Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Email from a French guy who's worried about being gay

A couple of months ago, a reader sent me an email with the title "Catch 22". The email was as follows:

Dear GB ,

I hope you are doing well and enjoying summer,

I know you are a busy person and get a lot of emails, but please take a few seconds to read the following. I would greatly appreciate your wise point of view on my situation.

I am a 21 year old French guy living in London since I was 16. So far so good. Everything is going well for me, well, most of the time at least! I really like London and I study interesting subjects in good universities and all and all, so I cannot complain about that. I am quite a lively person who needs to leave a mark on the world and get some attention. I like all things big, nice restaurants, going out a lot, studying hard, best clubs, etc. Most guys ask me how I manage to be always surrounded by all the hottest girls (arts students, management, fashion). I tell them that I don’t know, but the truth is that since I don’t really care about girls, I don’t get intimidated by them. I also like hanging out with guys, normal straight ambitious competitive guys and to me being friends with them is really important, way more important than being friends with gay guys. They’re not all the same obviously, there are so many types, but the more identifiable ones do live a certain lifestyle and act out all vaggy and flamboyant. So here’s the Catch 22: I have a straight guy mentality and vision, but not the same sexual drive or objectification of desire. What should I do? Because the problem is, there is something missing in my life, and though I like hanging out with my straight friends, they are still a bit different. And sometimes it shows. I feel like they are much ‘simpler’ than I am, and more aggressive too. Hanging out with straight guys is a bit like hanging out with very simple minded creatures who have basic desires and needs. And it makes it all funnier to play the game. Up to a certain extent.

Sometimes I do betray myself. When I am drunk. I start touching some guys because, they’re just ... so hot you know? And so straight as well? And a bit stupid? The more ‘fratish’ they are the better. Or I may do a movement that is a bit weird and suddenly there is a disconnect with the person I am talking to. They start wondering. Also I treat all the girls I go out with quite badly. But somehow they seem to like that. Whatever. Woman’s sexuality and mindpoint is really fucked up too. So I guess people wonder, there are rumours, it’s a sort of running joke. Is he gay? But it’s ok, because it’s all so mysterious and ho-ho ha-ha, he dresses better than everyone else, he’s a metro, he’s not so sporty, he doesn’t watch football or top gear. He’s ambitious. He’s sick. He’s insecure. He’s overconfident. He’s a player. He’s a psycho. Ho-ho ha-ha! It’s funny for everyone watching. The only reason I am getting away with it obviously, and I should feel quite lucky about this, is because I am French, living in big cities, evolving in certain circles amongst challenging people. So I get a free pass because I am French and basically eurotrash. Which is fine by me.

Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. That boy is very sick.


So what should I do? It seems to me that life is so hard and like a marathon. Why would I want to run it handicapped? Yet there is something missing. Yet I know the minute I will allow people to label me (which is unfair because I can still fuck a girl, it’s just that living with her is so grotesque to me, let alone really loving her, while I know fulfilment would be so simple otherwise) I will lose half my life. Most of my guy friends have told me confidently in the eyes several times they could not be friends with a gay guy (yeah, there goes the Oscar) because they get uneasy around them, or might feel that something awkward is developing. That kind of convo happens when talking about some friend from school or wherever who has turned gay, and since then ‘transferred’ to the gay scene (exile?) and I am caught in a sort of in between. And there seems to be no space for me. I want to be successful and express my abilities. Yet I feel like I am gonna get pigeonholed and left aside of all the real business action and important social circles if I get labelled as gay. In the same vein I don’t want to lose the thrill that is going to a restaurant with a beautiful lady and getting approval from the waiter and the room and being all proud and stuff, or getting in a good club easily with your lady. Though you’re not that into her, really. It seems to me that I should rather live a double life. Because it really isn’t worth it. And it isn’t getting better. This is bullshit. I feel like it’s actually getting worse.

Any advice, my dear GB?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

PS: I realise this situation is in a way quite ordinary, laughable, and you may have yet answered similar ones many times, but the process of writing the above has already 'helped' me in a certain way so even if you don't answer, thank you for having such a cool blog!

I’m sure that there are quite a few young gay guys who go through the kind of thing that this reader is describing. However, I don’t think I’ve answered exactly this kind of email before, and this is certainly a good one to answer because I think the reader expresses his feelings about his situation very well.

The first thing to say is that I think the reader has a few misconceptions that are hampering his decision making process. Although I think he’s right that in some ways life is like running a marathon, I think he’s very wrong to say that you’re handicapped in that race if you’re known to be gay. Another misconception that he has relates to being "labelled" gay, because the reader clearly feels that the label "gay" is a valid insult. But the fact is that when one person tries to insult another person, the person who’s the target of the insult needs to accept that he’s been insulted, otherwise the insult hasn’t worked. In this respect, before I came out I felt much the same way about being called gay, but these days I regard the fact that I’m gay as just one my many characteristics that make me who I am. It’s certainly no handicap or insult :-). However, one thing that the reader is right about is that this situation will slowly get worse for him, so it’s a good thing that he’s thinking about it and emailing people like me as he starts to address the problem.

