Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday fragments

Last night Spouse & I watched a great special on PBS called "Anyone and Everyone". It contained portions of interviews with a dozen or so families who explained how they dealt with their gay child's coming out to them. All of the families had a difficult time initially, most due to their religion's strong stand against homosexuality, and others due to cultural pressures. What I found most interesting was:
  1. All the families in the film reported a real need to become educated about homosexuality by reading books and the internet, going to therapy, and attending PFLAG meetings in order to find a way to reconcile their faith with their gay child. It was very encouraging to see families taking positive action to improve their relationship with their gay child.
  2. Many of the parents described a particular type of grief they felt, that their gay child's life was not going to turn out as they had always planned (ie: marriage, kids, house in the suburbs), even though that's exactly the life some of them do have now.
Check your local PBS listing and watch this documentary. You may be moved as I was to email PBS and thank them for the timely program.

My friend Michael is visiting this weekend, with his friend Maurice. Michael visited last summer but we did not wind up going to the beach on Sat, and then he left right after breakfast on Sun. Since Michael and Maurice are both single I have suggested to them that they plan to do what they want this weekend (bars, etc.), and use our place as a base camp. That way they won't feel obligated to do what Spouse & I want to do, and vice versa. I'm sure the 4 of us will have sufficient time to hang out together, whether its out and about, or at home.
I'm really looking forward to the summer Olympics! This might seem odd since I usually do not play or watch any sports, in person or on TV. But there's something about watching 'the best of the best' competing against one another, for personal excellence as well as the medals, that's exciting to me.

I also enjoy the winter Olympics a great deal, but the upcoming summer Olympics will feature mens diving and gymnastics. Can you say 'gorgeous bodies'??? Mmmmm...

For those going to Pride this weekend, have a blast! I hope everyone has a terrific weekend.

Crush du Jour: David Durante

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Disappointed - a call to action

I was disappointed to learn that Heinz has chosen to withdraw its Deli Mayo commercial featuring an alternative family. But rather than just stew over it, I decided to take action and contact the UK branch who commissioned the commercial.

I encourage you to do the same by clicking here to send an email via their website. Or, send your email directly to the top executives:,, and Here is my letter, which you may copy or paraphrase if you like:

Dear Heinz,

I was very pleased to see the commercial (via the internet) for your Deli Mayo. I found it to be tasteful and clever. I liked the fact that the commercial showed an alternative family, since we all know that families come in many varieties. Not all families are caucasian, and not all families have both a mother and father, yet they are still valid families that exist among us. I applauded your sensitivity to the reality of the diversity in our world when I forwarded the commercial to many of my friends, and made a mental note to pick up some Heinz Deli Mayo at the store next time.

But my delight turned to disappointment when I learned that the commercial had been withdrawn after less than a week due to "complaints that it was offensive and inappropriate."

While it is certainly commendable that Heinz's policy is to "listen to consumers", I fear that Heinz only listened to a small minority of consumers who found the commercial "offensive". Likely the majority of consumers did not find the commercial inappropriate, or there would have been many more than 200 complaints.

I am disappointed that Heinz did not stand behind its decision to run this commercial that represents just one of the many alternative families that exist in our community. It appears that Heinz cowered to a small but vocal minority whose sensitivity to diversity could stand to be raised a bit.

Since a small sample of consumers complained about an alternative family with two fathers resulted in Heinz's withdrawal of its commercial, what will be next?

Will Heinz not feature any single-parent families?

What about inter-racial families?

Will Heinz choose to feature only caucasian families with two opposite sex parents?

What will Heinz do if they receive more than 200 complaints from consumers who express their disappointed that the contemporary, realistic commercial has been withdrawn?

It may be impossible to accurately answer these questions at this point, but I urge Heinz to ponder them sufficiently in order to better inform its marketing direction and not cater to a small number of small-minded consumers.


Mark in DE

You can also sign this petition, but I feel emails via their website and directly to the executives are much more effective. Come on! Let's not sit back and say nothing while a handful of old, conservative fogies are shouting from the roof tops. Contact Heinz and encourage others to do the same by posting a link to this post on your blog.

Crush du Jour: Scott McGregor

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unconnected thoughts

While Spouse & I were having lunch together at Pizza Hut, we saw 2 adults and 3 children (presumably a family) enjoying the pizza, pasta, and salad bar. Unfortunately, while the obese parents were scarfing down slice after slice of pizza like they hadn't eaten in days, their unsupervised children were picking up food from the bar with their hands.

At 1 point I saw the young girl reach into the container of cucumber slides, pull 1 out and place it into her mouth, but it dropped from her mouth back into the cucumber container. Hopefully the cucumber slice she retrieved from the container was the same 1 she had in her mouth. Her parents and presumably the restaurant staff were completely oblivious. I'm getting goose bumps by simply reliving the experience now.
Part of me silently vowed never to return, while the other side of me reasoned 'How many times has this happened but I wasn't aware of it? Really, how do I know that food purchased from the grocery store isn't similarly contaminated on occasion by food processing workers that mishandle the food?'

I decided that if I allowed this to worry me unduly I would never be able to eat anything, anywhere, ever again, unless I grew it myself. And that ain't happenin', so I'm choosing deliberate ignorance.
Last week I met up with a couple friends for mini golf and really had a good time! (Spouse didn't want to go.) The weather was ideal for an evening round of putt putt, and I'd forgotten just how fun it is to play. As the sun retreated, we were treated to a beautiful sky filled with pink, orange, melon, and grey-blue.
A friend sent me this commercial made by the Heinz corporation and set to air in the UK, featuring an alternative family of 2 gay men and 2 children. According to Heinz, their new product is so good its like having a NY deli in your house. I think its fantastic. Sweet cheeks indeed! The TV campaign was set to run for five weeks and was to be supported by press ads of the deli chef and the strapline "Give your BLT a little NYC". Unfortunately the commercial was pulled due to complaints from the public.

I am totally fine with you getting up at 5 or 6 am, but please be considerate of those of us who are still sleeping. Please do not mow your lawn or use one of those annoying, buzzy weed eaters until at least 8am. Preferably 9. And please control your barking dogs and screaming children, too. Some of us would like to remain asleep.
See? I told you they were unconnected thoughts.

Crush du Jour: Chad Lopez

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Free speech

For the record, I am an advocate for free speech. Even inflammatory and potentially damaging speech. In my opinion, we either have free speech or we don't. We can't claim that some free speech is our right, while other free speech should be prohibited because its hurtful.

I also believe that those who exercise their right to free speech must also be prepared to assume full responsibility and liability for the reactions and consequences of their speech. Oh yes! You are free to say want you want, but be prepared for the possible consequences.

For example, I believe comedian Michael Richards should be allowed to use racial slurs during his stand-up act, even though many find it offensive. Its his right to say them, and its our right to show him that its disgusting and boycott his performances if we're offended.

