Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Sleeping Satyr in Munich

I've posted the photo of the Sleeping Satyr in the Munich Glyptotheck, a.k.a. the Barberini Faun, not only because it's very beautiful and one of my favorite statues. The satyr, although sleeping, has a good deal to tell us.

The statue is a Hellenistic work of about the III century b.c.e., or a Roman copy of a few hundred years later. It lives in Munich, but has a near twin in the Louvre in Paris. It is one of the oldest examples, and argueably the most beautiful, of homoerotic art we have. Its homoeroticism, frankly, can't be denied. It has also be the object of wonder and admiration, however, not only of gays, but also of straights, men, women, and even grandmothers. (What's the satyr doing right that we're not doing, guys?)

In fact, if the satyr is being slighted by any segment of the public, its the gay community. The gay sculptural icon of choice is undoubtedly Michelangelo's David, whose plaster copy appears in almost every non- leather gay bar or bath in the western world. The Barberini Faun is practically unknown in the gay community except for people specifically interested in ancient art. Why is, in fact, this major monument of homoerotic art largely ignored by the gay community? Why, in fact, has the gay community preferred the David, which, while undoubtedly very beautiful, is also clearly not nearly as sexually overt and homoerotic as the faun?

I would submit that the Sleeping Satyr, although it expressed the values and tastes to which many of us gay men aspire, is still expressive of a world that is, unfortunately, quite alien to us. It was a world that was much more comfortable with male/ male sexual and emotional relationships than we are even in the liberated XXI century. Emperors, such as Alexander and Hadrian were openly in love with, and sexually enjoyed, men. Statues such as the Sleeping Satyr probably originally adorned public baths, where homoerotic feelings were clearly but discretely expressed.

The Greco- Roman world was not just more accepting of male/ male sexual attraction; it had a more comfortable attitude toward the body in general. Roman patricians had sculptural portraits made of themselves that eternalized them with their pimples and paunches. There was a deep acceptance of, and even joy in the physical nature of being. This comfort with the body is something that we seem to have lost, perhaps irretrivably, with the dominance of monotheism and transcendental religion in the western world. (The East Asians don't seem ever to have had it, either--- for their own reasons. The frank sensuality of much of Indian art, however, seems to suggest other possibilities. Native tendencies or Hellenistic influence?)

It's not hard to see how the David is much more attened to our modern, much more limited and, frankly, repressed sensibilities. In comparason to the Sleeping Satyr, the David is much tamer, almost abstract. It is more the idea of a beautiful man than an attempt to replicate one in stone. I have never wanted to touch Michaelangelo's statue; in Munich, with the satyr, I have to restrain myself from breaking museum rules and setting off alarms.

Well, one could object, how about that other gay art icon, Caravaggio? His boys and men are delicious and quite clearly sexy. I would counter that in Caravaggio there is always a hint of prurience, something just a bit kinky. Unlike the faun, who exists in a world relatively comfortable with its sexuality and attitudes towards the physical aspects of human existence, Caravaggio actually exploits our discomfort with these issues. Caravaggio does not counter, but rather actually proves my point.

Perhaps the closest we come to the comfort with sexuality conveyed by the faun is the artist who did the restorations on the statue, Bernini. Bernini was, as far as I know, 100% hetero, and his work has very little, if any, homoerotic content. But we can't discuss the topic of art and sensuality without mentioning the artist who gave us what is most likely the world's first (an perhaps still the best) representation of orgasm, "The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa." But although Bernini lacks the sense of outrageousness and prurience we sense in Caravaggio, sensuality for him is still something exceptional and extraordinary, even miraculous, something quite divorced from our everyday experience. The faun is presented to us as something we could reasonably expect to find (if we are lucky and believe in Greco- Roman mythology) while walking through the woods. Not even the most dedicated Catholic could expect to happen upon St. Theresa levitating in her cell. Her orgasm isn't something for all of us; it is a miracle.

