Sunday, December 07, 2014

Christmas charity donations

Christmas treeChristmas comes but once a year, and for the past 7 years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), I've asked readers for suggestions for the charity donations that I always make at Christmas. This year there's about £1000 to give away, so don't be shy, leave a comment and tell me about your favourite charities :-). The one rule is that because of the way I do my donations, I can only donate to charities that are registered with the UK Charities Commission. I'll make the final decision about who to donate to next Sunday 14th December, so don't delay, leave a comment today!

Update 16-Dec-2014: charity donation result.

Thanks for the comments :-).

One reader suggested Ben Cohen's Stand Up Foundation. I had a look, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be a registered UK charity. Because I donate via an account that I have with, I can only donate to registered UK charities, so the Stand Up Foundation isn't eligible.

The information provided by another reader about "diseases we donate to versus diseases that kill us" was fascinating :-). That web site suggests that cancer charities get more than their fair share of donations. Nonetheless, two other readers suggested that Cancer Research (charity number 1089464) would be a worthy beneficiary, so I've given them £200.

For the rest, I've mostly gone back to charities that I've donated to in the past. Last year typhoon Haiyan had recently devastated the Philippines so I gave to the British Red Cross Philippines Typhoon Appeal. However, this year it's all about Ebola, so I've given £300 to the British Red Cross Ebola Crisis Appeal (charity number 220949) and £500 to Médecins Sans Frontières (Charity number 1026588). I come from a medical family, so the work of Médecins Sans Frontières has always seemed like a particularly worthy cause to me. I've also supported GMFA (charity number 1076854) again with a donation of £200, and as a result of a request from my sister I've given £100 to Fight For Sight (charity number 1111438).

Happy Christmas everyone :-). GB xxx

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?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Poor boyfriend K

It's early in the morning and I'm fast asleep, having been out the previous evening to see a film with my friend Close Encounters. After the film we'd met up briefly with Boyfriend K in a gay bar in Soho in central London. Boyfriend K was with some friends of his and they looked keen to party the whole night. However, I'd been out very late with Boyfriend K on the previous night and I'm feeling slightly tired, so I decided to leave them to it and go home for some rest.

But at 4:20am I suddenly I wake up to the sound of my mobile phone ringing. I can tell from the ringtone that it's boyfriend K, so I get out of bed to answer it. Luckily I manage to reach it before the voicemail kicks in:

"Hello :-)," I say in a drowsy voice, "I was asleep! How are you :-)?"

"GB, GB :-(", says boyfriend K in both a drunk and tearful voice.

"What's happened?" I ask urgently, "Are you OK?"

"No," answers boyfriend K very tearfully, "I'm not OK …"

"What on earth …"

"I've been attacked," replies boyfriend K, crying.

My first thought is that boyfriend K has been the victim of some kind of homophobic or racist attack. But it's very hard talking to him. He's clearly drunk and quite incoherent.

"There's lots of blood, GB, I don't know what's going on …"

"Where are you?" I ask anxiously, "I'm going to come and find you."

"No, hang on", says boyfriend K, "a woman who's been helping me wants to talk to you."

"Hello is that GB?" asks a calm and efficient female voice, "I'm with the London ambulance service. Your boyfriend has been assaulted, but don't worry, I think he'll be OK."

"So what's happening?" I ask her, feeling very relieved that he's in good hands and being cared for.

"Well, the police are here, taking some statements. But when they're done we're going to take him to the Accident and Emergency department at a nearby hospital to get him checked out, just to be on the safe side."

I get her to tell me which hospital they're going to take him to, but when she passes me back to carry on talking to boyfriend K, he's still very incoherent. I tell him that I'll go to the hospital and meet him there.

"No don't come, GB, don't worry, I don't want to be any trouble …"

But of course, when one's boyfriend is in a situation like this, such requests fall on deaf ears!

I quickly pull on the clothes that I was wearing the previous night, and once in the street, I manage to find a taxi quite quickly. With the early morning streets relatively empty, I end up getting to the hospital first. I wait in the area where the ambulances arrive. About fifteen minutes later, an ambulance arrives, and once the doors open I see one of the friends that I had left boyfriend K with a few hours earlier.

"Are you GB?" asks a paramedic, as she helps boyfriend K out of the vehicle.

"Yes indeed," I answer, "I guess you were the person that I spoke to earlier. Thank you so much for looking after him :-)."

When Boyfriend K emerges, he's in a sorry state. His nose and left eye are very swollen, his face is splattered with his blood, he's got various cuts and bruises, and on top of that the polo shirt that he's wearing is ripped and covered with blood too. He doesn't say much but he looks very pleased to see me.

I'm surprised to see that there's also a police officer with them. Together we all head into the hospital where we're told to sit down while they find someone to look at boyfriend K.

"There were two of them hitting boyfriend K," the friend tells me, "a man and a woman. I saw it all."

I can't help thinking that boyfriend K was lucky that he'd been with this particular friend. This guy drinks very little alcohol, so he'd have been quite sober when the incident took place and was no doubt able to help.

The policeman overhears that I'm trying to find out what happened, and joins the conversation.

"We think what happened," says the policeman, "is that boyfriend K saw the man pissing in the street and told him to stop. The woman, who we think was this man's girlfriend, told boyfriend K to mind his own business. She says that boyfriend K pushed her, and because of that the man came to defend her which is how the fight started. Once boyfriend K was on the ground and there was blood then he ran off, but thanks to the help of the security staff from a nearby bar we were able to arrest the woman."

"OK, I guess that makes sense," I say, starting to understand what might have happened. I'm mildly surprised that boyfriend K got physical by pushing the woman, but unless the incident was captured on CCTV, it'll be hard to prove who got physical first.

"When I first heard about this," I continue, "I was wondering whether it was a homophobic attack, but I guess not."

"No," answers the policeman, "It wasn't homophobic. In fact it was completely avoidable! The lesson for your friend is that he should mind his own business a bit more."

"At the moment the attack is being treated as GBH," continues the policeman, "which for now is good because that means this case gets some priority. But unless your friend loses an eye or has a brain haemorrhage or something, it'll almost certainly be downgraded to ABH. That's why I'm here, to find out from a doctor how serious the injuries are."

"So will anyone be charged with this assault?" I ask.

"There's a reasonable chance that there'll be a charge. Although the woman was arrested, it's unlikely that she'll be charged with anything. It's the guy that we'd like to catch."

"That'll be hard won't it?" I say, wondering how the system works in connection with this sort of crime.

"Well, the place where the incident occurred is being treated as a crime scene. The guy was taking a piss so we'll be able to get his DNA. If we can match that to someone's DNA in our records, then we'll be able to find him and arrest him. Of course we'll also be asking the woman who he is, but she probably won't want to tell us."

"So what's the chance of catching the guy?"

"The truth is that a lot of the people that do this sort of thing are known to us which means that we have their DNA on record. So there's a reasonable chance of catching him!"

Boyfriend K has been sitting quietly while we've discussed all this. I can tell that he's still quite drunk, and he looks very tired too. The friend who's been with boyfriend K also looks tired so I tell him that he can go home if he wants.

