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Monday, November 28, 2016

A LIFE LESS MESSY


I like to consider myself an honorary homosexual. This is because I have never met a gay guy I didn't like. I get along with gay guys better than I do with straight guys. Gay guys generally have more style. They are more articulate and philosophical, more "put together," quicker on the uptake, sensitive and "in touch with their emotions." And with their great hair, skin and streamlined waists, they're easier on the eyes.

For much of my life my music tastes could be called gay friendly. Top 40 stuff, the territory of teenage girls. More than once, more than a thousand and once, I've shower sung to the likes of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Mariah and their diva-esque elk. In the 90s whenever one of their songs came on the radio, I became the missing member of boy bands 98 Degrees and 'N Sync, belting out the lyrics with my air mic in front of the mirror, and trying somewhat awkwardly to imitate their meticulously choreographed dance moves. I preferred the ballads. Because really, "All I am, all I'll be, everything in this world, all that I'll ever need, is in your eyes, shining at me." That's 98 Degrees.

Can't everybody relate? Not just girls. Gay guys can too. Because like me, many homosexual men are hopeless romantics. They are either happily in love or searching for Mr. Right, who is always at the next party, or about to appear at the other side of the room, ready to be introduced. And they fight like girls, which is to say they can be catty and spiteful. I too put up my dukes in this way. Call it growing up with a brother who is gay. Or maybe it's just part of my personality. Because my other brother, Justin, was a dude, through and through. Smoked his Marlboros, liked heavy metal and hookers. He actually enjoyed the taste of malt liquor. This is what fellas do. Now I have my non-gay side. I've watched The Big Lebowski hundreds of times. Shaggy unemployed stoner whose idea of chic is a hole-ridden bathrobe and huaraches? My gay friends don't see appeal. But this dude's movie, which is about the quintessential Dude, got me through medical school - along with Scotch and cigars, which aren't really gay vices either. I am an avid fan of the band Green Day, which doesn't say much about my preference either way. Their songs ring true to adolescent, hormone-riddled, girl-crazy boys, and yet their lead singer is pretty enough to be a girl. My brother had a crush on him growing up. Sometimes I do too. Billy Joe is soft and he's sweet, and also married with a bunch of kids. 

Now I am comparing myself to the gays I know, which almost without exclusion are my brother's friends. And GT only hangs out with the handsome successful sort with washboard abs and a runway face. But these guys are the creme-de-la-creme from all walks of life. They hail from places as diverse as Nebraska, North Carolina and Venezuela. And such a diverse population is not always found on the streets of WeHo. A pet project of mine would be to take twelve of my brother's besties, who live in LA yes but are from all over the globe, and ask them a series of questions in the hopes of uncovering the reasons behind their sexual preference. You've heard of the award-winning film "12 Angry Men"? I'd call my series of interviews "12 Happy Guys." I've already compiled a list of interviewees, can you hear me Eric and Michael and Jorge et al? Smells like a bestseller...

What I'm saying is I'd take a day gabbing with the gay boys over an afternoon slewing brewskies and watching pigskin in the company of men's men. Even if those men included my father. Sorry, Dad. Football just doesn't do it for me. I don't know how watching men in tights bending over in front of each other and rolling around in the mud can be other than homoerotic, really. But to be gay is to be frozen in the era before boys were boys and girls were girls. I think that part of the gay man, the part I cherish, lives in that sacred time just at the start of adolescence, when the difference between boys and girls is minimal. When we all look androgynous. When we express ourselves rather than act the way adults say someone of our sex should act. Before boys must conceal their emotions, play with trucks, roll around in the mud, while the girls play with dolls and braid each other's hair. 

Just the other day I visited my neighbor Michael, who has a seven-year-old son. Michael said he no longer allowed Ashton to play with another neighborhood kid because Ashton had thrown a tantrum and cried. As if this wasn't behavior befitting a child! Kids express themselves. I shook my head ruefully, thinking to myself that Ashton is well on his way to becoming your ordinary heterosexual. I said nothing. Perhaps he will rebel, like the gays of the world, and I.