So, we are left with our faun, in his comfortable, sensual, harmonious maleness. Sadly, we probably can't really approach his ease in what he is, despite gay liberation and the sexual revolution. But he does set some very worthwile goals and objectives. And just maybe, like the faun, we would be looked upon by other segments of society with wonder and delight, if we were more comfortable in our own skins.
Why "Not so different"

I called the blog "Not so different" because I would like, among other things, to discuss with other gay men not only the things that separate us from the straight community, but also aspects of gay life and sexuality that are really not all that different from what straight people experience. Every gay man who has not totally cut himself off from the straight community, who has straight friends or is still close to straight relatives knows that many of his feelings and experiences with sexual attraction, relationships, and sexually related social interaction are not all that different from what straight people experience.

This does not have anything to do with accomodating our behavior or attitudes to win acceptance with straights. It's more about combatting that needless feeling of isolation and alienation we sometimes feel as gays. We, of course, have pleanty of reason to feel isolated and alienated, and, of course, it is useless and even self deceptive to deny that be have very important differences with straights. Perhaps, however, it is also productive to examine what we all have in common.

"Not do different" also refers to alleged differences within the gay community itself. Especially among somewhat socially conservative or "straight acting" gay guys (like me, I think), there is a certain discomfort with the more flamboyant of our brothers. (I am still, unfortunately, not free of this). We are the "real men," and they are the "nellies and screaming queens."But we supposedly "real men" should be aware that it is primarily the more flamboyant of our brothers who had the courage to go out on the streets and demand our rights. If I and my partner can be "out" both socially and professionally, it is largely due to the sacrifices and courage of those guys who we still might not have the guts to bring home to mother. It's important too that we see that we're not so different from each other.

Friday, August 11, 2006

On My Own---

When I first started blogging, I published exclusively on a group authored blog and neglected publishing on my own blog site. I now understand that I would feel more "at home" on my own blog, publishing here and perhaps copying occasional messages to the group site. I have therefore copied some of the blogs I published on the group site, along with the unedited comments they received there, to this site.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The "M" word, continued

Despite the only modest response to my last blog on monogamy (or perhaps because of it), I'd like to offer up a few more ideas on the subject.

One of the obvious difficulties in maintaining a monogamous gay relationship I didn't mention in my last blog is that the gay community seems to lend very little support to this type of relationship. While I don't believe that straights are any more naturally monogamous than gays, the straight community has clearly set monogamy as the norm in their world, and any deviation incurs strong social opprobrium. The gay community, however, is much less defined in this respect; it does not immediately sympathize with the "wronged" partner. The immediate reaction in the gay community may been "Oh, they must be in an 'open' relationship." or even "What in the hell did he (the wronged partner) expect. After all, Così fan tutti."

Perhaps one of the reasons I felt compelled to write about gay monogamy at all was that I feel a tacit accusation of priggishness or prudishness from many gay contacts concerning our monogamous relationship. I haven't failed to register the glee with which infidelities involving supposedly monogamous relationships are reported in gay circles. Although gays are in this respect little different from straights--- gossip is universally attractive!--- the context and repercussions are different. In the straight world reporting the infidelity to the injured party is generally considered in very bad taste and almost always puts the reporter's motivations into question. In gay circles, such tattle tailing is rampant, and seems to be done to be almost an act of vengeance, as if to say, "Hey guys, you're really no better than all us whores out here! So, dump your pretense of monogamy!" When straights cheat, the wronged partener most often finds out because he actually discovers the infidelity himself; it's rare that someone dares to tell him/ her. If I were to cheat on my partner, it is highly likely that he would find out not by catching me and my paramour in flagrantio, but rather through a "helpful" phone call from one of our gay "friends."

Ironically, as I just intimated, this conspiratorial atmosphere exists not so much because most gay guys have anything really against monogamy itself; it's really because, contrary to what we claim, we really feel guilty about sexual promiscuity. If those of us in open relationships or singles who are promiscuous really felt confortable with their own code of sexual conduct, those slips by those of us trying to be monogamous would attract much less notice and would be handled differently, perhaps more constructively.