I believe McCain's top advisor Charlie Black has the right to say that "another terrorist attack on U.S. soil would be a "big advantage" for McCain", even though many find it offensive. Its his right to say it, and its our right to disagree and not vote for McCain. (As if any thinking person would vote for him in the 1st place. See? That's me exercising my right to free speech.)

A friend sent me this informative quiz that tests one's ability to match wildly inflammatory statements and song lyrics (free speech) to either the religious zealot or rapper who authored them. See how many you can get correct.

And speaking of speech, my fellow blogger
Doug has a funny video on his blog about the 'ultimate swear word'. I found elements of humor and truth in this, and hope you'll enjoy it too. FYI - this video is NSFW (not safe for work).

Crush du Jour: Myles Hannaman

Monday, June 23, 2008

Marriage equality

I have decided to stop using the term "gay marriage". In my opinion, it has become 'loaded' with all kinds of inflamed emotions and built-in resistance by conservatives. "Gay marriage" has been used by Republicans to polarize voters. I believe we will have a much better chance of achieving marriage equality if we stop saying "gay marriage" and start saying "marriage equality".

I think "marriage equality" calls to mind the fact that an inequality currently exists, and most decent Americans usually view inequality as a bad thing. So if we can keep saying that we are striving for "marriage equality" (rather than "gay marriage"), we may be able to garner the sympathy and support of more people.

So, no more talk of "gay marriage" on this blog. In fact, I do not support "gay marriage". I support "marriage equality" for all citizens. If this makes sense to you, then I ask that you, too, adopt the usage of "marriage equality" in your conversations and writings.

By now everyone's heard about the historic marriage equality decision that resulted in a lot of happiness and joy among Californians last week as many tied the knot. I couldn't be happier for them! I was really touched by this story of a lesbian couple in their 80s who got married after being together for 55 years. Truly inspirational.

What absolutely slays me is how those conservative, right-wing, so-called "Christians" keep saying that "Marriage has a unique place in God's creation, joining a man and a woman in a committed relationship in order to nurture and support the new life for which marriage is intended. The meaning of marriage is deeply rooted in history and culture, and has been shaped considerably by Christian tradition. Its meaning is given, not constructed." (From a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, of the Catholic Church.)

This so completely bogus, on every point. Here's why:
  1. Marriage is not a creation of God, it was a creation of government to give males 'ownership rights' over their wife (or wives), and to give females security later in life, since they could not own property. The only way a female could insure her future was to be formally attached to a man in marriage. Marriage was primarily a legal status, not a religious one. That is why atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians are permitted to marry.
  2. Having children often follows hetero marriage, but it is not the reason why men and women marry. Some couples choose not to have children, while others are physically unable to do so, yet they still desire the legal status of marriage, knowing full well their marriage will not "support the new life for which marriage is intended". The statement is a gross generalization, and if it were true it would nullify all marriages that did not result in children.
  3. I agree that the "meaning of marriage is deeply rooted in history and culture". Many people desire the security, emotional fulfillment, and legal status of marriage - even gays. But the religious trappings given to current marriage are indeed "constructed" by "Christian tradition" and were not the source of marriage. Non-religious people marry for the legal status and protections it provides.

The thing about CA's marriage equality is that it has effects beyond CA. Same sex marriage is also legal in MA, but one may only get a marriage license there if the marriage will be recognized in one's state of residence. CA's law is different in that it does not have the stipulation that one's marriage must be recognized in one's state of residence.

This will allow hundreds and thousands of same sex couples to get married in CA and then file suit in their state of residence (if they so choose) for their marriage to be recognized there, potentially forcing many state courts to have to deal with the issue of marriage equality in their states, whether they want to or not. It will be interesting to see when this begins to happen!

Here's a hilarious satire on that crazy notion that equal rights for gays (marriage, adoption, employment, etc.) is responsible for the unraveling of the fabric of American society:

Did you notice the part about 'since we can't blame the Blacks or the Jews' (since racial and ethnic discrimination is illegal), 'we'll blame everything on the gays'? Its so true! Gays are the last unprotected minority in America, the only ones against whom you can legally discriminate. Hilarious and sad at the same time.

Crush du Jour: Allesandro Calza

Friday, June 20, 2008

Coming out - Part V (the finale)

When we arrived in front of his townhouse he said he worried about me driving all the way back home at such a late hour. He feared I might fall asleep while driving, so he invited me to stay in one of his guest rooms and promised to be a gentleman, remembering my speech earlier that night. I thanked him for the offer but said I wasn’t sleepy at all, and was sure I would make it home okay.

He’d told me earlier that night that he’d just bought and moved into his townhouse a few months ago, so I asked if he would give me a tour of his new home. He agreed.

The tour ended in the family room so we sat on the sofa and talked awhile longer. We began kissing, touching, and one thing led to another. Without saying a word to Wolf about it, I decided I was ready to move on with my new life. Perhaps he figured it out from the look in my eyes, the passion in my kisses, or maybe the bulge in my pants.

He held my hand as he led me upstairs to his bedroom, where we kissed and touched some more and I finally decided to let go. Still kissing, we began undressing each other, and I started to shake with nervousness. He found that endearing and hugged me tightly.

We didn't leave his house for the next two days, until Monday, the 4th of July. It was glorious, it was magical. It was everything I'd hoped it would be.

I immediately stopped going to all of the Kingdom Hall meetings and did not return phone messages from any JWs except my parents. I told them I was going to visit a friend out of state so they wouldn't expect to see me for at least a week.

After about 2 weeks of driving to Wolf's house immediately after work, staying the night, then stopping at my place in the morning to shower and change clothes on my way to work, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to tell my family I was gay and that I wasn’t going to be a JW anymore, even though I knew there would be serious consequences.

Timing worked in my favor. My sister, her husband, and 2 sons were due for a visit from Florida and we had an appointment to have a family portrait taken. After the photo session we all went to my parents’ house for dessert. After finishing our desserts and coffee, with a serious look on my face I told my parents I had something important to tell them and my sisters. My mother asked my brothers-in-law to take the children to the family room so we could talk privately in the living room.

I took a deep breath and told them I was gay. I repeated much of what I’d told my father, about having known and fought it for years, having prayed for a cure, etc. Then I dropped the bomb: “I’ve begun a relationship with a man. I’m not sorry about it, and I’m not going to stop it. This is not a negotiable topic, and I expect that I will be disfellowshipped.”

'Disfellowshipped' is the term used by JWs to describe the status of former members who either choose to leave the religion, as I did, or are kicked out for not being repentant of some 'sin'. JWs are instructed to completely cut off all association and contact with disfellowshipped people, even relatives. JWs are taught that disfellowshipped people are 'dead to God', so they should be regarded that way by members.

