Thursday, September 20, 2012

Guilty of simply being

Amelia is a blogger at Huffington Post and under this pseudonym she has been writing about her 7-year-old son. The kicker here is that her son self-identifies as gay.

"Huh? What? That's nuts! How can a 7-year-old self-identify as gay? He hasn't even hit puberty!"


I know. It's really amazing some of the things people say. Because I find it completely plausible that Amelia's son identifies as gay despite his age. I knew I was gay when I was 4 years old. I just didn't have a word for it. Being gay is not about sex. Our being gay is about who we are as a human being, it's a fundamental trait about ourselves that we intuitively know. We don't need anyone to tell us who we are, we just know.

The words come later. I knew I was a boy even before people labeled me as "boy." And when people started using that word, I began to use it. But I was a boy before I learned that word. Learning the word did not make me a boy.

And I did not become gay once I knew the word. I knew already who I was. Had I known what "gay" meant when I was 4 years old, I would have readily accepted it as a label for who I am, just as Amelia's son accepts the word. By the time, however, I did learn about words like "gay" and "homosexual," I was also learning about words like "fag" and "sissy." So even though I intuitively knew those words were about me, I did not "identify" as such. Rather, I became a ghost.

But enough of that. I want to get to Amelia's most recent post in which she talks about the conversations she knows she'll have to have with her son even though she dreads the moment when they will occur. Nothing very surprising here, these are the conversations we all know about. That yes, there are people who hate us even though they never met us. That we can't give blood, even to a family member. That we cannot marry the person we love. We might not be able to visit that person in the hospital too, and when they die, we might not have any say about what happens to them.

That's not what caught my eye in Amelia's post, however. It was this line:

"My child is guilty of nothing but simply being."

This is such a beautiful statement and its sentiment is at the heart of why Buddhism has been a lifesaver for me. Because unlike other religious doctrines, at least in my experience, Buddhism allowed me to simply be. It showed me how to be a human "being" rather than a human "doing." And it showed me how to escape the pain I was fettering myself with.

Life is unsatisfactory and events seldom go the way I want them to.

The angst I feel day to day about this is self-created because it's my choices that have brought me to where I am right now.

If I can learn to make better choices and become less attached to things and feelings that are merely temporary, I will be happier.

By following the Buddha's path I will free myself of this self-induced drudgery by accepting things as they really are and understand better how my actions now influence what happens next.

So simple, but as Amelia and the world show us every day, not so easy to implement. Dealing with the world around us is no easy task. And for children who identify as gay, it can be brutal. That's because the world is ruled by delusion. Most people are either incapable or simply refuse to see things as they really are. But once you start doing that in even the smallest ways, the transformation is incredible. And what is more astounding is as we begin to see things as they really are, something begins to bubble up from deep inside us, something that was always there, but was blocked and smothered by our deluded egos.

Compassion. And once we have compassion, it doesn't matter what the world throws at us. We become unflappable.

If you haven't read Amelia's blog on Huffington Post, you should. It's a delight.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You dress so gay

Parents in Malaysia! Beware! If your son likes to wear V-neck shirts, it's because he's gay and wants to show off his body to other boys!

And your daughters, if they prefer the company of only some girls, but not all girls, look out - they're lesbian!

Seriously? o_O

Yes, the Malaysian government is at it again. It's all over the news in Asia, but also getting attention with some Western press and bloggers.

I wrote about efforts in Malaysia to revive reparative therapy techniques to turn ladyboys into real men, so I won't recover all of that. But it seems the Malaysian government is really paranoid about having gays within the populace and is soliciting the help of parents and teachers in spotting this scourge so something can be done about it.

As I've said before, it would all be laughable if it weren't so freaking real. The seminars being hosted in Penang, which has been known to have a lively gay scene, are the fourth conducted in the country. Despite that lively scene in Penang, a friend of mine who lives there is absolutely scared to death to have anyone find out he is gay.

