Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Gay

Believe it or not, I actually dated other people before I met my wife, Briana.  There were blondes, brunettes, even a redhead or two over the years I was single.  Some I dated for awhile; most didn't make it beyond a first date.

My very last date before I met Bri was with someone a little older than me, which honestly wasn't unusual for me at all.  Moira and Gavin's biological mother was two years older than me and I lived with a girlfriend for eighteen months who was four years my senior.

What was unusual, for me at least, was that my date was another man.

We had met online.  My date (we'll call him Mike) was a very successful business man and the founder of a multi-national corporation that utilized an up-and-coming technology which they had patented.  While Mike made it very clear that he was deeply in the closet for professional reasons, he sent me photos of himself and links to his company's site (which also had photos of him meeting with various foreign dignitaries).  I took things a step farther as you don't meet a multi-millionaire every day who wants to take you out on the town, so I dropped into Google and searched for his name to appear in the newsfeeds of the countries where he did business.

Sure enough, there was not only his name but his photograph.  Mike was exactly as advertised.

We exchanged email and photos.  I talked about the kids, he talked about what he could offer the three of us - the strings he could pull to make our life a living fantasy.  Backstage passes to any concert imaginable?  Done.  Backstage passes to any concert imaginable anywhere in the world?  Done.  Any vacation I could dream of?  Done.  Any college, anywhere in the world, for the kids?  Done.

While I keep my private life rather protected, I've never been one to be anything but open about my lifestyle and what I believe.  So when my date with Mike drew closer, I talked about it - to my friends, to my close co-workers, and to the biological mother of my children.

About half of the people I talked to were curious.  I got a lot of, "I didn't know you were gay," responses from people.  To which I replied, "I'm not gay.  To me it's what's inside a person that's important - the package they come wrapped in simply doesn't matter."  A very small percentage were disapproving, either openly or in a barely concealed manner.  The rest?  Including the vast majority of my friends?  They were excited!  To be honest, they were actually more excited about it than I was.

The responses I received ranged from, "I've always wanted a gay best friend and now you can be it!" to "Thank goodness you're gay - since I'm a woman we can hang out now without anyone wondering.  Want to go shopping with me?"  To many people, I had come out of a closet that I had never been in.  I was very clear that I wasn't declaring that I was gay, but people so very often need to fit us into a certain shaped hole in their world - squares as squares, triangles as triangles - in order for them to be truly comfortable.

Talking about the up-coming date also indentified my true friends to me.  From them, their response was like it was for any other first date that I shared with them - guardedly hopeful, offering the standard cautions not to move to quickly, and playfully challenging me "to have fun but not too much fun."

What I realized is that everyone else was judging the situation.  They saw a man dating another man, so of course he must be gay.  Or they thought, "Your date is rich?  Lucky you!  I wish I'd married rich."  Only my true friends saw me; they were the only ones that realized that me - a real feeling, breathing human being - was getting ready to hopefully and cautiously open his heart to another human being.

When I hear that one of my friends is a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered (LGBT) person, my first thought isn't about their lifestyle, their sexual behavior, or the politics of the situation.  My first thought is that they're a person - and my friend.

I don't completely understand the challenges of being LGBT in the United States but I have an idea of what they're like.  For three and a half years I lived downtown in a predominantly African American city on the East Coast.  Given the population of that city and the neighborhood I lived it, I was clearly and overwhelmingly a racial minority.  It was normal for me to look up in a crowd and realize I was the only person like me (in this case, Caucasian) that I could see for blocks.  People yelled profanity and racial slurs at me when I walked down the street, simply because I was white.  Beyond the obvious discrimination, it's amazing the subconscious shelter we find in being near others like us, even if we're a stranger in a crowd.  When we know we're alone, that the others around us don't even share basic commonalities but may turn on us simply because of our differences, you feel that.  It's isolating - and I imagine that many of my LGBT friends, whether they're in the closet or not, feel that way.

Being LGBT in this country means that you're discriminated against.  There's no other way to spin the situation.  Imagine that everyone else can get married but you can't.  In many states it's actually illegal for you to marry the person you love.  Or that your partner is fighting for their life in the hospital, but you can neither visit them nor make decisions regarding their care.  Imagine that you turn on the television to hear words like "abomination" and "sinner" used to describe the very core of you - your heart - and the person you love.  Or that you will be harassed, bullied, and beaten up if people learn of your hopes and dreams.  That's reality for many in our country.

When you face those types of challenges on a daily basis, you develop one of two responses - you push everyone away or you learn to look beyond the immediate into the core of a person.

I've always had a large number of LGBT friends, not because I seek them out, but because they're typically extremely accepting of who you are instead of what you do, how much money you make, or how you fit into a particularly shaped hole in their world.  Sure there's also the other extreme of LGBTs - those who learned to push everyone away - but you'll find that everywhere in every group.  My LGBT friends are worth fighting for, for taking a stand for, and fighting for their right to be beautifully unique people whom I adore.

And what's more, all LGBT people are worth fighting for - simply because they're human beings.

