Friday, September 30, 2011

Growing Up Gay

As you may have noticed, many of my blogs deal with various aspects of my being gay, and the reason is simple: I talk so much about being gay because for the first nearly 2/3 of my life I was, out of very real concern for the possible consequences, unable to do so.

And now, looking at the title of this blog, it has the same vague redundancy as if it had been titled "Growing Up Brown-Eyed" or "Growing Up Right-handed." Of course I grew up gay: it's simply an integral part of who I am and who I have always been. The realization...make that the acceptance of the fact...that one is gay varies from person to person. I was blessed to realize and accept who I was before I ever heard the term "gay."

I don't remember when I first heard the actual word "gay" used to define those like me. Up until my early teens the only words I heard to describe what I was were "Queer," "Sissy," "Pansy," "Nance," and other equally charming epithets. Interestingly, I don't recall hearing "Faggot" (the most commonly derogatory term today) until I was well beyond my teens. I was, in fact, not directly aware that there were more than a few others like me until I was 17 and was picked up in a movie theater by a guy visiting from Chicago, who showed me there was a whole world of us out there.

I never experienced any bullying for being gay, though in high school there were a few minor incidents of name calling and whispers and, once, a car full of my male schoolmates--none of whom I knew personally--driving by and yelling "Queer!"

Knowing what I know now about the growing-up experiences of others of my generation and beyond, I realize not only how lucky I was, but that I was in fact utterly blessed. My mother and father loved me unconditionally, and had they ever asked, I would have told them. But they didn't. They didn't have to. I never lied, or pretended to be anything but what I was, but we played a mutual game of avoidance. My father was far more aware of my sexual orientation than my mother, and at a far earlier age. It wasn't until I was 33 and had broken up with Norm after six years that we addressed the subject openly. My dad said, "Are you sure? Have you tried being with a woman?" (No, I most definitely had not.) and my mom, said, "Well, I wish you weren't, but that doesn't change how much we love you." And it didn't.

I had relatively (no pun intended) little contact with my father's side of the grandmother, aunt (Dad's half-sister), her husband, Pete, and their two kids. I heard only many years later that one time while I was a teenager, Pete apparently made some comment about my being "queer" to my folks and my dad nearly got into a fight with him over it.

I always identified strongly with my mom's side of the family, the Fearns, and down deep considered myself more a Fearn than a Margason. Every one of them--my grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousins, and second cousins--never once so much as suggested that I was "different," though they all knew, and I love them all the more for it. One of my fondest memories is when I brought my then-partner, Ray, back to Rockford for a visit. The entire family got together for dinner, and treated Ray as they had treated one of the family.

My dad, being more aware, was deeply concerned for me, and sometimes this led to conflicts between us. Once, between my freshman and sophomore years of college, two of my best gay friends, Stu and Zane, and I planned a trip to New York. Dad did not want me to go, and we had several heated arguments until finally he said, "Okay, go to New York with your queer boyfriends!" This shocked me because he knew Stu and Zane and had always treated them warmly, and had never before said a word against them. I realize now his reaction was based on his true concern over the possible dangers inherent in my being a gay teenaged tourist in New York.

When I moved to Chicago after college and partnered with Norm, my folks and the entire family accepted him without question. Even though my folks and I had not yet even mentioned the "g" word, and would not for several more years, they adored Norm and treated him as a second son.

When I took my parents to Hawaii as a Christmas present one year, Norm stayed in Chicago. One night, when my folks were getting ready to go to bed, I decided I wanted to go back out (to check out the local gay scene, though of course I didn't tell them that). My mom said, "Well, when you get married you won't need all this running around," and my dad said, "Hell, he's already married."

I miss my folks...and at this moment, (no offense, Mom), I particularly miss my dad.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Damned if you do,..."

That we humans are able to exist at all in so infinitely-complex and frustrating a world is a testament to our resilience and flexibility. We are bombarded every moment of every day with contradictions and challenges and decisions, and somehow we manage to wend our way through the minefields, though it can be argued it is harder and harder to do so.

Ironies and contradictions abound. We have created technology to make our lives simpler, and have ended up being ruled by it. We come up with new ways of direct communications and lose the ability to communicate directly (as anyone who has ever tried to reach a real human being at a major corporation can attest).

The invention of the computer has changed our entire world. But now, to have a computer is not enough. One must have an iPod and an iPad and a Tablet and a Kindle and a Nook and a Blackberry. Telephones begat cell phones, and cell phones begat texting and ring tones and 14,999 various "apps". I have a computer (and have made the quantum leap from sit-in-one-place PC to a laptop and have a small device that plugs into the laptop to enable me internet access from anywhere in the city of Chicago). I do not have an iPod or an iPad or a Tablet or a Kindle or a Nook or a Blackberry. I have seen them, but I have never used them, and though I'm sure they're lots of fun, I honestly get along fine without them.