My revelation to my family was followed by stunned looks on everyone’s faces, and then tears. They tried to talk me out of it, suggesting therapy and other useless exercises, which I politely refused, reminding them my decision was not up for negotiation. It got pretty emotional for all of us as the reality set in. I did break down somewhat, but I did not back down at all.

When I left them that night, I knew it would be the last time I’d see my family. I wasn't sure how I'd manage such a devastating loss, but I knew I had to try. I just had to.

The next week I wrote a letter to the Elders informing them that I had “committed fornication” (their term for sex outside of marriage), that I was not repentant, and that I knew the result would be disfellowshipping. For clarity I told them I no longer considered myself a JW, so I would decline any suggestion to meet with them, seeing no point in discussing this non-negotiable personal matter.

I've met other gay former JWs who chose a less decisive break from the religion. Some simply moved away and kept their sexuality a secret from their family and former congregation, feeling this would preserve their relationship with their family. For me it was important to be clear and proud about taking control of my life. I did not want to have to constantly edit my speech around my family or make up lies about the congregation in the new area to which I'd moved. I told the truth because I was ready to be done with that chapter of my life. Even my relationship with my family wasn't worth sacrificing my authenticity or integrity.

I began living at Wolf’s house practically from the night we met. I left my condo furnished for several months until I was sure our living arrangement would work out, and then rented the condo to a friend from work. With a little rearranging at Wolf’s, we fit most of my furniture in, and what was duplicated I sold at a moving sale.

I had just officially 'come out' and began living with my boyfriend. Life was good!

But this was a time for enormous growth and change for me. Finally out from under the control of the JW religion I was beginning to think for myself, and there was plenty to think about! There was so much I wanted to learn and know and experience.

I volunteered weekly at Food & Friends, an organization that prepares and delivers three meals a day to home bound people with AIDS at no cost to them. I formed and directed an a cappella jazz group that sang charts I arranged. I saw a play that featured gay people. I met a transgender woman. I celebrated my first birthday and Christmas. I was like a sponge, soaking up much as possible of what Life had to offer.

But all of this changed me. No longer was I that same naïve young man, content to fill in a place in my closeted boyfriend’s life. Every day I was creating a new page in my own life, as an openly gay man. I hadn’t forgotten about those 4 happy couples in the diner who live in their smartly decorated California ranch style houses with the red Spanish tile roof, who host dinner parties and serve cocktails and play Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and who roll their eyes at the other who is searching for a coupon while grocery shopping together, and who will end their day cuddled up on their sofa watching TV together. I still wanted all that.

It became unhappily evident that our goals in life were too different. I didn’t want to pretend to be Wolf's roommate every time his parents came to visit, and he didn’t want to roll his eyes as I searched for a coupon while grocery shopping together. So after 3 years together and several discussions on this topic, we parted as friends and I moved out. Several gay friends helped me load the U-haul and take my stuff back to my condo, which had just become vacant.

Although disappointed that my relationship with Wolf had not turned out as I’d hoped, I was at the same time excited to be following my heart, trying my best to live an authentic life, on my terms.

I felt like more learning and growth were just ahead for me.

And the next day, I met Spouse.

Here's how we met, our 1st date, 2nd date, and 3rd date - all in the same week. Yeah, I work kinda fast.

Crush du Jour: Konrad Bolt

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming out - Part IV

I was nervous but also excited when we first got to Badlands. The music was loud and fun. Patrick and I ordered drinks and hung out for a while, and I was amazed at how quickly I began to relax. Everything seemed so 'natural' to me there. Guys talking, dancing together, kissing each other; guys who looked just like me – not just the stereotypes.

Patrick and I both loved to dance, so we danced together the rest of the night. The music was great and we had so much fun! When it was time to go home we decided right then to do it again the next weekend.

And the following weekend.

And the following weekend.

We went to Badlands every weekend for about 2 months. We’d always dance together and ignore the glances and ‘cruises’ from other men. This was our way of 'safely testing out the waters', and my way of ensuring I wouldn't get involved. It was so liberating to be there with my friend and with other guys like us.

Eventually we began to chat with others we saw there regularly. Most of the time it was general small talk, but I remember meeting this guy named Mark who drug me onto the dance floor when his favorite song came on: “Supermodel”, by the new artist RuPaul. Mark seemed to free and happy as he strut his stuff! The place had really grown on me. I felt comfortable at Badlands. But I couldn’t believe what I was doing – leading a double life. I was still going to all the meetings at the Kingdom Hall but I was having a blast at the dance club every weekend.

My good friend Debbie tried to help me to anticipate what might happen.

“Sooner or later you’re going to meet someone nice, Beach, who thinks you’re really nice too” she warned. “He’s going to want to date you. What are you going to do then?” I dismissed such a notion because my self-esteem was still on the mend, and I really didn’t believe yet that anyone would actually want to date me.

But she was right. Another night I danced with a guy (also named Mark) who invited me to come home with him. I turned him down graciously, telling him that I was “old-fashioned” and believed that “sex and love should go together”. I wasn’t ready to cross the line yet. I was still adhering to the JW morals with which I'd been raised. Mark smiled and suggested a date, so we exchanged phone numbers.

I'd never been on a date before, but a few days later I was so eager I couldn’t wait any longer so I called him and invited him to dinner.

I picked him up at his place in DC, and we rode together in my car to the restaurant he recommended: The Straits of Malaya. It was a balmy June evening so we sat at a table on the second story terrace, overlooking the street. I’m sure we talked until our food arrived, although I can’t imagine what about, since I was so naïve and hadn’t a clue about politics or current events back then.

No sooner had our food arrived and we begun eating when the sky suddenly darkened, the wind picked up, and it began to storm! Many other diners picked up their plates and hurried inside the restaurant. Figuring they had already gotten all the vacant tables inside the tiny restaurant, we huddled under the table umbrella, as close to the center of the table as possible, and tried to continue our dinner. A few minutes later the storm ended, and we were alone on the terrace. Looking back on it now, it seems quite comical. At the time it seemed utterly romantic.

Upon returning to his place he invited me in for coffee, we looked through his CD collection, and began to kiss. I wasn't ready to go to the next level physically, so I looked at my watch and remarked that it was late and that I’d better get going. We both said we’d had a good time, and he said he’d call me later. We kissed goodbye, which was pretty amazing for me, and I left.

He never called me back.

Another weekend at Badlands I noticed this very handsome man who entered the dance floor with a female. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt from the Boston bar called “Cheers”, which inspired the sitcom. We made eye contact a few times while dancing and he smiled at me. I smiled back and became instantly embarrassed. Not long afterward he and his female dance partner left the dance floor and I didn’t see them anymore the rest of the night. But I couldn’t forget the handsome guy in the “Cheers” T-shirt, with whom I’d made eye contact and exchanged smiles. Was I actually learning how to meet guys? I think so.

