Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chasing Normal

What's it like to be a normal guy? You know that guy who is confident and comfortable in his own skin. The guy who has a normal guy's ability to rattle off sports stats and hold his own in any conversation about "manly things." What is it like to be a normal married man who loves his wife, is proud of his children and doesn't think of other men in sexual terms? What is it like to be average or a little bit better than average in one's ability to play a game of pick-up ball with the guys or to do home repair projects with a flair? What is it like to live your life both at home and at work and to be appreciated at both home and at work for who and what you are - a normal adult male with a modicum more intelligence than the norm and a bit more drive to achieve than the norm? Not only is the question, What is it like? The question is, Who bestows the mantle of "normality" on one and how does one know when it has been bestowed upon him?

I asked all those questions for many years. I pondered for years just when it would be that I would become the man my father had been. Who would tell me when I had become that man and where would notice be posted of my achievement?

I suppose "normal" guys have some of the same questions. After all, its not easy being a man - any sort of man. Even in this age of gender equality men are expected to know what to do and when to do it. Men are expected to be strong when adversity comes yet at the same time to be empathetic and caring.

Somehow these days men and women are always thought of as equals except when there is heavy lifting to be done or danger is close at hand. When the going gets rough, not always; but more often than not, men are expected to step up to the plate and lead. Where is the handbook for that guy? Who has my copy because I never got it.

I really don't know what questions "normal" guys have for life in the privacy of their own minds because I've never been the "normal" guy. Some of us come to know we are different as teen agers. Some of us come to know we are different in our 30's. Some of us never know we're different until our 50's or 60's. I have known I was different from the age of six. It's not an easy thing to know. It's not an easy thing to handle.

And unfortunately, its not something one can talk about with just anyone. Normal guys don't like to talk about anything personal in depth anyway. So whom are we "not so normal men" to turn to? We can't turn to our female friends. They sure don't have access to the Male Handbook.

We live in an age when knowledge and learnedness are increasing exponentially each year.  Yet, some things we have left behind from ages  past have not been replaced by any thing newer and better and more modern. One such thing is mentorship. There was a time when a young man who had come of age to begin supporting himself that he was apprenticed to an older skilled man to learn a skill or a trade. Young scholars were mentored by older scholars who passed their knowledge and wisdom to the younger man. The good thing about the apprentice and mentor system was that it passed more to the younger man than just a skill or trade or knowledge and wisdom.  Social skills and the experience that comes from just living was also passed directly to the younger men.

Today, formal education has taken the place of these systems of old, but there are gaps in the formal education system.  Today, homes in which there are both a mother and a father are not the norm. Many young men are being raised my their mothers with their fathers either absent or under involved in their son's lives. There is no one for these young men to discuss the deep and personal questions of life. There is not even a competent male figure around for them to look up to and emulate.

For a guy born different, I was most fortunate. I had a mother who understood me more than I imagined and with whom I could have conversations concerning religion, philosophy and the facts of life. These conversations taught me how to analyze information and choices and they taught me to think outside the boundaries of what was considered to be the norm. They also taught me that questioning was always a good thing although it often made people uncomfortable to be questioned.

I was also fortunate, to have a father who was not empathetic at all but who was very realistic and very determined to teach me that the world didn't give a damn about me and also to teach me that what I was to get from the world I had to earn by hard and honest effort. He taught me, sometimes against my will, that adversity must be faced head on and not ignored or surrendered to.

Finally, though I was not a normal kid, I was surrounded all through my childhood and young adulthood with good friends. As a boy the things that made me different were accepted by other boys who lived in the small Texas town in which I lived. Commercial entertainment was non-existent in that small 1950's Texas  community. Entertainment came from our own efforts and interests and from our own imaginations. For young boys who are together almost 24/7 except for sleep time, we got to know each other very well in deed. There was very little that was off limits. And for a group of healthy young guys with hanging cocks and balls and bodies full of hormones, talk and action soon involved sexual adventure. It was a way of life. It was our life. And really it was an awesome thing. We were buddies in every sense of the word. We stuck up for each other and we had each other's back. We didn't talk much. We didn't get into either trivial discussions like girls do or into deep discussions. We just did what we did and we had a lot of fun, no matter what it was we were doing. We were basically good kids. We didn't commit acts of vandalism and call it fun. Our fun didn't require such things. Of course, we sneaked a smoke or tried out liquor liberated from one of our dads. One Halloween we took an outhouse from an old long abandoned house on Main Street and used it as the crown on a bonfire we had built. But we were careful that nothing got out of hand.

