Sunday, October 19, 2014

I might not actually be gay after all

Ben Hobson in his coming out video
A few weeks ago in the post "Straight wife needs help: How did this happen?" I wrote about 25 year old Youtuber Ben Hobson, a young dad who gained notoriety earlier this year when he published a riveting video about coming out to his wife.

The video was so unusual, and so captivating, that it was reblogged by a number of different sites, including the Huffington Post.  Because of all the publicity, the video quickly tallied more than a half million views.

Well, guess what?
That video and numerous others on Ben's Youtube channel have been deleted.

Apparently Ben's had some second thoughts about his sexuality, as he explains in a tumblr post on the right.  (Now is a good time to read that.)

I learned about the tumblr post from an article on Queerty.com which you can read here.

If you look at the comments at the end of the article, most of them are highly critical of Ben.

For example: "I am horrified that he used inheriting bipolar disorder from his dead mother as an excuse for fooling around with guys and proclaiming he’s gay. That’s the lowest of the low. He’s just another idiot who can’t take responsibility for his actions."

And: "what a loser. He got his 15 minutes of fame by claiming to be gay. Then when that 15 minutes was up, he was desperate for more attention so he slithered back to the straight side of things. In
actuality I don’t think he was ever gay and was simply looking for fame and money.  I really feel sorry for his children. To have a father this desperate for attention will most likely result in a sad and pathetic upbringing."

Others were more sympathetic: "I cut this guy a lot of slack. I knew I was turned on by men long before I actually became involved with one. This guy has complicated his life to the extreme. He may be in limbo for the entire time his children are growing up, possibly longer. A responsible person might easily rationalize their sexuality for their kids and not be conscious of their true motivation. I think he should get away from all outside influences and follow his heart. If he’s gay, he’ll always be gay, but being gay is not a guarantee of happiness in his case. It will all work out eventually, but that may take years. If we gay people just wish him well, we will have done the right thing."
 
My feelings are very mixed.  Ben is obviously (or has been) confused, but the way he explains and excuses his decisions is ridiculous.  "I gave in to the society stereotype."  Really??

What's most remarkable to me about Ben is that he's NOT remarkable.  Over the years, I've met many men whose closets have had revolving doors.  Ben's big mistake was inviting the public into his chaotic life.  By doing so he put tremendous pressure on himself, at a time when he really should have been trying to lay low.  It's not surprising that he's now decided to pullback and unplug.

On his Facebook page, Ben said he was "discovering that I like girls more than I like guys" and he ended that post with the hashtag #sexualityisfluid.

Some might say that sexual fluidity is a bullshit way to excuse running back into the closet, and to some extent, I agree.  But I also think that sexuality, like desire, happiness, sadness and every other emotion or mood, is not static.  Sometimes, for reasons that can't be easily explained, we're unusually horny or grumpy or giddy or passive or thin-skinned.  So, of course, there will be times when men are about as interesting as a pet rock and women seem to have a special glow.

The big problem, as Ben is discovering, is how the hell do you make major life decisions if it feels like your attractions are constantly changing?

Well, here's what one of my friends did...

Although he first realized he was sexually attracted to men in his early teens, he got involved with a woman in college. Shortly after they graduated, they got married.  His work life was intense for many years so they never had kids, but he still found time to fool around with men on the down low.  At age 36 his wife busted him for cheating when she found incriminating Craiglists ads and emails.  Relieved, in a way, to be caught, my friend confessed to his wife that he was gay.  Shortly thereafter he came out to his family and his in-laws.

As you would expect, the process of being discovered, coming clean and then coming out was an emotional roller coaster.  My friend weathered all of that very well, largely because his wife was totally supportive.  What an incredible woman, right?

That's exactly what my friend thought.  He was so overwhelmed and reassured by her love that he found her more attractive than ever.  Their marital sex life blossomed and they had numerous discussions about how they both wanted to continue their marriage.  The wife was in favor of staying together but she was adamant that the marriage stay monogamous.  To be certain that staying together was the right decision, they agreed to try an investigative period where my friend could openly date men and decide if he really was gay.

As is typical with my friend, he embraced the opportunity to date men with gusto.  Within days he posted a profile to OKCupid, made multiple connections on that site and set up several dates.

Two of the dates actually happened and both went well.  My friend liked the men and he enjoyed connecting with them.  But he didn't feel anything sexual or romantic with either guy.

Based on those two dates, my friend decided that he'd be foolish to give up his wife, who clearly loved him so much.  Now, he and his wife are living together, just like any other monogamous married couple.  Is he happy?  Yes he is.  Does he think he'll ever want to hook-up with men again?  He's not sure.  He says that stress and depression trigger his desires so he's determined to avoid those, and should they happen, he'll be very open with his wife so that she can be extra supportive of him.

The way I interpret my friend's story is this: he had two dates with no romantic connection and based on that vast amount of experience, decided he was better off being straight.  Is that sexual fluidity?  I don't think so.

Is my friend wrong to get back with his wife?  Is he in denial of his true self?  Is his marriage destined to implode?  I have no idea.  I do know from my own experience that emotional connections can be more powerful than sexual orientation; being gay doesn't mean you have the inability to fall deeply in love with someone of the opposite sex.

What bothers me most about my friend, and about Ben, is that they're in such a hurry to validate their sexuality that they're completely oblivious to how love and attraction actually work.  Plenty of straight people go out on good dates that only have platonic vibes.  Yet how many of them, after two such dates, decide they must not be straight after all?  None!!!  And why not?  Because to do so would be ridiculous.