I still don't sure how I justified this at the time, since I was still pretending to be a JW, but I put an ad in the local gay paper, under the ‘Glances’ category. It read something like:

Me: blond in green button up shirt
You: brunette in “Cheers” T-shirt
Both: made eye contact and smiled. I hope that female is only a friend.

Just my luck, the guy saw my ad and called the number and punched in my mailbox number to leave a message. I couldn’t believe it! His name was Mark and he said the female was indeed just a friend. (It seemed every gay man I met that summer was named Mark.) He left his phone number and said I could call him, which I did. We talked briefly and then agreed to meet at Badlands on Saturday.

Patrick was amazed that despite my not being officially ‘out’, I had already been out on a date with a guy and now had another date scheduled with a different guy. Debbie reminded me of the conversation we’d had before when she asked me what I was going to do. This time my response was “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” I believe I knew what I was going to do, but wasn't ready to admit it yet, to Debbie or to myself.

It was just after 9pm on Saturday when I met up with Mark again at Badlands. I was taking medication for sinusitis and knew that alcohol would make me even more congested so I just ordered Diet Coke. Mark arrived, not wearing the “Cheers” t-shirt this time, and we sat at the upstairs bar, which wasn’t crowded or loud yet because the place had just opened. He seemed nice and we chatted for a little while. The conversation went rather smoothly until he asked about my previous relationship, at which point I basically told him I was 'just coming out' and hadn't had any relationships yet.

A little while later he said he needed to get going. He was leaving on vacation the next morning and needed to finish packing. I took this to be the way a NICE guy says he’s not interested, but as he stood up to leave he said “I don’t live far from here, so if I finish packing quickly, I’ll come back.” I said okay and wished him a good trip. I felt a little disappointed as he left. I knew he wouldn’t be back. We just didn’t seem to click the way I’d hoped. I stayed at the upstairs bar long enough for him to exit the building, and then I went downstairs where more people were starting to arrive.

Patrick couldn’t come out to the dance club that night (I don’t remember why). But I had gotten so comfortable there that I decided to stay, rather than leave just after Mark left. I had some casual conversations with a few guys, danced a little, and was approached a handsome man who told me his name was Wolfgang, or Wolf for short.

Feeling a little let down from my date with Mark, it seemed I had nothing to lose so I risked sounding silly and asked Wolf "What kind of a middle name goes with Wolfgang?" To my delight he picked up on my attempt at humor and replied "With a first name like Wolfgang, I don't need a middle name." We both laughed and he offered to buy me a drink ("another Diet Coke, thank you"). We talked, danced, and before I knew it my mood had lifted and I'd practically forgotten all about Mark and his "Cheers" T-shirt.

Then Wolf invited me to go outside where we could talk without having to shout over the loud music. But before we left the club, I needed to give him my “I’m old-fashioned/sex and love should go together” speech. I did, and to my surprise, he thought my convictions were completely admirable and said he didn’t think he’d ever meet someone like that. I was happy to be ‘off the hook’ just in case he had something else besides talking in mind, but was also impressed by his politeness.

Just as we were about to leave, who walks in the door? Of course - Mark!

I couldn't believe my eyes. He'd come back, just like he said he would. I felt terrible for having dismissed his offer to come back after finishing packing for his trip! I really thought he was just being nice. I really wanted to spend some more time with him but I was about go outside to talk with Wolf. What was I to do?

So I pretended I didn't see Mark come in the door. Wolf and I walked out, and I never saw or heard from Mark again.

Wolf and I walked up the block to a Greek café to have a bite to eat. It was warm but not hot so we sat at a table on the sidewalk and ate, talked some more, and then went for a short walk in the neighborhood. It was a beautiful night, especially for DC in July.

Wolf noticed it was after midnight and that he had missed the last train back to the northern suburbs where he lived. I considered giving him a ride home, but I lived in the southern suburbs and it would be completely out of my way, so I didn’t offer him a ride right away. He said he’d catch a cab. But somewhere between the Greek salad at the sidewalk café and the stroll through the city that warm July night, I decided it was time.

I offered him a ride home.

Crush du Jour: Kevin Youkilis

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Coming out - Part III

I called my father asked him to come over. I told him I had to talk to him about a private matter and requested he not bring my mother. I was very nervous, but at least this wasn’t the first time I’d had to do this.

I decided to tell him first about having gay feelings and not acting on them for many years. He was very interested and had lots of questions. He wanted to know how long I’d had these feelings, what I thought was the cause of them, and had he not spent enough time with me as a boy, etc. I was surprised at how calmly I was able to answer them. I told him I remembered in my early teens having feelings of being ‘different’ at first, not identifying the feelings as ‘gay’ right away. I told him that the feelings changed from feeling ‘different’ to feeling ‘normal’ to me. I told him that despite what the JWs teach about homosexuality being a learned behavior, I was absolutely sure that I was born that way. It wasn’t his or my mother’s fault; it was just a fact of life, like being born left-handed instead of right-handed, or growing up with red hair instead of brown hair. I explained to him that for many years I didn’t know anyone who was gay, yet I knew that I was gay, so how could the JW teaching of homosexuality being a learned behavior be correct? Who did I learn it from? I tried to explain it as logically and calmly as possible, without an inappropriate level of emotion, as I knew this to be a ‘style’ my father could relate to, and he really seemed to understand. My nervousness seemed to lessen after we’d gotten started, and I felt much closer to him once my lifelong secret was out in the open.

But then came the hard part: telling him I’d been privately reproved. I explained that for nearly 30 years I’d been repressing the feelings, praying to be cured, and trying hard to do the right thing – but that I’d slipped twice. He was much more comforting to me than the Elders to whom I’d originally confessed. He reminded me that we are all imperfect and fall short of God’s righteous requirements everyday. Although some sins are more serious than others, he reminded me that God’s heart is large and he wants to forgive. I started to get choked up and I could feel hot tears begin to crawl down my cheeks. This was the comfort I should have gotten the first time! Unfortunately, it was not to last.

With Baron’s move to California and then on to London, and my previous Elders’ request that I break off all ties with him, our feelings slowly began to fade. Love is like a flower: with attention it blossoms, with neglect it wilts. I missed Baron so much and wanted more than ever to be with him. I really needed someone to talk to who could understand.

For a while I kept the condition of not seeing him, but later we arranged some secret visits. But these visits became fewer and farther in between. I tried to discuss it with him a few times but he always had reasons why he had to go elsewhere on his days and weeks off of work, and I always accepted them. Looking back now I can see that he was subconsciously distancing himself from me because he didn’t want to have to speak with the Elders again if we became physically involved again. We continued to write letters and call. He would always assure me I was the most important person in his life, and that he still loved me very much. But those words seemed to lose their meaning when I counted only 3 times he had visited me in 1992, for only 2 or 3 days at a time. Maybe it was his fault. Maybe I had developed so much emotionally that I couldn’t be satisfied by his occasional, brief visits. Maybe it was simply time for both of us to move on.

