voyage of discouragement
Originally uploaded by einsteinsmonster
I'm having a difficult time approaching my writing today. I have been thinking a lot today about why I started this blog.
Something occurred that really threw me, yet it shouldn't have surprised me.
When Michael's illness began making a turn for the worse I began searching online for further support. Being that he was suffering from a brain tumor, I wanted to find other men, or people who were in the same care giving role that I was in. I looked, and I looked, but this group of men could not be found. They didn't exist. What I did find was a Brain Tumor Caregivers online group that had many active members. So I entered into that community. I was a little hesitant at first because I don't always know where I will be welcomed. You see, the group turned out to be primarily women. And by primarily, I mean there were probably over one hundred women, and maybe three men. What made this difficult was that to receive support I needed to introduce the group to who I was, and who my spouse was. No big surprise here, I had to come out to them.
When joining the caregivers group, we were asked to wrote a small bio to let everyone know who we were, who our spouse was, and where they were along their brain tumor path. I received a lot of support and some wonderful correspondence, yet there were clearly many people in the group that didn't enter into conversation with me immediately. I think they needed time to see that my needs were really not much different than theirs. In time I came to value these women greatly, and I feel that they valued my support as well. At one point a new guy entered the group, and like myself, he was really looking for other men to talk to. He thanked the ladies in the group for their willingness to respond to his issues, but felt that there were some things he needed from another guy's perspective. He asked the few of us men if we were willing to have our own group for this type of interaction. I wrote to him to share that while I was initially looking for the same, I found that the women gave me a perspective I didn't always see. At the same time, I did offer to join a secondary group with him, but needed to remind him that I was gay, and that my spouse was not a woman. He was gracious, but by my not hearing from him again, I take it my relationship status did not meet his needs either.
The same can be said about why I am here. I realized that very few men were out here in cyberspace talking about their feelings, and reaching out for support. I found that there was absolutely nothing for gay men, other than a book published almost 20 years ago during the initial AIDS crisis. And while I have found some men through this blog, both gay and straight, it has become the women, once again, who are there to respond to my grief. And while I have come to love the women that reach out to me, I still feel a need to keep reaching out to my widowed brothers.
As a gay man I have been on the receiving end of discrimination and disparity. I have at times felt like an outsider when not with a group of other gay or lesbian people, or people that have known me for years. When I say discrimination, it doesn't always mean that it is done in an overt way. This can be done in very subtle ways, and often people don't even realize that they are doing it.
Michael and I were legally married. We had a wonderful, and expensive, wedding. We were dressed in tuxes, recited our vows to each other in front of a minister and 100 of our close friends and family. We had a beautiful wedding cake, had a first dance, and a mother-son dance. We then went on a very romantic honeymoon. I say all of this because most people who know us, or of us, know that this occurred. Yet rarely does someone ask about my "husband." I always share with people that I am a widower, and that it is my husband that died. Yet without skipping a beat, the other person often replies about my "partner." It's a small thing, yes, but it is also significant.
We you say that your husband died, people understand the depth of loss fairly well. When they are unwilling to accept that you had the same type of relationship that they have, and they feel a need to call it something else, it robs you of some of the grace and dignity afforded others.
The same goes with being out here as a man, searching for support, and putting forth my personal thoughts and feelings. I am always mindful of the fact that I am a man, interacting mostly with women. This is something I cherish very much. Yet when I go for support in other places I still look to see if who I am is reflected in who it is that says I am welcome. Maybe I'm not being clear enough. My thoughts are this, I truly appreciate it when all the women welcome me into their fold, yet if as a group they have not done enough to reflect that they are anticipating the needs of men, then I walk away feeling like a guest who is invited over for dinner, knowing very well that I am a vegetarian, and finding only meat on the menu. It is quite discouraging.