even though it isn’t true that all females become emotionally attached during sex, I think the underlying expectation could elicit fear and therefore jealousy in a heterosexual relationship.  The woman in the relationship may also become jealous if they couldn’t handle the number of other women their boyfriend or husband was actually having sex with.  This may be why heterosexual couples keep things casual if they want to have multiple sex partners instead of having an open committed relationship.

If you are gay, you may have the option of being in a committed relationship and having sex with multiple partners.  That doesn’t mean you have to accept this type of lifestyle if you want to be in a relationship as a gay man.  Many gay couples are fully monogamous and happy to make that sacrifice.  If you are heterosexual or lesbian, the option of being in an open relationship is more rare.  It is harder to find someone who will let you have your cake and eat it too.  If you like the idea of having multiple sexual partners, maybe choosing to keep things casual will help keep the drama down to a minimum.  Other people like me, don’t mind making the sacrifice to be with one person.  I actually thrive in a monogamous relationship.  Whatever you decide, stick to your boundaries and keep the communication open and honest.

Coming Out Stories #3

Story #3 is from a former Marine Corps at Texas A&M.  This is his story:

“Semper Fidelis”

I didn’t grow up with much, but values were instilled in me at a young age have been the guiding light for every decision that I have made.  I firmly believe that it is those principles that compelled me to eventually join the Marine Corps.  When I was seventeen, I decided to meet with a recruiter and quite honestly he couldn’t have been more disgusted with me.  I know this, only because he told me.  I was not athletic.  At 5 feet 2 inches I weighed a mere 85 pounds, and was able to complete one complete pull-up.  One.

Despite lacking in athleticism, my recruiter, committed to his efforts to helping me become a good Marine.  He motivated me, called me his “prodigy’, and before long I was in love with the Corps.  I learned about Texas A&M and their Corps of Cadets.  I joined the Corps, was part of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, and was even Commanding Officer of my outfit during my senior year.  To say that I was in love with Texas A&M would be an understatement.  In fact, I never wanted to leave.

As college went on, I became more and more aware of my sexuality.  I talked to a few close friends along the way, but still considered myself “in the closet” as I came to terms with the fact that I may be gay.  This fact played a small part of my decision making when I decided after my junior year that I still wanted to join the Marines.  I had an idea of what “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was, but my aspirations and hard work meant more to me at the time than the struggle of understanding my sexuality.  At twenty years old, like many young adults gay and straight, I just wasn’t sure about who I was.  Years later, I think I am still figuring it out, but the difference now is, I know that I am gay.

After three years of the Corps at A&M, I was in excellent shape and never once faltered.  Even during the 10 mile hikes, with 80 pound packs on my back, I stayed as close to the front as possible.  I was enjoying college, enjoying the Marine Corps and I had no complaints.

However, shortly after, things began to take a turn for the worse.  It started when I went out with some friends to a local bar.    I was around a lot of people, a few who knew I was gay, and some who didn’t.  The fact that I was gay was brought up in conversation and was at first shrugged off.  Some other Marines began heckling and started making inappropriate comments towards me.  It became aggressive.  The days that followed involved me worrying that the Marines at the bar would tell my command chain about my sexual orientation.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” forced me into isolation and into a point in my life where I thought I couldn’t trust anyone.

After a few weeks I reluctantly talked to a Corporal from my unit, and E-4 who I felt comfortable around.  I told him what had happened and consequently told him that I was gay.  He told my Sergeant the story and surprisingly, they calmed me, reassured me and told me it was not a big deal.  To them, the only thing that mattered was that I get to the unit in Waco for the weekend drill.  I did as instructed only to find out that my story had spread and reached my 1st Sergeant and Commanding Officer.  The two Marines I had confided in were asked to write written statements and they complied.  This began a ten month investigation.

When I walked in to my 1st Sergeant’s  office that day the first thing he asked me was, “Are you gay?”  I stood there in what was immediately a hostile environment.  I hesitated, but answered honestly.  He proceeded to tell me that there was no way he could protect my privacy, as he could not stop the “grapevine” and that he would not be responsible for what people within the unit said or did.  When I met with Commanding Officer later the same day he went over everything I had said and told me why I should be getting discharged but said nothing to confirm it.  I was simply told to “hang tight” and wait on what the Battalion Commander would say.

I hoped that the two Marines that I had confided in would be the people that would help protect my privacy.  At that point I did not feel safe and I did not know who else to contact.  I wasn’t out to my family and my pride kept me from telling my friends in college about it.  I was alone, I was depressed.  I waited and waited to see what would happen to my position in the Marines and did not hear anything for months.  Ultimately I contacted a friend from the unit and asked him to find out my status.  He got back to me about a week later and informed me that I was discharged from the Marine Corps in April of 2010.

It took everything I had in me to call home.  My family still didn’t know about my sexuality, and they didn’t know that I had been discharged.  When I finally called, it was a conversation that I hadn’t expected.  Growing up in a devout Catholic household, I didn’t know how my family would take the news.  Once I told them everything that had happened, I started crying and tears were coming from both ends of the phone.  There was no anger or betrayal.  The biggest concern that my family had was that I had to endure the struggle alone.

Since coming out I’ve been very vocal about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, having appeared on MSNBC, CNN and in newspapers and blogs nationally.  I have received a lot of feedback, especially from  people at A&M.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been positive.  Several said that I should keep my mouth shut and that I should have kept my mouth shut in the first place.  There were many times when I wondered if I had done the right thing.

Many will say that I have lived through a series of unfortunate events.  I won’t deny that statement, but I choose to look at it differently.  I am in my position because I decided not to compromise my integrity; because I chose to stand up instead of turn a blind eye; because I chose to say something instead of shutting up like many urged me to do.  I didn’t think I had it in me to do those things, but I can say I am a better man because of it.  I’m still growing, still learning, like everyone else, but for once I know this:  I will never again be silent, I will never back down and I will not waste any more time hiding who I am.

I am a gay man, and I couldn’t be prouder.