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Just because I’m a gay man, my life doesn’t revolve around sex

Just because I’m a gay man, my life doesn’t revolve around sex

Jeremy Helligar in Budapest, Hungar

‘I’m a little obsessed with Eastern Europe.’

That sentence had been like a loop replaying in my head for weeks while I traveled through Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia. But this was the first time I’d said it out loud.

‘Why? Is it because you’re the only black guy there, and all the boys want to have sex with you?’

Seriously?… Really?… My friend wasn’t joking. He actually wanted to know.

I told him I got as much attention from gay men in Paris (where we happened to be at the time) as I did from the boys to the east  –  and the attention was generally more respectful, less blatantly racial. Still, I’ve always hated Paris.

Then I wondered: Why did he even assume that my taste in cities would be based on how easy it is to get laid in them?

Would he have made that assumption if I were straight? Female? White? What may have seemed like an innocent question to the white, bisexual German guy walking beside me was actually laced with gay-stereotyping and subtle racism.

He was implying that the life of a gay man, particularly one who is black, revolves around one thing: white d**k.

‘Well, since you didn’t ask, the reason why I love Eastern Europe and prefer it to Western and Southern Europe right now is because it feels much more foreign to me. It’s less Americanized than the rest of Europe, so being there is like being in a completely different world.’

In other words… Newsflash: There’s more to the life of a gay man than sex.

I don’t just enjoy places where the men are hot

I normally prefer to speak for myself only, but I’m pretty sure multi-dimensionality is something I have in common with a number of other gay men.

Still, so many of them, like my friend, initially assume I’ve been hanging out in Serbia for most of 2018 so far because I can’t get enough of the hot men here.

Newsflash No. 2: Sexy as Serbian guys are, they’re not even what I like most about Belgrade. That would be the Eastern Bloc-circa-1985 feel of the city, which sometimes makes me feel like I’ve been transported back to the Cold War era  – only without the deadly chill. It appeals to my inner historian.

In fact, there are a number of things I’d rather be doing right now than a sexy Serbian, like running around Belgrade, or writing this post.

I’m not saying jogging and blogging are better than sex, but they definitely bring me more joy on a regular basis.

Years ago, a friend asked me when I’m happiest. Without hesitating, I said after a long-distance run, and when an article I’m working on starts coming together. I live to edit my own work!

Maybe I’ve been having bad-to-mediocre sex all of my life, but that feeling of progress and accomplishment beats almost every orgasm I can remember. That I can’t recall the specifics of many of them speaks volumes.

Our sexuality is not the be-all and end-all

It never occurred to me to consider when I’m between the sheets (not sleeping and not alone) or rolling around awkwardly on a couch as my best of times. That didn’t even enter my mind. Sure, I may wake up horny from time to time  – OK, almost every morning  –  but I spend my days getting off on so many things besides getting off.

So do a lot of gay men, despite what Grindr might lead us to believe. I suspect that for many, Grindr is less about sex and more about boredom and validation anyway.

Perhaps because ‘gay’ is mostly associated with our sexual orientation, sex becomes, for some of us and to many others, the crux of our identities.

Yes, sexual orientation may be the major factor in determining whether someone identifies as gay or straight, but I’m not gay solely because I have sex with men. If I never have sex again, I’ll still be gay. Sexual attraction piques my interest, but I connect with men emotionally in a way that I don’t with women. That’s what sets off fireworks.

That’s what makes me truly gay.

What’s sex got to do with it?

I once told my Facebook friends about a 12-year-old named Jeffrey who tried to befriend me while I was walking home from work in Sydney. He even asked for my phone number!

Jeffrey was a sweet kid, and he reminded me how much I want to be a dad, but I couldn’t understand why a tween boy was interested in hanging out with a grown man in his forties.

I was surprised how many shocked people assigned a sexual element to the ‘disturbing’ story.

Some reasoned that maybe the kid was growing up gay and testing the waters. I suspected this had more to do with me than with the child. If I were straight, surely they wouldn’t have gone anywhere near there.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I’ve been attracting intrigued children for decades, ever since a six-year-old named Frederick approached me at Astor Hair in New York City, struck up a conversation, and asked if he could sit on my lap. I told him his dad, who was getting a haircut nearby, might not appreciate that.)

‘He wanted to be friends because you looked different and cool’

My friend Nancy was one of the few people I told the story to who wasn’t at all disturbed by it and didn’t offer a sexual-orientation angle.

‘He probably just wanted to be friends,’ she said. ‘He wanted to be friends because you looked different and cool.’

When I mentioned that his friends all started jokingly bowing down to us, she suggested that he might have been acting on a dare. I found that explanation plausible because I had considered it myself.

‘Or maybe,’ she added, ‘he wants to visit the U.S. and was excited to meet an American.’

She later said that after reading my blog post about Jeffrey, she Googled ‘Jeremy cool black guy in Sydney,’ and I was number six on the list, and number two the next day. I was surprised I hadn’t been number one both times. (Was there another black Jeremy in Sydney?) I was also impressed, because although she’d included ‘black’ in her Google search, she’d left out ‘gay.’

Knowing her  –  and this is one of the things I love most about her  – ‘gay,’ like sex, probably never even entered her mind.

This column first appeared on Medium – reprinted with permission. Jeremy Helligar’s book, Is It True What They Say About Black Men?: Tales of Love, Lust and Language Barriers on the Other Side of the World, is available via Amazon.

See also

https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/white-guy-bitchy-negro-grindr/