Happiness Only Real When Shared

Hi my loves,

I will regularly respond to the kind messages I get that aren’t questions. I have done this twice before. These posts are about feedback (positive and negative), criticism, and dialogue.

I treat questions as launchpads to talk about topics I think are important and valuable to my readers. Often the process of answering them involves distilling a question down into its primary subject — “What is this person really asking me? What are we really talking about here?” In this way, questions on this blog are not dialogues — they are prompts.

Responding to nice messages feels less like advice-giving, but it is an exchange, and there is something beautiful in sending a stranger a message — via the contact form on this blog, over Twitter, on Instagram, through my Facebook page, and all the other ways I can be contacted — and having it answered. That is beautiful to me, anyway, and I truly appreciate all the feedback I can get. I hope my replies show the senders that they are heard and connected to. We’re all this business of life. We are on earth, however briefly, together.

Your bug chasing piece is phenomenal. Im a primary care provider and can face these conversations where it’s so hard to emphasize the importance of sex and the power of feeling hot in tandem with taking care of ourselves. I’ll be stealing some of your words when I’m talking to my patients. 💕

That’s so kind of you. You sound like a great PCP and I wish every queer person had one like you. Thanks for taking care of us.

Hi Alex.

I’ve been reading you for quite a while, which I enjoy very much. I’m 77 and came out to my family when I was 17, in 1960. My dad just asked the right question, and I answered like I was brought up – truthfully. He pretty much didn’t speak to me for the next two weeks, except for when he had to. My stepmother, though, had been in the kitchen, and heard the discussion. The next day, after my dad had gone to work, she said “don’t worry, he’ll come around”, and he did, although in a way that I didn’t expect. This was in New Jersey, and one day, about two weeks later, we were on the Pulaski Skyway, coming out of NYC, in the rain. As my dad was passing a car, the car started to drift toward us. My dad blew the horn, and as we started to pass him, my dad, speaking for the first time in two weeks said “he probably wanted to get in your lap”. I can’t recall what I said to that, except maybe that he wasn’t my type, and he chuckled. A couple of weeks later he tried to fix me up with one of his salesmen’s sons. I told him that thanks, but I’ll find my own dates. Later, when I was living in The Village with a friend, and we were having our housewarming party, the doorbell rang (we were on the 6th floor). When I answered, it was my dad. I told him we were having a gay party. He said he didn’t care, and to come down and let him in. When I got down there, he had a girlfriend (not my stepmother) on his arm. Anyway, he came up to our apartment and stayed a while. Of course, I was asked a few times who “the old man” was. I explained he was my father. Someone actually asked him to dance, which he politely turned down. After he and his girlfriend left, he was quite the subject of conversation. Anyway, Alex, I came out early, and have worked some of the most red-neck jobs you can imagine, working on tall TV towers all over the US, and working on cars for a living here in my town. I’ve been here 27 years, and everyone who knows me, knows I’m gay. I’m rather pleased with the way I’ve lived my life. My honesty and integrity are all I truly have. All else is just frosting on the cake. Thank you for being who you are. I really enjoy reading what you have to say, and the advice you give to those who often don’t have it as good as I did.

Peter

Peter, bless you. Stories like yours are ones I wish I read more. They perhaps don’t get as much fanfare as they should — lives that are lucky, lives in which things turned out okay. Your life is evidence of how a life can go. We live in the margins. We’re outnumbered. In many parts of the world, we are criminalized and feared and murdered. But in the same world are lives like yours, beacons of hope that remind us people can change and even surprise.

Thanks for sharing your story and reading my work. We are men of two different generations and experiences, but beyond our shared sexual leanings, there is another thing we both can say: I also look at my life — of which I’ve only completed the first act, Youth — and am very pleased with it. If you had asked me if that would be the case a decade ago, I would have said absolutely not. It is strange how happiness comes, and when, and if it does, how urgently one then feels the need to help others find it. I guess that’s why I do this silly blog. We’re the lucky ones, and we live as we do — working on cars and TV towers, writing books and blogs — for those who need to see us.

Please learn the difference between quash and squash. Please don’t assume that just because someone is young, queer, and reading The Advocate they want to know ALL the details of what you did in bed last night, and please do a little more research before assuming that something historically is from the 60’s on. Homosexual life has been in America before America was America. Thus, everything about it isn’t as early as that. I may be an old dyke, but my queer nieces are the ones who brought your articles and these complaints to my attention. With regards, M. *********

Hi there! Thanks for your email. A lot of readers do like reading about what I did in bed last night (in fact, I receive more messages in support of me including those details) so which readers should I listen to?

