After nine years of living in my own self-created prison, locked away deep inside of myself, a place darkened by self-hatred, denial, fear, shame, and many other things, I opened the steel door that had long been my burden and for the first time since the innocence of my childhood, I faced the world with all the vulnerability that I had once intensely guarded.
No more secrets, no more judging myself, no more fear. I began a journey to re-discover myself, to find out who I really was supposed to be and for me it felt like I had come back from the dead and had to figure out how to live again.
That’s how it felt in May of 2008 when I began openly telling people I was attracted to other males. It was still scary, it was still painful, but it was definitely liberating. I was convinced that those feelings that formed inside of me in childhood were the very definition of being gay based on what I saw and heard in the world I grew up in.
Like anyone that comes out in youth, I was young and naive, I thought I knew it all and I thought that I could trust the words of those who were already out. But in a short amount of time, I began making mistakes, making choices that I would one day regret. Easily pulled into a world I did not know, wandering aimlessly down unfortunate paths that led me to a loss of dignity and an abandonment of integrity.
It didn’t take long for me to realize there was a lot more to being gay than mere feelings of attraction whether that be physical or emotional, not just of lust and love, but of society and perception, of culture, politics and even industry. Being gay wasn’t just a human thing, culture had turned it into an extroverted thing that lived outside of us all.
At first, I felt compelled to be outspoken and join in the attempt to try to make clear to the world something that was still misunderstood, resented and unaccepted, still taboo.
In my attempts to define, explain and translate, I was equally educated, immersed and made wiser to the things I thought I knew. In reality and in my youth, I had only just begun to understand not just me, but everything that I thought I was a part of.
We truly believe that a world in black and white is far more clear to understand, that if things are either this or that, that somehow we can be settled into our own little comfort zone of knowing. However, the world is not black and white, people cannot be so easily categorized, not because people do not have similarities, but because the categories are many and because the people are complex.
Very early in my voyage beyond the opened gate of sexual identity, I learned that there were many different types of gay men and not just gay men, but men who were neither gay nor straight. Even further, it wasn’t just about attraction, but also behavior and personality, terms like masculine, effeminate and transgender came into my vocabulary. Black and white soon became a very long scale of varying shades of gray. Sexual orientation soon stopped being so choppy and became something far more fluid, more ubiquitous than I had anticipated.
The meanings of words I thought I knew, were proven wrong and my belief that I knew the world I was wandering into proved to be a rather narrow perception.
Inexperienced and shy about personal contact, I avoided meeting gay men in person, instead I preferred to hide behind a screen, interacting at a safe distance.
Being raised under the concept of a traditional relationship, a culmination of values and personal conduct, I found myself looking for a true committed dating relationship. Over the course of years I found myself occasionally slipping off that track and being drawn into a dirtier reality of naked photo exchanges and sexting.
Not out of curiosity as much as loneliness and the need to be accepted and wanted. What they don’t tell you when you come out of the closet is that gay culture honestly is full of depression and loneliness. This is the case because it is extraordinarily difficult to find a meaningful, fulfilling and lasting relationship.
Those feelings of being alone and unwanted lead to things like low self-esteem, self-deprivation, degradation, a loss of integrity, dignity and self-worth. Romance falls to the wayside and is replaced with lust, a desire to be wanted and general sexual frustration. This is especially true for males, not just gay, but also straight males.
The number of people of all orientations that engage in sexting is probably rather high, but knowing an actual statistic would be difficult as many people would not admit to it. I don’t think the question is whether or not it’s “right” or “wrong” to do or whether anyone even cares; I think the reasoning behind why one engages in it is the only question that need be considered within oneself.
If a couple partakes in it because it’s fun and enhances their sex life, then it’s probably harmless, unless any photos be sent to the wrong recipient or somehow get uploaded where they need not be. The next most likely reason is one far less harmless. Some engage in it because they want attention, or because they have low self-esteem and having someone compliment them (even if it’s a complete stranger) temporarily makes them feel better about themselves.
Unfortunately, this type of behavior is detrimental to the person exposing themselves. I really see it as a domino effect, one thing leads to another and if you go in reverse you can find the cause of the issue. It seems equally prevalent with heterosexuals. So it’s not an issue that is solely affixed to any one orientation. It’s entirely an individual issue, but again it’s not just the act, it’s the reasoning behind it that determines its level of appropriateness.
So have I done it? I’m certainly not ashamed of my body, so yes, absolutely I have. Regrettably, it hasn’t always been done within the construct of a relationship with someone I had connected with and grown attached to on an emotional level. I would call those moments of weakness, when the detachment from adequate social interaction left me feeling alone, unwanted, and less than good enough and so that primal male sector of my brain became sexually frustrated and sought release.
