Tuesday, August 01, 2006
The Gay Banker Interview
Several of those comments have included the expression "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeww!"
My observation: gentlemen, get over it. You'll all be there soon enough and, when you are, you're still going to have your sex drive, your equipment in good working order to facilitate it and--perhaps most importantly--a couple of decades worth of invaluable experience of how to get what you want and give him what he wants to keep him coming back for more.
I say this from the perspective of a man about 50% of whose partners, from one shot hook-ups to short- and long-term relationships, have been older than he. I began to figure this out in college. There I was, a totally, embarrassingly green kid fumbling around with another boy of similar lack of experience for our first boy-boy sex while there were all these older, experienced and frankly hot men who could have initiated me in fine style if only I hadn't been so repressed, guilt-ridden and shy. I still regret the grad student in his early 30s who offered to "drive [me] to my dorm" from Logan airport and who clearly meant "after we go to my place."
Just before I left with Fritz for our road trip, Gay Banker posted interview questions for me; I begged his indulgence to not rush the answers before our departure and he very kindly said not worry. For those who don't know him, Gay Banker is a 30-something London professional guy whose blog is Things I Can't Tell Boyfriend #1. Among those things used to be the existence of boyfriends #2 and #3 but the cat’s out of the bag on at least one of those two. Beyond them, there are GB’s frequent experiences with men all over the great English metropolis which are definitely not a topic for discussion at home.
GB's blog is a fun and often delightful to read. He has a healthy zest for sex, clearly enjoys the pursuit, has a care that his partners have as good a time as he wants for himself, and he's not afraid to tell a funny story on himself. One internet hook-up recently turned into French farce with him concealed, mostly naked, in a closet due to the unexpected early return of the gentleman du jour's regular boyfriend. After a flurry of opening and closing doors, he was finally in his clothes and safely out on the street, no doubt with a broad grin on his face. In many ways, GB reminds me of a good friend who spent seven years running the London Branch of an American bank in the heady days just before AIDS and the internet. He told me he knew every loo in London where there was action to be had, in addition to maintaining a more regular "social" life with men he met through business, friends, etc.
Here is the interview:
1. You've mention a couple of times that being gay saved you. So what do you think would have happened to you if it hadn't been possible to come out as gay, e.g. if you'd been born 50 years earlier perhaps, or if you lived today in much less tolerant country?
When I consider what my life was like before and after coming out, I imagine I would have descended into intense frustration, possibly chronic depression, and certainly been haunted by shame and guilt like Orestes with the Furies on his back. My very insular, sexually repressed family raised me strictly Catholic including all twelve years of primary and secondary school. That experience was reinforced at home with frequent sermons on the horrors and miseries of not growing up to be "a real man like your father." My freshman year at college, exploring mutual masturbation, a little oral, and a completely failed attempt at anal sex with a boy in my dorm, was followed by years of serious guilt and self hatred.
I was smart enough to kick Catholicism out of my daily life but the scars and indoctrination would take years to fully flush out of my system. I went the way of so many gay men and married--not least because I genuinely wanted children, which we adopted from Korea. My ex turned out to be a head case who had wanted a husband and children until she had them, then she didn't want them any more and went bonkers. I wanted my daughters and they wanted me, so we became a single father family, and during the years I raised them them I put who I really was together in my head, assisted by the brave new post-Stonewall liberated gay world, and massively assisted by the girls who were completely supportive and just wanted to see me happy, no matter with whom.
2. In the parts of your blog that I've read you talk a lot about your life, politics and gay issues. But I haven't found anything about your love of theatre, which I assume from your job that you must have! So what's your favourite play that's been written during your lifetime, and what's your favourite play that was written before you were born?
Ah, you sound so like an American here! Americans always want to know "what's THE best opera?", "what's THE great American novel?" This really isn't an evasion but something you'll hear from a lot from people in the performing arts: my favorite play or opera--I love and design both--is generally the one I'm working on at any given moment. It's quite natural: to do a good job you have to be fully absorbed into the material, to know it intimately, to trust it so completely that when it takes over your head, you don't question where it leads you. It's an amazing and deeply rewarding process and during the five or so months when it's ongoing, you truly develop a relationship with it. You fight with it, woo it, serve it, conquer it, obsess over it and finally--you hope--understand and love it.
That said, the most memorable and satisfying experiences I've had designing that have left me with a deep love of particular works are Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures" and Boch & Harnick's "She Loves Me." Both are American musicals of a radically different type, written during my lifetime, that I had wanted to do for years, which is dangerous because the anticipation can lead to bitter disappointment if the project turns out badly. But seamless collaborations with gifted directors who loved the material as much as I led to what we call "state of grace" productions where everything fell excitingly into place.
As to a play I love that was written before I was born, I think "Bacchae" by Euripides fills the bill. It's an astonishing piece of work and, once again, I am influenced by having designed it. During the late 60s and into the early 80s, "Bacchae" was everywhere as issues of freedom versus repression--politically, socially and sexually--were being worked out around the world. It deals with huge issues and the fact that it was written at the end of a magnificent career by a man of 90 makes its raw, androgynous sexuality and subversive political message all the more amazing.
3. According to the 100 Things, you were married for ten years, so you've obviously had heterosexual sexual experiences! My readers always expect a bit of adult content to my interviews so can you give us a paragraph or two comparing your experiences of straight sex to gay sex?