I haven’t written for Advocate in over two years*, so whatever piece you’re referencing is a bit old, but which one are you referring to that mixes up “quash” and “squash”? That sounds to me like a typo and I’d like to correct it.

If it isn’t for The Advocate, then of course, address the audience that responds to you and your content. Your name comes up as still an active writer for them when Googled, so fuck Google, I get that. I’m not some bitter old Karen, I just was surprised to see it there. This was the Top 10 Terms/Slurs we’ve reclaimed, tbf I don’t recall the exact title. I do get frustrated with younger journalists who make grammar errors, many of them repeated (not you…just the squash/quash one), and the research issue. But as I said, I’ve only written to two in the past ten years, so I’m not sperging out all over the place.

Good luck to you. You’re obviously doing something right, because you’ve succeeded in your field, and I begrudge no one success! I truly and sincerely believe that’s wonderful. Most of all, thank you for your prompt and considerate response.

Hi, I wanted to say thank you for your writing.

I am not your typical reader (and I’m sure that you are fine with this). I live in a very small village in Scotland, I’m female, I’m older (57) and although I’ve mainly identified as lesbian – I am now – having very sadly lost my wife to cancer this year – starting to become re-aware of my sexual needs and recognizing that they may not be as linear as I once thought.

In no small part, my grief for my wife has been fuel for this desire. Death and loss can strangely pull us towards cravings for intimacy, touch, release, heat.

I felt mildly alarmed at these feelings at first and then somehow I stumbled across your articles and felt ‘seen.’ I identify with your ideology (not sure that’s the right word, but I’m writing this quickly) around sex and relationships and culture etc and I REALLY appreciate the quality of your intelligent and honest writing about sex.

So, that’s it. Thank you. I feel braver for having read you, Kate

Kate, this is one of the most beautiful messages I’ve ever received. I am so sorry about your loss, and — at risk of sounding patronizing (I hope I do not) — I am so proud of you and the journey of discovery you’ve been in since such a painful event. Grief works like that — it pulls us into others, lays bare our needs, and forces us to seek comfort and connection. Humans are not meant to suffer, love, or live alone. She would want you to be happy. In the words of Alexander Supertramp: “Happiness only real when shared.”

I’ve never lost a partner, so I don’t know what that is like. In my eyes, you’re the bravest human I know. Keep exploring.

Hi Alex,

I just wanted to thank you SO MUCH for the work you do and the amazing blog you run. It’s super helpful to me, a 19 yo African gay guy trying to find his way in this crazy world, and I hope you gain all you want and deserve for such a risky, vulnerable, and honestly selfless endeavor you’ve decided to take up.

I’m writing this because after reading the “Notes from The Epicentre” post, I legit got scared that you were stopping to post, which made me realise just how much I actually love your pieces.

Side Note: You’re super hot and I hope Brent knows how lucky he is. 😍😅

It’s always an honor to learn that I’m being read in Africa. Part of my childhood was spent in Zambia, and Africa holds a special place in my heart. That is a kind message. You weren’t the only one who read that post as a “signing off, goodbye,” but I hope you see now that I am indeed still posting — in fact, I’ve been posting more frequently since that post. I hope you enjoy what you’ve seen since. I have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Beastly! Hi!
I was reading your latest post from today, and it made me very grateful for you. I do not like fisting. I had to skim parts of the questions and answers because I got too uncomfortable. I have some friends who love it, and they very generously invited me to watch, which I took them up on. That confirmed that it’s not something that interests me.
But you know – I am one person. One person among millions. Billions? How many of us are there on the planet now? Anyway. If someone asked me questions about fisting, I’d be like “Uhhhhhh, I can’t help you, I’m sorry.” Not because I wouldn’t want to, I just wouldn’t know. So it made me feel very grateful that you are…you. And that you do what you do and are so open and willing to provide advice and information. We all need that and are better for it.
[To be clear, I’m not judging anyone who enjoys fisting. I’m all about consenting adults doing whatever they want together. It’s just not my thing.]
That’s all. A lot of rambling to say that I appreciate you.
Lots and lots of love -Don

Lots of love back, Don! Though your gut reaction told you that you weren’t into fisting, you still tested it and watched your friends. Few people are willing to do that. I tell everyone to give things a fair shot, and if, having done so, no buttons are clicked and no triggers turned on, they can do no more — it’s not for them. That’s okay! Thanks for reading my stuff.

I love your blog keep up the good work. – K

Thank you, K!

*This email correspondence is from November 2020. I have written for The Advocate since then.

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