Because we get only, at best, weak support from the gay community, it is probably wise for monogamous couples to be more tolerant concerning infidelities than is generally the case in the straight community. (Please understand: I have no intension of cheating on my partner, and I have full trust in his loyalty, sexual and otherwise, to me.) Gay male sex is so generally available, especially in cities. Moreover, because of the lack of support for monogamy, a lot of single and semi- single guys would have no scruples about a roll in the hay with a "married" guy. So, things can, of course, happen. (I have to admit, when I was single and horny, I never quizzed a guy on his domestic status before dropping my pants, not did anyone ever ask me. These questions generally came afterward, if one of us was interested in developing a relationship. I can't even truthfully say that, before being involved in my own monogamous relationship, knowing that a guy was "married" would have stopped me from what I saw as a bit of innocent carnal enjoyment.--- Maybe there were, in fact, such incidents. I can't really remember.)

So, guys, if one of your "friends" tells you he saw your one and only in the bushes with a guy from the basketball team, at least until you know that it is really habitual and relationship threatening, just assume they were there hunting for mushrooms.

posted by Bruce at 9:01 AM

Rey said...

While I seem to agree with most of the points from your last post, there are some points where we disagree.

I don't believe that monogamy is something to be achieved as a goal, it is neither good nor bad (at least from the moral point of view, you could argue about STD, etc.). It is not something that should require external support from a community. I don't think there are real absolutes about anything, but either one is mostly monogamous or not; and whatever you are, is always subject to change depending on the nature of your partnership, and/or situation.

In my opinion the concept of monogamy was created a means to protect the nuclear family from harm (e.g.: disease, rape, etc). Monogamy has helped society to flourish because in the old days, strange things happened to promiscuous people (e.g.: they got STD for which there was no cure). Many religious practices (like the kosher practice of not mixing utensils for different foods), likely originated out of a practical need: to prevent diseases like salmonella from spreading. I believe the practice of monogamy is not different.

Nowadays, being monogamous can have many advantages, especially for those who fail to understand how a few minutes of pleasure can give you a lifetime disease. But armed with the right information about STD transmission, and being opened to your partner about your desires to do a, b and c, non-monogamy is a perfectly normal lifestyle. In fact, I believe that non-monogamy is a more natural behavior that monogamy; what is not natural is the secrecy that surrounds it.

Regarding reporting someone's infidelity to the wronged partner, I don't have any information that would allow me to compare straight from gay society regarding this issue; but I must say that the idea of reporting someone's infidelity does not necessarily equates with malice. Not reporting something to a friend that you know would hurt them can be just as malicious or cowardly. I think that you need to look at a particular case and use your best judgment. Probably in most cases it is best to butt out of other’s infidelity issues, but in some cases not saying something can cause more harm than keeping quiet.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 4:10:58 PM

john said...

I think anyone who commits themselves into a relationship, should try to remain faithful. Monogamy should be a part of anyone's life, especially those who take that step towards commitment.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 5:28:18 PM

Bruce said...

First, thank you both, Rey and John, for responding to my post. It's nice to know that someone's out there....

Rey- I don't think we're as far apart on our concepts of monogamy as you imply. I really believe that monogamous relationships are no more moral or in any other way better than "open" relationships or promiscuity. I am monogamous because I consider all of our acts, including sex, meaningful--- nothing is gratuitous---. Sex, for me, then, is automatically and by definition intimate. Hence, I have little choice but to be monogamous. People who view reality differently can and will come out with different, equally valid conclusions on this matter.

As for what is "natural," I really don't know. Some animals are monogamous, some live in polygamous groupings (males are promiscuous within the group; females all "belong" to the same male. Some are fully promiscuous. But does it really matter what is natural? Civilization is essentially a modifying and rechanneling of what is "natural." Is being homosexual "natural" or a modification developed in societies to deal with overpopulation? I think reasoning from what one considers "natural" can sometimes get you into trouble.

Also, to what extent is the role that monogamy played in primitive societies really relevant? Social norms change from place to place and time to time. Large segments of mankind were, at one time or another, polygamous. So, reasoning from an hypothesis as to the origins of an institution may not tell us much.

