My sexuality and romantic past
My earliest thoughts of sexuality date back to the old days when I would sneak off to look at dirty magazines. My neighbor was a boy scout, and on one particular newspaper recycling drive, some guy quietly handed him four Playboy magazines. We delighted in sequestering ourselves away in our secret hideaways and looking at the dirty pictures. One of the issues had a pictorial that contained some mild frontal male nudity. I distinctly recall that I was much more interested in the male nudity than the female. I even mentioned it once to my friend and asked if he had any idea why he thought that was. As I recall he didn't even verbalize a response. I said that I assumed it was simply because I was interested in comparing what his body looked like with what mine looked like, or what it could look like when I was an adult. Again, he didn't respond.
At one point another friend shared with us a magazine that was more a sex manual than pornography. It had a great deal of explicit photography of couples performing the sex act. Although my father had given me the sex talk (he read directly out of a booklet), I had no clue how sexual intercourse really worked until I saw this magazine. And for the first time I saw pictures of erect penises. As time went on and we got our hands on more hard core material, I would always focus on any pictures that contained any male nudity.
By the time we were a little further along in puberty, my young friends and I would sometimes experiment sexually when we would sleep out in a tent in the back yard. It was mostly showing each other our erections, and maybe a little oral genital contact, but we hadn't yet mastered the art of masturbation and there were never any ejaculations. Eventually they rejected this behavior as abnormal and these activities ceased.
As I grew older I inevitably found myself in the environment where boys actually spent time in the company of girls once in a while. My friends were always talking about who was hot and who was not. I seemed to lack the ability to evaluate if a girl was attractive or not. I could basically recognize the features that made a girl pretty, but I never found myself thinking, "Now there's a pretty girl."
I was also becoming somewhat infatuated with certain young men in my classes. At the time I didn't recognize it as anything more than ordinary admiration, but as I look back I realize that it was much more. There was one young man in particular whom I consider to have been my first crush. He was the "tough guy" type. He was on the wrestling team, and he was often getting into trouble, but he was also more intelligent than the typical roughnecks.
I really can't put my finger on the exact time that I realized I was attracted to men rather than to women, but I know that by the latter years of high school that I understood what I was feeling. I was, however, deeply in a state of denial about it. It wasn't so much that I denied my feelings, but I denied that it meant that I would wind up living a life of homosexuality. Nothing else about me was in any way stereotypically homosexual. I was very masculine and spoke with a tough, deep voice. I was into cars and sports and heavy metal music. I hated fashion, shopping, and dancing. I didn't have a flamboyant or effeminate bone in my body. Everything about me fit very nicely into the heterosexual world except for my pesky attraction to other men. I had every intention of dating girls and "getting laid" just like all my friends did.
My first girlfriend was a young women named Kathy. We were in the same clique, and we started going out some time during my senior year of high school. I don't recall how we got together, but I believe that she was the instigator. Our relationship did not exactly grow and progress. There were two main reasons for this. One was that I suffered from extreme naiveté, and I had absolutely no clue how initiate sexual activity beyond ordinary necking. The second, which I only understood with hindsight, was that without any real sexual interest in the female body, I lacked the motivation to overcome this naiveté. She broke up with me after only a short while.
I eventually took up with another young woman named Debby, and much to my surprise Kathy was a little jealous. She was mature enough, however, not to get in our way. Debby wound up being slightly more aggressive than Kathy had been. When we would make out she would sometimes reach into my pants and grab my erection. But I was in the same rut I had been in with Kathy, and after a short while we broke up.
It wasn't long after Debby and I broke up that Kathy made moves on me again. We started dating again, but if anything it was worse than it had been before. I would simply never initiate any kind of sexual activity. Once again she broke up with me after not much time. That Spring she surprised all of us by coming out to us as a lesbian. I didn't really appreciate the irony until years later. And what is even more ironic is that she wound up asking me to the prom. I originally had no intentions of going. It wasn't a tacit protest based on my latent sexuality or anything like that. I just perceived it as more of a hassle than anything else, and was good and God damned if I was going to go to all that trouble simply because all high school kids are "supposed" to want to go to their prom. When she called me up I was quite surprised. She said that her father (whom she was not out to) threatened that if she didn't ask me that he would call me up and inform me that she wanted to. I said that I would be delighted. She and I wound up having a very nice time as platonic dates.
