Posts tagged “self-esteem

Embracing Life Beyond 50: Begin with “Yes”

Paul BoyntonHow best to move forward through life is one of the questions author, life coach, and non-profit CEO Paul Boynton asks and attempts to answer on a daily basis.  As author of the inspirational Begin With Yes and the host of both its accompanying Facebook page as well as the Facebook page Being Gay, Becoming Gray, he helps others take big issues and distill them into manageable bites.  Unique to his beliefs is that while having a positive attitude is helpful in creating change, it isn’t an absolute necessity.

Boynton recently took the time to share with me more about his thoughts on initiating change, as well as on being gay, aging, and other aspects of negotiating life.

Kergan Edwards-Stout:  Paul, I’ve been looking forward to our chat!  Before we get into your book and Facebook pages, tell me a bit about your backstory…

Paul Boynton:  Well, my story is very similar to that of many other gay men of my era.  I was married for many years to a wonderful woman, with whom I had three amazing children—and now four grandchildren.  As I grew older, however, I realized that I needed to deal with myself in a more authentic and honest way.  Consequently, my wife Susan and I eventually separated almost 15 years ago.  Happily, we were able to maintain and even expand the best part of our relationship as dear friends and parents, and she and my partner Michael had a wonderful friendship too.  Sadly, she passed away 3 years ago.    

Edwards-Stout:  What led you to marry Susan? (more…)

A New Anthology of “Letters to My Bully”

With bullying and teen suicides continually in the spotlight, I was honored to have been asked to write a preface for a new anthology, Letters to My Bully, which examines this topic in great depth.  My own Letter to My Bully was incredibly difficult to write, as was the video to make, as it took me back to those difficult days of high school, where I was nervous just to walk across campus.  How someone deals with such experiences can shape their adulthood, for better or worse.  I asked Letters to My Bully editor Azaan Kamau if she would be willing to share her inspiration for the collection, as well as her views on other issues the LGBT community is facing, and am grateful  that she took the time to talk.

It was your vision that led to the creation of this anthology, Letters to My Bully.   What inspired you to compile people’s stories?

Back in October 2010, I wrote and published a book called Got Homophobia.  I was so outraged by the staggering numbers of youth who felt they had no choice but to commit suicide, and felt it was time for us to start the healing process. As adults we subconsciously carry our childhood baggage into adulthood, and that baggage shapes us.  Letters to My Bully was born of necessity to heal the bullied, addressing the issue head-on instead of sweeping it under the rug.  I wanted to send the message that you can survive this–that there are other options beside suicide.

Were you yourself the victim of bullying?

Yes, and I share some of those experienced in the book’s introduction. (more…)

Is It Ever Okay To Call Someone a “Pansy”?

My partner and I are white gay dads with two amazing sons, both of whom are African-American. This season, we finally gave in to their many years of begging that we allow them to play tackle football. We’d previously refused, thinking them too young. We were concerned about not only the possibility of physical injury to the boys, but also the enormous time commitment it would take. Now 10 and 12, we decided that the time was right, and finally acquiesced. What we failed to consider, however, was how our unique family structure might factor into the dynamics of such a macho team sport, and the potential for consequent emotional injury.

While the kids have practiced the last several weeks, loving and hating every grueling moment, last night found one son’s team on the field, in the middle of a drill, when one of the assistant coaches yelled, “What are you? A bunch of pansies?”

I heard his words, echoing across the grass, and felt like I’d been punched in the gut. All those taunts through the years stay with you, even if you’ve risen above them. I immediately walked over, called my son off the field, and told the coach we were done. We were going to switch teams. And he let us go…


Am I a Slut or a Prude?

The other day, a friend who had just read my debut novel said, “Wow, Kergan, I didn’t think you were that sexual!”  His reference was to the amount of sex which occurs in the book, which admittedly is a lot, but his assumption about how that translated to my own sex life prompted, on my part, some self-examination.  And not with a dildo.

You see, to set this up properly, I am a 47-year-old gay man, with a few pounds of extra fat, and am rarely viewed these days as a sexual being.  I long ago entered the Invisible Era, which, for gay men who work out regularly, occurs at age 28.  (It is several years earlier for those who do not.)  In my daily life in suburban Orange County, CA, those I interact with see me primarily as partner to my not-legally-wed-hubby, Russ, and father to our two boys, Mason and Marcus.  As such, our days are filled with school, work, home, and sports, with me serving as glorified chauffer, cook, maid, tutor, nurse, and personal shopper.  That I have had, and continue to have, sexual thoughts and experiences never seems to cross most people’s minds–though they rarely leave mine.

Perhaps sexual longing, past a certain age, makes some uncomfortable.  Perhaps it brings up images of our parents.  Perhaps people assume I can no longer get it up.  Perhaps the visual of me tucked with my toes behind my ears, belly bulging even more than normal, isn’t appealing.  Or perhaps, more likely, people just don’t care one way or another about my sexual cravings.

But it wasn’t always this way.  In my twenties, I was a Professional Gay, living in the gayest of gay cities, West Hollywood, where the prospect of sex was all around me.  During the day, I worked at AIDS Project Los Angeles, running a safer sex program, where thousands at Pride witnessed me pulling strangers out from the crowd, strapping a dildo onto them, and rolling a condom down it with my mouth.  (Yes, I’m highly skilled.)  But, strangely enough, that prowess didn’t directly translate into getting dates.  Instead, each night my friends and I would perform our mandatory WeHo welcome wagon duties and circulate through the clubs, our route never varying.  My constant fear was that if I didn’t go out, that would be the one and only night Mr. Right would be there, and I’d have missed him. So I went out relentlessly, always hanging self-consciously on the periphery, fearing rejection, and invariably returning home alone.

