Friday, May 28, 2010

Hi, my name is Dan, and I am a gay widower.

I just finished doing a quick read through my Facebook account. I was reading what other are posting, and was especially drawn into the delicate conversation about the choice of words used by various widows and widowers in describing their experience. It's funny how some of us take so much of what other's say as personal, while others of us kind of just throw our thoughts out there and let them land where they may. I think many of us feel battered and torn, so we might be a bit sensitive about certain areas in our journey.

As I was reading through the comments I considered participating in the discussion, but my usual apprehension got the best of me. Now I'm aware that I will be beating a dead horse here, as this is not the first, or second, time I have spoken of this topic. Some may think, "can't he just move on?" or "I don't think people really feel that way anymore." Can you guess where I'm going?

Being somewhat of an entity here in the Widowed Blogsphere, I quite often feel like the 'odd widow out.' I'm not the only male widowed blogger, but one of only a few active male bloggers who regularly address these topics. Where I am the odd man out is in being a gay widowed blogger. Like being widowed, unless you have experienced the deep pain and challenging journey that comes with this identity, you can't really say you completely understand what it is like. It is a very unique experience when you grow up as a minority, and experience prejudice and discrimination based how people perceive you. Fortunately, most minority people come from a family who shares in their identity, and thus share in their experience. Growing up gay, I had to fear prejudice and discrimination from within my own family. I had to hide this very important part of who I was for fear of rejection.

That fear of rejection never really goes away. As a gay Latino man I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about tolerance. I have had to tolerate the beliefs and opinions about who I was from strangers, friends and family. Whenever I meet someone new, there is always going to be that decisive moment when I come out to them, and then try to read the reaction I receive. If they are put off, or back away, then I have to understand. I can't hate them, or even dislike them, for they just don't know better. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn tolerance like I have, so I should feel empathy for them. I usually just try to just make the other person more comfortable by showing them our similarities rather than have them just feel our differences.

This has obviously become quite a sensitive subject for me. Now if you are here reading this, you are obviously not among those who are uncomfortable with who or what I am, and I thank you for being here. But I often think about those that are not here. At times I will visit other blogs that are similar to mine, and realize that there are a lot of people that participate in the other blogs, but not mine. I sometimes wonder at what point do people opt out of reading what I have to say. Is it in the sub-heading that sits under the title of my blog, "One gay man's journey through love, life and grief?" Or do they not notice the phrase, as it is purposefully presented in a more muted hue. Or maybe it's when they glance to the right hand column, and see that there is a photo of two men in a somewhat intimate pose. Perhaps they don't notice this at all, but get thrown off when they read my words describing my deceased husband, then quickly glance back to the name of the blog, "Dan, in real time."

Whatever the case may be, I get a lot of drive bys. People who stumble upon my blog, but exit rather quickly. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that it bothers me. I know we can't be everything for everybody, but it would be nice to think that who I loved, and who I lost, didn't matter to all the others who have loved and lost in a similar manner.

Some time back I did add a comment in one of those Facebook discussions, and my comment went unrecognized. I checked back several times to see if perhaps I just overlooked someones response, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. It is one thing to be standing in front of a person, and having to experience the cold shoulder, or nervous response, but it is very different in this world of words. As was the discussion on Facebook, when we read someones words alone, we don't have the benefit of hearing their inflections, or seeing their facial expression. We are only able to read what they write, or read into what they don't.

So there I was, reading this discussion about the choice of words, or another discussion regarding the use of the label widow or widower, and hesitating whether or not my entering the discussion would be welcomed. There I was wondering if by my speaking of losing my husband, I might disrupt the flow of the conversation, because I may not be seen as similar enough.

So let me say this. I will continue to speak from my very personal experience. In my discourse of loss, I don't ever try to water down that I am a man who loved and lost a man. And to those of you who have been here throughout my journey, you have never blinked an eye, or made me feel the need to explain myself. I have really appreciated this, because as you may have noticed, there appears to be a bit of a shortage of gay or lesbian widowed people hanging around the block. In some ways, my existence here can be very comfortable, as long as I don't venture out too far. And, as many of us have shared, I too am planning on attending Camp Widow in August. If it hadn't been for all of you wonderful ladies urging me to do so, I would never have thought to place myself there. It would have been too awkward not knowing how I would be received. And, as the Facebook discussion so clearly exhibited, we are all going through very sensitive times, and our vulnerability is at an all time high. I'm sure there are people, many of you in fact, that also feel vulnerable in various groups, for various reasons. In this way, we are all very similar.

Dan, in real time.