I have found that the reason behind why men and women do these things is entirely different. When men feel that way, they not only want attention, but they seem to also be sexually frustrated and want some form of sexual gratification or release in the process. While women on the other hand are more likely to offer up their body in exchange for attention through emotional gratification and acceptance. It really touches on the duality of gender in our species and our primal desires.
As I wandered onward, I tried to avoid those mistakes as much as I could. Because of how I was raised, I did get to a point where I had to stop and look at myself and what I was doing, I had to force myself to remember what I really wanted, the very reason behind coming out. The courage I gathered was definitely not intended to be used for exploiting myself as an object for other people’s gain and certainly not for people I didn’t even know or who didn’t even give a damn about me as a person.
I had a moment of awakening where I was just completely disgusted with myself and fed up with how easily I gave into the requests of attractive men during that first year. I had to ask myself “Why?” and “For what reason?”, “What did I gain?” The truth was, I gained nothing, but a sick feeling. It was only fun and exciting in the moment and then everything after was shame, guilt and regret.
With a new sense of resolve I went back to focusing my attention on dating and attempts at legitimate relationships. Even with this new resolve, finding someone worth dating wasn’t easy. Not being heterosexual was still a complicated thing, whether open or closeted, difficulties still abound.
I went through half a dozen attempts at relationships, none of which lasted for more than three months, over a period of six years. I don’t know what it’s like with heterosexual couples, but people have a lot of issues that con-volute and hamper their ability to maintain a relationship, I among them. A lot of the times, it’s wanting to be in a relationship when they are not ready for one due to the current circumstances of their life. However, the desire to not be emotionally alone drives people to find a partner.
Some of the relationships ended over very bad occurrences. Not so much because the people were bad, but because they made really bad decisions that negatively effected me. Reasons such as I found out they used drugs or were unable to stay monogamous. Being lied to or cheated on is a heart wrenching experience. Other times it was because I simply lost interest in them or because they lived too far away and it was too difficult to keep it going, so I broke up with them.
The way men and women approach relationships is often different. Research based theories can tell you that men often lead into relationships with sexual instincts and women with the instinct to find a partner capable of fulfilling that family dynamic. Of course, like anything else, there are both men and women who don’t follow that theory. But for those who do, it offers an abiding prediction for the way men meet other men and women other women.
Due to the strong sex drive of all men regardless of orientation, gay relationships often pivot around sexual activity and it often happens very early in their meeting. That primal instinct to find potential mates and reproduce isn’t missing in gay men, so naturally two men who come together with interest in each other, have difficulty moving beyond that aspect of their relationship. These relationships usually fail as the roots of their emotional bond fail to grow.
It may very well be the reason why so many gay relationships never succeed. The core of a relationship is not physical, the emotional connection must be solidified early on or it will eventually dissipate and in heterosexual couples women are often the ones who lead that emotional aspect of the relationship and consistently work to maintain it.
However, this doesn’t mean that two men, of whatever orientation, cannot have a strong emotional bond. New research into the emotions of men and women has shown that men actually feel more levels of emotion than women. It is thought that men developed this ranged ability due to the need for men to form hunting groups with other males in the early stages of human evolution and to be able to function and work well with each other, to become connected and have concern for each other’s well-being.
Despite this, men still struggle in acknowledging these emotions and working through them by discussion. Something that probably wasn’t necessary in hunting parties. So the foundation for a strong committed bond between males is there and that’s easily been proven by male friendships, the real issue is in being able to communicate with each other openly.
Another point of debate in the dynamics of male-to-male relationships is the development of male brains. Research into how the brains of gay and straight men develop has shown that in gay men certain parts of the hypothalamus of their brain was larger than those of heterosexual men and that other parts of their hypothalamus were smaller than those of heterosexual men.
So what do these variations mean? Further research into this topic may show that how the nuclei of a male’s hypothalamus is formed may determine his sexual orientation. To determine the cellular make-up of the hypothalamus requires an examination of it’s nuclei. The hypothalamus in a male is effected during prenatal development by testosterone released from his testes. Later in life his hypothalamus causes an effect during such stages as puberty and continuously effects different aspects of a males body and behavior throughout life.
So if the formation of the hypothalamus in males during prenatal development is effected by testosterone, might that suggest that testosterone may play a significant role in orientation of males during the critical process of prenatal development? Thus meaning orientation, for at least males, is determined prior to birth and the level of testosterone or the point at which it is released during prenatal development may be the cause of the fluctuations in gay and bisexual men. Not only in their gender(s) of interest, but also in their behavior as males, including their masculine or effeminate mannerisms.
I’ve written numerous times about the many different types of guys I’ve met and talked to, either with the intention of dating or whom I merely met in passing and talked with that gave me insight into how they perceived orientation.
Despite the hundreds of various types of men I’ve spoken to over the years, I have still not found one that wants the same things I do or who matches what I’m looking for in a partner. I suppose it may be the same for people of all genders and orientations and it is extraordinarily frustrating. At times you just want to give up and remain a lone-wolf the rest of your life.
