Tag Archives: gay youth

RULE NO. 19: DON’T WORSHIP FALSE IDOLS

TOM FORD STEVEN KLEIN GAY VALLEY OF DOLLS

We are surrounded by false idols who we unwittingly worship but at what cost?

False idols give us nothing in return for the attention and praise that we give them. They present themselves to the world and tell us that they must be worshipped without considering what they really have to offer or what their followers really want. False idols do not engage with their followers. They yearn to be seen as different, elevated, better and divine. They are disconnected from the rest of us. It is only through this disconnection that their false sense of power exists.

False idols are committed to superficial pursuits and are driven by their egos. They appeal to the negative qualities inside of us such as greed, envy, vanity and feelings that we are not enough. It’s easy for us to be tempted by false idols, because much like the golden calf of the bible, they appear shiney and beautiful which is attractive to the superficial and egoic mind. The superficial mind however is never fulfilled hence why we continually partake in pointless worship.

When we worship false idols, we are left feeling empty, demoralised and worthless.

On the other hand there are role models. Role models contribute to our lives, they inspire us to be better, motivate us to improve and engage in two-way communication with the world. We learn from role models.. Role models appeal to our soul needs and although our soul needs are sometimes muffled by the noises of the superficial mind, they are much healthier and positive and when met lead to true fullfilment. You’ll know when your soul needs are satisfied because you’ll feel uplifted, loved and joyous.

Who are these false idols? They are reality TV stars (and their families), half-naked “Insta-celebrities”, social climbers, the “popular” group at school and anyone else who is worshiped based on superficial qualities.

The choice is yours who to praise but my advice to you is that if you’re not left feeling uplifted by the people who you worship then perhaps it’s time to shift your attention from false idols to role models.

Image Credit: Steven Klein, “Valley of the Dolls”

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MODERN GAY PERSPECTIVE: A MUSLIM MAN’S STORY (Part One)

Unknown Gay Man

The Modern Gay Guide to Life is a platform to share ideas about what it means to be a gay man in the modern world. We all have different experiences, come from different backgrounds and therefore have different perspectives. In the following two part true story a gay Muslim man shares his experiences with dating, the gay scene, religion and Grindr. 

I have a heavy heart tonight. I can’t help but feel sad and lonely as I write this but before I get into the cause of my heartache, I’d like to start from the beginning. I’d like to talk about another kind of gay man.

I was born in Pakistan to an orthodox Muslim family. My childhood was typical; I had a loving family who provided me with everything. I was like every other kid, but as I grew older I noticed my attraction to men. Something, which I didn’t understand because homosexual orientation as it exists in the West is not understood at all in my culture so there was no one to speak to. I didn’t think much of it until in high school all I heard was boys talk about girls but I couldn’t relate. I rationalised it to myself by saying that I was raised by a strong maternal figure and had close female friends so I looked at women more for their personality than their looks. I did, however, explore my sexuality a little thanks to online groups and met guys who were going through the same thing (even if such guys were hard to find since most Pakistani men, like other men seemed to be using such groups for quick sex).

When I was 19, I moved to Australia to study at university. Living away from home and everyone I knew gave me the chance to explore my sexuality but my social and cultural indoctrination got the best of me and I remained closeted. I did, however, meet someone and fell in love (or what I thought was love). He had a similar background but was older, more open and confident than I was, which I couldn’t help but admire. It was unrequited love though and while he enjoyed the attention he wasn’t honest enough to tell me up front that nothing was going to happen.  Obviously, it ended in heartbreak, shook my confidence and I retreated back into my own world and explored my feelings once again discreetly through the Internet. At that time, I was still convinced that I was bisexual and still dated women but it never went anywhere. I end up seeing a counselor at unviversity, who provided me with a space to explore my thoughts on my orientation, especially what it meant for someone who was Muslim. I went through periods of rejecting either my Muslim or queer background but with her help I was able to realize that I could be both, I just had to find a sense of balance within the two.