That Summer shortly before I went off to college I came out to a friend named Vince. At the time I didn't consider it "coming out," but for that matter I didn't reaslly consider myself to be gay. During a very deep and heartfelt discussion we were having I confessed to him that I found myself more attracted to men than I did to women. I also told him that I didn't consider this to make me gay. I had no interest in being intimate with a man, and I didn't expect that to change. That didn't lessen his shock. But he was very accepting. I recall his exact words to be something like, "I want you to know that this doesn't change how I feel about you." I was actually a bit indignant. I didn't say anything, but my thoughts were, "It better not! I wouldn't have told you if I thought it would have, and if it did then you're not the person I thought you were." That marked the first time I ever clued anyone in to how I was feeling.
When I went off to college I was a very shy and insecure young man. I didn't make friends easily, but I did meet another freshman in my dorm who was very gregarious and friendly. His name was Chris G., and we hit it off right away. I suppose I knew that he was gay (he was pretty queeny), if even on a subconscious level, but it was not something we discussed or explored.
But it was an emotional relationship nonetheless. We started out as best friends, but in time the guy got downright clingy. He was in my room first thing in the morning, and he stayed in my room in the evenings until I shut off the light. Unbeknownst to me, he was a textbook co-dependent, and a pretty intense one at that. So I was entirely unprepared for the drama he unleashed on me when I told him that I needed a little more space. The kid pretty much freaked out. He went so far as to make up a story that he had cancer so that I would not only have to remain friends with him, but that I would lie in bed and hold him as he cried and cried. And the whole time it was a total lie. But before long he couldn't sustain the lie any further, and he had to confess. We "broke up," as it were, and I never spoke to him again after that.
Beyond that, during these early days of college I essentially continued the same behavior pattern I had exhibited before. When certain young men would catch my fancy I would be content to pine for them from afar. It didn't really matter, because even if it turned out that they were available to me I had no intention of engaging in that kind of behavior anyway. I had allowed myself to accept the societal view that homosexuality was wrong, and that homosexual activity was a perversion. I foolishly thought that my attraction to men wouldn't preclude me from having a "normal" relationship with a woman, but at least I was honest with myself about what my true feelings were. I even came out to a couple of young women I was very close to. But I didn't say that I was gay. I merely said that I was attracted to men.
It was at the beginning of my junior year of college that I transferred schools and pledged a fraternity. My sexuality didn't really play much of a role at this point. I was very comfortable living in the heterosexual world and still deep in denial, so the idea that fraternities were bastions of traditional heterosexuality didn't have an impact. I come across as very masculine and straight, so I wasn't concerned with being perceived as homosexual.
Although the fraternity that I chose was just right for me in every other way, it wasn't exactly crawling with attractive young men. There were a couple nice looking guys in my pledge class, though. One in particular, who's nickname was Farkle, really made an impression on me. He was pretty nice looking, but most of all he was very innocent and sweet. He and I lived in the same dorm, although on different floors, and we would walk back together after an evening of pledging. Because of this he and I started to become a bit closer to each other than we were to the rest of the pledge class. On one of the first nights he and I mutually confessed our virginity to one another. Although I don't think I realized it at the time, I was falling head over heels in love with him.
There was another guy in the pledge class named Dave who was particularly appealing to me. He was in ROTC, he was about my height, he had a typical muscular military build, he had a very attractive face, and one of those sexy military haircuts. Although I was falling in love with Farkle, I was falling in lust with Dave. Unfortunately he depledged about halfway through the pledge program.
Dave was also my first experience with so-called "gay-dar." He lived in a dorm room with two other guys. I didn't need gay-dar to have a good idea the other two were gay, but although Dave didn't have any outward signs of being gay, I just had this feeling that he was. Many weeks later after I had been fully inducted into membership in the fraternity, I bumped into Dave at one of the bars on a Friday night. He was extremely inebriated. We wound up walking back to campus afterwards with some other fraternity guys, and when we came to Dave's dorm I walked him back to his room rather than continuing on with my own brothers. He was very impressed by the fact that I chose his company over theirs. I think he was also rather emotional due to regrets for not having completed his pledgeship and become a member with the rest of us. He was also shit-face drunk.
