Tag Archives: homosexuality

MODERN GAY HEALTH: WHAT IS PREP?

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To PrEP or not to PrEP: Is Truvada really a sexual health game changer?

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about the use of PrEP as a safe sex tactic for gay men. Writer David Mang explains what PrEP is and looks at whether or not it’s the right tactic for you.

While the horrors of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s are mercifully consigned to history, HIV remains a major health risk for all sexually active people, particularly gay and bisexual men. In 2014, around 2,800 LGBT men were diagnosed HIV positive in the UK – many of whom could potentially have avoided infection had they been using a PrEP drug such as Truvada.

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and is a method of preventing HIV infection which has recently been made available for sale in some territories, including the USA. It involves taking an antiretroviral drug on a daily basis. At present, the leading drug on the market is Truvada, which has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection for people who are identified as ‘high risk’ by as much as 92%.

The easiest way to think about is is to remember that PrEP is the method, whereas Truvada is simply a brand name. When the patent on Truvada expires in a couple of years time, the market may well be flooded by equally effective alternatives, lowering the cost of the drug.

How does it work?

First of all, it’s vital to remember that PrEP is not a vaccine. When you take PrEP on a daily basis, it enters your bloodstream and can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading. However, of you fail to take PrEP consistently, it’s effectiveness weakens, and there may not be enough medication in your bloodstream to protect you.

Should I be using PrEP?

The reduction rate in HIV transmission from using PrEP is hugely significant. With the medication broadly considered to be safe and relatively low on harmful side effects, the evidence in favour of taking them is compelling – particularly if you frequently engage in high-risk sexual activities such as barebacking, anonymous sex or group sex, or if you’re an intravenous drug user. It could also be a major breakthrough for mixed HIV status couples. According to a study by HIV I-Base, around half of gay men in London would take oral PrEP drugs to reduce their risks of contracting HIV.

On the other hand, PrEP is not a silver bullet for sexual health. First, it is only effective if taken consistently, so don’t think of it as a gay version of the ‘morning after pill’. If you decide PrEP is for you, it’s critically important that you take the drug every day. It also provides no protection against other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, anal warts and syphilis.

What are the potential side effects?

Some people who have taken Truvada have complained of mild side effects including loss of appetite, insomnia and an upset stomach. However, in most cases these issues have resolved after regularly taking the drug for a month or so. Beyond that, it appears to be a fairly comfortable and easy drug to take.

How do I get hold of PrEP?

A relative newcomer to the sexual health market, PrEP is not currently available on the NHS in the UK, and can only be accessed by participants in selected medical trials. However, in other countries such as the USA it has been brought to market, albeit at a high price point. Sexual health campaigners are calling for Truvada to be made available on the NHS, and it is hoped that before too long PrEP will become another powerful weapon in our sexual health arsenal.

For more information on PrEP click here 

Image by Bruce Weber for VMAN.

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THE TWINK IS DEAD

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What happened to all the twinks? I’m not referring to the beautiful, jacked-up 20 year-old boys who make their livings dancing half naked on podiums and posing in their underwear. I’m referring to the skinny boys in midriffs, covered in glitter who weren’t afraid to express their femininity. Ever since bigger became better and masculinity in the gay community became the norm for what is considered attractive, the image of the effeminate young gay guy who likes show tunes and tight fitting clothing has disappeared from public view. In his place are perfectly sculptured bodies of bros who dress like dudes who try to pass as jocks. With the onslaught of regularly updated images of ‘masc’ gay guys that fill our feeds and our minds and our fantasies, we have subconsciously been persuaded to value masculinity as desirable in a mate. As such, the colourful assortment of gay men that used to make up the spectrum of homosexuality has dwindled down to just a few archetypes that now form the basis of our aspirations.

The twink of yesteryear has suffered the most in the age of masculinity. Unable to grow a beard or chest hair to keep up with changing tastes, his only option is to join a gym and exercise his femininity away. Turning his back on his nature and often mocking the person he once was, the 2015 twink strives to look like the cover model of a gay magazine or a YouTube star from a homoerotic underwear advertisement. He is forced to turn to athletic enhancers to increase his size because his naturally skinny frame won’t develop as quickly as he would like. Striving for impossible perfection and acceptance, he looks to social media to parade his gains and show the world how far he has come from a girly boy to a man brimming with alluring bravado.

