Tag Archives: gay life

WHY YOU SHOULD LEARN TO EMBRACE REJECTION

I recently had a revelation about rejection while I was on the dance-floor in a random gay club in Boston. It was a Thursday evening in July and I was in the club alone. My friends were coming in from New York later that night and I had just enjoyed a dinner for one in a nearby restaurant frequented by Boston’s local gay community. After a couple of beers, a nice buzz settled over me and I was not in the mood to return to my hotel, so I did what I sometimes do when I’m feeling super confident (read tipsy) – I went out alone. Going to a gay club (or anywhere for that matter) by one’s self can be both daunting and empowering. It’s a lot easier when on holiday in a new city as you are unlikely to return anytime soon and thus need not worry about developing a reputation for being that guy who goes clubbing by himself (although there is nothing wrong with that either!).

I casually strolled past the door of the club a couple of times, conducting a ‘drive-by’ to try get a sense of what the place was like before committing to entering. ‘Just walk in and you can always walk out if you’re uncomfortable’, I said to myself, building up the confidence to actually go through with the act. Finally, I entered the unknown and was greeted by a sea of gay Bostonian boys. Another beer later and I was feeling even more confident and very pleased with myself at having the balls to go out alone. I tried to make eyes with the locals (eye contact – a dying approach to picking up in the world of gay dating apps) but received very little feedback. I began to feel a little despondent and conscious of the fact that I was dancing on my own (Robyn reference).

That’s when I realised that rejection is actually a wonderful thing.

To be honest, I hadn’t actually put myself too far out there to be rejected but I had been overlooked which at the time felt like the same thing. Nonetheless, I came to understand that rejection is actually a blessing in disguise. The way I see it is that with each rejection you’re one step closer to meeting the right person, whether that be the right person for the evening or the right person for life. It’s like a game of odds. The more chances you take, the more likely you are to win.  You’re also bettering your game-playing skills with each chance taken.  Let’s get mathematical for a minute to demonstrate my point further. Imagine that your Mr. Right is one guy in a group of 100. The chance of finding him on the first try is 1%. Those odds are pretty low but as you approach more guys and eliminate those that rejected you from the group, your chances get higher. Ultimately, you’ll find your man even if it means having to deal with 99 rejections along the way.

Now, I know that life is not a neat mathematical equation and I’ve probably over-simplified the problem but, in my experience, you do have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince (I’m still looking for mine and my lips are chapped but I’m hopeful!). The way I justify disappointment in love or picking-up in a gay club is through reframing the experience and seeing each rejection as a step closer to success. This is the same approach I try take in all areas of my life. Whether it be a career disappointment or missing out on renting what I thought was my dream apartment or waking up too late and forgetting to book tickets to see Britney Spears, I’ve noticed that something better is always just around the corner.

So instead of seeing rejection as negative or allowing your ego to sabotage the experience to reaffirm your feelings of unworthiness, change your thinking and learn to springboard off rejection, using it as a tool of empowerment. You must also never forget that in the end you want to be with someone who wants to be with you just as much as you want to be with them. If someone isn’t interested in you, there’s nothing you can do to change that so you shouldn’t exert emotion or effort trying to make them feel otherwise.

Image by Vladimir Snezhin

Now read this – 57 THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT BEING GAY IN MY 20s

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THE WORST PERSON YOU KNOW

Growing up gay you’re sexuality is scrutinised by everyone around you. From friends, family, religious leaders, politicians, society, neighbours, teachers, random people on the street everyone seems to have an opinion about your life and they’re not afraid to share it with you. Opinions so often turn to criticism, criticism to bullying and bullying to internalised self belief. It’s hard to shield yourself from the outside voices but its the voice inside yourself that is hardest to hide from.

In this video, I share with you some of the unkind things that I say to myself on a daily basis and explain how I try to overcome them. We need to be conscious of our thoughts and learn to control them in order to prevent negative beliefs from running our lives.

 

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STOP MAKING BEING GAY ONLY ABOUT SEX

It has taken me a long time to reconcile my feelings towards sex within a culture that overemphasises its importance. Let me preface this article by saying that I love sex and I encourage everyone to have a healthy and enjoyable sex life; my argument is that we need to redefine the importance of sex in modern gay culture. On one hand, I’ve learnt from my environment that being a gay man allows you the freedom to have as much sex as you want but on the other hand, I’ve experienced first-hand how over-sexualisation within gay culture creates anxiety, self-esteem issues and complications with holding down a steady relationship.