I am bedeviled by endless TV commercials that encourage me to sign up for a mind-boggling array of supposedly absolutely necessary services I in fact do not need, each of which I can have "for only $99.99 a month for the first three months," after which it usually goes up to $129.00 per month. Multiply this by six different devices requiring some sort of service contract and you're getting close to the gross national product of Paraguay.

I am well aware that the single purpose of all commercial ventures is to make money, but I rather strongly resent the implication that if I don't have (read "buy") all these gadgets and gee-gaws, I am a pathetic relic unfit for society. Lord knows I get that message clearly enough in other areas of my life; I don't need it from technology.

I have yet to completely figure out Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and LinkedIn and and BranchOut and the 9,000 other internet sites I am told I "must" belong to if I intend to get/keep my name out there and find new readers for my books. And as a result, I spend so much time bouncing from site to site trying to keep up that I have almost no time to write.

Obligations are part of life. If you are below retirement age, you have to get up and go to work five days a week whether you want to or not. We all have obligations, to friends, family, employers. For the most part, we meet them, and when we don't, there are often consequences. It is the obligations imposed on us by our culture and by technology which are the problem. We are in effect bullied into them.

The human need to belong, to feel part of the whole, is universal. It is a fact advertisers know well and exploit to the fullest. One of the most popular expressions in the advertiser's lexicon is "Everybody's talking about..." The fact that, of course, everybody is not talking about it is totally irrelevant. The clear message they are sending is that if you are not talking about it, you don't belong.

Bombastically partisan politicians are fond of saying "The American people will not tolerate such-and-so," meaning that if you have no objection to or may even be in favor of the "such-and-so," you are obviously not a part of "the American people."

The world, it seems, is the embodiment of that old vaudeville question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?" No matter how you respond, you're in trouble. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When I Was Who I Was

When I was who I was, I was not satisfied. I took everything I had for granted and wanted more. Now that I am who I am, and no longer have what I had then, I look back in longing for it, and in self-recrimination for not appreciating what I had until I no longer had it. This seems to be an all-too-common human trait, and one which, if you do not yet understand, you surely will.

We tend to assume that life is just...there...all for us. When we are young, we firmly believe that we will be young forever. Life does not come with an instruction manual or a warrantee, and we totally ignore cautions of what lies ahead for us just as we ignore the tiny-print cautions that come on every bottle of aspirin. It is only much later, when it's too late to make any sort of mental preparation, that we begin to realize that life is not a gift, but a pay-as-you-go proposition. Each of us must pay, in some form, for every year we live and, like health insurance premiums, the cost goes up every year. It is not until we are well into our 30s or 40s that it begins to occur to us that the rules of mortality apply to us. The realization is like slowly being lowered into a bath of ice water.

We are far too easily distracted from where we are going by our real and perceived problems. Every human has problems--they're a part of life. Some, of course, are much more serious than others, but while some are life-changing, the vast majority are not. Problems of the moment tend to be exaggerated in our minds because 1) they are our problems, and 2) we are having them now. Once they are past, they generally fade away to relative insignificance, to be replaced by newer problems. But in our obsession with them, and in wasting much more time than necessary on them, we lose perspective on the rest of our lives.

Some species, like ants and bees, seem to share a common awareness. It would be nice if, even as we remained individuals, humans were privy to some sort of similar shared awareness of the true path of our life. Because we are locked within ourselves and spend every instant there, we are not aware of the changes going on within ourselves...the gradual change from who we were to who we are. Seeing ourselves in a mirror each day is an example of this phenomenon. Reflective surfaces reveal these changes, but they are so gradual as to be unnoticed. I, unlike most people, go to great lengths to avoid reflective surfaces out of my refusal to accept what I see there. I therefore can go for months without confronting myself. But when I do, because I do not have the "buffer" of incremental unawareness, I am painfully aware of the changes between what I see now and what I saw the last time.

I don't want to be who I am now. I want to be who I was, once. And the full awareness that I never will be, never can be, does not stop me from wanting, or reduce the intensity of that want. And yet I find myself slowly coming to what I hope to be an...accommodation...with myself. No matter how old we are, we are never going to get any younger, but by the same token, we are, at this moment, as young as we will ever be, and I am determined to enjoy whatever it is--and there is much--I have now. I can't do anything at all about the past, but I can have considerable control over my future. I plan for it (a European river cruise next summer, the completion of my current book and a string of subsequent books stretching as far into the future as time will allow me); I try not to put off things I want to do by falsely assuming I will have "plenty of time" in which to do them. I may not, and this is as true of you as it is with me.

To say "time is precious" is to repeat one of the oldest and most overused of cliches. But like most cliches, it became a cliche because it is true. And I relate my awareness of the value of time to my habit of, when seeing a penny on the sidewalk, stooping to pick it up. Not because I need the money, but because like time, it is there, it has value, and it should not be wasted.

I will never be who I was when I was, but I'll do my best to be who I am.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Friday, September 23, 2011

We Humans

We humans are an endlessly fascinating species, constantly at war within and among ourselves. We each exist in and move through a world of astonishing everyday wonders of which we are never aware. That we are not is understandable in that were we to be aware of them all we would have no time, given our relatively short lifespan, to do anything at all else but be in a state of constant, overwhelming amazement. We'd be like a deer in the headlights, immobilized.