"I can stay for now," he answers, keen to support boyfriend K as much as possible. But with me now on the scene and much more alert than him, he soon realises that he may as well go home and get some rest.

"We've got your statement," confirms the policeman, "so you don't have to stay."

A bit later, a nurse comes and takes boyfriend K along with me and the policeman into the treatment area. We get our own cubicle, so boyfriend K sits on the treatment couch, while me and the policeman find chairs to sit on. But once he's on the couch, boyfriend K can't resist lying down, and soon it looks like he's fallen asleep.

"It'll be hard to wake him now :-|," I tell the policeman. "When he gets drunk like this and falls asleep, I generally find it absolutely impossible to wake him."

"I'm feeling tired too," says the policeman, "because I've been on duty for almost 12 hours now!"

"Wow, that a long shift isn't' it?"

"I suppose so, but it's OK," he replies. "I work for 7 days, with 11 or 12 hour shifts each day, but then I'm off for 7 days. So come tomorrow evening, I'll be relaxing with a vodka or something, looking forward to my week off :-)."

"Is this kind of incident very common?" I ask.

"Yes, very common! Most people don't realise how common it is, because although they might see something occasionally, they don't see it all the time like we do. Most of the work we get at night is dealing with drunk people and fights like this."

"I tell you," continues the policeman, "with what I know now, I could resign from the police and become a criminal, and then make enough money so that I could retire after a year or two. But of course I won't, because I've got much better morals than that."

"Is it that easy?" I ask.

"With burglars, it tends to be the stupid ones that get caught. For example, they might have a cigarette while still in the property that they're burgling, and if we find the butt end then we can get their DNA. The same thing applies if they take drink or something from the fridge. The penalties for burglary aren't that bad either. If you only get caught once in 5 years, you probably only go to jail for 6 months. You can regard it as a manageable occupational hazard."

"The penalties for dealing drugs are quite severe," continues the policeman, "but then you can make serious money from doing that, much more than you or me take home in a year. A drug dealer might have 50 clients, each spending £150 a week for three hits of cocaine. But it's much cheaper when bought in bulk. A suitcase full might cost you £30,000 but you can sell for £100,000 in a few months. Perhaps we should try the Three Strikes And You're Out law that they've got in New York, so that people go to prison for life after three offences. That would make people think twice."

We chat a bit more, but soon some of the hospital staff come along to attend to boyfriend K. Although they have a lot of trouble waking him up, they have a few tricks that eventually work, so gradually over the next couple of hours they assess him. Half way through, the policeman agrees with his sergeant over his walkie-talkie that if they charge anyone it'll be with ABH rather than GBH, so with his job done he bids us farewell.

Eventually, the conclusion is that although Boyfriend K will have a swollen nose and black eye for perhaps a week or two, he doesn't need a head scan and doesn't have a broken nose either. We get given a leaflet about head injuries, and are told we can go. On the way out, I thank all the staff that helped us. Just outside the hospital I manage to find another taxi, and soon we're back home. The time is around 9:15am.

"I'm feeling tired, but perhaps I'll have some breakfast before coming back to bed for a nap", I say to boyfriend K as he climbs into bed to get some rest.

"No," he says, looking at me lovingly, "please come to bed now."

I know that because of the state that he's in, activities aren't on the menu. Nonetheless, I'm more than happy to oblige, so I take all my clothes off too and jump into bed to keep him company for a naked cuddle :-).

Looking back, I'm very impressed at the way London's support systems handled everything. The ambulance service, the police and the hospital staff all did their jobs well. Although it'll take boyfriend K a while to recover, without all these efficient support services it would have been so much worse. I just hope that it'll be a long time before we need to find out how well these services work again!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

A gay Chinese guy who came out to his family

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a Chinese guy who had seen my post last March about a gay Chinese student with a homophobic family. He wanted to share his story with me, because he thought that his experiences would be relevant to that gay Chinese student. After I'd read the email, I thought that a lot of gay Asian guys might be interested in his story, so I asked him whether I could post his email here on my blog. After some thought he agreed, so here is his story:

I'm ethnically Chinese, though I've lived in England for most of my life. On the whole, my parents are 'progressive' - at least by Singaporean-Chinese standards (shock horror - they're letting me study a literature degree at university and, rather surprisingly, are fully on board!) - but they nevertheless espouse socially conservative values; my dad more so than my mum.

For instance, my dad was rather taken aback by the fact that my sister dated and then later married an Englishman. He had always hoped, if not expected, that we would all find Chinese spouses; at the very least, spouses of Oriental heritage. So, for the first year or so that my sister was dating her future husband, my dad did his best to avoid talking to him, and, for the most part, acted like he wasn't there...even at intimate family dinners. My dad never gave voice to his disapproval; he let his actions do all the talking. His way of venting his displeasure, as you can gather, is very passive aggressive.

Late last year (/early this year), I was forced to come out, when my dad, quite of the blue, said: “You have lots of friends who are girls, but no girlfriend; have you just not found the right girl, or are you gay?'. This caught me off guard, and, at first, I was speechless. One of my brothers had texted earlier that day to say that my dad had asked him the same question about me, but I had never anticipated that he’d confront me about my sexuality face-to-face. As I said, his style of confrontation is passive aggressive and indirect; he’s never usually so blunt.

At this point, I decided that there was no use lying: I’d known I was gay from a relatively young age, but, at the time, I had done everything I could to suppress any gay thoughts; late in secondary school, I finally came to accept my sexuality and I went through the tough process of coming out to my close friends, siblings, and even one or two close relatives; and, most importantly, from the first day of uni, I'd been out to everyone – even people I didn't like and people I barely knew.

Rather coincidentally, I had planned to tell my parents at some point during the Christmas holidays, but I had never quite found the right moment. I guess, in a rather twisted way, my dad saved me the trouble. I had played out my ‘coming out’ sequence many times in my head, and I had imagined that my parents’ reaction would be far from supportive. On that account I was right: during our brief conversation, my dad never met my gaze, but instead continued to look at his phone; for the first few seconds, he didn't speak, but when he did he simply told me that being gay was a choice I had made – in the past, homosexuality was less prevalent, and in China, it was a rare phenomenon. He suggested, rather tactlessly, that I could always choose to marry a woman instead. His worry, he claimed, was that I would grow old without children to look after me – explicitly ignoring the fact that gay couples can adopt children, or even have biological children of their own. It was patently clear that he was predominantly occupied with his own concerns, not mine.

What I hadn't anticipated was how brief the conversation was and how disinterested my dad appeared to be in what I had to say: there was no shouting, no threats of disownment. In some ways, his actual response was more disconcerting. I had always imagined that my coming out would spark some almighty debate about the religious (my mother’s Christian), ethical and social implications that a gay lifestyle would entail, and I felt I was adequately prepared to meet his objections head on: if my dad said it was unnatural, I could point to data that suggested the contrary; what’s more, I could point to the logical flaws and inconsistencies in any argument he would employ. Yet, my dad’s reticence and unwillingness to engage in what I had to say left me dumbfounded; at least if he ranted at me, I could rant back. I felt there was nothing I could do.