There have even been times where I have second guessed whether or not I even want to be with another male. That’s been a daunting thought for me, because I held my interest in men secret for so long. Just as it is for almost everyone who is not strictly heterosexual, I dated the opposite gender for the last few years of my adolescent life and the first few years of my young adult life. The winding and unorthodox journey of sexuality is unique and often times strange and complicated.
Some of the men I’ve been able to talk to have ranged from those that are terribly closeted and in denial who would rather die than utter the truth and would even go so far as to enact violence against gay or bisexual men in fear of being discovered, to men who were self-proclaimed pansexuals, a term meaning that they have a sexual and emotional attraction to all genders and gender identities.
There have been guys who married women and had families, only to years later come to terms with their interest in other men and separate from their wives and seek out fulfilling relationships with men. There’s been men who were promiscuous with women, even having kids out of wedlock, who found themselves yearning for male affection, but had no idea how to attain it.
Others who, though extremely closeted and in denial, couldn’t help but subconsciously flirt with other males, being completely unaware and unable to control it. There were those that cheated on their wives or girlfriends by having one night stands with other men, sometimes involving alcohol and sometimes not.
Some wanted monogamous relationships with other men, some only wanted sexual experiences and no commitment and some only wanted the emotional factor of having another male companion that they could be affectionately close to without having to commit to the confines of an actual relationship so that they could still have sexual relationships with women. Can all these men be called gay? Can some of them be called straight? Perhaps bisexual?
Emotional attraction and physical attraction are defining factors when it comes to understanding orientation. The very words “gay” and “bisexual” are themselves very restrictive. The complexities in human beings make those words more detrimental than helpful because people feel the need to confine themselves within one of those terms. What is gay? What is bisexual? What is human sexuality?
The black and white world that we want to believe in does not exist, the categories that we want to put everyone into are much too limited and human beings are far too complicated.
Even the term homosexual is problematic in understanding human orientation. Just because a guy is attracted to someone of the same gender doesn’t mean he’s sexually attracted to them. His attraction may be entirely affectionate.
Bisexuality/Pansexuality and whatever other terms have been created and used in describing people who have some form of interest in more than one gender are also a vast group of people. Most people think that bisexuality means that someone is sexually attracted to both genders. But like I’ve said over and over, attraction is more than something physical. Heterosexuals don’t get into relationships simply because they want to have sex with the opposite gender (unless they’re literally just after sex).
Relationships are complex, as equally complex as the people who attempt to form them. A bisexual man may have a strictly sexual attraction to men as well as a sexual and emotional attraction to women. Or he may have a sexual and emotional attraction to both. Or he may only have a sexual attraction to women and only an emotional attraction to men.
As frustratingly complicated as these things sound, imagine how these people feel. Imagine what their lives must be like as they try to navigate through a life where society is constantly trying to throw them into restrictive categories that they may only partially fit into, where the label it comes with forces them to be seen by everyone as just one inaccurate thing.
Human orientation is really just about attraction. Not the type of attraction that is solely defined by what the human eye can see, but what the human “heart” can feel. If it were up to me, terms like heterosexual and homosexual would no longer exist, labels like gay, straight, bisexual, etc would cease to exist.
All to be replaced by the fundamental truth that human beings are attracted to other human beings and the type of human beings they are attracted to is an individual thing that doesn’t need to be made into a debate. Relationships are personal matters and the boundaries of those relationships should remain between the people involved.
Despite the fact that I have spent much of the last six years of my life emotionally and physically alone in the romantic sense, I’ve been graced with the opportunities to learn about so many different types of people. These expansive conversational experiences have given me so much information that I can write heavily about the psychological aspects of human interaction and attraction.
I don’t know anyone who is willing to write about these types of things, something I consider an unprecedented view into the lives of other people, lives many of us didn’t even know existed.
We don’t know that these people exist, that they feel these things, because no one is willing to talk about it or share their experiences. I am literally unable to not write about it. It is such a powerful and compelling feeling that I have to share this information. If I had access to this kind of information when I was younger, it would have drastically changed my self-perception and how I went about learning about myself.
The idea that if not today, but at some point, some young individual reads the essays I write on the subject of human orientation and learns things they hadn’t even considered before or finds some sense of understanding and reassurance in how they feel, then there is no greater justification for opening up and writing than that. That somehow my willingness to be open and share makes the lives of others easier in some small way is vindication enough for me. A writer could never ask for anything more.
The human heart is a ubiquitous thing, it cannot be controlled, contained or confined to any one definitive truth, it is fluid and penetrates all aspects of our perception.
For continued reading on the ubiquitous nature of human sexuality, check out my writing “More Than Just Friends”.
This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud: