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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Remembering a Timid Guy from the Sauna Last Year

The memory I'm about to recount continues after my faux pas at the gay sauna last year. What I saw and experienced in such specific bathhouses opened my eyes to another world of human behaviour I never thought existed. For the first time in my virgin life, I was exposed to the act of cruising for what it is in a practical field. Where men with the knowledge that animal instinct is the modus operandi here, prowl and circulate the bath in search of other hot guys. 

While I was there, I remember noticing another timid guy in glasses hovering around the other hot guys. Me and him were always alone and wandering, a clear sign that we weren't really getting anybody. I knew my sympathy went out to him, but deep down, I was also heavily affected about myself. 

At that point, I remember trying to come to terms with what it means to be naked in an environment where the kind of person you are, what you arewho you arewhat you do in life, what your status of wealth says, doesn't matter at all to the very last bit within those walls. It also made me wonder how attractive does a guy have to be in order not to feel left out when one visits such a place.

So after my friendly talk in the steam room chased everyone away, the timid guy in glasses turned to me and acknowledged that we were from the same country. 
"Damn. Just my luck! What are the odds of wanting to be in a foreign environment where you could explore this taboo side of life without having to worry if a fellow citizen from the same country would be here", I ranted from the back of my head.

But as I recalled how he too was having such a lonely time in the sauna, I threw all preconceived notions out the window in the spirit of wanting to be a kind acquaintance. We spoke in English for a bit and afterwards, switched to a local language in which he was better at conversing in. It was obvious that he was happy that there was somebody he could talk to. Then it begin to dawn on me how rude it was to talk in the sauna, but I didn't know how to tell him to stop so I let things be.

From the conversation, I learnt that he has been working illegally in a restaurant up north for about 3 years without any papers. His father owns a small grocery shop in a small mining town back home, and his mother was somewhere in North America working in manual labour. He came to this country in search of a better chance at earning foreign currency.

When asked what his future plans are, he said he plans to earn more money, save up and probably go home to his father. His parents don't know nothing about his current life or situation. Upon hearing his story, my heart went out to him even more. I guess maybe it's because I truly understand from the core of my heart what having to be in his position really means. I am aware, and I know. As I looked at him, I remember thinking what a tough phase of life he's going through on top of having to be gay from where we come from.

However in terms of gratitude, it made me realise that I came from a place where I had better access to lots of different things such as getting a tertiary education, living abroad and being exposed to the world and its people like I never thought of before. But most importantly, it made me realise that despite the depressing condition that I'm in, I have a family that I can go home to. A family that would hear-me-out if I told them the truth because they love me. 

He told me that he was here in this city because he didn't know any gay saunas from where he lived, and that he hoped to find someone special in here. I silently felt even worse for him because he was practically invisible at the sauna. It was obvious that the men surrounding us were all good-looking, hot, successful in their careers, well to do, confident and extremely far from our league.

As he continued to make conversation, I realised that time was ticking and that I came in here to have fun. Even though I don't seem to be piquing anybody's interest, I still owed it to myself to at least try and get some action. I excused myself from him politely and moved away. Somewhere in between my trying to engage other guys for some fun, he lingered around and followed me wherever I went. It came to a point where he was very clingy but I didn't have the heart to tell him I wasn't looking for anything more than just conversation.

I ended up in the Jacuzzi after some action between numbered guys. He spotted me and requested to feel me up for some fun. I just couldn't indulge him because I wasn't feeling any attraction and it would have felt somewhat weird. I steadily declined in a friendly manner and suggested that we remain as acquaintances. "Well whaddya know M, you're just like any other guy in here who rejects people", the inner voice scolds.

After nearly about 4 hours in the sauna, he finally mentioned he was leaving. He requested that I went out with him to the lockers so that he can give me his email. I accepted the piece of paper even though I had no intention of keeping in touch. I was at a point in life where I was just so negative with my gay self that experimenting was all I had in mine. I was also trying to work on my sense of homophobia. But whatever it is, I will always remember him because he made me realise a lot of things. I hope he's doing well and I hope he found someone good because I think he deserves one.