I've spent enough time with straight guys, having played sports through high school and lived with three dudes for a time out of college, that I can act that part, which means lowering my voice a few octaves, not smiling much, grunting in response to questions, downplaying my feelings, and drinking too much beer while pretending to take interest in the game. But I wonder if these guys are doing a little pretending too, just acting the way they are supposed to be acting, so they won't get called a fag. Now Billy Joe has been called a fag. In "American Idiot," he sings: "Well maybe I'm the faggot America, I'm not a part of a redneck agenda, now everybody do the propaganda, and sing along to the age of paranoia." 

I feel your pain, Billy boy. Once when I was riding my bike shirtless in southern Louisiana, a rough-hewn teenager yelled out of his muscle truck: "Faggot." I assumed he was referring to my spikey hair and frosted tips, and my shaved chest and spandex - which ironically the ladies seemed to love - and so I shrugged it off. Some girls I met in those parts did call me metrosexual, which may just be a euphemism for queer, but I took it as a compliment along the lines of "not being stylistically challenged," or "being in touch with my feminine side."

Many people say sexual preference is not a choice. That you are born one way or the other. I beg to differ. I could go either way. Sexuality is fluid. I often enjoy the company of gay men over straight men and even straight women. As I've pointed out, straight men can be too one-dimensional, and women can be game-playing and neo-feministic. They want me to act like a straight man, which is to say be somewhat slovenly, strong and silent while I work myself to the bone to provide a life that is to their liking. Things are less complicated with gay guys. Once a girl I was seeing came over an hour and a half late without notifying me in advance of her tardiness. Such a chick! When I didn't wait up for her, she became irate. Our gay mutual friend looked at her and gave his head a humorous shake. "I don't miss those days," he said. Implying that he had once been straight. Or had at least tried. 

The weekend before Thanksgiving, at a family get-together, I spent time with my brother's boyfriend's brother, Tyler. I want my brother to marry Allan if for no other reason than I can shorten this tongue-twister to the much more economical "brother-in-law." Tyler mentioned a high school girlfriend of Allan's who he was certain was the reason Allan had become gay. "She broke my poor brother's heart," Tyler said. Either cheated on him or fell in love with another guy, I can't remember. In Tyler's mind, being unlucky in his love of a woman made Allan turn his attention the other way. It was nurture, not nature. Environment over genetics. Experience is after all the best teacher.

I could probably be more successful romantically if I were with a guy. Male minds think alike. We understand each other implicitly. But I am more of a loner, which is why for most of my life I have been unaffiliated. Or in Green Day's parlance, "I walk alone." When I choose to put my sex inside another's, I find that my body desires its other half, and because I am male it seeks its female counterpart. Being with a guy would just be an elaborate form of masturbation. If getting my rocks off is my aim, a few deft shakes is all it takes. Rosy Palm never asks, "What are you thinking?" I'd never want to kiss a face that like mine sprouted whiskers. I have pecs and muscles and a penis, to be with another who had these parts would be, I dunno, too much of a good thing. Doesn't stop me from hugging and kissing at parties though. Such innocent fun.

Others say sexual preference is a choice. And the fact that only 5 percent of the population identifies as homosexual just means that it hasn't been as socially acceptable - at least until more recently, and even now only in certain circles - as it is today. I've heard about how hard it is for my Nebraskan friends to come out, to surly dads and corn-husking cronies. Talk about courage. But daring to be different has an appeal of its own, and I'm sure may explain why some fight the odds and go against the grain to assert an alternate lifestyle. Or else they don't want to wind up like their parents, which is to say unhappy heterosexuals, with or without the divorce. 

A new study published in the fall issue of the journal The New Atlantis on "Sexuality and Gender" speaks to this. The authors claim that "our scientific knowledge in this area remains unsettled," that there is no "scientific evidence for the view that sexual orientation is a fixed and innate biological property," and that no one is "born that way." Granted the journal is not peer-reviewed, and many experts in the scientific community, even heterosexual ones, are up in arms over what they call bad science. They accuse the journal of cherry-picking its studies, of "applying Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues," and rightly so, since the journal's co-publisher, the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), has this as their motto. But EPPC scholars, notes Michael Shermer writing for Scientific American, are also dedicated to respect the inherent dignity of the human person and individual freedom. 