But every now and then we should stretch our minds by giving some thought to those things never thought of. Our genetic imperatives, for example. Our DNA is almost identical to the primates and carnivores from which we evolved--and yes, you Tea Party twits, we evolved! Get used to it.

But for all our genetically based aggressiveness, which has plagued us since before we became identifiably human, we are also programmed for what might be called nobility. Our genetic imperative is centered on the preservation of the species. We protect our children instinctively. With few exceptions, we would without hesitation give our lives to save theirs. And, to our credit, not only our own children, but all children within our circle of influence. Were the starving children in remote areas of the world within our physical reach, I have no doubt but that we would do anything to save them. It is the physical distance which gives us a sense of helplessness. Our only recourse, given the distances separating us, is to contribute money to be used by those physically closer to the problem to help them, and it can always be argued that no matter how much we do to alleviate their suffering, we can and should do more.

I've always been fascinated with sudden, unexpected natural and man-made disasters--fires, earthquakes, explosions, tsunamis, ship sinkings, floods, tornadoes--not for the suffering they cause, but for the very best qualities of our species those disasters bring out. Caught up in violent events, we react instinctively, and to our great credit, most of us act nobly in attempting to protect and save our fellow humans--and often other living creatures also directly involved.

We have created complex societies with complex laws which we obey without thought or question. We hear a siren behind us while we're driving, and we instinctively pull over without giving an instant's thought as to why we are doing it. With few exceptions dictated by circumstances, we stand in line rather than trying to rush to the front. We pay our taxes, we vote...all elementary, simple things until you pause for a moment to wonder why we do these things. We have schools and hospitals and libraries and stores and factories and build roads and bridges and establish national parks and playgrounds. Think of any one of them and wonder how they came to be and why--really why--we invented them.

It is sometimes difficult not to truly despair for the future of humanity. There is so very, very much evil and hatred and bigotry and cruelty and gratuitous stupidity in the world it tends to overwhelm us, and makes it easy to forget the good, the selfless, the caring, the kind. It is, again, to our credit that we pay so little attention to the positive because we expect the positive: it is simply assumed to be the norm. And because the negative still surprises, shocks, and saddens us, we tend to forget that it does so because it goes against what we assume and expect--through desire if not always through fact--to be the norm; to be the way we expect the world to be.

Of all the gifts given humanity, the one which most separates us from all other species with whom we share the planet is hope. With it, we can and do face any challenge. Without it, we are doomed.

I wonder if, were they to look for it, scientists might find a Hope gene in our DNA?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Dear Dugbate:"

After my last posting on the subject of internet spam, I swore that I would go to my spam folder only long enough to hit "Delete All", and thereby save myself from the fits of uncontrollable fury reading even the subject lines of those messages inevitably evoke.

But today, rather like an alcoholic who, after a period of abstinence, thinks it will be okay to have just one little drink--I gave in to the temptation of trying just one, brief, totally objective look at the messages awaiting me when I came on line this morning.

I sincerely wish it were possible to write the real people...and I am being kind in referring to them as "people"...behind these messages to see if I could determine exactly why they have chosen to throw away their humanity for the sake of pure greed. But I guess that sentence both asks and answers the question.

Anyway, since I know full well that to actually respond to a spam message is to automatically have my email address and whatever other information I might be foolish enough to provide put up for sale to thousands of others of the morally dead, I thought I'd pick out two at random and write--though not send--a response. This is, I've been told, a valid and often recommended form of therapy.

So here are just two of today's spam subject lines and my responses:

SGT LARRY WAYNE - Pls do not disregard - Hello, How are you and your family sincerely hope all is well. My names is SSG Larry Wayne; I....

Hi, there, Larry!

Why of course I wouldn't disregard your message: You're a member of the United States armed forces, to whom I and every American owe a great debt! Though I am a bit curious as to why, since as stated in your note, your "names is" SSG Larry Wayne (I thought it was "SGT" Larry Wayne), the message was sent by ".ro" is the e-mail designation for Romania. I assume Suzana is your Romanian girlfriend, and you had her look through 2 billion email addresses to specifically find mine while you were out there putting your life on the line defending my freedom.

Your folksy approach in asking about my family--though I don't have one--was very much appreciated, and yes, all is indeed well except for one small thing: that anyone would stoop to posing as an American serviceman in an egregious attempt to screw me and the 18 million other people to whom this same message was sent.

You're so far beneath contempt, Larry, you could not be located on Sonar, and I wish I believed in God so that I could fervently pray for you to get what you so richly deserve if not in this life, then the next.

Your Buddy,


Federal Bureau of Investigation - Federal Bureau of Investigation Contact Mr Dugbate John for your payment...

Dear Mr. John (may I call you Dugbate?)

