Published in the September 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake: Utah’s Gay and Lesbian News & Entertainment Magazine.

I recently received a message on a social networking Web site from a man I met several years ago. We went out on a handful of dates, and things faded out. Sometime later, his profile read that he was “in a committed relationship.” And that was that…at least until he contacted me a few weeks ago with a profile that read “single.” I replied asking how he was doing, and he never wrote back. Now the main photo on his profile shows him and his (ex?) boyfriend. Oh, and his status has returned to “in a committed relationship.” 

Sound confusing? 

Sound familiar?

Getting back with an ex is something many people — gay and straight — do. But under what circumstances is this a good idea? A relationship ends for good reason, and usually several good reasons; I mean, two people don’t just suddenly realize that they’ve broken up. Typically, a lot of thinking and soul-searching happens before you reach that outcome. 

I suppose, to a certain extent, that it’s natural to want to get back with an ex, particularly immediately — and by immediately, I mean in one to six months following a break-up. Think of it like the person next to you in bed suddenly rolling over and taking the covers: Your first instinct is to pull the blankets back and regain the warmth and comfort you’ve just lost. Just like a blast of cold air int he morning, being single after a long relationship can be jarring. 

People don’t change very quickly, and usually they don’t really change at all. Even if they do, you probably don’t have the patience to wait it out — in most cases, I would hope that you have the intelligence not to. 

Of course, there is something to be said about not giving up and for giving things one (or ten) more shots. But it’s important to know why you want to work things out. You can love someone with all your heart, you could be really good for that person in a lot of ways and he or she could be even better for you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you two should be in a relationship. Sometimes people use love as an excuse. 

I’ve heard people give a lot of reasons for getting back together with an ex. Being “so unhappy after the break-up” is one of the usual ones. Now, I suppose my life experience could be the exception here, but unless I’m mistaken, life isn’t always happy. Sometimes you feel alone and sad. Sometimes you get depressed. But none of those feelings mean that there is something wrong with you. Just because you make a decision that brings a period of hardship doesn’t mean the decision was bad: Sometimes the hardest thing to do is also the right thing to do. 

Ladonna Moore wrote an excellent column in the Salt Lake Metrocalled “Grieving Lost Relationships.” My favorite quote from that piece is, “have the courage to stay with emotions.” If you feel sad, then acknowledge your feelings, and let yourself grow. We all have occasion to find ourselves in the shadows, but the darkness always dissipates. If you feel that things won’t ever get better, there is help. There are people who will step up if you let them know you are struggling. They can be friends or family members, even trusted clergy and therapists. 

I would never claim to know what is right for another persons’ relationship. Most of the time, I’m not even sure what’s right in my relationships. But I do know that people grow at their own unique paces, and that there are different planes of emotional and intellectual existence. Timing, while not everything, is really important. And sometimes, you have to let go if you’re ever going to get a better grip.

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Published in the August 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake: Utah’s Gay and Lesbian News & Entertainment Magazine.

I recently received a letter from a young, gay, closeted man in South Africa. Through a Google search he found the column I wrote for the January 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake entitled, “Come Out, Be Happy.” He shared much about his life experience, his desire to come out to family and friends, and his fears. He asked for my advice. Following are excerpted paragraphs from my email to him. 

I believe that the most difficult person to come out to is oneself. It sounds like you’ve already done that. However, it can be more frightening to come out to the other people in our lives. It’s been my experience that this fear is most often unfounded.

As for the experience that you had in April, I believe it’s very common when first coming out. But many men only continue in that cycle, never accomplishing more than that first-night thrill. Everyone’s journey is unique and everyone is looking for something slightly different (and yet, in my opinion, very much the same.) What is most important is that you protect yourself, emotionally and physically, and stay true to your values. Whether gay or straight, there is no peace in any lifestyle that is in conflict with what you believe in your heart to be true and right. I think you said it perfectly when you wrote, “I have come to realize how unhealthy it can be to repress what comes naturally and that it is not wrong to feel the way I do. In fact, I know that the worst thing I can do is to deny myself the opportunity to live as a complete person with the capacity to love and be loved.”

