Submission by Jeffrey Hartinger:
As a gay male in modern America, it often appears that the struggles and roadblocks of my love life are a bit harder than those who identify as heterosexual. Throughout my four years spent at a liberal and progressive college, I have been exposed to numerous individuals with various and diverse perspectives on love and relationships. Trust, attachment issues, technology drama, commitment concerns, and other similar traits are evident in all relationships.
These issues have no barring to race, religion, gender, income, or sexuality; they are concerns that exist at all levels of society. By understanding the interconnected aspect of human relationships and interaction, I have come to realize that each particular subgroup in our country has varying degrees of hurdles to jump in order to enter into a healthy and successful relationship.
As I evolved and matured throughout my time spent at a Jesuit institution, I constantly strived for answers to questions that I was unable to answer myself. It was neither my friends, my siblings, nor even my roommates that helped me put my modern love ordeals into perspective; it was my grandmother.
As I wandered through the quad of my snowy Buffalo campus this past February, I saw a unique sight among the countless youth that were going to and fro; a beautiful elderly woman carrying what appeared to be a dozen roses. She reminded me of my own grandmother, and as she disappeared from sight and into a building, I pulled out my cell phone and gave my grandmother a call.
Catching up, we discussed family, my upcoming spring break, and what was new in our lives. As the conversation came to an end, she said, “Jeffrey, so what’s going on with the love department? Graduation is coming up soon … isn’t there a nice guy you could see yourself settling down with?” We laughed; both of us were aware that I’ve never been “lucky” in the love department.
It was interesting, even quite beautiful, that my sweet grandmother was interested in staying up to date with her gay grandson regarding his love life. She was using her maternal instinct to show that she cared about my happiness and wanted me to be in a relationship with a man that I cared about, and a man that cared about me.
After our conversation ended, I walked home to my apartment and I pondered her questions: Yes, I was sure there was a nice guy out there for me, but where? As I have lived as an open homosexual male for the past few years, it has been extremely hard to find a good-natured, potential partner in a society that is still not completely accepting and understanding of this particular lifestyle. Further, to be blunt, I am very picky about the type of person that I am comfortable with starting a relationship; however, with around ten percent of the male population identifying as gay, is it smart to be specific about the type of male I would consider dating? Is there hope for LGBT individuals with high standards?
At 22-years-old, some may consider me naïve while others may call me inexperienced. As a young adult, I know I have a long road ahead of me and like most people in this world, I feel as if I will have to learn some of my lessons the hard way.
Over the past few years, I have struggled with the aspect of dating, fostering healthy relationships, and trust issues. These were the dilemmas that I lost sleep over and endlessly replayed in my head. These were the concerns that caused self-esteem issues and at one point in my life, caused me to be depressed. On bad days, particularly bad days that were caused by relationship woes, I would often sit with friends and exclaim, “I can’t take this anymore! This would not be happening if I were straight!”
Looking back, in retrospect, it appeared as if I was using my sexuality as an excuse for the failures in my love life; the flings that never lead to anything meaningful, the time that I was cheated on, the one perfect relationship that ended over something meaningless, and other occurrences that caused me pain and strife.
As I thought about these issues from a historical perspective, I felt like a selfish brat. I considered the role of LGBT individuals in United States history and how they would feel blessed just to be able to have an open and accepted relationship.
Over 40 years have passed since the iconic Stonewall riots occurred in New York City. This was an event that not only marked the unofficial start to the modern gay rights movement, but proved to be the final straw regarding police brutality and unfair treatment to those in the LGBT community. As time progressed, many improvements for gay and lesbian individuals occurred; which slowly, allowed for a shift in the social acceptance for homosexuals. As a result, this had a direct impact on the evolution of gay love and relationships and to what extent two same-sex partners could express their love for one another.
I have the utmost respect for those individuals who have come before me and had the strength to fight for the equality of all people. They are the reason I feel comfortable and strong, even confident, is writing about the love between those who are not part of the “accepted” sexuality in America.
The gay rights movement has allowed for families of LGBT individuals to become closer; my family being the perfect example of how close and nurturing people can become – no matter the differences that are evident. Years ago, it was rare for one to even utter the words “I’m gay” to close friends, let alone to a member of their own family. Now, our country is on track to providing equality and rights for all people; as a member of the current youth culture that is fighting for positive change, I am more than proud to be associated with such an intelligent and forward thinking generation.
Although personally blessed with acceptance, I still have complications with my sexuality and relationships. My biggest roadblock in modern gay love is coming across a potential mate. As a college senior, the overwhelming majority of my relationships have arisen from the gay bar scene; something that I am not particularly proud of, but an aspect of the LGBT culture that makes sense from a sociological perspective, especially for those who live in small to mid-sized cities. Depending on where one lives, there may be other outlets to meet gay and lesbian individuals, but for the most part, gay bars and clubs are typically the central locations for LGBT people to meet and interact with one another.
As my mother would so lovingly tell me over the phone after each failed relationship, “Well, Jeffrey, there are two type of people you meet at the bar. Those who like to drink and those who like to drink a lot.” Thanks Mom.
I know the social constraints of my sexuality and I am working on ways to get past the complexity of such instances. If I were straight, I would feel comfortable walking up to woman at a coffee shop, or a baseball game, or at the library, or anywhere else where there happens to be a female. “Hello, how are you today?”
Sure, that sounds simple, but for many successful and long lasting relationships around the world, how many have started with a casual talk or a simple hello? Being gay, it is often a struggle for me to strike up with a conversation with another guy who I am interested in. Many thoughts and emotions run through my mind: Is he gay, too? What am I going to say? Will he know that I am gay?
It’s a dilemma, but in the grand scheme of life; a minor issue that will wither away as society becomes more inclusive to all people, no matter their sexual affiliation or gender id
Given the “modern issues” that I face as a young gay American, I have learned a lot about myself and relationships in general. I have learned the cliché things in life through experience; your true friends will always be there, a relationship usually comes when you least expect it, and by loving yourself – truly loving yourself – it will allow you to love another.
I am finally confident at understanding that being gay is not a downfall or setback – but rather an opportunity for me to understand the complexity and uniqueness of all individuals. Gay people are often portrayed as negative members of society and blamed for the downfall of traditional values, such as marriage, family, and love. These values are also important to me as a gay man; they are aspects of life that I cherish and respect.
Above all, I have learned that love is universal and no longer reserved for just those who are the opposite sex of one another.
A partner and healthy relationship are aspects that I strive for; not as a white person, or a gay male, or a grandson, or as a writer … but as a member of the human race, who like everyone, deserves an opportunity to achieve the greatest emotion felt by mankind: love.
Please call your New York State senator today and let them know that you, as a Buffalonian, support marriage equality and equal rights for all individuals.