Monday, 26 August 2013

When Face With 2 Choices, Simply Toss a Coin

"When face with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you, but because in that brief moment when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for." - Unknown

Saturday, 24 August 2013

My Faux Pas at the Sauna Last Year

At the beginning of last year, I wrote extensively about what happened during my second attempt at visiting a gay sauna alone for the first time. There were a couple of scenes I left out because I didn't think it was important, but looking back now, I realised how those things have indirectly determined how far I've come in my journey.

For those who doesn't know, a gay sauna is a men-only bathhouse catered specifically for guys to have fun. You pay an entrance fee, you get a towel and a locker key with a colour-coded wristband. You strip down to only a towel around the waist and go wander around amidst other men to have some fun.

So there was a point in my visit where I found myself cramped into a small steam room with about 14 other men. No action was happening and my guess was because nobody was interested in nobody. Everybody was either just sitting around or leaning their backs against the cedar wood-cladded wall. There were sounds of people breathing and coughing.

I didn't know anything about sauna or cruising etiquette. I was me. A struggling closeter trying to get a taste of the adult gay world. I wasn't getting any action at all and I didn't know how. As I observed how silent the steam room was, I thought I could play the friendly traveller card and get people to respond. Because who doesn't like a friendly traveller?

As I listen to the breaths and the steam, I grew a thick face and said: "So! Is everyone here just gonna keep quiet?", I kept a cool smile as the echo of my sentence bounced off the walls.

The steam room was in shock because somebody had spoken in a sexually charged air. It was uncomfortable, it was awkward and it was everything a cringe-worthy moment is. Guys who were looking down on the floor looked up, guys with arms folded re-adjusted their posture, guys who were silent coughed to clear their throats. There was also a small subtle chuckle in the background as everybody tried to ignore what just happened.

Seeing as there was a response and not having gotten the hint myself, I proceeded with another sentence and went: "So! Do you guys all live here in this city?" Somebody answered: "No" from the background while others remained silent. There was a little acquaintance session going on between me and one or two guys but people were getting annoyed and some have even started to think about exiting the steam room.

"Really! Then where are you guys from?", I responded in a friendly manner. But that was the last straw I pulled as people started leaving the steam room, effectively freeing up so much space all of a sudden. Two guys on their way out responded a friendly: "Australia!" to me before going out the door.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

What's All that Depression Fuss About?

Thought I'd write a little bit about how I'm doing. About 2 months back, I made the decision to stop my intake of antidepressants because I felt like I should start being mentally independent without having to rely on them. The fact that I was distracted with a working life of Mondays to Fridays, sometimes even over the weekends, my true feelings and state of being were temporarily no longer my priority.

But for the past 2 weeks, my boat has been rocking turbulently, putting me on an emotional yo-yo. I could be so firm, so in control  and so okay with my life one minute, but so tumultuous, negative and sad the next. Two nights ago, I was in such ridiculous shape I didn't know how to handle my emotions or compose myself. I was heavily affected by the smallest of harmless thoughts such as uncertainty of the future or moving away from home.

I have no idea where this is all suddenly coming from, but at this stage I will probably resume my intake of medication again and re-consult the doctor who first gave it to me. What I'm worried of is if I will ever be free of it soon to live an independent life for myself. Heck I don't even know what this pattern of emotional behaviour is about but it's affecting me.

While on the subject of emotional well-being, I recently discovered a couple of blogs out there of other depressed souls who turned to writing. What I read sounded ridiculous although there are parts in which I can relate to, but it also woke me up on how the writing of an unfiltered depress mind can be perceived by an outsider as unnecessary self-pity that could come off as what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-guy, what-is-his-problem or what-is-the-big-deal?

When I started coming out to more people this year, a handful of them in my circle actually asked me what the hell went on back there? Of how things got so blown up, what all that big fuss was about and how I ended up being so defeated in the low. My answer to them was I don't know. It is difficult, if not impossible for me to come up with a logical explanation for why I couldn't handle life.

