Image showing a rainbow flag made up of color bars stacked from top to bottom in the order of orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple
Photo courtesy of Benson Kua / Wikimedia Commons

I like to think I’m a good person and I want to make sure I’m not BS-ing myself about that. Oh hell, I know I’m far from perfect. Like, really far, as you’ll easily see as you read further. But when it comes to trying to live by the golden rule (and not without a few major stumbles along the way), I’d give myself a solid B, maybe B+. That leaves room for improvement and I’m willing, by the grace of the greater universe, to work harder at being an a**hole even less of the time.

When my physical comforts are threatened or diminished in any way, I’m too often too quick to get my hackles up. This is something I understand about myself from having done an Enneagram self-evaluation at a retreat sponsored by the National Capital Presbytery. It was required of me when I was newly hired as director of Christian education at a lovely little church in Rockville, Maryland. So much more on that later. For now, more about my need for physical comfort.

Most needs for modest, physical comfort were met handily before I became jobless, then homeless. I had decent jobs with decent pay. I paid my rent, car note, cable bill, etc. by myself. I could even afford to hire someone to clean my two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath apartment. I could still afford to smoke weed on a nightly basis. 

Like most people, included among my physical comfort needs is the need for intimacy. Sometimes fulfilling this need was not that difficult. Other times, quite the contrary. I’m a not particularly attractive, overweight, gay male in a community where physical attraction is of utmost importance. 

All I ever really wanted was someone to share my life with, a partner, a husband, a very best friend. But that just doesn’t seem to have been in the cards yet. And it has made me feel inadequate, incomplete. It’s always felt like the missing primary piece of my life’s puzzle, over every other human need.

If I had been born straight, life’s search for intimacy, for that or even those special someone(s),  would have been a cake walk. Girls found me , enough at some level that I was often considered boyfriend if not husband material. A high school girlfriend once said to me, “Jeff, you’re not conventionally good looking, but your personality more than makes up for it.” It was kind of a backhanded compliment, but I knew she meant well. 

But I wasn’t straight. I was gay. Always was, always will be. While I enjoyed the friendship of my “girlfriends,” when it came to intimacy I had to fantasize about sex with guys in order to achieve orgasm. Sexuality isn’t between one’s legs, it’s between one’s ears. 

Anyway, after all the bills were paid, the fridge full, the house sparkling clean, I still — out of occasional desperation and not without a sense of shame — had just enough left over to pay for sex when it was needed.

So where did a semi-closeted gay male go to find intimacy? Well, in the good old days, there were plenty of places; bars, certain areas of certain parks, certain public men’s rooms, adult book stores, etc. Men hooking up with other men was still too icky a concept for a majority of American society to deal with, so gay and bisexual men were (and unfortunately in many cases remain) forced into the closet. 

To be continued in Part 2, “I used to not care much about homeless or mentally ill people.”