Sunday, November 16, 2014

Email from a gay guy who's tried to be straight

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I have read your blog for a while now, and I've learned a lot from your experiences and advice. But now I am in a position where I don't find any parallel in your stories.

I am 26, and I came out to my parents at 18. At that time it was very difficult for me, and I ended up promising them I wouldn't have a gay relationship until I leave the country, so that no one could find out. Therefore, I began a straight relationship that lasted 7 years and ended badly. In that time, I graduated from college and became a university teacher. One of my duties as a professor is to advise students on their theses, so I was assigned one.

My student is 22, and at the time we began to work I tried not to get attached to him, to maintain things at the professional level. But this guy is everything I dream of in a man, so step by step, we became closer friends. I never looked at him improperly, mainly because I was in a relationship and wanted to stay honest and because he doesn't strike me as gay, just the opposite.

I ended my relationship and suddenly I realized that I have strong feelings for him and that he is indeed gay although he has not come out to me. He has begun a gay relationship for the first time and is very happy discovering his sexuality. Looking back, I can see now that he was interested in me or at least curious, but now I feel he's not, even when we still hang out and go for drinks when it's just the two of us.

I haven't had sex with a man yet, but I would like my first time to be special. Right now I cannot imagine anyone more suited for that than him, because he is very hot, he is gentle and tender, a very good friend, reliable and discreet. I feel it's not a good time to come out to him, or to tell him about my feelings. I am really tempted to propose to him that we should become "friends with benefits", but I am afraid that would mess up our friendship and our professional relationship too. The other choice I see is to wait, cause he has told me that he is bored very fast with relationships, but we don't have much time left, we are both planning to leave the country in a year from now, possibly in different directions. And I have waited too long for things to happen to me, and for that I missed a lot of opportunities.

Besides, I don't know other gay men, at least as friends. I don't know how to hook up and stay in the closet at the same time, mainly because my friends are straight. I mentioned to him that I would like to meet his friends, but he avoided that conversation. So I'm hopeless and I would appreciate your thoughts about this. Please write back.

I felt that this reader had been very brave to agree with his parents to try and suppress his sexuality, and I was amazed that he'd been able to do it for so long. So I did indeed write back to him, and in the email I included the following paragraphs:

I hope you won't mind be being direct. Please read this slowly and carefully, and try and absorb what I'm saying. I think you've probably been bottling up all your gay feelings for so long that you can't think rationally about anything related to being gay. More than that, when gay guys like you try and suppress their sexuality, they can end up developing crushes on their male friends and colleagues (or students) who are in their life. That certainly happened to me before I started to come out. So I think you may well have a crush on this student of yours. Even though your student seems to be gay, I think the moment when you might have become *intimate* friends has probably passed now. In any case, student <--> teacher relationships are tricky because there's the issue that it's unprofessional for a teacher to start a relationship with one of his students.

The fact that you tried having a straight relationship for seven years is amazing. However, at this stage I think you should try to find a way to start exploring your gay sexuality (but not with your student). Even though you might be leaving your country within a year, I don't think you should wait. I've got no idea where you live or what possibilities there are in your country, but if your student found a way then I'm sure you can as well.

About two weeks later, he sent me the following reply:

Thanks for your fast reply. I was stuffed at work and couldn't read it earlier, but I'm glad you took a moment of your time to spent on me. I wasn't looking to be on your blog, I just needed your advice. Regarding your proposed title on your blog, I don't think that trying to be straight was the main issue of my email, but if that might be interesting for your readers then I have no arguments.

Being in a straight relationship was very enjoyable and safe for me, while it lasted. I learned a lot about giving and receiving pleasure, and it helped me to maintain a *normal* lifestyle, without people and parents constantly reviewing every action of my day. But I prolonged it with no need, and after 5 to 6 years we were no longer in love. I don't regret my decisions though, rather I should have stopped it the moment I started to feel trapped.

I agree with you that I might have been bottling my feelings, and I am sure it's the reason I have this kind of intense crush on my student. I'll refer to him as C, as you do in your blog :). He passed from being an unrealizable fantasy, to a possible fantasy, and from there to a possibility.

Since I wrote you, our circumstances have changed. Last week he invited me to go out with his friends, and he came out to me. He introduced me to his friends as a friend, and then he marked out that I was his thesis adviser. I also met his boyfriend (not as I imagined he would be). Entering his world and seeing him behave in a gay environment was very rewarding for me. It didn't harm or feel awkward to see him cuddling with his boyfriend, it was rather tender. I realized I'm not in love with him; I like him very much, and I suppose I have developed a fixation with him.

My main concern is about my first sexual experience with a man. I have these high expectations of what it is supposed to be. Of course, he being the nearest to me, I have fantasized about him several times. As I told you, he meets all my expectations, and not just for being near, but because he's sexy, handsome, has no mannerisms and sentimentally he's very mature. You're right though that our time to be intimate friends has passed, and that dooms my hopes.