While I was unaware that one of the duties of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was to send out "payments"--I won't presume to ask for what--to complete strangers, I am eager to accept your kind offer. Please, however, do not ask me for my bank account information in order to complete the transfer. Just send the check to me, and I'll deposit it.

My best to J. Edgar,


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"For Want of a Nail..."

The proverbial rhyme about the consequences of the loss of a single horseshoe nail ("for want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost...") is no less applicable today. So let us gather here today to mourn the loss of simple common sense, one of humankind's greatest gifts, which has shown us the way through some of our darkest hours, and whose loss has significant consequences on our society.

And I think, being honest, that we must all accept responsibility for its loss by increasingly turning our backs on it.

Michele Bachmann, that great humanitarian and scholar, tells us that a trip President Obama (a.k.a to Republicans as "the Antichrist") made to Japan cost taxpayers $200,000,000 a day; that he took along an entourage of 2,000 people, who stayed in 735 luxury 5-star hotel rooms (at least that comes out to nearly three people per room--a sure sign of frugality ignored by Ms. Bachmann). She also told us, with the deep sincerity and profundity for which she is known, that our founding fathers worked tirelessly (this is in 1776, mind) until slavery was eradicated from the land.

Is she laughed off the stage and forbidden to play with sharp objects? No, she is running for the office of President of the United States, and her every word is greeted with applause and knowing nods of agreement by her followers. And she is accompanied in her bid for the presidency by others whose intellectual qualifications and devotion to truth equal her own.

As our society becomes more and more ruled by technology--the workings of which are unintelligible to the average human--we feel, correctly, that we have less and less control over our own destinies. As even trying to figure out how and why things and institutions work the way they do becomes increasingly more difficult, more and more people are throwing up their hands in frustration and saying to self-proclaimed pundits, "Okay, you tell me what to think," and those pundits, whose motivations are based far more on greed for power than altruism, are more than happy to oblige. And with every egregiously false and misleading statement they issue, another nail is pounded into the coffin of common sense.

Can this trend be reversed? Possibly, but I fear it would require more time and effort than most people are willing to devote to it--there's a "Housewives of the Jersey Shore" rerun on tonight, after all, and priorities are priorities.

But just because we've tossed common sense into the back of a sock drawer doesn't mean we can't take it out and start using it again. First, we must all realize that just because something is said on TV or read in a forwarded email does not make it true. As someone once said, if ten million people believe a lie, it is still a lie. All it takes, when reading/seeing/hearing something like this is to ask the simplest of simple questions: "Does this really make any sense?" President Obama plans to give every illegal immigrant $400,000 a month, free health care, a new house, and a new car? Forget that even if he wanted to he could not get it passed through a congress which, if he said the sun was shining, would run for their umbrellas. Hey, a friend sent me an email of an article he saw in some magazine, so it must be true. Muslims use a melon scoop to remove the brains of Christian babies? They said so on Fox News, so it has to be true.

Politics, of course, is not the only thing lacking the nail of common sense. Internet spam is obviously unaware of its existence. After railing against Spam endlessly, I still cannot comprehend it, let alone how any rational human being could ever, under any circumstances, believe a word of it.

Television commercials--and especially infomercials and those aired late at night--depend on the lack of the nail of the viewer's common sense.

Instances of the effects of the loss of the nail of common sense are endless, and to point to them all is like standing in the back yard at night pointing up at the stars.

But the nail's not lost; we can find it and use it. All we have to do is try.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Who? What? When? Where? Why?

When I took my first journalism class in college, the professor pointed out the key to every good news story. Each, he said, must answer five basic questions: who, what, when, where, and why, and do so as concisely as possible.

I always loved the story of the fledgling reporter who was assigned to cover the death of a local socialite who had committed suicide after attending a party. He submitted his story, which his editor rejected as too long, citing the five keys. He re-did it, cutting it considerably. The editor rejected it as too long. Three more attempts were also rejected. Finally, in frustration, the writer submitted the following. "Socialite John Smith, 48, attended a party Thursday evening. He took his hat, his coat, his leave, a taxi to his home, a gun from his drawer, and his life." I think he was fired.

I think that's why I never went into newspaper journalism, and why I don't even write short stories anymore: brevity may be the soul of wit, but when it comes to writing, I find it next to impossible to be brief.

A novel must answer the same five key questions as a news story, but has the luxury of allowing the writer to take as much time as he ("No, no!" Political Correctness admonishes sternly, "He or she!" To which I reply, "Screw Political Correctness.") needs to do so. Also, whereas in a news story, the five keys are most usually given in the set order of who/what/when/where/why, a novel can shuffle them to suit the writer's whim. As a general rule, of the five questions, the "who/what/why" are probably more important than the "when/where"--and this is especially true in mysteries.

Probably because each of my fiction books is part of a series (two, actually) the "who/what/why" are the primary questions--the "when/where" are more or less constant from book to book. And on closer analysis, it is really the "who" which is the most important. All my books are primarily character driven, and it is they who bind each of the series together.