I was contacted in the fall of 1992 by an old friend from high school named Patrick. We had tried to keep in touch over the years since school had ended, but months and years sometimes passed before we saw each other. Patrick had told me he was gay while we were still in high school, so when I was trying to be a good JW I would purposely avoid him. But when he called me this time, I had news for him.

I told Patrick that I was gay, which was no surprise to him, and then about Baron. He sympathized and shared with me that he’d recently ended a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. We sort of delighted in the fact that both of us were ‘in the same place’. Well, not exactly. I reminded him I was still a JW and that although I was gay, I was putting my faith in God and trying not to act on my feelings.

He told me “You’ll go insane if you keep this up. Its not healthy. You’ve got to be who you are.” I tried to explain my religious beliefs that made this behavior necessary, but as I spoke them to him it felt as if I were repeating a memorized speech. I realized that I didn’t even believe what I was telling him.

Patrick shared with me that he had been seeing a therapist for depression. One of the things his therapist had recommended to help him combat isolation was to get out into the community regularly and make friends. Patrick said he wanted to go to a gay dance club and bar in Washington DC, and asked me to go with him because he was too anxious to go alone. I knew as a JW I should not go with him, even if it were for his mental health!

I told Patrick I would go but that I was afraid, so we put it off for a while. Instead we both started attending some social events with the local gay and lesbian social group. This seemed ‘safer’ since the events all took place in people's homes.

Once again I allowed myself to fantasize about stepping out of my JW life and imagined life as an ‘out’ gay man. I remembered those happy couples at the diner who live in their smartly decorated California ranch style houses with the red Spanish tile roof, who host dinner parties and serve cocktails and play Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and who roll their eyes at the other who is searching for a coupon while grocery shopping together, and who will end their evening cuddled up on their sofa watching TV together. I wanted all that, more than ever.

I believe it was at that point that I finally decided to take control of my own life, instead of letting the JW religion control it. Thanks to the advice Patrick shared from his therapy sessions, I identified the root causes of my own unhappiness and depression and decided to do something about them. So now came the formidable challenge of undoing years of JW training. I knew that I did not choose to be gay, that I was born that way, and that there’s nothing wrong with that. That alone was a huge step!

Next it was time to seriously change my eating habits. I was about 40 pounds overweight and had developed the bad habit of eating out frequently. Depression can be complicated by bad nutrition and inadequate exercise. Patrick told me about a book called “Fit for Life” that promotes better health and weight loss through proper food combining. I read the book and began trying the correct food combinations. Debbie, Patrick and I began bicycling together. By May of 1993 I had lost those extra 40 pounds. None of my clothes fit so I had fun buying new ones. Everyone noticed the weight loss and how healthy I looked and acted.

During this time I began to disengage from the idea that I would stay in the JW religion despite being gay. Although I still attended most of the services (3 times a week), I no longer prepared for them at home and slowly participated less at the services. But my energy level and optimism in life was so high they were impossible not to notice. How convenient that I could attribute my new attitude to my diet.

Next I got a stylish haircut; one my JW parents didn’t like. My mother, who was still unaware of my coming out to my father, suggested the haircut was “too trendy”, and that “someone might mistake you for being gay”. I didn’t tell her that if that happened, it wouldn’t be a mistake! Instead I got different, less “trendy” haircut. After all, I was still a ‘work in progress’.

I still thought about Baron from time to time, but it wasn’t like before when I would ache to hear from him or spend the entire drive home from work anticipating opening my mailbox for a postcard. With the time difference between the US and London, it was very difficult for us to talk on the phone. When I got home from work in the evening he was going to bed, or he was on a layover in another country in Europe or Asia even farther ahead of me in time. It had been several months since he’d been in touch, and I felt I had all but lost him.

But at the same time all the changes in me were exciting. I had my new physique, new clothes, and a new attitude! Now I was getting curious about what a gay bar would be like, so I phoned Patrick and told him I felt like I was ready to go out with him now.

Crush du Jour: Greg Vaughn

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Coming out - Part II

I had no one to talk to or in whom I could confide until a wonderfully understanding and intelligent woman I befriended at work finally began to reach out to me.

Debbie worked in my office during the day and went to graduate school several evenings a week. We sat near each other at work and became friends. We ate lunch together, went on breaks together, and spent so much time together that, despite the 15 or so years difference in our ages, our co-workers began to joke that we were married. In response to that Debbie said “If we were married I wouldn’t be here. I’d be at home, lying on the sofa, watching soap operas and eating bon-bons all day.” I began calling her Bon-Bon Baby. She recalled me returning from that beach weekend with no visible signs of sun, combined it with my reputation for loving breakfast biscuits, and called me Beach Biscuit. We were a couple: Beach Biscuit and Bon-Bon Baby!

She invited me over for dinner or a movie; I’d help her move some piece of furniture; we’d talk on the phone, or sometimes we’d go for walks in the park near where we both lived. She told me that she was in love with a man she couldn’t have, a priest, and I told her about Baron. With her knowledge of psychology and her insightful questions, she helped me begin to imagine what life might be like outside of the JW religion, where I could be the person I really was inside.

Though not many, I had seen gay people before. I remembered on the California trip with Baron we’d stopped at a retro diner and had seen a group of gay men having a good time over brunch. There were 8 of them, and they appeared to be 4 couples. I pictured each couple had a smartly decorated California ranch style house with a red Spanish tile roof; that they often hosted dinner parties where they served cocktails and played Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday in the background. I pictured them going grocery shopping together, one of them searching for a coupon and the other rolling his eyes. I pictured them cuddled up on their sofa at night watching TV together. Those thoughts comforted me and made me feel sad at the same time.

When the six-month separation was over Baron and I resolved to “do better this time”. We sincerely thought we could be in love with each other and yet refrain from expressing that love in sexual intimacy. Debbie didn’t believe this would work but I insisted I had to try it. Even if I were willing to leave the JW religion, I had no indication he would. And I knew the excruciating pain of being without him.

So Baron and I thought it best not to spend every available minute together as we had done before, hoping this would help us to resist our attraction to one another. We tried being out in public more, rather than being alone together at each other’s homes. We included our friends in our activities, and these things helped… for a while. But a few months later in January of 1991, after having been together all day at Alice’s wedding, we had a relapse and fooled around again. We knew that this time we would have to confess our "sin" to the Elders in order to soothe our prickled consciences and 'make things right' with God.

I had always heard from people in the congregation that the Elders were so kind and comforting whenever they had sought their help or advise. This is likely true in most cases, but not in mine. It took a lot of courage to tell the Presiding Overseer that I needed to talk to a committee of Elders, and I expected to be able to talk with them right away. But I was put off by the Presiding Overseer 3 times because a “matter of greater urgency” needed to be handled. I had not even told them the nature of my need to meet so I was stunned to be informed that my need was less urgent, 3 times. So for 2 weeks I had to agonize over the possibility of being put off again, delaying the relief of finally getting this off my chest. It was exhausting, consuming, and frustrating.