When we got back to his room he was still obsessing over the fact that I chose his company over my brothers. He unlocked his door but didn't go right in. He looked at me for a moment. "You're such a nice guy, Toaph," he said. "You're such a nice guy, and I'm not allowed to kiss you." It was at that moment that I knew I was right, that he was gay. Unfortunately I didn't know how to react. Part of me wanted to plant a big wet one on his lips, but this was something I had never, ever done. I was afraid to give in to my desires. I just looked into his eyes as he looked into mine. Eventually he just gave me a quick peck on the cheek, fell into his room and closed the door.
I don't have a lot of regrets in life, but this is a BIG one. If I had it to do over again I would have followed him into his room and fucked his brains out. I went by to see him the following day, perhaps hoping we could pick up where we left off, but he had been so blacked-out the night before that he didn't even remember walking home with me. I certainly wasn't going to tell him what happened outside his door. And ever since then I've been kicking myself in the ass for not ultimately following up on that opportunity. Dave was attractive, strong, masculine, good company, and he liked me as a person. I've been looking for these qualities in a man ever since, and have yet to find them in such perfect proportions as they existed in him. I have a feeling, however, that he was extremely closeted due to his ROTC affiliation, and probably wouldn't have wanted to get involved with me. But I'll never know, and that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
The following semester, Farkle had become involved with a young woman and I found myself absolutely heartbroken over it. I never had any expectations that anything would happen between the two of us, but I was still very jealous of her. I still remember one day sitting with him in the student union. She came by and he left with her. I almost started to cry as I watched him walk away, and thought to myself that I was watching him walk out of my life. And what made matters worse was that I thought that she was all wrong for him. Farkle is the most sweet, generous, giving person I've ever known, and this girl was somewhat unpleasant and domineering. Every fiber in my being wanted to break the two of them up, but my love for Farkle was true, and I wanted for him what he wanted for himself. Since he wanted to be with her, I supported him.
The following Fall I started dating a girl myself. Her name was Chris, and her nickname was Toad. People used to kid us because our names were Chris and Chris, and our nicknames were Toaph and Toad. She was not a particularly attractive young woman, but this didn't really matter to me. While I buckled to the societal pressures to date women, I wasn't going to buy into the conventional ideals of female beauty.
Chris and I got along rather well, but it was obvious that things weren't working out. It was failing this time not so much because I didn't advance the relationship sexually (even though it's true that I didn't), but because basically preferred the company of my brothers to her, and I never spent a lot of time with her. I also knew in my heart of hearts that I was living a lie. I knew that I was pressuring myself into something that I didn't really want, that no good would eventually come from the relationship, and that ultimately it was very unfair to her. I broke up with her shortly after we returned from Christmas break. It was somewhat of a blow to her self-esteem, and although I didn't explain to her the true reason why I was breaking up, I now dearly wish I had.
After this experience I started feeling some emotional difficulties myself. I began to dread the fact that I was not heterosexual. While I took great pride in being different from other people in terms of style, I very much wanted to be like everyone else in this respect. I wanted to get married and have 2.5 children just like other people did. What probably bothered me most of all was that I understood perfectly well why my relationship with Chris didn't work out, and yet I was undaunted in my intentions to continue trying to force myself to make it work with someone else. I knew that I was pursuing a course of action that was doomed to fail, but I felt completely powerless to do anything different. I simply could not accept the idea of living a homosexual lifestyle.
Once the "aftermath" of the breakup passed, my feelings were far less fatalistic. I have to admit that I tremendously enjoyed the constant companionship that the fraternity provided, and on average I was a pretty happy kid. I still felt the pressure to date women, but I didn't really succumb to it. I did, however, come very close to getting laid a couple of times. On a couple of occasions I wound up naked and in bed with a girl, and about the only thing that prevented me going all the way was the fact that I didn't know exactly how to accomplish intromission, and I was way too embarrassed to admit it.
There was one girl named Kim whom I did come very close to dating. Looking back I realize that she was, in fact, quite an exceptional young woman. She was very independent and strong willed, and also very intelligent and capable. She did not, however, have any interest in dating me. In the end we wound up being very good friends.
