Letting go of old constraints . . .

When I first came “out” to myself nine years ago, I was liberated, excited and oh, so naïve. That last description is surprising, as I was a forty-something man who had gone to college, been in the work force for twenty-plus years, had been married and fathered three children, two of whom were then teenagers.

In terms of being gay, however, I was a newbie. In fact, in the art of dating, period, I was a profound novice. I had not dated prior to meeting my future wife at college and I was 26 years old at the time. Up to that point, my social life consisted of “hanging” with friends and work colleagues.

Today’s social media was very much in it’s infancy when I discovered my freedom back then, but there were websites to explore and explore them I did. Once contact was made with someone of interest, the route I usually took was to begin chatting with them on MSN.

This is how I came to be friends with a fellow I now refer to as my “gay mentor”. I’ll refer to him here as “GM”. A few years younger than I was, he had been “out” his entire adult life. Had run the gamut of gay life, been heartbroken a few times and was now in his gay dotage, firmly ensconced in his little Island paradise just off Vancouver, contend to live out his days with his dogs and chickens.

I had many questions that he patiently responded to. We spent enormous amounts of time online discussing gay life and culture, gay problems, dating, dangers and joys, etc. You name it, we talked about it. One of the things he helped me focus on was the development of my “gay values”. In actuality, they were already my values but we examined them under the lens of being gay.

I’ve heard it said that when someone “comes out”, the tendency is for them to go through a slut phase. The gay equivalent of “sowing your oats”, if you will. I’m told this is phenomenon is particularly prevalent amongst middle-aged men such as myself. GM helped me focus my new-found sexual freedom to ensure I avoided some of the usual pitfalls associated with newbies.

Although I was not living in any sort of closed community, I was raised in a fairly puritanical period where infidelity was scandalized, promiscuity was ridiculed and everyone was expected to live by the “Golden Rule”. Judgement of community members was constant and failure to live up to the community’s social standards was often met with swift censure.   I too, learned to judge others. The sexual revolution of the Sixties had yet to make its impact on the rural back-waters of Vancouver Island.

GM also helped me define my search efforts. We developed an unofficial framework with which I was launched into the gay world to find Mr Right. The parameters for my Prince Charming included age (not too young . . . defined as no less than ten years younger than me and no more than five years older); height (around my own); physical attributes (bearish but not obese, hairy, etc); family status (I really only wanted to consider another man who was also a father), and so on.

I mention this because I am in a similar situation as when I first came out. Only things are different now.

I have come to realize that, apart from the profound sadness and grief that a widowed person feels, perhaps the unkindest aspect of becoming widowed is the sudden and permanent loss of intimacy with another human being. And then factor in as well, society’s expectation of a “reasonable” mourning period (often suggested as one year), and the life of a widow becomes sexually repressive for a long time.

Something that I didn’t know about myself until I came out, is that I am a very sexual being. I love sex. No surprise, but in particular I love gay sex. Given my current situation, I am even more acutely aware of my sexuality and do not like feeling sexually repressed.

My darling, wonderful, Bill had foresight of this and although we didn’t have a lot of time to discuss the future, he did tell me several times that he wanted me to “continue living my life” and he confided in a close friend that he told me he wanted me to “move on” after he died, “only not too soon”. The latter reference alludes to his father becoming engaged to a hospital volunteer three months after Bill’s mother died of ALS. They married within six months.  It ripped his family apart.

Given my sexual feelings and with Bill’s apparent permission, I have made up my mind to “step out”, as it were. I have re-engaged some of my online profiles, including Grindr and Scruff, both gay male dating applications (“app’s”). My profile description began from the perspective that I am still mourning so all I was looking for was new friends and chat opportunities. This has quickly escalated however, to me accepting other possibilities as well.

I am re-visiting my parameters. Some of my former constraints are being cast off. I have decided to give myself permission to have fun, to enjoy myself again. I am going to allow myself to explore areas that I have never approached before. I am going to find out where my boundaries actually are and perhaps push them out a little further. Does this mean I am finally going through a delayed slut phase? Maybe, but probably not.

Slut is such an ugly word. It is also far too judgemental by nature. If there is one thing that coming out and joining a sexual minority has taught me, is that I have been far too quick to judge in the past and that it is not my place to judge others. Sure, if people are harmed, I can still condemn the perpetrator, but if no one is harmed, why judge at all?

My sexual revolution includes me jettisoning even more of the constraints that I have lived with. Only some of these are relatively later restrictions. GM would be horrified because some of the concepts I am willing to lose were developed by us when I was in my gay infancy.

For instance, I am no longer restricting age, although in reality I don’t want to be involved with anyone close to my kid’s ages (ie: less than 30) and for certain, even if I made an occasional exception there, they would have to be legal age of majority as a minimum. I have also raised the maximum age because as I get older, I am more and more in tune with men up to ten years older that I. It’s interesting, because in the past week since re-joining dating apps, I have had much more interest from 35-37 year-old’s than anyone else and they have been great fun.