I think it’s very important that you’ve started to recognize your own homophobia and that you’ve begun to form a healthy identity as a gay man. Each of us must debunk our own negative stereotypes regarding gay people. Realize that, even though you were in the closet, a gay man accomplished all the positive things you’ve done thus far in your life. 

As for the longtime friend you want to tell that you’re gay. It’s very possible that she will feel as you fear, hurt by the fact that you didn’t tell her earlier. But if she is able to step back from that hurt, even for a moment, I’m sure she will understand. This is something that you’ve kept from everyone, not just her.

You also expressed fear of being perceived as “weak,” especially if you break down and cry when you tell her. I found in my personal experience that I more often than not always cried when I told people that I was gay. Though, I didn’t cry because I was sad. I cried because there were so many years of joy and sorrow that I had wrapped up and repressed with my sexual orientation, that when I revealed my being gay I also revealed the emotion I’d hidden with it.

Coming out is about being honest. We are all human and we all feel the same emotions. If your emotions are revealed in the tears running down your cheeks, then as an honest human being you should honor those emotions. One of my favorite quotes is by John Lancaster Spalding. It reads, “The greatest courage is to dare to appear to be what one is.” We are all vulnerable.

For me, coming out was not about having gay sex or throwing my middle finger in the face of the religion in which I was raised. My sexuality is only one part of who I am. But every part of a person is dependent upon all the others and they are all of equal importance. To believe otherwise is to misunderstand the value of being whole. 

You asked if it is normal to feel the way you do before coming out. I don’t know what it means to be normal, but I know that there is a lot of fear and ignorance in this world. Facing that fear and confronting that ignorance is what makes some people a cut above the rest.

I would encourage you to be patient with your family and other loved ones. Each of them has an idea in their head of who you are, what your life is, and what it will become. These ideas and their dreams for you will have to be altered or completely let go. The truth can shatter a person’s “reality,” leaving them surrounded by the broken pieces of the perfection that they had built inside their mind. Different people will require different amounts of time to mourn the broken pieces around them. You’ve had 25 years to come to the point where you’re ready to start accepting yourself as gay. It’s never right to hold another person to a higher standard than you hold yourself. I doubt it will take any of your loved ones 25 years, but give them time to grieve the loss of their “reality.” And keep in mind that being gay in a straight world can be hard enough to understand when you’re living it. Imagine if you were an outsider looking in. 

I feel very strongly about the importance of coming out. Everyone deserves to live in the light, to be loved in the light. And it really does all come down to love. Coming out is an act of self-love; it’s the experience of baring your true self to those whom you love and then waiting to see if they truly love you, or if they just love the façade that you created for them. There is a significant difference between being loved as you pretend to be and being loved as you are. You deserve to be loved as you truly are, by yourself, as well as by those whom you love.

How Old Are You?

June 27, 2008

Published in the July 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake: Utah’s Gay & Lesbian News & Entertainment Magazine.

Have you ever asked a gay man how old he is? I have: a coy look always comes across their face. They’re more comfortable telling you about that time they got crabs than revealing their age. But don’t worry, if someone doesn’t want to tell, just start guessing really high. I promise they’ll quickly feel obliged to correct you. 

Last Fall on the first day of my Gerontological Nursing class the professor asked each of us to draw ourselves as we imagine we’ll be when we’re 80 years-old. Some people drew themselves dead, most drew themselves enjoying a relaxed retirement. Then she instructed us to write the first three words that came to mind when we thought of the word “elderly.” I don’t remember all three of the words I wrote but the first one was “wrinkles.” The other two words were along that same line of thought. When my paper was returned to me my professor had written me a note expressing her hope that I would find more positive feelings towards getting older. I have a lot of positive words that I associate with aging, but she didn’t ask for the full list, just the first three!

That activity made me think about the inevitable process of being alive. I would encourage you to practice the same activity, if you like to draw. Otherwise, just imagine what you believe your life will be like when you’re 80, and then think of the words you associate with aging. It can tell you a lot about yourself. 