It was during my final semester in school that I started feeling the pressure to make it work with a woman again. I was past the point where I was under peer pressure to get laid, or afraid of being embarrassed by my lack of experience with women. My college career was coming to an end, and I was starting to think more seriously about marriage and family. I knew that once I graduated, my opportunities to meet women would be greatly diminished. I basically concluded that if I didn't get in a successful relationship with a woman by the time I graduated that I probably never would. I made one last ditch attempt to date a girl, but she too showed no interest in me. It was when that one didn't work out that I finally started accepting the fact that it just wasn't going to happen, ever.
It may have been this realization, complicated by the fact that I had been keeping my sexuality to myself for so long, that I finally started coming out to select individuals. It had been over five years since I had come out to someone, and it was getting unbearable. One night I was out in the bars with Farkle and another one of my pledge brothers. We were all getting very drunk, and I wound up telling them. But much more than simply getting it off my chest, it was very much a plea for acceptance. I needed to be told that it was all right, that I wasn't a monster. Things went pretty well, except it got a little intense at times. We talked about it for what seemed like hours, and no matter how much they reassured me I continued to challenge them in an attempt to elicit even more reassurance. The next day I brought it up just so that it wouldn't become an elephant in the corner, and to make sure they didn't hate me, but we didn't really speak of it after that.
On one other occasion before I graduated I came out to three other guys whom I considered to be safe. They were also very accepting, but I put them through the same routine of forcing them to reassure me over and over and over again. I must admit that they never blinked. They were there for me, and no matter how much I said how horrible it was they told me that it would be okay.
Finally graduation came and it was time to put my college days behind me. I was somewhat depressed that I had not managed to get into a relationship with a woman before it was "too late," but I was now so concerned with finding a job that I didn't think about it too much. I soon moved down to Washington D.C. where a pledge brother of mine named Tim was already somewhat established. He and I spent a lot of time together, and much to my surprise one night he came out to me. I immediately came out to him, and he confessed that he had an idea that I might be gay.
This marked a significant turning point in my life, because I finally had someone with whom I could talk openly about my sexuality and my feelings. It wasn't a one-sided plea for acceptance in an intense, emotional scene. It was just casual conversation. He and I would talk about it all the time, and it all started to feel much more ordinary. We would also take me out to the gay bars on the weekends from time to time. But while I could easily have gotten picked up on many occasions, I was still uncomfortable with the idea of being sexually active with another man. I was to the point where it was conceivable, if I already knew and felt comfortable with someone, but there was no way I was going to have sex with some stranger I met in a bar. Actually I rather wanted to get intimate with Tim, but I never broached the subject because I considered it to be contrary to the values of brotherhood. It almost felt like incest.
Alas, my time in Washington wound up being very brief, and I moved back up north. I had to live without someone I could talk to about my sexuality on a regular basis. As I got my professional life back together in New York State, my social life continued to revolve around my fraternity. All my closest friends were fraternity brothers. I continued to come out to certain individuals whom I considered to be safe. All the reactions I got ranged from tolerance to open acceptance. I never got a single negative or homophobic reaction. I think that this was in part due to the fact that I selected the people I came out to very carefully, but also because the fraternity truly fostered an atmosphere of diversity and acceptance. My respect for the brotherhood was growing. The whole process was starting to become a bit more routine, although it was still very much a plea for acceptance.
Ironically during this time I became somewhat more sexually active with women. While I had no interest in pursuing a relationship with a woman, I found that sex with a woman was better than no sex at all. When I would hear of a young woman who had a reputation for being fairly easy, I would sometimes give it a shot. I also wasn't averse to going after someone who was a little heavier than what I was "supposed" to be attracted to. Eventually I started scoring. At the tender young age of 26 I finally had intercourse to the point of ejaculating while still inside the woman. I must confess that I found it to be a pretty incredible experience.
It was somewhere around this time that I finally let go of my feeling that homosexual activity was a perversion that should be avoided. I'm not sure what exactly got me to this realization, but it happened quite suddenly. I was finally ready to pursue sex with other men. The problem was that I had absolutely no idea of how to go about finding someone. By this time I had lived my whole life in the heterosexual world, and queer culture was utterly alien to me. I had no gay friends or acquaintances, and no way to meet any. I didn't know where any of the gay bars were in Syracuse (which was where I was living at the time), but I probably wouldn't have had the nerve to go into one anyway. I read the personal ads every week in the arts and entertainment paper, and even responded to a couple, but that went absolutely nowhere.
