Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Family Gay (oops - Guy)

When I wrote my last post – Relativity – it was pretty easy: to my mind some non-controversial, incontrovertible truths. Either my writing was not up to snuff or I am missing the forest for the trees. In any event after reading the comments I feel the need to take another stab at this topic, if for no other reason that it represents core aspects of my very existence.

The Gay/Bi Dads group I attend crosses my mind – okay more than crosses: charges right at me. I have attended twice, both times around twenty-five men in the proverbial circle of folding chairs. I gather the group has been around for decades now with an ever shifting cast of characters. Some have children who are mere toddlers and the range continues to those whose kids are now adults. There is one thing in common in that one room: a love of and devotion to our varied children. This is neither a hook-up group – a number of men show up with their partners – nor a gripe session. It is twenty-five serious men grappling with how to be the best dads they can be under varied circumstances.

To be blunt, these gay (and a few bi) men have not abandoned their families, are not uninvolved with their children; in some cases they still live with their wives and in many other cases maintain close friendships with their now ex-spouses. If you were to meet them on the street walking with their children unless you have advanced gaydar, you would assume the vast majority of them to be straight.

Now if I am going to let this post continue to write itself I have to step back and share a little more of who I am than I really want to. I have already been divorced once and have children from that marriage. It is hard for me to type seventeen years later but my divorce occurred when those kids were extremely young – one and three. There is a shame in this that is mine alone to bear. But the real shame is not in the divorce or their ages: it is in the fact that I was not nearly as good a dad, not nearly as involved, not nearly as caring as I should have been. And I was straight back then.

Whatever happens with this marriage, those mistakes will never be repeated: never. I have grown and in some ways starting to address issues of my own sexuality is a big part of that growth. Whether I stay in the basement or get an apartment down the road, whether I become gay celibate or have a full blown slut phase, it is all irrelevant to how I choose my priorities in terms of my children.

And as if this venting has not been enough, let’s go down a different path. Carrie also has a seat at this table and Carrie has been plain on her views of being married to a gay man. She does not want to maintain the marriage as it once was. She does not want to share her bed knowing my sexual fantasies center around men. She is happy to share the house and the family, happy for me to explore my gay side responsibly. She is not willing to share a bedroom whether I act on being gay or not.

So when I sense a belief that I am not being a good father, “husband” or provider because I am gay and I am choosing to integrate that into my overall life, I do get a little defensive, both for me and for Carrie. We have no illusions as to the difficulty of our lives and the finesse and devotion that will be required. But if we are both okay and our children are all okay, then I say things will be okay.

Time to start my day: I have a young ‘un having a minor hissie fit, Carrie and I need to go look at some major appliances and this evening I think I have arranged a date. All this and in one day: there are worse lives.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Flip once coined the phrase “Right Sizing”. It had a certain resonance and I gladly expropriated it on occasion. Today I realized my problem with the phrase. It implies that there is an appropriate size for things and while I can tell you twelve ounces are the right size for a can of soda – not the monstrous mega-gulps that Seven-eleven wants to foist upon us, I am less sure of the right size for my gayness.

This weekend was the third Friday of the month: Married Gay group at the Center. I look forward to this monthly event – an interesting group, a safe environment to continue to grow, and a mass migration to a Gay bar after the meeting to hang and drink.

This weekend was also “fence” weekend. My son-in-law was coming down to help – okay, more than just help – replace 120 feet of fencing (a daunting task). Another son was also coming to be part of the crew – family central. The festivities fully commenced Saturday morning, but the masses were gathering Friday night.

A few months ago I would have fixated to the last moment on how to spend my Friday night: this time by mid-week when I realized how things were breaking, I announced to Carrie that I would be home Friday night, home where I should be.

Normally the right size would be to go to my meeting – it is only once a month and it is not as if I am going out for a CL style hookup. But this week it would have been the wrong size. And as I thought about it today I realized that much of the rest of my life will be a balancing act – balancing an already incredibly full life while integrating new pieces into my puzzle.

Part of the problem is that while Einstein gave us relativity, Newton gave us conservation of matter. If life is measured by hours and all my hours are accounted for, then anything added will create decisions and choices which can be summed up in one word: conflicts. Carrie and I are trying to create a responsible framework – my nights out and the same for her – if only for a glass of wine with a friend. But on many weekends the commitments of life fill the schedule before any chance to create the separations.

It has been a great weekend – surrounded by family: building, eating, drinking, and of course talking. We had a festive dinner last night – nine of us – and I was in my customary place at the head of the table. Not much more I could ask: which is ultimately the problem – balancing the joy of this family weekend with being gay. Not “being” gay in the essence of Nate sense – I am out to the family and my gayness is pretty much accepted in many ways. No, the problem is living gay – meeting men, developing relationships. Heck, with my schedule even hooking up is more complicated than I would have thought.