The twink is dead, reborn and remodelled to fit into a gay world where effeminateness makes us writher in discomfort because it highlights our own insecurities. Don’t tell me that you’ve never in your life felt slightly uncomfortable while in the presence of an overly expressive gay guy. It may have been only once, in high school, many years ago but for that one moment that flamboyant person held up a mirror to something inside of you that you didn’t like. Then again maybe you can’t relate to this experience and for that you are a better person than most because within the greater gay subconscious, flamboyance is something that makes us uneasy.

Although, maybe it’s something more than our own insecurities that make us resent feminine qualities? Something else all together? Something greater and at the same time, far worse? Maybe it is the move forward towards gay/straight equality that has altered our perception of male femininity.

Progress in social acceptance has made us strive harder to be like our straight counterparts but the victim of this social change has been the twink. There’s no place for yesterday’s twink in a gay world which wants to model itself on the straight world. Once upon a time the outrageous twink served as a big ‘up yours’ to the world of bigots, homophobes and fear mongers. ‘You don’t like gays’, he would say, ‘well look at how gay I can be’. Nowadays our mantra is ‘we are just like you’ and while our lives are in many ways better for it, diversity of expression within our own community has suffered. We have even turned in on ourselves and ostracised those who are not as quick to change. One only needs to logon to a gay dating app to see discriminatory profiles with bios such as ‘masc 4 masc’ or ‘no fems’ or ‘looking for REAL men’. This pressure from within, caused by changes from without, has forced many young gay men to conform to a narrow representation of homosexuality, one that espouses the idea that straight-acting, masculine ‘men’ are the pinnacle of desirability.

We have buried the twink of years past and in doing so we have lost a part of our own identities. We must learn again to embrace the differences within our own community by first respecting and nurturing ourselves. While it’s hard to be yourself in a straight world where they want you to be just like them, it’s even harder to be yourself in a gay world where the pressure to conform is often greater. The bravest thing you can do is to be yourself, as feminine, gay, flamboyant or naturally masculine as that may be. In doing so you will be commemorating all those twinks who have died looking for love, acceptance and bigger biceps.

Image Credit: Pantelis 

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THE MOST TERRIFYING THING ABOUT BEING SINGLE

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I’m terrified of being single but it’s not for the reasons that you may think. I’m not afraid of becoming the gay caricature of the old lady, surrounded by her cats, mainly because I’m allergic to cats but also because I’m not one to think too far into the future.  It’s not that I’m afraid that my soulmate is not out there (although it’s taking him a bloody long time to materialise if he is) but rather that I may be enjoying my own company too much in the meantime. You see, my biggest fear is not that I won’t find a partner or my soulmate but that I’ll be just as happy if I don’t.

I’ve noticed how some of my friends always seem to jump from relationship to relationship, easily finding a new partner with whom they become instantly infatuated. I on the other hand find it particularly difficult to forge such relationships. While some people need the security that a relationships brings to their life, I’m content being alone.  I refer to myself as a ‘social loner’ – a person who enjoys socialising, spending time with friends and making news friends but who is just as happy, perhaps even happier, being alone. As I become older and engrained in my routines and habits, which have rarely had to accommodate someone else, I worry that it may become difficult for me to adapt if and when a serious someone comes into my life. Will my morning, perfectly-timed schedule be interrupted by someone else’s schedule? What if I don’t feel like talking after a long day at work? Or going out with his friends? Or being in someone else’s company? What if I want to be alone?

