Thursday, May 31, 2007

Email from a young guy looking for a boyfriend

Last Saturday, the following email arrived in my inbox:

Dear GB,

I was wondering if you could help... Ive spent the last few years coming to terms with who I am and my sexuality and at the moment I am pretty comfortable. Im now at a stage where would like a boyfriend, something I thought I would never want a few months ago. A city on the MerseyThe problem is I dont know where to find a decent man; Ive tried the internet which is pretty much useless, the gay clubs around mine are full of men who just want a quick shag, and because I want a straight acting lad I dont know any other places to find one. I wouldnt have the confidence to go over to a man in a gay club let alone a straight one. I just dont know what to do or where to go and I only have one gay friend. Any help or advice would be great.
19 years old. Liverpool, England.

I replied immediately telling him not to worry. His email reminded me of how closeted I was at his age, because I didn't come out until I was in my 20's.

Having thought a bit about his situation, I think the most important piece of advice is to relax, chill out, and regard finding a boyfriend as a medium or long term goal rather than a short term one. Anyone who seems too desperate to find a boyfriend or partner gives off all the wrong signals, because it implies that that person is very needy and high maintenance.

A lot of guys find boyfriends via their friends, so I think it's important for the reader to try and expand his gay social circle. Just one gay friend isn't enough, but it's a good start because I know some young gay guys are very isolated and don't have any gay friends at all. It does take a lot of confidence to go up and start chatting to someone new, but if a shy guy goes out to gay places he'll probably find other guys who do have that confidence will start talking to him! So even though a lot of guys who go to his local gay clubs are just looking for quick shags, I think he should still go, but with the intention of making friends rather than finding a boyfriend. Also, although I think it's best for a young guy find a boyfriend of a similar age to himself, that doesn't mean that all his gay friends need to be his age. The older a guy is, the bigger his social circle is likely to be, so making friends with someone a bit older can be a good way of meeting guys of all ages.

I also disagree with the reader because I don't think that the Internet is useless. It's certainly invaluable for guys in rural areas where they are indeed the only gay in the village! As the fifth biggest city in England though, Liverpool hardly falls into that category. There are lots of gay dating and cruising web sites of course, but if a guy is looking for a boyfriend, I've heard that Out Everywhere is good choice. And although sites like gaydar and are very sex oriented, people do sometimes find boyfriends as a result of their hook-ups (I originally met my boyfriend number 2 on Even if one doesn't find a boyfriend as a result of meeting with someone from the Internet, one may still find a friend and that's good too.

My last thought is that the more gay guys there are in a city, the more likely it is that a guy will find a boyfriend there. Without doubt London is the city in the UK with the largest number of gay guys, so if the reader has any inclination to move away from Liverpool, London would be a good choice. But I'm sure that if he's patient he'll eventually find a boyfriend in his home city. What Diana Ross sung is quite true, you can't hurry love, No, you just have to wait!

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Holding hands

In India, one sometimes sees two guys holding hands walking along the street who are just good friends. But in Western countries, two guys holding hands in public definitely implies a gay relationship. I've always liked holding hands with my boyfriends, although I think I'm a bit keener on it than any of them are, because they're worried about being openly gay.

A little bit of intimacy :-)Boyfriend number 1 isn't usually very keen at all. But when we're in well known gay areas like Soho in London or the Castro in San Francisco, he'll be OK with it for a short while. Elsewhere when we're walking along the pavement together, I'll sometimes find a way of playfully slipping his hand into mine, but he'll usually pull his hand away and look at me in a disapproving way.

I think boyfriend number 2 likes the idea of holding hands with me in public, although in practice he doesn't always seem to be comfortable with it. These days, when we're on the back seat of taxis together we'll usually hold hands, although he sometimes wants to put our hands under a bag or something to make it less obvious. And walking along the street he seems to have a similar attitude to boyfriend number 1, although with a bit less aversion.

Whenever I'm walking along holding hands with a boyfriend, I always think back to a comment I heard when I was at university. We'd managed to get an MP to come and give a light-hearted talk to some of the graduates, and afterwards, the MP's wife was talking about some of the students who'd been at the talk.

"Honestly, I don't know what's the matter with them," she starts, "all those [straight] couples seated along the back".

"How do you mean?" I ask.

"Well some of them were holding each other's hands throughout my husband's speech," she continues, "I mean, they're not teenagers any more! Are they really that insecure that have to hold hands wherever they go?"

Out and proud :-)At the time I was still hadn't come out to myself properly, and without a girlfriend or a boyfriend, I thought that having someone who'd be happy to hold my hand was a very nice idea. But she seemed to think it signified deep insecurity in their personalities.

Although she does have a point, there is another reason for gay guys to hold hands, and that is to make gay people more visible in everyday society. But to be honest, that's not why I like holding hands. Apart from enjoying the intimacy, I'm usually feeling happy whenever I'm with a boyfriend, and holding hands is just one little way of letting the world know that I'm glad we're together :-).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Email from a gay chinese guy who feels he can't come out

A couple of weeks ago, the following email arrived from one of my readers:

Dear GB,

I'm gay guy who's still at university, but I don't know if I will ever fully come out in the Western sense because I am Chinese and I am the only child. I don't think I will ever tell my parents. They just don't have the word 'gay' in their dictionary. It will be too cruel of me to do that. My mum has a grand plan for me already: after landing a good job, it is time to start a family. Hooray!!! Ideally, I will marry when I am 28, which is less than 7 years away, and I will become a father soon after. I do want to have kids, because I don't want to grow old and die alone (of aids).

I think I will probably get married, mainly due to family, social and peer pressure. But I will be desperately looking for some casual encounters, just like some of the guys that you mention in your blog. It is gonna be sad and pathetic I know :-(, but this is how things will turn out for me, according to my sixth sense. What do you think I should do?

