Friday, April 26, 2013

Email from a Jewish guy who doesn't want to be gay

Just before Christmas last year, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I've inadvertently come across your blog only yesterday, whilst looking for my regular porn site. I have been glued to your stories and to reading all of the emails people have sent to you in search of, well, assurance?

I am a 23 yr old student from a Jewish family. I've been searching for accounts of people in a similar situation, in a dilemma of the conscience. The first time I remember being interested in homosexuality was at the age of 13, looking for things that would indulge my newfound interest via the internet. Youtube and video streaming websites didn't exist at the time, I was addicted to viewing the 'free tours' of porn sites until I got closer to the action with the advent of file sharing software.

After five years of self-gratification, I was on breaking point and the hormones were driving me insane until I satisfied my developed desire to have sex with a man. During my gap year before uni, I came across a cruising website (men4sex) and felt one step closer to making my fantasies a reality. I experienced the typical tease that is online gay dating sites until this one guy from Australia living in London was keen to meet up. I was 18; he was 27. Porn had built up my expectations so high it was unreal. We met at Hammersmith, he had dreadlocks and a bit of a beer belly but I made it this far I was willing to overlook it. We sat for a pint. I was so excited this was actually happening. I suggested we head back to his only to find that we couldn't as his flatmate was in. I didn't understand why he agreed to this meet up and where he expected things to happen. He suggested taking a walk in the park. I thought "sex in the park? In the middle of the day? No way". Of course my balls were still holding the reigns here, so off we went. We walked into a wooded area. I thought "at least he might have a big package". Nope, although I felt better about the size of mine. I thought "at least I can experience being inside another guy". Nope, he wasn't into that, and I don't have to describe the rest. I lost my virginity, I think, I get confused about what counts as losing it as I didn't do the penetrating and I'm not sure if it only really applies to heterosexual sex.

I've never had any girlfriends; I asked out two different girls in high school, unsuccessfully (the next guys they dated are their current boyfriends, 7 years on). I've made out with a few girls, drunk on all occasions. I'm happy with my appearance, dare I say I think I'm a good-looking guy. But I've always felt that there has been a drive missing in my mentality, compared to other guys. The drive that will make you follow an attractive girl anywhere. The drive that will make you behave in ways girls say they hate, and never admit they like (most of the time).

The gay meet-up sites have come and gone. I join out of desperation, and leave once I get what I was hungry for, ashamed and assured it's not too late to turn things around. I have, however, made a couple of good discreet friends through these sites. I met them on the premise of sex but I never did anything with them other than go out for a drink and talk. The talking helped as I didn't talk about it with anyone, it's not good to let it dwell in the mind without an objective view on your thoughts, how do you know what is right and what is wrong?

I should mention that as a fresher at uni, I was ready to 'get it out of my system' and meet with guys at my freedom, now that I was over 100 miles away from home. Unfortunately, I got carried away and before I knew it, I slept with ten different guys in the first term alone. Including an international postgrad student in my halls from Cyprus that was as horny as I was, meeting on a weekly basis. Of course this was all done behind the backs of my new-found friends. I decided to volunteer to answer calls on a nightline service for students to talk about their concerns anonymously over the phone. One of the people I befriended in this organisation, who was gay, asked me if I was via facebook as his friend (J) claimed to have seen my profile (

Two months down the line and the summer holiday came, and J convinced me coming out to my parents was the right thing to do. My gut said it was not a good time and I shouldn't but J was very reassuring, although looking back, I'm not sure if I should have taken counselling advice from someone a year younger than me. Come August that year, I came out. Pretty much the worst time of my life, borderline suicidal. I said it with a strong disposition, no tears from me. Tears from my parents and brother, yes. Hugs? No. I felt like the lowest piece of dirt ever. Like all my accomplishments in life were burnt to ashes in that instant. I felt like I was compared to a murderer, my parents appeared to be grieving for the ideal son I just killed. Of course, I stayed calm and let them express their emotions. Although any attempts to express how I felt were made irrelevant, that I had no right to and if I did it only made things worse. So I shut them down, and tried to zip up this bag that was bursting at the seams. Things went back to normal; my mum became a little spiritual about it, not in a good way. I didn't want to be gay as much as they didn't, I mean I didn't even think about what life would be like if I stayed out of the closet? What about the extended family? What about the friends that have been led to believe I was exclusively straight for as long as they've known me?

