No Scene Required for Identity

I received a thoughtful email from some who said that he is a long-time reader of this blog, but from whom I have not heard from before. He lives near the area about which I recently posted, noting that the downsizing of these monuments is, in his opinion as it is mine, a travesty.

But what this writer said in the second paragraph of his message was intriguing to me, and in my opinion, spot-on with how I feel about …

… being a gay man who is comfortable in his own skin (and the skin of cows), wears his boots proudly, and who agrees with this statement from the author of this recent email:

I also wanted to thank you for your insight into one’s identity and sexuality. I too am a private gay middle age leather booted, leather geared motorcycle man who doesn’t need some “scene” to identify me. I’ve really enjoyed learning there are other men like me. I suppose age and experience has a lot to do with who we are in our lives. Thanks for sharing.

Wow, thanks a lot! Nice to know there are other like-minded booted, leathered bikers like me out there (who just also happen to be gay.)

Back in the ’90s (in my mid-30s), when I was “dating” the man to whom I am now happily married, we attended a number of leather-oriented gay events, such as Mid-Atlantic Leather, Mr. Drummer, Folsom Street Fair, International Mr. Leather, and a variety of “club runs” with gay “MC” clubs (mostly in the DC area.) Essentially, we explored “the scene.”

My reaction? Ho-hum. See one hot dude in boots and leather, you’ve seen ’em all. Do we need to attend these events to feel comfortable in our leather-clad gay skins?

Nope. Not really.

Further, as I met more guys who attended these events, I realized how lucky I was to be with my one-and-only forever-dude, so I could relax, enjoy the party, and not always have to primp and preen to make myself sexually attractive to another guy while playing the man-dating-dance ritual. We attended these events to see what they were like and to socialize (some for me, none for my spouse who is introverted and highly antisocial).

But we did not attend these events to find guys to “play with,” or to drink ourselves into alcoholic oblivion, do drugs, or to dance.

As I reached maturity and a level of confidence as a secure gay man in my early 40s, I realized that my identity was not defined by the clothes (or skins) that I wore or the people with whom I socialized at parties, but rather by what I did as a profession and the activities with which I was involved at home — caring for loved-ones; loving and being loved by my big raucously loud family; contributing my time and talents to my community through service in public elected office, my local fire department, and as a leader of a number of not-for-profit community groups, boards, foundations, and a safe-rider motorcycle club.

Further, as society-at-large has matured (at least in the thoughtfully tolerant community and state where we live), it is easier just to be me — a man who works full-time in a professional managerial position; a guy who serves as a volunteer leader on various groups; a neighbor and friend who helps others; an old sage adviser; a Life Member of my local volunteer Fire Department; a caregiver — and oh by-the-way, I happen to be gay and married to a man. Yes, I am a community-oriented man first and who “happens to be gay.”

My identity is not (and never has been) defined by my sexual orientation. My identity is a strong, secure, community-oriented, happily married man. That’s it — no more, no less.

Life is short: be secure in who you are and what you choose to let define your identity.

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