Finally I did get one opportunity out of the clear blue. My old high school friend Vince called to tell me he was getting married, and that he wanted me to be in the wedding. He said that Bill, a friend of his from college, was the musical director for the ceremony, and that he was gay too. To make a long story short, Bill and I wound up fooling around a little bit that weekend. It was really quite an exciting experience. After all these years I finally had carnal knowledge of another man. The only problem was that we had no privacy all weekend, so our time together was very brief. But one thing was certain. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a great deal. It never really got beyond oral sex, but that was plenty for me. I greatly enjoyed performing oral sex on him, and it was refreshing to be with someone who really knew how to stimulate my body. And it must have showed, because after what was effectively my first experience with another man he told me that I had done a particularly good job. Unfortunately when the weekend was over I found myself right back in Syracuse with absolutely no opportunities available to me. But at least now I knew that gay sex was what was right for me.
Eventually I wound up relocating in Ithaca to work at Cornell University. I made this move for a number of reasons, but one was that I knew Ithaca to be a progressive community, and I expected that there would be a lot more opportunities than there were in Syracuse. This was true, but my first contact with other homosexuals came through the Internet. This was some time ago, and the whole "information superhighway" was still very much in its infancy. But a lot of other colleges and universities were plugged in, and there were a lot of fledgling listservs out there. It wasn't long before I subscribed to one that was dedicated to LGB issues. While I was finally out to myself, I was not yet out to anyone else at work. Simply the receiving email from an LGB list made me a bit nervous.
Eventually I got up the nerve to post a message to the list. This may sound small and insignificant, but at the time it was a huge step for me. Although I was secretly out to a number of individuals, I had never done anything to publicly acknowledge my homosexuality. That one mail file was very much a turning point in my life. As soon as I sent it in I was terrified that it would somehow come back to haunt me. Of course it didn't. Eventually I sent in another, and later another. Before long I was a regular participant and had made some email friends with other queers.
Coincidentally at around this time the Cornell administration made a public proclamation that sexual orientation was officially being added to its non-discrimination policy. I never really considered Cornell to be a working environment hostile to homosexuals, but at least now it was officially safe. As I got to know my coworkers a little better, I started coming out to select individuals. As before, people took it completely in stride.
As time went on I would occasionally go to the one gay bar in the Ithaca area. But it was a huge ordeal for me. I had to get all drunk before I would even consider the possibility. And when I got out there I would hide in the background and not interact with anyone. It was a step in the right direction, but it wasn't leading anywhere.
I was, however, still seeking out the odd liaison with young women when I would visit my fraternity house. At one point I set my sights on a girl named Carla who was a member of our sister sorority. I finally got her to accompany me out to my VW van one particular night, and just when things were starting to get pretty hot, she told me that she had no intention of being the girl I slept with when I was in town. She said that either I was going to get involved with her or I was going to get nothing. I figured, what the hell, I'll give this heterosexual thing one more try. About the only thing that made the relationship last any period of time at all was that it was conducted over long distance. I only had to maintain the charade when I would come to town or we would rendezvous in Syracuse.
This entire time I was still searching out a homosexual relationship in Ithaca. One evening I went out to the local gay bar, and I wound up meeting someone before I even walked in the door. He had stepped outside to cool off from dancing, and he saw me pull in in my VW van. His name was Josh. He told me that he had owned two VW vans in his day. We started chatting, and it turned out that we had a great deal in common. We didn't go home together that night, but it was only a matter of time before we hooked up. Unfortunately he had the tiniest penis of any guy I've ever been with before or since, but he had a decent body and it was still great to stroke his muscles and grapple with his firm physique.
We soon started dating, and for the first time in my life I knew what it was like to carry on a day-to-day relationship with another man. I was able to make an objective comparison between what Josh and I had and what Carla and I had. The choice was clear. I was starting to develop feelings for Josh, and I had a genuine interest in the relationship. While I had a fond affection for Carla, the relationship meant nothing to me but the inconvenience I had to endure for the sake of having sex from time to time.
Ultimately the relationship with Josh didn't last too long. While we had a lot in common on the surface, we had very different values and we weren't terribly compatible. He could also be a real bitch, especially when he'd been drinking. The final nail in the coffin was when he decided to move away from the area.