I've spent a lot of time studying the mind, I'm a man of fact, looking for the science behind sexual attraction. I know this is an attempt to justify my attraction towards men. It lies in my bones, circulates in my blood. I feel like I'm trying to force a river to flow up a mountain. I'm Jewish, there's a big emphasis on family life. If you're not hearing about someone's kid, it's about someone's marriage. It's inescapable.

To cut the long story short, I have been suppressing my homosexuality for the sake of peace in the family and thereby my own sanity. I don't want to be gay and I know a lot of people are in the same boat. I just can't actualise the idea of being in a relationship with a man and having a normal life. It probably seems crazy to the outside world considering my history but I'm still holding out for a girl I really connect to, despite my fears of sexual performance with women. I'm holding it in pretty well but it could explode someday. It's really made me question the purpose of one's life, where happiness is found and the weaknesses and strengths in human nature.

Yours Truly

I thought it was a very well written email, from a guy who was clearly in some distress about his sexuality. Within a day I'd sent him a reply which included the following paragraph:

I think you're through the hardest parts, namely recognising that you have feelings for other men, doing something about it, and then eventually coming out to your family too. However, I don't think your path to happiness lies in suppressing your gayness. This is just my opinion, and not based on any proper research, but I think that it's far more likely that one day you could have a relationship with a woman and a family etc if for now you fully embrace the fact that you're gay, live a gay life with a long-term boyfriend etc, and get it out of your system. I've been gay for over 20 years, and I now feel that although I'm gay and I love my boyfriend, if something ever happened to him then it might be interesting to try a relationship with a woman. It's kind of "been there, done that, I've still got a lot of life in me so what next". But please note, I can only see that approach working for guys who're 100% comfortable in their gay skin, and suppressing it is going in the opposite direction.

Looking back on that paragraph now, I'm not sure it was a good idea to say those things, because it does suggest that one day he could have a relationship with a woman. I think I wrote it because I'd just received the email from the married guy with some gay characteristics, and I was wondering whether I'd be able to cope in a relationship with a woman. At this stage in my life, it might be possible if the woman in question wanted companionship rather than a sexual relationship. However, now that I've studied his email in detail, by far the most likely situation is that he's 110% gay and hence needs to find a way to cope with that fact.

I don't know whether the reader has any family connections in the Jewish state of Israel, but a little bit of google research reveals that Israel has very advanced gay rights :-). They've got gays in the military, partnership rights, employment rights, and I *think* they got these rights before we got them in the UK! So if the biggest Jewish community in the world officially accepts gay people, why do so many gay Jewish guys like this reader and his family feel so bad about him being gay?

The answer is the same in many cultures across the world. The initial problem for the family is that they probably don't know any gay people, so one problem is fear of the unknown. But the reader is still their son and their brother who they know well, so that's not really the problem because it can be overcome quite quickly. The real problem is that families worry about what other people will think if they find out that a member of their family is gay. So laws granting gay rights are fine, after all, it's just common sense that what goes on between consenting adults in private doesn't affect anyone except the people involved. But everyone thinks "… but of course, no one is gay in my family"!

My best guess is that if the reader follows his current path and tries to hold in his gay sexuality, then not only is he doomed to lead a tormented and unhappy life, but the unhappiness will hang over his family as well. Everyone will be miserable, because the unspoken truth will always be hanging around and lurking in the background :-(. He could force himself into marriage, but I really don't see it working long term. But more than that, it wouldn't be fair to the woman that he marries, and her family. Experience shows that one can't keep these secrets forever, and that unfulfilled gay urges just don't go away. In the unlikely scenario that the reader does find himself in a relationship with a woman, my strong advice would be to tell her about his gay past. Honesty is a vital component in any relationship, so trying to pursue a relationship with a woman without being honest about this would be a terrible start.