When I finally did get to meet with the committee of Elders and began telling my story, one of the Elders fell asleep! And not just a little nodding off. No, this man was completely asleep and was snoring! He had to be woken several times by one of the other Elders. I knew he worked on a garbage truck and got up very early in the morning for work, but I expected everyone to be awake nonetheless.

I explained to them about the two incidents of “loose conduct” (JW term for fooling around), expressed deep remorse, and told them of my earnest desire to do what was right. They asked a lot of questions about what we did. Had alcohol been involved? Maybe if we’d been drunk it would have made some sort of difference. They wanted to know the details, and asked me again about alcohol. (They probably hoped we'd been drinking so they wouldn't have to face the fact that I was gay and not just drunk.) Then they shared some scriptures with me and asked me to leave the room while they discussed my situation. They decided I was to be ‘privately reproved’ so no one in the congregation would be aware of it except these Elders. But in exchange for this ‘light sentence’ I had to agree to completely cut off all association with Baron. I was relieved and devastated simultaneously.

I had not anticipated the Elders’ condition in order to have my “sin” kept secret from the congregation. But what choice did I have? If I did not agree with the condition, they would publicly reprove me and the entire congregation would be told what I’d done and I would be labeled an “inappropriate associate”. So, in a genuine state of shock, I agreed to cut off association with Baron, but I’d never forgive them for it.

Despite my having described to them my extreme loneliness, the Elders to whom I’d confessed never included me in any of their family’s social functions. In fact, they never once inquired as to how I might be coping with my loneliness, depression, or even if I’d actually forfeited my relationship with Baron. I began to wonder “Where is the kindness, love, and comfort I’d heard that the Elders displayed? Weren’t these the sign of the TRUE Christian congregation? Since getting my hands slapped, nobody’s paid any attention to me.” In fact, I noticed that they smiled at me in a different sort of way from that point on, whenever we passed in the Kingdom Hall. And still no one checked in with me.

So I decided to transfer to another congregation that met at different times in the same Kingdom Hall, which would mean different Elders. I didn’t realize until I made my transfer request that when one is on ‘private reproof’ and requests a transfer, the ‘private reproof’ transfers with them!

“Oh no…” I thought to myself. “My father is an Elder in the congregation I’m transferring to! He’s going to find out!”

I was suddenly shrouded by a sickening fear. Unless I wanted my father to find out about my private reproof from the other Elders, I’d have to tell him myself.

Crush du Jour: Adrian Mutu

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pride and coming out - Part I

Most people know that June is kind of the unofficial Pride month. (Here in DE we celebrate Pride in Sept, after the influx of summer tourists has subsided.)
In honor of this unofficial month of Pride, I'm doing like fellow blogger Java and many others and posting this photo (taken by Kelly) along with my coming out story. Why don't you do it, too? Then leave a comment on Kelly's blog so he can link your post and coming out story with the others he's collecting. I think its a super idea!

I began writing my 'coming out' story very shortly after coming out, about 15 years ago, and have been developing it into a story ever since. Its definitely too long to post in its entirety, so rather than possibly ruining the story with severe editing, I will chunk it up into a series of posts, starting today.

I hope you readers will enjoy the story and decide to post the above photo along with your coming out stories, too. And don't forget to tell Kelly!

“There’s a new guy in my congregation named Baron. He just moved here a few weeks ago. He reminds me so much of you! You’ve just GOT to meet him. I know you’ll like each other and become friends,” my friend Alice excitedly encouraged during a phone conversation in September 1987. “I invited him to join us on our annual ski weekend. I know you haven’t met him yet, and he isn’t exactly part of ‘our group’ yet, but I just KNOW you’re going to like him. He’s going to be at our ski trip planning meeting this Saturday so you can meet him then. I can’t believe how much he reminds me of you. I’m sure he’ll like you, too.” If only Alice knew just how right she was!

Every year Alice and I would plan a bargain ski weekend for a select group of friends. We began planning for it in September and shared the details with the others during a planning meeting and potluck dinner. Although there were about 20 people at this gathering and I was in charge of the planning meeting, I was determined to spend enough time with this Baron, who reminded Alice so much of me, to find out his “story”.

I found that he was the roommate of a friend of mine, Cliff, with whom I’d lost touch a few years ago. He and Baron had lived as roommates in New York, then moved back to Alice and Cliff’s hometown. I remembered the ski weekend where I had met Cliff several years before and the unexplained bond we shared, despite having just met. I felt this same mysterious bond once again meeting Baron.

After the ski planning meeting and potluck were over I volunteered to wash the dishes and Baron offered to help. Elbow deep in soapsuds we found we had much in common and were glad to have been introduced by Alice. That was the beginning of a very memorable relationship.

Baron and I began calling each other long distance several times a week, before anyone had “free long distance”, and I would receive postcards from all over the US, where his flights took him. We shared experiences related to work, caught up on people we both knew, and continued to find things we had in common. We developed a friendship that became very important to us both.

In June of 1988 we took a 3-day weekend to go to the beach. Neither of us got much of a tan because we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking, and then slept until 11. By the time we showered, had lunch, and got to the beach it was late in the afternoon. But all that talking was good. I felt I finally had a friend I could trust and with whom I could confide. As the last of the die-hard beach goers packed their things and left us two alone on the beach, I decided to reveal to my best male friend the inner turmoil I had felt for years.

I explained to him that I thought I was in love with Kim, a young woman in my congregation, and that I was sure she was in love with me. However, I was concerned that some days I felt I wanted to make a commitment to her and get married, but other days I wanted to end the romantic relationship entirely. Although my feelings for her didn’t really change, it was my own reaction to them that seemed to run hot and cold. I just couldn’t make a decision one way or the other. Baron was very understanding and asked me questions to help draw out my feelings and their possible causes. Our similarities seemed to continue, as he told me that he was in a very similar situation with a young woman in California! Although no resolution was found, it just felt good to have someone with whom I could share these personal feelings, who understood. But I wasn’t quite ready to divulge everything, for fear this might spoil the friendship I had begun to treasure.

Later that night as we lied in our beds, talking until nearly sunrise, I decided to share with him the real reason I was having difficulties with the romance with Kim. I confessed to him that my reason for sometimes wanting to dissolve the romance entirely was because I had homosexual feelings for many years, and despite repeated prayers for God to “cure” me, I just couldn’t seem to shake the feelings. At one time I’d thought that by making a commitment to her and getting engaged, I could prove to God that I was serious about really wanting to be straight. I’d even talked to her about the possibility of getting married and she was excited about it. But after more thought on it, I felt it would be wrong to plan to marry knowing this about myself. I told Kim I felt we were moving a little too fast by talking about engagement, and that we should take a step backward for the time being. She was disappointed, but would do whatever it took.

