Justin's Life...

~ February 2000 ~
~ February 1st - 18th ~

February 1, 2000 - Tuesday

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from my mom saying that my cousin Jason had called her asking for my number. She hadn't given it to him, but instead took his and called me with the message. Apparently, he just wanted to talk, apparently about being gay, and Mom said that he sounded desperate. She said she felt sorry for him and asked me to give him a call, if I could.

I said ok, and a few minutes later, I dialed the number...

But I'm jumping ahead of myself... see, of the eight or so cousins I had when I was a kid, Jason was the one everyone always thought would turn out gay. He liked cutting Barbie's hair, he liked dressing up, and he just seemed like he was going to be gay. Yet we grew up, I "came out", either explicitly or tacitly to that side of the family, and nothing happened with Jason. I just assumed, contrary to his name, he turned out straight.

But when I was talking to Mom after my uncle Chris's funeral, she said that Jason came up to her at the funeral and asked if she'd heard; that he was in a relationship with a man. The way she told me that he said it, it seemed as though "a relationship" was a code word for something salacious. Like the tone someone would have saying "I'm in a relationship with an older woman." really meaning "I'm having wild sex with an older woman." The way Mom said it, it sounded like his telling her, his glee in having sex with another man, was inappropriate, and I must say, I don't think a funeral is quite the place to go around cheerfully coming out.

Amazingly, I was no more curious about Jason than I was about anyone else on that side of the family. His being gay really didn't effect me one way or the other. I had no connection with any of them in any form. Our mutual sexual orientation wasn't enough to make some kinship exist where none, and even disdain, had existed before.

And so, Mom's account of the funeral was the last I heard of Jason... until yesterday.

So, I dailed the number and a masculine voice answered the phone. I asked for Jason and he said it was he, and we began talking.

He told me of how he'd been in a relationship with one guy for the past year, but it was laced with cheating and laden with abuse. He said he'd been in the hospital multiple times over the past year due to his boyfriend's beatings and that he'd even beat up his (Jason's) mother. He said she'd no longer talk to him, that his father (Chris's twin brother) was out of the picture, and his twin brother had told him that he was going to give his (the twin brother's) baby AIDS. It was a Jerry Springer Sweeps Week marathon.

Going through each of the items in a firm, but way more tender than Dr. Laura manner, I asked him to explain everything. I sided with his mother and asked him how he could possibly be with someone that beat him up to the point of going to the hospital and who beat up his mother. He said that he loved him, and I explained that he had to love himself and move from there. I told him that he had to make himself happy; that no one else could ever make him happy if he couldn't do it by himself. Someone else can only increase your happiness, but if you're unhappy alone, you're not going to be happy with someone else.

I told him that I'd never let someone beat me up; that I'd do my best to make sure his ass was thrown in jail... and the thought of someone beating up my mother is unthinkable. How could he possibly still think that this guy was good for him?

So I talked, and I busted, and I seemingly got no where. He heard what I said, but he didn't hear it. It made sense, but he "knew" he needed his boyfriend for validation. Indeed, I wanted to help and for a half second thought that perhaps a trip out here, to see how life can be as a gay man, would be the trick... but I wouldn't trust him if he were here. I wouldn't trust him not to steal my stuff, not to kidnap the kids, nothing.

You know that movie The Opposite Of Sex. Jason is Christina Ricci's character (and so's the rest of that side of the family). You want to help them, but if you open up too much, you'll get stabbed in the back.

Anyway, finally, when it didn't seem like I was making much progress, I told him that I wanted to read him something. I read the Letter To A Friend and when I was done, he was speechless. Sure, he'd come out and was no longer dealing with that... but I think that letter really showed him that someone understood what it was like to be him. It showed that he wasn't alone.

I continued, reading random e-mails from readers like you, and he was audibly moved by the time I finished.

I really don't know what will happen. As much as I'd like to think that he'll have the courage to move on and away and start fresh, I know in my heart that he will not.

So, thank you for writing those letters. Thank you for that letter you've yet to write. Thank you for sharing how this site has helped you; your letters not only help me to stay motivated and realize that I'm making a difference, but they help to make a difference themselves as well.

Take care and love,



February 3, 2000 - Thursday

This morning I turned on my computer and found I had a message from Amanda. The subject line read "joey blanton".

Joey Blanton was the feminine gay guy from high school that was a year older than I was, and I figured Amanda was writing with the latest gossip from back home.

I opened the window, expecting to read something curiously interesting, like he'd been found with the gym coach, but instead read:

I didn't know if you were told or not. Joey Blanton passed away Thursday. He had a stroke, due to complications from AIDS.

Although I was alone, the silence in the room was deafening. Being gay had killed Joey Blanton. This wasn't Matthew Shepard, and no one had beaten him to death. This was someone I knew. Someone I even marginally helped to kill. Having someone beat him to death would have been better. At least then he would have died quickly, but instead, being gay killed him slowly.