Also, STDs were hardly a problem outside of the Americas before 1500. The only form of STD before that time in Europe, Africa and Asia was gonorrehea, which would leave the victim sterile, but would not kill him. The first deadly STD, syphelis, is a gift of the New World to global culture. So, it's highly unlikely they were the reason for the development of monogamy. Most likely, it had to do with the protection of children and women and to assure the men that the kids they were protecting were actually theirs.

As for the need for support in monogamous relationships, in general, you're right. If you're monogamous, your're monogamous regardless of what people think. But everyone at times finds himself in a situation in which he is tempted to violate his own principles. A straight is discouraged from cheating because he knows that he will get no sympathy for his social circle. A gay guy will frequently find his fellows egging him on.

As for letting the injured party know about infidelities, I was really discussing not what is right or wrong in such circumstances--- of course there are times when telling is helpful and necessary--- I was just discussing motivations and attitudes among straights and gays.

John--- I am in no way advocating infidelity in monogamous relationships. But a little tolerance and understanding helps. We are all made of flesh and blood and live in a complex world with many pressures.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 8:27:24 PM
Monday, August 07, 2006
The "M" word

That's right, guys, the "M" word is MONOGAMY. Since I've tossed this term around in describing my and my partner's relationship, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, I had better devote a blog to clarifying the situation.

First and foremost, my partner and I are not monogamous out of any ethical, moral, social, or political conviction. We certainly are not monogamous à la Andy Sullivan, modifying our behaviour to win friends and influence people among the straights. Monogamy is right for us and how we define our relationship and our attitudes towards and expectations from sex. It is not necessarily right for everyone, and "open" relationships are certainly no less valid than ours. Some of our best and most respected friends are in "open" relationships or even "happy whores." We are, in fact, the exception; most of our gay friends are in one way or another non- monogamous.

One could, then, justifiably ask why we chose apparently to limit ourselves in this way. First and foremost, it has to do with the worldview that everything we do, even the most apparently insignificant act, has some meaning in terms of our definition of ourselves as a person. Once you accept this premise, you have to admit that sex is a pretty intimate and self- revealing act. I don't want a stranger, or even a friend, to see me in a rapture of sexually induced ecstasy, nor can I see having my face in someone's crotch as anything but something pretty intimate (When one is single, it's a different situation. Revealing oneself this way to a potential partner is a way of opening oneself to him, and potentially, to a new relationship.) In short, seen this way, sex becomes inextricably tied up with trust and intimacy.

One could, of course, object that we don't really need to load sex down with all this psychological baggage. Why not just screw and have fun? If you can successfully divorce actions from meaning, why not, in fact? Of course I am suggesting that doing so is somewhat superficial; but no one's life is fully examined. Everyone has areas of superficiality; life would be unbearable if we didn't. There is really nothing wrong in letting one's sex life float along the surface. You can save profundity for other aspects of your life. That is, of course, if you can carry it off.

But to me, psychologically charged sex expressing intense intimacy is simply much sexier than an anonymous, purely physical roll in the hay, especially in the long run. I'll just come right out and say that to me, depersonalized sex becomes, after a short while, quite boring. There have been times in my life when I have found myself engaging primarily in this type of sex; it was great fun for a while --- the sharp, erotic surge that sometimes comes with touching a new man's body for the first time is, without a doubt, wildly exciting--- but at least for me, it doesn't last. It quickly becomes the sexual equivalent of junk food (apologies to McDonald's addicts). To be sure, however, life would be much easier if I could maintain that level of wild excitement with serial partners, but I can't.

I am, therefore, monogamous simply because I don't have much choice. To me, nothing can compare in excitement to exploring new and different aspects of intimacy with a man I know, care about, and trust. Such intense intimacy can, of course, be frightening at times, and produce a distancing defense reaction. But with time, you begin to recognize these momentary periods of pulling back for what they are, and they become, then, less disturbing.

