A man that I recently met told me that he liked to have sex with men, but that he did not consider himself gay or bisexual. He did not feel any need to have gay friends and wanted nothing to do with the gay community. I asked him if he ever saw himself having a boyfriend or developing an intimate relationship with another man. He did not. He said that he simply liked sex with men, period.
There is another man that I know, who recently came out of a marriage to a woman. Whenever I ask him how he is doing, replies: “Miserable. It has just been awful. Just terrible.” He is another man who likes to have sex with men but really can not imagine having a deep, intimate relationship with another man. He like anonymous sex with men and he has not developed any community with other gay men. He continues to mourn the loss of his marriage, the loss of his marital home, and the loss of his straight life. He can not seem to embrace his new life, which leaves him lonely and alone.
What is it that creates this inability to imagine a loving, deeply passionate, intimate, caring relationship between two men? Some men, I think, simply hate the gay within. Call it shame. Call it internalized homophobia. But it is so deeply rooted that the men themselves are unable to see it for what it is. They accept their drive for sex with men and they act on that drive. But imagine loving another man—never! Their drive for sex with men, without accepting the gay man within, makes for shame and emptiness. And society does not help. The religious right and the current crop of presidential candidates all want us to feel ashamed because of who we are.
From my experience, the men who do not develop community with other gay and bi men, also do not see the capacity within themselves to find love with another man. They continue to have primarily anonymous sex or friends with benefits or no strings attached relationships, miss out on the best part of being gay: finding a partner to love and share their lives with. A life without community and without intimacy can make for a deeply lonely and painful existence.
The biggest thing I have found to fight internalized homophobia and shame, which we all have it in varying degrees in this culture, is to come out and to come out again and again. Both men I described above are out to very few people. They are not out at work and they are not fully out with friends and family. When I came out at work it was a powerful force to fight my own internalized homophobia and shame.
It is sad, that at the end of 2015, internalized homophobia and shame continue to exist. While as a country, the LGBTQ movement has made tremendous strides in the past few years. But there are powerful forces that continue to fight to preserve the old tired lies about homosexuality. I have been struck by the hate speech about LGBTQ coming from the current crop of Republican candidates for president. It is shameful in this country to hear the Republican candidates for president, to a person, condemn marriage equality while they shroud themselves in God and religion.
I say, love the gay within. Embrace the gay within as a wonderful gift. Wear the gay as if it was a superhero’s costume with pride. Build community. Find intimacy and love. That is what makes for a wonderful life.