Looking back over the diary, I found an entry from January last year where I was writing a response to a confused guy in high school. It read, in part:

2.) I know exactly what you mean. There was this guy who was in the class (senior/junior) before mine. I was terrified that I would be associated with Joey... because everyone made fun of him and we all knew that was how gay guys were, effeminate and a sissy, like him. I knew that I wasn't like that, but I figured that we'd be like two black kids in an all white school. I'd immediately be associated with him, if not semi-forced to socialize with him. But I DID NOT want that. I'm sure Joey put up with a horrendous amount of crap. I'm sure every day he went home and hated himself a little more... but it would have hurt me so badly to be associated with him. I couldn't even risk it.

I never said anything derogatory to him directly, but I'm sure I must have joined in with the other kids in the "eww yuck" collective mindset. I was one of the lesser ones, for sure, but I still had a part in it. I still indicated that it was ok with me if Joey was made fun of because he was feminine. I did it... and I can't say that I wouldn't still do it today. Today I'd have the courage to come out and show the world that gay guys come in all different types, as varied as heterosexuals, but I get criticized because I use the word normal to describe myself and differentiate myself from more flamboyant gay guys.

Thinking about it, trying to mesh the past with the current, I still don't think I'm wrong. I believe that most feminine gay guys are pushed into being feminine by society. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's like telling a kid that he's stupid over and over. No matter how smart he really is, he'll eventually start to believe it unless someone does something to counter it at the time. In adulthood, he'll either continue thinking that he's stupid, or he'll have to overcome those thoughts put there when he was a child. We're all tacitly told that all gay men are feminine. Growing up gay, trying to mesh that with our self perceptions, we either overcome it or succumb to it. Being gay, society, literally killed Joey Blanton.

Had the collective hate been less, had the society been more one-on-one with gay men of all different traits, he'd likely still be alive today. Instead, he was forced into a sort of subculture, where acceptance overrides all those other requirements for association.

This happened (Joey graduated high school) in 1993, but less than six months ago, when I first talked to Andrew, he'd just started down a very similar path. He'd slept three times with a guy he found disgusting, someone he considered a male slut, and I couldn't quite figure out the reasoning behind it at the time... but now I realize it was acceptance, any acceptance, that Andrew wanted. He wasn't feminine, yet he'd repeatedly been told that being gay was an aberration, a sin. So although the guy was disgusting, he accepted him for who he was and that relieved some of the pain.

And so, Joey fulfilled the prophecy placed upon him by my home town and by me. He was gay, feminine, dressed in drag (his picture in the Drama Club section of the yearbook has him wearing a girl's wig), and he died of AIDS.

And as I told Amanda, this is just the kick in the butt that I need to keep myself focused on making Justin's Life a household word. I've gotta make a difference. I've gotta do the most that I can possibly do to make the world a better place... and I will do it.


February 5, 2000 - Saturday

Today I went to see the movie Scream 3, and afterwards, I realized the sense of familiarity I felt as I left the theatre. Indeed, in some ways, I did not go to see how the movie would play out, but instead, I went to visit old friends. The three main characters of Sydney, Dewey, and Gail were familiar and therefore I knew I would feel comfortable with them.

Yes, it was a sequel and I don't even think I'd say the movie was "good," but it was comfortable. I felt comfortable with the characters, and going there I knew I'd feel comfortable with the characters, and therefore I went.

Perhaps I'm trying to grasp for a thought that's just out of my range of expression right now... but I think it's an interesting commentary about life that I can be comfortable in a movie theatre with characters who are being chased by a killer and who are in the midst of others being killed. I was at ease and appreciated their familiarity. And part of me appreciated that I needn't do anything for them to be there.

They're creations: I realize that, but they don't seem like creations when I'm watching them. They seem as though they are there, that I know them, and that they know me, and that's a nice feeling.

Yet before realizing that today, this past week I came to realize in concrete terms that I'm somewhat of a social misfit. And to make a blanket statement, I think anyone that spends a large amount of time online for recreation is a social misfit. If we could adapt well with the real world, we wouldn't be spending so much time behind the facade of the monitor. But no one likes to be considered a misfit, or socially "dysfunctional". Even I hesitate when typing this paragraph; it's like I know part of me has real difficulty interacting in traditional social contexts, but I hate admitting that. I want to be perceived as human, as fallible, but not as having any dysfunction or disability in my life.

I realize and can state that I have an irrational fear of talking to strangers on the phone. Not a "they're going to come kill me" type of fear, but rather a fear of appearing stupid, helpless, and/or inadequate. If it's a call to a friend, I can do it, no problem, but if I have to call a stranger or an acquaintance to ask a question, no matter how broad or minute, I do my best to think of some alternate way. E-mail, FAXes, Morse code: whatever it takes not to make that call.