All I knew was that apart from coming to terms with my homosexuality, I was also juggling with another upsetting problem then. The whole thing weighed me down so bad that I think having an emotional meltdown was probably my own way of coping, and because every human being is blessed with different levels of resilience. I know I probably wasn't very smart in handling myself, but at least I knew how courageous and strong of a person I can be. Sometimes I wonder, had I not gone through that extreme dark period of low, would I still be alive and coping today?

Looking back at all that was written within 2012, I could only say that those depressive thoughts and feelings were every bit real, and every bit radioactively harmful as they were. Those unfiltered emotions that were the inner raw thoughts of me did come directly from someone who was mentally incarcerated in a depressive state of mind drowning in fear, uncertainty and negativity. Whatever it was and still is, I will not try to justify because it will be paralysing to retard myself in the past.

However, the surprising thing that came out of it all I'd say, is that I'm immensely grateful for having established Gay & Invisible and being able to rely on this white space to heal my wounds. I never thought writing could provide me with such priceless form of self-therapy. The constant embarrassing honesty and words spilled here has in many ways, helped me understand myself better and at the same time, immortalised my journey and issues in black and white. 

Not only has it become the backbone for which I will continue to lean on to for support as I grow older in life, but I'd also like to think that it successfully played a part in sheltering other guys out there who are in need of comfort amidst their own struggles.

I will end this post with an interesting article on titled: How Writing Heals Wounds of Both the Mind and Body

UPDATED: 24th August 2013
Here's an interestingly helpful input from Naturegesetz, extracted from the comments section of this post.

I get the impression that lots of people do what you did. Maybe they don't like the side effects, or maybe they just don't want to have to keep taking the medicine because it makes them feel weak or something. It's good that you recognized that in your case, as in most others, the result was not good.

You write, "What I'm worried of is if I will ever be free of it soon to live an independent life for myself."

I understand this to mean "to be free of drugs so as to live a life independent of them," although I see it could also mean "to be free of depression so as to live a life independent of drugs."

Either way, I think what is needed is to be free of the depression, and your experience shows you that you need some kind of medication for that. So I don't think you should see getting off the meds as necessary to your life. People whose legs don't function properly need wheelchairs to get around and elevators to get from one floor to another. It would be unrealistic for them to decide to ditch the wheelchair and the elevators and start walking up the stairs.

The medications aren't the problem. The depression is. Of course, if you can ever overcome it to the extent that you don't need any drugs, that will be great.

Hang in there.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

If You Got One Foot in Tomorrow and One Foot in Yesterday

I think it was about 6 months back when I wrote the post Just Be Here, Be Now and started to realise how important it is to live in the present, to live in the now. Although it's easier said than done, but I do at the very least try to inculcate this kind of thinking into myself because it does free you in a way. You no longer see the point of living in the past and at the same time, trying to project yourself forward to the non-existent future you think you'll be happy with. 

So keeping what I learnt in mind, I recently came across a dialogue from a television scene that went: "If you got one foot in Tomorrow and one foot in Yesterday, you'll piss on Today."

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Met Up With a Russian Guy

A couple of days ago, some guy sent me a message on Gaydar asking if I'd like to accompany him in exploring a few tourist spots in the city. For some reason I agreed, even though his profile picture was outdated and barely visible. After a couple of text messages over the weekend, I still wasn't sure if I should go ahead. I decided that it's best I stop over-thinking.

Yesterday, I finally caught up with him at an art gallery. I was surprisingly calm but yet, a little nervous because I was meeting a guy without even seeing a proper picture. I told myself that I'm here as a local acquaintance and that my superficial concerns play no part in a non-sex date scenario.

As usual, a middle-aged man walks up to me and introduced himself as A². I had a selfish moment in my head and lamented why couldn't he have been the hot blonde athletic guy that was standing a couple of exhibits away, but came back to reality that I was in no position to ask for the Earth.

At the sound of his accent and his look, a geographical map pops up in my head and it immediately circled the region around North Eastern Europe or Russia. Further questions confirmed that A² was indeed Russian but works in the city where beautiful people pass me by every single day.