I’m also throwing out my steadfast restriction against playing with partnered individuals in so-called “open relationships”, either singly or as a couple. Again, GM would faint at the thought. I’ve come to the conclusion, that if these two men have made a decision to play outside their relationship and as long as they are honest and forthright about it to each other, who am I to judge? I will draw the line however, if I think one of them is cheating on the other. Cheating is not harmless and I reserve my ability to apply the “Golden Rule” to them for that.

In the long run, I want to find another soul-mate, someone who I can love unconditionally and who loves me in the same way. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy myself and elevate my level of fun by letting go of old constraints . . .

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I miss my doctor . . .

I’ve posted on my previous blog site about my family physician and how I came out to him. I have reposted it in the “Other Stuff” section as: Archives: What my Doctor said . . .

I’ve seen Dr B for over 10 years now. Until now.

'Your last annual check up was eleven years ago.'

Yesterday, I decided it’s time once again for my semi-decade, over 50, “annual” physical exam so I called his office whereupon the nice receptionist informed me that he is no longer seeing patients. He is only working emergency at the hospital now.

She further announced: “We have a letter at the reception that explains it all”. A lot of good that does me, sitting in my office 25 miles away.

She continues: “Dr P is still here and I can give you an appointment with him. Or you can wait until the replacement doctor arrives”

Me: “When is he coming?

Receptionist: “SHE is coming in October”

Me: “OK, I’ll take Dr P.”

I’m actually in shock. I knew Dr B was around my age, perhaps a year or two older, and I knew he’d eventually retire and he has been only working half time for a few years. Unfortunately, the cold hard truth of it has left me somewhat rattled. I’m reacting to this disturbing news in the way I’ve seen “old” people react to change. The realization of that, then, rattled me too. Let’s face it, I’m just rattled.

I’m now regretting not waiting until the new doctor arrives. My initial reaction was that I’ve never had a female doctor and at my age, I wasn’t sure I wanted one. But Dr P isn’t my favorite already. He and Dr B had been sharing one position on a weekly rotation ever since Dr P returned from a ten-year compassionate mission for his church in Africa.

I had to see him once for a vaccination or something when Dr B was on his off-week. Somehow the conversation rolled around to me having goats and that the Latin word for goat is caprine which descends from the same root as capricious. This is when he lost me. He quoted a passage about capriciousness from the Bible. Really? The only reference you have is the Bible?

After learning the disheartening news yesterday, I decided to contact Dr B and thank him for the years he looked after us.

I need to say however, that I’m actually a little perturbed with Dr B, and this may not be fair on my part because doctors are busy and they are people as well who undoubtedly struggle with the death of patients, but when Bill died, somehow I expected contact from Dr B.   He is my doctor.  Perhaps a condolence or an inquiry as to how I was doing. But I got nothing. The liver oncologist in Victoria called me to express her condolences and to let me know that Bill had been one of her favorite patients. But nothing from our own family physician. And, it’s not like he didn’t know Bill was gravely ill. He saw us both in his office two days before Bill died. He gave Bill a hug at the end of the appointment. He knew he was never seeing Bill again.

But, in the end, I took the high road. I let Dr B know that Bill really loved their connection (they were both thespians who would spend more time chatting about theatre than medicine) and that I was grateful to Dr B for unreservedly taking Bill on as a patient when I asked him to; during a time when people couldn’t get a family doctor locally. This was years before Bill’s diagnosis but he willingly took Bill on because Bill was my, then new, partner. And I thanked him for giving Bill a hug the last time he saw him.

I also couldn’t help express my concern about Dr P and I explained the Bible incident which causes me some reservation as a gay man. My hope is he will say: “Don’t worry about Dr P, he isn’t bothered about homosexuality” or “you should probably get another doctor” or something.  Maybe “you’re welcome”.

I miss my doctor . . .

 

The world is different . . .

Bill and I never felt comfortable doing the most normal thing that married couples often do in public: hold hands. Public expression of our deep love and commitment to each other was not something we felt we could do.  Sure, we made our commitment official in front of two hundred people but we knew those people loved us.

During Pride month this year, the Council of the City of Nanaimo, BC approved the installation of two rainbow coloured street crossings in the downtown core.  This was phenomenal progress toward acceptance considering the tenuous relationship the LGBTQ community had had with previous Councils.

Unfortunately, sometime overnight yesterday, someone scrawled religious graffiti quoting Leviticus and other biblical passages all over the crossings.  The police have taken this matter very seriously and are investigating it as a possible hate crime.  The City sprang to action and immediately began to erase the offensive text.

But this incident helps to illustrate why Bill and I felt the way we did.

If anyone who is not gay wonders what it is like to live in this world as an LGBTQ person, please take 20 minutes and watch this Tedx Talk by Panti Bliss on YouTube:

Panti Bliss Tedx Dublin talk “All the little things”

Like Panti, I’m tired of it too.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is why when I saw two young men holding hands at the Saanich Fair on Sunday, I had to speak to them. I had to tell them that I thought they were awesome and I wished Bill and I had felt as free as they did, to be who we are. With all my heart, I wish they were right when they told me “the world is different”. . .

I hope I made their day . . .