I immediately replied saying that I thought he should be more optimistic, and the tone of his response was more upbeat. Perhaps he sent his original email when he was feeling particularly unhappy about being gay for some reason, especially because of the comment about dying alone of aids (I know from my subsequent email correspondence with him that he's sensible enough to know the rules of safe sex). None the less, his email raises some important issues.

A cracking good story :-)One thought relates to any future wife that the reader may acquire. If he marries due to family and peer pressure, I don't think it's fair on his future wife is she doesn't know that deep down her husband is gay. Even though he's gay, he's likely to have some (if not a lot of) love and affection for her, so he should consider her situation before he goes through with it. Whenever I think of this issue, it reminds me of the plot of the story The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. I'd recommend anyone in the situation that this reader finds himself in to watch that on DVD if possible, or read the original book.

Although I'm not an only child because I have one sister, when I came out to my parents I did have some similar concerns. My sister had married a few years before I came out, but she'd agreed with her husband that they were never ever going to have any children. So I was my parent's last chance for grandchildren, and coming out as gay obviously dashed their hopes. [ As it turned out, my sister and husband ended up changing their mind about children a couple of years later, but that certainly wasn't the situation at the time when I came out. ]

Back then, even though my parents hopes for grand children had disappeared, I still ended up with their love and support. This of course is what I had hoped for, and the same might happen if the reader eventually comes out to his parents too. Although they naturally have various hopes and dreams for their son, it often turns out that a parent's main concern is for their son's success and happiness. It can take a bit of time for them to realise this, because if they have no idea that he's gay then it will be a bit of a shock when they discover the fact. None the less, with a much greater awareness of gay people these days, I think that many parents learn how to love their gay son as much as they loved the son they thought was straight. In fact they can end up loving him more!

The reason that it's possible for parents to love their gay son more than the straight son they thought they had is because eventually a stronger relationship develops between the people involved. That's definitely what happened in my case. Comparing the relationship that I had with my parents just before I came out with the situation one year later, the situation improved a lot and I think that this is quite common. Before they knew the truth, I dreaded the "Have you got a girlfriend yet?" line of conversation. I just couldn't be honest with them, and I didn't like visiting them because I couldn't be myself. For several years, the relationship was very tense and difficult. But once I'd come out and they'd accepted the situation, I was able to be honest and our relationship improved a lot because I was able to relax in their company again. Of course, this took time to happen. But if the reader never comes out to his parents, he may find that his relationship with his parents gradually deteriorates. And if he actually marries as a result of family pressures, he may end up resenting them for a very long time, perhaps for ever.

It's a fair comment, though, to want to have kids and be a father. I've said before that I'd like to be a father too, but I haven't found a suitable way of achieving that. Unfortunately I don't think I ever will :-(. I'm still open to suggestions for that, and in fact it would probably suit my current lifestyle to be a (mostly) absent father if a woman somewhere wanted that kind of arrangement. Anyway, I think the only comfort I can offer the reader in this respect is to say that it is possible for 'out' gay guys to have kids. There's also no reason why he should die alone (especially of aids), because if he's able to come out I'm sure he'll be able to find himself a nice boyfriend to live with :-).

In the terminology of my recent posting about gay lifestyle competence, having come out to himself but probably no one else, this reader is close to the white belt level. Coming out to his parents seems an absolutely monumental and impossible task. But every gay person I've ever met has always said that they gradually feel much happier the more they come out and establish their true identity, and the more they tell people the truth the easier it is to tell the next person. But as long someone tries to hide it, it remains one of the most important things in their life, and this inevitably means that it's hard for them to grow as a person and develop themselves in other aspects of their life.

How can he make progress? Well, I bet there are some people who he could confide in, and I think this is probably the best way forward for him. Even if there are people that he never feels able to tell, I think he would get a lot of benefit just from telling the truth to a single friend. And he'd get more benefit if he can find several close friends to tell. The best way to come out is to build confidence gradually, winning small victories with friends who won't mind that he's gay. Leave the difficult people until last, when one is close to black-belt level. The first step is always the hardest, admitting it to oneself, and he's taken that step already. The fact that he emailed me is also a good sign, so in contrast to his current view, I see a wonderful and happy future ahead for him :-).

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A reader's journey to being an out gay guy in a banking job

A few weeks ago, just after the Lord Browne story broke, I received an email from an Asian reader who now works in London . In my reply I asked him whether he would mind me posting his email in my "Reader's Stories" section. He said he was happy for me to do that, so here's his story. Hopefully it'll inspire other readers to follow similar paths if they find themselves trapped somewhere which isn't very gay friendly.

Dear GB,

It is quite pleasant to read through your blog. I've been your loyal blog fan for a while. The current Browne story and your experience as a gay city worker have both echoed my experience. Here is my journey.

I come from an East Asian country to study my master degree here in UK . Then I found my BF and, luckily, after graduating, I'm now working in the City for a branch of an Asian bank.

Before I come to the UK for study, my first job was also a banking job in my home country. At that time, I was confused and scared to death to be 'out'. The company culture makes me tend to lie and hide all the time. I also have to try my best to distance myself from the "Marriage" thing. It was a life of being trapped.

So I decided to give myself a break and come to the UK to get a master degree. During my study, I ended up chatting online with my "other half" who really was from "the other half" of the globe (southern hemisphere). 6 months later, he moved to London, and I finished my degree and moved down to London as well.

At first I was struggling at first to get a job after graduating although I am holding a masters degree from a top UK business school. Banking experience of a freshman back home was nothing here. Apart from a UK degree, I have no UK connection. I realise that to stay here with him I have to break the norm during the interview process. As my right to work full time was from my unmarried partner visa, job agents and interviewers unavoidably had to touch the visa status question to ask why I can work in the UK . I decide to gamble in every interview. Once they touched the question, I was just immediately out as a gay man and moved on. I confidently show interviewers my honesty and also stop them wasting time on this issue. It's my experience and background that counts. Take it or leave it.

