Undetectable: A Gay Poem 2012/2018
by Duncan Roy
Don’t let climate change ruin your gay wedding.
Nor fear of deportation or student loans. Don’t let the government shut down beleaguer your special day.
Nor think of drones killing gay men on foreign shores. Not in my name.
Dream my dear, of the $160,000 surrogate baby you really can’t afford. White eggs and spermatozoa Amex paid for.
Grown in a poor brown woman whose name attorneys erased. She’ll never be known to the unborn child.
Goldman bonus spent on more Botox. Calm your troubled brow with restylane. Fill the lines they put there with relentless bullying and casual homophobia.
You weren’t looking for love. A painted finger nail emoji on your Tinder profile, hoping for a merger and acquisition. Perfect in the Pines. Helping him fuck another guy. Guiding him into the gaping hole like a stallion. Prepped and raw. Bare back monkey.
Marrying a fellow American now, you need not stress, ICE officers will not be your groomsman. Not today.
Thank Jesus Christ Almighty,
Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act is no more.
They can not stop you, nor turn you from the hospital as your husband lays dying from a lethal Fentanyl overdose. Undetectable. No longer woke.
Found in the sauna, wearing his combat boots, multiply penetrated, cream pied, still bound and dripping, eyes open, calling out another man’s name, swaying gently in the black polyester sling.
Enjoying your honeymoon in the leather bars of Berlin.
They are deporting thousands of undocumented workers in the USA. Friends and family disappear. The cranberry bogs remain un-harvested. The schools stricken by grieving children. Police officers didn’t think it would be this way. They couldn’t put a face to the men and women Trump wanted to deport. Simple, honest people caught up in the merciless trawl. They didn’t realise their friends were breaking the law. They didn’t understand the depth of hatred their fellow citizens harboured for brown and black people.
Hackney. East London finally puts paid to the ridiculous notion I can leave my car unlocked without being burgled. Yes. I am that man. Regardless of the stolen cash, life in East London is inspiring. Like the first time you visit deep Brooklyn, you understand who millennials are and what they prioritize. Bushwick, going there with Paris McGarry and her boyfriend Tom. The streets were buzzin, the restaurants overflowing, the music bursting out of every window over the cobbled streets. Huge lofts once filed with machinery now house tech aspirants and what, I think, is the difference? Intellectual rather than mechanical industry.
Hackney has exactly the same energy. Fit, bearded men cycling through the park discussing crypto currency on their cell phones. They look insane, talking to themselves, eyes fixed on the road, avoiding my dogs who are inexplicably drawn to cycle paths. I feel alive here, which is odd as I am facing death head on right now. I am optimistic even though I feel the curtain closing about me, taking my final bow. I sit in Shorditch House all day drinking water and coffee and eating sour jelly candy. I buy boots in APC and wonder why. I mean, I don’t need anything. I am rootless, I am free.
Going to NA meetings all over the East End. I am drawn to the drama I suppose. I meet cool people and when they read about me are less eager to judge my life, my exploits whilst American addicts damn you forever. You lose your grip once and Americans watch with glee as you fall from the side of the building. Falling like a crazy base jumper. You took a risk… it didn’t pay off. Your fingers slip from the polished marble. The English addict is less determined to make you pay.
However, NA is not very productive in London. The people may be kind but the programme stinks. Swimming around in their own shit. NA isn’t group therapy. Nobody cares about your feelings. Addicts repeat their using tragedies again and again day after day. They have no solution, grasping hold of their pain, reliving the insanity, indulgently spewing over anyone who will listen. They attend endless meetings 90/90 but will not work the 12 steps. Of course, after a few months, they relapse then after another spectacular ‘rock-bottom’ claw their way back into the rooms… continuing the cycle of despair. I keep reminding myself not to slip back into bad habits. No catastrophic thinking, no indulgence. No. No. No.
I’m in Climpson’s the local coffee shop trying to write a treatment. Broadway Market. I know the fishmonger and the book seller. The baristas know my name. I’m writing a gay Fatal Attraction. Crazy older lady meets younger gay guy at AA meeting, she’s a hoarder, he takes pity on her, cleans her house, helps her with her life, she lends him money and falls in love with him… then tries to destroy him when he refuses her advances. It’s waiting to be written. This story, this slice of life upstate. Donna, you crazy witch! I took Donna to a gay party, she wasn’t impressed when I talked to the other guys. I took her to Abby Rockefeller’s farm. She wasn’t impressed when I talked to other women. I felt her eyes boring into me. We left.
The dull thud returns, at the base of my sternum. The pain wraps around my body from my stomach to the base of my back. The acid reflux, overwhelming tiredness and irritability. I had more tests. There are problems that need resolved but the doctors are too damn eager to slice into me. I already had my gall bladder and an isolated tumor on my adrenal gland removed.
The doctor is thorough and uncompromising. I revisit all the horrors of pancreatic cancer. I look at potential remedies, of which there are few. The very worst scenario is called the Whipple procedure which is also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, a complex operation to remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), the gallbladder and the bile duct.
They say to me: these symptoms are found in women. They say, it may be malignant, it may be benign, it may be somewhere in between. The diagnosis isn’t good enough. It’s too damn vague. I lay on my bed after our long walk and fall into a deep sleep. I breathe deeply, clearing my mind of everything I think I know. I remind myself of the solution, the literature. I say, what will be will be. Divorcing myself from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.
During the day I face indecision. I may not correctly determine which course of action to take. I ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or decision. I relax, I don’t struggle. I’m surprised by how often the right answer comes after practicing these principles in all my affairs.
The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held at the Dutchess County Fair Ground, Rhinebeck NY is one of the last remaining countryside traditions in New York State. Unlike the bawdy Duchess County Fair (started in 1842) the Sheep and Wool Festival (started in 1980) is very genteel. Affluent white people, mostly women (with compliant bearded husbands) and gay 30 something men pet Vicuna and jostle for home spun, naturally dyed, two ply.
In England we regularly honor the land and our relationship with it. Many of our country festivals have pagan origins. The Harvest Moon, St Michael’s Mass, Lammas Day, country fairs and garden festivals. When we celebrate May Day in my home town of Whitstable at the very edge of ‘The Garden of England’ on the North East Kent coast bordering the shallow, oyster clogged Swale, we revive a 16th century English tradition. Local people garland spring flowers and weave twigs of new leaves. Pussy willow, catkins and briar. With these we entirely cover a grown man. With his head dressed in topiary he often stands over nine feet tall. This walking bush became known as Jack ‘o the Green. The Jack is central to the Whitstable May Day celebration and leads a parade of Morris Dancers and mythical characters to the town square.