Over the course of the next day or so, the subject was never revived. We didn't see much of each other because family obligations kept him out of the house. In the meantime, he told my mum; she never confronted me about the subject, perhaps because she had to catch a flight the next day, and didn't want to leave things on a sour note. But, I nevertheless raised the subject with her. The circumstances were far from ideal – we were hurrying to catch a taxi to a restaurant, after several pre-prandial cocktails – and, though it was short, what she said meant a lot to me: she said that she was disappointed, but that it was her that had to change her values, not me; most importantly, she said that she loved, gay or not. The next day she left for Singapore, and so we never thrashed things out properly.

After my mum left, my dad sat me down again, and told me that I had 'really upset' my mum. I was already upset from our last conversation – I had cried and vented to a couple of friends on the phone – and his attempt to turn things on me added insult to injury. I said that if anyone seemed to be hurting, it was him. He then decided to lay into me, saying that being gay was just a phase; if anything, he suggested I might be saying that I was gay as a means of spiting him and mum.

Like our last conversation, this one was short and to-the-point; but rather than being upset, I was just angry. Before he had been tactless, now he was just being spiteful. I avoided him for the next day, till he caught his flight home to Singapore. No goodbyes, not a word.

Now, all this might paint an intensely depressing picture – and I won’t deny that I was a bit of a wreck for the following week – but I decided to take matters into my own hands; if my dad wouldn't listen to what I had to say, I would try and force him to. Instead of calling, I sent a letter. I felt this would allow both him and my mother to digest what I had to say in their own time; the next time I would see them was in Easter, during my university holidays.

The letter was long, like this post, but in it I laid out all that I had to say: I tried to answer all the objections my dad raised in our two conversations; I tried to describe the obstacles I've had to face – self-acceptance, and my fears about the future as a gay man (finding a partner, starting a family etc); and I tried to point out why my dad’s response was unfair and insensitive, unlike my mother’s.

After re-reading that letter, I think I’ve isolated four important points I made:
  • First, acceptance is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight or even in a couple of weeks; it takes time and, though it’s difficult, you should be prepared to wait for that process to happen organically. What is more, it’s a two-way process: they have to reach out to you – it’s their duty as parents – but equally you must do your best to reach out to them.
  • Second, to a certain extent, people are products of their own backgrounds and cultures. My parents grew up in Singapore (my mum) and Malaysia (my dad), societies which still cling on to quite reactionary values. I will never condone my dad’s reaction to my coming out – I think he behaved immaturely and was very hurtful – but, the least I could do was try to understand why he holds (or held – he has changed!) those values. Many people in Asia are fed propaganda that tells them that homosexuality is wrong; some may even have been told that it’s very much a ‘thing of the West’ (that’s what’s being disseminated in Uganda!). To us that may seem like complete rubbish, but, if you’ve been raised on those sorts of values, you can see why Asian parents might hold those values.
  • Third, and I’m sure this point is made in every coming out story, being gay shouldn't change how a parent perceives his/her child. It’s no use denying that being gay makes a difference on someone’s life (in practical terms, like the partner you have, how you start a family etc.), but what it shouldn't affect is the parent-child relationship. Unconditional love is certainly a difficult ideal to achieve, but it’s something we should all aim for. For my dad, family is the most important thing; he says family is integral to Chinese social values. He always says that no matter what happens, family is still family. So, in this letter, I discussed unconditional love, and said that, because I’m gay, he should re-examine his values and attitudes towards homosexuality in this light.
  • Lastly, empathy is really important. If you can get your parents to empathise with you, that’s half the battle done. Rational arguments can only go so far. With my parents, I tried to draw parallels between their situation and mine. My mum was from a wealthy Singaporean family; my dad from a relatively poor Malaysian family, headed by a single mother. If my maternal grandfather had had his way, my mum would be a society woman, married to some rich and well-connected heir. But, my grandfather allowed them to get married; he realised that his expectations were not as important as his daughter’s happiness. So, I asked my dad how he would have felt if my grandfather had forbidden their marriage, or at the least not approved. He never chose to be born in the family he was born in; I never chose to be gay.
Now, the day after I sent this letter, I received a lovely reply from my mum, saying that she’d read the letter, stayed up all night and cried; she loved me no matter what. I later heard from my auntie (who I’m really close to, who knows I’m gay, and who I also sent the letter to) that she cried because she realised what I had to go through on my own, without being able to talk to either her or my dad.

My dad never replied to my email directly, and since I've seen him he hasn't mentioned the subject again, but I know for a fact that he’s a lot more accepting. Sure, it took him a few months, but when I next saw him over the Easter, it was like everything was back to normal. Now, several more months down the line, things are great, if not even better. My mum said that my dad would never be the one to admit that he was wrong – he’s too proud, and it’s not in his nature to have deep conversations about feelings – but, to use a cliché, his actions speak louder than words: for instance, he ensured that I had a great 21st, allowing me to host an extravagant party. It may sound materialistic or superficial, but it’s much more than that because I know he must have changed on some level to be some accommodating, especially when I can be quite demanding!

To tackle the other reader's situation more directly, I’m not suggesting that he come out to his parents soon; only he can be the judge of when and how. If his parents are as stubborn and set-in-their-ways as he suggests, perhaps he should wait till after he finishes university; it would be a disaster to have to forfeit university because your parents pulled the funding.

Whilst his parents are wrong for holding the views they do, and whilst they are being unfair in the way they try to deal with the topic of homosexuality, they should not be held up to impossible standards. His parents are products of their own cultures and upbringings, and, whilst they can change, it takes time. What’s more, acceptance is a two-way process. Get to know your parents, whether that’s simply by helping out round the house, or just trying to talk about something they’re interested in. Once you make an effort to get to know them in a more personal way, they will more willing to get to know you; and hopefully, as and when you come out, they’ll try harder to be accepting.

It’s difficult when you know your parents don’t accept a part of who you are (even if you haven’t come out!). For much of my teenage years, I resented my parents because I knew their attitudes towards homosexuality; but as I matured I realised that, for all their flaws, my parents do love me and do so much for me, whether it’s simple chores like ironing, or being there to help me when I’m in trouble. When you appreciate that, it may make you more willing to give your parents time to change. Also, trying not to resent them will lift a burden off your shoulders. Resenting someone is such a draining process!

Also, if possible, try and sit your sister down: be blunt – ask her if being gay is a problem. If she says yes, ask her why. Try to reason with her, but also make an emotional appeal. Say that you’re still the same person, that you still love her, and you hope that she still loves you. Tell her that you are trying to be more understanding with your parents, but that it’s hard. If you can get her on board, and you become closer to her, it’ll make coming out to your parents when you’re ready a lot easier. The way your sister has behaved towards you is wrong, but try and be the more mature one, and reach out to her.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The gay divide

Last week, the US supreme court declined to hear a few cases relating to gay marriage. That was amazingly good news for American gay rights activists, because at a stroke, the existing law that gay marriage is allowed in the corresponding states was upheld. One of the leader articles in The Economist magazine this week picks up on this, but the title of the article is "The gay divide". The article points out that, perhaps as a result of all the victories for gay rights in the Western world in recent years, there's been a backlash elsewhere. The previous post on this blog about the harsh reality of gay life in Turkey just serves to emphasise what that article points out.