Surprisingly, this attitude actually earned me more chances to get into interviews because some job agents did want to help me (of course, they get money too if I get a job). At the final stage of my current job interview, I told my managers that because I have to co-operate with them in the future job tasks, it's better to be honest with them that I am gay. I want to make it clear that the gay business is none of your business. For co-workers, I strategically gossip with them individually that I am gay. Now most people know but nobody talks.

Sometimes at work, some straight male co-workers still like to deliberately say to me "Look, that girl is hot. She is ….…. Don't you think so?" I always just smile and say nothing. Once they found I am bored on the girl issue, they will leave me alone.

At most East Asian Banks, no matter here or back in Asia , the managers are in a straight world kind of network. I am currently doing a Middle Office role for syndicated loans here in the London office. My manager seems want to try and let me move to Front Office and start to build up some contacts here. Because of my background, he started to take me to meet people in the circle of Asian Banks here. I am kind of under pressure because Asian people will start conversation about family, wife, girlfriend very quick. Currently, I am still doing the silly smiling thing. I think I still need to figure out a way to accommodate myself in these social circumstances.

After I come out (which is about 5 years ago), I've decided and told myself I don't want to lie about "I am not gay" anymore. But I also don't like to say immediately unless I can capture a person's view on gay, and be familiar with him/her for a while. So for some social situations I am still learning how to be comfortable.

In spite of this remaining issue, it's a new life for me now, a gay foreigner working in the macho banking area. I don't know what kind of challenges exactly lies in front of me. But I know from my past experience that my faith and my attitude can get me over it. I have nothing to lose. It's the final situation I want to be in.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A visit to the London gay interbank drinks

I hadn't socialised with my colleague P since last November, so chatting to him recently, we decided that the May interbank drinks evening for gay people who work in the City would be an ideal occasion to catch up with each other. Each month I always try and attend, but I had been unable to go along in April so the last time I was there was in March.

Design of May 2007 interbank inviteWhen the day came, it turned out that another gay friend of P's was interested in coming along, so together the three of us arrived reasonably early to ensure that we'd be able to get a table for the evening. P offers to get some wine, and soon we're tucking into an adequate albeit unexciting bottle of house red Burgundy. We're chatting away about various subjects when suddenly P's friend has to take a call on his mobile phone.

"Do you remember K?" says P's friend when he gets off the phone, speaking directly to P.

"Yes of course," replies P, "why do you ask?"

"Oh, I just need to discuss something with him. He's somewhere nearby, so I said he may as well come along and meet us here :-)."

"Wwwwhat?" says P going white as a sheet, and looking more than a little uncomfortable, "I, errrm, I..I'm not sure that's appropriate :-(, after all he's straight isn't he!"

"Errr OK," says P's friend, looking a bit taken aback by such a negative reaction.

"Well, perhaps we'll go somewhere else when he gets here then, how about that?"

"Actually I think you should meet him outside," says P firmly.

They look at each other, P looking a bit trapped and defensive, and his friend looking surprised.

A nice way to end a busy day"Well I guess there may be some guys here who are only comfortable because they expect everyone to be gay too," I try and offer helpfully, "so if they see K here they might be upset to be outed to him if they know him?"

While P's friend gets out his mobile phone and sets about phoning K, P leans over to speak to me quietly.

"It's just that I've never told K that I'm gay, not that he'd mind, I guess he obviously knows anyway, but, well, we've just never discussed it, you know, so I feel very awkward!"

But before I can reply, and while P's friend is still on the phone trying to get through, K walks straight into the room and spots us at once.

"Hi guys," he says with a huge smile on his face.

"Oh hi, I'm GB," I say with some enthusiasm, while P's friend is putting his phone away, and while P himself is trying his best to look comfortable.

As I'd expected, everything works out fine. Gradually P relaxes, and at one point when I'm talking to P's friend, I can tell that P has a brief chat with K about the fact that he's gay. In the language of my recent post about gay lifestyle competence, P is still a few belts away from his black belt. However it's occasions like this, that end up working out OK, that will help him graduate to higher competence levels!

Later in the evening I'm at the bar getting another bottle of wine, and looking at the wine list I decide that the 2001 Meerlust Merlot would be more fun than the house Burgundy that P's been feeding us with. While waiting to be served, I look around the room and suddenly spot Rye of Got Gay?, all on his own quietly sipping his drink. Having recently moved over from Canada this must be one of his first interbank drinks events, so while the barman is dealing with my credit card I go and say hello to him.

A fellow blogger :-)"Hi Rye," I say, "so how are you settling into London life then?"

"Oh hi GB," says Rye, "not so bad :-)."

"So where did you end up living in the end?"

"Hampstead actually, not ideal in some ways, but I had a terrible time finding anywhere that would let me have dogs."

"Well at least it's handy for Hampstead Heath while you're waiting for bud to arrive :-)!" I say mischievously.

"I'm not like you GB," laughs Rye.

Unfortunately I have to get back to my friends with the Merlot, so I bid Rye farewell saying that I hope to see him again soon.

The Merlot turns out to be a good choice. After around twenty minutes though I have to leave, because I've promised boyfriend number 1 that I'll have supper with him :-). It must be hard though, moving your life from one country to another and leaving all your friends behind, so on my way out I'm glad to spot Rye in the distance chatting to a couple of people. Although I lived in Singapore for a few months in the early 1990s when I was working on a project for my employer back then, so far at least I've haven't been brave enough to move to another country on a permanent basis!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A quick session with an Asian guy in London on business

A reader pointed out in a comment recently that I haven't been blogging about my encounters. What I said in reply to that comment is quite true, namely that to some extent I've got bored with playing the field online at the moment, and that I'm trying to focus on a small number of boyfriends instead. None the less, I do find myself logging in to gaydar and sometimes, and occasionally I do still find a bit of fun.