So it was with our sexual play too. Nothing ever got out of hand. No one was ever bullied or forced in any way. We were all the best of friends. At that point in my life, I didn't worry about normal as much as I would come to worry about it later and didn't even seem all that different because what I wanted and what I needed was willingly supplied by my friends and it was a two way street. It was not a one way street. Male/male sex was an everyday part of our lives. It was the norm as I knew it as a kid.

Even when I started dating, I would often double date with a buddy with whom I had been sexually active for years. We liked playing with each other. We liked girls. At that point in my life even that seemed normal. It was even an advantage. The girls we dated were not nearly so willing  to experiment with sex with us as we were with each other, and in those pre "pill" days it was much much safer to play with the guys. We weren't going to get each other pregnant.

But this false sense of normality was not to last and I had no opportunity to get answers to the questions I didn't know enough about to even ask.

I had started dating regularly at age 14. By age 16, I was dating the woman who would become my wife before my 19th birthday. I saw no reason to discuss my male/male sexual activity with her because it didn't matter. In my mind it was a temporary thing. It was a substitute which I would soon replace with regular heterosexual sex. In the months before our marriage getting to know each other sexually was exciting and awesome. Consumed with the newness of it all, the male/male sexuality which had consumed my youth seemed to be slip out of my life as I had expected it would.

I don't remember the first time it happened, but I know if was only a few months into our marriage. We were having hot hot sex and lots of it. My wife enjoyed sex and she was good at it. In fact, she was awesome at it. I had no way of knowing at that time, of course, but sex with her was never to get boring or routine. For more than 40 years to come she was going to continue to rock my word sexually in a very very good way.

She was able and willing to provide me whatever it was I requested of her. She would even come up with things I had not requested but found to be ultimately erotic. She met every need I knew I had - at least at first. But at some point in that first year of marriage, it happened. We went to bed, had hot sex and then went to sleep. The problem came that night when only hours after mind blowing sex with my wife, I had a wet dream about sex with one of my guy partners. It brought my life crashing down around me. The allusion of normality was shattered. The thoughts I'd always had that I classified as just sexual thoughts that I conveniently satisfied with my male friends now presented themselves as not just sexual thoughts at all. They were something else entirely. The thoughts were true desires for specific acts of male/male sex and although I desired and carried out sexual activity with my wife, that activity did not satisfy the desires for male contact.

That first wet dream as a married man about another man was to begin an almost 30 year period in my life that was to be filled with a growing sense of pain and despair, of growing self  hate and guilt. It began an almost 30 year period in which I thought I was the only married guy in the world to have the desires I had. How could I know differently? It was not something I could ask anyone I trusted about. I was simply some kind of a monster. Who could I talk to about something like that?

With each passing year, the monkey on my back took increasingly bigger bites out of me.  My frustration, self hatred and guilt became more and more unbearable.

It was a complex problem and the resolution of it was just as complex. It took help from a source outside myself and it took my own resolve and the life lessons I had learned thought my life to find a resolution to my situation.

The source outside of myself was two pronged. There were both temporal and religious sources that came to have great affect on me. The temporal source of help was the internet. Around 1990, I got my first computer and discovered a new institution, the chat room. And much to my shock and relief, I found that there were hundreds if not thousands of chat room crowded with thousand if not tens of thousands of married men who, like myself, enjoyed sex with their wives but also desired sexual activity with men.

While this gave me some relief, it still did nothing, at first, to reassure me that I was a normal man. That was to take longer and require a lot of work on my part.