So I have no magic answer today. I realize that having a busy life is not an excuse to stop accepting - and growing with my gayness, but I also realize that my family has to maintain a clear primacy. It has been a year and a half of challenges: I suspect I will find my way through this also – being true to my family without denying myself. And I am sure there will be times when I choose poorly, but hopefully more often I will choose wisely.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Finding The Ball

A few weeks ago I wrote a post and the next day announced a mulligan and started over. When I opened Word tonight to write a brief post, I found the missing “ball” and re-read my words. I was struck by the phrase “sadness bordering on depression”, not being satisfied with denying all the reasons I am depressed, denying the depression itself. Part of what I wrote made it into the “new and improved” model, but I need to resurrect the rest, with a little added commentary.

The past week or so felt like a war in my being, sadness bordering on depression, I reached a level of fear, almost paralyzing, and I whined like I have not done in a long time.

I feel better now.
(Ah, wishful thinking.)

Last night was interesting in a strange way. I met a friend from several of my gay worlds for dinner and drinks. We went to a bar that caters at men my age and the while the piano player taps out show tune melodies, the informal choir belts out the words. I mean how gay is that? But I am ahead of myself. As we had dinner – an informal diner meal – I expressed my recent sense of confusion and depression. And as I explained it, the shear absurdity of my recent self became apparent. I am a gay man – yes, I can still be aroused by women and have quite the wandering eye, but that does not change the gayness.

The evening developed a sense of humor. At various times my friend – okay, my date, but more on that word later – would tease that being out with a straight guy would ruin his reputation. As we hung out, quite comfortably in a gay bar, he would tease me. And as we held hands and kissed he would tease me, each gentle barb being a reminder of who I am, where I was, and what I was doing.

And now probably three weeks after that evening and the telling of the story, I realize how much deeper the depression is than I was willing to admit to myself, no less others. I realize how on target my friend’s barbs were, how I could spend a night like that and still deny it all. I said more on the word “date” later: Carrie would comment on my date and I would say no just dinner or drinks. She was of course correct. A date by any other name…

And as I write this I remember the only post ever deleted, and in record time – mere hours. It was a simple picture that was worth a thousand words, taken with my Chicago friend on my last trip there. Spider saw the post and correctly pointed out I should consider how Carrie would feel if she opened the blog and saw it. The thought was correct then and my decision was judicious. But as I sit here tonight, as Carrie and Sis try to bang into my head the fact that my gayness is more than wanting to give a blow job, I feel a need to share it – not so much for any of you, for all of you have me figured out better than I know myself. It is as a reminder to me of why I must continue down this path.

One more week of my work hell, and then time for some serious reflection as to who I am, where I am from and to where I am going.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Passover Homily

This week Jews celebrate Passover, an Old Testament story, one that Jews and Christians share: the exodus of a people from Egypt. The Jews leave Egypt, cross the Sea of Reeds, and then wander for forty years. Now if you look at a map, it is a distance across the Sinai, but even on foot, not a forty year trek. And on the trip an amazing thing happens: every one who started the journey dies - everyone except Moses who lives to see the Promised Land, but never actually enters it.

One might wonder why. One theory is the people who left Egypt were slaves and God did not think that they could transition to being a free people. A new generation was born, one who did not know of slavery, one bred with freedom in their bones. I have long known this tale, but this year I have been haunted by it in a slightly different variation. The story deals with transitioning from Slavery to Freedom, but would not the converse be true: a people born into freedom would surely be ill equipped to be slaves. It is not the value of the relative worlds: it is the transition between such different ones.

So this year I consider the transition from having lived in the straight world for my entire existence to joining the world of gay men. The facts relating to my gayness seem rather irrelevant. The simple fact, the only relevant fact is that I have lived my entire life as a straight man; my self identification has, until the past year, always been straight. It was the world I was born into and the world I embraced.

Crossing the Rubicon was the title of a post written a year or so ago, a post about telling our first friends of my changing times. The title could have been Crossing the Red Sea, not nearly as catchy, but so much more accurate. Because I have crossed into the desert, in search of some promised land, and it is in that desert that I find myself wandering.

I am not exactly sure what being gay means. My gay family members have partners and speak of a life as mundane as any – raising families, maintaining jobs – real life. Of course they have friends who are also gay and while not solely, it is a major part of their social milieu. My life is mature – long term friends, family, many children: strong foundations, though by my actions clearly not enough.

The thing is that I foresee a lifetime in the desert, transitioning in ways that are terrifying and possibly unattainable. I am not afraid of the journey anymore if for no other reason than I am already on it, if for no other reason than my gay side cannot be denied, if for no other reason than I have crossed the sea and the waters, once parted, are again a raging torrent: if for no other reason than Carrie does not want a return. So the wandering is started and maybe I will find some promised land, but I am not sure it will ever be natural in the way the land of one’s birth feels.

When people think of Martin Luther King, the “I have a dream” speech comes to mind.
I have always had a soft spot for a different speech, one given in Memphis, given the night before he was assassinated.

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

After inserting the quote, I felt strange – including such majestic words, words tinged with the tragedy of that next day and using them in such an unrelated way. But I wonder if maybe the resonance that quote has always had with me was related to things I did not yet understand. And surely if we are dealing with oppressed minorities, still not there, but straining every day, LGBT has a seat at the table.

So I will continue my journey, but have little illusion that it comes with an epiphany. And remain thankful that in some ways I remain in a promised land, maybe not a gay one, but one of family and friends that remain the foundations of my little world, even as I strain to continue to grow into myself.