Around that time, I discovered an American organisation called Muslims for Progressive Values, that works on various issues such as the lack of support for LGBT Muslims, which is where I found my spiritual home. Listening to these people (even if they’re a minority) and striking a friendship with a prominent Imam, Amina Wadud, and hearing her thoughts on equality for queer Muslims helped me reconcile my faith and sexuality. I took baby steps and I came out to my brother, a few cousins and friends. The reactions I received varied from total support to severed relationships. My brother and my cousins while not entirely supportive evolved and tried to understand my position. I am still grateful for their response as they grew up in a conservative and sheltered environment where they never had to deal with an openly gay person. My Australian friends who I came out to couldn’t understand my need to be discreet because of my Muslim background but were supportive nonetheless.

That also gave me the boost to go out in the scene and try to make gay friends. In my naivety, I thought it would be easy and that for a minority, gay guys would be quite open-minded and accepting of each other. However, I didn’t realize how superficial the scene was and how I wasn’t considered “worthy” to befriend because being a person of colour and “unfit”, I didn’t fit the image of a desirable gay man. Some guys laughed in my face at the idea of me trying to be friends with them because of my looks. I was also ridiculed because I followed a faith most of them did not understand and considered violent and archaic. My experience in gay settings was almost entirely negative because I found guys to be cliquey, bitchy, shallow and snobby. I still persevered for a while and tried to make gay friends. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very successful. Slowly, I realized that I didn’t need to be a part of the scene and while gay friends would be nice, they didn’t have to be a priority. I have since met a handful of really nice gay guys through work and friends who have become good friends.

Eventually, I met guys who were interested in dating me but it still hasn’t been easy and at 28, I find it slightly disappointing that the longest I’ve been with someone is a couple of months. My first substantial dating experience was only in September last year, when I started talking to a guy on Grindr. He was intelligent, witty and funny and I couldn’t help being attracted to him. We got along well and started dating. Things, at least in my head, were going well and I could see myself being with this person long term. However, I didn’t know that he had a secret of his own. A couple of months later I realized how interconnected we all are. I was out with a few friends and met someone who was talking about his boyfriend who seemed suspiciously similar to my current flame. The similarities were so striking that the next time I saw him I mentioned it to him. He initially was in shock but then admitted everything; he had been with this guy for 5 years and while he still loved him, he also had strong feelings for me and wanted to explore things with me. Disgusted by the dishonesty and hating myself for being the other one, I ended things.

Stay tuned to The Modern Gay Guide to Life for Part Two when our author bravely admits the lengths he went to in order to try find love and the consequences of his actions.

To share your story please email josh@joshvansant.com

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RULE NO.11: YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY

dansk-homotography-eidem-01

Throughout puberty I wondered “why am I gay?”

Before Lady Gaga confirmed that she was born this way, before Kurt Hummel vocally expressed his problems 3 octaves higher than most 16 year old boys and before any celebrity promised that it would get better, I was a confused teenager trying to understand why I was gay.

Attending a conservative private school that prescribed to a certain Judeo-Christian religious persuasion, homosexuality was merely a subject in a health book that was superficially brushed over one afternoon in grade 9. This particular book claimed that teenagers often experienced passing attractions to the same sex as a byproduct of hormone release. I wished that when the hormones stopped releasing so would my my same-sex attraction. It wasn’t to be.

Needless to say, my understanding of homosexuality was rather limited.

Furthermore, my belief and comprehension of God was shaped by my educational institution and by all accounts, God didn’t approve of gays. So why did he make me gay?

At first I thought he was punishing me for something I may have done before I was even born. Perhaps my soul was intrinsically bad and therefore I needed to suffer the burden of being gay as a form of repenting? The future seemed very daunting.

