You

More and more I see gay men locked, or at the very least, struggling with our ever increasing labels. We’ve gone from having labels to having labels within labels it seems. You can’t be a bear anymore, you have to a specific type of bear. You can’t be a daddy, you have to be a specific type of daddy with various different new labels “instead” of the term daddy. lol You can’t be a gaymer, now you have to a specific niche of gaymer. I could list a hundred different examples here. It is enough to drive you crazy if you let it.

This time of year tends to encourage folks to ‘look to the future’ with resolutions so my advice to anyone reading… make resolutions to break away from your labels. Just be you. I’d bet money you are only hurting yourself. From my own past, I learned to let go of labels after spending years feeling isolated or “left out” from parts of gay life I saw as more desirable. In reality I was just insecure about myself and thought if I belonged to said group(s), I’d be less insecure. (Hint – it never works. You just get better at hiding your insecurities.)

It is ok to identify as a label, but step away from feeling like all you are or have to offer is said label. You are more than just a description of labels. Even if you think you fit squarely inside a defined label, there is still more to you than that. More importantly, you do not have to feel defined by the labels given to you by others. One, you will never live up to the expectations of others. Instead, work on setting your own expectations to strive and work toward. Two, strive to accept all of what and who you are. Strive to better yourself on your terms, whatever that may be.

Of course, it is easier said than done. We literally write pathways in our brain by allowing ourselves to become a “label.” But no one will make it all better for you. It is up to you to find the will to change it.

I wish you all a better year than last. 2021 wasn’t great for me, but it also wasn’t terrible. I’m hoping for an even better 2022.

Hope springs eternal….

Perky

Ever have one of those days where for no apparent reason you have an extra pep in your step? You feel extra just for being awake? Or, you just feel awesome for no real reason? I had one recently and I was tickled pink when I realized it. I guess it has been so long I had almost forgotten what it felt like. At face value that sounds kind of sad, but considering the state of the world these last couple years anyone could be forgiven.

I tend to be a rather upbeat person. It is just my nature. As I push 51, it is also a mark of pride I still have such days. My job has certainly had an impact on a subconscious level. Being on an assignment for the past 5 years definitely helped. In general, I believe life’s responsibilities and worries tend to wear us down and take the “shine” off our world view. That said, I definitely missed the feeling and hope I’ve found enough of my old optimism to have more of them. The irony here is in some of the roughest times of my life I was the most optimistic. Nothing really seemed to tarnish my boundless good moods back then. One could say I’m a bit more jaded now.

I can’t help but wonder if my recent attempts to limit my social media exposure has anything to do with it. I spend less than 15 mins a day on FB or Twitter. About 90% of my IG feed is thirst traps and gym motivation. My brain gets its fill of context switching from TikTok, where I’ve curated a feed of comedy and funny home videos.1 I’ve also started denying myself the urge to check media/news apps first thing in the morning. I deliberately avoid them for at least 30 mins to an hour to give myself time to wake up and just be present. I pick up my phone and briefly scroll the notification panel for anything truly urgent and then just avoid it for a while.

I’m fond of saying “hope springs eternal” here and it has been a struggle these last 4-5 years to follow that mantra. Not to go all doom and gloom but I’m seriously worried for our way of life. Greed, bias and anti-intellectualism has replaced integrity, truth, and science. But, at the end of the day, I can only control myself. I cannot control others. My innate desire to “correct someone on the internet who is wrong” is slowly being replaced by a “leave it alone“. Successful discourse online is all but dead. I firmly believe my avoidance of that toxic environment is having an effect on me. I’m eager to test the theory.

So….hope springs eternal… (you knew it was coming.)

  1. Context Switching can be highly addicting and destructive to your work day or motivation []

Gloomy News

If you’ve been living under a rock, it came out this week Facebook has been lying to us all along. A whistleblower came forward and spilled a bunch of dirt on the down right shitty behavior of FB, not that any of us should be surprised. Social media has become a poison in our lives IMO. It does far more harm than good. I get that social media is what we make it, but that argument only holds up in an unbiased scenario. FB has demonstrated they are manipulating us.

I’ve been weening myself off FB to the point I spend less than 15 mins online on any given day. Mostly, I peruse a few comments/profiles or share the occasional news article. There are days I get caught up in the “someone on the internet is wrong” mentality, but those are rare now. Frankly, it’s not worth it. I plan to eventually phase out sharing any news content at all as well. I turned off notifications for FB sometime ago and it has panned out to be an excellent decision.