Buddhism is about refuge and I have found the Buddha's teachings to be excellent support for gay practitioners. Yes, there are Buddhist commentators and teachers who adopt homophobia as part of their doctrine, but that's their doctrine, not the Buddha's. When I launched this blog a little more than three years ago, I wrote about how our coming out process was a liberating experience very much like the liberating feeling we experience when we encounter the Dhamma.

I hope our family in Malaysia remains strong throughout this, regardless of their religious point of view. Some meditative sessions on loving kindness are  probably in order. And the more musclely straight men who wear colorful V-necks and carry big satchels, the better.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bid adieu to your ennui

It has been months since I posted something, and even before that last post, my contributions to this blog have been sporadic. And to some extent, uninspired. There was something creeping into my life. It's called ennui.

I knew it was there, but last night as I walked through Boys Town feeling morose and unwanted (I was totally channeling Linda Ronstadt), I overheard a couple gay boys at least half my age chatting behind me: "We're celebrating our six-year anniversary," said one.


Then I read a message from someone I've been texting with and whom I was planning to meet in a couple weeks: "I hope you aren't expecting anything more than conversation when we meet."

Double bitch.

And this all leads me to recall a conversation I had earlier in the evening. I was dining at a vegan restaurant in Old Town with a colleague from work. She and I had a wonderful time: the food was excellent, I brought a fabulous wine to share, and our conversation was bright and happy and thrilling. Being the social media fanatics she and I are, we both checked in on FourSquare and we got a special - free desert.

When dinner was over and we examined the desert menu, I suggested the blueberry cheesecake because I thought the blueberries would go well with the remaining wine. My mind was totally in the realm of cheesecake and all that word means to me. So when the cheesecake was delivered to our table, its appearance immediately struck me as odd. And when I tasted it, the texture was not at all what I expected.

I was disappointed. I said as much, noting that it was good, but it was not what I expected at all. My friend gently reminded me that we were dining in a vegan restaurant, so traditional cheesecake would not be served. I said to her, "You know, it's funny how it is most often our expectations about something that create our disappointment, not the thing itself. This cheesecake is really quite fine, but because I had expected something creamy and smooth and decidedly not vegan, I was unhappy."

Yes, our expectations. Not the thing itself. This is so basic Four Noble Truths kind of stuff that I feel like I should cancel my subscription to the Dhamma and quickly find a bed of nails to lie on. It's just as my friend Curt recently said: "We've got to get you out of this rut you're in, Richard."

And that word "rut" was so apropos. I had been in both a mental and sexual rut, honing in on deliciously young men whom I was successfully converting into a series of trysts. It was making me feel adequate because look at me! I'm a 54-year-old man and see this cute 20-something with me? But the trouble has been most 20-somethings aren't ready to settle down into anything long-term; they want to play just as much as I do. And the ones that say they do want something long term, well, have you ever tried having a conversation with someone who is less than half your age? I often can't even find any musical interests that we share in common.

So there it is - ennui staring me in the face. And it's because I've been spending a lot of time on the outside of me. I've been kicking my ass in a good way at the gym, losing weight and toning up. I've started attending a yoga class that has really helped my flexibility and my overall sense of health. And while I have been chanting and meditating, it's not as regular as I feel it should be. And frankly, I haven't read any Dhamma since ...

My friend Curt is right. I need to find a way out of this rut of endlessly pursuing younger men with whom I have nothing in common other than an overactive libido. Because that day will come when I no longer got it going on. Maybe it's because of my stroke earlier in the year. You'd never know just by looking at me that I had one. But there may be a thought nugget inside my mind that is telling me to live it up as much as I can because I may not be so lucky with the next one. It's as though I'm Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces" when he attempts to reconcile his relationship with his father who's been incapacitated by a devastating stroke.

So there it is. There it is, really, for all of us. Because in some manner, we are all creating our own disappointment with everything, our own dissatisfaction, and we're doing it via our expectations.