The most important aspect to address is the reader’s concern that as a gay man he’s going to be " ... left aside of all the real business action and important social circles". In term of business, there’s certainly no danger of that happening. Gay people are definitely valued in the banking world, which is why banks have encouraged internal networks for their gay employees, which has led to things like the London interbank GLBT forum which I blogged about recently. Outside the banking world, for example in the world of strategic management consulting, firms such as McKinsey have their GLAM network (GLAM = "Gays and Lesbians At McKinsey").

There’s a good reason why gay people are valued. A gay person has had to indulge in some creative thinking to realise that they’re not heterosexual, because we’re all brought up to expect that we’re straight, and creative thinking is vital in today’s competitive business environment. One of my previous bosses in the banking world used to call me an iconoclastic thinker because I was sometimes able to break established norms and find new approaches to problems. So at least in the Westernised business world these days, there’s really no valid concern that gay people are left out. Outside the business world, for example in the music industry, gay people are common as well. Because X-Factor is on TV in the UK at the moment, the example in my mind is the X-Factor creative director Brian Friedman. Each week one or two of the judges thank him during the live shows for his excellent work.

Much of the same thinking applies in terms of the reader’s social life. The easy part is that it’s common for gay guys to be friends with straight women. At the moment though, it seems likely to me that some of his female friends see him as a potential boyfriend, so the current situation isn’t fair on them because those women are clearly wasting their time. So he’ll have much more honest friendships with his female friends if they know that he’s gay, and hence potentially much deeper and better friendships with them. I’d be very surprised if he were to lose any of his female friends because he’s gay.

Regarding his straight male friends, perhaps some of them will keep their distance from this reader if they know that he’s gay. However, the good thing about this is that it will select the more important straight guys from the less important ones, and he’ll find that he’ll remain friends with the more important ones. What I mean by that is that young straight guys who worry about having gay friends have little imagination, and typically lack confidence in their own sexuality. Those are the guys that the reader describes as "much ‘simpler’" than he is, and they’re not likely to be important for the world economy. Most likely is that they’ll end up with dull jobs, get married, have kids, all without making much of a mark on the world.

However, the more important straight guys are much less likely to have those hang-ups, they’ll be ambitious, and will probably think it’s good to have connections in the gay world as they develop their careers. Putting it another way, why does the reader think that there’s any long term benefit from hanging out with dull, simple, unimportant straight guys? Similarly, why is being friends with normal ambitious competitive straight guys way more important to him than being friends with normal ambitious competitive gay guys? My guess is that it’s just because he feels safe with what he knows, so he hasn’t looked further than his existing narrow circle of friends and so he doesn’t know any of those kinds of gay guys. Here, perhaps the reader just needs to grow up a bit!

The reader says that he has a "straight guy mentality and vision, but not the same sexual drive or objectification of desire". But the fact is that lots of gay guys say the same thing, often summarised as simply "straight acting". So to answer the reader’s main question about what he should do, I think he should stop being afraid of what will happen if people find out that he is gay. Indeed, when eventually they do find out, it’s most likely to lead to lots of good things happening to him :-).

Do any other readers have any other thoughts for this guy?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Drinks and networking for gay financial service employees in London

In a handful of posts over the years, starting with this one in 2006, I've mentioned the fact that there's a regular drinks event for gay financial service employees in London. As a result of those posts, I've regularly been receiving emails from various people who want to know more about those events. The good news is that the people who organise those events now have their own web site, namely http://www.interbanklgbtforum.co.uk/. So going forward, if anyone wants to know more, instead of sending me an email it'll probably be more efficient to visit that web site!

GB xxx

Monday, October 01, 2012

Teenage wanking

A few weeks ago, I bump into an old friend at the party of another friend. Shortly afterwards, I get an email from the old friend inviting me and boyfriend T round to dinner with him and his boyfriend.

The day arrives, and when we get to his house, it turns out that the dinner guests are all gay men. Towards the end of the meal, and after quite a few glasses of wine, we start talking about my hometown which I'd visited recently with boyfriend T.

"While we were in GB's hometown," says boyfriend T mischievously, "I saw the house where GB had his first wank!"

Everyone bursts out laughing.

"Well yes," I say sounding slightly embarrassed, "I showed boyfriend T the house where me and my family used to live."

Now that the subject of wanking has been brought up, everyone ends up sharing a teenage memory or two, but the host had something quite unexpected to say.

"Actually, I started wanking when I was about 7 or 8 years old," he remarks.

"How is that possible?" I ask, sounding very surprised, "surely your prepubescent body wasn't ready?"

"Well, there wasn't any ejaculation at that age," he explains, "but it always felt very nice :-). A boy at school told me how to do it, and once I'd had a go, needless to say I was hooked!"

"For a few years," he continues, "every new year's day I'd make a resolution to stop playing with my willy, because I somehow knew it was a bit taboo. But the resolution never lasted more than a couple of days! Of course, eventually I reached puberty, so one day I was playing with it as usual when suddenly I got a huge shock!!"

Everyone laughs, and after a few more comments about our teenage years, the conversation gradually moves onto something else.

Over the years, I've been to loads of dinner parties where the only diners are gay men. These days, I can't help thinking that it's inevitable that when it's only gay men together, after a few drinks they're bound to start talking about men's willies or sex!