There are also two briefing articles about gay rights in The Economist this week, one with the title Marriage equality in America, and another with the title Gay people’s rights. The latter article contains a fascinating image which shows what the situation is for basic gay rights worldwide, which is as follows:

Sources: Jingshu Zhu; IGLA; The Economist

The Economist is a worldwide publication, and although in total the contents are the same everywhere, the order is different depending on where you buy the magazine. In the UK this week, the main leader article that appeared on the front cover was this article about "The gay divide". I can't help wondering whether they also had the courage to put the same article on the cover in Africa.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The hurtful cycle: emails from a guy guy in Turkey

A couple of months ago, a reader who lives in Turkey sent me the following email:

I'm a 33 year old single guy living in a small city in Turkey. It's been roughly 10 years since I accepted myself as gay, and stopped completely hating myself. Since then, I've fooled around with more guys than I care to admit, but the fact that I never had any kind of serious relationship is sadder and more discomforting to me. I can explain this away by having worked in small and conservative cities, still having to stay with my family. Most of the gay guys my age are closeted and married etc, but it still doesn't feel right. Frankly, my work and family life is not all fun and games and there's little I can do to improve them, so I really crave that special intimacy that I somehow still believe I can find on the net.

So the thing I do is, I spend my whole time away from my job on IRC chat rooms (it is still the most popular platform here due to anonymity and being instantaneous) trying to communicate with all kinds of unpleasant people ranging from time killers/wasters to liars to paedophiles who all challenge my patience and sanity most of the time. Just like life itself, the net isn't always full of good, caring people and we all know that, but I don't seem to come across the good ones. The best-case scenario is that I exchange phone numbers or hang out briefly with someone from whom I never hear from again. I strongly feel that some dull, casual sex doesn't make up for the time and energy I invest in chat rooms, but I also can't stay away from logging in either, because I have no other way to socialize that I'm aware of.

And so, this weird, addiction-driven cycle goes on and on, making me even more depressed, desperate and frustrated by the day. I began to suspect that I might not be as mentally sound as I'd like myself to be anymore, and I would really like to see myself spending my time doing things that would make me happier without thinking about the imaginary guys I might have been missing on the net. I can't seem to figure out how to break this excruciating, mentally draining cycle and would love to hear some different perspective.

P.S. Consider this email a thank you for your amazing blog. I'm pretty sure that it helps people in certain situations who need different perspectives.

I often forget how hard it can be to be gay outside the increasingly homo-friendly Western countries. Although the reader was asking for different perspectives, since I live in the UK I had no idea what kind of advice I could offer to someone living in Turkey. So I decided that the best thing to do would be to publish the email in this "Reader's stories" category, and then perhaps other readers would be able to offer some alternative perspectives.

When the email first arrived I had been on holiday, so it was a couple of weeks before I sent the reader a reply telling him that I wanted to publish his email. In my reply, I apologised that it had taken me a long time to get back to him, and eventually after about another week he sent me the following:

Dear GB,

I can't say my reply was instant either, because I've just returned from a brief holiday. There, I hung out with a guy that I see literally once a year, but apparently and interestingly it's enough for both of us, and it was nice. Your reply has been both surprising and welcome to me, because it has been some time since I had sent my mail and I had re-read what I had written a couple of times and thought "What a loser". Indeed, even though heartfelt, what I wrote just sounded like dull words from a spineless, whining guy. Maybe true, maybe not, but I seldom like what I write anyway. So thank you, I really appreciate you caring for other people's problems and actually replying them.

Big cities like Istanbul are actually so much better, but being gay in a smaller city and dealing with closeted people is very difficult indeed. They generally shy away from any kind of relationship and intimacy because of the obvious reasons. Did you know that we use the word "active" for tops and "passive" for bottoms? To me, this in itself implies that bottoms are inferior. Most of the time "active" people tend to be married, closeted homophobes who just happen to love anal sex, or at least this is what they tell themselves. This is because being a fag and "taking it in the ass" is the most dreaded position a man can lower himself to. When you chat, they even have the nerve to call you a fag or a cocksucker if they get upset, even when they are on the giving end. A very recent chat of mine (actually yesterday):

X: Are you married?
Me: Yes. (I lied deliberately just to see where the conversation will lead me to)
X: How old is your wife?
Me: Sorry, I haven't gone low enough to serve my wife to some guy just to get laid.
X: Did you go low enough to be a fag and take it in the ass?

People ask you if you're married all the time either because they actually want to fuck your supposed wife or because they think that single man are not to be trusted. By the way, being a single male in Turkey more or less means you're a second-class citizen. You can't go to a bar and have fun with your male friends. You can't socialize with married couples. You go to a beach or a park or a restaurant and you may have a separate place reserved for singles (or families). People may think you are a vagrant, a liability, a hazard for the well-being of the happily married couples. Or even worse, they think you're gay. That's why most of the male population is married, the society demands them to do so. To reiterate, even gay people demand you to be married, otherwise they don't trust you. Then I retaliate: Who will trust you when you are constantly cheating on your wife? But I bet they don't even classify it as cheating.

Well, this is what it's like living in a closeted environment, but I have good friends that I chose to come out to, which is a blessing for me. We rarely talk about it, but it's good to know I that I have nothing to hide from the people I love.

Best Wishes

I found his suggestion that "… even gay people demand you to be married …" particularly disturbing.

I'll let the reader have the final word here, so I've posted the last email that I received from him below. If any other readers have any thoughts on his situation, then I'm sure the he'd be interested.

Let me add a thing or two. Not that I had a "chance" to jeopardize a potential love affair because of my polygamous behaviour, but I too like being with different guys every now and then. But when I do and really like the guy, I often feel a need to be closer to him which proves impossible most of the time. Really liking someone and saying goodbye right after having sex still breaks my heart, but time after time I guess I kind of got used to it. I wish I could be a 100% slutty guy, then I would have sex freely with whomever I please and would never look back. Maybe that would alleviate most of my problems concerning relationships. Now that I think of it, I realize that oftentimes I feel bad rather than good after having sex. If I acted on my impulses and I did it with a person who was in fact not really for me, I feel guilty and dirty afterwards. If it was a person who was just my type, then my heart gets heavy knowing that we'll probably never meet again. Sex is supposed to be fun and liberating, right? If you're not actually free, I guess not.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Email from a family man about gay pleasure

Around the start of August, a reader sent me an email with the title "Gay pleasure". The text of the email was as follows:

Dear GB,

I've only just discovered your blog. It's impressive. I had googled "oriental gay sauna story" and there it was - a link to your friends Amsterdam experience. Then I read the rest of your writing. I envy you.