Although it may sound arrogant, most of the time I can provide for myself everything that I need to be happy. As such, there hasn’t been a real drive to find a partner and therefore I don’t think I have made a particular effort to look. From friends, to work, to spirituality and community, I have created for myself the things that I need to keep me satisfied. What about sex you ask? Well I can find that too, although I’ve learnt from experience that sometimes it’s easier and less complicated to satisfy one’s self in this department. It all stems from my belief that we are whole as we are and that there is no need to wait to find our ‘other half’ before we can feel wholeness. This is one of the most dangerous myths of our time, that we need someone else to save us or we will never be saved. As homosexuality has become more accepted we have adopted the dangerous heterosexual ideology that to be truly happy we need to find a monogamous partner that will be with us happily ever after. What if we never find that partner though? Does that mean we cannot live happy and fulfilling lives? While I think it’s beautiful to be in a loving relationship and I certainly wouldn’t mind it for myself, I don’t think we need to be miserable in the meantime.

My Facebook newsfeed is often full of gay guys lamenting themselves for being single or congratulating each other when their relationship status changes. I’ve always been confused by the latter as if being in a relationship is some sort of achievement that needs to be acknowledged. I think that this comes out of the fear of loneliness which is particularly strong amongst gay men as we have often felt ostracised because of our sexuality. Perhaps this explains why so many of us are desperate to be in a relationship? It could also explain why there is a constant need for many gay men to broadcast their relationships to the world? The over-the-top uploads and updates might just be a desperate way for us to show the world and each other that we are loved and wanted. Or perhaps it may be because we do indeed love that person so much that we want to shout it from the rooftops. The cynic in me says that it’s the former.

Why listen to me though? All of this is just the rambling of someone who has never been in a serious relationship. Sure I have had flings and dated lots of men and even been in what some might consider the early stages of a relationships but still none of these have been worth the Facebook update. Now that I am older and more aware of the passage of time, I’m worried not about being alone forever but rather that I’ll be just as happy if I were.

Maybe I should buy a cat just in case…

Image by Malc Stone

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15 HOMOS TO MINGLE WITH IN 2015

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Last month I published an article entitled  ‘The 15 gay guys to avoid in 2015‘. The intention of the article was to challenge readers to think about the people in their lives who may be doing more harm to their general well-being than good. Many readers received the post positively while some did not. In the spirit of open dialogue and debate, I welcome criticism and comment, in fact I embrace it – this is the point of The Modern Gay Guide to Life. So when the ever-so-humorous and witty Casey Patrick Comans wrote a clever list of rebuttals against the original list it needed to be published.

Here is Casey Patrick Comans’ 15 ‘MOS TO MINGLE WITH IN 2015: 

1. The Social Butterfly [THE GOSSIP]
He knows everyone and their life story, stick with him at a social event and he’ll introduce you to boys with thoughtful details (“Adam enjoys Cross Fit and crochet; Mark likes motorbikes and leather play.”) with brief whispered backgrounds (*in your ear as Adam heads to the bar* “He’s a med student and hung.”).

2. The Life of the Party [THE DRAMA QUEEN]
This boy is a buffed up Gina Liano with a D. He’s intelligent but totally lush (in all the right ways) and will drink you under the table. He’ll have you laughing all night with his witty boozed up one-liners and always draws a crowd (even when neither of you know a soul at the event/bar).

3. The Mother Hen [THE JEALOUS ONE]
He’s a caring soul who wants nothing but the best for you. Usually older (not always) he’s got your back NO MATTER WHAT. His bromance may seem smothering at times but he just wants to see you happy and safe – and let’s face it, who could say that’s a bad thing?

4. The Manager [THE MANIPULATOR]
The manager, the planner and the comforter are often the same person. He’s your life PA, he knows your schedule before you do and he’ll make sure you don’t miss a single important homo event. He organizes the pre-drinks, he pre-orders the costumes and he gets the tickets on 1st release. He lives to serve and make your life more fabulous – even if it means telling you that you still look cute after that 12th cocktail (which may or may not be entirely accurate).
5. The Planner [THE STRATEGIST]
6. The Comforter [THE LIAR]

7. The Partay Boi [THE BAD INFLUENCE]
He’s your go to man for: mid-week shenanigans; giggly trips to the sauna; and, educational talks about sex positions you didn’t even know existed. He’s absolutely fabulous albeit in small doses. His number is one that MUST be in your phone and he can always be relied upon to be ‘UP 4 IT’ when you make a last minute decision to hit the town.