Just this past week, I needed to call Larry's accountant, who's also my accountant and whom I pay to fix my taxes, but I had to force myself to make the call. I wanted Larry to do it for me. I wanted to send a FAX or an e-mail... but I called. And it was nothing major; I just needed a 1099 sent to my programmer, but still, I was uncomfortable calling to request it.

On the positive side, I started dealing with new companies this past week and I gave my business number to all of them. I had to think, "Do I or don't I?" but I did it. And I've decided to make a conscious effort to be more "real world" sociable. Don't get me wrong: I'm not agoraphobic and I'll never be Mr. Popularity, but I've certainly got room to improve in my non-computer-mediated/non-written interactions.


February 8, 2000 - Tuesday

You know, in response to a few e-mails I received about Joey Blanton, I started to write an entry defending what I wrote earlier, but when I was done, I realized nothing new was said. You either get it or you don't.

You can argue that the bullet killed the soldier, or you can say that it was the politics behind the war. One's a deeper thought than the other, but either way, the soldier is dead for having been there. Vehemently defending my thoughts won't make you see my view if you didn't see it before. Instead, it only helps to widen the divide.


February 10, 2000 - Thursday

Last night, at Katie's request, we went to the restaurant where I once sent balloons to a waiter. It was fun when it happened, but as my attempt at courtship had been rejected, I hadn't really relished returning to the restaurant where Rob worked. Indeed, as best as I can remember, we'd only been back once and he wasn't our waiter that time.

Yet, last night, we were back at the restaurant and Rob was assigned to our table. I, in turn, wasn't sure how to act. I mean, it was uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Do I be overly friendly, distant, or what? I didn't want it to seem like I still had interests in him, yet I didn't want it to seem like I didn't have interests in him either.

He was still adorably cute... red hair and a 10 out of 10 on anyone's scale. He made the cutest face movements when playing with Katie, even his teeth were attractive.

So the night progressed and before long, Larry told Rob that I was uncomfortable. If a rock would have been nearby, I would have darted under it from embarrassment, but I just grinned and bear'ed it. I couldn't believe Larry actually told him, making the situation even more uncomfortable, and I wanted to stay mad about it, but knew it would have no point. Larry wasn't going to change or realize that he'd embarrassed me, so I let it go.

Before long, though, the night was over and we were headed back to the house. Oh, and for what it's worth, Larry gave Rob our phone number. I'm 99% certain nothing will come of it, but it would be nice if it did.

And now, as the saying goes, I've got a bone to pick with you. My motivation for this site is at an all time low. Last week, I didn't write the newsletter and not one person on the list of 500+ subscribers wrote to inquire why. I've written what I think are some very heartfelt, revealing entries as of late, yet except for a few harsh criticisms, they've gone by otherwise unnoticed. Even participation in the bulletin board is dreary, and I simply don't know what to do.

Nor do I really know if I care. Are you out there? Is reading this doing anything for you? Or have my thoughts become disengaging? Nearly all of the e-mail as of late has focused upon how bad of a person I am, about how I focus upon differentiating myself as non-effeminate. Perhaps I do come across too anti-effeminate, but I really mean that you can be whoever you want to be. That you can be masculine and gay.

You've got to come out and be counted for who you are, so that society and gay guys just dealing with their sexual orientation can realize that they can be whomever they want and still be gay, too.

I don't know... I just know that I'm tired.


February 13, 2000 - Sunday

I'm in much better spirits now. The last entry brought a barrage of e-mail explaining that in the eyes of its readers, the newsletter is viewed as a "gift" from someone who you sorta know. As such, no one writes to complain about a present they didn't get from someone they had no reason to get a present from anyway, which makes sense, but I would have never perceived it that way on my own.

I also got e-mail explaining, "[P]erhaps some of your readers see your newsletter and web site sort of like a magazine or TV show ('The Real World'?). If so, very few of us actually interact with magazines or TV shows (unless, of course, we're pissed off)," which makes perfect sense as well. Getting deeply moved to the point where you'll write in praise is a lot rarer than getting deeply outraged to the point where you'll write to criticize.

And I do get my share of praising e-mail, so I can't justify myself in complaining about that... but I think a lot of people are under this misconception that I get so much e-mail that I can't stand it. I used to: Back in the World Wide Web's infancy, there were a lot fewer stations to tune in, so being one of the first "gay sites" out there, a much higher percentage of the links pointed my way. But now, there's a lot more stuff online competing for attention, from the Digital Entertainment Network to AOL's Instant Messenger and there's the misconception that I get so much e-mail that I wouldn't read or notice yours.

But that's just not true. I read every e-mail I get, and I do my best to respond to anyone who needs a response. Randomly, even with those that I should respond to, I just don't... but I always read it.