We celebrate our medieval past without too much shame. The colonial atrocities we care to admit, were committed elsewhere. We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land… and thank God for reminding us how lucky we are not to have seen the Boer War or Partition with our own eyes. In the USA, however, the recent past is not so easily side-stepped. The terrible ghosts white folk see: the ghosts of slaughtered First Nation people whose land they stole and the million or more slaves who made this land what it is today. In the North East embarrassed white people do not necessarily want to be reminded of their slave-owning ancestors or those who killed the thriving Algonquian people of the Hudson Valley.
7-14 million people lived in North America before the white man arrived. Today, little evidence survives of the people who lived here. Anyway, who visits North America (unlike Greece or Mexico) and thinks to see the First Nation pyramids of Louisiana or the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings in Colorado? The Greek government loves to invest in the Parthenon and Greeks love to visit it. But First Nation sites are more likely to remind Americans of the Trail of Tears and treaty violations than appeal to their nationalism.
Dr. Adrienne Keene, a First Nation scholar and activist. “We are taught nothing was here, so Native people deserved to have their land taken away: that’s how white supremacy and colonialism work.”
What of the thousands of slaves brought to the Hudson Valley? Walk into the country side, look at the derelict shack, the rickety chicken coop. People once lived in those… shivering as the bitter wind and snow tore over the fields, daring not to faint as the scorching summer sun beat down on thousands of enslaved men, women and their children who cleared and farmed these lands. Driving from Red Hook to Tivoli the bucolic landscape of The Hudson Valley looks less benign.
Josiah Henson wrote, “Wooden floors were an unknown luxury. In a single room we huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women, and children. We had neither bedsteads, nor furniture of any description. Our beds were collections of straw and old rags, thrown down in the corners and boxed in with boards; a single blanket the only covering.”
On North Road, Tivoli NY opposite my Victorian home stands an elegant, marble obelisk erected in 1866 commemorating lives lost fighting the ‘Slave Holders Rebellion’. When I first read the crumbling text I was taken aback. What was the Slave Holders Rebellion? What did this inscription mean? Was it some local event? Nobody seemed to know. White people didn’t know. Black people didn’t know.
The Slave Holders Rebellion is how the Civil War was contemporaneously described. The meaning of the Civil War, the point of it…
Slavery is New York’s dirty little secret. Many people are shocked to learn that slavery existed in the North East. Yet, as on the cotton fields of the southern states, people as property were considered essential to further settlements and do profitable business. By reducing labor costs to the care and maintenance of their human chattel, settlers turned a huge profit on a relatively small investment.
In New York State, owning 10 slaves at the turn of the 18th century was considered a large holding. Michael Groth, in his article, “The African-American Struggle against Slavery in the Mid-Hudson Valley 1785-1827,” estimated that one in 10 households included slaves. All persons of consequence were expected to be in possession of slaves, but not every slave owner was wealthy. People of modest means owned slaves. The purchase of a slave was a worthwhile investment for a farmer with moderate income.
“Those that could afford it kept slaves, and each owner put a mark upon his black servants, and registered the same with the town clerk, in order that runaways might be more easily traced. For instance the mark of Mathew Wygant was ‘a square notch of ha’penny on the upper sie of the left ear’.”
For 200 years, from 1624 to 1824, the first Dutch territories were sparsely settled with white people. Enslaved Africans were a major portion of those first wave of immigrants, estimated in some areas at between one-fifth and one-third. In Ulster County, in 1746, slaves numbered 1,100 with the white population at about 4,100. It is unknown how many First Nation people they lived along side. The Dutch West Indies Company brought the first slaves to New York territories in 1626 to work on farms, roads and forts. The Dutch were frustrated at their inability to profit from lumber, fur and agriculture.
In 1644 the Dutch West Indies Company brought in 6,900 men, women and children from the African coast.
It was company-owned slave labor that laid the foundations of modern New York, built its fortifications and made agriculture flourish in the colony so that later white immigrants had an incentive to turn from fur trapping to farming.
Between 1600 and 1860, the transatlantic slave trade brought 9 to 11 million enslaved Africans to the USA. In 1820, about 10 percent of the population of the Town of Kingston NY consisted of black slaves. By the end of the 18th century, New York held the dubious distinction of being the state with the largest slave population in the North. Ironically, the streets of Kingston and Rhinebeck NY were more diverse than they are today.
Slaves were sold in Kingston and New Paltz at public auction. Terms were made easy so people of modest means could afford them. A commodity bought and sold, used to settle debts and bequeathed to heirs. Slave sale notices were common in daily newspapers, next to advertisements for land and farm equipment. They described these men, women and children as “healthy” and “stout”, the same language used to sell livestock. It is clear from the advertisements that infants or children could be sold at the “purchaser’s option,” separating a mother and child with the stroke of a pen.
The cost of a slave today would be around $30,000.
Not everyone acquiesced. Reported slave rebellions and insurrections took place all over North America. More than 250 uprisings or attempted uprisings involving ten or more slaves. I’m sure many more went unreported. Tiny acts of attrition.
18th century slave owners bragged how well treated and content their slaves were, but life for the enslaved African living in the North was cruel and un-rewarding. New York State’s slave laws were harsh and even small transgressions punished by public flogging. The hope of freedom inspired hundreds to risk absconding. If caught, a fugitive slave could expect punishments including amputation of limbs or death.
Runaway slave notices published in newspapers recount in detail the outer wear worn by slaves. The clothing described in these notices reflect the deprived existences they led. Style, color and material, hairstyle and type of headwear are recounted in great detail by slave masters. Most fugitive slaves ran away with only one set of clothes. “Young mulatto girl, wearing red calico, with blue petticoat.” Scars, missing ears, skills, behavior – insolent, plausible, bright… were all listed.
Most slaves ran away to be with their families. Some just fled, others planned carefully. A young man from Rochester NY took off with two sheep and a beehive. Many fugitive slaves found refuge in the woods of upstate New York. The woods not only provided cover and protection but a chance to seek Native Americans inhabiting the region. Many found shelter and safety with Native Americans and were welcomed into their tribes. Large rewards and treaty offerings for the return of runaways did not dissuade Native nations from harboring slaves.
