Take it or Leave it

by Frank Hughes

"It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a bad example." I read that in a newsgroup the other day. It made me giggle and then it made me think. It was almost true for me.

Gay and disabled? Which has had the biggest impact? My disability was diagnosed late in life. Much to my surprise it has led to a silver lining.

I started my sex life with masturbation and as far as I was concerned the sooner I ejaculated the better. After all, if you are doing it three or four times a day you can't afford to spend too much time over the interior of your flies. The days are too short! As a child I always rushed to the candy counter and I did the same with sex. When I began wanking, the candy counter's location changed to just below my belt. I could help myself whenever I wanted and it was better for the teeth.

I enjoyed a few gropes with other boys who were every bit as eager as I was for the "white-out," but for the longest time I could not bring myself to recognise or admit my real desires. For a time I worked in an all-male environment, the Mercantile Marine, and it was there I first had sex that amounted to more than a grope. Anal sex it was, first with me as a top (one of the high points of my life to that point), then as a bottom (which hurt so much it was one of the lowest points of my life). Even then, with an intruder within my person, I could not admit to anything but being straight. I now realise it wasn't being a bottom that was wrong, it was just the buffoon wielding the penis. Well, I ask you, no lube?!

I continued with gay fumblings and buying gay skin mags on the sly, but still I could not bring myself to recognise or admit to my desires, even to myself. I realize now that I was still in the grip of childhood religious indoctrination. So what did I do? I got married; yes I did love her and still do. We had two children, but I discovered she didn't truly love me. I was a trophy for her to take to her parents. At the time we married, the status of a wife was much higher than that of a single girl. She feared becoming a spinster. She was as trapped by her environment as I was.

What happened next? Why am I so happy now? Perversely, because I was diagnosed as having Multiple Sclerosis, the third person over two generations of my family. I was well beyond the common age for a diagnosis of MS, a condition my mother had and my first cousin has. I always knew MS was a possibility for me, but after I left my twenties, then my thirties, I thought I had escaped it. It was a real thunderbolt when I was diagnosed.

What I had accepted about my health had proved illusory. What else was an illusion? I questioned all my values. Everything in my life came under scrutiny, from ordinary prejudices (like piercing, tattoos, and Londoners!) to articles of faith like the existence of God and what allowances I had had to make for the survival of my marriage.

Some assumptions survived while others did not. Self-delusion was a casualty. My religious beliefs evaporated in a moment of amazing clarity, (and it was a single moment) when I saw that many of my values were so false I had to abandon them. It was as if I had had a contract with God that read, "Be a good boy, or at least the best boy you can be and all will be well."

After my diagnosis it felt to me like the other party to the contract had reneged on the deal. But when I realized that the other party hadn't reneged at all, I knew that I bore no responsibility to maintain the terms of the contract. There was no contract because there was no God. I was now an atheist, free and free from guilt.

There in the background of my conscience was the Gay Me, smiling and just ready to let me be myself. And isn't that strange? I become an atheist and then I am redeemed! It seems I have become a "born-again homo." I was able to admit to myself that at least a part of me was gay. All the things I had not been able to bring myself to do, now I did. I finally kissed another man. I went to Cyprus for a week and got together with a guy I'd met on the Internet. We kissed. I rimmed him. I blew him (my first-ever blowjob). At last I was complete as a sexual human being. I walked around for days with a silly grin on my face. Not the slightest trace of guilt or regret. Bless you, George. It's a new world, a new life, a happy (so far!) life. And I owe it to MS.

I now look at the world differently. I have a wife, soon to be an ex, and two very supportive adult kids. I'm not bi, I'm gay. Do I feel any misgivings? Only over one thing: all the sex I have had has been with guys less than half my age. Maybe I just can't believe my luck. I am doing now what I should have done decades ago and like a well-matured wine the sex is superb. (I just remembered that they do talk of "laying down" a wine cellar.) Finally I am comfortable admitting that I am attracted to men more than to women. I can admit that I find the shape and contours of the male body overall—and the penis, in particular—pleasing both aesthetically and erotically. I do appreciate the looks of women, aesthetically, and I love the shape of constricted breasts, reminds me of buttocks!

I think a lot of guys who claim they are bi (and there are lots, if the profiles in personals sites are accurate) simply can't face the homophobia, that we have to countenance, the bitter fact that no matter how liberal our society seems to be, the heterosexual establishment cannot tolerate true sexual equality. To achieve real equality, our sexuality and sexual practices must be seen to have the same value as straight sex, a concept clearly unacceptable to many straights. I am convinced that this prejudice arises from the fact that many straight men are so hung up on and threatened by what gay men do that they refuse to grant us real emotional lives. Only when the feelings and emotions at the heart of gayness are recognized will we be seen as engaging in real, not ersatz relationships.

The fact that many gay men never have anal sex is just not known or understood. In the western world there are more cases of tetanus from human bites than animal bites! Yet we kiss other human mouths with alacrity! We would do better to kiss a few assholes! It's safer! The irony of course is that gay men do nothing that isn't done by straight men and women, but it's not so long ago that here in England heterosexual oral or anal sex, was a "perversion" and grounds for divorce and a prison sentence, filthy "Hunnish" practices.

But society has come a long way since the time of my puberty and now I have, too. The fear that kept me in hiding has vanished. There is a refreshing openness in this post-Stonewall era. The number of young guys who have told me their gayness was never an issue for them amazes me. Thir issues are love, money or their bodies, exactly the same as for other young women or men. They, this new generation of young gay men, are stunning. OK, I know that generalizations are dangerous, but these young men seem to me in general to be honest, happy, healthy, confident and unafraid. Their body language says, "this is me, take it or leave it!" I'm happy for them and I try not to be jealous when I'm reminded of how much time I've wasted in my life.

So— gay and disabled? Which has had the biggest impact on me? I don't know, but disability has enabled me to unlock an essential part of my personality. Now I am relaxed and happy. Don't misunderstand: given the choice I would not be disabled and I don't go for the "what doesn't kill you makes you strong" crap. But I am disabled and some good has come from it. At last I am able to say, "I am gay, take it or leave it."

©2002 Frank Hughes
Illustration: "Think of England" ©2002 Robbo


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Frank Hughes maintains that "Bios are always difficult. This is what I read about myself (or my star sign, at least) recently in Queerpalm.com., and I cannot argue with any of it! 'Aries: You are the pioneer type and think most people are dickheads. You are quick, original and just plain disgusting to be around. You do nothing and still piss off everyone you come in contact with. You are a prick. You are honest and direct, and the first to find a motel room when your boss or your friend's lover is horny. You read the text in sex manuals and try to follow it by the numbers. Aries is the type of guy that promises 10 inches and turns out to only be 3.'"


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/November 2002