Then we find out last week AT&T was the primary sponsor for the propaganda site OAN.1 The world is so used to scandal now, everyone just seemed to give a collective sigh and move on. I guess that was probably the goal. I already don’t use their products so can’t cancel my service….I highly recommend you do. OAN is the far right cousin to Fox News, with little to no pretense at propaganda. In a word, its vile.

I know I sound all doom and gloom, but the news as of late has me in a bit of a gloomy mood. I’ve been saying for awhile, we are headed for a calamity. Honestly, I think it’s coming soon. Scary stuff for sure but all I can control is me. I can control the content I read, use, and share. I can control my actions. I can control to whom I give my time and energy. If it wasn’t for my never ending sense of optimism, I think I’d need medication. I can see how folks get caught up in it and just go off the deep end.

These days my online presence is usually IG2 for gym inspiration and “the TikTok”3 for humor. I’d love to abandon social media all together, but I’m not there yet. I’d give in and be back. I figured this way, I’ll eventually just ween myself off. Hey, one can hope right? hehehe

  1. I wont’ link to them. []
  2. Yes, I know FB owns it []
  3. I love seeing folks go apocalyptic when I use “the” with the name []

Mask-less

I ran a small experiment on FB the other day to prove an idea. I asked, “Why did you trust the CDC recommendation to wear a mask but don’t trust them now saying it’s ok not to wear one?1 And it worked in favor of the discussion that the CDC under trump was constantly being meddled with but is now being run based on the science with no interference from the Biden HHS appointee.

The answers were varied but pretty much what I expected. A common thread was many would continue “out of an abundance of caution.” And to be clear, I’m not trying to shame anyone or even be judgmental. My thoughts couldn’t be further from that. You should do what makes you feel safe. It did validate my theory though. Human beings have a hard time updating their moral/ethical standards. They do not adapt well to standards that changes too quickly. It cuts to the core of how we process our reality. When the idea of right and wrong changes too quickly many people develop of sense of disbelief. This disbelief can lead to fear, anger, shock, judgment, and/or even a larger disconnect from the world around them. When you add in a lack of knowledge (willful or otherwise), religion, or other biases it only serves to increase the disconnect.

Just as one example, look how many gay men fought the idea of PrEP.2 PrEP has been around for years now and has consistently and repeatedly proven to be a better preventative measure to the spread of HIV than condoms. However, there are still contingents within the community who know better. The latter is often based more on biases and personal judgment than science, but that isn’t the point today. The triggers are deeper than than. After 3 decades of having the idea that “safe sex is sex with a condom” pounded into our heads, many men (and women) simply can’t process the idea of it suddenly not being applicable anymore. I see it more in older gay men, many of which witnessed the agony and suffering caused by AIDS and it’s devastation on our community. To wake up one day and be told, “condoms are fine but bareback is now perfectly fine IF you use this drug” simply does not compute. In our brains, we “know” what works. We understand the simple idea of placing a barrier between ourselves and others as a form of protection. The idea of removing that physical barrier we can see in favor of a drug treatment barrier3 just “seems wrong” to many.

Another common answer was people “couldn’t trust others to be honest about their vaccination status.” That is an admirable approach; however, why is it your responsibility to protect those who are willfully ignorant or refuse to get vaccinated, especially since we don’t do this for other vaccinations? Why is this one suddenly different? Is it really caution or the disbelief in a suddenly changing moral standard? Hmmm? And looking at the risk, it is no longer an equal equation. We collectively make a social contract to protect each other by each person respectively doing their part. When it was equal you saw me constantly encouraging folks to wear their masks and social distance. I’m all about harm reduction. As a vaccinated person I’m not really keeping anyone else safer now by wearing my mask.4  As an unvaccinated person, you should continue to wear your mask and avoid overly crowded places. However, if you refuse to get vaccinated, it is no longer an equal equation and you are shifting the burden onto others. The social contract is broken.

If you are still worried for yourself due to other health issues that is certainly ok. Again, at no point is this discussion meant to dissuade anyone from doing what they feel is right for themselves.

Vaccinations are readily available almost everywhere in the US now and availability is increasing every day. Vaccinations are free and you can now get a free Uber/Lyft ride to your local vaccination sites. You have no excuse not to get vaccinated. We have so many doses of the vaccines now we are sending them to other countries still in dire need.

The last popular argument was a lack of trust in the CDC over pressure to reopen. I do think the CDC feels some pressure to ‘open up’ society, but not at the expense of a rising death toll. They know some will still become infected and potentially even die. However, our safe guards are about harm reduction. From a medical viewpoint, we will have to COVID in our lives for years to come. The degree of danger from it is lower every day now. We have reached an important threshold, even at just 50% immunity. Our emergency response systems, including hospitals, are unlikely to be overwhelmed by new patients. It is likely we will eventually reach over 60% of the country being vaccinated, 70% if we are lucky. And while still below the “herd immunity” threshold, that just means, as alluded above,  we will end up with yearly booster shots, much like the flu virus. It could be with us indefinitely due to variants or just a few years until we reach a real herd immunity. Eventually, those not vaccinated are likely to contract it. They could also suffer reinfection from variants, but again much like the flu, they are less likely to be hospitalized or die after surviving a first infection.

