About a year ago a friend of mine and I went on a Carribbean cruise together - it was a pretty intense experience - 12 days on a ship, the two of us shut up in a tiny cabin together. We took excursions each of the six days we were on land. And during the three days down and the three days back, we ran around the ship smoking cigs and drinking a lot.
It was a little travel-stressy but, weirdly, looking back at the cruise, I only have fond memories - seeing so many different places in a short time, spending an amazing amount of time with a great friend and meeting new people that I wouldn't normally encounter. Granted, it felt, at times, kind of like being stuck at Red Lobster in Times Square for 12 days (New Yorkers will understand what I mean) but my friend and I did meet some of the other gays on the cruise at the nightly "Friends of Dorothy" get together in one of the bars.
We also met this really cool family - a mom and dad in their early 50's and their four 20 something daughters, the oldest, Kay, that I struck a friendship with. It wasn't a conscious decision but I found myself not making the typical "I'm gay" admission. As I was ready to insert it into the conversation, I realized that this is what I typically do - I lead with the gay thing - and is being gay really the most interesting/important thing about me? I didn't mean to overthink it. But, since I thought Kay was really fun and kind of sexy, I figured I'd just let it come up naturally. And the more I didn't say it, the more I kind of thought "am I locked into only being a gay man if I have some interest in a woman?"
Now I wasn't getting aroused by her or anything, but she was hitting a place in my brain that's usually reserved for guys that I'm interested in. You know, the kind of flirtiness that you find yourself doing only when you really like someone in a more than friends way. The more the cruise wore on, the more I realized that in every interaction throughout the cruise that far, I had defined myself solely on being gay. Not being a creative person. Not being an events person or a fundraiser. Not being an officiant. But first and in some cases, only as gay.
Eventually Kay asked me if I thought a security guy at a party we were at was gay which was her way of asking if I was ... I said "yup" and then we spent the rest of the evening on the dance floor anyway. And, in the year since, we've kept in touch, even went to a Yankees game together this summer. I could still see taking her out on a date I suppose, although that feeling I had back on the boat has long since passed.
Flash forward several months - at the new job, I am one of four out gay men. Out of 2400 employees. It's a financial institution so I guess there's a very conservative perspective on such things. But I have found myself sort of embracing it as they've put me in charge of dealing with the 2014 AIDS Walk team for the company's offices in LA and San Fran. But I hope, down the line, as a side note, I'm able to make being out be about more than leading an AIDS Walk team.
Anyway, at the job, I am in a situation where I am forced every day to make my work about something other than being gay. I've been working for msyelf and with gay XXX companies and other gay businesses for so long, that I realized early on that I really have very little experience on a grown up level doing a job with other grown ups that has nothing to do with gay sexuality. The thought shot across my brain at one point, if I don't have being gay in common with someone what else do I have to offer? The answer is of course, my creativity, my event management and fundraising and my wedding work ... as well as sports, movies, television, politics, life experiences etc.
Still, as with Kay, it's not just me having to jettison all of who I am in order to maintain the relationship, no; they meet me halfway. I manage a leadership training program for the head of HR and at one point he and I were taking a group of execs out for karaoke. I was trying to get out of having to go myself but as it was a team building exercise and I was managing it, I was sort of obligated to go (and as anyone in business knows, being a good sport about this kind of thing is very important). I ended up having a great time although I did not need to see people that I work for getting trashed. LOL
But the weird/fun/unexpected thing was when the head of HR was trying to convince me to go by telling me that the club had 'plenty of Elton John and George Michael" songs to choose from. The activist in me was like "are you kidding me?" but the more grounded person in me was charmed that he was trying hard to connect in a way that he thought right.
And so, yes, later that night, there I was, singing "Careless Whisper" in front of the group. And quite well, I might add (but it was hard not to be campy, to be honest. I am, after all, a ham).
I couldn't help but think of Kay while singing the song - it's all about what might have been, after all, and preserving one special night -- and happily realized that there was no rule that said that I can't date or sleep with a woman if I want to - isn't that part of the whole point of gay rights - the freedom to be who you are? I don't know that it'll happen, but it's nice to have options.