  1. Hi Dan,
    I am still here. I have just entered the month of March in your blogs. You are an amazing man - so articulate. I am not a gay man, I am a heterosexual woman, but I am not much into labels - we are both human beings experiencing grief after losing a spouse. I have no difficulty what so ever with your sexual orientation. I have always thought that being gay in our society would be a "tough row to hoe". I appreciate your acknowledgement of this and this is one area that I cannot say that 'I understand'. I do have empathy though. I like your attitude - those that are uncomfortable - "they just don't know any better".
    Thank you for your blog, I read several entries per day and it has helped me enormously. It keeps me sane, connected to my own feelings and I am continually surprised by the commonality of our experience. I just passed the 3 month anniversary and am feeling quite alone, have no interest in the world, spend a lot of time in my bedroom and feel that people are wondering why I'm not over it yet. Sigh. This is an arduous process.
    Please keep blogging and one day soon I will catch up to you in Real Time!

  2. Dan, this is a topic worthy of bringing up even if it's been touched on in the past.

    I find it so odd that others might just skip over a comment even if they don't share your experience - but hope it's just the usual thing - that people on forums often become rather cliquish and tend to ignore comments left by those outside their own little group.

    Regarding the other issue of "acceptance", I have to say that I'm rather amazed that, in this day and age, there would still be some people who have a problem accepting gay marriage (and, yup, it seems there are still a few hold-outs in America). Being a Canadian, I think that, for the most part, we're past those times - most people up here would not give the issue a second thought (publicly or privately) - but that goes for many other things that are mainstream up here, but not yet elsewhere in the world. I guess I'm seeing all of this through Canadian-tinted glasses. (-:

    Re: blog reading and commenting. I sometimes wonder what it is that inspires people to leave comments on a blog. I don't actually get many widowed readers leaving comments on my blog, so can't say that, in my case, it has anything to do with "common experience". I've been blogging since 2006, originally on my nature blog, Burning Silo, and then at my more recent blog (JTTC) since Don's death. Many who leave comments have been doing so since the nature blog days and knew Don through that and then just continued reading as I moved into a different phase in my life -- writing about coping with life alone, on the road, and now fixing up this old house. Earlier on, I wondered if I might be abandoned once I stopped writing mainly about nature, but that hasn't happened as yet. My belief is that many who read blogs are interested in the experiences of others - whether it's to know what it is like to live in a different part of the world, or to travel along with someone, or learn about life on a farm, or in a particular city, or how it feels to be widowed, or many other variations in the human experience. Maybe it's just a case of time, exposure, etc.. My first 6 months or so of blogging at Burning Silo were pretty lonely - almost no comments and not too many visitors.

    As a blogger, my experience has been that it's the bloggers who tend to comment on other blogs. Non-bloggers tend to lurk more than comment unless they feel strongly enough about something to come out of the woodwork to say something. Bloggers who visit and comment on a lot of other blogs (even occasionally), tend to receive quite a few comments on their own blogs as there's definitely a reciprocal aspect to all of this. Another thing that I've noticed is that people tend to be more inclined to comment if the blogger replies to comments. I don't tend to feel that way myself as I know everyone has their own style (some bloggers don't ever respond to comments), and also people are busy and don't always have time to write a response. One last point, and this is quite likely -- maybe some of your readers are using RSS feeds to read your blog. I never tend to use RSS as you miss out on reading comments unless you subscribe to a comment feed as well. My m.o. is to read the post and come back 2 or 3 times later to read subsequent comments as I like to see what others have written (maybe I'm weird in that way). Anyhow, I never gave all of that much thought until one of my regular blog readers mentioned that he always reads by RSS and therefore doesn't leave comments or participate in discussions unless he actually clicks his way through to my blog - something he just does when he feels motivated enough to leave a comment.

    Anyhow, just some thoughts.

  3. i also saw that forum discussion going on last night and read through it. i keep a low profile on Facebook, sneaking on and off like the LIttle Matchgirl peeking in the window. never, never would i enter into those discussions. i agree with Bev that they are cliquish and i forever see people get their feelings hurt. i know mine would be crushed in an instant. a young local widow here expressed once that she is continually surprised at how widows(ers) almost seemingly go after each other. she said she did not need to join that type of gang aspect online as if she wanted to be verbally abused she could just go to a family reunion.

    Dan, i realize that your experiences are unique to some people, awkward for them to leave comments to, but it is my opinion that they are not seeing you with the embellishments are stripped away. you are a human being who lost the person you loved most in the world to cancer. there is no greater pain than to see someone close their eyes for the last time and be left to wonder "what's next."

    if your words can get to your fingers via keyboard or pencil, writing is as good for the soul as music. passive communication. keep writing. you have a readership whether they comment every time or not. as for the online forum "feeding frenzies," if you do venture into deeper waters, check yourself for cuts and for Heaven's sake, don't bleed into the water.