Now, just over 20 years later, I have come to see that bisexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality. In fact I have leaned that human sexuality is a continuum with most men falling out somewhere along a line between heterosexual and homosexual. I have had the opportunity to personally meet and get to know a number of bisexual and homosexual men and getting to know them has helped me to get to know myself. Don't misread this, my gay friends know exactly what I am about to say and understand it. Getting to know and spend some quality time with a few gay guys was an important step for me in understanding myself. I developed a relationship with one particular gay man which developed into a relationship in which anything could be said or asked. It was a very important part of finding myself because in having such an intimate view of a gay man, I came to know that I was not gay.

Homophobia is so rampant in this country that the normal American thinks that if a guy even has a passing thought about another guy, he is gay. Such is not the case.

What I have found is that gaining a sense of self respect and putting an end to the guilt and shame requires not only the knowledge that one is part of a normal expression of human sexuality but also requires the willingness and the courage to find the things we cannot change and deal with them as they are. It also requires the willingness and the courage to identify the things we can change and change them.

Speaking candidly, what we cannot change is our sexuality and trying is only an exercise in increasing our sense of frustration and self hate and guilt. What we can and must change is what we believe and what we accept  as normal.

That is where the second source outside myself, my religious faith, came to be of help to me. From my early childhood I had been raised in the church. Fortunately, I was raised by Christian parents who were not radical fundamentalists. Instead they were thoughtful Christians who taught me that one had to work out his own salvation. That salvation was a personal thing between each of us and God. They also taught me that God was not the angry old man many preachers talked about and who many Christians claim to serve, but instead a loving God whose grace is endless and ours to accept without merit of our own. It saddens me that if I had not been taught Christianity by my parents, if I were simply observing Christianity today, as an outsider looking in, I would be the leader of a union of atheists. The public face of Christianity today has become an ugly, self serving and hypocritical thing that no truly thoughtful person would want to have anything to do with.

Yet, there is another side of this ugliness, in which liberal and caring Christians truly do take the gospel of Christ to heart and work unceasingly to build people up rather than to tear them down. Unfortunately, like much else in this country, these Christians don't get much press exposure. There is nothing as sensational and as entertaining and as handy to turn into a sound bite from the religious left as there always is from the "in your face religious radical right."

No matter who we are or where we live we become a part of a philosophical view of life. I have come to realize that those of us who allow someone else to dictate our philosophical view of life to us are bound to a personal hell form which there is no escape.

That is not to say that the true philosophy of life is "anything goes."  Its not. It is also not to say that we can come to a philosophical view of life that answers all the questions and wraps everything up in a neat package. We can't.

Where many meet their downfall is allowing some part of society to define the boundaries of valid philosophical thought for them. A good example of this happens to concern human sexuality. Almost all the evidence points to the conclusion that homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality are biological norms. Yet certain groups within our society have concluded that two of these are not biological norms but sinful choices. For reasons I do not fully understand and which do not make sense to me, some guys who are bisexual or homosexual allow society to inflict this belief on them. They don't worry or obsess about much else that society might consider sinful but they obsess greatly over the supposed sins of their sexuality.

What I did differently from many other guys is that I chose to look at other philosophies.  And what I found was both astounding and fortuitous for someone like me. Contrary to what most guys think, there are other religious philosophies than that held by the religious right. And that is not all. Those who hold to the more liberal and forgiving religious philosophies are better educated and have on average more training in theology than do those who are more conservative and less forgiving in their religious philosophy.

However, not every guy is a religious guy and even guys who have no religious faith still are conflicted by their bisexuality. I believe the problem is much the same as it is for those who are religious. The non-religious guys are allowing society  to dictate their philosophy of life to them. They are allowing  society at large to tell them what is normal and what is perverted. They buy in to the pejorative labels society has decided to assign to them. They fail to realize that homophobia itself is the product of so called normal guys having thoughts about other guys that scare the shit out of them.