In July 1799 the NY State Legislature enacted a partial emancipation. The law freed all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, but only after at least two decades of forced indenture. Boys became free at age 28 and females at age 25. Until then, they were tied to the service of the mother’s master. Children remained enslaved because slave owners were confident that parents would remain with their children. Unrestricted freedom did not come to New York’s slaves until a new emancipation law took effect 28 years later, on July 4, 1827.
The freeing, in 1827, of adult slaves led to economic havoc in the North East. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 compounded the issue and destroyed the economy of the Hudson Valley. Meanwhile, freed slaves were left to fend for themselves. Those with good skills were undercut by white, cheap immigrant labor beginning to flood the Hudson Valley from New York City. The white immigrants were paid for their time and did not need to be fed, clothed and sheltered. Some freed slaves remained as tenant farmers. Up and down the Hudson River you’ll still find names like Africa Street where freed slaves formed their own small communities.
New York City was a reluctant supporter of the Slave Holders Rebellion. Its trading economy was heavily invested in the slave-based production of cotton. After the Slave Holders Rebellion, New York and New Jersey were alone among northern states in not abolishing slavery. Governor Morris and John Jay attempted to insert a clause into the founding state constitution suggesting the eventual elimination of slavery, but were rebuffed. As New York moved to abolish slavery, amongst the counties most vociferous in their opposition and who voted, “nay” were Dutchess County.
There is white marble obelisk in Tivoli, Dutchess County at the edge of North Road. It commemorates the lives lost of local people fighting the Slave Holders Rebellion. There is something heroic and magnificent about the title: Slave Holders Rebellion. It perfectly articulates the ambition of that war. And how it latterly became… the Civil War is testament to how black and brown people have had their history reframed by generations of white revisionists. Like the First Nation people before them the domestic history of enslaved men, women, children and their brutal slave owners has been wiped away by white folk, cruel, embarrassed and afraid in equal measure.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Star Spangled Banner by Slave Owner Francis Scott Key
Slavery remains the dirty little secret of New York State. Shared by almost every other northern state. In the south, for good or ill, white people upholding their racism and white supremacy, proud of their slave-owning past have inadvertently kept black history alive. The ancestors of northern slave owners do not celebrate the traditions of the land… for few white people ever worked it. Whilst english people were ploughing and scattering black slaves were violently forced to do the same. The history of this bucolic place, this upstate paradise, white folk keep silent… vanishing into the corn.
It’s been some time since I turned my back on this blog. I rather ostentatiously announced that I would never blog again. But it’s been a tumultuous year inter personally and internationally. Not a great year to ignore. The most important reason for not blogging?
Last year I met someone I have grown to respect tremendously, even though in the peripheral vision of the public eye he is perhaps one of the most private people I’ve ever called a friend. He has become one of those closest to me. In its former incarnation my blog had become a risky means to communicate my triumphs, failures and frustrations. Those around me felt uncomfortable, aware they could end up in this personal blog at the mercy of my public point of view.
The closer I became to my friend, the more I grew to love his gentle disposition, his trust and generosity. I did not want to endanger our friendship nor cause him or his family anxiety. I stopped writing. This week I mentioned to him why I had stopped writing my blog and how I might start writing again. He was very supportive.
I am an oaf. The older I get the more clumsy I become. Some people become physically inept. I’ve become mentally less agile. Tripping over myself when I get excited. Wading through molasses when I get tired. Writing this blog every day kept me alert.
There’s a red squirrel living in the barn, aggressively defending the ancient black walnut tree. He’s not at all like a British red squirrel. He’s more like a stoat. He spent the autumn collecting walnuts, filling a cavity at the base of the tree with his foraging. He sits peeling walnuts, industriously creating a midden beneath him. When I don’t see him I worry the barn cat ate him. I hadn’t seen him for a week after the heavy snow but today he was back on his branch. His fluffy tail and chattering warning off the grey squirrels who, even though they are thrice his size, run from him when he spies them stealing his stash.
The Little Dog is getting old. He sleeps more. His soft jowl is grey. He has fatty lumps forming on his chest. He loves a long walk and streaks ahead of me and Dude. He must be 12-year-old. Maybe. I’ve no idea how old he was when we found him at the rescue.
I don’t have a TV. It keeps me from the worst of the news cycle. Twitter and Facebook keep me up to date. The second screen. Bloody hell. I’m addicted to that thing. I’ve tried hard to not look. Tried an app that tells me how many hours a day I spend engaging with it. Shocking. My head down like a pious monk looking at the little screen.
Last Easter Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich stayed here with me in Tivoli. They’ve bought a very scruffy farm in Poughkeepsie. They are vegans. They eat tapioca for breakfast. I’ve never known two people to bicker as often as they do. We went for long walks. Dennis says, “You realise Trump is going to be our next president? He’s going to win.” At lunch he repeated his assertion. My nice white, affluent friends smile knowingly. Crazy Dennis Kucinich. They didn’t believe him, I didn’t want to believe him. A few weeks later the two gay men who live opposite this house put up a Trump/Pence sign on their lawn and… I knew Dennis was right. President Trump was inevitable.
There were many dinners and lunches prepared on North Road this year. It seemed to irritate my nice friends whenever I cautioned a Trump presidency. “Only angry white men will vote for him.” they said. They assured me there weren’t enough angry white men to defeat the women and the people of color Trump had offended.
They think I am an angry white man.
Trump won the primary. The establishment attempted to shame him with crude tape recordings, unseen tax bills, the stories of unpaid artisans.
I felt isolated every time I repeated my assertion. How could I be so sure? “Do you have a degree in political science?” I was asked by an affluent gay man peering at me suspiciously. “No, I listen.” I said. “I listen to people far away from the shrill, gay echo chamber. I sit with AA people. Local working people, the kind of people who plough your drive or file documents in the local hospital or work in the probation department… the kind of people sophisticated city folk never engage. They love Trump.”
The AA folk I met all over the state confirmed my suspicion that things were not as the pollsters claimed. The double-digit Clinton lead. The hyperbole. In hind sight the polls now seem like establishment propaganda.
On the TV despondent hacks wondered why every time Trump made a gaffe or said something untoward his ratings soared. Upstate, men and women of all ages had already decided Trump was their guy. They did not care about pussy grabbing. Ruth said, “He can grab my pussy.” They did not care about Trump’s debate performance or his racism. The language Trump used… they could understand. I heard their roar of approval echo over the mountains and into the valley every time Trump shat all over the politically correct.