Our culture places so much emphasis on youth and beauty. Many people spend quite a bit of time trying to sculpt their bodies into what they see in magazines. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as expectations are realistic and balance is maintained. But I believe it’s very important to realize that ultimately, no matter how much you lunge and squat, your perky gay butt is going to turn more the consistency of cottage cheese and begin a slow decent down the back of your legs. Nature and gravity always win out in the end. 

Now, it’s absolutely true that we can do many things to slow the aging process and improve our quality of life, but we shouldn’t live in denial of the reality of our mortal existence: My body is going to get old and someday I will die. Acknowledging that fact has only strengthened my desire and motivation to take good care of myself today, to live my life in a way that will give me the best chance of aging gracefully. 

I don’t believe in all the anti-aging products that are marketed to us so aggressively. There are no magic creams, but I do believe in these basic “youth” preserving principles: 

-Move your body, as much and in as many different ways as possible, on a regular and consistent basis. 

-Eat healthful foods and don’t completely deny yourself the foods that make you happy. Your favorite foods are sort of like masturbation. You’re never going to give them up, even if threatened with blindness, so just keep it within reason. 

-Drink more water. 

-Protect yourself from the sun and moisturize your skin (hint: you can multitask and do both at the same time.) There is no such thing as a “healthy” tan. Any change in your skin color from its natural tone is damage. This damage causes premature aging, wrinkling and thickening of the skin. Not to mention it might give you skin cancer. But I know you’re more afraid of the wrinkles. 

-Wear age appropriate clothing. Dress the body you have right now, not the body you had 10 years ago or the body you’re working towards. Remember, just because we live in a free country where you can walk into an Abercrombie and Fitch store and buy clothing with their logo emblazoned across it, that doesn’t mean that you should! 

The only thing your age tells about you is the year you were born, no more. However, the way you respond when asked your age can tell much more. It is true that there are people who will reject you in any number of circumstances based on your age, and not just for being “too old.” In fact, I’ve been rejected in various situations for being “too young.” You don’t need people who do this in your life. The only worthwhile people are the ones who only hold you responsible for the things about yourself over which you have control over. So instead of worrying about your age, take control of your aging; otherwise, your age will take control of you much sooner than it has to.

Published in the June 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake: Utah’s Gay and Lesbian News and Entertainment Magazine.

I’m not sure if it is becoming easier to come out or harder. Sometimes I think the amount of public scrutiny homosexuality gets in the media and politics is harmful to some. I remember being with an ex-boyfriend, who is not out to his conservative Republican father, [he] told me that images of men plastered on CNN “prancing” in veils in San Francisco during the period when Gavin Newsome married gays in contravention to CA law would not make it easier for him to sit and talk to his father, but instead, harder.

A friend wrote that to me about a year ago, and his thoughts echo a letter to the editor in QSaltkLake last year around Pride time. The author complained the spectacle of pride actually hurt the gay community. Apparently, he doesn’t appreciate men wearing nothing but their speedos while dancing in the street. I can see why some people feel that way, but I really think they would do well to get over it.

I would speculate that at least some of those people that we saw in San Francisco years ago, as well as many of the people we see participating every year in the Pride Parades across the country now, have done more to further the cause of equality than any gay man who hasn’t come out to his conservative Republican father. Somebody has got to represent the gay community, and their isn’t a closet big enough to hold the population of the world. You have to come out to do it.

I know that there are many people straight, gay and everything in between who are uncomfortable with those members of the gay community who “prance” around unabashedly being the person they feel they are inside. A friend once told me how much he respected drag queens for the way they express themselves. Because when your hair and your footwear make you four feet taller than you normally are and two feet taller than the tallest player on the Jazz, there’s no hiding from those who might ridicule you. 