For example, a couple of months ago, it's the last Sunday in February and I get back home around lunchtime after my usual run along the river the with the guys from the gym. I log into the gay chat rooms to amuse myself while I'm eating the snack lunch I bought from the local supermarket, and while I'm looking around a guy starts chatting to me

guy: hi there
GB: hi mate :-)

While he's working out what to say next, I go and look at his profile pics. He's a great looking south-east Asian guy, probably in his early 30's.

Hmmmm, what's going on in those bushes at the back?GB: nice pics
guy: thanks, i am staying at a hotel near Regent's Park, wanna meet?
GB: sounds good, can I visit you in your hotel?
guy: how fast can u get here?
GB: about half an hour I guess, I'll take a cab
guy: i have to check out at 2:00 PM

The time is now 12:45pm, so there's only an hour and a quarter before he has to check out. This is going to have to be a very efficient operation to succeed! Working almost on auto-pilot I send him my pics, tell him my name, ask him for his name, ask him for his hotel name and room number, and give him my mobile phone number too to show him that I'm serious!

GB: do you have a mobile phone number?
guy: i don't
GB: ok, np
guy: pls be quick :-)
GB: ok I'll be there as soon as I can
guy: can u bring a couple of condoms?
GB: ahhhh OK, so what do u want to do, we can still enjoy each other's company and be safe without condoms?

We have a quick discussion about who'll do what to whom and everything makes sense.

GB: OK, but I think I've run out so I'll need to go and buy some, it'll take about 5 mins extra
guy: if possible yes
guy: but my check out time is at 2:00 PM
GB: ok no probs, see you soon

I sign off and already it's 12:55pm, it's definitely going to be a rush! At least I had a shower at the gym less than an hour ago so that's one aspect that I don't need to worry about. Grabbing my coat, I head out to the high street to try and find some condoms and then a cab. Ten minutes later, having visited the family planning section of my local Boots Chemists, I'm in a cab on my way to the hotel.

Using the Internet access on my PDA, I manage to work out the phone number of his hotel, so I give him a call to let him have an update on the situation.

"Hi it's GB :-)," I say once the switchboard has put the through to his room, "I'm in a cab now, is everything OK at your end?"

"Yes, but when do you think you'll get here," asks the guy anxiously.

"I should be with your around 1:30pm, so although it'll have to be a quick session, I think there'll be enough time :-)."

"And did you manage to get some condoms?"

"Yes mate I did," I reply, "so don't worry!"

"OK great, see you soon :-)."

I arrive in the hotel lobby just before 1:30pm, and soon I'm knocking on his bedroom door. He opens the door looking visibly relieved that I've made it on time.

"Thanks for coming quickly and at short notice," he says smiling at me.

Face to face he looks just as good as he did in his pics online, so I walk in and take my coat off. I go to sit down to take my shoes off, but he wraps his arms round me and gives me a big hug. Mmmmm, nice :-).

"You like Asian guys?" he asks.

"Yes very much!" I reply honestly.

"Hmmmm great, I like British :-)."

"It's such a pity we have to rush," I say, "I do like to cuddle up with guys after a bit of fun!"

"But unfortunately I DO have to leave at 2:00 PM to catch a flight back home," he says, releasing me from the hug, "but I come over here regularly on business, so maybe you'll be able to visit me for a longer session on my next visit."

I smile at him, and give him a gentle peck on the lips before siting down to take my shoes and socks off.

"Is it OK if I take some photos?" he asks while he watches me undress.

"Sure no problem," I say, "but can you avoid pics with my face in please?"

"Yes of course, in fact it's other bits of your anatomy that I'm more interested in!"

Once I've stripped down to my undershorts, I stand up and kiss him again. Gently I lift his dressing gown off his shoulders, and underneath he's completely naked.

"You look great," I tell him. "Hmmmm, and that's nice too," I say as I reach down and caress his undercarriage, "I can see that you're pleased to see me :-)!"

A bit later and we're both naked on his bed, enjoying each other's company.

"Oh be careful," he says suddenly, "we've got until 2:00 PM so lets make the most of it :-). I don't want to cum too soon, please don't touch me down there too much just yet!"

Gradually we get even more involved with each other. But soon I've forgotten his recent request, and as he starts to remind me its

"Hmmm nice but don't do that I'll, um, err, oh no, oh YES ..."

We both end up in a rather sticky situation, but it was very enjoyable :-). And it's still not quite 1.50pm yet!

"Lets take a quick shower together," I suggest as we lie there cooling down, "and can I have a quick glass of water as well?"

We chat a bit while we're showering. It turns out that he's also a banker, but working in NYC most of the time.

As I'm leaving, we swap email addresses, and I make sure that he's got my mobile phone number.

"It would be great to see you for a longer session on your next visit," I tell him as he lets me out of the room.

"Yes definitely, let's keep in touch :-)."

Although it was a rush, I'm glad I made the effort because he was a lovely guy. Even if he'd called for a rent boy to visit him, at such short notice I'm sure he couldn't have gotten a better service!

Monday, May 14, 2007

A weekend away with boyfriend number 2

The first Monday in May was a bank holiday in the UK, so I took the opportunity to have a long weekend and visit boyfriend number 2. Boyfriend number 2 lives in a different country and I hadn't seen him since the holiday we had together in Argentina last December.

Not many gay bars here!We had decided to spend one day together in the city, and then hire a car and head out to a spa hotel in the nearby countryside. Luckily we'd managed to find a hotel that employs a few male therapist in their spa, unlike various other Spa hotels that I've visited in the past!