Shouldn't this be freedom to love whomever we choose, in the way we choose? But it's hard to get past the Bible's message, and if you don't know what the Old Testament's stance on same-sex pairing is, allow me to elucidate it for you. I quote Leviticus 20:13"'If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." No gray area there. You can see the motivation of modern pundits. If sexual preference is genetically determined just as, say, eye color or hair texture (but not body weight or susceptibility to mood disorders, sorry slackers), then queers have no choice in who they love and consequently cannot be punished for what the Book says is wrong. But if it's a choice, then the priests and psychiatrists (with their conversion therapy) have a job in rehabilitating the black sheep of the world. And in forgiving sinners, heterosexuals can pat themselves on the back for doing their daily good deed - then go back to their strip clubs and sporting events. 

But we all choose. As the heterosexual I identify with less and less by the day, I can choose between showering my affections on the spunky redhead to my left or the busty blonde on my right. I'm being crass, but you get my drift. No girl has gotten me to love her by tying my hands behind my back and putting a gun to my head, however appealing this may be to the masochist in me. The choice of who to give my love to is always up to me. Or as determinists may say, the illusion of choice, at least. And I could choose to stop being interested in girls at any time. I've often thought of giving up the search altogether. It can be much too complicated for one such as I who disdains drama, may not want kids, and has a hard time imagining living indefinitely with the same person. Seems like a death sentence, and it kind of is - whether with a member of either sex. "Till death do we part" has such an ominous ring to it.

To say with evangelist Jimmy Swaggart that "the homosexual cannot claim to have been born that way any more than the drunkard, gambler, killer," implies that loving a member of your gender is a deviation or perversion, that like the vices of killing and cheating, it is somehow wrong, like the other vestiges of the original couple (I'm talking Eve and my namesake, Adam) who with their original sin were expelled from the garden and led the way for all subsequent suffering, another name for the human condition. Putting love of any type in the sorry company of these lowly vices makes it sinful by association. Swaggart could just as easily, and more convincingly, have said that homosexuality is a choice just as, say, becoming president or forgiving wrongdoers or donating to charity. Because love in all its forms is honorable. And the original couple was after all straight. So maybe it is a guy's shacking up with a gal who he comes to resent after overpopulating the world and slaving away at a dead end job to make ends meet that should be the object of criticism in this overpopulated, litigious age.

Many preachers derive their inspiration from the Bible's Old Testament, which is just that: old, and outdated. And with its bloodshed and brimstone, its wrath and cruelty and hatred and judgement, it reads like a Stephen King horror story. The updated version, or the New Testament starring Jesus Christ, who with his bare feet, long hair and beard was the prototypical hippie, has nothing to say about homosexuality. Or does it? Christ's message was love. Love God. Love your enemy. Love your neighbor as yourself. Even if that neighbor is gay. Even if you are gay. I long for the hippie age. Unfortunately I was born at the close of this heyday. But hippie love in its purest form is free. Yes, it may have become drug-addled, sex-steeped and set the stage for STDs, and sinful in the Swaggarian sense (since the Bible is staunchly opposed to premarital sex, though Christ declined to comment). But the point was the love. And this is how it should be.

Homosexual affection in its current manifestation (homoeroticism is as old as humanity) may indeed represent an evolution of the hippie form that preceded it. Go to a heterosexual party tonight and watch couples eye each other like hawks. You can almost read the ladies' minds. Is my boyfriend flirting with the girl across the room? Who has he fucked at this shindig? The heterosexual life can be cloistered, claustrophobic and paranoid. I often feel confined to act a certain way when I'm with a gal. Not always, but often, especially with American girls, who make me play the part of manly man, which doesn't suit me, never has. I like my Speedos! 

Many heterosexuals, like myself, when they pair up with a chick opt out of social engagements altogether. Too much eye candy, too much potential for conflict. God forbid I look at a girl who is not my girlfriend "the wrong way." I experienced this not too far back when I girl I'd been talking to came over with a girlfriend, who later claimed behind my back that I had been checking her out. My love interest was ready to cut ties with me on her friend's accusation alone! "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" is not Biblical, but it's a notion whose truth has been revealed to me time and again. God forbid I am friendly with someone and have my friendliness mistaken for flirtation.