My nice liberal friends were too busy believing in Clinton’s invincibility. They refused to listen to anything other than hollow reassurance from other liberals that a Trump presidency was totally impossible.
Some polls, discredited by the establishment, indicated Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat in the race who could comfortably beat Donald Trump. My nice white friends scoffed. “We don’t want a Bernie revolution.” Amy said.
“When Trump’s elected you’ll wish it was Bernie’s revolution rather than Trump’s.” I replied.
Consternation at the dinner table. “Trump isn’t going to win,” they said. “He can’t win.” What seemed evident to me became increasingly absurd to others. The choice was obvious: It was either Sander’s revolution or Trump’s. Revolution was what the people craved.
Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination. They kicked Bernie to the curb, unwilling to work with him. Clinton’s affable, dull running mate (whose name I’ve forgotten) made no impression on the nation and Pence effortlessly destroyed him during the vice presidential debate.
The affluent white people I know in New York City have become complacent, deaf to the pleas and need of the rest of the nation. Whilst my city friends were slightly inconvenienced by the banking crisis, the working poor suffered real consequences: they lost their homes, their jobs and their dreams. They foolishly believed affable President Obama would help them, but Obama ignored the opiate epidemic claiming the lives of desperate Americans, he ignored the many suicides of hopeless young men. Whilst we were applauding Obama’s inclusive rhetoric, cheering his trans toilet initiative. A black president honoring the trans community… I heard a different story from my local white friends of all ages, smoking cigarettes after the AA meeting. They recoiled from the trans toilet debate… unable to register their disdain for fear of PC retribution.
Meanwhile Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager, deliberately chose to spurn the votes of the working poor and went after the soft Republican vote believing them more educated and therefore outraged by Trump’s racism and misogyny. It was a catastrophic decision. Mook’s strategy was informed by the ringing lies he heard in the pink echo chamber. The same hall of whispers I am privy to. They said, Clinton will win because Trump is a clown. I was getting blocked on Facebook for pleading with people to get ready for President Trump. Empirical evidence rather than scientific opinion. I was listening to my AA friends. I was looking at the Trump/Pence signs sprouting up all over New York state.
The gays alienated themselves from anyone who didn’t think like them or look like them or agree with their blind devotion to Clinton. The merest questioning of her integrity was perceived as heresy. The more they blocked me the more I realised just how hopeless those people would be the morning after the election.
I was invited to an upstate ‘Pink Belt’ gay pool party. The hosts and guests were short, buff and white. In spite of my fear of mediocrity I had a very pleasant time. The short white host saw me out. I mentioned my fear of gay pool parties as I thanked him for inviting me. “Don’t worry,” he smiled “I’m out of shape too.” I paused and looked into his big blue eyes.
The gays sneer at the working poor who vote against their own interests… forgetting the working poor have no interests. They have no Obama Care, they have no home to call their own. They limp from one bill to another, doing their best, never daring to dream. Trapped by debt, obesity, addiction and religion. The working poor do not have ‘interests’ to vote against nor common cause. They were angry, raw and unrepresented whilst Obama touted gender neutral bathrooms.
Where was the change they could believe in? Where was the change we could all believe in?
In the early hours of the morning November 9th 2016 I was on a late train from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie NY. There was a middle-aged woman wearing an ‘I’m With Her’ baseball cap. She had been at the Javitz Convention Center waiting for Hillary’s victory speech. She sat on the train weeping. Her face wet with tears. The conductor asked if she was ok. She railed against Trump. The conductor said, “Oh dear, things are going to work out just fine.” Young people started laughing, jeering at her. Trump supporters. She sobbed inconsolably. The mob sneered at Obama even though many had voted for him. They were excited, they were excited for a new American dawn.
Hillary Clinton beat Robby Mook on his chest with both her fists when she realised she had lost the race.
In the UK the Brexit referendum happened earlier in 2016. My Mother and Brother voted to leave the EU. Leave won the popular vote. Hate crimes became a daily occurrence. I felt sad and shocked. England shrank before my eyes. The sickening thud of jack boots on the streets, austerity leading inevitably to the solutions of the anti-establishment right-wing. I lamented our decision. Others came to their senses too late, wishing their protest vote hadn’t had such an impact.
All over the world people are shaking the tree, expecting it to afford them cover.
Ori posted a picture on Instagram. A dinner with friends the night after the 2016 presidential election. 10 white, identical looking gay men in their thirties… commiserating. ‘This is why we lost the election’ I wrote beneath the picture. ’10 white gay men believed Clinton would win because they repeated wishes as if they were facts.’ He blocked me. Nobody wants to believe that they are part of the problem.
In the aftermath of the presidential election Hillary Clinton vanished into the woods of Chappaqua. The rich got richer. Those friends who scorned my prediction were gracious enough to acknowledge I was right. But what of it? Clinton supporters are still unable to grasp what is happening, they blame the Russians, they blame Wikileaks, they blame the electoral college, they blame the polls, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders… they blame everyone but Clinton. Their fury is palpable. Their distress acute.
We wait for January 20th.
The rain, interminable. Cats and dogs. Great lakes puddle over the marshy back land. Ominous clouds scud over the Hudson Valley. Tom the gardener ploughs trenches down hill, unplugging the dams. Thirty years of fallen oak leaves dredged from soggy trench and damned culvert. Branches thrown over the fence into the once vacant lot by lazy neighbours, removed. A scribble of dead bramble, removed. Now, on the northern perimeter, a pile of rotting vegetation – we might have burned on November 5th if we lived somewhere sensible.
“There’ll be no bonfires in the village.” She said. The woman at the Mayor’s office. So. No wood smoke drifting over sparkling, frosty fields, no Guy Fawkes. No baked potatoes wrapped in scalding tin foil found amongst the dying embers.
I call friends in Los Angeles, they ask smugly if I’m prepared for the winter. They have no idea. Windows, insulation, boiler… thick curtains thankfully saved from other draughty, Victorian mansions. The winter months do not scare me. Come winter, come freeze the air, let the first snow fall.
How many pairs of gloves will I lose this year?
I am happy in Tivoli, so are the dogs. They chase squirrels, rabbits and deer.
The Little Dog has been skunked twice. Good God! The second time I took him to the vet, where they washed him with some magical solution. Better than being savaged by coyote or bitten by a rattlesnake… I suppose, cheaper to remedy. He’s such a brave, curious, foolhardy Little Dog.
