I'll mention those later moments briefly. After a road of 5 years of coming out and trying to repay my all too homophobic past, Utah Gay Fathers officially organized, filed for non-profit status and held elections that resulted in me serving as Director of this great organization. With the help of so many good men we opened support chapters in Northern Utah and Utah Valley, our numbers continued to rise, men continued to find a safe place of love, support, empathy, sympathy, and re-birth. 2012 ended with my step-down as Director to handle other events mentioned later here. Stepping down feels more like letting go of the bike seat and cheering this group on as they find their balance; no longer dependent on one person steadying them. UGFA isn't the end of my endeavors in the community, only the beginning really.
I usually like to post a song that supports the theme of my post. There are so many that come to mind as I thought about this, but I narrowed it to 2. Yes, call me cheesy, but "Call me Maybe" sums up the chance tried in 2011 that panned out. 2011 found me finally shedding the broken heart I carried too long and making my first cautious steps back into the world of dating, chatting, and taking more chances. Being intrigued by the Asian culture and its very cute men, I found use of the Scruff app and it's "search by city" feature. Suddenly Asia was at my fingertips. Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, Malaysia.....you name it. I met so many new friends and truly good men. Unfortunately so many find themselves in a world 40 years behind ours in equal protections for gays. Heartbreaking.
And then there was Indonesia. He was beautiful. Even from 8000 miles away I was nervous saying "hi." Silly really, but my first thoughts were "I would be in heaven if I found a guy that handsome that also had a good heart"....consider heaven found.
I did say "hi" or "woof" actually (the app's version of "winking" or sending a "smile"). I was too nervous to even say hi, so a "woof" was safer and I could just chalk it up to just another cute guy with a nice picture easy on the eyes. It stuck in my mind. There was something about his face, his eyes that I couldn't forget. It was a pipe dream really, no one that good looking would go for a guy for me. Or at least, that is what I told myself. I was happily proven wrong. He did say "halo" back and I had a moment of panic. What do I do now?? "Don't say something stupid and ruin things" went through my head. I think I replied with a very safe "how are you?." Probably a safer choice than "wow, you're hot, want to plan on forever with me?"
As I've learned in the previous courses "Broken Hearts 101" in the School of Hard Knocks, looks are great, but don't make a package. He was so cute though. I kept the conversation short as to not bore him. So, every couple weeks I would say "hi" and talk a little more, but try to stop early enough to leave curiosity and not annoy him. This went on for many intimidated months. He seemed like a good guy, impossibly 8000 miles away and apparently unable to see my picture clearly (why else would he still talk to a guy like me?).
Meanwhile I had also been chatting with a young guy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was also cute, but just coming to terms with who he was. We had many long talks about what it meant to be gay; the beauty of self-acceptance, struggles with lack of social acceptance, and of course we talked about guys. I have talked with many men of all ages as they take those first steps out of the closet and feel excited, lost, scared, and happy all at once, but our conversations continued and we moved past "mentor and student" and became friends. Then the ridiculous notion was suggested that I come visit him in KL and he'd show me around. He was away at college and had room for me to stay. No family around so he wouldn't have to be worried about being unexpectedly "outed" or found out. "Yeah, right, like I could make a trip to Malaysia" ran through my head. Months later I was on a plane and headed out for the first great adventure of my life and the first time outside the borders of my own country.
Travel more would be in my "top ten lessons-in-life" to pass on to the human race. I was traveling not only to a foreign country, but a country of predominantly Muslims. Travel more, watch TV less. People are people regardless of religious tradition. We would have more peace in this world if people traveled more and saw how much alike same values of family, peace, etc we share with the world.
I could (and should) write entire posts about some of my experiences in Malaysia, but for now we'll focus on the what, not the where.
I had talked to many Asian men in Malaysia and surrounding. There was no way to meet them all and it wouldn't be very kind of me as a house guest to not spend time with my friend and host. I did spend time with a truly kind-hearted Malaysian gay guy. I still maintain contact. So many good hearts in that tiny country. Progress needs to be made desperately so these men can realize their dreams of a family of their own with a man they love.
Indonesia stuck in the back of my mind and I wished I could meet him in person. I still wasn't sure I believed that such a cute guy could really be real. He was a mere 250 miles away, but that was impossible to traverse on my shoe-string budget...I thought. I made contact and apologized that I didn't have the funds to meet him. He seemed a little disappointed, but said he understood. We still talked and I still wished to find a way to meet him. After explaining that I was looking at the expensive way to get to him, he showed me how a quick, cheap flight and boat ride would bring me to his island. Hotels were cheap as well.
I took the leap, but only after asking him for a random candid picture of himself just before booking. I was still not sure a man this good-looking could really exist, let alone be interested in me. He sent it and I booked my ticket, notified the embassy I was leaving to Indonesia, and packed a backpack. My host/friend was concerned that I would travel to such a wild and backward place as Indonesia. He prayed for me and reluctantly said good-bye as I left for a few days to this unknown country. It was spontaneous scary, and I loved it. I was continuing to break out of the shell of fear all those years as a closet gay man created.
After a train, bus, plane, subway, taxi, and boat ride I arrived in Indonesia. With no cell coverage there I just hoped he would be there when I finished going through immigration. I stepped out of the ferry terminal, and there he was. I was not finished on this journey of nearly every method of transportation; there was still the motorcycle ride. My 2nd ever (1st only being days earlier with the above mentioned man in KL). I still can remember the shape of his abs allowed a perfect pocket on his side for me to hold as we rode to the hotel.