I am not immune to believing in stereotypes, therefore my head was just flooded with questions and inner voices. A white Russian man. Here. With me. That's definitely a first. Could he be Xenophobic or cold? Does he think I'm not good enough? Can I trust him? The fact that the first topic he chose to voiced his opinion on was how the city of Saint Petersburg is filled with problematic immigrants, just wasn't helping me to dispel whatever preconceived notions I had of him.

I asked him about Vladimir Putin, about Russia's recent anti-gay laws and everything else a good curious conversationalist would ask. I don't consider him attractive, but as we walk, I caught his eyes staring at my crotch a couple of times and my biological tool expanded from within my underwear. I was a weak bastard and he was a man. I toyed heavily with the idea if me and him might end up having some fun later but decided firmly that I wouldn't give in even if he proposed because I just don't feel comfortable with this guy.

As we walk around the city, we talked about a lot of things. His job, homosexuality, his travels, Europe, Russia, Egypt etc. I even got to practise my spoken French. The real challenge however, was getting him to talk about his own experiences with being gay as I did mine. It also took a few hours of walking around the city on foot to warm up to each other even though I kept the conversation going. I felt his biceps by accident while trying to warn him about an approaching vehicle at one point and I toyed once again with the idea of fun as my bulge expanded.

It was 8pm and we finally settled down for some food. We were now much more comfortable with each other in comparison to the first hour of our meeting. I thought: "So there's no where else to go after this. I guess I'll just head home and he'll just go back to his hotel? He hasn't said anything. Maybe he's not into that kind of evening."

After finishing our meal, I wasn't ready to say goodbye so I decided to bring him to another famous park for a night walk. As we adjourned to the subway station, he mentioned that I can stay overnight at his place if it's too late for me to catch the last train out. I wondered if that was the signal but casually gave a couple of excuses and declined. As I hear myself say those words, my flaming desires to touch him lit up even more and felt a sting of regret.

"What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you walking away from an opportunity again? You're going to have to grow some balls and take some risk. The risk you've always played by that opened you up to where you are now. The universe sends this man to cross your path, your emotions are telling you something and it wants you to respond to it. So respond damn it."

I didn't know what came over me, but as soon as we were at the train station, I walked up to a subway map and very calmly said: "Okay so we're here, and the park is here which is where we're going. Unless if you're tired we can always go back to your hotel and you can show me the place. We'll have about an hour before I need to catch the last train out. So what do you think?"

He was shocked. He obviously did not see this coming and spiralled immediately into a state of silent nerves because I cornered him. He took a moment to contemplate but in his expression, I knew he would cave. "Listen, are you comfortable? Because if you're not we can always just stick to the plan and visit the park together. It doesn't matter okay? It's your call.", I reassured him.

He finally said we can go back to his hotel room and so we did. Throughout the subway ride, I could tell that things were now a little bit awkward for us but I was very steady in keeping the normal conversation going to help ease his nerves or rather, mine. The walk to his hotel from the station was one of the longest journeys on foot I had to endure. It was so long and far that by the time we reached his room, I was just so tired and wanted to chicken out but I didn't.

[ Reminder: Sexual Content Ahead ]

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Coming Out to More and More People

As the year goes by, I seem to be coming out to more and more people that I care about. 5 new people this year to be exact, including a university classmate who also counter confessed to discovering that her heterosexual brother is harbouring a homosexual secret that went against everything our parents would have believed in. I told myself that I will be there for her and also her brother should they ever need to face any kind of storm, because I know how it feels.

This week, I finally picked up the courage and contacted a very good guy friend of mine after disappearing from his radar for about 2 years because I couldn't face the world and needed time to sort myself out.

During the period from which I cut myself off from people, I remember thinking that if I were to ever be reunited with friends that I care about, I vow to give them a deep insight as to what happened to me and what went on in my world for the past 2 years. I wanted these carefully chosen people to hear it personally from me, than to one day find that out from the outside, from somebody else, or from an exploited situation. Once I get this out of the way, I will know that I can go out and live my life more courageously and openly.

We sat down together just like old times at a regular place and I started talking. I would be lying if I said I wasn't at all nervous prior to opening up, but I knew in my heart that if someone truly cared about me, their soul would genuinely hear mine. I think I grappled with the idea of telling him because he's one of my rare guy friends and I didn't want to scare him away.