Our gay culture is a result of our tumultuous past, a past in which gay sex was overwhelmingly associated with shame, hate and fear. Being gay was seen as a sexual perversion, not as a personal identity. The majority of closeted men had no means by which to express their identity other than through seeking sexual relations with other closeted men. As such the act of sex become intrinsically linked to one’s sexual identity. Until recent history it was unacceptable and more often, illegal, to have a relationship with someone of the same sex so the only outlet for gay men to express themselves was in the bedroom (or any other discrete place). Sex was the means by which one could act on their sexual identity and hence it became one and the same.

As laws changed and society’s acceptance of homosexuality spread, sex was brought outside of the bedroom and into the mainstream. It was used as a rebellious articulation of gay life, a big F U to all those who were already disgusted with the gay ‘lifestyle’. Gay sex even became political. The issue that we now face is that the importance of sex hasn’t evolved. Our modern gay society is at a crossroads, a tension point where we need to take a look at how sex plays into our identities and the importance we place on it within our gay culture. This is so timely as at this very moment people are waking up to the fact that the gender of the person you sleep with need not define your identity. Why then is sex still such a focal point of gay culture?

We’re fed messages of sex through gay media, social media, on posters for parties, in nightclubs and on television. We feel pressured to be having regular, hot sex with many men because as a gay man it’s apparently our privilege. Yet so many of us still feel lonely, disconnected and unable to maintain relationships. I believe that this Grindr culture, built on sexual ‘freedom’ is nothing but an outdated expression of our identity.

The purest form of our confusion around sex can be seen on social media. The most popular InstaGays are the ones who show the most skin or post pictures of themselves with their legs open, asses out, in provocative positions. We support this behaviour by showering them with likes and follows and mimic what they do in the hope that it will be reciprocated. Sex sells, and my God us gays are buying it! It becomes an endless cycle which we cannot escape and social media is making it worse. It upsets me when gay guys on Instagram who I admire for using their social influence for good post shirtless pictures with the hashtag ‘thirstythursdays’. Why does everything have to be reduced to sex? Then again, I’m a hypocrite because I do the exact same thing. The most liked picture that I’ve ever posted on Instagram is one of me shirtless in skimpy shorts. I know that these pictures are going to provoke a response and when I’m feeling in need of attention, I post them. My desire to be wanted sexually, mixed with my need for validation contributes to the cycle.

My personal behaviour and our culture’s obsession with sex has a ripple effect that runs deep – it impacts our self-esteem. In order to be having all the sex we should be having we need to look like people who other people want to have sex with. We strive to look like porn stars, muscled, young and hot and if we don’t, we feel unworthy. Personally, this is something that I’ve struggled with since my teenage years. I’ve spent years trying to unpick the stories I used to tell myself that linked my self-worth to my outward appearance and my attractiveness to other gay men. When I was younger I’d put off dating guys until I felt that my body was ‘good enough’ or I’d get drunk before having sex to mask my insecurities around being naked. I would go to big gay parties and nightclubs and feel anxious because I knew everyone there would be shirtless and that I wouldn’t feel confident enough to take my shirt off. Everywhere I looked, all I saw was sex.

I want to reiterate the point that I do love sex and one of the most fun things about being a gay man is being able to sleep with other men (you should try it…). What I do worry about though is that our approach to sex needs redefining because its importance in our culture is causing loneliness, anxiety and inner personal struggle. I for one have experienced all of these things. Emotionally, I feel that I want to settle down and be happily married yet I find myself behaving in quite the opposite way. I say that I want a boyfriend but I’ll just as readily have casual sex. I see this tension on Grindr when a young gay guy writes in his profile that he’s looking for something serious yet three minutes into the conversation he’s already sent or requested dick pics.

While I’m not advocating that we all stop having sex, I question whether or not we’ve unconsciously inherited a culture that places too much emphasis on the act of sex itself. I’m also concerned that earlier definitions of homosexuality as a mental illness and our own personal shame have caused an unnecessary and unhealthy emphasis to be placed on sex.