8. The Belle of the Ball [THE ATTENTION SEEKER]
He’s gorgeous, he’s popular, he’s socially amazing – and he knows it. Confidence is infectious so bask in the light and take it all in. He’ll be surrounded by the cutest of boys most of his life so be his +1 and reap the benefits!

9. The Mr Sensible [THE NEGATIVE ONE]
He might come across as a party pooper but Mr Sensible can often be your saving grace. He points out when that ‘oh so hot’ boy seems a bit shifty (read: off his head on pills) and kindly reminds you about work at 9AM when the clock strikes midnight at Beresford Sundays.

10. The BF Babysitter [THE BOYFRIEND THIEF]
He’s your man’s best mate and he’s priceless. Every boy needs a night off sometimes, or a buddy for the bf at an event where he feels lost – this is when the bf babysitter comes into play! He keeps your man happy and content when you can’t – how could anyone complain?

11. The Spring Lamb [THE SPONGE]
He’s new to the scene and probably fresh out of the jail bait zone. He doesn’t have a full time job yet so he’s going to need a little sponsorship but the drinks you may buy are more than made up for by his youthful enthusiasm and comical homo innocence.

12. The Next Big Thing [THE OPPORTUNIST]
He’s super cute, totally witty, already pretty ripped, just moved to the big city, and, hasn’t kissed ANYONE you know (yet) – he’s the next big thing. He’s done the leg work on social media and he’s already worked his way into all the right circles. Stand by this man, cos he’s going places!

13. The Idol [THE PERFECTIONIST]
Perfect face, perfect job, perfect body, perfect bf, perfect friends – his life is … PERFECT! Aspiration is a wonderful thing and having an idol in your life to admire and look up to is crucial. Listen to his lessons and take everything on board.

14. The Helpless Baby [THE TAKER]
He’s needy and self-focused – but oh so cute. He’s the one who always needs boy advice, can’t manage his job and is somehow constantly rubbing someone the wrong way. He’s a treasure at heart so tolerate his shortcomings if for no other reason than that his endless baby problems will likely make you feel just WONDERFUL about your own life position.

15. The ‘All of the Above’ [THE REPEAT OFFENDER]
Most homos will illustrate aspects of all of the above personality types at one point or another. People are multifaceted and changing and can’t be pigeonholed into stereotypical caricatures. Remember that most people are intrinsically good, yes – even homos, and seeing people in a positive light only goes to enhance your own life experience. So embrace these many different homos and go out and meet them. Say hi to that stranger at the bar or the gym or the beach (wherever you may be this weekend) and (*gasp*) make a new gay friend.

Follow Casey Patrick Comans on Instagram and Facebook

Image by Philippe Vogelenzang 

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RULE 26: STOP WAITING TO BE PERFECT

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Match.com has launched the 2015 campaign ‘#loveyourimperfections’, encouraging us all to embrace the things that make us unique. I have contributed to the campaign with this post which is a challenge to all those who read it to stop waiting to be perfect before you feel like you’re worthy of love. After all it’s our mistakes, misbehaviours, quirks, habits and our little obsessions that make us who we are.

If you are waiting to lose weight before you are ready to find love then you will never find love. If you are waiting to have the perfect six-pack before you are ready to find love then you will never find love. If you are waiting for anything about you to change before you are ready to find love then you will never find love. If you are waiting to be perfect then you will never find love.

I used to think that I would be ready for love and a relationship only once I had controlled all the external elements of my being, that only when my body, job and social life were in ideal alignment then would I find the perfect guy. The fact is that my life will never be perfect and neither will yours.

Stop waiting to be perfect to feel that you are worthy of love whether it be love from someone else or self-love. It’s exhausting to pursue perfection. Why? Because there is no measureable end goal. The finish line is always moving. How will you know when you’re perfect? The pursuit of perfection does not lead to happiness. It leads to dissatisfaction with the moment. Perfection does not exist and as such the pursuit of perfection is a pointless cause.