I was promiscuously gay at school. Then followed about 30 years of being straight after which during the last 10 or so years I have returned to being increasingly gay again.

I'm still in the closet - with a family to be otherwise is difficult - but I adore particularly slim smooth Asian/oriental guys. I have a special friend who is a Chinese tgirl and who is completely uninhibitedly sexy!!

But I'm keen to learn and do more. Where to go and how to do it?

I'm mature and tall with dark hair and a short greying beard but my body is fairly smooth. I'm not obese but not skeletal either!! I have yet to try a sauna as I am not yet confident enough. Will my age, size and small penis put guys off?

What I really like to slow soft tender kissing and undressing and being naked in bed with a like-minded guy. It's the returned affection that excites me.

I'd love to know how/when you began and also any advice you might have.

Please do reply. Yours,

Within a few days I'd sent him a reply, and in my email I'd included the following paragraph:

My interpretation of your phrase "family man" is that you're married with a wife and children, and if so I have the impression that there are quite a few married guys like you who realise in their middle age that they enjoy gay *activities* with other guys. Although I had problems accepting my sexuality, I was in my 20's when I came out so my situation is very different to yours because I never even had a girlfriend, let alone got married.

After a couple of days I received his reply:

Dear GB,

How sweet of you to reply!! I'll look forward to reading your advice/comments!!

I'm hopeless at Gaydar and so am searching for other ways to meet guys. The old Philbeach Hotel was great but sadly has closed. If you know of any cute oriental guys who are looking for a shy sensitive affectionate older man for fun then please introduce me!!


I'd never heard of the old Philbeach Hotel, so we exchanged another couple of emails in which he told me it had been a huge gay friendly hotel in Philbeach Gardens near Earls Court. He said that on Monday nights they used to have an open bar for tgirls and their admirers, and that there's now a raunchier version called Sweet Wednesday at Central Station behind Kings Cross. I'd never heard of either event because as an ordinary gay man I'm interested in men, and not at all interested in men that look like women.

Long-time readers of the blog will be aware that boyfriend K and my previous two boyfriends are Asian, so I do know something about gay Asian guys. The younger Asian guys that I know, actually all the younger guys that I know, are very internet literate and big users of smartphones etc. So when the reader says that he's "hopeless at Gaydar", it's not very helpful. It means that he's avoiding inhabiting the kind of places where he's likely to find gay guys that he's interested in. Perhaps more importantly, it also means that he's likely to seem like a complete dinosaur to the younger generation, and dinosaurs aren't very attractive creatures.

However, if this reader does want to try and become a little more tech-savvy, Gaydar may not be the best place to start. I'm always amazed by my friend Close Encounters, who admitted to me a few months ago that he's got at least 14 different gay cruising apps on his smartphone. These days, smartphone apps rather than web-sites is the way to go! The most famous mobile gay cruising app is of course Grindr, but the one that I'd recommend for this reader is Jack'd because Jack'd seems to be slightly more popular with Asian guys than Grindr.

Another thought is that the reader should go on holiday to Asia. The bank robber Willie Sutton is quoted as saying that he robbed banks "because that's where the money is" (although apparently he never actually said it)! So if someone is interested in Asian guys then they should visit Asia. The most gay friendly tourist destination in Asia is probably Thailand, so that would be a good place to start. Indeed, one gay friend of mine visited Phuket and fell in love with one of the younger Thai guys that he met there. So my friend kept on visiting this guy in Phuket, and eventually the two of them became boyfriends.

Thailand would also be a good choice given that the reader is interested in tgirls because the country is famous for its ladyboys (กะเทย in Thai). I don't know how much TV the reader watches, but a year or two ago the UK TV channel Sky Living did a series of documentaries about ladyboys. The documentary featured some British guys who had moved to Thailand to make a new life for themselves living with ladyboy partners. One guy was called Scott, and he helped his partner set up a ladyboy bar in Pattaya. I also recall that there was also another British guy who had previously been married to a woman in the UK. I can't remember the name of the other guy, but I do remember seeing one episode where the guy's son went to Thailand to visit his father and meet his father's new partner.

The reader asks whether his "… age, size and small penis [will] put guys off" in a sauna situation. I'm sure it's true that young, lean, well-endowed guys will be more popular. However, it's generally true that somewhere there will be guys who would be interested in someone like the reader, although as discussed in the previous paragraph if it's Asian guys that the reader is interested in then it'll be much easier to find such guys in Asia. If he does manage to visit Thailand then I would recommend that the reader visits the Babylon sauna complex in Bangkok. As far as I know, Babylon is still the best gay sauna to be found anywhere in the world, and nowhere that I've ever visited comes close.

Nearer home, if the reader wants to visit a standard gay bar in London then I'd suggest Ku bar in Chinatown near Leicester Square. Ku bar and the Yard are the favourite gay bars in Soho for the younger Asian gay guys that I know.

Lastly, I can't help thinking that at some point the reader should try and be more honest with his family about his sexual preferences. I'm sure that we all understand why he feels the need for secrecy, but over long periods of time, living a lie with his family is likely to have a very corrosive effect on his happiness. It's very sad to hear of a middle aged man who can't be honest about what he wants with people that are close to him in his life. If he doesn’t try and sort it out at some stage, then my best guess is that he'll end up as a bitter and closeted old queen :-|.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Feeling nuts :-)

Earlier this month, I got an email from a guy who's involved with a movement called #feelingnuts. The movement is about preventing testicular cancer, which I know is very important because of the experience that a friend of mine had.

A few years ago, this friend of mine was in bed playing around with his boyfriend, when his boyfriend felt something unusual in my friend's testicles. This was very lucky because it did indeed turn out to be testicular cancer, and as a result of this early detection, my friend is still alive today. He ended up having the offending testicle removed and replaced by an artificial (prosthetic) testicle, so that if you look at my friend when he's got his pants down, he'll look like a normal naked guy. I've never felt my friend's artificial testicle, but I'm reliably told that it feels convincing too!

So to all the guys who are reading this, check yourselves and you boyfriend(s) regularly :-). The six steps that you need to follow can be found in this the following handy video:

Please watch and share the video with all your friends. And finally, in case it helps, the #feelingnuts movement can be followed on all the usual social media web sites:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Email from a guy who's in love with an attached man

At the start of June, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

Recently discovered your blog and I'm addicted! You give great advice and I love reading about your relationships. I am in a situation that I hope you can give me some advice on.

I'm in my mid-twenties, and am newly out to some family members and close friends. I met a guy six months ago via a hook-up site. We had fun and established a "friends with benefits" type situation. He has a boyfriend for many years, and they are in an open relationship. I knew this going in and had no problems with it. However, after a couple months in I have developed strong feelings for him.

I shared these feelings for him and he was very kind and understanding about things. He was honest and told me he doesn't feel the same but he liked our arrangement and friendship. I told him that I would be fine and that I wanted to continue to see him and we have since resumed our "friends with benefits" arrangement.