It’s not just the way we show ourselves that continues over-sexualisation of everything in gay culture; the way we profile gay celebrities and the way that straight people show their support for equality is rooted in sex. They’ll be topless on the cover of a gay magazine or raising money to fight homophobia in a naked calendar or dancing semi-nude with their sports team in the name of pride. We take someone who is a positive role model, strip them down and sexualise them, which only demeans their message and perpetuates the notion that in the end, it’s only about sex.

Gay Pride Parades are another example of how we overplay sex as a core tenant of our identities. Pride is no longer about protesting for equal rights with banners and chants but rather it’s about working out in the gym for 3-months prior to parade day to look sexy wearing nothing but a g-string. I’m all for homovisibility but when it comes to Pride Parades or Mardi Gras, I find it hard to identity with the majority of people who participate; my expression of my homosexuality isn’t linked to my body or to sex alone yet this is the overwhelming image portrayed during these festivities.

Ultimately the outdated belief that to be gay is just to have sex with men is the unsteady platform on which many opponents of marriage equality stand. They use the argument that gay marriage will lead to the legalisation of incest or bestiality. What they’ve not recognised is that both those things are only related to the act of sex and not to personal identity. A man who has sex with a dog is still likely to be a straight man. His sexual perversion is not a reflection of his personal identify, unless of course he identifies as a dog.

So what is the solution? I propose that we stop making being gay about sex alone and try to skew our focus towards other parts of our identities. Most of us reading this post are lucky enough to live in countries where we can express our personal identity in ways beyond sex. We must continue to celebrate our diversity, our richness of character and our multi-layered identities without reducing everything to sex.

Image by Erick Monterrosa for Homotography

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FRIDAY MUSIC FIX: ROBYN

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Three seconds into Robyn’s ‘Hang With Me’ and I’m hooked. The electronic beat grabs me by the ears and forces me into alt-pop heaven. 10 seconds later and the distinctive Swedish vocals kick in. I’m melting into a kaleidoscope of juicy sounds that permeate throughout my body, causing the hairs on my arm to stand up. It’s like sucking on the teet of the universe and all I want to do is drink more. I want, nay, I need to dance to this song forever; carelessly throw my arms into the air, close my eyes and let Robyn envelop me. Not many songs have such a visceral effect on my insides but this song is different. It’s a perfectly formed pop-song that takes me on a journey. I’m in a field in Sweden, I’m on a dancefloor in San Francisco, I’m 16 years-old and in my bedroom, I’m having sex with a gorgeous stranger. 3 minutes in and I’m having a full blown ear-ection. Finish me off Robyn. And she does. And the song ends and 3 minutes and 34 seconds later, I’m spent.

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Painting by Kris Knight 

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THERE’S A GAY SCENE FOR YOU BEYOND THE SCENE

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I used to believe that there was only one way to find my place in the gay community and that was through hours invested at the gym, nights spent shirtless in gay clubs and holidays booked to follow the ‘circuit’ of summer parties. It seemed like a very easy route to happiness and community inclusion. I started with the gym in my teens and ramped up my training in my early 20s as I realised that I needed to be bigger, smoother and more masculine. I went to gay clubs in the evening and followed the social calendar of gay events in my hometown of Sydney – Stonewall then Arq on a Saturday night, Green Park and then Beresford on a Sunday, Daywash on a bank holiday, Harbour Party during Mardi Gras and I Remember House when I wanted to mix things up. Over time I came to see the same faces and learned about the who’s who of the gay community. That one’s an escort, that one came from a small town and now he’s a party boy, that one’s slept with that one, that one has a drug problem and that one is a social climber – all unsubstantiated rumours that became lore as they were perpetuated at weekly social gatherings.

While I tried my best to enjoy my time in these situations they actually brought on the most unnatural form of anxiety that I rarely experienced in other areas of my life.  I’d turn into a completely different person at these parties. In my day-to-day life I was a confident, social and happy person who wasn’t afraid to speak to anyone; throw me into a room with 1,000 other gay men and I would become nervous, uncomfortable and closed-offish. I felt small and invisible. To combat these feelings I would drink copious amounts of alcohol and lambast myself for not being muscley enough, confident enough or attractive enough.  ‘Maybe next time it will be different’, I would think to myself, ‘maybe I’ll have more fun at the next party’. But while the parties changed, the feelings always remained. To make matters more confusing, my gay friends seemed so natural in this environment. They would float around chatting to guys, drawing men’s gaze across the dance floor and generally having what appeared to be a wonderful time. Why was it so hard for me?

