Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Seriously In Denial

While surfing the net I came across an article in the online edition of U.K.'s New Statesman. A guy who called himself "Howard Lake" told of "My Night in a Gay Sauna." He sort of describes himself as being what we might call "bi curious," but comes off more as bisexual or gay. He'd always had these feelings apparently, and one night "after six pints" he went to explore them in a gay bath house. He had sex with a man, enjoyed it, but is convinced that he is, after all, straight, and will "probably" never go back to the bath house. "I know one less question to ask in my next relationship -- with a girl," he writes. Well... his next relationship may well be with a "girl" but that doesn't mean this guy is straight. "Straight" guys don't go to saunas looking for men to have sex with.

I'm not quite certain why the New Statesman even published this article. What was the point of it? Who was it written for? Conflicted "straight" guys? Gay men who are wondering about straights? Straights who wonder about gays? There's nothing particularly edifying or informative about the piece, and I can't figure out why the editors of the New Statesman would even think anyone would find it that interesting, or see any real value in it. It just comes off like a chance for this sad guy to supposedly prove to himself and the world that he's really hetero, when all he manages to do is pretty much indicate the opposite.

The responses to the article were predictable. His heterosexuality was, wisely, called into question by one correspondent. Another -- a female, I believe -- felt he really was straight, because apparently her boyfriend is, too, "85 days out of 100." She writes that "she wouldn't have it any other way." I think this gal is in as much denial as Howard is.

Now it's possible that the person with the 85% straight/15% gay boyfriend is a man. Oy vey! For the life of me I can't figure out or relate to these guys [a dying breed, I hope] who even after they have sex with a particular man still think of him as "straight." This is sheer idiocy. It smacks of these horribly old-fashioned "queens" who think "straight guys" are the ultimate treat -- an attitude that can best be described as pre-Stonewall, to say the least.

Of course, someone brought up the notion of bisexuality, and while I've been cynical on the subject, I have to say that he or she was right in that Howard should at least consider the notion that it's not always an "either/or" situation, that he could be bisexual. But if Howard is genuinely bisexual -- a big if in my opinion -- he sounds like the kind of conflicted bi who may want, even prefer, sex with men but will need to have that girlfriend or wife to show to the world. [I could devote a whole column to this kind of person -- there are so damn many of them -- and in the near future I will.]

What did I have to say. Here it is:

I think that "Howard" -- and the gal who thinks her boyfriend is only gay 15 nights out of 100 -- are in serious denial. First of all, I don't find Howard very "brave" -- he didn't use his real name, post a picture, and I feel he wasn't even that honest about what happened at the sauna -- assuming this story is even true. 100% hetero men have no desire to go to bath houses and have sex with other men. Sorry -- it just doesn't work that way. I agree that "Howard" is at the very least a "bisexual" man with serious self-esteem issues. The fact that he didn't act on his feelings for years -- and only did so under the influence of alcohol -- also indicates that he suffers from a bad case of internalized homophobia. Even today there is a great deal of homophobia and hence a stigma attached to being openly gay (openly gay people are the "brave" ones in my opinion) but not to being "straight." Many people who are basically gay but have some attraction to the opposite sex (whether you want to call this true bisexuality or not is debatable) fool themselves into thinking that they're really totally straight because they can't accept their homosexuality; they think life will be easier if they're straight. Sadly, this never turns out to be the case. Howard may feel that having sex with a man only convinced him he was straight, but he admits that he enjoyed it -- something that would not be true of a genuinely straight fellow. I have a feeling Howard will be having many more homosexual experiences in his future and will hopefully feel good about his sexual identity, and even be "out and proud," some day. And while it's not "politically correct" to say it, many "bisexual" people are really gays who haven't quite come to terms with their real sexuality. As for the gal who says her boyfriend is straight 85% of the time -- maybe her boyfriend is Howard! Or more likely another guy who hasn't quite accepted his true sexual orientation. Lots of bi (and often totally gay) men have girlfriends (even wives and children) until they reach some kind of self-acceptance in regards to their homosexuality. The wives and girlfriends ALWAYS think the husband or boyfriend is totally or mostly straight -- and most of the time they're wrong. Believe me, I know (having dated many men who turned out to have wives and girlfriends).

One last point. I have often said that a gay man can occasionally have sex with a woman and still be essentially gay (not even bisexual). Some might ask -- doesn't that work in reverse? Can't a straight man have sex once or on occasion with a guy and still be essentially straight? Nope. The reason for this is that stigma I referred to before, plus the fact that society drives us -- all of us -- towards heterosexuality not homosexuality. A man who actually goes out with the purpose of finding a man to have sex with -- as our Howard did -- is NOT straight. Even a man who winds up in bed or fooling around with another guy under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not straight. A guy can wind up in bed with the wrong woman because he's drunk -- a woman he may not normally find attractive, or his sister-in-law, say -- but no amount of beer will change a person's sexual orientation. In the gay community we laugh at guys who have sex with other guys and then the next day say "Boy, was I drunk last night!" Drunk, yes, Straight, no!


Anonymous said...

So if a gay guy has had sex with a woman in the past then he can't be "100% gay" ? What rubbish!

Technically, sexuality is what goes on in a person's head. It cannot be accurately measured. It has nothing to do with what a person physically does or with whom.

Sexual orientation isn't 2 or 3 neat little boxes, labelled "Straight" ["Bi"] and "Gay", within which everyone fits perfectly.

Bill Samuels said...

Not once did I say in my post that "if a gay guy has had sex with a woman in the past than he can't be '100% gay.' Never said it, don't think it. It just doesn't work in reverse for the very reasons I outlined in my post. Sorry, but "straight" guys do not go out looking for sex with men, not in a societal atmopshere as virulently homophobic as the one we live in, and not with the stigma that is still attached to homosexuality. Why should a gentuinely 100% hetero guy who is perfectly satisifed sleeping with women even THINK about having sex with guys -- it makes no sense. Gay Men often sleep with women (particularly their younger days) because they are pressured to do so by soceity and their [hetero] peers -- straight men have no such pressure to have gay experiences.

It is foolish to say that "sexuality is [only] what goes on in a person's head, and not what they do physically. People engage in physical acts BECAUSE of what does on in their heads -- don't you get that?

So Anon, if you think you're a "straight" guy but you're having and enjoying sex with men, I suggest you face reality, get past your shame, self-hatred and muddled thinking, and recognize at last that THERE IS NOTHING WRONG IN BEING GAY. And sexuality isn't comprised of a 100 different boxes as you're suggesting.


Anonymous said...

I read the article after a similar experience and think it was well worth publishing if only to assure people of the maturity and respectfulness found in the sauna.

I came to the blog looking for positive help for being seriously in denial and having self esteem issues. Even had I no denial and completely unbullied self esteem there would no doubt be a choice to face about whether I was being fully fair to myself to live this life as a straight husband and father while secretly enjoying occassional sex with other men or whether I was being fair to my wife and family to come out. I suspect that the crux of the choice is that there is so much more than sex to relationships and responsibilites.

I would have found a piece about coming through denial and impaired self esteem more interesting.

Another anon

Bill Samuels said...

Thanks for your comment, anon. On my "Ask Gay Dr. Bill" blog I do frequently deal with questions about coming out and dealing with self-esteem issues etc. The JATGAB blog has a different focus.

However -- and I'm going to be as blunt as ever -- It's true that many homosexual men who marry women do so because of self-esteem issues as well as an inability to "buck the system" or be a little more unconventional. But it's complicated. I can say "it's okay to be gay" all I want but a closeted person may not believe it until he gets counseling or therapy from a gay or gay-friendly therapist.

I'm well aware that there is more to relationships than sex. I recognize your responsiblities to your wife and children. Still, you're going about having sex with guys and repeatedly cheating on your wife, more or less, and that can't be a good situation. Coming out may actually free your wife to be with a man who can focus entirely on her and not on finding guys to have sex with. And free you to be who you really are, and to be with someone who can fully satisfy your needs.

Many men in your position find that not only is there Life after coming out, but there's a Good life! And they continue to have good relationships with their children and even in many cases with the ex-wife!

Good Luck!