19 July 2014

Changing blogs…

To anyone who might be reading this: I'm having connectivity issues with the suite of Google apps/sites, so I'm moving my blog over to WordPress. Please follow me at:


I am updating that site more often, anyway. Thanks!

06 July 2014

Are gay men weaker than straight women?

Feminists and progressives like to remind women that they don’t need a man. Their mantra is, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." The message, put simply, is that a human being is whole, is complete in and of her own person; she needs no one to complete her. There is no "other half" out there in the world who is waiting to complete her, or is in need of her in order to be complete their person. A woman can have a full and fulfilling life without being partnered with another person. She has her career, her home, her friends, her activities, and those make for a full life. If she wants, she can raise a child without a mate as well. Friends and other family are there, hopefully, to step in and help.

I believe this is true. For centuries society and religion taught women that their roles were limited to wife and mother, and that they found their completeness only within the bond of marriage. (And it’s no coincidence that “bond” was used for both marriage relationships and relationships of ownership, such as slavery or indentured servitude.) Religions even promoted the idea of "soul mate" to mythologize the bondage of marriage: the idea that God created souls, split them in half, and sent the halves out into the world into individual human beings, who are then driven to wander around until they find their other halves. Religions and societies promoted this idea in order to keep the institution of marriage, which was fundamentally about possession and economic exchange, going. They would tolerate fundamentally unhappy marriages or even spousal rape and abuse in order to preserve the institution. Women and men were essentially incomplete without being pair-bonded, even if some men could get away with being single if they were priests or explorers.

With the rise of feminism, we did away with this ideal. Human beings are complete in and of themselves. They are not half-souls wandering around the world looking for their other halves. We are all a little damaged: that’s what life does to us. But that doesn’t mean we’re broken beings until we manage to find someone to "complete" us. If and when we pair up, the relationship is formed out of our essential completeness. We may be well matched, and many people stay together for the rest of their lives. But that’s not because they’ve found their other halves. The two individuals involved were complete before the relationship started, and remain complete within it.

We tell this to women because it’s true, and because we want them to know their own essential strength as human beings. We wish well for them in society, and we know that people who spend their strength in longing for a mate are not spending their strength on themselves, on their careers, or on the world around them. We know that loneliness is a problem in life, but we also know that people who are paired with a mate still experience loneliness. It’s painful, but it, like all other pleasures and pains, passes over time. We tell women that we hope they realize their essential completeness, and that whether or not they find of relationship, it’s optional to their happiness and meaning in life. They can be complete, fulfilled and content as single people.

We tell this to women because it’s true. So why do we tell gay men the exact opposite? The emphasis for women in progressive society is to realize their completeness and to be strong. The emphasis for gay men is to find a mate and get married. All our focus as a gay community has been on partnering and marriage. Our message has become that one isn’t really a mature gay man until he has found a mate, gotten married and formed a family. Marriage and family for gay men are now seen as the hallmarks of maturity in gay men; without them a gay man is seen as stuck in adolescence, permanently self-crippled.

Why do we tell this to gay men, when we tell women the opposite? I think it’s due to this: the gay community reacted to the accusations of straight society that we were immature hedonists incapable of being a positive contribution to society. I think that’s why our first pushes for equality in the US were to be able to serve openly in the military and to be able to get married. Even housing and employment protections were secondary to seeking these rights.

And we are winning. Marriage equality is spreading through the country. Marriage equality has already come to several countries around the world. The wedding-industrial complex is salivating in anticipation of the flood of gay dollars coming into their coffers. After all, gays are seen as doing everything with great splash and elaboration, so we are bound to spend excessive amounts of money on our weddings, right?

This emphasis on marriage has led to redefining what it means to be an adult in the gay world. We aren’t considered mature until we’ve pursued marriage. If we’re single, we’re seen as not getting with the program; and that failure simply must be due to the stubborn willfulness of an extended adolescence. Single gay men are viewed as immature, incomplete. And so we tell gay men the exact opposite of what we tell women. Women don’t need a soul mate to be fulfilled. Gay men must have one in order not to be immature.

This, of course, is bullshit. Why is a woman viewed as a complete human being whether or not she is in a relationship, but a gay man is seen as fundamentally broken if he is single, especially if he is not looking? Are women and gay men from different species? Is one group human and the other not? Of course not! What has happened is that yet again, the gay community has let the larger society dictate our values to us. We reacted to their accusations of instability and immaturity by going overboard in emphasizing marriage and partnering as evidence of our maturity. Instead of being secure in ourselves, we let society dictate the terms of the debate, and then set out to prove them wrong by over-emphasizing their traditional values. This is foolishness on a community-wide scale.

So, let me be plain: if it is a human value for women, it’s a human value for gay men, too. A gay man needs no soul mate. A gay man in complete in and of himself. A gay man can be fulfilled– can have a meaningful life– while single. He doesn’t need to establish a family to be of worth to society. Singleness for a gay man is just as valuable as singleness for a woman. Human beings, female or male, gay or straight, are not half souls wandering around looking for their other halves. We are complete in and of ourselves. We need no one else to save us.

15 July 2013

Making Good Changes

I haven't posted on my blog in a while. That's because not much has changed for me until recently. I have read a lot of books in the past few months, and digested the better ones. But otherwise my life has coasted along the same: work, cat-maintenance, reading, little social life, no romantic adventures.

But I have made another major shift: due to worries about my health (my father has atrial fibrillation, which is heritable) I decided to quite caffeine entirely. That means no coffee, no tea, no chocolate, no sodas and no yerba mate. I tapered down rapidly last week, and went cold turkey over the weekend. I've had some headaches and short bouts of sleepiness, but it hasn't been as bad as I expected (I've quit caffeine before, and it's been grueling). I think the recent shift in my work schedule that allows me more sleep at night was a factor in making it a little easier this time.