At the same time that I was becoming a fully fledged member of the mainstream gay scene, I was discovering another side to the gay community, an alternate side that would bring me much more pleasure. It was 3:43am on a Saturday morning in 2005. I was soaked in sweat, jumping up and down on a crammed basement dancefloor on William Street, Sydney, screaming the lyrics to a remix of Annie’s ‘Me Plus One’ in a puddle of equally enthusiastic and sweaty clubgoers. Somewhere between the lyrics ‘Mrs B, Mrs E, Mrs A-U-T’ I realised there was another community out there, one that was much more similar to me and I was standing right in the middle of it. The club was 77 and the night was Bang Gang. The crowd was a merry of skaters, fashion students, surfers, alienesque models, photographers, drug dealers and goths and they were equal parts gay, lesbian, straight and curious. 77 and Bang Gang would come to symbolise for me a place where sexuality and normality were fluid concepts and where a temporary community would come together for a few hours every weekend to escape and surrender to the hedonistic pursuit of indulgent fun. At the same time other nights popped up around the city which drew a ‘queer’ and alternate crowd including Bandits at Phoenix, Healthclub at The Flinders and Gay Bash at The Burdekin. In these club nights I found an alternate community, one that seemed to be at the fringes of the gay scene but one that I related to much more closely than the one in which I had tried so hard to belong. Over the years I would be fortunate enough to be part of similar communities around the world (even if it was just for one night) – Closet in Melbourne, Misshapes at Don Hills in New York, Plastic and Pink is Punk in Milan and Boombox and Sink the Pink in London.

I came to realise that the gay dream that I had been sold by gay magazines, TV and mainstream gay media was not my dream nor was it the only dream out there. There existed a scene beyond ‘the scene’ that embraced the queer side of homosexuality, where bearded ladies danced next to trans boys and muscle Marys were welcome but not worshiped. It was in this scene that I felt most at home, where I was part of something bigger than myself, where I felt like I belonged. Being amongst freaks, geeks, the sexually absurd, those with the confidence to be who and what they want really makes one feel empowered. Surrounded by so much colour and character encourages you to peel back your own pretense and embrace all of yourself.

Now I’m not suggesting that this alternate scene is for everyone nor am I suggesting that there is anything wrong with enjoying the mainstream gay offering, in fact it was only once I had discovered the alternate gay scene that I felt comfortable enough to enjoy those parties that had previously caused me so much anxiety. Knowing that there was a different option, where I felt included, freed me from the pressure of thinking that I needed to conform. The point that I’m trying to make is that there exist ‘scenes’ beyond ‘the scene’. If you’re feeling disenfranchised by what gay society will have you believe is normal then know this – there is an alternative. It may not grace the cover of gay magazines and you may not notice the posters advertising its existence but beyond Beyond, WE, Papa etc. there is a place for you too.  

Image Credit: Julia Hetta 

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THE POWER OF MEDITATION

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I’d like to share with you a secret that will bring you peace, focus and stillness. It is something that I try practice daily and when I miss the opportunity to do so, I can feel the difference in my mood and mindset. I’m talking about meditation and while I’m certainly not the first person to preach its benefits, I am a strong believer in its power. Meditation is often mistakenly associated with people on the fringes of society, practiced by men with shaved heads in hemp trousers but the truth is that it’s a secret natural mood enhancer enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

My personal favourite mediation is led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the leader of the Art of Living movement. I came across his teachings through a friend of mine and I can honestly say that his messages and approach to life has changed my understanding of happiness and peace. The below mediation is simple to follow, short in length yet extremely powerful. Try this every morning for a week and enjoy the changes that it will bring to your life.

 

 

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A MESSAGE FOR ALL THOSE THAT ARE LOST

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Children’s books are filled with life lessons and positive affirmations, many of which we miss the first time around. They are fables and stories, written with unbounded fantasy and wonder that come to life through the imaginations of untainted youthful minds. When we grow up and grow out of children’s books we forget the power contained within their pages. Now, reading back on books from my childhood I have come across quotes and excerpts that seem almost prayer like. Today I would like to share with you one of my favourite quotes in the hope that no matter where you are in the world and no matter what you are going through, you know that everything is going to be OK. This particular quote comes from the very wise Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh.