Dude hasn’t been skunked once, he hangs back from anything mildly threatening. He learned to climb the steep stair in the new house, laboring one step at a time he finds us in bed then dances on two legs until I fetch him up.
I drive my old Mercedes into Hudson once a week. It’s a lovely town to visit but I hated living there. I hated it. Frighteningly, I can’t remember the name of the road where I lived. Let me remember. Bellview, Fairview… PROSPECT! Prospect Avenue, Hudson, NY.
So many irrelevant details scrubbed from the hard drive. I will never forget that house. That vile, ‘English Tudor’ house on the optimistically named Prospect Avenue. Overlooking the hospital; and a busy, dirty road. The worst place (by far) I ever lived. Badly designed, badly renovated, so badly insulated: incapable of keeping heat in the winter or cool in the summer.
The house was haunted, not by angry ghosts moving things around or waiting in the corner… but melancholy, lonely women, dragging themselves up and down the stairs. Most evident, the ghost of an elderly school teacher who spent twenty years peering from the sitting room window, equally scaring and delighting passing school children like a Halloween ghoul.
The house attracts lonely women.
Tanja Grunert, the current owner, is the last of a long line.
So, I dedicate this blog post to her. To lonely Tanja whose life is more treacherous than a Hudson pavement in mid January.
The night I met Tanja she was wearing a huge black and white fur coat. Like a skunk.
A short, stocky woman, she wears baggy jeans and tailored jackets. Her cropped, gray/mauve hair… cut hard around her masculine, pudgy face. A smear of red lipstick, the only evidence she might be a heterosexual woman.
The night we met (by accident over steaming bowls of Asian broth) I should have run away.
Sadly, I have never had the resolve to run from a catastrophe. As the towers came down I ran toward them. There is something immediately alluring about Tanja, something fascinating. From the moment we met I was hooked. Some people are. I’ll not be the first and I won’t be the last. She crafted a first class art world career from a scintillating first impression.
That night Tanja focused her all on me, seducing and melting… gasping and fluttering, roaring her huge laugh. After dinner she invited us to the house… that house.
Much later I understood the only time she threw back her head, roaring that infectious laugh, was used as part of a sinister, well rehearsed routine. A carefully constructed formula.
We discovered we had many people in common, Jay Jopling, Samia Saouma and Benedict Taschen.
She told me how beautiful I was. Told me I was her ‘type’. I was clear about my sexuality, “I am a gay man.” I said, as she coquettishly batted her eyelashes, grabbed hold of my hand, inviting us back to her cold, empty house. “Oh I’m so sorry.” She bows deeply into every apology. She is a committed apologist. “English is my second language.” During our cohabitation I must have heard her say a million times, “Excuse me if I don’t understand.”
It was a lie. I knew from the beginning she understood everything very well. Yet, I chose to ignore her lies. I chose to ignore, that cold winter, her lies, her homophobia, her racism, her alcoholism and her delusion.
Tanja is an alcoholic. She is the kind of binging alcoholic who convinces herself that because she doesn’t drink in the morning she doesn’t have a drinking problem…. but she drinks in the morning. She is the kind of alcoholic who convinces herself that because she doesn’t drink alone she isn’t an alcoholic… yet, she drinks alone. She is the kind of alcoholic who convinces herself that she isn’t an alcoholic because she doesn’t black out and wet the bed…
She drank wine by the bottle, chain-smoked cigarettes; listened to opera so loudly on her record player that good conversation became impossible. Drowning in Wagner, drowning not waving, into misery.
That night, my first visit to her house, she lit a fire in the huge, totally empty sitting room. Her husband was gone. He had taken flight that summer. Taking with him the money (his fathers) and the possibility. She told him: “You cannot come to the house in Hudson.” He said, “You can’t have money to furnish it.”
I said: “You have an empty house and I have furniture.” She said “Yes!” immediately.
Listen for a moment. Stand back. Re-read my offer and tell me what could possibly go wrong?
Obviously it was terrible mistake. Half measures avail us nothing. I had no right making a deal with this devil. She started texting and calling all day and all night. She would introduce me to her friends as her boyfriend or her husband. She’d tell everyone who would listen that she loved me. I was living in the East Village. We had dinner in the city. Tanja tried making me pay for her expensive wine habit… I refused.
Instead, I moved in.
So began a slow, interminably slow, head on collision. Two cold, stubborn alcoholics buckling, catastrophically into one another. I spent nearly a year at the house, firstly because I was entranced… then the doors began to slam behind me. The furniture arrived and she took what she wanted from my things. “Each thing more beautiful than the last.” She cooed.
My Gary Hume disappeared.
Because she is an unapologetic racist she made me hide my African art because black people do not interest her. They make her ‘think of slavery’. They ‘make me sad’. “I would never sleep with a black man.”
She buys five tickets for the Bjork concert but can’t find anyone to come with us. Finally she invites people who barely know her. They say, “I don’t know her at all.” At the will call she’s told very clearly that her tickets are being exchanged for better tickets. Tanja starts screaming. Screaming at everyone. Kicking the theatre. I stand back and watch her disgusting spectacle. I take the tickets, tell her to shut the fuck up, lead her into the theatre. We take our excellent seats at the front of the theatre.
Shocked by her behavior we walk in silence back to the car after the event, unable to discuss Bjork like normal people. Like the normal people around us, happy and grateful to have seen Bjork. Her tantrums, her temper, her screaming, her crying fits of righteous outrage and indignation became so regular I learned to ignore them.
The winter was long and hard and cold. Minus 23 degrees. Unheard of upstate New York. I found myself held hostage by the masculine German woman in the unfriendly house.
She refused to fill the oil tanks. The house froze. The pipes burst. The tiles fall from the bathroom walls. I fill the oil tanks myself, ferrying 10 gallon cans from a filling station five miles away.
The chaos, her unmanagability became easier when the sun began to shine.
Spring came suddenly this year. The original deal she reneged. She wanted money. Always desperate for cash. Another good idea blown into a million pieces. I handed it over.
Her grasping, fat fingers. Her solid, bruised, Teutonic arms quaffing wine, passing out, laying naked on her bed until she leaks yellow stinking piss all over herself. Naked on her bed, not sleeping but unconscious. Laying like the dead waiting for the autopsy, naked on her back. Acres of white flesh. “We are always naked.” “We always talk to ourselves.” “We only eat from Fish and Game.”