There are always other health variables for an individual to consider, so you should do what makes you feel safe. For myself, I trust the science and am comfortable with my decision to go mask-less where it is allowed. I think many of us aren’t really worried as much as we are conflicted on an evolving standard.

  1. If you came here from the FB post, thanks for your response. []
  2. Pre-Exposure Prophylactic []
  3. that many often do not understand completely []
  4. Yes, there are exceptions but those are in the small minority. []

Optimisitic

First, thank you to the folks who reached out to me after my last post. I wasn’t down or depressed. I find talking about it quite therapeutic. It was on my mind so I put pen to paper, so to speak. But, yes I’m doing well.

I’ve found myself feeling optimistic again lately. It helps that we are back in the gym again…again. I feel like we’ve crossed a major hurdle now and we are over the worst of this pandemic. The supply is now on track and a 3rd vaccine just got an EUA.1 It is my prediction we won’t see anymore severe lockdowns, at least here in California. Hopefully, my words bear out to be true.

Speaking of the gym, after the first severe lockdown and they sorted out a tier system, I had the roughest time getting back into a solid gym routine. Ironically, right when I found my stride they got shut down again. We’ve been back at it for a couple weeks now and this time it wasn’t as hard. It was a shorter break but I was surprised I didn’t need the extra weeks to build back endurance. The weight I’m slinging is still much lower, but it feels good to be back.

Fun fact, the government will not mandate the vaccine. Vaccines released under EUA aren’t eligible for mandatory vaccination orders. While I trust the sciences, EUAs are designed to allow for immediate use while study continues. However, that does not mean you won’t see restrictions on day to day activities from private companies. You may end up having to show proof to go back to in-person work, fly, or return as an adult to college, etc.

Locally, we are moving into the Red Tier this week. Red is still restrictive but a lot of businesses, including restaurants, get to re-open at limited capacity.  New cases have been below 100 per day for almost two weeks now and available ICU beds are way up. It seems people in general are more optimistic and looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, as vaccinations rise, we will ease back to normal by year end. I’ve even seen some big events toward the end of the year start planning for in person gatherings.

For myself, I miss hugging. Such a small thing but I miss it. Sure, I miss traveling. I miss the ease of just “doing things”, but it’s the little things I miss the most. I miss the casual intimacy that comes from being close to people you know. I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

As always, hope springs eternal…

  1. Emergency Use Authorization []

January 6, 2021

Well, I think we can all agree yesterday was a total shit show! Armed conspiracy nuts descended en-masse on the capitol, after days & weeks of being fed propaganda & lies by our out-going president, congressional leaders, and propaganda media. This day will go down as a dark stain on American history.

We all witnessed it unfold for the world to see. These patriots traitors committed seditious acts and deserve to be prosecuted once the new administration takes office. Even worse, the active president refused to act allowing the situation to go on for hours before enough forces would be mobilized to quell the insurrection.1  And let us not forget the inept mismanagement of the capitol building grounds that allowed for this. The entire episode carried on long enough many people just wandered away vs being expelled. To say it was an embarrassing day for our country would be an understatement. If anything, it was the perfect example of our current president’s failures.

We did finally see order restored and the ceremonial act to certify votes was completed. It still had it’s own drama, as over 100 house republicans pushed their fake narratives during the process. At least the senate had enough common sense to drop all but one of their remaining fake grievances with the electoral college results. They all knew nothing could change the outcome of the election.

History will remember trump as the corrupt selfish childish man he is. It will not be kind to this traitorous fool. And now that he is about to lose his immunity from prosecution, history will also remember what comes next. We witnessed a man-child act out of fear and desperation to try to hold onto power. His scorched-Earth approach has failed spectacularly.

History will also remember these fools who fell for this dangerous propaganda. It will remember the seditious acts of a deluded group of fools. It will painstakingly paint their racism, ignorance, and bias into the history books. I take great comfort in knowing they will not be remembered as “patriots”. No, they will be remembered as a bunch of ignorant social media warriors who made it as far as they did only because of inept mismanagement of the capitol grounds.

I eagerly await President-elect Biden’s inauguration.2  He was not my candidate of choice; however, he is proving to be just what America needs right now. Hopefully, he will be able to restore many of the democratic safeguards dangerously eroded by trump and his cronies.

