So, you finally made the call… you’re gay. What next? Well, the good news is you can stop pretending to like college football!
What should you do?
Where should you start?
Is there a book, a guide, perhaps even a pamphlet?
Alas, unfortunately no…. but, at least you have the interweb to help you negotiates gaydom’s winding streets towards a life of wardrobe sharing and home improvement projects.
And most importantly, you also have me! So here is what you need to know:
1.) Know Yourself.
As Mama Ru says, “If you can’t love yo’self, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else.” (Oh Ru, I love you so! How did you get so wise?) So tell me…who are you? Where did you come from? What is important to you? Being gay is only a fraction of your identity. Don’t leave the rest of your personality at the door when you come to the party. Seriously folks, DON’T LOSE WHO YOU ARE for the sake of your sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the gay community is full of stereotypes. Don’t be one of them. Did you grow up a book worm…an athlete…a nerd…a rocker? Is your family from a different country with your spicy food and your funny underwear? We need you! Were you the president of your church youth group? Welcome to the club. Are you Latino, Jewish, Muslim, Blasian? We want you all…whoever you are….however you came to our gay world, we want you just like that! Don’t change for us. Remember the Gays invented diversity. So let’s be diverse, dammit!
2.) Know Your Family.
Is your family adapting well to your new found gayness? If not, give them time. Everyone reacts differently. Don’t forget your parents changed your diapers. Give them the grace to process this in their own way. Give them time to see you are still you. Most importantly, if they absolutely, positively cannot accept you as a gay man, don’t close the door. Let them know that the lines of communication are still open if and when they can accept you. Then find another family. Find people who get you and spend time with them. Cultivate those relationships and never let them go. Spend holidays and birthdays and build memories. Family comes in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes it takes work to build, but the rewards are exponential.
3.) Know Your Goals.
What do you want to be when you grow up? More importantly, who do you want to be? You will find that road is winding and it’s easy to get lost if you don’t have a clear goal and a clear path to get there. Now that you have embraced your identity as a gay man, it’s easy to get distracted by the pretty faces and the dancing shirtless men at the circuit parties. Certainly, there is a time to enjoy these things. At some point though, it’s probably time to move on. A wise person once told me “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” So if your life goals consist of chasing boys and dancing shirtless, then knock yourself out; but you might wake up some day and realize that you’re older now and you have man boobs and the boys prefer that your shirt stays on. So search your soul, find out what turns your crank and pursue your passion with reckless abandon. On your 90th birthday, when you are fulfilled and happy with what you’ve accomplished in life, you will thank me!
4.) Know Your Values.
What line is it that you will never cross?
drugs…bareback sex with a stranger…cheating on your partner…
Yes, my friends, these are your values. They are part of who you are. You see, we all have them at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, these “lines in the sand,” which we say are absolutes, can get a little blurry. Especially when you throw alcohol or drugs into the mix. Believe me. I am certainly no saint. I have moved my own lines so far down the field that sometimes I can’t remember where they started. But the good news is, I know where my lines are today. I have found that if I pay just a little attention to my moral compass, my life is a bit more sane and my relationships are bit more sound. So ask yourself, “What are my lines?”
5.) Know Your Risk.
Unfortunately risk in inherent in life. As gay men, some of our behaviors put us at risk for all kinds of bad things like sexually transmitted infections, drug and alcohol dependence, depression, suicide and intimate partner violence. We can mitigate some of this risk by making good choices. The most current data shows that, while the overall number of HIV and AIDs cases has decreased, the incidence among men who have sex with men remains roughly unchanged as of 2015. As more and more men are taking Truvada as part of the PrEP program, I hope these trends change. But Truvada is not a magic pill. Unprotected sex with multiple partners leads to all kinds of consequences, not just HIV. I speak as someone who sees the consequences in the faces and the lives of gay men I treat every day. Make good decisions. Limit the number of sexual partners you have and use barrier protection every time. If your current lifestyle does include sex with multiple partners, chose to be responsible. Get screened for sexually transmitted infections every 3 months and anytime you have symptoms.
So that’s it. That’s all you need to know. Go flap your wings, fly from the nest and be gay. NOT! There’s more…. like how to throw a dinner party…and perfect home lighting…and underwear…(oh so much about underwear.) But for now, let’s think about what we’ve learned so far. You know, take it in. Let it marinate.
Well done grasshopper. You have learned well….