Still, I did manage to have lots of sex.  In fact, if being a slut is determined solely by the number of people with which one has slept, I clearly win the crown, as my number is quite staggering.  But sex for me was always in the context of a relationship, or in a test-run of a potential mate.  There was always the expectation that the sex would or could lead to something more, which allowed me to separate myself from others.  In my mind, what I was doing was quite different than simply hooking up, and somehow “better.”  I looked down on those who fucked without introduction, as if the simple addition of a shared meal or movie substantially altered the meaning of the encounter. The irony, of course, is that while this self-serving world view allowed me to remain “pure” and above the common sluts, I may have had more sexual partners than they ever did.

I was both slut and prude, at the same time.

There is a part of me that regrets such prudishness.  I would’ve loved to have more fully explored all the sexual pleasures available to me.  There was so much I didn’t do, but I wonder now if that prudish hesitation is what kept me alive.  So many others from those days, including my partner Shane, weren’t so lucky.  But the combination of my own judgmental nature and my stellar HIV education kept me firmly in check, with condom in hand.

Today, in the Grindr Generation, there are so many issues with which men grapple, I’m not sure I could navigate love and sex.  Putting all of my physical stats out there?  No, thank you.  Photos of my cock?  Not until MiracleGro expands their product offerings.  Figuring out what “type” I am? Well, I could be a bear, given my extra weight–or do my 6 straggly chest hairs and full head of hair immediately disqualify me?  And let’s not even get into whether I am a top or a bottom.  I’ve always hated having to categorize myself, but the lead character, Gabriel, in my novel expresses my feelings better than I ever could:

Although far from butch, I really like to fuck.  And, though not incredibly femme, I also enjoy a hard dick shoved up my ass.  That these acts should somehow become confused with personal characteristics was both unfair and misleading.  In my not-so-distant past, I have been fucked silly by a rather overweight bald man, who favored lavender and pearls and, the very next day, served my saucisson to a ravenous French marine.  Both proved thoroughly enjoyable, but what label did these experiences warrant?  (Please don’t say “whore.”)

To say that I am simply “versatile” is also misleading, as it implies that I am capable of performing stupendous circus tricks at will (“And, folks, you should see what he can do with a cantaloupe!”)  Basically, “versatile” means you have no morals and will open your ass for anyone.  Although I am not always incredibly picky about my choice of partners, I do like to think that I have guidelines, however mutable.

As a younger man, my head was filled with such guidelines, but as I age, the lines between what I view as proper and improper have blurred, more than just a little.

Our eldest son, Mason, recently had the sixth grade “health talk” at school.  While the school nurse, understandably, focused on anatomy, conception, and health risks, we took this as an opportunity to speak with him further about all that sex is and can be.  We talked about love, and lust, and urges.  We talked about knowing when the time is right, and the importance of expressing feelings not only through actions, but through words.  And, most importantly, we talked about respect, for both our partners and ourselves.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you think me a slut or a prude, for it is how I view myself that matters most.  The number of sexual partners we have isn’t as important as how respectfully we treat them–and how we feel about our actions later.  After all, one can have sex with a thousand people and still be a prude.  And, if you’re doing it right, you can have sex with only one, and still be a slut.

Cross-Posted on Huffington Post and Bilerico Project.

Our Place in the World: Reclaiming Our Humanity

In the fight for LGBT equality, often it seems as if others don’t understand just how normal our lives truly are.  The right-wing has been so effective in demonizing our community as something exotic, sexually-driven, and threatening, that the sheer normalcy of our existence has in large part been forgotten.  By painting us solely as predatory beings, they have stripped us of our humanity.  In truth, while we have sexual desires, we also work, play, sleep, eat, and breathe.  Not much to call exciting, and certainly nothing that separates us from the rest.  Those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are simply searching for our place in the world, like those around us.

In high school, I had the supreme pleasure of bastardizing the role of George Gibbs in Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town.  Since 1938, this piece has been performed on stages across the nation, likely in inferior productions such as mine, but–still–the play resonates.  While drama teachers probably select it for its low budget appeal, the reason Our Town continues to succeed is that it speaks to elements each and every audience member desires, denounces, or values:  family, love, human interaction, and the beauty and fragility of life.

What many may not know is that playwright Thornton Wilder was actually gay.  Some may find it ironic that a gay man crafted something that speaks so centrally to millions of Americans, regardless of age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but it is not altogether surprising.  We all share basic, primal needs, as Wilder illustrates so skillfully in the play.

Wilder, a multifaceted individual with a host of interests and desires, was not defined by his sexuality alone.  Like many Americans, he served his country in the armed forces.  Like others, he was a devoted teacher.  Like many of us, Wilder was bullied for being different.  And, yes, he was also a sexual being, as his relationship with Samuel Steward indicates.  (Steward would later go on to write homo-erotica under the name Phil Andros).

The LGBT community, however, has largely been defined not from within, based on our varied attributes, but at the hands of others, often for political gain. Prior to Stonewall, we were considered predators.  After Stonewall, we were labeled hedonists. During the turbulent battle to gain access to HIV drugs, we were stereotyped as angry activists.  In our efforts to reclaim the word “queer” from our tormentors, we were labeled “extreme/other.”  The advent of AIDS further reinforced the notion that we were somehow “diseased”, and our reluctance to explore how fully HIV impacted our community, allowing AIDS to remain a specter even now, only compounds the idea that who we are and what we do are somehow illicit.  We have been made the boogeyman, time and again, and the toll that has taken on our collective psyche may never be known. (more…)