But who wants to be with a perfect partner anyway? Personally I don’t want to be with someone who wants me to be perfect, in fact, I want to be with someone who loves my imperfections. I want a man who will love me even when I’ve put on weight, when I haven’t gone to gym for three months, when I’m sick and when I’m feeling ugly. My future partner needs to understand that sometimes I shave and sometimes I don’t, that sometimes I trim my chest hair but most of the time I look like I’ve been stranded on a tropical island for months with only a Wilson volleyball as a companion. My future partner needs to understand that these external things do not define who I am and as such I don’t want a relationship that fluctuates depending on such things. The right person will love me for who I am always not who I am sometimes.

It’s our imperfections that actually make us the most beautiful. The Japanese have known this for centuries. Kintsugi, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold is based on highlighting imperfections as beautiful fragments of the overall story. As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. We should apply this same approach to mending the parts of us that we see as broken and imperfect.

My body is covered in scars and marks. I have a long scar on my knuckles from when I cut myself working in a cocktail bar, I have a scar on my chin from when I was dumped by a wave on family holiday and I have little stretch marks on my sides from when I went through a growth spurt in grade 8. All these blemishes represent moments in my life and instead of hiding them, I have chosen to embrace them as markers of memories.

Only once you have learnt to appreciate all the parts that make up who you are will you then be ready for love. In the end though, it’s not about being ready for someone else’s love but learning to love yourself.

Watch the campaign video here to see how the things that embarrass us about ourselves might actually be the things that others find endearing. 

Image by Willy Vanderperre

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MODERN GAY PERSPECTIVE: LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF (AGAIN)

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We are told that in order to be happy we need to “love ourselves”, to discover the joy within and to build our self-esteem but nobody really tells us how. In this personal post, guest writer Joshua Vaughn shares his story about depression, losing his self-love while in a relationship and then the five steps he took to find that love again. 

Life as a gay guy can often be a battle, we don’t have it easy. Let’s admit it. I mean, lets really admit it. You can say that us gays have the same opportunity as our straight counterparts – and yes that is true, we do, possibly even more. But do you think many straight guys have ever had to reveal news about themselves that could potentially result in exclusion from social circles, family or their community? Have straight guys ever had to cover up who they really were in fear of punishment, abuse and rejection?

Moving beyond coming out and self-discovery, let’s look at the gay dating world. How many times has your attention been driven to the topless six pack Grindr profiles? Or how many times have you had to describe yourself as ‘masc’ in order to be accepted by another?

Yes, life for everyone is tough, but as gays, it is a little more complex.

For a large chunk of our lives we have had to cover up who we are.  Once we come out, we go on to label ourselves to fit in, to impress others and to feel loved, but really all we truly need to do is to love ourselves a little bit more.

Loving yourself is a constant habit, it takes work. I have recently come out of a relationship where by the end, I was a completely different person. Walking into the relationship I was confident, I knew who I was, I was witty, charming and an all-round social butterfly. Towards the end of the relationship, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and constantly in fear of losing my significant other. I was a hermit who lacked energy and on some afternoons I was completely bed ridden. It is safe to say I was a completely different person. People would automatically assume that it was my significant other’s influence that made me become a total different person, but it wasn’t him at all. It was me.

I accept full responsibility. Why? Because I forgot to love myself. I was so invested in the relationship, I put him before me. My needs and wants fell by the wayside. I became secondary and as a result I suffered immensely. Slowly but surely my mental illness got the best of me. I let the relationship dictate my happiness (relationships are add-on’s, not a core feature in life!) I needed to learn how to love myself again, and I needed to do it fast!

After hundreds of Google searches, kindle downloads, self-help blogs, talks with good friends and professionals, I came up with a plan to become the best version of me. I won’t go into the importance of loving yourself, there are plenty of articles on Google that cater to that, but what many articles don’t address is the actual practice of loving yourself. And that’s what it is. It is a practice that needs to be included into your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.

Now this may not apply to everyone, however I would recommend that you simply try it out for a week or so, you really have nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain.