This is not at all to say that I am not attracted to men other than my partner; I would be very upset if I weren't. Likewise, I know and expect that my partner is attracted to other men, too. This simply proves that our hormones and erotic senses are functioning properly. We understand, however, that picking these fruits of passion would have a certain price. I am quite certain that my partner and I are still, after almost 10 years, deeply attracted sexually to each other because we don't disperse our sexual energy with other people. Most "open" couples that I know eventually stop having sex with each other. Also, that sharp, sexual surge that you get from a new male body can be pretty heady stuff, and if you're the type that automatically associates sex with intimacy and meaning, the price of picking such an apple can be pretty high for your relationship. Life is full of beautiful things. You don't have to possess them to enjoy them.

The most difficult aspect of being monogamous, however, is not renouncing the apparently willing young man with spectacular abs I saw at the beach the other day. It's the difficulty in making gay friends. There's an old joke whose punch line involves a lady telling her social climbing lover, "Sexual intercourse is not an introduction to Philadelphia society." Unfortunately, however, the opposite seems frequently to be the case with gay society. A lot of our friendships seem to form after we've tricked with someone a couple of times. Perhaps there's the desire to eliminate the sexual tension--- get the sex over with--- before we allow a friendship bond to develop. We tend to form friendships with people we find attractive, one way or another, and in order to let the friendship develop, it is necessary to dissipate the potential erotic content of the relationship.

In the straight world, friendships between single men and women are rare, and friendships between married couples tend to break off into friendships between the husbands and friendships between the wives (unless, of course, there is some hanky- panky going on). Friendship between people who are potential sexual partners is, in fact rare. As gay men, we are all potential sexual partners of each other, and we seem to handle this problem by fucking first first and shaking hands later, after it's clear that the sexual danger is over. This makes it rough for guys in monogamous relationships.

Giving monogamy ethical or moral significance, especially in a gay context, is foolish. Lying, cheating, and other forms of deception in a relationship are, of course, morally reprehensible, but once we discount producing babies as the moral justification for sex, there is no ethical discinction between a monogamous and an "open" relationship, or even outright promiscuity. If sex becomes morally neutral, then it makes no sense to dictate moral terms for its context. So, guys, there no reason you shouldn't do what's best for you.

Previous from Bruce

posted by Bruce at 5:06 AM

Robguy said...

That must be why I don't have any gay friends. :p I haven't had sex with any of my friends. Seriously though, it would seem that most of my gay friends are either in relationships of their own or on-line friends.

Monday, August 07, 2006 3:58:28 PM

charlie said...

I have have Gay friends. I have not had sex with them. I have had 2 of them ask me to engague in sex with them. I told them no because I said that it would change our friendship. At the time I am not sure that they understood what I meant but after a while they both thanked me for saying no. They soon realizided that our friendship would not be just a friendship. I like them and they like me as feiends and not partners or lovers. We confinde in each other the most intimate details of our lives. I do not think that we could do this is it were more than friendship. Sometimes I think that people fall in "sex" and think it is love at the time, but later on when the sex wears off then they realize that is all they had. To me a Good friend is far more importnt then sex. Of course, I DO LOKE sex. :-) Very Good psting and oh so true.


Monday, August 07, 2006 11:24:12 PM

Rey said...

Great post.

I often thought about this topic and wonder if I was from another planet or something. I tend to find myself with a similar dilemma. I've been in a monogamous relationship with my partner for seventeen years, and everything is great, but often we (more I than him) feel isolated from the rest. We go out a lot, but we find that unless there is something sexual do, we don't have much success connecting with other gay people. I sometimes even get the feeling that some people dislike us just because we are a couple (e.g.: "look at those two, don't they ever get sick of one another?"). No, I've never heard anyone say this about us, but I've heard it said about other couples; but I do sense some attitudes. Perhaps is the idea that we have such a close relationship that you can't tell one of us something without the other one finding out? Is because people soon after meeting us realize that there are no secrets between us, and therefore you can't take one without the other?