My date with Mike went extremely well.  He was a cuter version of Robin Williams and took me out to a very upscale restaurant, one of the two fanciest places I've eaten in my entire life.  A woman I had casually known for years previous to the date ended up being our waitress - and her words only stumbled once as Mike and I held hands across the table. His compliments were honest, the conversation great, and I had a really wonderful time.  Even the kiss at the end of the evening - and to plagiarize Katy Perry, "I kissed a man and I liked it" - was very sweet.  However, Mike had just come out of a bumpy, long-term relationship and having several years of unsuccessful dating history under my own belt, there were numerous red flags related where he was in the healing and recovery cycle.  Besides, and it wasn't the package he was wrapped in, something about Mike wasn't "quite right" for me.

A week or so later, I met a woman named Briana.  Ironically, when I went out on the date with Mike, I didn't break any of my established "dating rules."  While Mike was the first and only man I've gone out on a date with, a person's heart and soul have always been more important to me than their physical form and going out with a guy was simply an extension of that.  With Bri, however, I broke several of my rules right out of the door.  Bri was younger than I preferred to date.  Circumstances dictated that I not only met her extended family shortly after we initially met for coffee on our first date, but that we had to drop her then two year old daughter off with the child's biological father as part of our date.  However, there was something about Bri that was "exactly right" and where I had dated unsuccessfully for years, we were legally married less than three months after our first date and not only going strong, but growing even stronger each and every day.

Am I gay?  Obviously not.  Am I bi-sexual?  Even that is pushing things.  It's what's inside a person that is important to me.  The body a person comes packaged in is as unimportant to me in the bigger scheme of things as their eye color or their chosen hairstyle. If it would have been Briana's soul in Mike's body, I would be partnered with a man, not a woman, and happily so.  It's Bri that was "exactly right" and, in all honesty, her gender was irrelevant.  So while I might not be gay - and I may not be able to completely relate - I think I understand.

All that to say, to all of my lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered friends - you're just "my friends."  You don't need to add a qualifier to that.  I could care less what your orientation is - it's YOU that's important to me.  I will fight alongside you for your right to love and be who you are in small ways, like I have today in my blog, and if it ever comes down to it, I'll stand by you and fight for you in big ways as well.  You're not an abomination - you're beautiful - exactly the way you are.


  1. A very interesting post, we have the same problems towards gay people on our side of the pond, but perhaps we are slightly more accepting.

  2. I got tingles reading this. Absolutely beautiful!!!

  3. Thank you for writing this. I can relate on a level that we will one day most likely discuss in person. Blessings, my dear friend.

  4. Beautiful Jeffrey!! Bravo! :)<3

  5. Well said Jeffrey! I've dated both men and women, I ended up marrying the right person for me. He just happens to be male, but it wouldn't have made a difference which gender body he inhabited, he is simply the best person for me. (And I'm right peculiar, so it's probably for the best I ended up with someone who gets me!!!)

  6. And to borrow a phrase from you, you're a beautifully unique people whom I adore! Your perspective just makes me wanna hug your head even more! ;)

  7. Wow, you have a truly open outlook. Back when I was single, I could not have imagined dating a guy who could care less whether or not I was pretty. I just assumed all guys cared about looks.

  8. Thanks everyone!

    Angela: Thank you! I can actually see a stunningly beautiful woman and, rather than triggering the "Must mate!" area that it seems to hit for most guys (LOL) it triggers the same part of my brain that walking through a museum triggers. I recognize the beauty, the symmetry, but that doesn't mean that I want them for a friend or, as the saying goes, "MORE than a friend." :) For me it really is about their personality, their "fit", and how we work together as partners. As we say around our home, "The gift is much more important than the paper it's wrapped in." ;)

  9. I love my sister very much;she's my baby sister, 20 years younger. My sister is married to a woman. I know she's happy in her relationship. I knew when she was a child that she had her own approach to life. While I celebrate that, I've always worried a bit for the price society exacts. I love my sister. Recently she was asked what her culture was ~ after consideration she responded, hers is a culture of one. She really is.. Unique and wonderful. Did I mention? I love my sister.

  10. Lovely, frank post, compellingly written. Absolutely agree that our outer shells are only what our inner selves walk about in ... and it's the inner self that really matters.
    Thanks and all best

  11. This was a wonderfully written post. So heartfelt and so open. I'm glad that you found the right one for you.

    The Madlab Post

  12. Yay! Great post. I wish more men were open with their sexuality. It's okay to lust and crave and want to connect intimately with men and women no matter who you are. I'm exploring some of this myself! There is a much stronger stigma with men/men than women/women though, and that bothers me a lot. I see that a lot in our lifestyle. Lots of men claim that they are straight, but only a handful will say they are bi or bi curious. Almost all women are bi curious though. It's maddening.

  13. And I thought my goldfish story was deep. It's so nice that you're comfortable enough in your own skin, that you're willing to open yourself up to new experiences. Hopefully, this will help others see the light. Julie

  14. Thanks, everyone. At my core, I'm pretty simple. There's "me" and there's "not me" and not a whole lot in between. lol

    Julie: I absolutely LOVED your goldfish story! :)

  15. That was beautiful. You are truly a unique human being. I am honored to have found you and your wisdom.

  16. I am at a loss for words about how this post has touched me. It was beautiful!

  17. i always like hearing that story...and how true it is. so much more to a person than who they sleep with

  18. great post, Jeffrey! You said a lot of wise things in it! And seeing your pic, I'm not surprised that multimillionaire wanted to go out with you ;)))

  19. Also love this story - so glad you shared.

  20. Dezmond: Great... now I'm blushing on my own blog... ;)