I spent two hours non-stop responding to e-mails yesterday. I got through seventeen, but I figure if you can take the time to write to cheer up my spirits, the least I can do is write back a personal thank you. Life is not a form letter, and neither are my e-mails.

So, anyway, I'm in a much better mood. I believe again that this site does matter, that you actually want to be here reading it... and I thank you.

Of course, I can't yet finish without quoting an e-mail that hit me at the right time with the right message to get a HUGE grin on my face and one that holds promise for the future.

Thursday night, just as I was sitting in bed with my laptop, I got this e-mail from a e-pal of mine:

Subject: Hey!

I wrote you last week, commenting on a diary entry. And I thanked you for the video newsletter.

(I did notice that there wasn't a newsletter last Friday but didn't ask that because if I had accidentally deleted I didn't want to come across as a dolt. I was going to ask after you replied.)

But please don't take this message as chastising. Just good natured ribbing. ;)

If you're really that low on motivation, get on a plane north. You can spend some quality time with my flaming red crotch. Guaranteed to put a smile on that cute face of yours.

With love,

Having seen pictures of his flaming red crotch, that was just the visualization I needed... and it was such a sweet and playful offer as well. I couldn't help but have a huge cheesy grin and be in a better mood.

And then, last night, I got this e-mail, which may be just what I need:

Subject: I am taking a risk here, I hope I do not offend;

Dear Justin;

I have always sworn that I would not do something like this-write a personal e-mail to you. Why? Because I am a straight female, and as much as I enjoy viewing your site, I often feel I have no right to comment or partake of it personally.

But now my best friend Laurent bounded into my house this afternoon astounded that he had received a reply back from you, I guess he had written you, I don't know what he said. But I will tell you what he said to me.

He told me that if I have time to peek, then I have time to speak; I argued that it would be an invasion for me to put myself in the middle of bulletin board discussions among gay men sharing common issues. The truth of the matter is, I first heard about your site through this guy I fell in love with last summer in Ottawa (straight, I think). I, in turn, passed it on to many of my gay and straight friends. For myself who loves to write, your depth of passion sprinkled with poignancy leaves me breathless, and I find myself relating to a lot of what you write about; it's like we all share a common ground, even though we are manifested as individuals with unique experiences. I think what I am really trying to say (I know I'm rambling, this is hard for me) is that I have quite a few media contacts (magazines such as Jane, Maxim, etc, and Newspapers) that I feel would be open to mentioning your site; I would greatly love to do a freelance article about www.justinslife.com as well, with your permission of course and with your approval (as well as any money that would be paid for the article, which probably would be very little).

On a more personal level, the honesty and forthrightness on which you talk about your life and feelings has moved me to the extent that I am no longer ashamed about some of the experiences I have gone through, and am feeling that maybe I do have something to write/say. I may be straight and female, but I've been around enough sleaze and garbage to know what's true and what's bullshit. You have so much worth as a writer, parent, lover, friend, man...don't put down the pen; don't turn off the screen. Hang in there, and please, just give me the word and I'll help anyway I can (Laurent as well).

Take care, Justin.

Loralee (mega-fan!)

Anyway, things are fine now and I'm going full steam ahead.


February 18, 2000 - Friday

Did you ever stop to notice how disproportionate an amount of time we spend living in the past? Whether it be a love gone wrong or a friendship turned sour, why do we spend so much time, or rather energy, reliving it?

Perhaps one answer is that we want to learn from our mistakes, but have you really ever come away from something saying, "Now what did I learn from that?" Not really... and instead you think about the way things were and wish them to be that again. You forget about all the complications and less-than-greats that were happening at the time. Instead, you only see the wonderment of what was. And it's not like you're unhappy with the present, you just remember how things were and want a part of that as well.

"Time marches on" as the saying goes. Will we ever realize that "the only thing constant is change"? Not that I don't focus on what's happening today, but I find myself randomly getting caught in David nostalgia, wishing he were here, wishing we were friends, even imagining him naked. But David's never coming back; a response to an e-mail I sent him this past week finally slapped me in the face enough to realize that. And it wasn't a long, vile letter... only a couple of sentences, but it twisted the knife enough to wake me out of the dream.

Whether that was the intention or not, I do not know. It was one of those short notes that could have meant exactly what it said, and in some ways did mean exactly what it said, but it could have just as easily been one written to "push my buttons". It was one of those "life is great without you" types of letters. If they could see me now, out on my funship cruise... types of letters, with all the stuff that's nagging in my life thrown into the list of reasons why. Yet it was only a couple sentences... so gauging the evil-intentness level of it is hard.

All I do know, with certainty, is that it is over and will never be again. Nothing today will ever be the same: It's a bigger thought... but most of us, myself included, have extreme trouble realizing the former thought, so there's virtually no hope of recognizing and living the latter.

Click here for the next set of entries.

© 2000 Justin Clouse
Justin's Life...Justin's