And like you, my concept of monogamy is not tied to a moral or ethical concept, but to a feeling that sex is more than an ejaculation. Also, my concept of monogamy is different than that of others, in that I don't view an occasional sex encounter with others, with both partners present, as not being monogamous.

I think some/many people think of sex as being something of value, like money or food, and therefore 'one' must take as much of it as 'one' can. It is similar to a behavior observed with people that would eat a lot because it's all you can eat, or get drunk because there's free booze. Like food or drink, you can't accumulate sex satisfaction by doing as much of it as you can regardless of whether you want to or not. I also think that many seek sex for the sake of satisfying an ego need. Nothing wrong with giving into one's ego requests on occasion, but too much energy spent on feeding one's ego is recipe for unhappiness (the ego always wants more).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against having sex outside of a relationship, I'm just saying that sex outside of a relationship is not worth it unless there is more involved than a mere shot of cream. So monogamy is preferable than the endless pursuit of sex with others instead of nurturing your own relationship. I love sex just like the Joe next door, and perhaps more. I always fantasize about sex with the guy on the train or bus or with several of them at the same time. I know if I tried, I could easily have sex as often as I wanted, but knowing me, I would not feel satisfied ninety percent of the time.

Those are my two cents, and it's good to know that I'm not from outer space.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 11:57:21 AM
Sunday, August 06, 2006
On coming out

In my last blog I made a point about being out to family, friends, and colleagues at work. I just want to make clear, however, that my coming out was no act of courage on my part; I was pushed out of the closet by the fickle finger of fate. In 1994 my then partner, who has since passed away, contracted a devastating form of lymphoma, and suddenly all my efforts outside of work were dedicated to seeing him through his illness. We had no time or energy to stay in the closet; frankly, we had much more important things to worry about.

Within a few weeks of his becoming ill, my gayness was right out there for the world to see. And lo and behold, it made almost no difference at all. My sister and brother in law were no problem, and even my then 77 year old mother took all of three weeks to get used to the idea. I lost no straight friends, and my relationship with colleagues and business associates was completely unchanged. I remember having thought back to the early 1960s, when even at one of the most liberal and progressive colleges in the US, being caught in an homosexual situation would have resulted in immediate expulsion and therefore, with little exaggeration, a seriously damaged life. Despite all we still have to do in terms of tolerance and acceptance, we have really accomplished a great deal, guys.

Unfortunately, however, I can't advocate breaking down the closet doors for everyone. I'm fully aware that my situation was in certain respects quite privileged:

1) I was director of my office, highly respected in my field, and therefore very useful to business associates and colleagues. Cutting me because I am gay would have been quite self destructive on their part. At that point I was also sufficiently financially established to afford even losing my job, if need be.

2) I was able emotionally to carry the idea across to my mother that either she accept my being gay or she would lose me as a son. I never actually said anything so brutal to her, but she knew that I was perfectly capable of walking out of our relationship if she gave me any trouble in this regard. I learned later that several of her friends who know me, and my sister, had told her the same thing, even quite directly.

3) Although I had never previously said I was gay, I had long since given up playing straight by dating women or saying things to imply that I was straight. So, my friends and colleagues didn't feel deceived when the truth came out.

4) It may be objected that my friends remained with me because it's pretty hard to cut a guy who is devoting a good part of his life to caring for his dying partner. But that isn't really fair to my friends, who have continued our friendship after my partner's death and are still friends with me and my new partner today. I just was pretty good at choosing friends.

So, coming out isn't always for everyone. But guys, it really is a lot easier to breathe outside of the closet.

posted by Bruce at 6:23 PM

The_Gay_Dude said...

I would never dream of going back into the closet....once ya cross that barrier....whether things are tougher or easier for ya doesn't matter....cuz how ya feel what counts.....

Monday, August 07, 2006 12:58:08 AM

charlie said...

Bruce Sorry to hear about your partner. It is hard to find a posituve side to things at times but I thik that you having your Gay Freedom is positive. You will never forget your partner I know but if it were not for him you may still be in the closet hiding the real you.

God Bless,

So osrry to hear aout your partner, even though it seems like the rest of coming out was a breeze!