Having looked at their Spa menu online, Boyfriend number 2 was keen to get me to do a massage session designed for couples with him, but would the hotel be happy doing that for a gay male couple? I decide that it would be best to ask in advance, so towards the end of the day in the city I phone them up:

"Hi is that the Spa?" I ask, having been put through from the main switchboard.

"Yes Sir, how can I help you today?" says a polite female voice.

"We'll be staying in your hotel over the weekend," I start, "and we'd like to have the couples massage that you offer. Can we make a booking please, if possible with two of your male therapists?"

It turns out that they're quite booked up, especially since we want two male therapists, however they're able to fit us in towards the end of the second day that we'll be there.

"And is there anything else I can help you with today sir?"

"Just one thing," I say confidently, "we're a male couple, and since we're having a massage together I just thought that you should know :-)".

"That's fine sir," replies the receptionist without flinching, "we look forward to welcoming you both to the spa".

Good, as expected, it's not a problem!

Neither of us had been to this hotel before, but it turns out to be a good choice. And over dinner with boyfriend number 2 on our first night there, I ask him about his love life.

"So are you still dating," I ask him, "and trying to find a full time boyfriend?"

"Well to be honest GB, I don't know if that's possible any more!"

"How do you mean?"

"Well, I've usually very busy with my job, I'm in contact with you most days with emails or on the phone, and I've got lots of friends now too. If I can see you occasionally like this, how can I fit in a full time boyfriend?"

Although I'm very happy that he values me as a part time boyfriend, I do worry that having taken that role I'm somehow preventing him from finding a guy who'll be able to share his life with him more consistently that I can.

Overall, we have a great time at the spa hotel together. The massage session for couples is great, all the hotel staff are very friendly, and the hotel itself is tucked away in a beautiful part of the countryside.

"So I'll miss you being next to me tonight when I'm on the plane," I tell boyfriend number 2 as we're driving back to the city.

"But at least you'll have boyfriend number 1 the night after," says boyfriend number 2 sounding upset, "the next few nights will be tough for me without you."

Oh dear :-(. This is a situation entirely of my own construction. There's no deception of course, because boyfriend number 2 knows about all my other boyfriends and liaisons. I've also never pretended to him that I could become a full time boyfriend, although I certainly do wish that I could see him more often. But thinking about some of the things that he said, I can't help wondering whether he secretly hopes that one day we'll be able to live together full time. Although I can think of some scenarios where that might happen, all of them seem very unlikely at the moment. He's a lovely, beautiful, sensitive, caring guy, but by agreeing that we're part-time boyfriends, am I playing with his affections?

Friday, May 11, 2007

An email about condoms and erection problems

Last weekend, I received the following email:

Dear GB,

I am a 25yo guy working for a corporate bank, and have been seeing a guy for about a month now. I haven’t got on so well with another guy for ages, and he's really made a difference since I moved to Hong Kong.

The thing is that there is a sexual issue. He can't keep his erection whenever he puts a condom on. Of course, we never even thought of doing it without. We are both versatile so it's not a problem for me to be Top, nevertheless this tiny accident is regularly repeated (actually always repeated)! I didn’t know how to talk about it with him, but the good thing is that he has now started to share his concerns about it with me.

He is a 27yo hot Chinese guy, who works for a financial institution as well (not the same one as I am in). He's slightly frustrated about his career, but very confident, friendly and sociable, and out to everyone except his parents. He told me that he has never talked about it before with the guys that he's had sex with, and he would go for Bottom for fear of losing it if he would have to Top someone. It's not a good situation, and I think that deep down this nice, sociable, agreeable guy is suffering a lot because of it. I know that he wants to enjoy being Top, and that he hasn’t really been able to so far. He went to a doctor, and obviously there's no physical issue. He plays sport a lot, and takes good care of himself.

I don’t believe in quick fixes, and I seriously think that a shrink could be a good answer for him. A shrink might be able to help him to find out whatever the cause is of his erection hassle, that he cannot find out by himself obviously. However a little quick fix, like being able to penetrate me properly once, might help him regain a bit of confidence in that field, so that he doesn't expect the worst whenever he unwraps a condom. Maybe you or one of your devotee readers have experienced such a thing? I am lost and I really like him.

In my experience, confidence can play a big part in getting and maintaining erections. And once confidence has been lost, it can be hard to get it back. It could be that the reader's new boyfriend has perhaps had a problem just once, but now whenever he's in the same situation he worries about losing his erection, and of course the mere thought of losing the erection makes it happen.

When I was younger, I did feel a kind of pressure to want the other guy to think I was experienced, and to make the process of having sex kind of macho! These days I'm much more relaxed about everything, and I often treat things in quite a light-hearted way. Adopting this attitude could help by taking away the pressure to perform.

Thinking along these lines, I can also suggest a quick fix that might work. The two guys should make putting on a condom part of the foreplay, and in particular the guy who's being Bottom should put the condom on the guy who's being Top. During this process, the Bottom guy can apply whatever stimulation he deems necessary to keep the Top guy excited. Perhaps the reader should suggest this for the first time when he's being Top, and then the next time it will seem natural to suggest this course of action with the other guy is trying the Top role.

Do any readers have any other thoughts on this subject?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A reader who accidently outed himself to a friend

About two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a reader who was upset with himself for the way he reacted when a close friend was joking around and asked him whether he was gay. It's another example of the kind of thing I mentioned in the posting about Conversational Evasion Techniques. In that posting, I pointed out that guys can ask other guys whether they've got a wife or girlfriend with completely friendly intentions, however if the guy on the receiving end of the question is gay and doesn't want to say so, then the question is perceived as hostile. The reader's story isn't about that situation but none the less, when the reader was asked a question about being gay as a joke, he wasn't ready for the question and treated it differently to the way it was intended. This is what the reader said:

I got myself into a rather messy situation few days ago. I was sitting on the lawn at uni and having lunch with two friends (a girl "A", and a boy "E"). Somehow we started chatting about jeans. "A" used to work in a clothing store, so she knew a whole lot about expensive jeans. While we were talking, she saw someone who works in the same clothing store as her. Then the conversation went like:

A: Look at that dude over there, his jeans are worth $500. He has got a twin brother who works in the same clothing store. Oh my god, they look so gay. Twin gay brothers. I wonder what they would do to each other.