I love writing series because by having the same characters return, book after book, set in the same surroundings, the readers can--and I'm delighted to say, do--get to feel they know them personally. As I've said before, with the Dick Hardesty series (book #14 of which, The Peripheral Son, is scheduled for release next month) I now consider each book to be simply another chapter in the continuing story of the characters' lives.

But writing a series presents certain challenges as well. It's very important that someone who has never read any other book in the series not feel as though they have no idea of who these people are. So each book has to include a subtle reintroduction of the secondary characters. However, each book can be read alone, in any order, without overly confusing the reader as to what's happened in previous books.

I'm considerably frustrated by the fact that many people understandably want to read a series in the order written, to get an idea of the development of the characters from book to book. The unfortunate death of the publisher of the first ten books of the Dick Hardesty series, and the dissolution of the company, means that as the first ten books run out stock, they will in effect be out of print until they can be reissued by my current publisher. The first of the reissues, The Bar Watcher, has just been released. It is book #3 of the series, though the rest will be reissued in the order written. But spacing out the reissue of ten books is going to take some time, and I am not noted for my patience. I realize this is also a huge inconvenience for readers who want to read the series in order, which only adds to my frustration.

A writer's life, regardless of which form he specializes in, is not an easy one. No one's is.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's  Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Men and Women, Men and Men

A straight friend and I were talking about the differences between our two orientations. He apologized for the fact that his being irredeemably straight made it difficult to understand just how gays though/felt/operated when it came to intimate interpersonal relationships. I assured him I felt the same way about straights. I've never really understood what makes them think or behave, when it comes to sexuality, the way they do. Please understand this blog is not intended to lure straights away from heterosexuality, or to claim that being gay is superior to being straight (they are apples and oranges). And I do not intend to--nor could I--speak for all gays, merely for myself based on nearly three-quarters of a century of observation of the differences between men and women and men and men.

I think the majority of heterosexuals would agree to the simple fact that men and women simply do not understand one another. They never have, and it is unlikely they ever will. Though members of the same species, each is engineered differently, both physically and emotionally.

It amazed me, when I was editing half a dozen straight "sex education" magazines which required researched--though largely unread--text (which gave it the legal protection of having "socially redeeming value) and no-holds-barred explicit photographs, to realize how absolutely ignorant straight men are about women's physiology. Gays don't have this problem, since both partners are men. They know pretty much how the male mind works and they know pretty well what the male body finds pleasing, sexually.

In all areas of a relationship, gay men are much more likely to understand the reactions of their partner to any given situation far more easily than straight men can understand a woman's. Disagreements between straight couples are often based in this lack of understanding. Not knowing where the lines are frequently lead to conflict. With same-sex partners this is not so large a factor. But the danger in arguments between gay partners is, as someone once so aptly put it, each partner generally "knows exactly where to sink the knife." This may account for the short duration of many gay relationships.

It could be reasonably argued that same-sex couples tend to be more often more compatible than straight couples simply because they are of the same sex and therefore have the advantages of intrinsically-shared interests and experiences. And while being of the same sex can bond gay couples more tightly than straight couples, the intrinsically different characters of men and women provide something of a balance gay couples may lack.

Throughout our history, social proscriptions have denied gays the same fundamental rights as straights. I always found it ironic that one of the strongest criticisms aimed at gays has been that the gay "lifestyle" is not "normal" while at the same time being doing everything in their power to prevent us from being so. Another fundamental charge is that gays are "promiscuous." (It could be argued that, being denied the right to marry, what other choice do we have?) We have been traditionally criticized for our perceived promiscuity when in fact we all live in a culture in which men tend by nature--and are expected--to be more overtly sexual than women. I have absolutely no doubt that were straight men denied the right to marry, the "promiscuity" rate among them would undoubtedly equal or surpass that among gays. Men are, after all, men, regardless of their orientation..

Our society is, at long last, beginning to emerge from the dark ages, and the gaps are slowly closing--against the still-strong objections of far too many people. It would be fascinating to step 100 years into the future to see how much an issue this man-woman, man-man situation still is.

But when all other factors touched on briefly above are set aside, one fact remains: all romantic relationships, straight or gay, are based on love, and love doesn't give a damn about sexual orientation.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Friends and Lovers

Though I know next to nothing about how heterosexual men and women interrelate, I'm quite sure it is--or was--greatly different than that of gay men.

When I was living in Los Angeles and very active in the gay "scene," many of my friendships stemmed from having met someone in a bar, going home with them, and our then deciding--either before, during, or after our time in bed--that we would like to get to know each other better. Usually, the element of sex dropped totally out of the equation. This was simply the way gay culture at the time worked and I suspect still does. It's not coincidental that in my Dick Hardesty mystery series, many of Dick's closest friendships began with sex.

As a minor digression, I find it fascinating that the gay lexicon has changed dramatically when it comes to the description of long-term relationships. The word "lover," which was used for most of my adult life, has been replaced by "partner," which I personally prefer, and "lover" is almost never used.