By this time my sexuality was so much a part of my life that I decided it was time to come out publicly at work. The only problem was that I didn't really know how to go about doing it. I wasn't the type to make some kind of grand statement. I decided that I would start by placing a pink triangle pin on the baseball cap I wore to work every day, and by placing some gay-oriented things on the walls of my cubicle. Some people picked up right away, but some people remained oblivious. I suppose the big turning point came when I was making plans to go to the March on Washington and I got this super-radical haircut. When people asked why I cut my hair that way, the answer would pretty much out me. Before long it had become public knowledge.
Concurrent with coming out at work I started taking steps to come out to my fraternity as well. This was a bit more tricky, because there was the potential that I could be ostracized. Although I was very much accepted by the individuals to whom I was out, they had all been hand-selected, and the subject remained very secret. I didn't know how the fraternity at large would react. But I decided that I was going to find out one way or the other. My initial plan was to drop some subtle hints and let the rumor mill take over. I started by wearing the same baseball cap with the pink triangle pin on it. Some guys noticed it immediately and asked me about it. I would give ambiguous answers like "It signifies that I support gay rights." Anyone who came to visit me in Ithaca would see the collection of sexy man pictures I had pinned up in my bathroom. I also sported the same radical haircut and a very "queer" outfit to a fraternity wedding. Much to my frustration, however, I found that the rumor mill was not taking off the way that I had hoped. It was appearing that I had to really beat these guys over the head. I finally came to the conclusion that it didn't much matter. I could basically be as queer as I wanted to be and no one was going to do or say much about it.
Since I was coming out to everyone else I figured that it was time to come out to my parents too. The fact that my younger brother was already married and had given my parents a grandson took a lot of the pressure off me. I had every reason to believe that they'd be cool about it, but I was still scared to death. This was a moment that I had been building up to essentially since I was in high school, and with every passing year it seemed that much more monumental. I made a special trip home just for this purpose. When the time was right I sat them down in the kitchen and went through my pre-rehearsed speech. I said something along the lines of, "When a man has gotten into his 30's and not only is he not married but he's never had a serious girlfriend, it's not because he's not meeting the right women." I then said those three magical words and it was all over. I expected there to be a period of time that was touch-and-go, and that this period of time could last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks. They blew me away, however, by going directly to acceptance. We didn't speak much of it after that, but at least the elephant was out from under the rug.
Back in Ithaca I was starting to get frustrated over the fact that I wasn't having much luck finding another relationship. It had been quite some time since Josh and I were an item, and I very much wanted to get involved again. I met one grad student named Tony who was a real cutie. We hung out here and there, but I could never get anything going with him. Another guy, Stuart, was someone I could occasionally tussle with. But having sex with Stuart was a lot like not having sex with Stuart. We would get naked, but then not much would happen.
Finally one of my straight friends introduced me to someone whom I'll refer to as D. He was a very nice looking black man about my height and build. And although he was ten years my junior and we had absolutely nothing in common, we hit it off from day one. We would talk for hours on end and were constantly making each other laugh. The more we learned about each other the more we realized that not only did we have nothing in common but that our interests were completely opposite. He hated everything I liked and I hated everything he liked. But that didn't change the fact that we loved spending time together. We would talk on the phone practically every day, and we would get together whenever we could. Our friends kept quoting the "opposites attract" cliché. I didn't really think it was that simple, but neither did I really understand why things worked so well between us. All I knew was that I was very quickly falling in love with him. I didn't care why.
A few months after I met D, my old college buddy Farkle sent me an invitation to his wedding. It was to take place just outside the town where we had gone to college. This was a perfect opportunity to finally out myself once and for all at the fraternity. Not only would I bring D as my date, but I would parade him through the fraternity house so that everyone would know. I was very excited about it. D was somewhat intimidated by the whole idea, but first and foremost he felt that his place was by my side and he agreed to accompany me to the wedding. The whole fraternity thing was just something that he would have to deal with.
We arrived at the fraternity the night before the wedding, and although no one had any advanced warning about my date, D was immediately welcomed with open arms. Guys were actually very enthusiastic about meeting Toaph's new friend. The only problem was that D was very overwhelmed by the situation. He was very impressed that the guys were all so friendly, but he didn't drink or do drugs of any kind (even aspirin at that time), and the whole decadent frat house scene was a bit much for him. He was actually dealing with it very well until one of the guys put a big fat bag of weed in my hand, and that sent D. over the edge. We didn't fight, really, but he totally freaked out. I feared that this would be the end for us. He did stay by my side for the ceremony and the reception, but we were each pretty miserable and we left town as soon as I could politely leave the party. We barely spoke on the entire four hour drive home.