Me: $500! That is expensive. It is a waste of money really. Jeans over $200 look the same to me. His shoes (a pair of Nike) are so ugly. I have got a pair as well, but in different colour. I barely wear them. They are not very comfy.

E: Yeah, I agree.

A to me: Are you into shoes?

Me: Yeah, I enjoy buying shoes. (Realising I don't sound very macho here, so I said) But hey, the last time I bought a pair of shoes was like two years ago.

A: Are you gay seriously? You can tell us.

Me: Hmmm... [ I was like, 'Not again!'. "A" is my best friend. But I keep a certain part of my life private. She has been annoying me at times with that question, specially after I dumped my girlfriend with a txt msg. So when she asked me that question again, my mind just went blank. ] ... Hmmm, I am not too sure to be honest......

I soon changed the subject, but it was too late :(.

Later, "A" and I had a one-on-one conversation

A: Hey, are you really ...?

Me: You see, I am not too sure. I think I am bi.

A: Oh sh*t, I am so sorry. I never thought you would be. I am such a dumb arse. I was just kidding. I use that gay joke all the time. I am such a dumb arse.

Me: What??? You were kidding? You sounded very serious when you asked me that question. You b*tch! I can't believe this. I should have kept my mouth shut.

A: I am so sorry. If I were serious, I would have asked you in private.

Me: B*tch! You better not broadcast it, big mouth! Sh*t, what about "E"? He is not religious, is he? I just don't want to ruin our final year project. [ "E", "A" and I are doing our final year project together. ]

A: Don't think he is. Do you want me to talk to him?

Me: I don't know. Maybe just leave it.

This was the first time ever I told someone about my sexuality, well, apart from the guys I've hooked up with! Even though I managed to convince "A" that I am yet to have sex with a guy, I totally freaked out and I almost threw up when I went for a jog that afternoon. I hated myself for letting my guard down. Things really happen when you are least expecting them. Few days have passed; I pretend as if nothing happened. "A", "E" and I seem to get on like before. Nothing seems to have changed because of that conversation. But I still cringe whenever I think about it.

In a subsequent email, the reader who sent me the above story was clearly worried about the fact that he's gay:

Whenever a 'gay' question pops up, I panic. It is so frustrating, because I feel that I constantly have something to hide. It is frightening to think I might have to live a double life like this forever. Oh well, I guess this is the way it is. I will need to be tougher and wear a thick armour to protect myself lol.

In my reply, I tried to reassure him that eventually he won't feel the need to hide being gay, and then life will become much easier. These feelings are certainly quite normal when one is first coming out. I can certainly remember feeling exactly like that when I was younger!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Email from a guy with a closeted boyfriend

About a week and a half ago, I received the following e-mail:

Dear GB

I am a 22 year old gay male in a relationship with another guy for nearly four years now. I am out to my family and friends but by partner is not out to anybody, and it makes it very awkward as we live together. We often have to pretend that I am not there with him if somebody rings, and also leave the house if one of his friends is coming over. He says that he will come out and that all he needs is for me to give him time. I'm not sure if he really will come out though, as he is 42 years old and I am his first homosexual relationship. He tells me that he has always known that he was gay, but found it hard to admit in the early stages of his life and then it got to a point where he found it too difficult to come out at all. His last relationship was with a woman for three years and he claims that he rarely slept with her but I do occasionally get very upset thinking about this.

My partner and I have also never had anal sex with each other as he claims that he is not comfortable with it. I sometimes worry that his extensive past with women and not wanting to come out or have anal sex means that he is not actually gay. He swears that he loves me, but he used to say that to women not that long ago, so how much can it mean? I really need some advice because I have no idea where this relationship is going.

He works in a relatively dangerous place and I sometimes worry that something will happen to him when he is away working. In a make believe situation, if he died, and has still not come out to anybody, would it be right for me to tell everybody about him as I would want to have some part in the funeral and so on. It's a very strange question, but something that I worry about.

I hope to hear from you soon...

I replied immediately, suggesting a Dear GB posting, and asking for his consent. Most readers who send me Dear GB emails reply quite quickly, but in this case no reply arrived. The reader must have been discussing everything with his boyfriend because while I was debating whether or not to do a Dear GB posting anyway, the following email landed in my inbox:

Dear GB,

I have now spoken to my boyfriend, and sort of come to an agreement. He has told me that he won't say or do things purely to appear straight. He doesn't feel like there is any need to actually tell people about himself being gay, but we have agreed that if anybody asks he has to tell them the truth.

So basically he said that he won't hide the fact, but won't go spreading it either, as he believes it's nobodys business but ours. I asked what happens in the future with our relationship, and he told me that he believes eventually everybody will just come to know. He also said that after some time when they do, I will be able to come to family functions and so on.

Sometimes I think that he finds it harder to come out because of the extra fact that I am so much younger than him. The fact that he was with women until we met only four years ago means that he was still with women when he was 38! It's sounds stupid but I worry a lot that he mightn't even be gay, even though he talks about buying a house together but won't officially tell anybody he's gay and just wants to let them figure it out for themselves.

Even though we had this chat now, I would still like your thoughts if possible. Thank you!

Unless I'd received a reply asking me not to, I was probably going to post the first email anyway, because I always try and make sure that there's no way the person who emailed me can be identified so I don't see what harm there could be. But it's better to have consent of course. The whole situation raises some fascinating issues.