My first partner Robbie died of leukemia just two years after we began dating, and even though I wasn't out at the time, my family knew there was something wrong...

My coming out was also by default when finally shared with one of my sisters what I was going through, and she proceeded to tell everyone else...

You have the opportunity now to make a real positve difference in the lives of those you love because of this horrible tragedy... And, from the sounds of your post, you do!


Monday, August 07, 2006 12:35:37 PM
Sunday, August 06, 2006
My first blog. Why am I doing this?

Although I have commented on other people's blogs, this is the first blog of my own. Why am I doing this? I'm in a happy, long term monogamous partnership with an intelligent man with whom I can discuss almost anything. The degree of communication between us is, in fact, one of the most sexy aspects of our relationship, not that he isn't quite stimulating in other, perhaps more conventional ways. So, I very fortunately don't need a blog to "open my heart."

So, why blog, then? Although my partner and I are "out" to our families, friends, and at work, and prehaps just because we are so "out," the large majority of our social circle is straight. We have a few good gay friends, but their situation is so different from ours that discussions with them on many aspects of gay life have prooven unfruitful.

We hesitate to discuss gay issues with our straight friends since we do not want to overemphasize this aspect of our lives with them; we want just to be their friends, and not their "gay friends." They generally don't approach us on gay issues, and we don't bring them up with them. There's no taboo on this issue. If a gay topic does come up, we can discuss it with them comfortably. We want, however, to avoid restricting our friendship to our being our straight friends' window on the gay community or a source they would consult to get the gay perspective.

This danger exists, of course, with membership in any social minority. I'm Jewish, and, in fact, quite active in the Jewish community ( hence, with few, if any hang ups in this respect), but I do, in fact, resent people's considering me their "Jewish friend." I have, in fact, dropped relationships with people who have frequently steered the conversation towards this aspect of my being. They don't appear to be in any way antisemitic, in fact, they are generally, if anything, apparently philosemitic; but why can't they accept me just as a man, and go read a book on Jewish issues? If I were black, I would sorely resent indications of friends' emphasizing my race in my relationship with them. So it is with being gay.

In short, despite the high degree of communication I and my partner have with each other, and despite the easy social acceptance we enjoy among friends and colleagues, we suffer nevertheless from a ceratin degree of isolation beyond that which is the case with the human condition. Maybe blogging will help.

posted by Bruce at 2:49 AM

The_Gay_Dude said...

Welcome Bruce.....and I think that you'll find that blogging helps a lot! Can't wait to hear more from you :)

Sunday, August 06, 2006 11:41:51 AM

charlie said...

Welcome Bruce. Bruce is such a Gay name. :-)
I can relate to what u are saying. I am out to my family amd my friends. Most of my friends are also str8. Being a Nurse I am not out to my coworkers or clients because I do not want it to affect m work enviornment. I have a couple of really close Gay friends that I can say anything to but it is not the same with str8 friends. They are accepting and nonjudgmental but I do not think that they really understand what being Gay is. So, this is a perfect venue for someone like you. I am sure that u will have a Great time.


Sunday, August 06, 2006 1:23:00 PM

Robguy said...

Cool! Now I have a gay Jewish friend! Oh wait, already had those...

Welcome to the blog anyway ;)

Sunday, August 06, 2006 7:26:18 PM

Rey said...

Jesus! (Can I say this?)

Several different thoughts crossed my mind after reading this interesting post.

