Being Gay: A Listener's Story

Monday, February 06, 2012

Despite having a higher rate of acceptance in American society and greater media presence than ever before, being gay or transgendered is still difficult, especially for those living in non-metropolitan areas. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, experiencing a higher rate of suicide than heterosexuals. But sometimes discrimination and pressure to conform comes just as much from inside the gay community as it does from the outside.

Following Friday's interview with James Clementi, The Takeaway is joined by a listener who has also struggled for acceptance. Michael Williams is a 42-year old gay man and has been out since age 18.

Guests:

Michael Aaron Williams

Comments [3]

Michael Williams from Jersey City

Wow, thanks, Desiree, for reinforcing my point about the aggressively negative reaction I have felt from other gay people when I voice my preference for monogamy. I’ve felt this way ever since I was 18 and out in college, and I felt isolated and alienated even back then, thanks to hostile and defensive people like you.

And you drive home my point that the consideration we’re supposed to give young gay men seems to evaporate as we age, as if gay men in their 30s, 40s and older don’t deserve to be accepted for their individual choices NOT to have sex outside an exclusive relationship.

My comment was not an indictment of Tyler for hooking up with a guy in his dorm room nor was it an endorsement for his straight roommate to humiliate him by spying on him and tweeting about it, but you try to twist it into that to support your agenda. That’s why I quoted Tyler’s own brother who wrote that Tyler deserved more than that.

You act like “this issue” of LGBT suicide is only an issue among at-risk youth, when statistics support that adult gay men of any age are 3-4 times more likely than their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide. And you condone behavior because it is “the norm” among college students, when self-destructive behavior like drug addiction, binge drinking, date rape and hazing are also rampant at university.

There IS room in this issue to give gay youth support for the full range of relationships they may wish to pursue and in reality, there is NOT as much support for monogamy as you think. Your own defensiveness is evidence enough to prove my point.

Feb. 06 2012 10:24 AM
Desiree from Park Slope

DYV from Park Slope

Tyler Clementi was a freshman in college, not a 42 year old gay man.
MOST freshman men in college aren't thinking about long term life partners nor SHOULD they be.

Tyler had a right to have the same freshman experience as your average kid in college.

Exploring himself, doing new things, cultivating likes and dislikes, having a social life, dating, etc.

The PROBLEM is not gay men not wanting monogamy (lots of gay men do and there is plenty of support for that and gay marriage, etc).

The PROBLEM is that gay and lesbian people are ridiculed and made to feel ashamed about our sexual orientation, sexual behaviors and sexual desires.

There is absolutely nothing wrong or shameful about being a sexually active college student. There is nothing wrong with not wanting a boyfriend at a certain stage in your life.

As long as Tyler was being safe and taking care of himself (heart, mind, boy) it's nobody's business who he was having sex with, when or how.
But is is WORSE to expose someone having same-sex sex, particularly if that someone is male given the way gay male sexual activity is received in our society.

The DIFFERENCE is that gay and lesbian young people are attacked viciously (verbally and physically) as well as through social media, for doing something completely natural and normal.

Tyler's roommate exposed Tyler to ridicule and possible violent retribution from homophobes via Twitter.

Tyler's roommate took an extremely private, intimate experience and exposed it to the world maliciously and vindictively.

And MAYBE if Tyler had felt like he had peers he could speak to about THAT (who would not judge his sex life in any way), he might have made some different choices.

Unfortunately, he's dead and we'll never know.

The ISSUE here is homophobia ,sexism, and the inability of straight people (particularly straight men) to deal with the sexual realities of gay and lesbian youth. It's not about promiscuity and monogamy.

Michael Williams clearly has his own agenda about marriage and long term partnering in the gay community that had nothing to do with Tyler Clementi or with being a sexually active gay freshman in college.

I don't care if Tyler hooked up with a different boy every week (as MANY straight male college students are want to do) his roommate had no right to try to shame him about it or expose his private life to the world on Twitter. And his roommate did so because he thinks gay sex is "gross" and he wanted to humiliate Tyler for something that is perfectly normal and natural.

Period. End of.

I really wished The Takeaway someone someone on who actually works with gay youth and knows the difficulties they experience when it comes to dating and sex instead of allowing the only comment on the show to be from a conservative who'd rather judge gay youth for their consensual, safe sexual activities than support the rights of gay youth to do what straight youth get to do in college.

Feb. 06 2012 09:55 AM
Michael Williams from Jersey City

Does the loving kindness and compassion we extend to vulnerable gay youth have an expiration date, whereupon hitting the age of 21 it's suddenly revoked? I've felt ostracized by other gay men, made to feel like a minority of one within the gay community, because I've always wanted a monogamous relationship and never segregated my need for emotional and sexual intimacy. Countless times gay peers respond to that with the snarky retort that "you just need to get laid."

The gay rights movement fights for gay men to have the freedom to sleep with whomever they want without judgment. But it should also embrace the equally valid choice of wanting a monogamous partner. Too many gay men are toxic bachelors in an arrested state of adolescence, gluttonous kids in a candy store who want to gorge themselves on the endless smorgasbord of easy sex partners they can find.

I am not an assimilationist nor an apologist, though other gay men are quick to label you as "repressed" if you don't share their adventurous sex life, and they dismiss you as aping the hetero-normative values of mainstream society. But I don't think straight people should be handed a monopoly on monogamy.

In the past, so-called scientific evidence was used to pathologize and even criminalize gay behavior, back when it was considered “unnatural” and against nature. Gay advocates battling that notion still point out incidences of homosexuality in the animal kingdom to validate that homosexuality occurs in the natural world.

What I find appalling is that many gay men will assert that MONOGAMY is “unnatural" because it occurs so rarely in nature. The very word "unnatural" used as a weapon against homosexuals a century ago is now wielded by any man who can’t keep his dick in his pants as an automatic “get out of monogamy free” card, to justify his infidelities or insatiable appetite.

I worry that young gay men just coming out, whose only connection to other gay men is through online sex sites, have a warped sense of what it means to be gay, and don't have any examples of long-term monogamous gay couples in their lives. And I wonder if feeling peer pressure from other men to indulge in hook-ups, even though they may have been raised to value love and monogamy, leaves them feeling ashamed for their sexual desire. Perhaps knowing that they are entitled to want monogamy and commitment and have that acknowledged through federal rights to marry between gays and lesbians, might affect the love lives of gay men, and give them a better sense of self-worth.

Even James Clementi, in his post-humus letters to Tyler published in OUT Magazine last week, remembers asking Tyler if he had a boyfriend, or if he wanted one, and he scoffed at him and said, “I just want to hook up.” But James thinks maybe Tyler didn’t see how much more he deserved. Sure, sex is amazing, but love is the best part. It was there within his grasp.

Feb. 06 2012 08:16 AM

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