Come out.

11 10 2007

Come out!
As you probably know, today is National Coming Out Day.

I’m 41 years old, and I first came out over 20 years ago. I say “first,” because uncloseted gay people are continually coming out. When you meet someone new and likeable, you come out. When you get a new colleague at work, you come out. When your great-aunt Mathilde calls you for the first time in 25 years because there’s a woman she really wants you to meet, you come out again. So, yeah, coming out is a process, and, in some ways, it’s a neverending one. When, in 40 years or so, it’s time for me to enter a retirement community, I’m sure I’ll be coming out again and again.

It’s good to remember, too, that it’s sometimes perfectly ok not to come out. If you’re financially dependent on your fundamentalist parents, this is probably not the right time to come out. If your boss is a homophobic jerk, today may not be the day to come out on the job. You get to decide when, and whether, it’s safe to come out. Although I came out to most people 20 years ago, there were some people who just weren’t ready for the information. So I used my best judgment, telling people when they and I were ready. It worked for me.

I’ve rarely regretted coming out to someone. It’s such a relief not to have to live a lie. Or to feel like you have to segregate important parts of your life from the important people in your life. After you come out to enough people—i.e., when you reach a critical mass—you just don’t have to worry about it much anymore. Suddenly, you realize that your great-aunt Em has called because there’s a man she really wants you to meet. Suddenly, you realize that your own life has been honestly and openly embedded within the lives of your friends and family. That’s a relief.

So if you’re ready and able to do so, come out. It’s a good idea.

Come out, too, if you’re straight but gay-friendly. That helps makes our lives better. Having allies is always good.

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The Ozarks

30 09 2007

Dulcimer
As my last post indicated, I’m back in Philly after spending the week with family. After flying into Oklahoma, I spent much of the week with my parents and sister in a condo in the Missouri Ozarks.

Does that sound bad? Well, it was definitely a little bit bad. I didn’t entirely enjoy chaperoning my elderly parents as they (and I!) attended my dad’s Navy reunion. For one thing, the reunion’s organizers tapped the nearby talent pool in Branson for several courses of uplifting, patriotic music. Now, I’m as patriotic as the next guy, probably more so, but how many Tributes to the States can a guy be expected to endure in a week? I sat through three. (There are only a couple of really good state songs, one of them being “Oklahoma!,” of course, and I heard it every time.) That’s at least two too many.

My Dad is a WWII veteran, and—as you can imagine—he and his shipmates are showing some age. Traveling each day on a tour bus with all those bad knees and walkers tested my patience at times. That said, most of the guys were pretty cool. I could pretty much imagine them as 18- and 19-year-olds on a ship in the Pacific. (And that was before my dad told a sexually explicit joke to all the guys and their wives and families on the bus.) I adopted a new family, too, a sweet vet from Oregon and his lady-friend, and I just generally played the good son. So it wasn’t all bad, and it was certainly nice to be able to spend some time with my parents and sister (who, unfairly, didn’t have to attend the reunion events with her brother).

It’s so beautiful in the Ozarks. When I was a kid, we used to spend some of our vacation time in the area (frequently at my sister’s condo). I loved Silver Dollar City, the area lakes, the country music (but only the good stuff), and the pine trees. In fact, I can imagine renting a cabin there for a vacation now. But, then, all the local entertainers feel like they have to pander to the most conservative, most religious elements in the audience. That’s how one guy ends up in three Tributes to the States in a week…. Ugh.

What the Ozarks need—actually, what Branson needs—is a Queer touch. It needs a little more “Harper Valley PTA” and fewer Lee Greenwood wannabes. It needs a little more upscale food and a little less, um, fudge and pecan logs. More galleries, fewer buildings shaped like the Titanic. More bed-and-breakfasts, fewer cheap motels. My people can help, I’m telling you.

And, for that matter, I’m sure there a lots of gay people in Branson already. Several of the entertainers who performed for my dad’s reunion, well, set off my gaydar. But Gay Branson is just too subterranean (in the closet?) to be palpable, it seems. If there were some organized gay tourism in Branson, some good things would follow. Unfortunately, until there’s a little bit more going for it as a gay vacation spot, the bland magic shows and bad flea markets are going to win.