She tells everyone that an important publisher has commissioned an auto-biography. She says that the money will come.
“We only write in the kitchen.”
“We hate mood lighting.”
She spends hours under the harsh light at the kitchen table tapping on her keyboard, claiming to write a book some grand publisher might (or might not) have commissioned. She says she’s researching but she’s on the internet trying to fill the consuming void her younger husband left when he scarpered last June. Filling the gaping, suppurating wound with Internet dates on match.com, okcupid and other… less salubrious sites. She shows me a thousand pictures of penis she has been sent.
Her less sexually ambitious female friends think she is a pioneer. This old queen knows she is a lonely, sleazy woman on the cusp of suicide. In and out of Belleview. Unable to accept the truth. Popping pills. She is poor, illegal and single.
Gay men seldom share the cache of penis we’ve been sent on line. Maybe the largest or the smallest. Maybe the most beautiful. She indiscriminately shows me every one. She wants me to know she is still relevant, that her menopause hadn’t knocked her through a hoop. (Like Samia before her.) But her boast falls on deaf ears. I look at her poker faced, disguising the pity I have for her.
There’s a young art dealer in town with a cool gallery, I buy art, he delivers the art to the house. He knows who she is. Curious to see where Tanja lives, he is surprised that the house is so clean. He expects to see a mountain of empty bottles. He tells me that she owes everyone money, him included.
“There’s a joke art dealers tell each other. They laugh about how long they’ve been in the art business. They say, I’ve been selling art so long… I remember when Tanja Grunert was hot.”
I reserved the most sympathy for her children who instinctively knew how selfish, self-obsessed and self pitying she and her ex husband are. Both so eager to flee from her, like the men she meets on-line. A French man meets with her and tells me “Within a few minutes of phone conversation she offers to lick my ass.” to be his toilet. When he meets with her he says he could not fuck her because fucking her would be like “Fucking grandma.”
After meeting him she text messages twenty times an hour. She sobs, howls… when it becomes apparent that he is not interested in her. She wrings her hands and bangs her head into the wall, she blames everyone for her distress.
She meets another man and calls at 1am to ask where they can find a woman for some three way. I terminate the call.
Her teenage daughter watches as every man her mother meets on the internet lets her down. Steals what little she has left. She has learned to keep quiet. She is biding her time, waiting for the day she can turn her back on them all.
Tanja boasts that during her second pregnancy with the girl she was high on cocaine, drunk on alcohol every day for the first trimester.
Her insufferable, precocious, entitled, blue-eyed son lives with us for the summer. He leaves chaos and mountains of trash infested, after a few hot days, with maggots. He said, “You are the room mate, you must clean up after me.” I refuse.
I video the mess and send it to his mother. He is now at an expensive college in SF exploring his homosexuality, thankfully a long way from his gentle, yielding girlfriend who was often heard plaintively asking the teenager why he needed to hurt her to express his love.
The boy barely conceals his contempt for the girl. Like his mother, like his father, like his grandmother. Generational dysfunction. Violence. Violent to others, violent to herself, Tanja told me her husband would beat her in the bedroom. Not because he loved her… because he hated her. The provenance of the son’s fledgling misogyny evident for all to see.
The son drinks until he passes out. Naked on his bed. His father drinks himself into a black out… she wets the bed. I could smell the piss before I saw it.
Her son wants to stay with me at the hotel. I cling to the edge of the bed. As far as I can from his yearning adolescence. Tanja wants to know why he is so interested in me.
For all of her gay friends, she is an unapologetic homophobe. She makes sneering jokes about ‘Your side’ and ‘Your people’ she tells me that I am ‘No use’ to her. They are not jokes, they are evidence of her deep-seated homophobic resentment. For all the extraordinary gay men she surrounds herself, delighting them with her drama… she hates gay men. We are good for loans and art purchases. We loyally turn up at the hospital every time she half-heartedly overdoses.
When I brought that beautiful boy Spencer home, she asked if he was my boyfriend, then slandered me in German. My school boy German catches every word.
Gay men know this: we all know that those determined to kill themselves rarely fail. The rest, like Tanja, merely crave the attention: cosseted in hospital beds, prescribed medicine, given the benefit of the doubt.
The gays around her provide the Greek entertainment. The chorus. Picking up the pieces.
At dawn, when she finally let me sleep. Before she falls into her bed, Tanja became sexually abusive. When we are on our own, if I’m the only person in the house she focuses her sexual violence on me. Keeping me awake until dawn, drinking and smoking. Trying to touch me.
When, at the end, I mention that she is sexually harassing me and I could sue her… she smiles a smile only a torturer could have smiled and I saw very clearly into her rotten, stinking soul. She looked like the devil. I saw the devil smile. I will never forget that smile, for it was quite unlike anything I had seen before.
In the morning, by way of apology, she reminds me again that her mother had abused her. That she had hidden from the Nazis by living in a box under a mill, like a fairy-tale troll. After the war her mother had children and beat them. This was the excuse she gave for abusing me.
The same excuse. Again and again.
Excuses: excuses not to pay her artists, why the house would freeze and the pipes would burst. Excused for not having insurance when Sandy hit Manhattan and filled her Chelsea gallery with raw sewage. Excuses for not paying her taxes, for not bothering to renew her visa. Excuses why she never made a better job of killing herself. Excuses and apologies. One after another. A crocodile of dead infants snaking their way to hell.
After my painful pancreas operation, drowsy on meds she made me drive to the bank, fetch her $3000 and then punches me when I burst into tears. She apologizes immediately; she tells me that she was abused by her mother. It’s too late. The summer is coming to an end. I hate her with such vigor. I hate being near her, I hate her voice, her smell, her proximity.
We drive back to the gallery where an angry artist is waiting for cash. Arms crossed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.” She pleads with the angry artist.
At the end of August I empty the house of my possessions and I am free. 8 months of hell finally comes to an end. I move to Tivoli.
Even after I am gone she demands money. I have learned not to respond or engage. A good lesson in restraint of pen and tongue.
In the jail I was enveloped by the trans community. They showed me the way. Black trans women. They were not entitled white girls, passing themselves off on the street like women born women. They were black trans women subject to everything a black women suffers (and more) on the streets of racist USA. These women are considered worthless, trash, undignified. I related to these people. They taught me more than I had learned for decades.