By nature and upbringing, I live along the more conservative line of things, but I sure am glad that everyone doesn’t! What a boring world it would be without diversity. People that shun diversity because it makes them uncomfortable need to recognize that as their own problem. Besides, there’s no way that you’re going to get the feather-headdress-wearing drag queens back in the closet. If you don’t feel that they adequately represent the gay community then join the club, really, join the club and help the gay community more fully show who they are. 

I don’t believe in padding the truth so that it will be easier for people to take. Now, that doesn’t mean that you throw it in people’s faces, but you surely don’t hide the truth for fear that someone might have to deal with their own ignorance or bigotry. Hatred should not be tolerated by either our actions or our lack of action. I believe it is in the best interest of the world to promote understanding through honest living and transparent relationships.

If you move at all through the gay community you will find people of the highest quality. It is my personal belief that if we are not better than most of our straight counterparts, then we are doing something wrong. The very fact that many of us had to become the people we truly are without the support of the social systems we were raised in should give us a foot up in this world, it puts us out ahead. Use your struggles, stand on top of them and see how it improves your view of the world. Accept who you are and let yourself be better for it. 

You have no reason to be ashamed of the community you belong to, even if that community has men who wear dresses and dykes on bikes. Be proud that your community holds members who cover the full spectrum of color. Those dykes are not on bikes out of bigotry or shame. Those men are not wearing dresses in public out of self-loathing. It’s the beauty of being gay that you don’t have to be like everyone else in your community, you can be just who you are and you’re still welcome to march along with us in our parade. It’s true that our sense of community has a ways to go still: The gay community is far too cliquish and self-involved in my opinion. But I think we’re improving. I believe we have the capability to overcome the deeply rooted self-hatred that almost imperceptibly manages to rule so much of our social structure.

Gay Pride is an opportunity to come out and be surrounded by members of your community. And just like being a member of the world community doesn’t make me Hindu or German, being a member of the gay community doesn’t make you effeminate or a dyke on a bike. Gay Pride is about celebrating diversity. If you want to participate, no one will expect you to compromise who you are; so please, stop expecting others to compromise who they are because it makes you uncomfortable. An accompanying song for this month’s column is “Be As” by Prozzak. Please party responsibly, use protection, and maybe try making a few new friends — and just for the sake of making a few new friends, not because you want to sleep with them. Happy Pride, everyone!

Only the Lonely

June 26, 2008

Published in the May 1, 2007 Edition of QSaltLake. 

All alone I didn’t like the feeling,
All alone I sat and cried,
All alone I had to find some meaning; 
In the center of the pain I felt inside. 

-“Sand and Water” by Beth Neilsen Chapman

I feel that loneliness is an important part of life and personal growth. I know that the loneliness I have felt in my life has left me with no other option than to “find some meaning in the center of the pain I felt inside.” There is meaning in the pain we feel. 

In my nursing classes they teach us that pain is an indicator that something is wrong. We’ve been taught that “pain is whatever the patient says it is and exists whenever the patient says it does.”

I think it’s wrong to dismiss or belittle your own or someone else’s pain. In my own life I try not to ignore my pain. I’ve tried to look at it closely, to see exactly where it hurts, why it hurts, and what really made it hurt. It’s only in doing this that I’ve known how to treat my pain; whether to cradle it until it eases or whether to run it off on a treadmill.

There are so many lonely people in this world. I’ve encountered a lot of loneliness in the gay community. Sometimes the loneliest people are the ones that appear to have the most friends. Realize that people can still be strangers to you even if you know their names, even if you see them every day of your life. 

Loneliness is something every human being experiences. It’s an emotion that could unite us all except for the fact that we so quickly forget what it feels like as soon as it passes. It’s hard to relate to someone living under the crushing feeling of being alone when you aren’t feeling that same thing yourself. I think it’s a gracious thing that human beings so quickly forget the details of pain and suffering, but sometimes I wish people could relate just a little better to those on a down-swing in life.