Sure, starting with the fact that there's no comparison or, at least for me there wasn't once I'd ecperienced both. First, let me give my definition of having sex since there's been a lot of discussion recently about exactly what that means. I think that whenever you share orgasms with a man, you've had sex with him, whether or not it involves oral or anal penetration. Therefore, at age 17 I had my first sexual experience, and it was with a boy during my first year of college. It would be another six years before I had sex with a woman, which was what family and conventional society was pushing me towards. And I could do it. I continued to do it for the next eight and a half years until I told my ex she had to leave the house because she was becoming abusive toward the girls (the last year sex was very infrequent). My experience could be summed up by the old Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is?" I always heard about how sex made the earth move, that it was a major drive, that it was fantastic. Now, can an orgasm ever be bad? No, but my experience of heterosexual sex was less than thrilling. I didn't get it.
After I filed divorce papers, I had a brief, two day encounter with a young woman that went nowhere in any direction. I tried to make sure she got something out of it physically, but I didn't--I realized that I was moving faster and faster away from heterosex.
Shortly thereafter I had my first adult sex with a man and it was a revelation. Everything just fell into place and made sense, but I didn't have just a rational reaction--this WAS thrilling. And from there I've never looked back. When a close friend in whom I confided asked what it was like (he had told me he would never try sex with a man because he suspected he would never stop if he did), I told him that it was like watching the sky clear after a bad storm. I knew I was where I should be.
4. You also mention in the 100 Things that you came out as gay around the same time you accepted that you are an atheist. But I've not read anything else in your blog about how you came out. So can you tell us your full coming out story?
I think like for most gay men, I've been coming out continuously ever since I first did by confiding in that friend. Every time I start to work with a new director and production team or am introduced into a new social situation, the information gets transmitted. But what you want to know is the beginning.
The first person I came out to was myself, lying awake that night admitting that I was not bisexual, that I wanted men and men only. My girls weren't even in school yet, and a huge concern was that if the vengeful ex got her hands on this info (even though she had admitted to mutual friends she was a bad parent and didn't want the girls), she would almost certainly have moved to have custody taken from me to cause pain and as punishment. And I was determined that was NOT going to happen.
I quietly sought support and information from people and groups to which she had no connection. There was a faculty/staff gay and lesbian group at MIT (where my department had been incredibly understanding and supportive of my new schedule complications as a solo parent). There was a gay fathers' group that met in downtown Boston once a month. In those days we had computer message boards and chat rooms where you could cruise for guys and one that I hooked up with turned out to work in AIDS education with the AIDS Action Committee. It was right at the beginning of the epidemic and it was scary, so I learned all I could from him before and after, as well as during sex. I left my homophobic parents out of the mix--I felt there were some complications I just didn't need with all I had to handle at that time. They died never knowing.
I met Fritz and my life transformed again just as my younger daughter became of fully legal age and was beyond my ex's ability to cause trouble. I came out to both girls and to my older daughter's boyfriend (now husband) in a gate lounge at Pittsburgh airport as we were all gathered in one place for the wedding of a cousin. As so often happens, they'd figured it out years before and were quietly waiting to be told. They were also quite anxious to met this guy who had managed to snag their father. They've loved him ever since. I found out not too long ago that between themselves, they refer to us as Daddy One and Daddy Two. The rest of the family got told via personal letters and embraced us both.
5. Imagine: you can be transported back in time to witness one historical event of your choice. Which historical event do you choose and why?
Wow. I've been a history buff for my entire life and this is going to be hard. I'm fascinated about the formation of modern Europe. I see it happening between about 375 and 800 CE when peoples from the north, the middle-east, northern Africa and the very far-east poured into Europe, shattering the order and the social, political, economic, legal and military stability of the late Roman Empire. I've read as extensively as I can and am convinced that we don't really know the whole story. So, I would need to be an observer throughout that entire period to watch the fragmentation of language, the occasional attempts to recapture some of what many of the newcomers finally realized they had helped to destroy, the establishment of new cultures, and the drama of those who prospered and those who were crushed in the process.
If you really insist on one single event, I might choose the ceremony at Notre Dame in Paris when Napoleon snatched the crown from the hands of the Pope and crowned himself Emperor of the French.
Thanks, GB, these were wonderfully stimulating questions and I enjoyed answering them very much. Below are the required rules and invitation to have an interview from me:
Want to play? The Official Interview Game Rules:
- If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying, "interview me".
- I will respond by asking you five questions - each persons will be different.
- You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
- You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
- When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
you're right, will. if we're lucky and manage to avoid being killed by anthrax or falling concrete when driving through boston's tunnels, we're all going to be old someday. i hope my libido is still strong and the equipment works as well as it does now :)
Your description of the formation of modern Europe in the first mileneum sounds a bit like what's happening in Europe at beginning of the third.
I am pro-older gent. I have always been with mature gents because their maturity and knowledge turn me on. Unlike some mr know it all kiddies who have no other thoughts other than shagging.
You're absolutely right.
And anybody who would say "eww" to the idea of anybody having sex is not worthy of even meeting, in my opinion. From someone who lives in the Midwest, it just doesn't get any more middle-American and puritan than that.
Although I'd agree with the 'parents - yuck' thing. A couple of years back I was in a restaurant. Two men on the next table, late 20s. One said, accidentally loudly, "And I discovered my parents still do it...". The whole restuarant went quiet and horror hung in the air, even though at least half of the people there wre old enough to be his parent.
I read some survey recently that said that most people in their 60s and a good half in their 70s have sex regularly; the main reason why the rest don't is widowhood etc. I suppose straight or gay, it gets more difficult to get casual one night stands as one gets older, especially if one is self-conscious about the outward physical signs of ageing, but what frustrates me as awoman is the realisation that men look better as they get older, and women don't...