It seems to me that the reader's boyfriend has a lot of self-loathing in relation to his homosexuality. I decided before the second email arrived that the fact that the boyfriend had got this far probably meant that he is gay, and the fact that the boyfriend has made some concessions now seems to confirm my thoughts. None the less, it's clear that he's still very uncomfortable with it.

I don't think the fact that the boyfriend hasn't had anal sex with the reader necessarily indicates anything other than his dislike for being gay. I reckon anal sex is one of the first things that homophobes think about with disgust when they think about gay guys, so given that the boyfriend has been a gay homophobe, perhaps it's not surprising that he hasn't had anal sex with the reader. When I've been cruising online I've definitely had gay guys say to me that they don't enjoy anal sex, however the implication is that they've done it and just don't like it, whereas perhaps the reader's boyfriend has never tried. I reckon being gay is about who you love emotionally rather than how you express that love physically, because there are lots of ways of enjoying the physical company of another guy.

For me, the most upsetting aspect of the reader's first e-mail is the way his boyfriend's homophobia has affected their life together. After living with the guy for four years, it really shouldn't be necessary to pretend that he's not there when the boyfriend takes a phone call, and worse, to leave his home when the boyfriend has a visitor. It's not clear from the second email whether this will continue to be the case, hopefully not.

Also, given that the fact that the boyfriend doesn't like himself in relation to being gay, the fact that he works in a relatively dangerous place is worrying. It's easy to imagine a situation where the boyfriend takes some inappropriate risk on a day that he's feeling particularly bad about being gay, and has an accident. The reader is right to worry about this, because if the boyfriend was involved in a fatal accident, the reader would be in a terrible position if he's the partner that nobody knows about. When a close friend or family member dies, it's important to be able to grieve properly to help get over the loss, and this would be almost impossible for the reader in this situation.

I've never met a single gay person who's not been much much happier after they've come out to all their friends and family, so I think it's right for the reader to try and push his boyfriend down this path. Although the reader must love his boyfriend to still be with him in these circumstances, it's less clear how much the boyfriend loves the reader. Looking at it another way, how much can the boyfriend love the reader given that he has made him live as the unseen partner for so long? If the recent progress stalls, I think this has to be the key point in the subsequent discussions between the reader and his boyfriend: "If you love me you wouldn't make me pretend that I'm not your boyfriend"!

However, I'm not so sure that there's no need to tell anyone about their relationship. An important milestone in the development of this situation will be the agreement that the reader never ever has to leave the house when the boyfriend's friends visit. Perhaps the reader's presence can be explained away as a housemate, but the familiarity between them makes this seem unlikely to me. So if there are friends or family of the boyfriend that visit regularly, a discussion about how the reader's presence can be explained would be a good idea in the context that the boyfriend has agreed not to do anything purely to appear straight. Better still, a discussion about a strategy of coming out to them properly seems appropriate. If the reader can get his boyfriend to make a plan in this respect, then the reader can then monitor progress in relation to this plan, and slowly help him to come out.

Going forward, if every time the reader brings up this subject the boyfriend says "I don’t want to talk about it any more, I'll do everything in my own time" then it's clear that in reality the boyfriend is stuck and not moving forward. Perhaps getting the boyfriend to come out becomes the taboo topic of conversation, but even in these circumstances I think it's important for the reader to keep raising the subject. If the boyfriend becomes angry then so much the better, because it might help bring the situation to a conclusion. I don't think the reader should be scared of this, although if the boyfriend owns the home they share, if things are going in the wrong direction perhaps the reader should somehow make provisional arrangements to move out in case the boyfriend forces him out. If that happens, or if the boyfriend becomes violent, then a choice has been made and the reader must move on however painful that may be.

Whatever happens, I don't think that the reader should take matters into his own hands and out the boyfriend at all. That is likely to end the relationship for sure, and be very counterproductive for all involved. Persuading and helping the boyfriend to come out is a much better strategy.

Given that they've been together for four years, it does seems sensible to try and make the relationship work. But no one should have to pretend that they don't exist, so this situation can't last much longer. Hopefully the second email proves that progress in the right direction has been made.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this subject?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Meritocracy rules

Today's Guardian article Outed in the City was an interesting read, and not just because there's a small quote from me about being with heterosexual colleagues in lap-dancing clubs!

I disagree strongly with Ivan Massow because he's quoted recommending that people stay closeted. On the other hand I agree strongly with the sentiments of Lee Marshall, an openly gay senior manager at Ernst & Young, where he says that "insecurities prevent [people] being open about their sexuality at work."

This is exactly the point I was making in yesterday's posting "The gay lifestyle black belt". This has got everything to do with the people's own personalities and their own confidence levels, and much less to do with the way other people treat them. Some people behave as though they're victims, and because that's what they expect, that the end result they get. In the language of yesterday's posting, the gay people at the highest levels of gay lifestyle competence have the opposite approach, and this genuinely makes them immune to homophobic behaviour so they're free to achieve their full potential.

It's true that some gay guys may leave the City because they're tired of homophobic comments and abuse. They've let themselves be victims, they've allowed any insults to hit their mark, so they're lacking one of the skills needed to succeed in that job. But to succeed in any modern job a huge number of skills are needed, and trying to pretend that everyone is able to do every job is plainly ridiculous. Meritocracy rules, and although most of the time everyone gets the same chance, the fact that everybody's skills set is different means that some jobs are not suitable for some people.

I also don't believe that gay people have an extra burden to carry. Everyone these days has to juggle a huge number of commitments. A gay guy who's not yet fully comfortable with being gay has one burden to carry, but then a straight guy who's got young children will have a lot of family pressures.

Being gay is just one aspect of our lives, but there are other aspects to the lives of people who're not gay. Everyone has lots of stuff on their plate. Just deal with it and stop whinging!