Maybe I should start my own tour company…. Any investors out there?





Blog Day 2007

31 08 2007

Blog Day 2007

In honor of Blog Day 2007, I recommend these five blogs:

1.) The Atheocracy — I’ve just started reading this blog written by Jeffrey W. Haws, an “an irreverent journalist, atheist, political junkie, golfer, outdoors lover, sports fan, beer drinker and movie/music snob, along with many other things.” Yup, The Atheocracy is as spunky as that sounds. Plus, I’m a fan of anyone who thinks Big Thoughts™ about sports, beer, and non-theism. This recent post, which compares coming out as an atheist with coming out as gay, will give you a sense of the blog.

2.) A Delicate Boy — Nels of A Delicate Boy is a gay 30-something rhetoric professor in Connecticut. He blogs about writing, teaching, gay issues, HIV, and, well, life. At the top of the blog right now is a post on Sen. Craig, but—like so much of what Nels writes—it’s a little bit different (and interestingly so) from anything you’re likely to read elsewhere. Whether he’s writing about a city that reminds him of the partner he lost to AIDS, going on an “Artist Date” with himself in Houston, or just mentioning some strange new website he encountered, Nels grabs and keeps my attention.

3.) Little Nuances — Although you surely know me better as a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I still keep up with the Kansas City Royals, the team of my youth. Royal Reflections, a blog by sportswriter Lee Warren, helps me do that. Recently, I realized that Warren also writes Little Nuances, a blog which is, I suppose, about the little things that make life interesting. That may sound a little too precious, but it’s actually pretty interesting. And any blogger who knows who Gilles Muller is has to be good.

4.) Razzi’s Photolog — Razzi is a Belgian photographer. He doesn’t post all that often. When he does, though, the results are memorable. Some of my favorites: “Mies en plis,” “37,2 degrees le matin,” “Grandma’s living room” (NSFW?), and “Women on the run.”

5.) Tennis Served Fresh — As you know, I’m a big fan of tennis. If you are, too, you’ll love this blog, which has a special interest in tennis fashion. With the U.S. Open currently underway, there’s a lot of tennis fashion, including a fashion disaster or two, to consider.





The Man Trap

12 07 2007

Controller
I need a new man trap.

No, I’m not digging a hole and covering it with limbs. I’m not that desperate. Yet.

Here’s what I mean. Ten years ago or so, I decided that I needed to find some non-threatening (to me or them!) reason/way/manner to interact with other guys. I was looking for little more than an excuse, really. I’m shy, and excuses help. And somehow or other, I found myself walking into the nearest Best Buy and coming out with a PlayStation, two controllers, and several games.

It worked. Guys stopped by to play Resident Evil. After dates, guys came in to check out Metal Gear Solid. Gran Turismo lured guys in.

Now that makes me sound like some kind of Twisted Metal slut, but it wasn’t like that at all. I actually got to know several guys over the PlayStation controllers, Tomb Raider, and the like. I connected with several guys, and, hey, some of them even decided they liked me—despite my affinity for kids’ games and my strangely unparalleled prowess at driving anything resembling a boat. In fact, I think the Ex and I fell for each other, in part, over Hot Shots Golf, Devil Dice, and Turbo Prop Racing.

I’m older now. And even if I weren’t, I don’t think PlayStation, or even PlayStation 3, would attract the kind of guys I’m interested in nowadays. At this point in my life, I don’t think I’d even have that much in common with the average video gamer. (Maybe I’m wrong about that.) And I certainly couldn’t impress anyone with my middle-aged reaction times.

But what exactly should I try as my new man trap? I was thinking about Flyers season tickets. There are some obvious advantages to that. First, I really, really, really like hockey. Plus, I have a hard time meeting gay/bi/faux-straight guys who are as rabidly into sports as I am. So if I had season Flyers tickets, I could always be inviting guys—particularly guys whose sexuality I haven’t quite figured out—to join me. Maybe, just maybe, I’d actually click with someone.

The downside, though, is cost. Two season tickets in the non-nosebleed seats cost nearly $6,500. Even for 44 games, that’s way too much money. I could get crappier seats, I suppose, but then I’d have to sit in them. And, of course, the point is that I might want to impress some of my guests! I suppose I could go for an 11-game plan, but that would limit the number of chances I’d have to, er, click. Plus, some of my non-dateable friends are going to want to go once in awhile, too. (And that’s ok, I swear!)