I am confused and am unsure of myself and my emotions. We text almost daily and I really enjoy having him as a friend and do not want to lose him. There are days when I feel I'll be OK, but also days where I hate myself for getting in this situation to begin with. He is in almost every way my ideal guy but he has made it clear he does not feel the same and would never leave his boyfriend.

Am I playing with fire, waiting to get burnt? I'm afraid my feelings will only intensify and I will get hurt badly down the road, but I can't convince myself to end things with him either. What should I do?


After I'd read his email, I couldn't help thinking that it was already too late for him to avoid being "burnt" as he put it. So I sent him a reply in which I included the following paragraph:

My quick thoughts are that your arrangement with this guy won't ever go any further. But I can't help wondering whether this guy has any single friends which he could introduce you to. If you like this guy, then it's possible that you may like some of his friends, so perhaps you could use him to help you find the boyfriend that you deserve? In any case, I think you need to find other guys to date, because the longer that this goes on the more that you'll be hurt :-|.

Within a few hours he'd sent me the following:

Hi GB - awesome getting a reply from you so soon! Thanks so much !

I have broached the topic of him introducing some friends of his who are single to me but he kinda shrugged it off in the past. I don't think I would want to bring it up again.

I feel pathetic because I don't want to give up what we have even though I know the feelings are one sided. I'm rational enough to understand feelings can't be forced, etc. The moments we share I cherish so much. I've never felt this way for a guy before that it scares me.

Take care !

I was glad that the reader had had the idea himself of trying to get his lover to introduce him to potential boyfriends, but I was disappointed and somewhat surprised at the casual way in which his lover seemed to have declined. However, it made me feel more strongly that the "friends with benefits" relationship wasn't good for the reader. So I sent the reader another email to tell him that I'd do this "Dear GB" posting for him, and at the bottom of the email I said:

It'll probably take me a few weeks to get round to doing the posting for you, so meanwhile, just think about this. If this attached guy really cared for you then he'd want you to be happy. By keeping you available as a "friend with benefits", and also by not introducing you to guys who might be able to become your boyfriend, then he's being exceptionally selfish. How can you love such a selfish guy?

Again reader replied quite quickly:

He's told me that I shouldn't not see others on account of him, and that we'll still meet even if I do. Maybe I'm just blinded but I truly don't think he's being selfish at all. A friend of mine who I shared this with did tell me that no truly good person would continue this friends with benefits relationship knowing one party is more invested than he is.

Her advice and where your advice seems headed does make me think. Perhaps my sense of judgement is just impaired.

Thanks for your responses. You're awesome ! Look forward to your posting.

A few years ago, I think I said that straight guys learn all about love and relationships in their teenage years, whereas that doesn't necessarily happen for gay guys. Gay guys and girls may hide their sexuality while they're teenagers, and in that case they don't learn how to handle their emotions until they eventually come out. My guess is that's exactly what's happened to this reader, because he said that he only recently came out, and it sounds very much as though he's got a teenage crush on this guy that he met on the hook-up site. So as he rightly started to wonder in his last email to me, his judgement is indeed impaired.

It seems clear to me that the guy that the reader has the crush on hasn't been very good for the reader. The reader must have told the guy that he only recently came out, and I had been that guy, I like to think that I'd have done much more to help the reader start enjoying a gay lifestyle. Instead, the guy declined to think about whether he had any friends that might become the reader's boyfriend, and has continued the "friends with benefits" arrangement even though he must surely know that the reader is going to end up hurt.

The emails that I exchanged with the reader were trying to push the reader to realise this all himself, and in his last email it did indeed seem like the reader was starting to wake up to the reality of his situation. It's been several weeks since we were last in contact, so I hope in that time he's been able to start looking for other guys, and spending less time with the guy in the open relationship. But if he is still seeing him, then my advice would be to stop seeing him immediately!

Do any other readers have any thoughts about this?

Friday, June 27, 2014

GB featured in Evening Standard Magazine :-)

A few years ago, I did a phone interview for a journalist who worked for London's Time Out Magazine. The result was that I was one of the bloggers who was featured in an article called "The Sex Diaries".

History has now repeated itself, but this time it's the turn of London's Evening Standard Magazine! Today's issue contains an article called "Sex on file" and one of the bloggers who gets a mention is me :-). They've taken an extract from quite an old article (Black tie), and although it might have been better if they'd used something a bit more recent, it's nice to get a mention :-).

Email about relationships and fear of intimacy

Last month, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

We've communicated a few times, and I appreciate your insights in relationships, gay male interactions, and other issues.

Anyway, so I've been out to friends since I was 15, and I'm now 20. Throughout this period, I haven't come out to my family, and I'm not likely to do so anytime soon since I come from a very conservative Muslim family. I've dated a few guys, and slept around a lot, but never really had a relationship. There were 2 attempts lasting more than a month, both of which failed dismally because I never invested in them so I ended up cheating, not caring about the other party, and leaving the first chance I got. I suspect that those 'relationships' even lasted longer than a month, 4 months with one and slightly over a month for the other, because I knew they wouldn't lead to anything. In the instances that I've actually connected with a guy, I've managed to push him away much much faster, and with such skill :). There's usually a lot of pressure and, simultaneously, I end up feeling inadequate, plus feeling that I'm being conned somehow, and setting out to ruin his opinion of me, besides finding fault with everything about him (too short, too tall, too smart, too good-looking, too considerate, etc.). I've been told that this constitutes a fear of intimacy, the causes of which I'm not sure of. Thing is, I actually do want to be in a relationship. I'm not desperate or anything; I do quite well alone cause of less drama and insecurities to confront, but I also realize that my current situation may be unhealthy and detrimental to future happiness. I know you're not a mental health specialist so I'm not asking for a diagnosis and a prescription, but I would greatly appreciate your opinion and suggestions, including how to handle future cases with potentials, and maybe a few anecdotes of how you've dealt with such issues.

Kind regards,

I didn't recognise the name that he put at the bottom of the email, or the email address, so I sent him a reply in which I asked him when we'd communicated in the past. In the email, I also included the following thoughts about his problem:

In terms of mental health specialists, one thing that occurs to me is that you've made your own diagnosis. I think that's a very good sign for you :-). I can tell from your email that you're a smart guy, and in these situations working out where the problem lies is more than half of the battle to sorting yourself out.

Another thought is that you should try and build your self-esteem. The fact that you say that you feel inadequate suggests that your self-esteem could be better. I know that some guys with low self-esteem sabotage their relationships because they don't feel worthy of having a nice boyfriend.

Within a day the reader had sent me his response, in which he told me that I'd done a couple of "Dear GB" posts for him in the past. The first post was in 2011 with the title Email from a frustrated young gay guy. Looking back at that email confirmed to me what I thought from reading his latest email, namely that he's a smart guy, because that old email was very well written and entertaining. The second "Dear GB" post, with the title Email about Asian-discrimination and penis size was also very well written, and in terms of the number of comments it received, it was a very successful post for this blog.