Of all the relationships I've had in my long and checkered career, only two stand out as having a major impact on my life: Norm, who was my first real relationship, lasting six years, and Ray, which lasted nine years, on and off--mostly off due to the alcoholism which inevitably destroyed him. After our breakup, Norm and I segued from partners to loving friends until his death last year. I realize that I have largely fantasized my relationship with Ray, who I did indeed deeply love--seeing only the incredibly sweet, kind, loving young man he was when sober and ignoring the monster he became when drunk. For those of you who follow my books, Ray was the inspiration for Dick's partner, Jonathan--which is hardly surprising since I, in my fantasy world, am Dick.

In our lives, if we are lucky, we have many friends of both genders and a variety of sexual orientations. If we're very lucky, some of them remain friends or a lifetime.

The word "friend" covers a broad spectrum of, for want of a better word, "intensities." Simply put, some friends are closer than others. Friends tend to come and go. A mark of a true friend is one who may have drifted away for whatever reason but who, when re-meeting after many years, can pick up a conversation in mid-sentence as though the intervening years never existed. I've been blessed to have several of those, and the re-establishment of the friendship is a joy hard to describe.

But throughout life there are relatively few we consider true "best friends." I've had three in my life--and I hasten to add that the term does not apply to lovers/partners, who are in a special category of their own.

When I was in high school, my best friend was Lief Ayen, who looked like a young Charles Laughton, if any of you are old enough to remember him. We were both outsiders who knew we did not belong, and this awareness and our shared sense of offbeat humor was the glue that bound us for many years.

Russ Hogan was my best friend in college and for 40 years thereafter. We drifted apart for reasons I've never fully understood, but for which I always felt oddly guilty, and I only learned of his death through a mutual friend.

My current best friend is Gary Brown, who is also my webmaster, my designated listener-to-my-real-and-imagined woes, and my run-to-every-time-I-have-a-problem-with-my-computer (which is at least several times a week) guy. He is infinitely patient with me, and we both understand that should either of us ever need anything, the other will be there.

The one element which separates partners/lovers from best friends is sexual attraction/romantic love. Gary is the brother I never had. I love him as I assume brothers love brothers, but as with real brothers, there is no romance. (When we checked into our hotel in Paris this past March, they mistakenly gave us a room with only one double bed. We were both mutually horrified at the thought and had to wait four hours for them to find us a room with two double beds. Same room, fine. Same bed...uh, no way in hell.)

I hope you are blessed with many friends and at least one "best friend." They brighten and ease our lives and, should you doubt their value, try to imagine your lie without them.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs

Friday, September 09, 2011

Getting It

Let's face it: when it comes to "getting it" understanding something that everyone else apparently so easily understands and takes for granted...I generally don't.

"...for well-qualified buyers"? What in the hell does that mean? I don't get it.

Starlets and (female) celebrities posing with one hand on a sideways-thrust hip is, I gather, the height of seductiveness? I don't get it. I guess you have to be straight to understand.

"Reality" shows devoted to vacuous, rude, self-centered people with absolutely no discernible talent who contribute nothing to society and who are famous only for being famous? I don't get it. And that they have an avid viewing audience of millions who hang on their every monosyllabic word? Even harder to comprehend.

Presidential candidates who deny the most basic tenets of science yet are firmly convinced they are eminently qualified to lead the country in an increasingly technological ("Technology, noun: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in industry") world? I don't get it. And those who would vote for them? Totally incomprehensible.

Internet spam messages from Nigerian barristers, from people dying of (usually) cancer wanting you to help them dispose of their millions, and, recently, shameful posts from people purporting to be United States servicemen and women asking for help...and those astoundingly naive/gullible/stupid people who would consider responding? I simply do not get it.

Anyone with the intelligence of a baked ham watching, let alone buying into, infomercials and commercials offering "not sold in stores" (gee, I wonder why?) schlock which then say they will double, triple, or quadruple the order for the same price? Sorry, I don't get it.

Organized sports? Organized religion? Cults? Bigotry? The Tea Party? I don't get any of them.

Eric Cantor? John Boehner? Sarah Palin? Michele Bachmann? Rush Limbaugh? Glenn Beck? Mitch McConnell? "Reverend" Fred Phelps? Can someone explain what positive contribution any one of these people has made to society, to the furthering of compassion, tolerance, compromise, or to the betterment of the human race?

Employees in government offices who act as though they are the government? People who accept the bad service and the most egregious behavior without a peep of protest? I don't get it.

Instruction manuals...for anything...written by technophiles in language only technophiles and those who speak gibberish can possibly understand? Sorry, again. I don't get it.

Restaurant menu and prepared-food-package photographs that bear absolutely no resemblance to what you are served/is in the package?

Those who presume to speak for God who totally ignore all that bothersome "Love one another," "Do unto others," and "Judge not lest ye be judged" nonsense while preaching intolerance and hatred? I don't get them, nor do I want to.

Perhaps some day a light will go on in my head, and everything will be made clear to me, as it seems to be to everyone else on the planet. But I doubt it.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

"How 'ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm...."