When I stopped talking there was a pause that seemed to last forever. Then somewhat to my surprise, but not really, Baron shared that he also had homosexual feelings for years and that was why he’d moved from California to New York; to distance himself from that woman in California!

I was elated to find that I wasn’t alone as the only Jehovah's Witness who had gay feelings. Baron told me that we were definitely not alone, but that our friend Cliff was also battling the same feelings. Now the “mysterious bond” I’d felt with Cliff and then with Baron was a lot less mysterious. Baron also told me about several other JW men whom he knew or suspected shared our difficult situation. Once again, although no resolution was found, I was comforted in having finally said it to someone I could trust; someone who knew what it was like.

Our common bond caused Baron and I to want to spend all available time together, even though we lived about 75 miles apart. I would spend weekends at his place, and he would spend some weeknights at my place, since I lived closer to the airport. Soon we had the same circle of friends and I’d spend my leisure time at work anticipating all the fun we’d planned. We were best friends.

Then in January of 1989 the movie “Beaches” came out and Baron and I were absolutely convinced the writers had used excerpts from our friendship on which to base that movie! Occasionally we called each other CeeCee and Hilary. We talked for hours, we laughed, we sang, we cried, we commiserated about our shared plight. We knew we had fallen in love with each other, but both of us wanted to be true to God and our religion’s prohibition of homosexuality. We decided we would have to be extra careful that we never became physically involved, but that “normal friendship activities” would certainly be safe.

We planned a vacation together in March of 1989, to see the beautiful coastal landscapes along Scenic Highway 1 in California. Baron greeted me at the airport in Los Angeles, and I can remember what felt like electricity in the air that night. After grabbing a bite to eat, we checked into a motel and I soon fell asleep due to the jet lag.

The second night of our trip we slept in the same bed, and held each other, feeling pure love, but also gaining strength from each other to face another day of knowing we could never experience physical love and fulfillment because of our religion.

The third night of the trip we weren’t as strong, and finally engaged in a little bit of "fooling around". This is what the JW religion would call “loose conduct”, although it was extremely mild by most other standards. We didn’t tell anyone of it at first. We decided to plead for God’s forgiveness in prayer. We also decided to stop having contact with each other for a trial period of 6 months, in order to prove to God that we were really sorry.

Our synchronicity came into play once again. In April of 1989, during the first month of our self-imposed separation, unknown to each other we were both making cassette tapes for each other, containing songs that meant a lot to us. Not surprising, both tapes contained several of the same songs; many from the “Beaches” soundtrack, and the tapes crossed each other in the mail. I'd mailed him my tape the day before leaving on a business trip. He knew where I was going and sent his tape for me to my hotel. The next day I listened to the cassette over and over again and cried the entire 3 hour drive home. To this day the song “The Secret Marriage Vow” by Sting brings tears to my eyes.

Those six months were the worst of my life; at least it felt that way then. Everyone noticed a change in my mood and personality, but I couldn’t tell them what was really causing my distress. I told them I was tired, or I was feeling ‘under the weather’. I remember being so depressed that I stayed home from a social function, which was totally unlike me, just so I could tell them I wasn’t feeling well. Although my family and friends (all of whom were JWs) were right there where they had always been, I felt so terribly lonely and isolated.

I began experiencing periods of real depression again; similar to those I had before I’d met Baron. At its worst, I remember wishing I would simply not wake up again, because surely death would be preferable to the pain of this life.

Crush du Jour: Matthew Cameron

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New position update

I thought I'd give an update on the situation with my new position. In case you need a refresher (read: haven't been paying attention), this post explains how the concept was introduced to me, and this post shows how quickly the concept changed.

My last conversation with my boss left me with the understanding that I needed to 'spec out' the mission, purpose, duties, and processes of the new dept. Only, I wasn't clear how far I was supposed to go with it. How much trust and autonomy was really being given me?

So last Fri I discussed the situation with my best friend, Spouse, who suggested that since the scope and parameters appeared not to have been decided upon yet, I should be the one to decide them. He told me to outline the new dept the way I thought it should run, knowing my aptitude for efficiency, and I really appreciated his input.

On Mon I got an Outlook meeting invitation from my boss to review my specs on Wed, so I took some time on Mon & Tues to put most of my ideas on paper. (Well, actually I typed into a Word document.) On Wed I expanded some of the items that represented changes to our existing processes, then sent my boss the draft just prior to our arranged meeting time.

Although I felt a reasonable high level of confidence in my work, I still wasn't sure if my work was within the scope my boss was looking for but had not communicated to me.

So with the document open on both of our computers I began reviewing the outline and explaining why certain choices were made. When I got to the 2nd or 3rd bullet under the 1st item, I heard what sounded like my boss about to say something, so I paused... 1/2 expecting him to apologize for not having defined the project better for me, followed by a statement that I was totally off base. But instead, he simply wanted to clarify something, and then I went on.

About 1/3 of the way through the document review he finally gave me some feedback. "This is good. This is exactly what I was hoping to see. Please continue." I believe I felt my heart leap in relief before I continued on.

About 2/3 of the way through we got to the section that addressed billing and when he saw the billing header, he said "Oh good, you're including billing. I wasn't sure if you were going to include that or not, but I'm happy to see that you have. Please, go ahead." That compliment was like an injection of adrenaline that boosted my energy and confidence.

When I concluded the document review he gave me a couple of suggestions, such as using a different font color to show where development would be required, then thanked me for doing such a good and thorough job. He told me he was really happy with the proposal and with the fact that one of his people (me) had constructed it. I thanked him for the kind words, and we finished up with a short conversation about implementation and his desire for the finalized document by Fri (yesterday), which I delivered on time.

After hanging up from the call I scolded myself for my initial lack of confidence, but then patted myself on the back with a reminder that I'd only been given a general concept with barely any parameters with which to work.

My next hurdle will be to present the outline in a meeting with the Production manager and CTO, to hopefully get their buy-in. Stay tuned.

Crush du Jour: Lee Rumohr

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage

My friend Jamie (of The Newlyweds) sent me this story from the New York Times, which I found it quite interesting. It validated what I have thought for years: same-sex relationships should have a higher success rate since the partners do not have the gender-based burdens associated with opposite-sex relationships. This article will make you feel good. The italics and bolding are mine.

Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage

"For insights into healthy marriages, social scientists are looking in an unexpected place.

A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships. Most studies show surprisingly few differences between committed gay couples and committed straight couples, but the differences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of conflicts that can endanger heterosexual relationships.

The findings offer hope that some of the most vexing problems are not necessarily entrenched in deep-rooted biological differences between men and women. And that, in turn, offers hope that the problems can be solved.

Next week, California will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reigniting the national debate over gay marriage. But relationship researchers say it also presents an opportunity to study the effects of marriage on the quality of all relationships.