I went to the Saanich Fair in Victoria BC for a couple days this past weekend.

dsc_0640

It’s my favorite annual agricultural fair. I suppose I’m biased because I was once on the board of directors. As a family, we’ve also shown our swine and goats at this fair (when I was a farmer). It’s purportedly the oldest continually operating fair in Canada, west of the Great Lakes. Even as other fairs, in other communities on Vancouver Island, seem to be diminishing and disappearing, this fair still thrives.

One of the nicest things about this fair is that they reserve spots for ethnic organizations to set-up food booths. At one time, the rule there was that all food vendors onsite had to be non-profit groups that needed a venue for fundraising.

Our family tradition is to always stop at the Hungarian booth for a Lángos (fried bread akin to a “BeaverTail” or “Elephant’s Ear”) and the Scout/Guide booth for a BBQ Beef on a Bun.   I usually stop by the Jewish booth for a Kosher hot dog or the Indian booth for some pakoras too. This year, the Philippine booth satisfied my craving for coffee.

On Saturday, as my adult kids abandoned me to my picture taking and visiting with old farming friends (both activities that bore my kids to tears), I wandered the site and it occurred to me that I am not seeing any “obvious” same-sex couples. I saw many hetero-couples wandering about, holding hands or pushing a baby stroller while enjoying the activities and displays. I wondered why that is.

Victoria is demographically very white and very senior. Perhaps the age demographic might provide some insight however Victoria has one of the biggest Pride festivals in the Province every July. The Saanich Fair, which allows no alcohol on the grounds, draws families in droves. But, gay families exist too so why aren’t I seeing them? Each time I see two men walking next to each other I ask myself, are they gay?

On Sunday, we went back to see one of the headline acts that were performing on the main stage that evening. Trooper, is a world renowned rock band based in Vancouver and they were finishing up their summer tour here. We arrived at the fairground early to stake our claim for seating. Then we decided to grab a bite to eat.

As my kids wandered off to make their own selections, I decided to get myself a Beef on a Bun from the Scout/Guide booth again. The line up to this popular booth was typical and I stood there, not thinking of much, when I noticed them. There, just ahead of the woman in front of me, were two people intertwined with each other.

I looked again. What was I seeing? They appeared to be two young “emo” dudes dressed up in tight fitting clothes and hats “Boy-George-esque” but coloured in basic black and grey. No I mused, one must be a female. I studied them intently from my position in line and eventually realized they both had deep five o’clock shadows. Yes, these were indeed, a male couple! And when I say intertwined, I mean they were holding onto each other as though they were on the deck of the Titanic just as she disappeared under the waves, each not wanting the other to slip away.

As the line slowly snaked toward the cashier, I decided I needed to talk to these guys. Luckily, the line split and I ended up at the counter next to them.

I leaned toward them and announced, “I think you guys are awesome”.

They looked at me, shocked.

“Thanks” they both replied cautiously.

I continued: “My husband and I would never have had the courage to hold hands in public”.

Their faces relaxed.

“Times are different now” one of them replied.

“Enjoy the fair”, I said as my bun was handed to me by the earnest Girl Guide.

They smiled, thanked me and walked off.

It warmed my heart to see them, surrounded by throngs of people, confident in their relationship and their safety. There are so many places in this world that they would not be safe being who they are. There are even still instances in Canada where gay people are sworn at and insulted, and even assaulted physically. Gladly, those are rare occurrences now. Nonetheless, Bill and I only felt comfortable holding hands in public when we visited the “gay village” in Vancouver, or attended a Pride event. We’d never do that in the greater community.

Something in me told me, to give these two young guys some positive reinforcement, whether they needed it or not. I wished I had asked for a selfie with them.

I hope I made their day . . .

The recesses of my mind . . .

I compose the most incredible blogs while I’m driving. Especially if it is a long trip as I had this evening. Unfortunately, upon arrival at home, they typically have completely vanished from my mind. I may still remember the topic but not the detail.

Some topics for which I’ve composed a piece, only to have forgotten the details when I get in front of the computer (in no particular order):

  1. Love. Especially the love I had with Bill.
  2. Being gay. Does it define who I am?
  3. What I did today (went to the Saanich Fair). What will I do tomorrow?
  4. More about grief. Can there still be more to say? Questions to ask?
  5. My conflicting interests/bucket list.
  6. By chance, meeting an old acquaintance and have the encounter turn out sour (that happened today).

I will endeavour to write about all these things over time (except number 6. That was ugly and I don’t want my blog to dwell on those kinds of negativity). I’ll just have to probe the recesses of my mind . . .

I just felt the need . . .

I felt the need to post a poem in honour of Bill.  I don’t know who the author of this is, it’s just one of those suggested memorials published by the newspaper.  I found it matched his character and my grief very well:

Always so good, unselfish and kind
None on this earth your equal I’ll find.
Honorable and true in all your ways,
Loving and faithful to the end of your days,
Honest and liberal, ever upright,
Just in your judgment, always right;
Loved by your friends and all whom you knew,
One in a million, that husband was you.
As time has passed, our hearts still sore,
As time rolls on we miss you more;
A loving husband, tender and kind.
What beautiful memories you left behind.

Today is not a particularly special date or a milestone since his passing that may have warranted a poem.  I just felt the need . . .