After this event I began to get a clearer picture of my fraternity's attitude towards my sexuality. It turned out that all my subtle clues had worked better than I had realized. Everyone pretty much knew I was gay. It was just that no one ever said anything directly to me about it, and I had no way of knowing what the general understanding or attitude was. But this event served to bring the topic from hushed tones behind closed doors to entirely out in the open. I didn't realize that everyone understood clearly that D was my boyfriend, but they did. And they were still overwhelmingly enthusiastic about meeting him and making him feel welcome. When they found out that we intended to depart immediately after the reception, people went to great lengths to try to convince us to stay. The one thing that D did say to me on the way home was that everyone treated him absolutely wonderfully the whole time.
D and I did get back together a few months after the fraternity incident. We continued to date on and off over the following year. There were times when we were estranged, and there were times we were closer than we had ever been. But in the end we were just too different for each other. Actually the killer was that he was too high maintenance. After a while I just couldn't take it anymore. We had a rough breakup at first. D. was accustomed to being estranged from his ex-lovers. But with a little time and patience I taught him that we could still be friends. And we are to this day, although he has long since moved out of Ithaca.
When I had D in the fraternity house with me, I found out many years later that one of the brothers said to the other, "Once you go black you never go back." If he had said it to me I would have told him he was way off base, but D did spark off what wound up being a long succession of black boyfriends.
Adrian - Some time after D and I broke up for good, I was out at the gay bar and a friend introduced me to a light-skinned black guy named Adrian. He was handsome in a Billy D. Williams kind of way. And by the way he was eyeing me, I could tell he was interested. In fact, after talking to him for just a few minutes, he said, "You're lover material." We made plans to get together over the weekend. As I was about to walk out, he stopped me and said, "I should tell you right up front that I'm positive." As in HIV+. He was the first person I ever knew who was HIV+.
Long story short, Adrian and I dated for a while, but quickly came to the conclusion that we weren't right for boyfriends. But we embarked on a long friendship that persists to this day. We fool around from time to time, but mostly we're just friends and confidants.
Monté - Not long after I met Adrian, I got an email from an Ithaca College student who had seen my web site. He was a photography major and wanted me to model for him. You can read the (long) story of our courtship here. We never really defined ourselves as "boyfriends," but that's pretty much what we were. Monté left Ithaca, then he came back, and then he left for good. We remain in contact, and I see him on the odd occasion.
Anthony - This was another guy who emailed me out of the blue from my web site. He lived in New York City. We engaged in an email friendship for some time. Eventually I enlisted him to co-star with me in a video project I was to shoot at NYC Pride in 2000. I sent him the outline of the piece, and he was interested despite the fact that it involved a rather explicit sex scene.
So after all this time, the first time we met face to face, I showed up at his apartment in South Harlem with my cameraman so that we could get nasty on video. But it worked out great. We spent the rest of pride together and had a good old time.
From there we kind of did the long distance thing. I would see him when I was in town for the MIX festival or otherwise got down to the city. He got in the habit of coming upstate to spend Thanksgiving with me, and would occasionally trek upstate with our mutual friends to get out of the city for a weekend. We went to the Folsom Street Fair together one year.
Things were going pretty well between us, but I just didn't feel 100% about him as a boyfriend. There was nothing really wrong with him, but I wasn't really feeling like I was falling in love with him. But he was falling in love with me. One day we finally talked about it, and I told him how I felt. Not long after that he kind of gave me the brush-off. Not long after that he moved to San Francisco. I still see him whenever I get to SF, but we're just friends now.
Derrell - I was at the gay bar one night, all liquored up, and I bumped into this big and brawny black guy. The sight of him kind of stopped me in my tracks. I'm not sure why. It was like a moment of recognition, even though we'd never seen each other before. We talked for a little while. He had this amazing basso profundo voice, like the guy who used to do the Un-Cola commercials (you know, he'd go, "Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa"). We exchanged numbers.