Once cause for concern is the change of tone that's evident between this reader's first email and the email that he sent me last month. The first email had a happy-go-lucky feel about it, the second email contained some disillusionment, whereas his last email is saying that things aren't really working out for him.

My second boyfriend (ex-boyfriend P, a.k.a. boyfriend number 2) was a Muslim, so I know something about the problems that the reader must face. It could well be that family pressure has a lot to do with the way he feels about his life. The fact that he's not Out to his family is the first important thing that he mentions in the email here, and now that he's grown up a bit, there must be some (or more) family pressure to conform and lead a straight life. It's hard for anyone to develop lasting relationships in that environment, so the amateur psychologist in me does wonder whether that is the source of his fear of intimacy.

However, the reader's behaviour with friends and on the gay scene suggests that in private he doesn't have a problem accepting the fact that he's gay, and that's obviously a good thing. I think he's right that his "current situation may be unhealthy and detrimental to future happiness", because having a life partner is a very natural for most people. My own experience suggests that that in the long term people are much happier if they end up in a good relationship. But how can he achieve that given his Muslim background and (perhaps) unsupportive family?

He hasn't told us anything about what he studied (or is still studying) as a student, whether his work life might end up being related to his family in some way, or whether he's going to try and follow his own career. Obviously in his situation it would probably be better to try and follow his own career if possible. Beyond that, it seems to me that the best course of action for him is to do what I suggested in my recent email to him, namely to build up his self-esteem. That simply means trying to make a success of all the different projects and activities that he's involved with. Success in one area of life naturally flows in other areas because successes help to build confidence.

In my response to the reader's first email, I already told him to take any potential relationship slowly, and that's certainly always good advice. Apart from that, I'd simply suggest being open about the issues that he has at the appropriate time as any relationship develops. For example, whenever I find myself dating, eventually the subject of past boyfriends comes up and why those relationships failed. The next time that happens to this reader, he might consider opening up about the kind of things that he put in the email here. Honesty and trust are two of the most valuable commodities in any relationship so he certainly shouldn't try to hide anything.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on these matters?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Email from a gay Asian guy about his boyfriend

At the end of April, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

Just a bit of a short introduction, I have been reading your blog for a bit and might I say it is a truly great blog to read! It's nice to see how someone can be honest about their life as well as their struggles as a person. And I do apologise in advance if this email is a bit too long.

I myself am currently a student here in the UK and will be moving down to London later on this year due to my Training Contract. I come from Indonesia and due to my cultural background and all, have only accepted the fact that I am gay about 3 years ago. I am only out to a very select group of people and still thinking about what I'm gonna say to my family when the time comes I guess.

Ok, but that's beside the point of why I wrote this email. I am currently in a relationship of 2 years with my boyfriend who is a local guy. He's a good 9 years older than me and I just fell nicely into the N/2 + 7 rule that you've made. We've been together for 2 years but of course throughout those two years we've had a few major fights and almost break-ups. Later on this year I will be moving down to London and although at first he wanted to move in with me, due to his financial conditions he can't. So I am rather nervous at how things are gonna turn out for the next year, before (hopefully) he'll move down to London to join me.

I have just read your post about your boyfriend K, and you mentioned that you loved him, and that you try to explain this because you can't get your mind of him, you worry about him etc. For me now I am asking the same question to myself about my bf, do I really love him? One thing that's been bothering me is that a curiosity to look at what's out there. I am currently 23, and my current bf is my first ever relationship. So sometimes I do feel scared if I've gone into this a bit too fast. Questions like "Am I missing out on something?" or "Have I settled too early?" sometimes pop into my head especially when things are not going well between us. And I do feel afraid that I am not doing justice to his feelings to me because I have these doubts sometimes.

Well that's about it I guess. I know it's not that interesting I suppose, but yeah would appreciate it if you can share some of your life advice to me! (:

Keep on posting!

I send him a quick reply to tell him that I'll probably get round to posting his email within a few weeks, and the next day, I find the following email from him in my inbox:

Hi GB,

I wasn't expecting such a swift reply from you! I only started going through your blog a few days ago so have yet to go through everything, there's an insane amount of posts, but they're brilliant though. (:

I have to say you do have a lot of experience with gay Asian guys! I do think my situation is rather similar with ex-boyfriend P, although I was raised in Indonesia. I have spent my life living abroad since I was 16. I studied in Singapore for 4 years, so the mention of Boat Quay does bring back some old memories (:

I have also accidentally stumbled on your writings about ex-boyfriend T and I guess I do identify myself with him quite a bit as well, with the familial situations, him not opening up to his straight friends that he's gay, trying to get a job abroad to escape from the so-called straight facade, and many others.

And your posts about infidelity is definitely interesting, a view that I myself hold to be honest, but again this has given rise to a lot of conflicts with me and my bf, as he doesn't hold the same views and all.

I do have a feeling that I will be reading so much more of your blog in the coming weeks! (A good break from studying for my final exams haha).

Thank you so much for your reply and apologies for this rambly email. Just wanted to tell you how great your blog is, and I do hope maybe we can be friends and talk more in the future. I feel like I have so much to learn!

Best regards,

If the reader has a good relationship with his boyfriend, then there are a lot of reasons to try and keep it going. In the gay world it's easy to find opportunities for activities with other guys, but genuine love is hard to find. Also, it's true that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, so ending the relationship might well be something that the reader regrets a few months down the road if he discovers that life as a single gay man in London isn't what he expected.

Whenever a reader writes to me about his boyfriend, whatever the subject, I always think that the reader should be finding a way to talk to his boyfriend instead of emailing me. It seems that the main issue is the reader's curiosity, and by that I assume he means a curiosity about activities with other guys, rather than e.g. whether there any gay footballers playing in the world cup next month. Curiosity to experience activities with other guys might be satisfied by making the relationship more open, which is certainly a discussion that the reader could have with his boyfriend. If the reader's boyfriend does indeed love the reader, then given their age difference the boyfriend should be able to understand everything that the reader put in the emails to me.

The reader mentions that since he got together with his boyfriend two years ago, they've had a few major fights and almost break-ups. My experience dating ex-boyfriend T and boyfriend K (who're originally from different countries in Asia) is that the period at the start of both relationships was quite difficult. Misunderstandings can arise relating to the Western-Asian cultural differences, and other misunderstandings can arise relating to language problems, assuming that communication occurs in English which is not the native language of the Asian guy. In my case, other misunderstandings related to what it means to be in a relationship. On my side, with memories of how previous relationships worked, I was expecting too much too soon. On the other side, relationships do involve some loss if independence because one has to take some account of one's boyfriend, and it took both ex-boyfriend T and boyfriend K a while to get used to that. However, over time all these difficulties should disappear.