Then I was told by a religious teacher that God doesn’t hate homosexuals but he hates the sins that homosexuals commit. Was loving another person of the same sex a sin even though it felt so natural? So, I rationalised that it was to be my test in life to resist all homosexual temptations, thoughts and desires no matter how right they felt.

In my later high school years l began to consider that perhaps God had made me gay not as punishment nor as a test but because he knew that I could handle the pressure. Other boys might not have been able to cope with life as a homosexual. I was grateful that I, a strong willed, confident boy with supportive friends and a loving family was made gay instead of someone less fortunate who may have found themselves in the same predicament.

When my faith in God began to wane, as it does for most who’ve attended a religious school, I searched for other answers to my big gay question. Did my upbringing have an impact on my sexuality? I had read somewhere about childhood trauma and troubled upbringings affecting sexual development and causing homosexuality. Reflecting on my childhood there was absolutely nothing that could have adversely affected me either obviously or subconsciously. I grew up in an “ideal” environment with parents who were besotted with each other, who provided their children with love, support and unnecessary material possessions. I had an amazing relationship with my mum and dad and my sister was one of my best friends. We lived in an affluent area, participated in extracurricular activities too many to name, traveled often, spoke openly about our dreams and fears and comforted each other when the family dog died. My friends even commented on how “extraordinary” my family life was. Surely this wasn’t the cause of my homosexuality?

During this period of questioning I had some dark days. Days when I wondered what was the point of it all. Maybe it was better not to be than to be gay? Luckily these days were few and far between but I know that others have suffered more deeply with their own feelings of confusion and questioning.

In the end, I found the answer. I was born this way. It never crossed my mind that it was a choice; that in some way I had chosen to be gay. What teenager would choose such a challenging path? I was born this way. My upbringing was not the cause, my soul was not bad and I definitely wasn’t being punished. I was born this way. It’s as simple as that. There is no other reason or further questioning needed.

I hope that by sharing my experience, others who are going through or have been through this process will see that a part of self-acceptance is undergoing a period of questioning. The greatest relief is discovering and then believing that you are the way you are because that is the way that God or nature or the universe intended you to be.

Read Rule No.1: There are no rules (except for one)

Photo Credit: Benjamin Eidem by Stefan Zchernitz

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RULE NO.6: HOMOPHOBIA IS GAY (LITERALLY)

Homophobia Teen

Recent studies have shown that homophobic people may in fact harbor homosexual feelings and therefore respond negatively to homosexuality out of fear of their own emotions and impulses.

I believe that this research can be used to fight bullying of gay kids, teens and young men. Let’s dis-empower the homophobes by playing into their fears.

Follow me for a moment. What is homophobia? Homophobia is negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality. What are homophobes? Homophobes are people that possess these negative feelings and attitudes. If we can turn the tables around and put the homo onto the homophobes then perhaps they would be afraid of showing any signs of homophobia? If everybody knew that homophobes were actually closet homosexuals then these homophobes would be hesitant to outwardly bully people based on their sexual preference. Through a public awareness campaign in schools, advertisements and social media we have a possible solution to reduce bullying of young gay teens and men.

I honestly believe that bullying is one of the most challenging issues facing gay youth but it’s also one of the most difficult issues facing educators and parents. Bullying has been around for as long as there have been teenagers and it seems that pockets of teenagers will always pick on others no matter what steps are put in place to try prevent it. The approach I’m suggesting plays into teenagers fears, similar to anti-smoking campaigns play into adults fears i.e “If you smoke, you will get cancer” or for the homophobia example “studies show that people who bully gay kids may be gay themselves”. Now, I don’t mean to associate homosexuality with cancer but teenagers are a simple minded group, they just want to fit in and will do anything to do so. If we can exploit this need to be the same as everyone else then I believe we have the first practical solution to fighting gay bullying.

What do you think is the solution to stopping gay bullying? 

(Read this Huffington Post article for more information on the studies of homophobia).

Photo credit: Jean-Francois Carly

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