“When I look at what’s happening in California, I think there’s a lot to be learned to explore how human beings relate to one another,” said Sondra E. Solomon, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Vermont. “How people care for each other, how they share responsibility, power and authority — those are the key issues in relationships.”

The stereotype for same-sex relationships is that they do not last. But that may be due, in large part, to the lack of legal and social recognition given to same-sex couples. Studies of dissolution rates vary widely.

After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 couples, including same-sex couples and their heterosexual married siblings. The focus was on how the relationships were affected by common causes of marital strife like housework, sex and money.

Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll.

“Heterosexual married women live with a lot of anger about having to do the tasks not only in the house but in the relationship,” said Esther D. Rothblum, a professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University. “That’s very different than what same-sex couples and heterosexual men live with.”

Other studies show that what couples argue about is far less important than how they argue. The egalitarian nature of same-sex relationships appears to spill over into how those couples resolve conflict.
One well-known study used mathematical modeling to decipher the interactions between committed gay couples. The results, published in two 2003 articles in The Journal of Homosexuality, showed that when same-sex couples argued, they tended to fight more fairly than heterosexual couples, making fewer verbal attacks and more of an effort to defuse the confrontation.
Controlling and hostile emotional tactics, like belligerence and domineering, were less common among gay couples.

Same-sex couples were also less likely to develop an elevated heartbeat and adrenaline surges during arguments. And straight couples were more likely to stay physically agitated after a conflict.

“When they got into these really negative interactions, gay and lesbian couples were able to do things like use humor and affection that enabled them to step back from the ledge and continue to talk about the problem instead of just exploding,” said Robert W. Levenson, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The findings suggest that heterosexual couples need to work harder to seek perspective. The ability to see the other person’s point of view appears to be more automatic in same-sex couples, but research shows that heterosexuals who can relate to their partner’s concerns and who are skilled at defusing arguments also have stronger relationships.

One of the most common stereotypes in heterosexual marriages is the “demand-withdraw” interaction, in which the woman tends to be unhappy and to make demands for change, while the man reacts by withdrawing from the conflict. But some surprising new research shows that same-sex couples also exhibit the pattern, contradicting the notion that the behavior is rooted in gender, according to an abstract presented at the 2006 meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by Sarah R. Holley, a psychology researcher at Berkeley.

Dr. Levenson says this is good news for all couples.

“Like everybody else, I thought this was male behavior and female behavior, but it’s not,” he said. “That means there is a lot more hope that you can do something about it.”

Crush du Jour: Matt Kirkham

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Norway Parliament Approves Gay Marriage

Norway Parliament Approves Gay Marriage

(Oslo) The gallery at the Norwegian Parliament erupted in applause and cheers on Wednesday with the passage of legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The law also recognizes both partners in a marriage as equal parents and gives lesbian couples the same access to "medically assisted reproduction" as opposite-sex couples.

Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve the bill, despite opposition from the Christian Democrats and Progress Party.

"It is a historic day," said Labor Party member Gunn Karin Gjul who compared passage to universal suffrage which gave women the right to vote nearly a century ago.

Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen, who serves as Finance Minister in the coalition government said the law will ensure "'equal rights" and bar all forms of discrimination.

The country already allowed gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil partnerships, but LGBT rights groups had long complained the law did not go far enough and had created two classes of citizenship - one for heterosexuals the other for gays.

The new law amends the definition of civil marriage to make it gender neutral.

Under the law the Church of Norway would be allowed to bless same-sex marriages.

About 85 percent of Norway's 4.7 million people are registered as members of the state Lutheran Church of Norway, although far fewer are active.

The church is split on the issue of gay marriage, and is likely to allow each congregation to decide whether to conduct homosexual weddings, as it did last year in allowing parishes to decide whether to accept clergymen living in gay partnerships.

Passage of the law makes Norway the sixth country in the world to approve same-sex marriages. (End of story)

Mark adds: The United States, the supposed 'leader of the free world', still won't grant marriage equality to all its citizens, while Norway becomes the 6th country to grant marriage equality to all its citizens. What is wrong with this picture?

Notice too, that Norway had already passed civil partnership legislation (another step the US has rejected), but the majority felt it wasn't sufficient to ensure equal rights and ban all forms of discrimination, and it seemed to create a separate class of citizenship, so they took the final step and granted full marriage equality for all.

Go Norway!!!

Obama, Clinton, and may other Democrats who won't stand up for marriage equality say they support civil unions, which they claim will grant GLBT citizens equal rights. I fear civil unions will have the same affect in the US as they did in Norway, the creation of a second (but not equal) class of citizenship. Gays with civil unions may become the "red headed step-child" citizens, tolerated but certainly not wanted.

The 'leader of the free world' should learn a lesson from little old Norway.

Crush du Jour: Paul Schneider

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Goin' back to Cali

You may recall in this post I discovered a new neighbor who looked familiar was actually a gay guy who used to work for the same company I used to work for. It was fun to reconnect with John after about 8 years, and to meet his partner/boyfriend Matt. (I'm not sure what stage their relationship was in, as you'll read.)

I had suggested we get together for dinner sometime, and also invited them to become members of 'the usual suspects' in our regular Fri Night Dinner group. They excitedly agreed, so I added their emails to my weekly distribution, and looked forward to seeing them again soon.

I sent them an email inviting them to come over for a small barbeque on Memorial Day weekend, when Bugs & Roger would be visiting, and Rick & Nick would come over. I thought this might be a nice, relaxed, low-key way for them to meet a few of our friends before jumping into the entire group of 'the usual supsects'. I was surprised to get no response to my email, so the day before the barbeque I emailed them again, indicating my concern that my earlier email invitation may not have reached them.

John wrote back, indicating they had received the emails, but that things were not going well. Apparently just 2 months after moving here, Matt (the primary breadwinner) was notified that he was being laid off from his job as a remote help desk person. Since moving here John was only able to find employment in one of the retail outlets, which didn't pay much. John wrote that they had to notify their landlord that they needed to break their lease, and that Matt was going back to CA in order to take a different (non-remote) position with his company. John wanted to stay here so he was looking for a room to rent or a person looking for a roommate.

I thought it a bit odd that John wanted to "stay here" while Matt moved back to CA, but figured that perhaps their jobs weren't the only things that were "not going well".

I've heard many people indicate that when their love life is going well, their career is in the toilet, and when their career is going well, their love life is in the toilet. I felt badly for John & Matt because it seemed that both their career and their love life was in the toilet.

Every day I walk past the house they rented while walking our dog Jordan. Last week I noticed the "Bush's last day in office" sticker had been removed from the window and both cars gone. There was a feeling of vacancy painted all over the cedar shake house. John apparently found someone to room with, and Matt was goin' back to Cali.

Good luck guys!

Crush du Jour: John Abraham