I felt like I had stepped back to a world from another lifetime. Beautiful scenery, but a place where poverty was the way of life. However, people were very kind.
We grabbed dinner that night and I smiled, but figured I would starve. I was never keen on the idea of fish, let alone the kind that stared at you. I had no idea how to eat the crab. I was constantly picking shell out of my teeth, but I was happy. This mysterious man was in front of me and I had 3 days with him.
3 days, such a short time. The reality is that neither of us figured those three days would be anything more that just a memory in the long book of life. We lived worlds away and had not had much more than friendly conversations when I dared text him from time to time. Things seemed different than "just an adventure and a cute guy." I could tell we both felt it and I let it continue playing out. The view from the hotel was awesome. I was in paradise and with someone I could never have imagined meeting. There was a peace about him and a quiet strength. It wasn't twitterpation, it was something else I didn't quite grasp nor fought against.
We spent the day riding around town as I stood out like an Alien; being only white person in town. He was adorable. We went to a local swimming/amusement park that he had gone to as a kid. It was adorable to me that he would share this part of his life. It wasn't about sightseeing or adventure, it was about being together. Talking for hours. He later took me to dinner where I met his friends. I felt invited into see his soul that night. I could tell that the quality of friends and way they looked at him, he was a good man. I was falling. From 8000 miles away, I felt home.
We talked of going to a local island. He suggested it then seemed as if he wished he hadn't. After some prodding I found out that the island carried a curse. If you took someone you were dating there, you would break up upon returning home. It was awesome to hear those words. He had confirmed that he had felt the same way in our brief time together so far. Needless to say we avoided the island....
I was falling unexpectedly. Again, he was cute, sexy, and funny, but this was just my adventure out of the US and was never meant to be about finding love or anything like it. Friends? Yes. Love? Nah.
The last night together was spent sleeping hand in hand all night. Not in a awkward way that seems cute on TV but is unnatural in person. Sure, we had our fun. We were both single men with mutual attraction, but it wasn't that at all. There was just that peace I found being with him. The cares of the world drifted away in his presence.
The dreaded 3rd day came. On our way back to the the ferry terminal we stopped one last time for coffee. We talked about the future and both realized how impossible it might be. I wanted him to come visit Utah and we talked about that being possible. I could tell he felt they might just be words. He had met a Canadian before that was full of promises that never happened. We both had experienced what it was like to be lied to and we both wanted to be cautious. However, he had never met me and didn't know that I am a man who keeps promises. I was determined to give the feelings I had felt in a short 72 hours more time to play out.
Kenny Chesney's "Anything But Mine" and Chantal Kreviazuk's version of "Leaving On A Jet Plane" played over and over on my phone as I made my 2 hour ride to Singapore and then on to KL.
My young friend and host in Malaysia could tell I was a different person as soon as he saw me, much to the dashed hopes that I was "the one" for him. He attributed such a quick change to "black magic" from witchcraft in Indonesia and he prayed for me, but I knew different.
Ignoring his request to not text, I did just that, at least every morning. I couldn't imagine not at least saying hi once a day to the man who had made my heart beat in a way I hadn't thought possible. I did look forward to seeing my sons and coming back for Pride, but I also had a pain in my heart as I traveled farther and farther away. I was able to spend some time in Taiwan on my way back with a great friend. What would have been a night looking for the local gay bars and enjoying the bachelor life turned into a lengthy conversation with Teddy about wild birds and finding cages where the wild birds would choose to stay and not feel trapped. I had hoped Indonesia had shown me such a cage.
We've talked everyday since. We grew closer and closer each day and I finally brought out the "L" word. I told him he didn't need to say it back until he wanted to, but I refused to hide it anymore. Finally at 10:12PM August 5th, after a rough few days that we worked through some challenges, he said "i love u too." And that was that, no more questioning where his heart was or worrying I felt more strongly for him than he for I. I was more determined than ever to make this work.
Unfortunately immigration isn't simple nor equal for gay men. I count as nothing in the eyes of Federal law. My love carries no weight in deciding whether he can come visit or not. Late in September he finally met with the Embassy.
Apparently unless you're rich or willing to marry a woman, there is little chance of getting to the US. He was devastated and didn't want to talk on Skype for fear he would cry in public. I was crying already. It wasn't the end, but it was definitely a set back. I was angry as well. I felt like a 2nd class citizen in a country that promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
I won't sugar coat that the denial was easy on our relationship. It seemed more hopeless for him and facing the social restraints of my own "free" land was depressing. I don't give up that easily.
He makes me smile everyday as he says good morning and good night. I never tire of hearing I love you. He has been in Bali with friends for the New Year. I miss him and think constantly of our trip to Bali. He has told me the same, that I am always on his mind. Love is more amazing than I ever thought possible.
I have loved and lost before, but it has always been one sided. To love and be loved is indescribable. The last laugh of 2012 is on him. He said yesterday that I must be using the black magic on him now since he thinks of me all day. Maybe its not black magic, but love is a nice spell to be under.
There is so much to 2012. It was a year I will hold dear the rest of my life. It truly was a year where the idea of "call me maybe" hit home and I am lucky for that call. I can only hope 2013 is full of as much life.
So bring it on! Truly my one and only resolution this year is to bridge the physical gap between us.