I took him on a journey, picking up from the last time we saw each other till where I am sitting now. Just like everybody else who grew up with me, their speculations couldn't have been more accurate and it was no surprise to him that I'm gay. I appreciated him for listening and for responding very well. He told me to be proud of myself based on what I've come through.

I acknowledged his words, but also stressed that I will not feel peace until I am completely independent in all aspects of my life. Personally, emotionally, financially and professionally. I've also admitted to him that I've always felt secondary to them and how I now have to further accept that my path can never be of normal people in a heterosexual world. That the concept of growing old, giving an answer if someone here ask if I have a girlfriend, being in a relationship, marriage or even children will have a twist to them.

As I sat there in front of him, I revisited an old file in my head and started thinking about destiny. I pondered if there is a reason why some people's lives are so filled with good, success and always having it easier than others. He was promoted twice within an organisation, head-hunted by another, bought a house, a car and already looking forward to officially settling down with his girl. 

My intuition about him doing very well in life, was right, and I was genuinely happy for him because I thought, if I'm not going to live the nice dream I pictured for myself, at least somebody else I grew up with was living theirs. It also made me realised that I've wasted so much time being lost while the hard work of others have nicely fallen into place for them.

If there really is a God, a universe out there that responds, I hope I'm not too late and I hope that you will still guide me to live the best possible dream for myself. I hope there is a reason why my journey is the way it is. I hope whatever time I think I waste, spending it in here trying to write and also to help others, would come back to me in proportion, in good and also in blessing.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Beginners' Concern & FAQs Regarding Gay Mobile Apps

●  How to Use Gay Mobile Apps to Break Into Gay Life? 
●  Important Tips to Further Secure a Successful Meet-Up 
In response to the previous articles, here are a couple of FAQs and common concerns.

1. Why should new comers like me use gay mobile applications?
To speed up the process of discovering more about yourself and to get comfortable in establishing the necessary contact with other gay guys, especially if you're still closeted and trying to understand what it all means. 

When I was coming to terms with being gay, I was shy and terrified of making any physical steps to connect with the gay world. This method would not only psychologically put you at ease, but would also allow you to take a virtual step into getting in touch with other guys without actually having to physically go out and put yourself on a daunting spot if you're not yet comfortable or ready.

You don't necessarily have to do things you don't want to do. All I'm trying to recommend here is to use these apps as a platform to start talking to guys and to feel comfortable in a gay environment. For me, it was through reading the Gay Banker's blog that I discovered how to use Gaydar in 2011 to establish connections.

2. What can I get from this and how does it help me in my gay journey?
There is no guarantee as to what you'll take away from using these apps or what should happen, because the purpose of this method is to get you in touch with other guys who like guys. The rest is up to luck, human nature and attraction which is beyond our control. 

In terms of how it will help you is that meeting guys, having sexual exploration and constantly being in contact with the circle will build up your confidence. It would also shed some light, dispel fear and perhaps help you understand what it means to be gay and yourself. In due course, living a gay life wouldn't seem so foreign any more than it is a fact of life.

3. Why smartphones in particular and why these apps?
Because smartphones are personal gadgets that follow us wherever we go these days, and with internet connection such as Wi-Fi, these mobile applications suddenly become magic windows to help you get in touch with the spectrum of guys that are present within the geographical area, wherever you are in the world. 

So do take advantage of this, as gay guys who grew up in the 1970s would probably tell you how grateful they would have been had they had what we have today.

4. Where should I use these apps or try out this method?
These apps will work best in large urban areas and better yet, in cities where there is a large gay population like London, New York City or Bangkok. Although you won't get much from using them in villages and small towns, but sometimes I do try it out just to see if anybody I know from the remote region is gay. You just never know if you might find an unexpected gay friend or a sex partner in the process.

Apart from that, try out the apps whenever you are in a seemingly conservative nation. Gay guys in my country are found everywhere on the apps even though homosexuals are punishable under the laws from where I live.

