Posts by William Schindler

April 7, 2010
Category: Gay Culture

I have had the privilege of sharing my life with two different dogs during two different eras of my adult life. It doesn’t feel right to say I owned these dogs, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who looks a beloved dog in the eyes and sees clearly another sentient being looking back at you with an expression that might be quizzical, adoring, or might reflect wisdom beyond our understanding. In any case it is clear the dog is its own person, so to speak, with its own motivations, thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires. The dogs owned themselves without doubt, and I have been fortunate to be their caretakers as well as being the recipient of their generous attention and care.

The first dog I brought into my life was a young, female Rottweiler I adopted from the animal shelter. Looking back I can see that a Rottweiler was a perfect dog for the somewhat insecure young, gay man I was, as her sturdy build and characteristic markings complemented the masculine image I was eager to project. When we walked down the sidewalk together, people often crossed the street in fear. You would never mistake me for a frightened sissy with such a fearsome beast under my control. She was as gentle a being as I’ve ever encountered, however, and she always greeted visitors as if they were long-lost friends. She had a deep-throated warning bark that sounded so fierce, my brother nearly jumped out of his skin one night when he came creeping into my house late in the dark. But even when neighbor children teased her relentlessly through the screen door at the front of the house,...

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December 14, 2009
Category: Gay Culture

As religious bigots and fag bashers gloat and celebrate another narrow victory over marriage equality in Maine and more recently in NY and New Jersey, those who of us who hold to the stubborn conviction that we gay people really do deserve to be treated as fully human beings with equal rights under the law are left to lick our wounds and contemplate once again how much we as a group are hated and feared by the society in which we live. The governor of Rhode Island recently vetoed a bill that simply would have permitted a gay life partner to claim the body of his or her lover after death. President Obama’s timid, lukewarm support that so far has amounted mostly only to pretty promises delivered in eloquent soliloquies does little to mend the damage that occurs when talented members of the armed forces such as Lieutenant Choi lose their jobs and careers merely for being honest about being gay, and when gay families are stripped of dignity along with the most basic civil right to marry the person of one’s choice in cruel “popular” votes that give hatred and bigotry free reign to harm us all.

But in this blog I want to speak out for a silent group of gay persons that remains mostly hidden in this struggle because they are powerless and vulnerable, dependent for their very lives on those who hate them. I speak of course of the gay children who are even now growing up in families of Mormons, Catholics, Southern Baptists, Ultra-orthodox Jews, Moslems and other religious fundamentalists and fanatics. Imagine the voiceless terror these children experience when their...

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October 24, 2009
Category: Gay Culture

I read in the NY Times magazine section today about how increasingly middle-school students as young as 11 and 12 are declaring their sexual-affectional identities to friends, family, and teachers. This is a welcome evolution of gay liberation that has resulted from decades of gay activism and the gradual inclusion of more accurate images of LGBT people in media. It is significant that young people with no sexual experience recognize their sexual-affectional identities at such young ages because being gay is more about whom and how we love and how this colors our experience of the world than about sex only. The article points out that parents never question their children when they admit to opposite-sex attractions at a young age, but they nearly always do with same-sex attractions. The common question, ”How can you know for sure at your age?“ is just another form of denial of their gay child’s reality that they would never think to impose on non-gay children. The article goes on to describe some support programs for gay youth, but it also reports what we all assume, that anti-gay bullying and harassment is still pervasive in schools and almost never challenged by teachers or administrators even in relatively liberal school districts.

Although it is tempting to jump to the conclusion that the work of gay liberation is nearly complete when we learn of such openness in the young, the passage of Proposition 8 in California last year provided a stunning wake-up call to young...

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August 26, 2009
Category: Gay Culture

In this article I invite the reader to a depth and breadth of philosophical reflection than is unusual for this forum. I hope that readers who accept the challenge of this invitation will be stimulated to think about themselves both as individuals and as a community in possibly new and transformative ways and thus be rewarded for the effort.

“For our own liberation and for the benefit of the world.”

We are all familiar with the term secular humanism, but far fewer people are familiar with spiritual humanism, a philosophy that acknowledges the common interests of human beings as important guidelines for understanding how we can best live together in this world (humanism), but at the same time affirms transpersonal levels of collective being and interconnectedness that provide a deeper rationale for ethical behavior. Spiritual...

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June 26, 2009
Category: Relationships

….And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was
    on his way coming,  O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food
    nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the
    next at evening came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll
    slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as
    directed to me whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same
    cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was
    inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that night
    I was happy.
    —Walt Whitman

Excerpt from “When I Heard at the Close of Day” from Leaves of Grass
 

I met my first lover the day I arrived in New Delhi in 1972. I had just turned nineteen, and I had come to India alone on pilgrimage, having been a student of traditional Hindu Tantra for nearly four years by that time. He was standing in a small group of fellow monks, all of them clad in ochre robes, but he stood out from the others, built solid like a wrestler with a boxer’s flattened nose and fierce gaze. When our eyes met briefly, a spark seemed to...

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June 1, 2009
Category: Wellness

I have worked as a mental health counselor for gay men for 24 years both in private practice and in public clinical settings. For the past twelve years I have offered pastoral counseling as part of my role as spiritual director of Ashram West, a gay spiritual community based in traditional Hindu Tantra. What follows is a distillation of decades of experience both personal and professional, during which time I have corresponded with gay men all over the world from whom I have heard essentially the same lament expressed in numerous variations: Why can’t I find a man serious about forming an intimate relationship? I write this with the full understanding that casual sex has been and continues to be a norm in gay society, so I expect some readers will disagree with my characterization of casual sex as a curse. I admit I have participated in this aspect of our gay culture from my very first sexual experience 34 years ago, though always with reservations, if not always with restraint.  I believe my considerable experience over the past decades qualifies me to share my observations and judgments about what I have found to be the net negative aspects of casual sex despite the inherent pleasures of sex, about which there is nearly universal agreement. I ask only that the reader consider my points carefully before forming any conclusions.