  1. Firstly, know the person you want to be. Create a wish list. Let’s be realistic here. You don’t want to totally transform yourself into someone else. I’m talking about creating a list of qualities about yourself that you want to shine more, to develop. Think back to a situation where you thought you handled it well. Or even think back to a better time. Mine was to be more positive, charming, energetic and adventurous.
  1. Come up with a motto. Like an affirmation, decide on a piece of text that you can always refer to. It can be a goal of some sort. A reminder of why you are doing this. Mine is ‘ Be the best person I can be, and everything else will fall into place’. I wrote this down along with the qualities I want to shine listed in the previous step, stuck it on my bedroom wall and referred to it daily.
  1. Strengths! Everyone has them. And write them down! Keep a strength journal. Every day I would write down my ‘wins’ for the day. They could be as little as having a good hair day, or as big as doing well in a presentation. Focusing on my positives and telling myself that I am amazing made a heap of difference.
  1. Fake it till you make it. Embody the person you want to become in step 1. Think like that person, walk like them, talk like them. I embodied the version of ‘me’ that was confident with who he is. I walked tall, spoke with certainty and charm, I oozed positivity. And after a while it worked, I slowly became that person.It takes 30 days for something to become a habit. This is going to be hard, but trust me it will pay off. Some people may disagree with this step, but hey, sometimes we get to such a dark place that taking a break from the person we are and focusing on the person we can become is the only option.
  1. Treat yourself like a child. Speak to yourself as you would a 5 year old child. Be kind to yourself. If you screw up or make a bad decision, think about what you would say to a five year old, and say it to yourself. Admit that you were wrong, but be kind and gentle so you can move forward.

At this point, I can say confidently that I am better than my old self, I am now the best version of myself. People have noticed and commented. I am excited about life again. I am excited to explore and roam. Sure I have off days when I feel like I have lost my footing. When this happens, I acknowledge that I feel this way and am mindful of my thoughts but I use the steps above to get back on that path.

Remember, only you can make yourself feel loved and happy, it’s no one else’s job.

Have you had a similar experience? Have you had to learn how to love yourself again? Comment below!

Image by Sylvain Norget

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THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE FOR ONLINE DATING

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This article was originally written by The Modern Gay for Match.com

I have been using the internet to communicate with other gay guys my age since I was fourteen-years-old. What started as a means to explore my curiosities in the privacy of my bedroom has matured into a means by which I have met romantic partners. In the early days of internet dating you were warned not to share too much detail about your life for fear of being taken advantage of but as we have become more comfortable with this digital medium we are more open to sharing our phone numbers, private pictures, personal stories and even our home addresses.

When I was eighteen I signed up for one of the few gay dating sites that existed at the time. The internet was the only access I had to the big gay world but because I was still in the closet I was reluctant to use a real profile picture for fear of being outed. Like many other questioning, young gay guys, I established a false profile, using an image that I found online. I created an alluring persona of the ideal “straight-acting”, high school jock and used this disguise to communicate with other guys. Luckily though, I quickly realized the pointlessness in pretending to be someone you are not, both digitally and in real life. Although my fake profile allowed me to comfortably chat to other gay guys (something I could not do while I was still in school) I knew that these relationships would never eventuate into anything more than an internet fling. I deleted my accounts and stopped using the internet for chatting until I was comfortable enough to establish a profile that reflected the real me, with genuine pictures included.

Since then I have met some great guys through dating websites and apps. Along the way I have also learnt some valuable lessons about online dating, the most important of which is honesty. Pretending to be someone that you are not is pointless in the long run. Sure it may allow you to escape the reality of your life in the moment but ultimately it’s a dead end and people inevitably are hurt. I also strongly believe that we should only be in relationships with people who love us for who we are and not for who we think they want us to be. The best way to attract these people into your life is to be honest from day one, and this means being honest in your online profile too. Exaggerating your height, body type or income may increase the views on your profile but what happens when you meet your love interest in person and he realizes that you are not a six-foot-two footballer with a six-figure salary? Such superficial things as body type and salary should not even matter in a loving relationship but they will become an issue if you have lied about them from the start.

While honesty is certainly the most important rule in online dating, here is a list of 7 practical ways to improve your online profile that will hopefully lead to happily ever after.

