Breakfast with John this morning at Cecconi’s. We ate oatmeal, which is American for porridge. Actually just milled oats with hot milk rather than the creamy, steaming, slow cooked porridge of my youth. Served this morning-like a desert-with strawberry jam! Yuk.
I was telling him about the long relationships that I have had with women. I have always identified as gay but recently, after rehab and therapy I am coming to other conclusions. Gayish maybe. I don’t know. ‘It’s complicated’ as they say on Facebook.
My relationships with women, as with Jennie on the show, have always been incredible romances.
I have loved women more than I ever loved me.
That was a Freudian slip. I meant to write men. But it’s true; I have always loved women more than men or me.
The woman that I have loved the most have been highly intelligent, powerfully articulate, always incredibly beautiful and sexually submissive. The most recent being the editor of a highly regarded magazine. I refer to all my past female lovers as my ex wives.
To understand these relationships I’d best explain the relationship I had with my mother.
My relationship with my mother was intensely emotional. Remember, she too was held hostage in our ‘family’ by my violent step-father. Consequently, I became her escape, her confidant, her secret affair. On the bus to Canterbury I said, “I’m not your boyfriend!” For the remainder of the journey we both sat in silence, shocked that I had articulated what had, until that moment, been our terrible secret. I was 12 years old! In lieu of a loving husband or a loving father we loved each other absolutely, unswervingly. She would confide in me, when we were on our own, that there was only us, no one else existed. Just her and me. That if she could she would run away with me. This emotional incest laid the groundwork for the intensity I seek out with women.
Sexual violence I seek from men. I always find it.
Even though I have had long relationships with men, I devalue these relationships when I compare them to the relationships that I have had with women.
The truth is my mother and I never escaped. She stayed married to my step father and endured his constant punishment. I escaped into madness and addiction.
I still find it very difficult to forgive her. She is a sweet and simple woman who really did her best to make a terrible life better for all of us. However, knowing what I know now would it have been so terribly hard for her to put my brothers and I onto the bus and somehow get away?
I don’t believe that all gay men are born gay.
I know that this thinking sets me at odds with the majority of the gay community and many, many straight men. Saying that, I don’t believe that there is a cure for homosexuality – as once the dye is cast our sexuality seems inevitable.
There is no evidence that gay to straight rewiring or reorientation actually works.
However, gay men who live with and marry women are of course far more prevalent than we like to admit. But should these relationships be discounted? Both Oscar Wilde and Vita Sackville-West had incredibly loving relationships with both their spouse and a member of the same sex. Indeed, Oscar’s love letters to his wife are as beautiful and compelling, if not more so, than his letters to his male lover. Vita’s profound love for her husband provided a springboard from which she would leap into a previously unimagined same sex world.
Again, in my experience of having relationships with women, women were far more accepting of my behavior than one would like to believe and tended to stick by me even after multiple same sex indiscretions. When I have had relationships with women, women who knew that I had preferences for men, they tended to overlook the past and focus on a future that we might share together.
Most gay men who identify as gay are born gay. However, a few men (and I count myself among them) are sexualized at an early age. I am plagued with this question: If I had not been so badly abused as an infant would I have become gay?
There are many varieties of gay.
Men who own to same sex desires later on in life endure accusations that they were merely in denial: minimizing their life’s journey.
Mother in Malibu garden
The group of men who seem to cause the most distress to both straight and gay men are those who genuinely seem to have sexual choice and act accordingly. Same sex experimentation amongst straight men, despite rowdy protestations, occurs more frequently that any of us like to acknowledge.
As I have written before we, as a society, are incredibly prescriptive about the sexual identification of others. Supposedly, once a man has crossed the sexual Rubicon he is damned. Bullshit. If only these sexual prescribers applied the same rational to female sexuality. But how can they? When straight men persuade women to act out lesbian fantasies have these women now become forever lesbians at the behest of heterosexual men?
All of my work as an artist has sought to understand, rework and revisit my initial trauma. This now feels, after therapy, like a terrible indulgence. Yet, to let it go..what am I left with? The future seems very bleak without this grotesque narrative.
PS My mother visited me after my grandmother died. It was uncomfortable for both of us but we got though it. When the big dog was killed I called her crying but I felt like I was crying to a woman I no longer knew.
In the words of Tennessee Williams: Time is the greatest distance between two people.