First off, I think that sex, which is an inherently intimate act, can never be entirely casual. By this I mean that sex involves a comingling of physical, emotional, and...

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May 12, 2009
Category: Relationships

One of the special advantages a gay identity confers is kinship with other gay-identified persons all over the world. I consider ours a spiritual kinship because it transcends biological, national, ethnic, and socio-economic boundaries. As Homo sapiens we are all distantly related, of course, but we normally trace our biological kinship only as far back as familial memory or historical records permit. While some of us may lament the lack of biological offspring as a common consequence of choosing to honor our same-sex attractions, many more may celebrate our freedom from the financial and emotional costs of rearing children. Not only can we choose to remain free from the burdens of biological family, but we are also free to form our own intentional families, including sons or dads, if desired, by choosing relationships with individuals based on genuinely shared values, interests, and aspirations.

Any gay man who has traveled to other countries, even to those that may seem utterly remote culturally and geographically, will quickly discover with minimal effort members of our far-flung gay family eager to welcome foreign brothers into their world. I lived for two-and-a-half years in India in my late teens and early twenties, and I remember being surprised and amused to find gay men in parks from Banaras to New Delhi easy to detect using my American gaydar. Although gay men in traditional cultures such as in South Asia or in the Middle East typically experience irresistible pressure from their parents to marry, and therefore conduct their same-sex relationships...

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April 14, 2009
Category: Dating

I saw a photo of a particularly attractive young man on a gay dating site, and I sent him a brief message saying I found his photos attractive and his profile appealing. He responded in a polite, friendly manner, and after some exchanged messages, he agreed to join me for dinner. Before we hung up he informed me that I am “much too old” for him to consider dating me, but he was interested in me for other reasons. When he arrived we discovered that we share the same alma mater, although he had only just graduated from UC Berkeley, and I graduated in 1975, several years before he was born as it happened, and we also had other common interests. After some polite conversation I felt obligated to inform the youngster that men my age (55) don't consider themselves much too old for anything.  He barely remembered the remark he had made on the phone and seemed embarrassed to have it repeated while sitting in my presence, and I gently told him that I was not much offended, and that young men frequently say insensitive things without even realizing they might be giving offense.

For example, I enjoy a compliment as much as anyone, and when a younger man tells me I'm “hot” or “in great shape,“ I feel a warm glow inside. However, when the young man adds the qualifier, “for your age,” I feel somewhat less complimented. For you youngsters out there who want to make your daddy smile, do, indeed, tell him he looks hot or attractive, but never, ever add the qualifier “for your age.” A man is either hot or not, so...

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February 24, 2009
Category: Gay Culture

Men all over the world sooner or later confront notions of what it means to be a ”real man” and inevitably compare themselves to some ideal(s) constructed by the societies in which they live. Although different societies sometimes hold up seemingly contradictory ideals of manhood, Mahatma Gandhi in India versus Rambo in the United States, to cite extreme examples, we tend to accept our own society's ideal as normal unless our understanding gets broadened by exposure to other ideals that seem to resonate better with our inner experience.

Gay men everywhere tend to find ourselves excluded to one degree or another from inclusion in the category of “real men” because of our same-sex attraction and because many societies view gay men as effeminate (like a woman).  For a man to be like a woman means he is not, in some sense, fully a real man.

The late Harry Hay, arguably the father of gay liberation, inspired by examples of “third-gender” or “two-spirit” concepts he encountered in some Native American cultures, developed a theory of gay identity apart from the prevailing notions of male versus female prevalent in non-gay society. Hay believed that most gay men learn to imitate gender-polarized, heterosexual norms of male/female as a way to survive in homophobic societies and that this imitation distorts their authentic gay identities. He theorized that if gay men could get away from heterosexuals completely, preferably in natural settings, their...

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January 30, 2009
Category: Relationships

Any gay man who has ever dared give his heart to another man in a loving relationship has likely had his heart broken at one time or another. Breaking up with a lover has been one of the most painful experiences of my adult life. As I have aged (I'm now 55) the experience seems to get more painful each time. In this article I want to share one method of emotional healing a friend shared with me when I was in the throes of breakup blues.

One feature of suffering is morbid rumination about what you have lost. Grief can become paralyzing, sapping your energy and draining the pleasure from activities that you used to enjoy. You might isolate yourself, sleep or eat more or less than usual, become fearful of loving again, resort to alcohol or other drugs, engage in emotionally empty casual sex, and perhaps even entertain thoughts of suicide.

When I was nearly immobilized with grief after the breakup of a fifteen-month relationship, an Internet friend mailed me his well-worn copy of a book entitled Water Bears No Scars, by David K. Reynolds, Ph.D. The book describes a form of psychotherapy developed by a Japanese psychologist named Morita combining some features of Western psychotherapy with principles of Zen Buddhism. As in many Western therapies Morita Therapy encourages clients to be aware of their feelings. The key difference in Morita Therapy from many Western modalities is using feelings as indicators of constructive action rather than as ends in themselves. An essential principle in this therapeutic model is that when you mindfully engage in constructive...

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