This winter I will be wearing couture suits. A jacket and skirt. Based on a Charles James classic. I found a brilliant couturier to make them, one in dark green tweed and another in aubergine silk velvet. They are interchangeable. Deliberately, I get four outfits for the cost of two. A lady has to look after her pennies.
My hope? To look like a lesbian geography teacher from an exclusive private girls school. I rather think I’m going to look like the chef from Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa Dickson-Wright. I have no desire to look feminine. Butch lesbians are far more attractive to me than pretty girls. If I ever had a sex change I am sure to be a lesbian.
Without the power of the penis I am a free man.
I have, these past couple of years since I left the jail, submerged myself in trans culture. My silly film about Jake became an audacious film about a trans woman and the men who chase her. My desire to reprimand my ex became a beautiful treatise on my own trans curiosity. One thing is certain. If I am true to this path I will never leave the big city. I will never live in Whitstable.
There is something about rotting pears on the pavement, wasps feeding on the smashed fruit that transports me to my hometown of Whitstable. There is something about the occasional warm day in October when I hanker for my home.
Last week I had a serious meeting about a play. I have not written a play or thought about the theatre for years. This is an exciting possibility once again. I have no desire to direct. NONE. Write… yes. Direct… no.
I met a young trans person yesterday.
There is a chasm between gay men and trans people. My friend Our Lady J disputes this but my other less glamorous, non performing blue-collar trans buddies tell horrible stories of gay people and their rudeness and transphobia. Bluntly, why should a gay man be interested in a trans woman? Gay men sleep with men… not women. However, out of their trans costumes some young working class non theatrical trans m to f are berated and insulted when they tell gay men what they are into.
If you are a young trans person where do you go to meet empathetic straight men? Many young, transitioning straight men misguidedly think they can meet men through gay dating apps like Grindr. They make their trans position clear.
He said, “I tell them I want to dress as a woman when I meet them, that it’s only going to work if I am dressed as a girl. They tell me it’s not ok. They let me wear panties but won’t tolerate anything else.”
I am taking him on a date this week. He’s excited to wear a dress and paint his nails. He says, “There are two of me, straight me wants to meet trans me and fall in love.” That was very beautiful.
I met another white gay man in NYC, an undergrad at NYU, who condescendingly lectured me about trans culture. He vehemently posited that any man who wears a skirt is transgender, that make up on a man is transgender, that drag is indisputably transgender. That the word transvestite was like saying nigger or faggot. He told me he wants to help his trans brothers and sisters at his university. What help will he be? I couldn’t be bothered to fight. We had sex and I threw him out of my room.
Since I embraced this new path I have come to love my body. No longer interested in what metropolitan gay men think I should look like to enjoy a full life. I have been watching endless documentaries. Paris is Burning versus Candy Darling. The concerns of the former oblivious to the latter.
I am looking forward to wearing my new suit in the big city. I’m excited.
Today transvestite (self described) artist, honored by Queen Elizabeth and the British Government, Grayson Perry writes brilliantly in the New Statesman about default man. Read it here.
They had the complexion of wealth, that white complexion that is heightened by the pallor of porcelain, the sheen of satin, the luster of fine furniture, and is kept in perfect condition by a moderate diet of exquisite foods. Those who were beginning to age seemed youthful, while those who were young had a certain look of maturity. Their faces wore that placid expression which comes from the daily gratification of the passions; and beneath their polished manners one could sense the special brutality that comes from half-easy triumphs which test one’s strength and flatter one’s vanity.
We drove from Provincetown yesterday, leaving the pretty streets, the clapboard houses and verdant gardens to Bear Week. Thousands of large, hairy shouldered men smiling and engaging not scowling or isolating like the circuit boys who infested the town two weeks previously during the 4th July celebration.
The past six weeks in Provincetown were, on the whole, a great deal of fun. I met a huge assortment of extraordinary and not so extraordinary people. I saw people I knew from LA and NYC. I met men and women from DC, Nashville and Florida. Mostly enjoying their week off, some of them… not so much. Americans get so few vacations.
The A gays who live in Provincetown were kind and considerate. They have beautiful homes and make them readily available to those they trust.
The extraordinary designer Ken Fulk has restored a perfect gem of a house in The East End where I was privileged to spend the 4th July and then see photographed by famed society doyenne Douglas Friedman for Elle Decor. Editor Robert Ruffino scampering around arranging flowers wearing his Florentine winkle pickers.
The walls are the color of raspberry mousse, the windows frames and architrave painted chocolate-brown.
My birthday dinner: an anonymous donor very kindly paid for.
I really didn’t know anyone very well at my party, except Michael Goff and Michael Cunningham. So when it came to making my speech, after the candle was snuffed, I said: “I don’t know any of you at all… but this delightful group of strangers came together to celebrate the birthday of another stranger… and with such magnanimity it brings tears to my eyes.”
The following day I told someone from the party that I had no intention of making friends with him beyond Provincetown because our friendship could only flourish on the Cape. He looked a little perplexed but one has to be realistic. When we return to the city a tsunami of gay gossip will drown the truth and ones expectations will be dashed.
The utterly adorable Michael Cunningham (who I had known previously through Amelia Rizo) made a necklace for my birthday. We sat in his exquisitely decorated water front home, surrounded by magnificent art, picking out trinkets for a silver chain. I had a moment of unrestrained excitement as I realized that a Pulitzer Prize winning author, writer of The Hours, was making me a birthday present with his bare hands. He continued, throughout my stay, to delight and engage. We discussed Emma Bovary. We… of a certain age, share the same literary starting blocks… but he won the race.
We talked about Neil Bartlett‘s beautiful book Who Was That Man. Required reading for any young gay.
There were many occasions these past weeks when I noticed how relaxed I was, at peace, living in my own body, inhabiting the life I have rather than the life I thought I wanted. There were, of course, other occasions when a face from the past popped into view and caused momentary consternation. The vile, blond publicist/image consultant, owner of Black Frame Brian Phillips who, wether he likes it or not, is in my social orbit but never bothers to be cordial. Or the ex boyfriend Chris Shipman who cycled around town with his thin calves and sad eyes. I ignored the ex and engaged with fey Brian Phillips who sat in his chair as I forcefully reminded him what an evil cunt he can be and how he seems unable to keep and love another man due to his crippling narcissism.