When loneliness and pain set in, people panic, they try and run from it. This running takes on different forms. Sometimes the person latches onto a new boyfriend rather than losing the familiarity and comfort of such a relationship in their life. Some people try and lose their pain and loneliness by moving from where they’ve felt it so often. Others try and cover their pain and loneliness in ice cream and potato chips. A few even compromise who they are inside and what they want in life in order to fit into a group, any group, that will take them. But you can’t run from something that is inside you. And the only person or thing in this world that has the capability to complete and comfort you on the inside is you.

True loneliness, lasting loneliness, is not being comfortable with yourself. I dated a man that couldn’t stand on his own two feet. He always had to be in a relationship. So much so that before one relationship had ended he would begin a new one. In my view this is the worst kind of loneliness, the kind where you can’t even stand independently happy. This man’s loneliness and the actions that came from it caused me incredible personal pain. But I believe it’s hindered his life in a much greater way. 

Three months ago I began swimming with Queer Utah Aquatics Club or QUAC as they are more commonly known. The first time I went to a swim practice I went alone. I was overwhelmed with how friendly everyone was. Standing there in my speedo I didn’t feel judged at all. – Now, my friend Sutton assures me that I was being judged, but I didn’t feel that judgment. – All I felt was an overwhelmingly friendly welcome. 

I would like to suggest to you that maybe there is a person within your realm of existence that could benefit from an outstretched, friendly hand. I would also like to point out that if you do reach out to someone and they don’t accept your invitation of friendship and inclusion, that does not lessen the value of what you offered. Sometimes a person just needs to know that they were invited to the party, even though they may not be in a place where they can actually accept such an invitation.

Now, to put my money where my column is: If you have ever wanted to learn to swim, or to be a better swimmer, or if you just want to meet some fun new people, then I would invite you to swim with QUAC. The details are on their website: quacquac.org. I have an email address attached to this column. And if you would like to try QUAC out and don’t want to go alone, then drop me a line and I will be happy to meet up with you beforehand and then get you headed in the right direction at practice. 

Loneliness is a universal human experience, but remember that it is always temporary. Next time you feel it, acknowledge it, learn from it, and be better for it. But maybe more importantly, try and keep in mind that there are people who feel much more alone than you do. Look for them.

Oh, Put a Cock In It!

June 26, 2008

Published in the April 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake. 

From what I can tell, there are quite a number of people living here in Utah that don’t have a whole lot of good to say about this place. It also seems to me that this number is higher among gay men. I’m not exactly sure why this is. Although I suppose many of these people haven’t really experienced other parts of this country and/or the world, I bet it probably has more to do with that heavily favored idea in the gay community that the grass is always greener someplace else. 

I know that Utah has it’s shortcomings: the pollution that builds up in the valley, the small fortune you have to invest at the bar to get an adequate buzz going, the legislators that have mistaken the capitol building for their local chapel. At least those are a few that stick out in my head. 

Let me tell you something about gay men across this country: they all say the same things about their communities. Things like, “Everybody knows everybody here, there’s only like two degrees of separation,” “The club scene sucks here,” “We don’t have any good bars,” or “The gays here are so shallow.” Really, it doesn’t matter which city you visit, you can find men that will say the exact same negative things about their community that you’ve heard said about your community back home. 

I believe there is truth to the saying that we take those things that are a part of our daily lives for granted. This includes the places that surround us. I bet nobody who lives in the Salt Lake Valley looks up every morning at the beautiful Rocky Mountains with the awe that they deserve, the type of awe that they would create inside someone who’d lived their whole life on the flat plains of the Midwest. 

A simpler example may be illustrated by an experience I had a few years back while in Phoenix, Arizona. My friends took me to a restaurant/martini bar called AZ88. I’d had a martini or three and excused myself to the restroom. When I entered the men’s room and the door closed behind me I found myself surrounded by more reflective surfaces and stainless steal than is healthy for even the gayest of gay men. I had a spiritual experience in that bathroom…after which, I couldn’t find the door to get out until someone else came in. Granted, the whole experience was enhanced by a little liquor, but I doubt that any of the people who frequent AZ88 on a regular basis appreciated it the way I did as a visitor.