Not too many other ideas have crossed my mind. I could get season Eagles or Phillies season tickets. But I’m not much of a pro football fan, and baseball season is already half over. For that matter, I already have a helluva time getting friends to go to Phillies games with me. (My extra symphony tickets are only slightly harder to fill.) I just haven’t found that nest of gay baseball fans that I know is out there, somewhere, in Greater Philadelphiana.

What else? Short of buying a convertible Jaguar and inviting men to touch the leather seats, I mean. I could go to church more often, take more classes, go to twice as many cheese tastings, join still more internet dating sites. Ack! I’m already doing those things.

Or I suppose I could just reconcile myself to being single, maybe for a long time to come. To doing the things I like to do, when I want to do them, by myself. Sigh.

I miss the PlayStation.





Missing Weekend #2

7 03 2007

Beach
Immediately after the beer tasting, I hopped a New Jersey Transit train to, of all places, Atlantic City. I hadn’t been to Atlantic City in several years, and I hadn’t taken the train to AC in maybe a decade. But, gosh, it was so easy. And cheap. For $7.25, the train took me to Atlantic City, where I was met with a free shuttle to the Boardwalk hotels. Why don’t I do that more often?

Well, for one reason, Atlantic City can be kind of seedy. Because I couldn’t get a room in the hotel of my choice, I ended up in a not-quite-prime hotel at the end of the Boardwalk. My room reminded me of some Best Western motel that my parents and I might’ve landed in on summer vacation in, say, 1975. That’s not the kind of nostalgia I enjoy, you know?

Anyway, I devoted Friday afternoon to two tasks—exploring the Boardwalk and getting a massage. (I devoted Friday morning to finding a razor, which I’d forgotten to pack.) Strangely enough, it was a beautiful, almost springlike day, and the Boardwalk was a nice place to be. It was windy, though, and the ocean was roiling. Still, I enjoyed the sun. I also enjoyed the massage, of course, though the spa’s masseur acted a bit too much like I might be fragile….

I actually visited Atlantic City to see country singer Gary Allan‘s Friday night concert at the House of Blues. I saw him in December in Las Vegas (incredibly, blogging that trip is still on my to-do list…sigh), and he was energetic, engaging, and in good form. I was pretty much blown away. And he did all that again in Atlantic City. Wow. (If you’re not familiar with Allan’s work, by the way, you should check out his new greatest hits collection. You won’t be sorry. Unless you hate country music. Are you a hater?)

I headed back Saturday, and New Jersey Transit treated me right again. Does NJT have a fan club?

On Saturday night, by the way, I visited the Bike Stop—Philly’s most prominent, er, leather bar—to meet someone (i.e., gasp, a man) I’d talked to online. We actually hung out in the Bike Stop’s sports bar, which isn’t leather-y at all. There were no real sparks between the two of us, but it was fun to be someplace with so many attractive men. (Note to Atlantic City: How’d you become such a magnet for unattractive people?) I even turned a couple of heads. I should head out to the Bike Stop more often….





I want to run with the grizzlies.

7 02 2007

Ursine
As my crush on Men in Trees‘ Abraham Benrubi suggests, I like bears. And I’m not talking about grizzlies and polar bears (though they’re cool, too). For the homosexuality-impaired among you (hi, Mom!), a bear is a gay or bisexual man who’s hairy and who’s probably, though not inevitably, linebacker-sized. An entire subculture is based around bears and men who appreciate them.

I always feel a little sheepish about my interest in bears. For one thing, beyond a moderate amount of chest hair and a more-than-moderate share of hair on my legs, I’m not especially grizzly-like. Notably, I almost never have any facial hair, which can be a key element in the bear, um, “look.” (I just look better clean-shaven, I’m afraid. Disconcertingly, too, I’ve got a splotchily gray beard these days.) And I’m not a big guy: I’m 5’7″, and my bathroom scales rarely reach 140. So be it. Although I’m happy with my look, I know many bears tend to be interested in bear-on-bear action, and, well, I hate to feel like I’m intruding where I might not be welcome.