So, in addition to no alcohol, I now do not take caffeine. Nor do I smoke cigarettes or do drugs. I supposed I could call myself "straight edge", but to me the label is tainted by associations with all those militant asshole sXe groups who used to go around beating up punks for smoking pot and drinking. I don't drink, smoke or whatever, but I don't plan to be an asshole about it —everyone has to be responsible for his/her own life and health. Instead of thinking of myself as "straight edge" I prefer to think of myself as "sweet edge". That has a nice ring to it. And contrary to what my friends will tell you, I'm well capable of being sweet.

Now that I've tackled the caffeine withdrawal, it's time to rethink the rest of my health. I get enough sleep now, thankfully. But I need to exercise more diligence with regard to my output. I am in the process of rethinking my diet, and I want to increase my activity levels.

As for food, I need to consider carefully what foods are good for me, and what aren't. I haven't come down to any strict food routines, but I do think I need to cut down/out all processed foods, sugars and starches. I need to cook my own meals. I want to try living off of vegetables, fruits, a few grains, and lean, organic, low-cruelty meat and fish. I'm even open to, but have not yet decided to, becoming a full vegetarian.

As for exercise, I don't know yet. Join a gym? Do yoga? Jog? One problem at a time. That's how I'll begin to manifest the healthy, fit man inside who aches to be seen.

11 June 2013

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy

I've been reading Jonathan Haidt's illuminating, enjoyable and disconcerting book The Righteous Mind (Vintage Books, 2013), and in addition to thinking about morality, the book has prompted me to think again about religion.

Religion is more than mere assent to a set of doctrines (orthodoxy). It also encompasses a set of ritual acts and normative behaviors (orthopraxy). Some religions emphasize orthodoxy over orthopraxy, and some the opposite. In religions that emphasize orthodoxy, maintaining the right beliefs is central, and behaviors and rituals are allowed more leeway. Christian fundamentalism in the US exhibits this emphasis. Note particularly how many politicians and religious leaders have committed adultery, for instance, but have been brought back into the fold as full-fledged members because they espoused the correct beliefs. Furthermore, relatively speaking, the ritual practices of US Christian fundamentalists are pared down and more loosely structured.

Religions emphasizing orthopraxy care more about one's outward behaviors and performances than about an individual's beliefs. So long as the cohesion of the religious community is upheld, the internal wrestlings of belief and doubt are less important. Much of Islam, Catholicism and Eastern Religions fall under the orthopraxy rubric.

Now, of course, these are broad generalizations, but I think they are instructive. I was raised in an orthodoxy-style religion. Faith, or the designated set of beliefs, came first, and actions followed from that. I think that is why when I came out I had such a difficult time with religion. By accepting my homosexual nature, I was eschewing a portion of the orthodoxy. Pretty soon all the orthodoxy became questionable, and I had to leave. For years afterwards I looked around for a new orthodoxy to adhere to. But eventually I couldn't find an orthodoxy that fit me.

Had I been raised in a religion that emphasized orthopraxy, would my post-coming-out have been different?

31 May 2013

The Future

I need to plan for a future. I haven't really done so yet.

When I was young, I believed I would die sometime around 30. I had no reason to believe that - but I was pretty sure of it. Instead, I came out of the closet when I turned 31, and my whole life changed. In fact, it was almost like my old life did die, and I had a new one.

The years following my coming out were about exploring that new life. And my unquestioned assumption for much of those years would be that I'd be coupled, and that my partner and I would work out the future as it approached.

But evidence now suggests I won't be partnered. I've been single for over half a decade now, and I'm not getting any younger (much less more attractive). I haven't much thought about the future. In fact, I sort of just believed, for a while, I'd die around the time I turn 65. But then I think about how I used to think I'd die around the time I turned 30, and I've exceeded that by a couple of decades already. Who knows how long this thing can go on?

So I need to start thinking about the future.

30 April 2013

Done with the Bullshit

For a long time I wondered whether I'd outlived my usefulness. Was I taking up space and resources that could go to others who would better used them?

No more.

So many other people are doing so much worse than I in the world that I no longer worry about my relative place in it. I'm no saint, but I'm no sinner either. I'm chaotic neutral, to borrow a D&D phrase, and that's just fine by me.

So fuck everyone. I'll continue to take up my few inches of space, and eat my bit of food and wear my few yards of clothing for as long as I can, and I'll drop dead whenever. Maybe I don't deserve that stuff, but I deserve it a hell of a lot more than the bulk of this population, for certain. I'm not good, but I'm for damn sure okay.

18 April 2013

Human Beings

Nothing I can write can come close to the aptness and perspicacity of Patton Oswalt's response to the Boston Marathon Bombing. If you haven't read it, please read it. If you have, maybe you'll want to re-read it as the investigation drags on, and our patience gets tested again.

I try not to think in terms of "good people" and "bad people" - there's a simple reason for this. Too often we decide who we do not like, and then label them "bad people" after the fact. That way we don't have to wrestle with the humanity of the "bad people" or consider even for a second that as human beings ourselves, we just might be "bad people", too. How many times has someone done something truly heinous – raped a schoolmate, gone on a shooting rampage, etc. – and the friends and neighbors all say, "But he was a good person!" Clearly, in this specific instance, he was not.

I try to think in terms of "good acts" and "bad acts" – and acts for me include choices and attitudes. This way I don't reduce people to simple good and bad categories, but rather assess what they do. A guy who loves his mom and buys her roses every Sunday can still be someone who rapes and murders. We call those latter actions bad.