I met Jim Lande, producer of the hit burlesque/freak show Audition and talked about his flawed film: Love is Strange directed by Ira Sachs. Shown at The Provincetown Film Festival this beautifully shot and directed film promises so much but fails to deliver… relying on coincidence and melodrama. The film lacks any real emotion. Two old gay married men separated by circumstance and bad choices. Could have been brilliant but… wasn’t.
I kept away from the drag shows and the theatrical events but I saw Ryan Landry‘s inventive and surreal Pantomime: Snow White and The Seven Bottoms which reminded me of Charles Ludlam. Go see this if you can.
I spent a great deal of time chatting with the adorable Andrew Sullivan and his husband Aaron Tone. The gays, on the whole, are openly hostile to Andrew, they accuse him of being a ‘traitor to the gays’ because he aggressively posits an alternative view. Our politics couldn’t be more different yet we agreed about so much, mainly our loathing of powerful lobby groups like AIPAC, GLAAD and the HRC. I found him to be gracious and engaging.
Andrew told fascinating stories about his private dinners with President Obama, his short-lived stay in NYC, the history of his three-legged dog. We sat outside The Wired Puppy coffee shop on Commercial Street where I witnessed at first hand the disdain the gays show him and the delight straight people have… in equal measure.
The white gays may never understand his POV because by now they think they rule the world.
I spent time with Michael Goff and Andy Towle in town to promote their site towleroad.com, we greeted the first of the bears at the dock with 20 drag Goldilocks who boasted that they had eaten all the porridge. We sat in their charming house and ate whatever they had in their fridge. We took my friend Caroline Reid to a Bear-B-Q, Caroline is cult performer PamAnn. We took her to more bear events where she was the only woman. Her fans adore her.
And that was that. There were other amusing people to play with who I haven’t mentioned. There were less amusing people who I hope I never see again.
Thanks Provincetown and… adieu.
Gay men in Los Angeles told researchers that they believed a culture that focuses on one-night stands and partying, that emphasizes perfect bodies and good looks, that prizes material possessions, that sees gay men tearing each other down as they compete for attention and that pressures gay men to fit in or conform is bound to create unhappiness, stress and unhealthy behaviors.
The word on the street in gay resort/haven Provincetown? The straights are coming, they are coming thick and fast, young affluent heterosexuals buying property, renting holiday apartments and day tripping. I was reassured by a cool, 31-year-old, straight person yesterday that this was the heterosexual ‘tipping point’. Of course (if true) the reasons are obvious. The older more affluent crowd of gay men and lesbians who bought affordable homes here twenty years ago are simply not that interesting to a less ghettoized younger gay crowd who go to Fire Island or Mykonos where a good gay thumping time is assured, where they can find an affordable share for the summer… anyway, the drag is so much better the closer you get to NYC.
Young straight men and women who used to actively avoid hanging in gay ghettos… or felt uncomfortable no longer have any reservation. This, my dears is one of the more unexpected changes that comes with ‘integration’. Our gay communities, gay clubs and gay bars will dilute as we become more heteronormative.
How do the gays feel about straight people buying into the gay and lesbian ghetto dream? I hear grumblings from some, but what can they say? We can’t restrict straight people from joining the party? Before the great shift, the Obama ‘evolution’, the Blair/Mandleson equality bill I would regularly challenge straight people who came to our clubs and bars, wondering why they were there… if they understood why gays and lesbians created safe spaces for themselves… now apparently we all live in a safe space… together.
If the war is won do we abandon the notion of a safe space, a gay bar, an LGBTQ community? Is that what we were fighting for? As it turns out, gay men are still living shameful and secretive lives… safely hidden from prying eyes. No longer behind the blacked out windows of the gay bar but on the internet where we can fully reinvent ourselves as muscle-bound avatars, 10 years younger than we really are.
The gay bar, meanwhile… becomes a themed experience for enlightened neo-liberal heterosexuals. After all, gay men don’t need to meet one another in real life when we can meet on-line, reducing our interaction before a sexual encounter to the barest possible exchange of relevant facts. Hung? Looking? Party?
The same heterosexual land grab is happening in the Fire Island Pines gay community. Straight people are buying and renting homes at a faster rate than gay people. Of course… the truth is, we never really owned the lions share of Fire Island Pines… it was always owned by straight people. Three heterosexual families who control The Pines real estate market.
In San Francisco‘s iconic gay area The Castro we are facing extinction in our natural habitat, bought out/selling out to silicone valley billions. What are we left with? Our sad LGBT ‘pride’ parade: a blinded corporate-sponsored dinosaur serving only the breweries and distilleries, no longer a political defiance… no longer worth a pilgrimage by those newly out yearning to see gays en masse… the gay parade and all it seeks to celebrate merely adds to our woes, confirming the worst about who we have become.
How long will it take for Provincetown to lose its unique identity and become just another Cape Cod town? The Pines, just another beach community on Fire Island? How long will it take for our history to be lost, forgotten or ignored by apathetic gay white men who have no interest in those who came before? The heroes who fought decades of violent oppression, the ‘gay plague’, who demanded equality… how long will it be until their names are erased?
Do you know who they are? Harvey Milk… and…
The politics of invisibility.
As the quality of our lives collectively ‘improves’, as we ‘integrate’ due to the passing of progressive equality laws why are we still facing a crisis? Why do gay men continue to struggle with life-threatening health problems at alarmingly high rates compared to straight men — alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Gay and bisexual men are still most impacted by HIV/AIDS and syphilis, they suffer higher rates of substance abuse, they are more likely to drink heavily later into life, and they are more likely to commit suicide and suffer major depression and anxiety and bipolar disorders.
Gay men with mental health problems are more likely to use illegal drugs and commit suicide. Or regularly using drugs and alcohol can lead to risky sexual behavior, which increases the likelihood of getting infected by an STD.
Our health problems, in other words, are feeding into each other, we’re literally killing ourselves through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS at higher rates than straight men. Let’s say that again: We are killing ourselves at higher rates than straight men through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.
Some gays are quick to point to the stresses of living as a gay man in an overwhelmingly straight world — one that passes anti-gay laws and constantly spews homophobic rhetoric — as a reason for mental health and substance abuse problems. With that argument, they are coming very close to saying that we are powerless victims who have little control over our own lives and choices, that homophobes have more power over us.
That’s a ridiculous notion — lethal and self-defeating.
Since homophobia still exists and is not going away any time soon, the victim theory, if embraced, dooms us to a life of external, homophobic stressors that forces us to drink too much, commit suicide too frequently and get depressed too often.