The email exchange that I had with this reader has been in my mind a lot recently, because some of his issues remind me of the problems that ex-boyfriend T has being gay. In any case, I always think it's good to post these sorts of emails, because other people may be in a similar position and so these posts may end up helping them. So just for the record, I'm posting the email exchange now. The original email was as follows:
Some advice, if you please. I have so many issues, I could become a millionaire by selling subscriptions.
- I'm gay. And in the closet. So far back, I should begin hanging ties off myself.
- I have no desire to come out of the closet, at least not completely. I come from a very, very conservative culture (Muslim South Asian). I am the oldest son. I can't shame my family that way.
- People have moralized to me. It won't work. I'm stubborn. So any "Get out of the closet" speech won't work.
- I'm lonely. I don't have many friends. For many years, I was a Mormon. I lost most of my friends when I left the Church. Most of my social interactions is with relatives.
- I am very, very conservative. I fooled around a bit while in college but never had full-blown sex. I don't want to become a manwhore. I also have a very boring lifestyle (no tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, dancing). My biggest vice is chocolate. But enough about me. How others live is their business, not mine, and I'm not worthy to judge others.
- I want a boyfriend. Who's also in the closet.
- I'm not in the best of shape but getting there. Nevertheless, I'm very conscious of my body. This effects my self-confidence.
- Nevertheless, I'm considered to be very smart, witty, geeky and nerdy to a point, intelligent, talented, resourceful, generous (sometimes to a fault), impulsive, and caring.
- Under family pressure, I got married once. Didn't work out and got divorced. Under religious pressure, I found a good Mormon girl. Didn't work out and called it off. Parents found another girl. It's not working out. I'm tired of following what others dictate for me. I want a man for a change.
- I'm a diabetic (although I'm 31). That brings its own baggage, though not as much as above.
Sent from my iPhone.
I thought about this for a couple of days, and eventually I knew what I had to say, which was as follows:
Thanks for the email, and thanks for reading my blog :-).
I think you know that I normally take emails like yours and post them on my blog, together with my thoughts, so that you get my views as well as the views of any other readers who leave comments. I'd be more than happy do to that with your email, but if you want that you'll probably have to wait about 3 months! Unfortunately I don't have much time for blogging at the moment, and if you look in my right-hand side-bar you'll see that I've got a bit of a backlog of these "Dear GB" emails. So in case you don't want to wait, I'll give you a few quick thoughts now. But bear in mind that because these are quick thoughts, I haven't thought about them as much as I do when I do a posting, so I may make mistakes!
Reading your email (several times), my impression is that you put up lots of barriers between yourself and the world. It's almost as though each separate point in your email is another barrier that needs to be overcome. I imagine that the personality behind all the barriers is quite vulnerable, as well as a bit lonely. Unfortunately it's hard for guys who put up lots of barriers to find boyfriends and hence solve their loneliness, because people have to lower all their barriers to develop loving relationships. Lowering your barriers is something that you'll have to work on. The fact that you clearly feel a need for a life partner is a good sign, but you'll only find one if he can get to know the real you underneath it all.
I'm a big fan of finding boyfriends using internet dating web sites, and it's especially good for guys in the closet because they can access the web sites from the privacy of their own homes. I'm not sure where you're based (I'm guessing USA), in which case gay.com may be a good choice (it used to be heavily used in the USA, but I haven't logged on for over 2 years so I'm not sure any more). In any case, if you can find some online gay chat rooms, then if you don't already know what other web sites there are then you could ask in the chat rooms for other recommendations. One of the keys to success in finding boyfriends online is having a good profile. For the want of a better word, try to make yourself look relaxed and open, i.e. "cool" :-).
Does that help?
After I sent the email I didn't hear back from him for a while, but after about four weeks the following email arrived.
- You're amazing.
- You're awesome.
- Your boyfriend is one lucky dude.
- I read and reread your email many times, and have tried to implement what you said. It has not been easy, but I am making progress.
- I joined gay.com and it's been fun! It seems all the guys with hot pictures are the most popular, but whatever. I'm talking with nice people. Including one person in particular. (Crosses fingers.) Not that I want to jump him right this moment, well, maybe I do, but he's an amazing guy and nothing like most of the studs online. Mature. Intellectual (we debated theology for a good hour once). Understanding. Anyway ... this is for another day.
Still a virgin, which is fine, though maybe not for too much longer. I don't think I'll be like your guy who one day was a virgin and the next day sleeping with any guy he can lay hands on. Or will I? Hmmmmmmmm.
But a lot of the things you said rang true.
- That said, there's no need to put up my long, rambling email. Not only have you resolved most of my issues but circumstances have changed. Or, rather, the urgent needs of the moment have certainly changed.
- Again, you're amazing.
I was astounded at how much of a success my simple response had been. Looking back, my guess is that the guy had reached some kind of internal crisis point regarding his life. In that state, the smallest nudge in an appropriate direction will work, because the person is very receptive to suggestions.
In connection with that, I still feel upset because of my inability to help ex-boyfriend T with similar issues. He puts up so many absolutely impenetrable barriers between his gay life and his straight life. Unfortunately, though, he was never receptive to any suggestions. It may even be that his four year relationship with me was counterproductive, in the sense that it allowed him to avoid confronting all his issues :-(.