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WHAT I MISS FROM INSIDE THE CLOSET

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‘The Closet’ can be a terrifying, lonely and suffocating place. It’s a metaphorical cage that represents suppression, oppression and even depression.  Looking back on my own experience those three things were certainly true but amongst the darkness there were a few positives that I can now say I truly miss.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not always doom and gloom inside the closet. As you start to push open the metaphorical door and peer into the light beyond the crack exciting things start to happen. You realise that there is an enticing world out there with endless possibilities. Although you might not be ready to spring out of the shadows in all your rainbow glory, you start experimenting and testing the waters. The sense of curiosity, compounded by the guilt you feel for doing something ‘immoral’ can actually be quite exhilarating. I remember the thrill that came with kissing boys in the back of my car in deserted carparks or sneaking guys out of my bedroom window in my parents house. Sure most of these highs were then followed by lows and feelings of shame but during those stolen moments I felt ecstasy that I have found hard to replicate in my later years.

It’s the feeling of doing things for the first time, things that you are told are wrong but which feel so right – these are the times I miss from my youth and from inside my own closet. Finding moments to hold hands with a boy at a party when nobody was around and then letting go as soon as your friend walked into the room then desperately waiting for that friend to leave so that you can do it again.  Receiving messages on your phone from your crush and then telling your mum it was from your boss when she gets too nosey. Smiling at a stranger in the change rooms at an inter-school swimming meet. Once out of the closet these situations don’t hold the same sense of danger. The fear of getting caught is removed but it is the fear of getting caught that makes your heart beat faster and electrifies your senses.

When I first started experimenting with boys and going to gay clubs I felt as though I was doing something that was on the fringes of society. For someone who had been brought up in a somewhat conservative environment, being gay almost became an expression of rebellion for me. The cover ups and fabricated stories allowed me to be part of one world at night and then return to the normality of heterosexual, conservative life by day. It was fun, for a time.

After a while though the thrill of breaking the rules diminishes and you are left with the realisation that you cannot be happy and in the closet forever. For the short period of time, in the beginning of the long walk out of the closet, every experience is brand new, every man-to-man touch is a blessing and every moment, no matter how brief, spent out of the closet is a relief. These are feelings that can never be replicated again. This is what I miss from inside the closet.

Image by Damon Baker 

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FRIDAY MUSIC FIX: SAM SPARRO

I don’t like Sam Sparro because he’s gay nor because he’s a babe nor because he’s Australian. I like Sam Sparro because he makes awesome pop music. Enjoy this track by my future ex-boyfriend Sam Sparro.

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THIS IS FOR ALL THE GAY MISFITS

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This is for all the gay misfits. The queers, the fags, the queens, the tattooed nerds, the freaks and geeks, the quiet types. This is for all of the homosexuals who don’t fit into mainstream gay culture (because what even is mainstream gay culture?). This is for the guys that are too modest to take shirtless selfies, too alternate to attend circuit parties or too private to share the details of their sex lives.  This is for the gaymers, the ravers, the early night-into-bed tamers. Boys who like boys but don’t work out their bubble butts. The pooftas and fairies who don’t brunch over Bloody Marys or want to take drugs and kiki until Tuesday.

This is for all the gay misfits. You’re alright too.

You feel that you’re the only one who doesn’t fit into the gay stereotype? Well rest assured that you are not. There are others out there that feel the same, who aren’t comfortable in large social gatherings, whose friends are mainly straight or girls or who have very few friends at all but are content with the ones they do have. It may be harder to find these mythical creatures because by nature neither you nor they congregate at gay bars. Give it some time though because after a while they do come out and your paths will cross and you will bond over your love for Seinfeld and sudoko.

Know this in the meantime, it’s ok to be different. You can love Kylie or kickboxing or prefer eating a la carte instead of eating ass. You might vacation in Morocco over Mykonos or practice golfing instead of gyming but either way there’s a place for you in the world and there are people who share your same passions no matter how obscure they may be. Don’t be fooled by what you see as gay culture in popular media. There are plenty of people for whom that lifestyle works but if you’re not one of those people and it doesn’t make you happy then don’t try to conform.

To the sissies, femmes and awkward lads and to the muscle men and pretty boys. Be true to yourself. Your character need not be governed by your sexuality nor do you have to change to satisfy other’s expectations of you.

This is for all the gay misfits and we are all gay misfits. You’re alright too.

Image by Darren Black

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