Finally, I'm wondering whether the reader and his boyfriend have discussed what kind of long term future they might have together? Is the reader planning to stay in the UK? If not, then unless the boyfriend is willing to relocate to be with the reader, it might be best to end the relationship so that the boyfriend can start looking for a relationship that does have a long term future.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this situation?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Email from a guy with internalised homophobia

There's a pending "Dear GB" listed in my right-hand side-bar with the title "Email from a guy with internalised homophobia". At present, I'm planning to do the posting next month. However, it would be useful if the guy who sent me the email could get in touch again. GB xxx

Update 21-May-2014: the guy who sent me the email never got in touch with me :-(. It seemed to me that the attitude of his family to gay people had left a terrible impression on him, which he's been struggling with (often unsuccessfully) for over ten years. I don't want to responsible for making his mental health any worse, so I've decided not to post his email after all.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The difficulties of living with a Thai boyfriend

An English guy I know called M started dating a Thai guy called J last summer, and within a few months, they had moved in to live together. I don't see M very often, but last week the two of us went out for dinner on our own to catch up with each other. I arrive at the restaurant first, so I install myself at the bar and start looking at their wine list while I wait for M to arrive.

"Hi GB," says M suddenly, "good to see you :-)."

"Hey M :-), " I answer, "good to see you too! I was just perusing their wine list, so I didn't see you come in."

"Find anything good?" asks M.

"Well, look at this. A 2007 Latricières-Chambertin for £155 a bottle. But Grand Cru red Burgundy should generally be much older than that before it's sensible to drink them, don't you think?"

"I don't know, GB," replies M smirking, "I think you're a bit of a wine snob sometimes! It's probably a very nice bottle :-)."

We decide to sit at the bar for G+T aperitifs, and once we've ordered our drinks we start chatting.

"How's it going with J?" I ask.

"Mostly fine," answers M with a slightly hesitant voice.

"Hmmm," I say, sensing a slight reluctance in M to open up, "*mostly* fine doesn't sound too good :-|. What does the *mostly* mean?"

"Well, sometimes J can be absolutely impossible!" replies M, "so I can't help thinking that it's not going to last. But I can't bring myself to break up with him. A lot of the time he's absolutely adorable. When he's being difficult, I just think of his gorgeous pert naked male body and that always makes me feel better :-)."

Without doubt M's boyfriend J is quite cute, so for a second or two I enjoy imagining what J must look like when he's lying naked on a bed prior to activities.

"Perhaps, M, it's you who's the difficult one?" I ask, playing devil's advocate. "In any case, you don't seem to have a very good track record recently of finding suitable boyfriends."

"That's last comment certainly has some truth in it, GB!"

I decide to try and get a bit more alcohol into M before asking any more about his relationship with J, so I start talking about some of our mutual friends while we finish our G+T's.

A little later, the restaurant staff invite us to sit down at a table and order some food. As usual, I'm more interested in the wine list!

"So do you fancy that young Burgundy then?" I ask M.

"If you think it's too young, what about a decent claret instead?" suggests M.

"Well they've got Talbot 2000 for £125, that should be OK. I've got a few bottles of that in my wine cellar at home, and I reckon it's drinking quite well at the moment :-)."

"Then Talbot 2000 it is!" replies M, seeming anxious not to make too much fuss about the wine.

We place orders for food and the wine, and a bit later, I start asking about J again.

"Do you think there's a bit of a culture clash between you and J?" I ask at a suitable point in the conversation.

"Well like you GB, I like having Asian boyfriends :-). I think it's fascinating learning about their culture, and of course all the Asian countries are different. Most Thais are Buddhists, and that does give them a different outlook on life to guys like us who were brought up in the UK."

"I know some Thai guys and their mostly pretty chilled :-)," I say. "I always remember the Buddhist saying 'Today is better than two tomorrows'".

"Yeah, that saying is perfect because it explains why they're all so spontaneous. They do often focus on Now, i.e. Today rather than Tomorrow, which in many ways is a great way to live. It is a potential source of conflict between me and J, because I think a bit of forward planning doesn't hurt. But I'm happy to be more spontaneous so I don't think that that aspect has ever been a problem."

"The problem," continues M, opening up a bit now, "is that his spontaneous nature means that when J is upset, his memory is very short. If I accidently upset him, he'll focus on the Now which is being upset, and forget all the positive things about our relationship and all the good things that I've done for him. Since we got back from Thailand a few months ago, we seem to have a serious mis-understanding about once a week. So once a week we go through an episode where he'll want to split up with me :-(. But then he calms down, the J that I love reappears, and everything settles down. The highs and lows in terms of the way he feels about me are much more extreme than anything that I've experienced before."

"But what causes the mis-understandings?" I ask.

"Sometimes there is a communication problem," replies M. "J's English is reasonable, but he's not native. Sometimes he'll be a bit lazy when talking to me and won't be sufficiently explicit. I'll then try and guess what he meant, and if I get it wrong, that can cause a problem."

"But sometimes," continues M, "I'm at a complete loss as to what's going on in his mind. The most ridiculous incident occurred a couple of weeks ago when our rubbish bin in the kitchen needed repairing because the lid wouldn’t stay closed. The spare part that was needed arrived and I asked J not to try and sort it out, because I'd already asked someone else to do it and I didn't want J to waste his time. That simple request caused a lot of problems. Two days later when he'd calmed down, I had a chat with him and I *think* he became upset because he thought that I thought he wasn't competent to do the repair. But to be honest, I'm still not sure! I've never ever suggested that he's incompetent about anything so why on earth would he ever think such a thing?"

"He's quite young isn't he?" I ask.

"Yes I know about your N/2+7 rule, GB," answers M, "and it's true that on that basis he is too young for me! But only just. Anyway, in a couple of years' time we'll be in compliance with that rule :-)."

"I'm not sure future compliance is relevant," I laugh.

"What about other stuff?" I continue, "For example, do you get on OK with each other's friends?"

"Yeah, I think we do actually," answers M. "One good thing is that all his Thai friends seem to like me :-). A few weeks ago, I went out for a drink with one of his closest friends when J was out working. The friend asked me nervously how solid me and J were. I said something like 'mostly OK', and I'm sure he understood the kind of problems that we were having because he went on to confide in me that he thinks J is sometimes a bit childish. Although I think I'd worked that out for myself!"

"Well that's a good sign," I say, "if you can have that kind of conversation with J's friends."

"In any case," says M, "I've very much fallen in love with J, so even though my logical brain sometimes tells me that I should split up with him, my heart won't let me! I fall in love far too easily, don't I?"

"Perhaps," I say, "but I don’t think there's anything wrong with that! Too many gay men won't commit to a relationship because they keep thinking that the next guy they get into bed with will be better than their current favourite. At least you don't have that problem :-)."

"Anyway," says M changing the subject, "how are you and boyfriend K?"

"Just like you, 'mostly OK' :-)," I answer cryptically, grinning at M.

I pour us both another glass of claret and tell M a bit about what's been going on with boyfriend K, but soon we're tired talking about our boyfriends and the conversation drifts on to other subjects.

"Well next time, let's not leave it so long before catching up!" I say to M at the end of the evening.

"Absolutely :-)," replies M. "It's been really good to see you GB!"

I'm not sure how long M and J will last. However, if any readers have any experience of gay relationships between English and Thai guys and you have any ideas that might make M and J's relationship work better, then please leave a comment and I'll pass it on :-).