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Guest Post: Rodney and Me pt. 3

Today we have the third part in a guest commentary by Robert Riley. Written in the form of an open letter to the parents of his significant other, it asks those parents to examine not only the fears they have but also the potential good of their son having an older partner. At the following links you can find part one and part two.

So, now you’ve had a little time to get used to the idea… There are two possible ways you can attempt to deal with this. Three if you count “ignoring” it. I’m going to assume that doing nothing is not an option. Pretending that you’re okay with this when you’re not is equivalent to pretending that the six hundred pound gorilla in the corner is a Barbie doll. You’ve got two choices, act on your opinion and demonstrate your surprise and displeasure or take a second and think what would happen if you had an open mind? You’re here, so I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe you’ve decided to have an open mind, perhaps for only a bit, but that bit might be all that’s needed for you to break through the wall you’re operating behind and see something special.

Let’s start with a couple of givens… Nobody is going to question that your son is less mature than someone who is thirty years older than he is. You’re going to interpret this as he’s likely to be taken advantage of, and he might well be, but why? What ‘qualifications’ does your son’s friend bring to the table? Is he a bartender at a gay club that caters to young guys that want to meet older guys? Is he a porn producer? Maybe he works in human services, could be a therapist or something? Maybe he’s been doing things that help people for his entire adult life? Maybe he’s as surprised as you are at this development? He might have been a social worker who’s been in the business of defending or supporting people for thirty years? Does this kind of thing have an impact on your thinking? Perhaps it should. What does your son have to offer someone who is established and has roots in the community? Perhaps this relationship is about companionship, love, trust, caring and things like that? Now that’s a novel idea! What would happen if the man your son is involved with was actually a decent, considerate and caring person that wants to have a real relationship with your son rather than take advantage or abuse him? How do you tell the difference?

In today’s “day and age” it’s expected that one’s partner is going to be “scrutinized” by family and friends. It’s likely that he’s expecting it. Is your son’s friend supportive of your son’s life and choices? Does he endorse your son spending time with friends and family? What would happen then? You have to wonder huh?? What if that mindset that you’re so prepared to operate in catches you by surprise? Could it be possible that despite all of those reasons that society has for damning their relationship they’re just two guys who care about each other? Maybe there’s a possibility that the old guy and the young guy have negotiated a way to be equals in a very different kind of relationship than you were expecting, than they were expecting? There’s only one way to find out. What would happen if you were to embrace your son’s choices here? If it all comes apart six months later your son would be heartbroken most likely, but isn’t that true of any romantic relationship that he might enter into? What’s the likelihood that your son would have a relationship with someone his own age that it would end and both of them could get hurt? What might transpire if one of them had a healthy amount of life experience to draw upon and could carry that sort of foundation into the relationship? This is could give your son a rock to stand on, couldn’t it? This could very easily provide the stability and solid ground your son needs to be able to learn how to be a partner in a relationship. What would happen if your son didn’t have to endure the trial and error with relationships that you did? Maybe he might discover the blessing of getting it right the first time? So the question may be for your son or his friend, but you.. What are you going to do from here

I’m pleased that you’ve had a mind open enough to read this, lots of parents would have simply shut down, operated from a place of pure protection and told their son that they must not see him again, threatening to take car keys, eviction, etc. I know because that’s some of the things that would go through my mind, you see… I’m a parent too! I find it easy to put myself in your place and wonder: What the hell is going on here? If on closer inspection I would discover that these two people appear to truly care about each other and I was satisfied that there’s no abuse going on what could I say then?

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“Lately Gay”: a Resource For Coming Out Late

A couple of months ago I started off my special features with a wildly popular post about the photography of Nate Ndosi.  I’ve been looking long and hard for other interesting sites, artists, or authors that are doing distinctive things on the subject of gay inter-generational relationships or unique aspects of gay life.  I have to admit those subjects are sometimes few and far between.  But today, I’m excited to bring you our second installment featuring Stephen McKenna, the editor and primary contributor of the site Lately Gay.

Lately Gay is a site primarily geared toward men that have come out later in life.  When visiting the site the reader is greeted by a striking masthead and a crisp magazine style layout.  Once you scroll past the masthead, it is a tad on the large side, you’ll find a brief welcome that introduces you to the site and several featured articles.  To the right of the welcome message you’ll the true portal to Lately Gay, the site map.  The site map features a number of topics/categories, under which you’ll find more information.

Initially navigating this site map can be a little confusing because some of the topic headers don’t overtly reference what you will find under them.  However, your patience will be well rewarded as you continue to explore the site.  Despite its recent creation, Lately Gay is already a wealth of interesting articles.  One can find blog style posts, articles on general gay topics, health info, and book reviews.  Lately Gay also seems to have mission of inclusiveness offering a variety of way readers may also participate in the site.  Many posts are open for leaving comments and there are areas for coming out stories, asking for advice, and responding to polls.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised when I cam across Stephen’s site a little while back.  While I am a young gay man that never contemplated living the straight life I can certainly sympathize.  I would estimate that at least half of the older gay men in my social circle came out late, were married, and had children.  That was certainly the case for my partner; we’ve talked a lot about the complicated nature of coming out that way.  I also feel a sense of fraternity with Stephen; he started Lately Gay to address what I felt was an under-represented  aspect of the gay community and for similar reasons I started From Gay to December.  I look forward to seeing his site, and hopefully the community around it, grow.  To give you a better sense of the goals and motivations behind Lately Gay I asked Stephen if he’d answer a few questions; the following is a brief interview conducted via electronic correspondence.