I'm also out at work and family (finally after all these years). But one of the women at work has managed to irritate me by making certain gestures about my gayness to the point where I want to punch her in the face. The irony is that this coworker is the one person I use to regard with the highest esteem, to the point I even consider her a potential great friend. But because or her little gestures, my respect for her have dropped down to near zero. I may be gay, but I have no interest in playing with makeup, or women's clothes, or being a beauty expert. It simply is not my thing, just like playing basketball, or football are not among my favorites activities. It has nothing to do with wanting to appear masculine. But it irritates me so much when someone starts making funny gestures at me, especially in front of others, in an attempt to push me into a stereotype. Whenever the ladies in the office are talking about something womanly, like how great someone's dress or hair look, this person would look at me with a smirk on her face, and while batting her eyelashes she would make some little silly comment like "what do you think, Rey, should she change her hair style/color?". The first time or two, I even joined the joke thinking to myself, oh Rey, kidding about yourself being into womanly stuff will not diminish you as a person in any way. But what I found out is that when you play into these stereotypes, you are indeed being diminished. Even if I was interested in women's fashions, playing into the stereotype is very damaging, if you are not careful who you play with. This is the same stuff that blacks, Jews, etc. have to live with on a daily basis, and people don't realize how obnoxious they are when they behave this way, even if their intensions are not malicious. I don't want you to think that I am this person who gets easily offended with the tiniest of inappropriate comments. I have a very high tolerance for inappropriate use of language, and I am even guilty of stereotyping every one at one time or another (like the very first line of this post). But there is a difference between an occasional joke (right place, time, and person), and a constant bombardment of innuendo towards a person.

Another thing I can relate with is the isolation I feel with the rest of the gay community because I am in a stable relationship (I think). Every connection I make with others, being single people or even couples seem to have some agenda besides just doing things that every one enjoys. If it's not sex, it's money, or property in the Hamptons, or "what you can do for me". Part of this isolation is probably my own fault for not being willing to let my guard down so that people have an opportunity to get to know me, but my being so guarded all the time is probably due to having been exposed to so much disappointment in the process of forming genuine relationships as friends.

As a gay person, I don't feel comfortable living in a ghetto. Everything in my life doesn't have to be about being gay, but I do feel a very strong need to associate with gay people without having everything in my life become gay. I don't want to adopt interests, change where I live, or adopt a certain behavior just to be able to fit in, nor do I want others to change their way for me.

PS: I like thig blog.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 1:03:23 PM

Bruce said...

Rey-- Thanks very much for your thoughtful response to my post. You and I seem to be very much in the same place on these issues. It's really very difficult to know what to do, or even how to feel in reference to our relationship to straight people.

In another post, I talked about coming out, and how I didn't lose any friends or respect among colleagues or business associates. But I am also convinced that it was so because i was in a position of power in my professional life. No one in my office would have dared to pull what your colleague is pulling with you.

I don't know if you're in a political or emotional position to do so, but I would let her know that she is stereotyping you in a rather degrading way, and that you find it offensive. If she is doing it unconsciously, and, at least on the conscious level, means no offense, she will apologize and stop, and the friendship may be saved. If she really is a homophobe, she will probably try to deflect or trivialize your objections, and you will lose a friendship that wasn't really based on anything sound, anyway.

Of course, Rey, I repeat, I don't know your political position. If she is, in fact, a homophobe, she will probably feel very uncomfortable with you. That's not really your problem unless, of course, she's in a position to interfere with your work or standing in the company. If that's the case, you may have to find another coping strategy. Many non profits have a rather positive policy towards gays people by now, and you may want to have a talk with your human resources officer if your colleague continues to give you trouble.

But all this is only a part of our larger problem, how we relate to the straight world and, frankly, how much we can trust straights. You, like me, don't want your sexual orientation to dominate your life. I think the one thing one can do is to consider only how straight people treat you and how they treat other gay men. If you worry too much about what they feel about you as a gay man in their heart of hearts, you'll go crazy. Of course, this brings us back to our starting point: You can't really discuss personal gay issues and feelings with them. That requires a level of trust which we find it hard to muster up.

So, in order to vent these ideas and feelings, we are left with the gay community. I've contributed two posts now on gay monogamy, and as you can see, I've had exactly the same problem with the gay community on this matter as you have. That almost no one has responded to these posts, even to oppose them, is quite indicative.

Rey, we seem to be quite together on these issues that are very important to us. I look forward to discussing these matters with you further. I have my own blog, outside the GMR site, but I don't use it. So just attach a comment to any to the posts I have left on GMR.

All the best.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 2:48:44 PM