We got together a few times. Usually it was just for quick hookups. I brought him with me to a dinner party once, which was interesting, but I found that conversation didn't come easily between us. The hookups were okay. He had the best, most muscular body of any guy I'd ever been with. And I really loved his dark, black skin. But honestly the sex wasn't that great. After a while we just stopped hooking up.
Andre - I met Andre through an Alcoholics Anonymous group. We never really saw each other outside of the meetings until we'd known each other for over a year. Finally we started hanging out socially more. He was pretty handsome, but he had a fantastic body. He wasn't as bulky as Derrell, but I actually liked that better. He also had a big fat dick on him, although I never really got to suck it.
There were two problems with Andre. The first was that he was bi, and during the brief time that we were in a position to hook up, he was involved with this sketchy girl who wore drama like perfume. The other problem with Andre was that he was still battling serious drug addiction issues. When he was sober he was a great guy. He was funny, smart, intuitive, and supportive. But when he was using he was real trouble. One day he really pulled the wool over my eyes. Until then I had thought that no one could manipulate me. I was too keenly perceptive. From time to time I'd let people think that they were taking advantage of me, but I knew what was really going on. But one day Andre really put one over on me. I never saw it coming. He played me like a cheap fiddle. After that I knew I had to get away from him.
That pretty much wrapped up my involvement with black men (at least, as far as I know, for the time being). It was interesting, because I had never really pursued the whole black guy thing. These men had either pursued me, or just fell in my lap. And if you're wondering about the myth, I would say that it can hold true, but that it's far from a sure bet.
By this time, between gay.com/chat and randomly meeting guys, I was getting plenty of sex. But I was looking for more. I'd never really been relationship oriented, but as the years piled on I felt myself yearning for more consistency and fulfillment. The challenge for me was that I was very quick to dismiss someone as a potential boyfriend. Some would say that I'm too picky. Personally I think that I know what I want and am not willing to settle. And to make matters worse, I just wasn't meeting that many men. Ithaca may be a very progressive and accepting place, but it seems there are surprisingly few single men to meet there.
In late 2003 I got involved with a guy on a long-distance basis. The relationship appeared to have a lot of promise, but when we attempted co-location it all fell apart pretty quickly. There's more to the story, an awful lot more, but frankly the less said the better.
Finally, in the winter of 2006, I dated a French lad who was working at Cornell. He was considerably younger than I was. I had pretty much given up on dating younger men, but damn he was a real cutie! I was also very excited to meet a real Frenchie, based on my love of all things French, but it didn't work out as well as I hoped it would. He didn't really give a hoot about Citroën, he thought Renault was cheap and crappy, and he had no interest in Formula 1. Still, I thought the involvement was worth pursuing. We worked together really well on a physical level, but we did have a lot of differences to overcome.
First of all there was the language barrier. His English was very good, but there was a lot of, "What? Excuse me?" And he didn't understand a lot of English idioms. The first time we kissed, I told him it was my first real French kiss. He didn't get it.
Then there was the cultural barrier. He would smack me for making the enthnic stereotype, but there are a lot of challenges associated with dating a Frenchman. He was not what I would call emotionally generous. And it was always a huge challenge to decide what we were going to eat. He was the fussiest eater I've ever known in my life. By a long shot. To give an example, he didn't like wine or cheese. And this was a Frenchman!!!
Finally there was the age barrier. Truth be told, it didn't play much of a role. The only issue was when it came to bedtime. Decades of working 9-5 have made me an early-to-bed early-to-rise kind of guy. He, by contrast, wanted to stay up all night and sleep all day. He didn't even want to go out and party or anything. He just wanted to stay up late no matter what it was we happened to be doing.
Ultimately, we were just looking for different things in a relationship. I needed a lot of personal space and alone time. He, by contrast, really wanted a 24/7 boyfriend. And the more he pushed me to be together, the more I pulled away. To his credit he hung in there and tried really hard, but in the end I decided to break up with him. He was very adult about it and took it really well.
After that experience, I started to revel in singlehood. I do get bored and lonely from time to time, but I really like the freedom of being able to do what I want when I want, eat what I want, sleep when I want, and just live my life without every little thing having to be a negotiation. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I was just meant to be alone. It's certainly not unusual for the artist/writer type. All I know is I'm okay on my own. If I found a really great guy I fit with really well, that great! If not, I'll be just fine.