Gay couples, on the other hand, continue to attend parties alongside their single counterparts long after they are affianced. And they flirt, if hugging and kissing and speaking intimately with other partygoers deserves the unsavory name of flirting (which, really, implies a threat and a home-wreck). Indeed I watch these gay boys with their partners alongside as they caress and tease other men that they have had sex with, and without a trace of jealousy on the part of their partner. Why? The working assumption is, if my lover desired the one he was once with, they'd still be together. But he's with me. And after two guys cut emotional ties, they remain friends! No hard feelings. This is hippie love at its finest. Without the mess. Straight guys and gals, take notes. 

The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as "an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes." I am by this definition bisexual, since I am attracted to males and females. I am sexually and to a lesser extent romantically attracted exclusively to women, but have often derived more emotional satisfaction in the company of my gay brothers. Straight friends too. I love talking philosophy with Jeff, who like me is unaffiliated. And to some extent, I think gender bending, to call it something, applies to everyone. If getting together with your buddies and hitting the shooting range or watching "the fight" over brews, if head banging to metal with your closest buds makes you feel happy and free and part of something spectacular, this is emotional fulfillment. Like everybody else, heterosexual men choose their friends based on attraction. The attraction may not be sexual, although sometimes it is (I have had straight male friends try to spoon me - albeit under the influence of Ecstasy, but spoon me nonetheless; hey we all love to cuddle, and sometimes any warm body will do). What I am saying is the law of attraction applies in our dealings with both sexes, regardless of sexual identification. Straight men choose their pals based on similar tastes, like the Dude Lebowski and his beer-guzzling bowling buddy Walter. Gay men also choose their galpals based on some level of attraction. And either sexual orientation chooses to get romantic based on attraction, which is in its highest octave just another name for love. I have been around a lot of straight dudes, and seen a lot of fist fights. I have never seen one act of violence involving a gay guy. 

One of my favorite songs, if it can be called a song, since it is more of a spoken-word monologue set to music, is Baz Luhrman's "Wear Sunscreen." He dispenses life advice which includes where to live and how to handle important matters. Now, I don't wear sunscreen. Sunning is a mood enhancer. But my prior sexual encounters have told me the importance of, as they say, strapping one on. And this applies to members of both sexual preferences. A gay world is a less-violent world. It is a happier one. Make love, not war, and put your pecker wherever you choose, just be safe. And if like me you choose not to wear protection, then abstinence is often best. And if you don't have much sex, in society's eyes you really are neither gay nor straight. Welcome to my world. To be alone is not necessarily to be lonely, and a life less messy may be your thing.

I don't know what finally causes a person to choose a particular person as the object of his affections. It may be social conditioning. But as Shermer notes, evidence for the most commonly hypothesized social causes of homosexuality - sexual recruitment by homosexual adults, patterns of disordered parenting, or the influence of homosexual parents - is generally weak. I do however think that like all early experiences, the sexual encounters one has in his formative years do much to shape a person's subsequent behavior. Whether these come in the arms of a female or a male may be chalked up to chance. In early adolescence girls and boys, hairless, high-pitched and flat-chested, look so much the same anyway. There is some support for the fraternal-birth-order effect on male sexual orientation, which states that "each older brother increases a man's odds of having a homosexual orientation by 28–48%." I was the first born. My gay brother was boy number three, making him far more likely to love men than I. This is not genetic, just a sign of the very human penchant for novelty. We are all pioneers in our own way. 

Every couple has a song. My brother and a boyfriend dedicated "Dig" by Incubus to each other. It is natural to assume that when Brandon Boyd, who has a wife, coos the words "We'll always have each other when everything else is gone," he's singing to a female. Or is he? Because truly, love transcends gender. And I think the Backstreet Boys, those old favorites of mine, and with their frosted tips and groomed beards are metrosexuals through and through, put it best when they sang, "I don't care who you are as long as you love me."

It's the love that counts.

2 comments:

  1. Adam, I had no idea you were such a fantastic writer. I love every word in this article. Thanks for posting. -Nick

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  2. love you nix. if ever i do that set of interviews, you're most definitely an IT! looking forward to seeing you in 'hose for the holidays... xo

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