Following on from a past blog on Lazy Dating it makes sense to learn to be authentically yourself, not perform for other people’s needs. Gays have got used to ‘editing’ for years, to protect themselves and others, but telling the truth faster reaps rewards, especially in higher esteem and successful relationships. Way before Brokeback Mountain hit our screens, when Madonna divorced Sean Penn, and ‘Like A Prayer’ was upsetting The Pope, I was mid-drift in a three year Relationship Training Programme to be a Relationship Coach, all before Life Coaching, Rehab and botox became celebrity badges of honour.
So there I was in a room of over 150 participants in a smart hotel, queuing up for the microphone to state my relationship status, in front of all concerned. Hours passed, tears were shred as heterosexual after heterosexual stumbled onto the stage in various tones of voice. Some confidently booming out “I am happily married in a successful relationship,” shy sharers whispered “I’m not in a relationship at the moment,” while “it’s complicated,” or “I’ve never had one” superseded “I’m in a relationship and can’t get out of it.” Identifying sighs and nodding heads rippled the room at that last one.
Over 50 people had gone up to declare and share, but not one gay man, no lesbian or bisexual had opened their soul so far, as my entry to the stage got shorter and shorter. Then I blurted out “I am an out gay man looking for an out gay man for a relationship.” I thought the floor was going to open up.
I still remember the silence and my pulsing vulnerable heart. This prompted me later to re-consider how OUT I really was, where I was out and how I approached always being the odd one out, the token, the ‘brave one.’ I always dreaded those personal development workshops, back then, when you were the ‘only gay in the seminar’ and some grey-haired pony tail wearing hippie would embrace me and say “I’m bisexual – I understand man.” At which point I would perform a verbal diatribe starting with: “No. You don’t.” This was way before the internet and *bi-curious, men who have sex with men, hard-up str8 boys and gay for pay porn sites,* so forgive my snarling, it was a difficult sexual climate when all around were dying of AIDS and you were either gay or you weren’t in the public imagination. Thankfully we have moved on beyond this stereotype.
So when it came to ‘being OUT,’ it was suggested I did some written work on relationships starting with family, friends, neighbours, and work colleagues. Did I act differently with different people, who did I edit conversation with, and what situations made me feel inadequate? How was my social life divided up into genders and sexualities? Is there balance?
Soon I discovered that I skirted round ‘relationship stuff’ within my practitioner training as having a ‘Loving Relationship’ was the goal. In rooms of heterosexuals I clammed up over late night cruising in darkrooms and parklands totally enjoying group sex, voyeuristic sex and quick sex which appeared to be the opposite to what most people were seeking.
Gratefully I was encouraged by the trainers to share how I felt more spiritually connected in a darkroom than a church, more aware of my sexuality on an open heath at midnight than being coupled at that time. I was taught over those training years that authenticity was more valuable than performance, that truth was more essential than editing, that everything changes over time and that finding your voice instead of people pleasing, heals codependency. Our lives are constantly up for review, but the most important path to follow is one of authenticity, truth and love. The relationship you have with yourself is the first relationship to seek, to understand, because you can’t give away what you haven’t got.
I suggest you find a few moments to OUT yourself to yourself, to own up where you stumble, where you fake it, where you just about make it, to write a few things down. Telling the truth faster to yourself never fails in my book.
Who could ever forget Ennis fingering the deceased Jack Twist’s flannel shirt in that bare room, remembering Brokeback and what might have been, if courage had been a true companion. Sadly, many countries today are like 60s America, suppressed and unsafe for gay men to be authentic in front of others, but a film like Brokeback may have lifted their hearts and encouraged authenticity in themselves, to be truthful whatever they deem their sexuality to be. I hope so.