A year from now I will be completing a degree that will enable me to find a job anywhere in this country, from the smallest town to the largest city. I’m currently city shopping, researching several cities that I think would be fun to live in. If in a year I decide to move I’d like to have a pretty good idea of where I am going and what draws me to a particular place. But I can assure you that if I do decide to pack up and go it won’t be because I think I am going to find any place better than Utah – different, of course, but not better. 

A friend brought to my attention the fact that many people will move from a place in order to “get away” from their past. Running from your past is like trying to lose your shadow, it’s easy in the sunlight, but a lot more difficult when night inevitably sets in. Pasts must be dealt with; they have to be laid out behind you in a way that doesn’t make you afraid to turn around. 

I’ve heard of people moving to a new place with the hope they will ‘find themselves.’ I’ve even heard people say, “I found myself in (insert name of city here.)” But the truth is that finding yourself has little to do with where you live and a lot to do with the way you live. 

We reflect ourselves in our surroundings, both people and places. If you look around yourself and don’t like what you see, then do everyone a favor and stop blaming it on inanimate objects and random strangers. Every day I believe more that we have to be the change that we want to see in the world. The truth of Utah is that some of the most amazing and accepting people ever to grace the face of the earth are found here, they’ve chosen to make this place their home. There is beauty in this state that is as uniquely breathtaking as anything in the world, even the highest peaks of the Andes Mountains in South America. (And I make the second part of that judgment on very good authority.) But it doesn’t really matter what I think of Utah. Everyone lives in a very personal reality. I just wish people would stop complaining about the perceived negative aspects of their reality and instead work to change them for the better.

Your Body…Naked

June 26, 2008

Published in the March 1, 2007 Edition of QSaltLake.

It was five years ago I started taking care of my body and exercising regularly. I began by walking. I walked from my house down to the local park and did some laps. Over the last five years I’ve purchased (and consistently used) a gym membership, started skiing, mountain biking, running, doing pilates, practicing yoga, lifting weights, cycling, swimming, and most recently kickboxing. 

In the beginning I was working out because I wanted other people to find me attractive. That lasted about four months. The approval of others is a bad reason to do anything, but when it comes to exercising, which is something that takes life-long dedication, it’s an especially bad idea. So I quickly shifted my motivation. I started to exercise for me. I liked the way it made me feel. Results did not come quickly, but they came, most of them would have probably been imperceptible to anyone other than me, and the most positive among them had nothing to do with my physical appearance.

Notwithstanding those results, I’m still acutely aware of every one of my physical flaws. But I decided shortly after getting a gym membership that I did not want to be one of those men that gets dressed underneath his towel or in the bathroom stall because he doesn’t want to be seen naked. Maybe I should clarify that I am not an exhibitionist in that way and I don’t particularly enjoy some of the gross stares I get from those men that seem to live in the steam room and vacation in the showers. But I don’t hide my body in the locker room. Nobody should be ashamed of their body, no matter what it looks like. In a society that tells women that they’re too big and men that they’re too small no matter how big or small they are, it’s a wonder anyone has the courage to show their non-airbrushed face in public.

The other day I was getting a massage and the therapist said that she could tell I was an athlete. I didn’t respond because I don’t really like to make conversation when I’m getting a massage; I’d rather just lay there. But I was totally surprised by her comment because I am not an athlete. It doesn’t matter how much I run, lift, swim, cycle, or kick box, athletes to me will always be those boys in high school that I had nothing in common with. 

The reality of my situation is this; I’m 6’3” tall and 180 pounds on a full stomach and rounding up. It doesn’t matter how hard I hit the weights, my genetics do not allow me to put on a lot of bulk. I will always be longer than I am wide. I’ve come to accept that reality -acceptance that I believe has come because I’m trying to do the best with the body and genetics I’ve been given. 

My last boyfriend was always so floored with how comfortable I was being naked around him. He acted like he’d never dated anyone that let him explore their body. That kind of comfort level with another human being is amazing; it’s been rare for me, and it’s one of the things I miss the most about being in a relationship. If you have someone in your life that you get naked with on a regular basis, then I hope that you feel that kind of freedom with them. Otherwise, you’re missing one of the safest experiences an intimate relationship has to offer.