Friday, May 04, 2007

The gay lifestyle black belt

This posting is aimed at my gay readers, of either gender, although in fact the subject matter applies to anyone who's different in any respect from what's regarded as standard.

Try to be honest and ask yourself: "How comfortable am I being gay?"

Many readers who identify as gay will probably answer without thinking, "I'm 100% comfortable", and in principle that's my answer too. But when I've been thinking about this in detail recently, I do wonder whether I could handle absolutely any situation where my sexuality is an issue.

Over the last week, I've realised that there's an analogy with the way people achieve higher and higher martial arts gradings. Starting from "white belt", one gradually progress through various levels of competence until one earns a "black belt" which is a major milestone. In terms of coming out as gay, the equivalent to starting to wear a white belt is admitting to yourself that you're gay. As one comes out to friends, family and colleagues, one's confidence grows, and eventually one feels that one is fully out and the gay lifestyle black belt has been earned.

But the way the martial arts gradings were explained to me, a black belt is actually only half way up the hierarchy, because beyond that level are all the Dan ranks. Each time a new competence level is achieved on the way to earning a black belt, the original idea was that you were able to dye your belt a darker colour, which obviously comes to an end with black which is the darkest colour of all. Progressing through the gradings beyond black belt, one then works back to white as repeated washing gradually drains all the dye out of the belt, corresponding to achieving a competence level where innocence has been restored and everything has become so completely natural that it's effectively part of one's soul!

In the context of the gay lifestyle black belt, I reckon competence at black belt level means that someone has learned how to live a gay lifestyle, learned all the etiquette and feels very comfortable being gay. When one first achieves this level of gay lifestyle competence, a person may feel for a while that the gay attribute is their most important characteristic. This is a very important milestone, but as with martial arts, I reckon there are competence levels way in excess of this. And as with martial arts, as one progress to higher and higher competence levels, everything gradually becomes more and more natural. At the highest gay lifestyle competence level one has forgotten that one is gay because it's identical to being alive!

What type of characteristics does a person have at the highest levels of gay lifestyle competence? It's certainly impossible to offend them with any type of homophobic language, in any situation, because they just don’t relate to that mindset. By contrast, at the initial gay lifestyle black belt level, the reaction to a homophobic remark may be to trade insult for insult, or perhaps in an office environment to complain about the homophobic remarks to the management. But having successfully negotiated the emotional turmoil of the lower gay lifestyle competence levels, people at the highest competence levels somehow manage to display a confidence which naturally prevents homophobic behaviour in their presence most of the time, because it's clear to any homophobes that such a person is immune.

The people at the highest gay lifestyle competence levels may even use homophobic language themselves as a means of communication. For example, however much one might wish that the weak effeminate gay man was not a well known stereotype in society today, it is, so in some circumstances invoking that image may be the easiest way of communicating with an unreconstructed straight guy. Gay activists may regard it as appalling to reinforce that negative image, but at the highest level of gay lifestyle competence one is strong and not weak and in a particular situation the mindset could simply be communication in the most effective way.

As a general rule, I reckon the more Achilles' heels one has in one's personality, the less successful one will be in life. Indeed, it can often be the case that people's own anxieties and hang-ups hold them back. If a person is not fully comfortable with themselves, other people can somehow tell and in some situations use their weaknesses against them. This particularly applies in my world of work because investment banking is a cut-throat business. It it's much easier to achieve success at senior levels if one has reached the higher levels of gay lifestyle competence so that the gay attribute is no longer an issue.

In this martial art terminology, I probably reached the initial gay lifestyle black belt level around fifteen years ago. But looking back, I can see that I have progressed a lot since then. Even so, I still think I've further to go. So try and be honest with yourself. What level of gay lifestyle confidence have you reached?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Guardian article relating to Lord Browne :-)

[ Updated 13:40, 3-May-2007 ]

As a result of the resignation of Lord Browne as the chief executive of BP this week for lying about his relationship with Jeff Chevalier, I got an e-mail from The Guardian newspaper. They were looking for "a gay executive who works in the City to write about their experiences", so I wrote a small piece for them. It's nice to see something that I've written published on a respectable web site :-).

Originally they forgot to attribute the article to me, however I was pleasantly surprised that they were able to rectify this in their online edition within a couple of hours, once I'd pointed it out :-). They were also happy to donate my fee for writing the article to charity. As I said in my posting about adverts and sponsorship a few weeks ago, I don't need any income from this blog at the moment, so donating any revenue it can produce to charity makes sense.

In their brief, one of the questions was "What happens on stereotypical City bonding occasions such as taking clients to a lap-dancing club"? Regular readers of this blog won't be surprised to learn that I was able to write something about that! Although they ended up cutting that bit out today, it may get used in another article which is due out on Saturday, which will look at being gay in the City in some depth. If not, I'll post it here :-).

Update 5-May-2007: There's a small quote from me about lap-dancing clubs in today's Guardian article Outed in the City. But for readers who're interested in what I originally wrote on this subject, the original submission that I sent to the Guardian for last Thursday's article has the following section:

Anyone who reads my blog will know that I don't believe in monogamy, although that doesn't stop me from loving my main boyfriend and being very committed to him. However it's clear to me from experiences on business trips with my heterosexual colleagues that they don't believe in monogamy either! I always find it interesting to watch the kind of things they get up to in places like "Top Ten" in Singapore, although I have no interest in participating. In that situation, in case someone doesn't know that I'm gay, I've got my standard response

"Hmmm, I think I fancy a dance with one of those two girls over there GB," says one colleague, "you're one doesn't look very pretty though!!"

"Oh don't worry about me," I reply, "I'm just a voyeur".

Somehow the mention of a word like 'voyeur' in the sexual context of a lap dancing club always gets me off the hook. But these days, most colleagues know that I'm gay so the issue doesn't usually arise.