  4. Hi Dan,

    I stumbled on your blog after stumbling on another widower's blog "Split-Second Single Father". I am none of these things: widowed, a parent or male...but I am finding both of your blogs very compelling and hard to turn away from. There is something here (or rather a collection of many things) that resonates within my own life. And naturally, when you said that you don't get as many comments, I realized I needed to put my thoughts into some sort of coherent form and share them with you. Not an easy task, I assure you. :)

    Your writing is straight from your heart and I am shocked to hear about the feeding frenzy, not of online forums - this I am very much used to and have learned to avoid - but of forums specifically for widow(er)s! I would not have guessed such a thing likely, let alone endemic. WomanNShadows' last line about the frenzies is well put.

    As I said, I may not be a widow or a parent but I have had to deal with more than your average share of loss, both by death and by other no-less traumatic means. And I have young siblings who have taught me many a lesson about both the living being's potential for resiliency in dealing with loss and my own capacity for connecting and sharing through grief.

    Being a queer woman of color (and a vegetarian and...), I can relate instantly to your feeling of isolation, Dan. I applaud your strength and thank you for sharing your story with the world. You are a remarkable human being and a beautiful person. Anyone that would shy away from your story solely because yours has one more adjective attached to it, is unaware of what they are missing and is selling themselves short of a learning opportunity and a connection to something outside of themselves and outside of their world. Something that could enrich and strengthen who they are.

    It is a source of great power to consider that your words, borne out of sorrow and grief, by definition, can be a force for positive change. So even if it seems like not as many people are listening to you as to others - a) that may not be the case and b) press on, because your story is very much worth telling.

    Thank you and be well!

  5. I forgot to mention something else earlier. The photos that you used to go with this post are wonderful.

  6. Dorthea, Thanks for expressig your support, and for sharing you ongoing movement through my blog. You are reading it just as I planned, that at any point, someone could come along and begin at day one of my blog. I want it to be something that can be picked up by the newly bereaved, and used as a companiion to their own process.

    bev, I really appreciate hearing of your own experience with blogging. It helps to understand the process that other have, and learning from it. It's also striking how different the perspective can be from one group of people to the next. I have constantly wondered how our two countries, so close in proximity, can at times feel so different in their collective understanding, or acceptance, of human nature.

    wNs, I keep reading through the frenzies, as you call it, and feel drawn to the quick paced movement of thought and discussion. I have wondered what draws people to the process, and what draws the rest of us to the longer, more time consuming forum of blogging.

    laughinglioness, I am so please that you chose to share your thoughts. First of all, welcome to my blog, and thank you for reading. I like that you found me by way of split-second single father, as he was one of the early bloggers, like wNs, who embraced my writing. I feel a bit of affinity with him, as he was part of my small community of male widowed bloggers, and he is also raising a child one his own. I appreciate that you are gaining something from my words, and that some of it rings true to some of your own experiences. Besides, what's not to love about a queer woman of color who loves her vegetables? I often like to break out part of my identity, and put a spotlight on it. It then highlights part of my experience that needs to be expressed.

    Thanks everyone. I will keep writing. Now that I have started, I don't see it likely coming to an end.

  7. I hope and wish that you find yourself welcomed by women who have lost a husband and by men who have lost a spouse. I don't see that how body parts fit together is anyone's concern but our own. Love is love and your grief is no different from mine because of mechanics alone. Maybe someday this will be true. I hope that you are only experiencing the outside world's discomfort at witnessing your pain and nothing more sinister. Anybody grieving can relate how people's thoughtlessness can compound our pain in so many ways which they are not even aware they are inflicting. Peace, Dan. And while it seems heartless -and naive- to wish for recovery, I think of someday, a reduction of the searing pain and turmoil of these years.

  8. Hi carolyn, Good feedback. I've often wondered why some people have such a problem with this. Of course for me it is part of my nature. I like how you describe recovery here as a reduction of the searing pain and turmoil. I am a firm believer that there will always be a level of pain, but I too am hoping for a reduction. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Hi!
    I am the close friend of a widow and we are still reeling from the loss of her husband/my dear friend. She and I both read blogs about grief/widows/widowers. Perhaps we're looking for answers or even just a heart connection with anyone else out there that will share their story. You are touching more people than you know and in more categories than you can guess. Thank you for helping me with my grief but thank you more for helping my friend. You have become a friend of hers as well without even knowing it.

  10. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you will continue reading.