The next time you’re walking down the street and you see someone that you think is attractive, beautiful even, remember this; that person may very well think that they’re the ugliest thing to walk the earth. They may be completely unhappy with their body and even their life as a whole. If you can be happy with your body and your life you’ll be doing better than a good majority of the strangers that surround you.

In recent years I’ve been able to say very honestly that I’m happy with where I’m at physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, in my education, etc. I’m happy with where I am in life not because I’m where I want to be, but because I’m moving in the direction that I want to go, and that is something that we all have the power to do. The world never stops and you’re always going somewhere; just make sure it’s somewhere you want to go.

Dating: Tips

June 26, 2008

Published in the February 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake. 

There are two types of gay men. The type that seem to be perpetually single and the type that never stay single for longer than a few weeks, maybe a few months if it’s the slow season. And I think we’ve all heard the joke about lesbians bringing the Uhaul on the second date. That being said, it would appear that there are quite a few gay men that are also lesbians. 

The relationships and dating patterns I’ve seen in the gay community trouble me. I’ve put a lot of thought into what I can do for a happier and more stable single-gay-man-dating future. I don’t want to fall victim to the pitfalls of express relationships. I want a deep and balanced relationship with another human being and I’m willing to wait for someone that is capable of that, which brings us to my first dating tip: 

-Do not settle! Double check, maybe triple check to ensure that you don’t have unrealistic relationship standards, but never settle. You won’t be content if you know in your heart that you chose a situation that is less than you deserve. 

-You need to know what you want out of life and whomever it is you’ll be dating. If you don’t know what you want then almost anybody will do just fine. 

-If you’re not ok being single then I don’t believe you are either ready or mature enough to create a healthy long-term relationship.

-Realize that once you really know yourself and what you’re looking for, it’s probably not going to be easy to find a person that you really click with on that level. 

-It might be easier to recognize what you don’t want rather than what you do. Start there. If you don’t want to be one of those men that cycles through boyfriends at the same rate that they go through their toothbrushes or their car leases then evaluate what you think you can do to have a different outcome. 

-True emotional connections are rare and worth waiting for. Oh, and they take effort; sexual and emotional chemistry will only get you so far. 

-If someone pays you a compliment, JUST SAY THANK YOU. I don’t care if they just complimented the one part about yourself that you loathe more than any other. Insecurity is unattractive no matter how you wear it. 

-You can’t have the relationship you really want as long as you remain in a relationship that isn’t what you want. The dating pool would flood the earth if all the people staying in relationships for the wrong reasons left those relationships. 

-Do everything you can to get yourself in a good place before you put yourself out there on the dating scene. While nobody will know, it shows that you considered the hearts of those you will eventually meet and date. 

-Have consideration for your partner even before you meet him and especially after. 

-Logically we know that every man should have two balls, but, surprisingly, many gay men don’t seem to have any. How can this be? And where did all those balls go? If you don’t have any, you need to get some. Good things come to those who wait, but better things go to those that take some initiative. 

-You can’t expect something in someone else if you don’t possess it yourself. You can hope that the other person will have qualities that you don’t, but you can’t expect them. In other words, if you’re dishonest then you can’t expect the other person to be honest. If you want to date a gym body then you should probably get to a gym on a regular basis as well. 

-Don’t be an ass. Karma’s a bitch and she can’t wait to get even with you. 

-You ought to have your shit together. If you’re a mess emotionally and don’t know what you really want AND WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO GET IT, then chances are you will ruin the relationship you’ve been looking for if it does come along.

Remember, being single does not make you a leper. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you and it’s ok if you don’t appreciate the shock of total strangers that you’re single even though you’re “so cute.” It seems that once a person gets into a relationship they totally block out what it was like to be single; as if it’s really that bad. 

Dating is hard; it’s destabilizing, and it can be incredibly draining. It takes energy and time to get to know people. Take your time, follow your heart, and always treat the people you’re dating the way you would want to be treated.

