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Thursday, September 26, 2013

SL Letter of the Day: There Are Two Sides to Every Story

Posted by Dan Savage on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM

It appears that I'm the gay guy that Pulled Into Drama is talking about in the letter that appeared in your column last week. What particularly bothers me about your response is the example that this will set for other LGBTQ people, who may be accused of being "batshit" when, in fact, the case may be the reverse.
Even if you know many gay men who are crazy, I don't think I need to remind you, of all people, that closeted people in denial, from politicians to pastors, can go to shocking extremes.

The judgment you made was solely on one side of the story, which left out a lot of information:

1. The mimicking of clothes has been going on for months. A friend noticed it as well.

I am shocked, Dan, that you are so swift to write this off. Surely you are aware that closeted gay men (and even some who aren't, not to mention some straight women), who are unable to speak or flirt directly, usually in fear of being ostracized, harassed, public humiliation, or beaten up, find other ways to express their interest through indirect means. If it were one-off, or even a few times, that would be different. But it was almost a year. Of course, it was not just that element on its own. It was that in conjunction with what else follows here.

2. There have been several times when I've caught him looking longingly at me or his eyes widen and his face falls, as if struck by my looks. I have many straight male friends and coworkers. None have ever looked at me that way.

3. When my straight male colleague met him, my colleague immediately put his arm around his wife. He later said he never does that but it was because of the way that my friend was looking at him. He was shocked when I told him my friend WASN'T gay. A female friend who met him said she could never take him seriously as a straight guy and has seen similar things about him as me. He, in fact, has told me that some people think he's gay.

Much more to come.

4. I noticed a consistent streak of frustration and anger towards women in his fiction. Also, whenever he has talked about his ex-girlfriends, he always says negative things about them and how irritating they are.

5. He blamed me for always initiating contact with him. Not true. He has initiated sending me messages (links to videos or website projects) or wanting to send me postcards on his travels. In particular, whenever I have pulled away from him, he has initiated contact. For example, when his girlfriend was visiting, I distanced myself from him. He spent the weekend sending me emails and text messages. (Consequently, if I am right, then he is involving, possibly hurting, more people other than myself in his dishonesty.)

6. At his place when I told him I had feelings for him, I kept asking him if I should leave. But he kept me there for 4.5 hours. When I asked him how he felt, he said it was a huge boost to his ego. He told me he liked me platonically. When I told him that I would probably have to end our friendship because I was so distracted and my work was suffering, and that I was also losing sleep and my appetite, his response was that if I wasn't friends with him, it would really suck for him. He was trying to get me to stay in his life, ignoring the problems I was having being around him. (He later claimed he was trying to be supportive.)

7. I started expressing my romantic and erotic feelings to him by email as it alleviated the stress of being around him. He said that even though I had "broken up" with him, I was sending him "such nice words" and that it was "really nice." He said he was drunk and high when he sent that. Nonetheless, he never stopped me when he was sober.

8. Several of his romantic stories have paralleled or made reference to things we have done together. One story closely paralleled an email conversation we had. When I wrote an allegorical story that expressed my concerns and took a stand, he said he felt uncomfortable about it.

9. At one point, when I told him there were two out-gay guys pursuing me and I became involved with one, at several points throughout the conversation, he cast his head down and became taciturn.

Dan, I've been out for 20 years. I work in both the LGBTQ and straight communities. I've also been through this numerous times, as I tend to attract closeted guys. His parents are Catholic and he had a very sheltered upbringing. He is the only son. A family tragedy may have compounded the pressure on him to live a straight life.

In spite of all that he's said (and what you've said), I remain convinced he's conflicted. I've talked about this with several gay and straight friends and health professionals. The evidence that I've presented to them makes them think he's struggling.

The only thing that's batshit about me is the fact that I fell for him. My only theory is that I have a pattern of zeroing in on distant hints of attraction and trying to draw that out because it parallels the way my father withheld his love for me behind a wall of neglect and emotional abuse.

I have been around many incredibly attractive straight men but if there is no mutual attraction, my feelings never develop. I have never developed an attraction to a guy (even if out) who didn't show signs of reciprocal interest.

If he is struggling with things, I identify and sympathize with him. I told him that, my attraction aside, I was trying to reach out to the signs of confusion (or a possible cry for help) that I was picking up on from him. I do have concerns about him. I told him I do care about him. He is important to me. He matters to me. If he didn't, I would've handled things in a much different way.

He was one of the only guys (gay, straight, or otherwise) who I felt I had stuff in common with. We had tons to talk about. We spent a lot of time going out, and he would always extend our evenings out. He would always walk home with me as far as possible, even if he had a bicycle, which was thoughtful. I enjoyed his company. We laughed a lot and he appreciated my sense of humor. He said he liked me because I was deep and talked about real things. I liked him because he was open to that. We both are quirky in our own ways.

Every time I've had to talk to him, I've felt stronger, grown more confident, because I've been asserting myself in ways I have not previously done. I was impressed with how comfortable he was with all the emotions I was expressing towards him.

I do apologize to him for any discomfort and distress this may have caused, as that was never my intention.
When I tried to work things out with him, to try and encourage him to express himself in a different way rather than indirectly (and that just talking about things does not mean acting on any feelings), I emphasized that I didn't want to argue. He ended it by becoming irate and storming off. I fail to see how that, in conjunction with writing to you, indicates emotional maturity on his end of being able to handle this simply between the two of us.

From what I've seen from his behaviour patterns, I think his strategy for alleviating anxiety (in the fight or flight response) is to run away from things. With that option taken away, he is fighting me—when I'm not the enemy. I wish he could see that.

I've been trying to break away from him but I've been unsuccessful because it's more incredibly painful than I ever imagined. I've done so with others in the past, but in this case, I'm uncertain why I can't. It hurts to be around him and hurts to leave him. I'm caught in an impossible double-bind.

It's one thing to accept and simply go with what a person says, with what they identify as. But it's his lack of consistency that's the problem—his words are not lining up with his actions.

What I was hoping for, most of all, is an explanation from him and ownership of his actions. But obviously that's not going to happen.

Anyhow, I'm sending this message because I'm also greatly concerned about how this may be used as an example that will complicate things for numerous others in similar situations (including straight women and men who are being emotionally manipulated). I ask you to reconsider your advice.

Why Can't I Be A Lesbian, Goddamnit?

Okaaaaaaaay...

For the sake of argument...

I'm willing to entertain the possibility that you're not crazy—and there's certainly nothing about your epic letter might lead someone to doubt your sanity—and that "Pulled Into Drama" is the batshit one, i.e. a deeply closeted gay man who sends mixed signals and coded messages via t-shirt. But my question for you, WCIBALG, is this: If you're a healthy and not at all crazy and not the least bit batshit gay man who has been out of the closet for twenty years now... why are you wasting your time on this guy? Why would you, a healthy and the least bit batshit gay man, pursue an unhealthy, conflicted, closeted, mixed-signaling, sartorial-semaphoring mess like PID?

In my experience, WCIBALG, healthy gay men don't waste their time, emotional energy, or evenings out on messy closet cases. But there are always exceptions, WCIBALG, and you do come across as exceptional.

And before I let you go, some advice for you: don't pursue closeted guys, don't cultivate feelings for them, don't spend time with closeted guys you find yourself drawn to. That's advice I wish someone had given when I was 17. And it's advice I didn't need to hear by the time I was 19.

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