Image by Steven Kohlstock

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MODERN GAY PERSPECTIVE: COMING OUT IN IRAQ

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Coming out of the closet can be one of the hardest and most daunting moments in the life of a GLBTI person. Not knowing how your family and friends are going to react, coupled with the fear and vulnerability that comes with revealing something so personal and intimate can delay or even prevent a person from ever revealing their true self. While there is no right or wrong way to come out or a full proof step-by-step guide, sharing our stories can help others in similar positions. Here is a short story from Amir*, a young gay man from Iraq who asked to use this blog as a platform to share his experience.

This is my story. My mother and father broke-up when I was a child. I have always felt that I’m different and not like other boys. When I went to school I was always the weak boy and all the other boys called me a “fag” or a “girly boy”. My mom and my brother would say similar things. My brother used to hit me all the time, called me a “fag” and told me that I should be with girls. After a few years someone tried to rape me but I managed to stop him. When I told my mom about what happened she said, “you are the reason (it happened), you are the problem and I am so ashamed because of you”. I have always hid the pain inside of me. When I walked down the streets and heard boys calling me a fag, I smiled as if I hadn’t heard anything but I was constantly thinking about killing myself. My two best friends could always tell that I was different and when I told them that I was gay they were very supportive. I always thank God for them. I love them so much. After a few years I fell in love with a boy from my school but I didn’t tell anyone. Then I decided to come out to my family. I knew that I was probably not ready but I had had enough of the constant fear inside of me. I told my sister first. She wasn’t that surprised and she told me that I was too young to know what I like. Then I came out to my whole family. My mom said very horrible words to me and so I decided to kill myself. Luckily my two best friends called me and reassured me that death was not worth it and that there was still a lot of happiness waiting for me. I’ve always told my family that I will leave them one day and that I will live my life in happiness. Despite everything, I’m so happy now and coming out was the best thing I have ever done in my life. Now I’m waiting for my rainbow to shine.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the author

To share your story please contact josh@joshvansant.com.

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RULE NO.7: GAY MARRIAGE ISN’T EVERYTHING

Gay Marriage

Gay marriage should be legal. Period. But in the struggle for equality it’s important not to lose sight of the blessings we’ve been afforded as gay men. 

When I was coming to terms with my sexuality I often wondered if there were any benefits to being gay as opposed to being straight. Sure, some might argue that sex is easier to come by or that gay men don’t have children so they have more money for themselves but neither one of these arguments convinced me. What finally helped me accept that being gay wasn’t all that bad was the realisation that society’s plan for what constituted a normal life did not apply to me. All around me, people were expected to date, go to college, find someone to marry, commit to a career, have children, buy a house, either stay married or divorce, retire and then die. This expectation of life was terrifying to me as I wanted to travel and meet new people and live in different cities and explore and have various sexual experiences. So when I realised that being gay was the key that unlocked me from the metaphorical cell of expectations, I began to look at my homosexuality in a whole new light. I could make up new rules for the way I wanted to live life, discover what really makes me happy not what I’m told will make me happy. All of a sudden life seemed like an exciting blank canvas on which I could paint my own picture with all the colours of the rainbow.

To this day, I thank God (or the universe or whatever you want to call it) for making me gay. This is the greatest blessing I have been given; permission to re-evaluate what is truly important to my happiness.  That might be kids and marriage and a mortgage but if those things do happen in the future then at least I know that I chose them for myself.

So what does this have to do with gay marriage? While I  support the fight for equality and equal rights 100%, I think it’ important not to lose the uniqueness that is intrinsically linked to being gay. Of course I want the same legal recognition as my heterosexual friends but I don’t necessarily want my life to look like theirs. If seen positively, being gay is so very special in that it allows us to look at the world and ask “how do I fit in here? Where is my place?”. When the ultimate goal for gays becomes to find a partner, marry and blend into society so that people don’t think we’re so different anymore, then I think we’ve missed the point. Furthermore, looking at the rates of divorce and depression, I would argue that marriage as it exists today isn’t actually an institution that I would like to be part of.

If you fight for gay marriage because you believe in legal equality for all then I salute you. However, the moment we try too hard to fit back into the “normal” mold that society has created or concentrate too much on blending in,  we neglect the blessings that we were so fortunate to have been afforded when we were born gay.

Photo Credit: “Viva Las Vegas” by Matthias Vriens McGrath

Do you believe that homosexuality is a blessing?

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