The American Civil War began a fundamental, basic change in the fabric of not only American society but of our interpersonal relationships. Until that time, the vast majority of people never traveled more than 20 miles from their homes in their entire lives. The average person's total social existence was built upon the rock foundation of family, friends, and neighbors. The Civil war created widening cracks in this foundation when it uprooted young men from the soil of the past. Taken from their farms and villages and transported to places they'd never been or even knew existed began a trend which continues today. (As the popular WWI song so clearly put it, "How 'ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?")

After WWII, ages-long close-knit bonds between family, friends, and life-long neighbors crumbled rapidly as entire populations moved and shifted and blended.

Family remains the rock upon most people's lives are built, but as distance separated many family members, nearby friends became more important in our culture, often as a substitute for family. For years, being friends largely depended on being able to get together face to face. But friends, too, like family, began to move away. And then, as technology welled up to swallow us all, along came the internet, which opened the door to the entire world. In cyberspace, there is no concept of distance. People who normally would never have even become acquaintances--probably never even known of each other's existence--became a new kind of friend: cyber friends who still probably would never meet face to face.

And as technology continues to rob us of our traditional connections to other people, as families break up into small pieces and scatter, like traditional friends, around the country and the globe, we tend to rely more on cyber friends. As age begins to take away our traditional friends and family, cyber friends become a larger part of our social structure.

I've found this particularly true for myself, and on all levels. Much of it has to do with the simple fact of my growing older. Family members and friends die; our face-to-face social contacts tend to dwindle. It's part of being a young adult to cultivate many close face-to-face friends, resulting in an active social life surrounded by people you can--and often do--reach out and touch. I am blessed that I still have a number of friends who date from my childhood, college, and young adult years. But most of them are scattered, now, and we use cyberspace to substitute for face-to-face meetings.

For me, right now, in Chicago, my face-to-face social network consists of my best friend, Gary, who I see almost every day, my friend Diane from my earliest days in Chicago. I have a few people I think of more as friendly acquaintances than true, soul-deep friends, but it is a far different world, on a personal social level, from my 20s and 30s.

I find myself more and more reliant on my cyber friends for a sense of being connected with the world, and for the validation that traditional-type friends normally supply. I quite probably, in fact, have a much wider circle of cyber-friends than I ever had of face-to-face friends. I sincerely enjoy our exchanges (and their encouragement and support). I have been lucky enough to actually meet several of my cyber friends, either on their visits to Chicago or mine to New York, and now count Kage and Eric and John and Joe as both cyber and face-to-face friends. And I am quite sure that, had we the chance to meet face to face, any number of my current cyber-friends could/would easily become friends in the traditional style.

So, as in all things in life, it is a matter of trade-offs. The world continues to change, and there is nothing we can do to bring the past back, other than in our memories. Would I give anything to be 28 again and to spend an evening with Norm and Tom and Franklin and Ray and Ace and the other wonderful people who were such an important part of my life at the time? Of course. But I am also truly grateful for the cyber friendship of so many wonderful people I've met on line through my books and blogs.

Face-to-face is great: mind-to-mind and heart-to-heart is just as good, if not better. So let this blog be a form of thank you to all my friends, face-to-face and cyber. And there is always room for more.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's  Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs--a review of which appears today, 09-07-11 at

Monday, September 05, 2011

On Being Gay, Part II

When I was editing In Touch for Men, an international gay men's magazine in Los Angeles, I always enjoyed, as I do now, hearing from readers. I heard several times from a very nice young man in Utah, who was having a hard time dealing with his homosexuality, largely because of his family's rock-bound religious beliefs. I tried to encourage him to just accept himself and not let others tell him how he should live, and to convince him that not all the world was Utah, and not everyone in it was like his immediate family.

The magazine decided at one point to do a bar guide, similar to several others, listing gay bars in U.S. cities. I put out a general call for contributions, and wrote everyone with whom I had been in contact asking for their help. The young man from Utah sent me a list of bars he knew of, which I included in the guide, and when the guide was published, I sent a copy to everyone who had contributed. Naturally, I sent one to him.

A week later I received a thick envelope with a Salt Lake return address and, upon opening it, found a shredded mass of paper which I recognized as our bar guide. It also contained a letter from the mother of the young man I'd been in contact with, informing me that she had discovered that he had been having abominable relations with another man and was a disgusting pervert. When she confronted him, he killed himself "out of shame for his unspeakable sin." It was quite clear that she thought he had done the right thing.

I was heartsick. It took me a few days to be able to sit down and write to his mother, using the return address on the envelope she'd sent, saying how terribly sorry I was for her loss, and that from what I had known of him, he was a fine young man of whom she should be proud. It took all my willpower to keep from saying what I so badly wanted to say: that it was she who had caused his death, and that had she shown him the love and compassion every mother owes her child, instead of condemning him for being who he was, he undoubtedly would still be alive. But I couldn't do it.