Gay to December: When did you start Lately Gay and what were your primary goals in creating the site?

Stephen McKenna: Well, Lately Gay is in the process of being born as we speak. It’s a big undertaking while also juggling the ‘bill-paying’ things I have to do, but slowly and surely it’s getting there and I hope to do a formal media launch in October.

As for primary goals. One was certainly therapy. My coming out took place six years ago and I recently had to admit that I’d hardly dealt with the baggage of my marital breakdown (my wife and I had been together for almost 12 years). So, six years running away was starting to take its toll.  Writing for the site has indeed helped with a lot of closure. I think it was a final stage of healing I had to go through.

My other big goal with Lately Gay has been the opportunity to share my experience with other men who may be going through the same turmoil as I did. There was no one to turn to when I came out and it was a very lonely time, so LG is all about telling those guys that they are not alone – that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

GtD: According to your site you came out relatively late yourself. Could you tell us briefly about your own coming out process?

SM: One day I’d love to do a version of The Brady Bunch credit sequence adapted to my story. You know … “Here’s the story of a lovely fella … la la la!”. That way I could wrap the whole story up in 30 seconds. Anyway, let me try and be brief.

There I was 13 or 14, wondering why I looked at slightly older, good looking boys on the train all the time. About the same stage a confession to a sibling that I had been molested by a family friend led to a stern warning never to mention it again or my dad would throw me out of the house for being gay!! That was a tough wrap to be thrown at such a delicate age and sufficient for me to lay a big, heavy lid on the problem. Indeed I became good at burying the urges and focusing on another sibling’s straight porn mags.

From there on in I threw myself into school life and went all the way to my thirties without a single relationship until, that is, a girl took an interest in me. That was the beginning of my marriage. Yes, I had had sex with guys on a small number of occasions but I still had myself down as straight, then bisexual, but not until about my 38th year did I cotton on to the fact that I was just gay, gay, gay!

That was the Pandora moment and it soon led to the realization that I had to spread my wings and fly or I was about to die. Yes, I could fully see the devastation I was about to wreak on my marriage but I also knew that I’d never make someone happy when I was so unhappy myself. That was the beginning of the end.

GtD: Are you still in contact with your wife?

SM: Very much so. She’s a special person and while she went through a terrible ordeal she has emerged from it a stronger person. We were each other’s best friends in our marriage and thank God we’ve been able to hold on to that connection.

GtD: Did your own coming out experience influence the creation of the site?

SM: Entirely. If I wrote a book telling my whole story the title would have to be something like Here’s How To Drive Your Car at 90mph Into A Brick Wall And Walk Away From The Wreckage In One Piece. That’s a big story to tell and so I’ve felt compelled by the trauma of that experience to share it through Lately Gay.

GtD: What unique problems do those men coming out late encounter?

SM: For a start they are emerging into the gay world at a very vulnerable stage. Our gay culture can be very ageist and judgmental, like we’re all supposed to be gilded Peter Pans preserved in aspic. Who says?! Well that’s a tough brief to begin with.

Then there’s the marriage they are invariably leaving behind and all the detritus that goes with that. It’s a bit like stepping out of the funeral parlour straight into a birthing pool!Hardly an auspicious beginning.<

And as for the real fun part! These guys are 40 to 50 and having to start the dating game all over again. Plus they face the prospect of encountering their first taste of true love and, all too likely, their first heartbreaks. Any of these guys can tell you that these things don’t get any easier with the passing of the years.

GtD: Is the lately gay phenomenon on the decline? To what extent do you think young gay men are still marrying women out of either fear, denial, etc.?

SM: These days in liberal societies the gay stigma is evaporating all the time, so it is easier for young men and women to come out and there’s much less of a chance of them ending up in straight marriages. However, there are all the guys from twenty or thirty years who’ve been caught up in what I call the ‘gay delay’ that are only now coming out of the closet as the kids have grown up and left home. That’s when they start to contemplate their remaining years.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world suppression of homosexuality is on the increase – not decreasing. Take a nation like Egypt, for example. Or especially in countries where Sharia Law is being adopted and they are advocating punishment by death for being gay.  So, you bet, in such cultures, young people have no option but to enter the imprisonment of unhappy marriages. That’s nothing short of a denial of basic human rights.

It’s imperative for the international community to give these victims a voice and we hope to keep it alive as an issue on the site.

GtD: How many contributors does the site currently have?

SM: Well, if I’m honest, it’s me and the dog a lot of the time! I have had friends and the like give me assistance but basically the roster of contributors will grow as more people become aware of Lately Gay. At that stage I hope to perform mainly an editorial role.

Those contributors will be very important also because I’m keen that Lately Gay is made up of a variety of different voices. I don’t want it all to be my perspective and where people write to take issue with things that I’ve posted I make a point of publishing those remarks.

GtD: What has the response to the site been so far?

SM: Very encouraging with lots of people telling me that it’s a good idea and much needed which is good to hear. Kinda makes it all worthwhile.

GtD: How do you envision the future of Lately Gay?

SM: In time I’d like to see Lately Gay become not just a testimonial but also develop a strong voice in the gay community. In particular, one that speaks up for older gay guys. Here in the UK we are all but ignored by the gay media and that really needs to change. We may be Lately Gay but that doesn’t mean that we’re not the real thing. Sure we’re a bit gray but we’re ALL gay and very much intending to stay, so make a bit of room there guys.

GTD: Thank you Stephen for your time, it has been a pleasure hearing your thoughts on the gay community and coming out.  I urge everyone to stop by LatelyGay.com an see what Stephen has been developing.