Come Out, Be Happy

June 26, 2008

Published in the January 1, 2007 Edition of QSaltLake

My mental image of someone living in the closet is a person sitting on a chair in a small, dark, rectangular room with clothes hanging all around. In my minds eye it appears to take little effort. In reality, living in the closet is truly an emotionally exhausting experience.

Living your life in the closet means existing in a state of hypervigilance. The reality is that you don’t just get to sit in the dark, you’ve got to keep your secret, and that takes energy. Every day that we’re dishonest with others it costs us something. But every day that we’re dishonest with ourselves it costs us much more.

When I was living in the closet, intent on appearing to be everything I was taught I should be, I discovered that it was easier to keep my secret if I held everyone at arms length; and so I did. And by keeping everyone at a distance I crippled the relationships in my life, I limited their depth and sometimes whether or not they could exist at all. I didn’t realize this until I stopped hiding, until I was honest with the people that surrounded me. I looked around myself to find empty space. Empty space where people should have been, space where honest and close relationships should have existed.

When I came out to my Sister she told me that for my whole life up until that point she’d felt like there was a part of me that she couldn’t reach. I asked her if she’d ever suspected that I was gay and she replied, “I always knew you were different, I just thought you were better, and you are…” I learned two things from this experience and several others like it. 1) No matter what people know or suspect, they see what they want and expect to see, and 2) none of us are as good as we’d like to think we are at pretending to be something we’re not.

I think everyone should come out. And if you’ve already come out of the closet I think you should take a few more steps away from the darkness that you used to live in. Nothing will chase the shadows from your life as quickly as the illumination of honesty; honesty with family, honesty at work, honesty at school, but most importantly honesty with yourself. I’m someone that believes that there is always a higher plane of existence within your own mind and soul, there’s always a way to better yourself from within.

My belief that everyone should come out does not necessarily mean that I’m advocating the gay lifestyle, what ever the gay lifestyle may be in your opinion. Regardless of my personal views the only thing I’m advocating right now is honesty. I don’t believe a person can truly be happy and at peace unless they are living in congruity with the truth within them, no matter what that truth is. But coming out and being honest does not ensure happiness.

If you tell a child that they’re stupid and ugly over and over again chances are that they’ll believe you. Likewise, if you tell someone that they will not be happy unless they live in a certain way, according to specific principles, there is a chance that they won’t be happy living any other way. Not because it’s not possible, but because the human mind is a powerful thing and it will control us in whatever way we teach it to.

I came out because I’d crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s and the peace and happiness I’d been told would come to me never showed up. I no longer believe a person should remain in a situation where they have to fear being condemned for living, or at the very least accepting, the way they were created. I’m of the opinion that any creator that makes something a certain way only to condemn it is deserving of no deference.

I don’t mean to oversimplify things. Coming out is a process that is different for everyone, it takes a different amount of time for different people, usually years to totally come out, you may be coming out for the rest of your life, but that process starts at personal integrity. The realization that you are the way you are due to no fault of your own and that you were not flawed from the time of your birth. Self-acceptance is typically the first step, but for some the simple desire to accept oneself may be the beginning of their journey.

In the years since I’ve come out I’ve discovered parts of myself that I didn’t know were there, parts that had been neglected and underdeveloped because all my energy had been going to becoming the person I thought I should be rather than the person that I am and would like to be. It sounds stupid to say but before I came out I never realized that I could be funny, or that I could act goofy, and I definitely didn’t know that I was a good kisser. I suppose I was a little anal retentive, actually. They should have given me a scouting merit badge for my anal retentiveness.

Life has not gotten easier for me since coming out, in many ways it has become more challenging -think gay dating- but it has also become more worthwhile. My joy feels more real and unrestrained and my hardships seem to be of greater personal benefit. There are so many wonderful and accepting people in this world, but you won’t really get to know any of them until you give them the opportunity to see you as you are. Whether they accept you or reject you is up to them, but being honest in your existence is wholly up to you.