In fact, I do know some happy and well-adjusted gay Jewish guys :-). However, one of my oldest friends from school is Jewish, but he's quite a tortured soul. As far as I know, he never had a girlfriend until he was in his 40's. I've always thought that he might have been gay, but if so he has always avoided the issue and was finally able to force himself into straight relationships, none of which seem to have worked. Hopefully this reader will find a way of avoiding that path.

So how can the reader become a happy and well-adjusted gay guy? Firstly, just because the reader is gay, it doesn't stop him being a good son and a good member of his family in many ways. From the emails that I exchanged with this reader, I know that he should be able to get himself a good job, so he should soon be able to support himself financially. The good thing about that is that the family don't then need to support him, and can look forward to his support if he makes a success of his career. He can certainly stay in touch with his family with either regular visits or phone calls if he's too far away to visit. He can make sure that he always visits for special occasions such as family birthdays or religious festivals (if the Jewish religious occasions are important to his family). He can be a good uncle to any children that his brothers and sisters may have. And he can try and make sure that his boyfriend is the kind of guy that his mother would approve of, if she was trying to find a husband for a daughter :-).

Six years ago, I wrote a post called The confidence mirror. The basic idea is that if you project confidence about something (such as being gay, although it could be anything) then that confidence is infectious and biases people in your favour. This is a vital concept to understand when coming out to people, especially because the opposite is also true. If you come out to someone and you're not 100% happy about being gay, then the person that you're coming out to is likely to pick up on that and think something like "Oh dear, this person is telling me that he's ill, how terrible". I think the reader needs to teach his family about this, and especially to teach this to his mother, because all the Jewish families that I know are quite matriarchal.

I'm sure his mother's biggest fear is "What on earth will I say when Auntie X asks me why my son isn't married yet?", or "How can I cope if Mrs Y asks why she's never seen my son with a girlfriend?" And if his mother is thinking that having a gay son is a terrible secret, she won't have good answers to these kinds of questions, and the people that she's talking to will eventually pick up on this. However, if the reader is able to be a good gay son like I described above, then his mother will be able to respond with confidence with something like "Oh I don't know, but I don't worry about him because he's such a good son to me. He phones me every weekend without fail, and always remembers my birthday :-). I'm sure he'll sort himself out eventually". The fact is that if the family is happy and projects confidence about the future of the reader, than it's no one else's business and people won't pursue the matter.

If the reader hadn't come out to his family, then both he and his family would be in a worse position. When gay people fear coming out to their family they tend to distance themselves and avoid regular contact, and then with little information the parents can worry about what the situation is. As long as the family don't know the truth, those kinds of gay guys are unable be good gay sons in the way that I described above. The good thing about coming out is that once the initial shock is over, the family should eventually end up closer and stronger.

Apart from reassuring his family that he's still going to be a good son, and teaching them about the confidence mirror (and everything else in this post), what else should he do? Well, there's little doubt in my mind that he should try and find himself a nice boyfriend as soon as possible. There is a very small possibility that the reader may be like the married guy with some gay characteristics, but until he finds himself a boyfriend and gives it a go then he won't know. A key question is, do his parents want him to be happy? If so, then they need to realise that the route to happiness for a family oriented gay guy is to find a long term partner.

I'm not sure what kind of guys he's attracted to, but without doubt, there's a wonderful guy somewhere out there who'll be a great boyfriend for him. It's not so many years ago that it was hard for gay finds to find partners, both because it was hard for gay guys to find each other, and also because the social and legal climate was so hostile. Whenever I think about that, I realise how lucky we all are today. For many years I had a really great relationship with ex-boyfriend S, and now things seem to be going well with boyfriend T. I love sharing my life my boyfriend, sharing my triumphs and failures with him, and sharing his triumphs and failures with him too. I love waking up in bed with him, cuddling him on lazy weekend mornings, and of course all the other activities that gay guys do :-). If I hadn't lived my life like this, then apart from being unhappy I'd probably have been a much less productive member of society. If the reader can get over these issues with his family, then I'm sure that he'll be able to live a happy and productive life as well.

Do any other readers have any thought on this?