Keep in mind we are almost the same age (indeed his boyfriend is also 26). For that reason, we are more like colleagues/friends than teacher-student. I'm not worried about the ethical issues here, I'm certain we both could handle the situation and university policies are somehow permissible in that regard. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to mess up his relationship. I have always thought that honesty is basic to any relationship, so it puts me in a moral conflict.

At the same time, other issues are emerging for me now. These new friends are really nice people, I felt very comfortable. I was disposed only to make their acquaintance, and then it turns out that they were trying to set me up with one of the boys in the group. I wasn't expecting that, and therefore, even when I noticed some flirting from this boy, I responded with the natural constraints that I've developed in the straight environment. I'm not saying I was rude. On the contrary, I tried to be nice, but I wasn't forward nor flirted back. This boy is interesting, right. But the scenario of having my first encounter with him is not as appealing as my fantasies with C. This is a hurdle I have to overcome, but I don't find the way.

Please don't judge me too harshly. It is the first time I find myself in such dilemma, and my moral compass is spinning wildly as I try to reach an agreement between what is right and what I want.

Sorry for this rather large email. It has taken me an entire morning and hard thinking to organize all the ideas. It has been a helpful process also.
Best regards,

I have the impression that quite a few readers who write to me find the process therapeutic. I think this is simply because organising all one's thoughts and feelings to put into an email turns out to be the exactly the kind of task that people need to help them solve their problems on their own.

One thing that is holding this reader back is his desire that when he engages in activities with another man for the first time, that it should be a special occasion. My own view on that is that it's nice if it turns out to be special, but that one shouldn’t attach too much importance to it for lots of reasons:
  • Focussing on making the first time special takes focus away from a far more important task, namely find a compatible long-term boyfriend with whom one can have special times (including activities!) every day.
  • For it to be special, the other person probably needs to have a similar view that it's going to be a special occasion, and that's hard to find.
  • My impression is that most people who want their first time to be special end up feeling a bit disappointed when the deed is done.
It's interesting that C and C's friends were apparently trying to set up the reader with this other guy. Gay guys who're not fully out often think that people can't tell that they're really gay. However, the reverse is often true. In trying to cover up their true sexuality, gay guys who're not out can try too hard and then their behaviour stands out as unusual. That was certainly true of my ex-boyfriend T. Additionally there are some characteristics that are more frequently found in gay guys than in straight guys, which coupled with trying too hard to appear straight are a complete give-away. Again with ex-boyfriend T, he was exceptionally neat with a strong interest in fashion too. He always looked immaculate when he left home. Because he thought he was invisible as a gay man, he was appalled when one of his friends told him that he appeared very metrosexual!

In his second email, the reader appeared to accept that the time when activities might have been possible with C has passed. Additionally he now seems to accept that he has indeed has a crush on C because he's been suppressing his sexuality. C has a boyfriend and I wholeheartedly agree that the reader shouldn’t attempt anything now because that might ruin C's relationship. The reader also appears to accept that this other boy is 'interesting' so my advice would be to see whether that door can still be opened. If not it doesn't matter because there are plenty of other gay guys in the world :-). But I'd recommend that the attitude to have regarding first time activities is that they're a little hurdle to be jumped. Afterwards, one's mind is much clearer, and then one can focus on working out how to lead the rest of one's life :-).

Do any other readers have any thought on this situation?


Ken Skinner said...

Absolutely agree. The first time (any first time with somebody, not just losing virginity!) can be very hit or miss. The guy may be hot and mentally bang on but there may not be physical chemistry when you get down to business.

I preferred to meet people (historically) in a social/bar/club situation as physical chemistry is more obvious.

To quote Nike, Just Do It. Once you've lost your gay virginity you'll start making more rational choices about partners without overemphasing the "first time" issue.

When I "did it" the first time with a guy I waited until it was someone I could see myself in a relationship in so that it was "special". I don't regret it as we ended up in an 18 month relationship, but I did miss out on (or at least postpone) the exploration phase of my sexuality, which I see as a healthy phase.

Was Once said...

Any time wasted in the mind of fantasy will directly affect reality. I too, waited for my first to be special and it was good enough to not make me feel bad about being gay and pushed me out totally. Ready then, to date a real partner, trying out several prospects in the process. It helped alleviate any un-necessary self-hatred carried from before. Proud of who I was, which gave me some new found power. In the dating, I saw several others wrapped up in self-hatred, scared by family pressures, etc. which I then knew enough to move on no matter how fine they were. Now, a happily Gay married man.
One doesn't want to be any more confused than one is in the normal course of jump in, make mistakes, pick up the pieces, laugh at yourself and carry on!

Anonymous said...

Lol at when he said mannerisms though. Didn't know we all had to fit in.

mybedattitude said...

When you have sex the first time is all about yourself, then it will be also about the partner.
So, the sooner it is over, the more you are ready for something better.
I caught the first chance that I got, it was good, but honestly it didn't change at all the sexual person that I am :)
I wouldn't overestimate the importance of fist time, it is first only chronologically, not for importance.