But I see closeted men use that exact same logic to conclude they're not gay all the time.  Dating is not easy.  Making enduring romantic connections is not easy.  Falling in love with someone awesome is not guaranteed.  Loads of people, of all kinds of sexuality, go decades without ever meeting the right person.  Decades!

Because sex is so much easier to find than love, it explains why so many "curious" and "bi" men believe they're more straight than they actually are.  For many, it's impossible to imagine that they could fall in love with another man.  It has to happen before it can be believed.

So Ben, I'm sorry that in your few months out as a gay man that you didn't fall for another guy.  Now that you're straight again you're free to find love with a woman.  Hopefully, in twenty years' time, she won't mind that you two seldom have sex and that you jack off to only gay porn.  It might not be an ideal life for either one of you, but hey, it's a lot better than being gay, single and lonely for a few years.

10 comments:

  1. I think it's much more subtle than most people would have it. Historically, the perception was gays that came out to their wider community did so at great personal cost. It was felt that there were tremendous personal, professional and social risks in doing so. Thank god, perception has changed and being gay just isn't such a huge deal for most people today. In fact, in some circles, there's a little cache attached.

    I have long felt that once identifying as gay was more accepted, more people would "try it". I believe that the guys who came out long ago when things were much riskier, did so because the desire was so strong that to deny it or sublimate it was too costly psychically.

    But now, when coming out doesn't have such a steep price? Perhaps desire, just like sex drive exists on a continuum. To be a "curious" young man or woman isn't viewed by all as freakish anymore. I think they feel freer to explore their options and actually see first hand where their desires reside. And it could be that those desires shift over time.

    I've discussed this with friends and I predicted a time when at the first tinkling of an attraction, young people, not seeing much of a downside, would identify as gay, only to decide later that doing so may have been premature. That things like a traditional marriage and family are something that they were not willing to do without.

    Only time will tell how enduring these "choices" are. I for one am curious about how it will all turn out. I think we all stand to learn something about sexuality and fluidity from this generation of young people. Don't let what was blind you to what might be..

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    1. You make some very good points, Anonymous. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. I was following Ben's saga a bit (he and I actually talked about photography when he started his business), and my feelings on this are a bit different.

    If this were just about "I thought I was gay, and now I'm not", I'm not sure deleting most (but not all) of the older videos would be the response. And he's left up the pride video and a couple others, so it's not entirely wiped out. I also know that he had trouble once before where someone was "harassing" his employer because of the videos and he actually lost his job (he's in rural SD IIRC).

    So, my first impression would be that he scrubbed his site more because of fallout from some other source (related to the divorce or his employer or something). That would make more sense, as he'd need to remove references to where he lives or to some of the less conservative things he's done while not erasing everything entirely. And the "I'm not gay now" thing might just be overcompensation.

    But really, it doesn't matter why. It's his life and he can do what he wants. Being in the public eye in any way is stressful, and it's possible he just doesn't want that any more. Whatever his reasons, it's his decision. We just have to manage expectations about the fall-out.

    Personally, I can't wait for the day when "coming out" publicly or otherwise doesn't need to happen and there's no reason to designate between gay or bi or straight from a social standpoint. But I'm an idealist.

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    1. I've watched all of Ben's narrative videos so I'm familiar with his history and his inherent impulsiveness. I think you're being too kind to him. His behavior has been reckless and it has impacted too many others. It's his right to take back the gay label but what positive purpose does it serve to denigrate his ex-wife in the tumblr post? It's just another example of his impulsive, needlessly hurtful behavior.

      As a parent, I want him to be held accountable for his actions. Until that happens, he will continue to hurt others, including his children.

      On the subject on coming out publicly, my sense is that more and more people are unfazed by it. It makes for one day's news when you're the CEO of one of the world's most successful corporations, but that's about it.

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  3. I need to ponder this....... Sexuality is so confusing to me. I do me.... I think that is what he needs to say... I think for him, saying, I'm not gay is the easy way to get out of the spotlight. Wish him luck...

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    1. "I think for him, saying, I'm not gay is the easy way to get out of the spotlight."

      Yes! Which is one of the things that offends me. "Gay" (which he no longer is) is responsible for what he did, not him.

      I can completely understand why he'd want to be out of the spotlight, but he shouldn't pour fuel on the fire for those who think sexual orientation is a choice by saying he's not gay anymore. If he would have said, "I'm going to stop parading around as some kind of gay dad hero," and nothing more, everyone would have applauded and wished him the best. Instead he added a bunch of hurtful BS, which makes him look unstable and mocks the sexuality of millions of people.

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  4. I know nothing about this man or his unfolding public saga beyond what I read here in this blog. What I do know is that women who become involved with him in the future should have the opportunity to know who they are getting into bed with. This would be equally true of a woman with a history that includes voluntary sexual interaction with other women before deciding to identify as straight. People can have one night stands and all, but when people become substantially involved it is lying by omission not to disclose past behavior. This is especially when the current self-identification diverges substantially from past actions.

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    1. "women who become involved with him in the future should have the opportunity to know who they are getting into bed with."

      Amen!

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  5. If all LGBT teens were allowed to date as openly as their straight age mates, a great deal of this wouldnt need to happen. We wouldnt have closets to come out of, just a period for some of figuring out where they lie on the orientation line, both sexually and gender. Sexuality shouldnt be hindered by the weight of religion, it should be free to blossom as it will.

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    1. So true! I wonder if Ben would agree, especially now that he's overcome his curiosities.

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