5. I'm afraid that my exact location and whereabouts will be revealed.
Although the app displays specific distances between you and the other guys such as 235m or 1.1km away, but they do not in any way expose your exact location on the dot like a GPS. I have seen profiles that are 0.01km from me, but have never for once spotted them anywhere within the area that I was in. So don't let this feature scare you unnecessarily unless you have a truly good reason for it to.

6. I'm afraid of being recognised through my picture.
This is a legitimate concern and there might be a chance of somebody recognising you through your profile pictures, such as how I did with some guys in this post titled: When Profile Pictures Do Not Match Up

Unless you're a prominent figure within your community, you shouldn't worry too much about this because realistically speaking in truth, hundreds of guys come and go on these apps every minute, every hour of every day. Unless I have extreme photographic memory or in exceptionally rare cases, I probably wouldn't even notice you even if you were to walk past me on the street. And even if I did, what's the worse that could happen?

7. I'm afraid to have gay apps on my phone for fear of being accidentally discovered.
Whatever the reason may be that we're scared, some of us might still worry, especially if we're tightly in the closet.

Try this trick. Combine the gay apps into a folder and rename it into a boring title that would deter suspicion. The folder itself when placed amongst other folders blend in and are not so visible. They become camouflaged and are hidden from the obvious.

8. I've never done this before and I'm nervous.
Don't worry, many guys have probably gone through the same process as you did when they were first discovering more about themselves and their place in gay life. All I can say to you is that you will never know how well you fair if you didn't give it a try. No guy is ever born with the ability to cruise and manoeuvre themselves dexterously through the gay jungle, we learn through experiences, embarrassments and failure. 

Most people wait until they know how to swim before they jump in, but truth is jumping in is what we need in order for us to learn how to swim. So stop worrying too much and just try it out for yourself. Don't be discouraged if you stumble, because what it really means is that you're actually on the right way to building your experience to knowing what works and what doesn't.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Important Tips to Further Secure a Successful Meet-Up

Previous Article: How to Use Gay Mobile Apps to Break into Gay Life?

Unless you're planning to remain as virtual friends and chat, the gay apps alone are not going to secure your meeting with a guy. If you're serious about meeting each other, then you will at the bare minimum, need his phone number to contact him directly via text messaging.

So how do we go about asking for phone numbers without having the other party contemplate if he should be giving it to you? This is where another set of mobile applications comes in. 

After a couple of exchanges with a guy, ask if he uses any kind of mobile messaging service such as those mentioned below. The most popular one I find up till date is still WhatsApp. If he says yes and agrees to talk there, then you already have a reason to exchange phone numbers. I'll explain below.

I highly recommend this app because most guys usually have it. It allows you to chat for free on your smartphone via internet connection. Each account or contact is based solely on an active mobile phone number. So by using WhatsApp and getting guys to chat here, we would:

 have a really good excuse to exchange mobile phone numbers.
● suggest that we are serious in meeting him outside the fast-paced gay apps.
● already have direct access to their phone number for contact.
● stay closely in touch via the device that will go with them anywhere.
● (sometimes) see a display picture of them and a time stamp of their last presence.

2. Skype
Skype is a famous program that helps people keep in touch for free. Use this only if you want to chat or get to know each other virtually. If you want to meet up for real, you'd still need to exchange concrete phone numbers.

3. Line or WeChat
I don't use them that much, but they are similar to WhatsApp. A good alternative to have as some guys might actually be using these instead of the one I proposed. So make sure you ask! 

4. Regular Text Messaging / Calls
The real deal. If both parties don't have a problem contacting each other via direct text messaging or calls to arrange a meet up, then this might well be the fastest way in getting you close up to a guy.

Remember never to call the other person directly before having some form of consent or permission that the other party is comfortable in accepting them. Guys might sometimes be in difficult positions whereby calls from third party guys are not welcomed.

So here it is, a post to help novices out on how to break into the gay circle via mobile apps. Unfortunately, I can't teach you how to talk to a guy because I'm still not in the least bit qualified in that department. So you will have to test that out on your own.

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Next Article: Common Concerns & FAQs Regarding Gay Mobile Apps