Hope springs eternal…3

  1. Several news outlets reported it was Pence who authorized the National Guard, even though that power rests squarely with the president. It is important to remember D.C. is not a state yet []
  2. On my birthday no less! []
  3. This post has been updated to correct my reference to the white house instead of the capitol building []

Playing It Straight

I was chatting with a FB friend the other day who came out late in his life. He asked me if I had ever thought of going thru life pretending to be straight. He was shocked when I shared the idea had never even occurred to me.

If you’ve been here long enough1, you’ll remember I “left’ home at a very early age. I was also sexually active very early. That said, at the time I still wasn’t actually sure I was gay. When I told my dad on that fateful day, I remember just telling him I liked having sex with guys, not that I was gay. It might seem like I was dense but I had no idea what it was to be gay. All I knew were the stereotypes thrown around every day.  My understanding of “being gay” meant I had to be super effeminate , wear dresses, or want to have sex with animals or kids. And while I turned myself into a stereotype many years later, at that time none of those things applied to me. It wasn’t like I could talk or ask anyone about it. There were no cell-phones, internet, or social media back then. My small town didn’t have ‘dirty magazines’, much less gay ones. We lived so remote we didn’t even have a landline phone.  For a few years I thought I was a straight guy that just liked sucking cock on the side. I kid you not, I thought that way.

Fast forward to my early 20’s, I survived my stepmother’s torment, being thrown out on the street, M’s death, and a near suicide. These things changed me so deeply I can understand why it never occurred to me. The evolution of my understanding and acceptance of myself negated the very idea of pretending. It just wasn’t an option. I could theorize over it but that seems pointless.

My friend was flabbergasted by my story. He just assumed we all hid it when we were kids. Funny how we go thru the world projecting our assumptions. I was a bit shocked he thought all the guys in our age group hid it until we were older.  He was married to a woman. No kids, but not from the lack of ‘trying’ as he put it. He also shared with me he felt ashamed to bottom until he was almost 50. I can’t say that surprised me. Too many fellow homos carry this nonsense around in varying degrees to this day. He also shared with me the torment he lived with knowing he was living a lie. He both loved and resented his wife because of his secret. He was careful to avoid anything “too gay”, lest he be discovered.

It was a very interesting perspective to me because it was so foreign to my own story. It was a really good conversation. Anyone having to hide who they are doesn’t have it easy, regardless of the circumstances. My struggle was and is but one of many.

At this moment in my life, most of my coming out is a dull memory vs the sharp stabbing pain it used to be. And while I have wondered at times what my life would have been like had I not come out when I did, it is not from a sense of wishing it so.

  1. oh you single digits few []

Taught

It is about this time of year you start seeing people lamenting how terrible the year has been and how “they are ready for the new year.” Somehow the new year will be better. I’m usually not in this camp, but clearly that has changed this year.

I think we can all safely say 2020 has been absolute dumpster fire! It started out ok but just ran right down the shitter as things progressed. It certainly has been educational for me. I only wish I could say in a good way. My enduring faith in humanity has definitely been challenged this year.

We’ve got these insidious behind the scenes machinations trying to destroy our way of life. The greedy and power hungry are pulling the strings of our ‘leaders’ while the general populace languishes in poverty. Said population is often so focused on survival they can’t see they are being used as pawns. And seeing some of the most needy in our society support the very same people hurting them is painful to witness. More so, it is a disturbing example of history repeating itself. Rome is definitely burning, folks. To polish off the trifecta, we have the indifferent. These are the people who are well off enough to be completely immersed in the their own little bubble of existence. Occasionally, tidbits of information pierces said bubble but there is no filter to determine it’s accuracy or relevance. At some point a “working knowledge” arises from which all their decisions are based for good or bad. These are usually where you find the Karens of the world. Pity the soul that incurs their wrath by causing them any level of inconvenience.

I am not even sure what my frame of mind would be right now had I not been able to get back in the gym. I had gotten to a point about 5 months in where I wasn’t doing well. I’m sure I looked fine on the outside, but I wasn’t. But, as Elle Woods would say, “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t shoot their husbands.”  And I’m referring to the endorphins, not my husband. lol  Being back in the gym has really helped lift my spirits and pulled me out of being depressed.