The memory of that incident haunts me to this day, and is exacerbated by the terrible fact that the young man's story was not unique, and that countless others, even today, are driven to suicide for simply being who they are. How can human beings display such cruelty, such insensitivity, such lack of compassion and basic decency? How can intolerance and hatred rule...and many? It is, truly to weep.

But for even the darkest night, there is a dawn, and it is the dawn to which this blog is addressed.

When I did Part I of this blog, having no intention at the time for there to be a Part II, I received a note from my cousin Judi which not only touched me deeply but stands in day-and-night, good-and-evil contrast to the incident reported above, and reminded me yet again just how truly blessed I am to have a family who knew I was gay long before I ever told them, yet always accepted me for who I was and am without question, unconditionally.

Here is Judi's note:

Thank you for today's blog. From way back when, I think I was eight or nine, I realized that you were different from others. Not in a bad way, just different. And I didn't think anything about you being different. It wasn't until I grew older that I understood what made you different. You are gay. That's the way you were born and that is the way you live your life. I accept you for who you are, a gay man. I could never shun you or go out of my way to hurt you. I accept you as you are. Dad's cousin, part of my family!!!

I am glad that you were able to grow up and become who you are and not cave in to how others want to see you. It is truly very sad that in this day and age, people still can not or will not accept others for who they are.

I remember coming into Chicago with Grandma Fearn to see you. We always had such a good time. We came into see you one time and it was around Christmas. I think you and Norm took us to Marshall Fields for lunch in the Walnut Room under the Christmas tree. I thought I was so grown up having lunch with the two of you. Of course there were some who looked at the four of us and just shook their heads and walked away, their problem not ours. I didn't know at the time why these people did that, but now I do. How sad for them to not know you as a person.

Would that everyone were a Judi.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's  Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.

Friday, September 02, 2011

On Being Gay

I don't think anyone who has ever read one of my books or blogs is unaware that I'm gay. But heterosexuals probably cannot appreciate how wonderful it is to be able to say it. I was raised in a world in which to be who I am was to walk through a minefield: any wrong step on my part which might make my being gay public knowledge could have had serious--and possibly physical--repercussions. I could have lost my job, been thrown out of my apartment. I could be--and was--arrested and thrown in jail (albeit very briefly) for "lewd and lascivious conduct" in a classic and all-too-common case of police entrapment. And as a homosexual, I had absolutely no protection or recourse under the law. And I was not alone; there were then, as there are now, millions like me.

But the purpose of this blog is not to be a broad overview of being gay, or an attempt to speak for anyone but myself, but rather to examine, as I am so wont to do, just what factors contributed to/resulted in my becoming a homosexual rather than a heterosexual. To me, the answer is simple: just as I was born, as are all babies, with blue eyes but predisposed to have them turn brown, I was born predisposed to be gay. While I could not define the word "gay" when I was five years old, I knew instinctively even then exactly what and who I was. And I have never, for one second of my entire life, ever doubted who I was, or wanted to be anything else, or doubted that I had the right to be who I was and am.

From infancy, the world has always overwhelmed me with its complexity, its contradictions, its infinite frustrations, and its lack of what I consider to be the most basic logic. Though I had the unconditional love and support of my family, I always felt like an outcast, and I early on fixated on those I wanted so desperately to be. Since after discovering, to my abject horror, that girls were physically different than boys, my fixation was naturally upon other boys (and later, I should emphasize for those who see pedophilia lurking behind every tree, my attraction changed to men). I've always been attracted to those I wanted to be like, who had grace and, in my eyes, beauty, and all those things I felt I lacked--but mostly those I wished I looked like.

From the time I discovered sex I, always insecure and self-deprecatory, would find a euphoric validation when someone to whom I was attracted would for whatever reason also be attracted to me. Always a believer in fairy tales and good things, I yearned for romantic love and was fortunate enough to find it a few times, a year or two here, six years there, nine years somewhere else. But romantic love requires two individuals, and it is difficult for any human being raised in a society which considers them perverts and abominations in the eyes of God to maintain a relationship, as much as they may want it.

Being gay is an integral part of who I am as a human being...perhaps a more important part than being straight might be to a heterosexual. I am proud of being gay in that it has allowed me to withstand the pressures and idiocies of the world in which I live. I simply cannot comprehend not being gay, a fact which, living in a heterosexual world, only increases my sense of alienation and not belonging.

The passage of years first robs us all of youth and any physical attractiveness we may have had, then slowly edges us out of the mainstream. This is particularly true of the gay culture, where youth and beauty are a premium. I, though never as beautiful as Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, have found my body, if not my mind, becoming the portrait in the attic.

Yet I still, in my mind and heart, am who I was so many years ago. I still ache to be like the beautiful young men who pass me on the street without so much as a glance. It's not a matter of self-pity, merely of fact.

But unlike so many gays who find--or will find--themselves in the same position as I am now, I have the ability, as mentioned in a recent blog, to step into other worlds I have created, where I can be, and am, all those things I have always wanted to be: where I am forever young, and forever gay.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's  Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.