This Gay-Straight Thing 2
Would you, a gay man, enter into a relationship with a straight man? If I got asked this question twenty years ago, I would have empathically and categorically said, “No way!” Twenty years ago I used to sneer and laugh at my fellow, usually older, gay men who were only sexually attracted to presumably straight men for being so clueless. For me, engaging in a relationship with a straight man was like walking on a narrow one-way street that led to a dead end. What is the extent of a straight man’s actions in bed when he is with a gay man? And more often than not, the straight guy eventually abandons “that part” of his life and joins the rest of the straight world by marrying a woman. Sometimes, he will marry a woman and will have the gay man stick around as wedding planner, devoted godfather to his child, and generous provider of financial and emotional support.
I have seen many movies and met many tragic figures to understand and firmly decide that this is not the way I will live as a gay man. Even if my concept of monogamy at that time was also based on a heterosexual framework (a sad situation, but a different story), I have decided that the men I will have sex with would only be gay men. Twenty years, five boyfriends, and countless flings and affairs later, where do I stand?
Contrary to my earlier decision, I have slept with straight men and found them generally boring in bed, unless they were intoxicated or particularly horny. A friend told me that the pleasures in sleeping with a straight man lies not in the act itself but in the journey that leads to bed, or some other place where the sex act is performed. The “hunt” can indeed excite one but as all excitements go, the feeling is fleeting. It’s a temporary high, at best.
All things change, no matter what we say to the contrary. People, climate, feelings, and even sexual preferences change. My own concept of monogamy has changed as well, but more on that later. Two years ago, I ended my relationship with my Cambodian partner when he got married. For years we remained committed to each other, even if we both knew that he will eventually marry, because of a strong cultural imperative. As the eldest male in his family, he was expected to marry, no matter how he identified himself. He assured me many times that his marriage will change nothing between us, that his feelings for me will remain the same. This arrangement is common for many gay Cambodian men, who get married because of a sense of duty and keep a male partner. But what about my feelings, I asked myself. I was uncertain as to how I would feel when he did get married.
I do not equate being married with being straight but when my partner’s marriage edged closer to reality, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to handle it so I ended things with him. We remain friends to this day. I let him refer to me privately as his boyfriend but nothing more.
But going back to the first question, my answer now would probably be, “I don’t know”. It’s partly because of this guy. I have broken up and reconciled with my partner many times and in between those times I have been kind of involved with another guy. It started casually; our initial encounters were discrete and furtive. He would call to check if I was available. He’d come to my house and leave when we’re done. He became my delicious secret. And because I didn’t take our involvement seriously, I didn’t mind when he told me he had a wife and a son. But we grew closer as the months and years went by. He never asked me for anything, except once, when he confided that his wife got pregnant and they had no means to support a second child. I paid for the abortion, which is legal in Cambodia. We’re still in touch to this day. Looking back, I realized that I have been involved with him for as long as I was involved with my ‘official’ partner. Even if both of us wouldn’t dare call what we had as anything more than friendship.
Do I think the same thing will happen to me in the future? Here in the Philippines? I don’t know. I think I got into those situations because it was ‘foreign’ to me and my life in Cambodia was all about embracing the ‘foreign’. Now that I’m back in my home country, I’m not sure if I retained that kind of open-ness or if I have reverted to my old beliefs. I guess we’ll see. But this situation with Vice Ganda and his unidentified-but-hinted-upon boyfriend and the old prejudices rearing their ugly heads certainly got my mind piqued.
In an ideal world, there is no need for labels. Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, bi-curious, discreet, questioning, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, all these will not matter. In this world, families will not only be determined by genes and gender, but also by emotional and spiritual bonds that people share. And the only arbiter of morality will be our own conscience.
In this ideal world, my first question will not only be irrelevant, it will also be immaterial.
Posted on May 29, 2014, in journal and tagged Cambodia, discrimination, expatriate life, gay-straight relationship, LGBT, Philippines, prejudice, sexual diversity, vice ganda. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.