All that said, bears have traditionally been exceedingly welcoming of others—bears and non-bears alike. After all, bears originally joined together because they felt unwelcome in some exclusivist parts of the gay world; the all-are-welcome ethos became a key element in their subculture. As one bear said in a 2002 piece in The Advocate, “In the end, we accept all people into our community. It’s not just about a particular look, age, size, or appearance. No one is ever left out.” Happily, that’s usually been my experience.

But not always. About a year after I became single in 2004, I decided it was time to start dating and meeting men again. Given my interest in bears, I thought I’d set up a profile at Bear411 (for reasons, that will become clear, I’m not going to link to the site), one of the most prominent sites in the bear world. I dutifully started an account, uploaded a picture, and created a profile that indicated I was a bear “chaser”—one of the categories listed by Bear411. The next day, however, I received rejection email from Bear411. “We received your profile,” it said, “but it can not be approved.” No further explanation was given. Instead, I was invited to join a non-bear-y sister site, Gay411.

Hmph.

I always suspected that I’d been rejected because I wasn’t bear-y enough—although I shouldn’t have had to be too bear-y just to be a “chaser.” (Indeed, of course, some bears aren’t looking for other bears.) I just never had any proof. Well, today I learned that I wasn’t the only Bear411 reject. Ernie of Little. Yellow. Different., the venerable gay blog (can any blog really be “venerable”?), has a similar story to tell:

So when people told me that I should get a profile on the local classified website bear411.com, saying I would be able to find someone relatively quickly to at least hang out with, I thought, ‘eh, whatever.’ When my application wasn’t accepted the first time, I really thought nothing of it – maybe they’re just behind with their e-mail response times. Then it happened a second time. When it happened a third time, I got pretty irate, but it’s not really my thing to make a big deal about shit like that and maybe he’s just busy or something, and what can I do anyway, since it’s a private site?

Ernie linked to someone else with a rejection story, and he pointed to a Bear411 Sucks website. Joe. My. God. has picked up the story, too; the many, many, many comments to Joe’s post are instructive and interesting. Somehow or other, I guess, it feels good to know that I’m not nearly all alone in the rejection heap.

Still, it’s awfully ironic and pathetic that Bear411 seems to have distorted the subculture’s welcoming ethos. Beardom should never come off as just another clique.





You were wearing a blue bow-tie on the 8:43 train….

3 02 2007

Track 2B
Because I seem to be desperate interminably single, I sometimes check out the personals ads on Craigslist. But, at least in Philly, the men-for-men ads are just so dang seedy! I’d give you some examples, but I really don’t, um, talk like that on the blog. Or anywhere. Just check it out for yourself (NSFW, I’m sure). See? No matter when you clicked on that, I bet you found some real winners for me.

Anyway, when I’ve had my fill of that, um, scene, I often head over to the Missed Connections—where, of course, shy and lonely people obsess over someone who might’ve looked their way at the supermarket or who sat next to them on the flight from Hartford. “You were wearing a red zip up jacket with shirt and tie under it. We were in different check out lines but left at the same time,” says one. “You and a buddy were folding your laundry at the laundromat at 43rd/Walnut (next to the Chinese restaurant). I thought you were pretty damn cute,” says another.

Poignant, huh? There’s almost no chance these guys will find the men they’re looking for, and it’s more than a little sad they didn’t/couldn’t say anything when they had the chance. I guess putting up a Craigslist post makes more sense than paying for an actual ad in the paper. (Those people are the truly desperate ones.) Still, the odds aren’t good.

Once in awhile, I read an ad that I really hope works. Like this one:

Frequently I sit by you on the train. Always we play this strange game where we push our weight into each other. And then you get off at your stop and I’m left wondering what exactly is going on. I mean it’s weird right, I understand that, but I don’t necessarily want it to stop either. I just want to understand what’s going on in your head. Do you like me? Or, is it more innocent than that?

Wow. As someone who takes a commuter train every day, I’ve seen some odd behavior…but this is right up there with the best of it. If this happened to me, I’d assume the guy just didn’t like to share his space. Some commuters are jerks, after all. Is there any chance this is flirtatious behavior?

Somehow or other, I hope so.