I have come to believe that it is totally possible for two straight guys to be sexually active with one another and continue to be two straight guys, guys who love their wives, enjoy sex with their wives, and love and support their children. The truth is men are wired biologically to bond with other men. Men have evolved because of such bonds. Men who could not bond closely with another man did not live to reproduce themselves. The ones who bonded with another to hunt and gather cooperatively are the men who succeeded and who reproduced and raised sons who were men who could and did bond with other men. And when men bond deeply, their physical make up is such that sex sometimes becomes a part of the bond even thought they are 100% heterosexual men. The fact is such men are not seeking sex with another male. Instead the sex is a bonded result of their deep friendship with a particular person who happens to be male!

Another barrier to many men is an unreasonable concern for their privacy and safety. They fear that if anyone knows that they are bisexual, they will be outed to the world at large. They fail to realize that there are not many good reasons why one bisexual man would out another bisexual man against his will. It was one of the last lessons I had to learn to be able to act on my bisexuality.  I was sure that "bisexual" was written in red letters on my forehead. It took a good friend whom I trusted with my secret to convince me otherwise. For many years now, I have been out to a number of gay and bisexual men and my privacy has never been compromised even though I am exceptionally more known to the community at large than is the average man.

My only regret at this stage of my life is that I wasted so many years in guilt and pain and self-hatred. I would give anything to have those years back. That will never  happen but at least in the past 15 to 20 years I've come to know that I am in fact just a normal guy after all. I'm me and I have found I like being a bisexual guy. To be otherwise would be to not be me. My bisexuality has been a part of my life and without it my life would have been different and I would have missed the opportunities that came only because of my bisexuality and my willingness to explore it.

Twenty years ago the ordinary guy beginning to explore his bisexuality was 50 - 60 years of age. Now more and more the guys beginning to expire their bisexuality are 30 - 40. I think that is a good thing. By the time they are my age they will be very comfortable with who they are and able to help other guys who are chasing normal to see that they are in fact normal too.

In many societies through the ages, bisexuality has been seen as a normal thing. Perhaps in years to come such will become the case again even in our society. I think that would be a good thing because I think the norm for guys includes  masculine, seemingly basically straight guys, even married guys, who recognize the emotional and physical beauty of other guys. In such a norm relationships with other men are solid and mutually agreeable and mutually beneficial. They are sometimes intimate and sometimes sexual.

If one looks back with an open mind, he can plainly see that society at large has benefitted though the ages from the homosexual mind. Much that we revere in art and literature and music is the product of the homosexual mind. These men have played an enduring part in presenting the finer things of life to us through the ages.

Simply because there are guys on each end of the spectrum of male sexuality, there have to be guys in the middle regions of that spectrum. These men are bisexuals and they two play an important roll in society. One of the rolls they are playing today is quietly support the liberalization of the way society views gay men and women. Bisexual men are by their very nature invisible to the society at large of which they are a part. They pass freely from their heterosexual to their homosexual sides and back and no one knows or even suspects. But they know and what they know gives them great empathy for those who are homosexual and are deserving still of equal status and protection under the law.

There  will be many good things about a normality that allows heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual men to go where the normal expression of their personhood takes them and to allows them the relationships they need, whatever the model.

The growing acceptance of homosexuality as a norm of human sexuality will continue to bring prejudice and discrimination to an end. There will thus be less motive for homosexual men to hide behind a false marriage in which they, their wives and families are often eventually hurt and hurt badly. That will not destroy society. It will enrich society, I don't care what the radical religious right has to say about it. They are simply wrong!

These relationships will have no adverse impact on their marriages because they are a normal part of what it is to be male.

In my talks with hundreds of men over the last 15 or so  years, the saddest men I have ever encountered are the men who simply will not consider a new paradigm for their faith, their political view, and/or their personal philosophy. These guys are leading tragic lives. It simply does not have to be that way. Those with the courage to change the things that can be changed have proven it time and time again.

I spent many years chasing normal and found it in the last place I looked - right inside myself! If you've been chasing normal for a year or for decades, I hope you'll look inside yourself for it.

Jack Scott

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott