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Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are

Just in time for National Coming Out Day, which just so happens to be today, October 11th, we have this from Craig:

Doc,
I’m 19, and I’ve decided that I’m gay. But I don’t know how to tell anyone. I’m afraid that I’ll lose my friends and family. I come from a very religious family, and they’ll never understand. I don’t want to hurt them, but I want to be honest about who I am. Just wondering if you could help me.

Coming out is never easy—or almost never—but having to do so to bigoted people makes things worse. There are many different aspects to the coming out process. It means both owning and valuing who you are, and sharing that information with others. You’ve apparently laid the groundwork by self-identifying as gay. Unfortunately, coming out also means learning to deal with the hostility many people have toward us sexual minorities.

Owning your sexual identity and integrating it into your overall sense of self is the first step in what I believe is a lifelong process. Your sexual preferences are just a small part of who you are. It is indeed an important part, but it’s not necessarily the defining element that some would make it out to be. In this instance, LGBT folks are not all that different from everyone else who is awakening to his/her sexuality. We can take some comfort from the fact that we are not alone. So many other segments of the population are marginalized and discounted because of their race, gender, age, religion, ethnic origin, you name it. Let’s face it, pup, our culture doesn’t do real well with diversity.

And ya know what else? There are a whole lot of us who are marginalized and who are discriminated against, who then turn right around and discriminate against and marginalize others. This just breaks my heart! Hopefully you’ll avoid the temptation to do this yourself.

Being different in our society is a double-edged sword. Obviously, it’s a challenge to the status quo, but it also frees us up to tread a less traveled path. To compensate for the difficulties of being a minority, we get to define ourselves in ways that are unavailable to the dominant culture.

I don’t suppose any of us is ever entirely really free of our own internalized homophobia, any more than other marginalized minorities can rid themselves of their internalized self-doubt. No one can completely escape the prejudices and biases that surround them, but most of us make our way, regardless. That’s why coming out is so important. It empowers us. It increases our self-esteem. Honesty increases personal integrity. And when we stop hiding or denying this important aspect of ourselves, we have greater freedom of self-expression, and we become more available for happy, healthy and honest relationships.

So, how much do you know about LGBT history? Knowing that you belong to a big and vibrant community with a long and illustrious history will enhance your queer identity. You’ll find positive role models in every era of human history, and in every human endeavor—and affirmative role models will help you achieve a positive sense of self. (However, you’re gonna have to do some digging. The dominant culture suppresses queer history, which often leaves those who are just coming out feeling isolated, alone and unsure. Fear of rejection from the dominant culture is greatest for those who don’t know they belong to something bigger and stronger than themselves.)

Knowing your gay history will also give you ammunition to refute those around you who will try to label you as sick or sinful. Loads of LGBT folk have enriched civilization through science, religion, music, politics, art, theater, sports and literature, to name just a few. Long before you and I showed up on the scene they were paving the way for the freedoms and tolerance we currently enjoy in this country.

If you’re not already involved in your local gay community, it’s high time you got hooked up. Practice your coming out skills with other LGBT people. Coming out to those who are most likely to be supportive will make this phase easier. And in doing so, you’ll be creating a natural support system of friends who will be your gay “family.” You will also find helpful resources, including support groups, crisis lines, gay-friendly churches and synagogues, social outlets and political and cultural activities and organizations.

Once you’ve honed your coming out skills with the queer community, you’ll be ready to move on to straight folks. This will probably be a mixed bag. Some won’t give a hoot. Others may have a lot of hoot to give. The best advice I can give you is the same advice I received from my gay elders when I was coming out at about your age: Make your coming out a celebration.

Listen, if you carry your hat in your hand, shuffle your feet and look all dejected when you make your announcement, your audience will have little choice but to receive the information as bad or troubling news. However, if you stand up, look the person in the eye, and tell her or him that you have some wonderful news to share with them, you will be giving them a running start on receiving the information as good news. Besides, a positive presentation will help short-circuit some of the initial shock or confusion they may experience.

Expect that most straight folks—particularly those of a religious bent—will need some time to get used to the idea of you being queer. And as you suggest, it is quite possible that some family members or friends may reject you initially. But it’s not the end of the world, and lots of people, even some religious folks, come around in their own sweet time.

Coming out to others will be a more positive experience if you’re comfortable in your own skin. Hopefully you’re not overly dependent on others for your sense of self—a tall order for someone of your tender age and background. But remember, thousands of people, young and old from every corner of the world, are making their first tentative steps out of the closet right this minute. You are not alone.

How well you do fare may ultimately hinge on controlling, as much as possible, the time and place you come out. If you “out” yourself as opposed to being “outted” by someone else, you’re more likely to succeed. Being able to judge the receptiveness of your audience is also important. The best time for you might not necessarily be the best time for the person you’re about to tell. (F’rinstance, grandpa’s funeral may not be the ideal time to announce to your family that you’re a big fat flamer.)

While some friends and family may have figured you’re queer long before you have, give everyone the time and space he or she needs to work through the news. Be prepared for some negative reactions. (Having some supportive friends available to talk things through afterward, or retreat to, will help.) If you do your best to bring the news in a life affirming way and your audience still rejects you, that’s not your fault; nor does that make them right. You have the right to be who you are. You have the right to be out, proud and open about all the aspects of your life, including your sexuality. Never let people unable to accept that, even if they are family, diminish your self-worth.

Coming out may be difficult, but it’s also very rewarding. Coming out affirms your dignity, as well as underscores the dignity of other queer folk. Finally, never take for granted the freedom and tolerance the dominant culture begrudgingly gives us. It’s only through vigilance and political action that we secure our rightful place in society.

Good luck.

Another review of my book

Another review of my book, this time in marvelous E-zine — Oysters & Chocolate.

Click on the O&C logo above to view the interview.

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Book Review

Thoughtful review of my book on the Men of Color Blog.

Click on the MOC logo to view the interview.

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Panic in Straightville

Name: Tony
Gender:
Age: 40
Location: Houston
I’ve loved several women and even married and divorced one. Over the last few years, I notice having similar feelings for men around me…longing, sweaty palms, difficulty thinking and wanting to be with them alone. Is this love? Am I bisexual? Am I a sick man better off dead? I have not crossed the line and I still have great sex with women. But there’s now a guy that I think about when I’m with her! Am I gay? Bisexual? Sick in the head?

Hey, chill out, my friend, this is not all that uncommon a phenomenon. Many people, just like you, inexplicably find themselves fantasying and even behaving in a completely unexpected sexual manner. I would, however, love to know what triggered you to veer off your comfortable and predictable sexual path?

While you learn to enjoy these new-found feelings, beware that there’s never a scarcity of sexual fascists out there. People who believe that sexual tastes and preferences are carved in stone, or that there’s only one “right” way to be sexual. They’ll persecute anyone who doesn’t conform to their strict immutable notions of sexuality and eroticism. Despite the proliferation of these hetero-fascists and homo-fascists, they are all very wrong about the indomitable human spirit and the flexibility of human sexuality.

Humans are not sexual automatons. Given a more permissive and sex-positive culture then our own, we’d all be more fluid in our eroticism and sexual expression. Are you one of the lucky few who has discovered the joy of this fluidity? Doesn’t quite sound like it to me, at least not yet. I think you’re still in the “scared shitless” stage.

For a guy who has yet to “cross the line” and actually act on your fantasy, you sure are preoccupied with your identity. Are you afraid that someone will take away your breeder card if you actually touch a dude in a sexual way? Does having same-sex feelings…sweaty palms and all…make you a gay? I certainly doubt it! Being gay entails a lot more than a sense of longing for something you’re not supposed to have. Are you bisexual? I can’t say for sure, but you’re certainly not exclusively straight either. I suppose you’ll have to come to grips with the self-identify thing when you have a bit more information about your burgeoning eroticism. What I know for sure is that you are not sick.

Who knows, your homoeroticism might very well be situational. It might not extend any farther than the guy you think about when you’re fucking chicks. I know all of this is can be pretty disconcerting and it can really mess with your head. But at least you know you are still alive sexually. So many people are sleepwalking through their erotic lives.

Will you act on your inclinations? Will you test the waters, so to speak? What harm could it do? Might just open up a whole new sexual world for you. On the other hand, if you do nothing, or try and repress these natural feelings, you’ll always know in your heart of hearts that you have the desire, if not the capacity, to express yourself sexually with a much wider range of humans than what you are currently used to. And something tells me that if you choose the path of self-denial, it will eat away at you until you satisfy your curiosity.

Good luck

The Erotic Mind of Mike’s Bliss — Podcast #294 — 08/01/11

Hey sex fans,

We travel to London England today for another amazing podcast in The Erotic Mind series. I have the pleasure of welcoming an internationally renowned artist with a signature style. My guest is none other than the man who goes by the name, Mike’s Bliss.

I’m gonna guess that if you know anything about gay erotic art, you will already recognize Mike’s work. I’ve seen his images around for years, but it was only recently that a mutual friend of ours, William Maltese, a renowned artist in his own right, turned me on to Mike himself. And I am enormously grateful for the introduction, because now I have the privilege of introducing Mike to you.

Mike and I discuss:

  • His early Life;
  • Nor formal art training;
  • His artistic “vocation”;
  • His nom de plume;
  • His relationship with his parents;
  • His artistic temperament;
  • A gay-bashing that triggered his erotic work;
  • Artist? Illustrator? Or both?
  • Words and images and their cathartic nature;
  • His chosen media;
  • His graphic novel, GodMaker: Vampires of London;
  • His erotic religious imagery;
  • His images of cultural icons.

For more of Mike, be sure to visit him on his site HERE!  Buy his book HERE!
And find him on Facebook HERE!

(Click on the thumbnails below for a slideshow of some of Mike’s beautiful work.)

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BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.