For those keeping score, Cypher Avenue recently celebrated its 3rd birthday. The site quickly went from being the only masculine gay and “discreet” blog on the Internet to one of the most visited black gay leaning sites on the web globally.
Despite that reality, Cypher Avenue (and its creators) exists in a bubble from the rest of the gay community due to the knee-jerk negative reactions from those that can’t seem to relate to or understand the overall mission of the site. While being “liked” was never our goal, the desire to be “understood” has always been the “tickle in our anus.”
He details his experience as a openly gay Caucasian man being introduced to Cypher Avenue for the first time, giving both positive and negative opinions on the articles, the writing and what/who the site seeks to represent.
He also offers some advice to discreet and/or masculine gay men of color. Advice that I knew would be prime fodder for discussion for the Cypher Avenue Squad Members in the comments section below.
GETTING UNSTUCK: LOVE ACROSS RACE
By Gerry Fisher
I was meeting with a black, gay-male client recently, and he asked me my thoughts about the challenges of meeting “discreet, masculine” men. Trying to understand the question before addressing the question, I said, “Do you mean closeted men?” I don’t recall where our conversation went from there.
Months later, my client sent an email with a link to a website entitled Cypher Avenue, and he said that it would help me to understand better some of the issues faced by gay and bi men of color. According to its About page, Cypher Avenue is dedicated to gay and bisexual men who love hip hop culture, geek culture, pop culture, and open-minded conversations.
I read a few articles – one about picking up guys, and one about “levels of gay comfort” when trying to meet men, and I’m glad that my client pointed me to the site. Both articles seemed to emphasize the difficulty that discreet, masculine gay and bi men of color have when trying to meet one another, and they acknowledged that “feminine, ‘out’ guys” didn’t have as many problems perceiving and operating within the sexual playing field.
First, let me tip my hat to the skill the writers have in conveying some basic themes that are very important with regard to socializing and finding partners. They emphasize boosting basic social skills, avoiding the appearance of being too needy or pushy, and using methods for overcoming hesitancy and moving into action. Great stuff!
Having said that, the articles often felt muddled to me, and I think the reason for that is that they fell into the same trap affecting gay and bi men across race: they were conflating sex and relationships. “Getting to know someone” and “seduction” felt oddly and unnecessarily intertwined in the writing. Although the authors do a terrific job of describing levels of gay comfort, they don’t really mention the vital connection between the goal of meeting – hook up? Casual dating? LTR? – and how that goal affects your approach.
As much as Cypher Avenue did a good job of boosting my cultural competence, I offer this column as “sorting out sex and relationship” food for thought for my discreet, masculine gay and bi black brothers:
Do your best to be clear about the difference between hook-up culture and family-and-community culture. Both are fine; I’m not judging either. Just understand how operating in hook-up mode can interfere with your attempts to build relationship, family, and community.
Similarly, be clear on the difference between “Finding love” and “building your home.” There are a lot of people whom I love but I’d never want to buy a home or raise children with them.
The more discreet you are, the harder it is to find someone with whom to build your home. Think it through in your mind about what a long-term relationship often requires: living together, merging your finances, hanging with mutual friends, and meeting each other’s family. Being discreet will always push against activities needed to form family, and vice versa.
When you meet your compatible partner, you won’t have to “seduce” him. On the one hand, be careful with the emphasis that Cypher Avenue places on seduction. On the other hand, heed the Cypher Avenue advice about being direct and “real.”
Don’t take masculinity too seriously; you might not need as much of it as you think in order to find a great relationship. Take a good, hard look at a lot of those straight guys around you; they’ve got some softness about them, and they’re doing just fine.
Don’t conflate masculinity with bravery.
Be clear on the mechanics of sexually transmitted diseases. It’s what you do, not where you do it. It’s possible to go to bathhouses and play parties with some regularity and risk nothing more than crabs. It’s also possible to date someone 3 or 4 times, have unprotected sex during a love making session, and come down with some nasty STDs.
When I lived in Boston, I played in the LGBT basketball league there. I remember having a conversation with a friend about the lack of black guys in our league. He replied that he knew of a team of discreet gay and bi black men who preferred to play in the city league.
Thanks to my client, I was reminded that group identities like race can create very different paths for gay and bi men. At the same time, let’s not kid ourselves about how discretion limits and hurts us all. Finally, as a masculine man myself, let’s all keep working on the progress needed to join our brave, more feminine brothers who have always been our flag bearers.
More at Baltimorelifecoachgerry.com.