Even as I sit here writing this I am struck by my own privilege. I am fortunate to have the opportunity and comfort to sit here whining about this shitty year. I know that and for so many it has been that much harder. I wish I could say that doesn’t necessarily make the impact of this year any less painful. So yeah, I can’t wait for it to be over. I’m hoping the new year is better. I mean, hell. It can’t get much worse, right?1

Hope does springs eternal…

  1. Don’t answer that []

Recovery

Building on my last post, I wanted to share more about the small but welcome improvements in the SF area. California adopted the 4-tier system of restrictions relating to the pandemic. If your state doesn’t have it, it’s pretty simple. Each tier has it’s own level of restrictions, what can/can’t open, etc. We have purple, red, orange, & yellow; purple being the most severe and yellow being the least. It makes it easier for counties and cities to better manage local health orders and restrictions.

Of course, SF being a very dense environment, even when we move into a higher tier we tend to have some lingering tougher restrictions. While unfortunate, it is necessary to avoid a resurgence of cases. And seeing surges in pretty much the entire middle of the US, we are grateful for the slow but steady improvements. SF has officially moved into the orange tier and our ‘rt’ ratio is hovering just below 1.1  Hopefully, we can stay in the orange and yellow tiers.  *crossed fingers*

Indoor bars, theaters, and larger social establishments are still closed. (I don’t understand why theaters can’t open if gyms can, but I don’t make the rules.) Restaurants have been able to serve outdoor seating for awhile now. Some bars have paired up with restaurants to gain an allowance to open outdoors as well. Now that SF is in the orange tier, restaurants and retail shops can open indoor facilities in a limited capacity. For myself, I still avoid eating indoors. I am just not that confident in others. We tend to order for home more than going out to eat, but I try to adhere to my weekend rituals as much as I can.

Shawn and I have slowly been allowing ourselves to do more outside the apt. Meanwhile, I see people planning trips and going to far off places and I just shake my damn head. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is that a lot of people don’t really give two-shits about others as long as they aren’t inconvenienced. But, I digress… I have restrictions that also affect my ability to work so even if I was more comfortable, I would still not be traveling.

I’ve been seeing and helping an elderly retired coworker since the beginning of the pandemic and every time I see him, I make sure to test negative for covid-19 beforehand. Before we could get tests, I would leave disinfected items outside his doorway or stairs. He is in a high risk category due to his age and I would never forgive myself if I inadvertently passed it on to him.2 Anyway, I’m getting upset thinking about it, let me move on.

Beyond the assistance to my dear friend above, we are just now reaching a point where we feel comfortable meeting people outdoors for meals or conversation. I say we, but it is more me. lol Shawn is still content to avoid people for the most part. He will probably be reticent until there is a viable vaccine. Even when to go to the gym, we usually go to a sparsely populated location with sign-ups well below the allowable limit.3 It has been good for him to get out of the apt more though. He was getting really depressed as well. I think the gym and the sporadic trips outside of the apt has helped him as much as it has me.

Of course, we miss traveling. We miss weekend jaunts to bars, beer busts, movies, etc. We miss visiting distant friends and places. We miss a lot of things. It sucks monkey balls, but we know by isolating we are helping to prevent the spread of covid-19. We are both hopeful a safe vaccine will be available sometime early next year. For myself, I doubt I’ll ever take for granted again the openness of our life. The simple freedom to hug friends, to kiss or touch others, to be close to people. I think the intimacy of strangers (if such a thing exists) is what I miss the most. The relaxed restrictions gives me hope we are on the right path. Until then, I hope you are safe and well.

  1. rt is the likelihood of retransmission from an infected person. Anything above 1 is considered not good. []
  2. or anyone for that matter. []
  3. You can see online how many slots are available and taken by the hour. []

Herd

So today, the official response from the Whitehouse (WH) is they now endorse herd immunity as a regimen to combat the spread of covid-19.

First, here is the definition of “herd immunity”:

the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination.

“the level of vaccination needed to achieve herd immunity varies by disease but ranges from 83 to 94 percent”

Webster’s dictionary

Based on that, herd immunity is currently impossible. We cannot use herd immunity as a treatment regimen because we don’t have a vaccine!

The WH’s deliberate misinterpretation of the idea is to do nothing. Just let everyone be exposed and see who lives and dies. That is NOT herd immunity. This approach pushes the death toll into the millions, not the low hundreds of thousands like we have now. Just one percent of the US population, just one (1) percent, is over three (3) million people!  If we jump that up to five (5) percent, the death toll is just under 17 million people.

For perspective, one percent is more than the entire population of Phoenix, AZ. Five percent is more than the entire population of the New York City metro area. And this does not take into account the millions more who will struggle with lingering illness for weeks or months.

Even if you’re dumb and deaf, you can understand how insanely stupid and dangerous this is.

Voting has never been more important. It is heartening to see many cities are reporting record numbers of registered voters as well as early voting. Vote like your life depends on it because it just might this time.