too desperate for the internet

[Title] too desperate for the internet
[Deck] when love connections go offline
[Byline] virtual life > sean manson

Refresh. Did he reply? Refresh. He didn’t reply. Refresh. Why didn’t he reply? It’s been five days! It was a warm summer evening, and while the weather was calm and pleasant outside, I was the exact opposite inside. With a 90-per-cent chance of heartbreak, it appeared from the lack of response that my latest Internet romance had failed … again.

Ready to pack it in with a bottle of wine and the Bridget Jones Soundtrack, it suddenly hit me: I had known this guy for, what – seven online messages? We hadn’t even reached our inbox anniversary yet. Not only that, I had never actually met him, heard his voice, or for that matter, left my apartment.

I simply could not have a repeat of the last time: my VISA still suffering from my last binge in the Internet shopping bin. No, this was it – the final send. The greatest communications medium of the 20th century would have to temporarily wave “bye bye” to this redhead. If Romeo and Juliet did not need instant – messaging to be star-crossed lovers, than neither did I.

But I had doubts. By turning my back on the Internet as an electronic matchmaker, was I dooming myself to a life of early nights, utter despair, and financial security?

It was a year ago when I first considered using the world wide web as a potential tool for finding someone. After the majority of my coupled friends gleefully replied to the question “How did you two meet?” with responses involving “GayCanada,” “MySpace,” and so forth, I knew it was my turn. Of course, I remained skeptical about their unbridled technological optimism. Even I knew that HTML did not stand for “How to Meet Lovers.” But I should give it a try. So I registered online and threw my heart out into the digital void.

Even I knew that HTML did not stand for “How to Meet Lovers.”

At first, it seemed too good to be true. No more late nights, expensive bar tabs and costly cab rides home. All I had to do to employ a more economical method of dating was to create my own online profile. The process sounded much easier than it actually was. How does one sum up the magic of their entire being in 25 words or less? “I am Best Described As.” Indescribable? “A successful date would be.” Longer than 10 minutes and involve no text-messaging? “I am Looking For.” Someone who lives inside the city.

Yes, proximity is important. The first of my four unofficial Internet romances lived north of the city – 800 kilometers north. After messaging back and forth for a couple of weeks, the conversation suddenly stopped. Had I made a terrible typo? Was he lured away by another profile picture? Was it the rising cost of gas? I never found out. That was then followed by three more unofficial breakups and many more unanswered questions.

Call me naïve, but I don’t think I’m finished with the prospect of falling in love at first tight (insert laughing break here). At this point, I would rather cling to my delusions of grandeur – like meeting “the one” while sifting through the books in the McNally clearance section – before returning to “addicted-to-checking-my-inbox.ca”

But am I really dooming myself by crossing the net off my “how-to-meet-someone?” list? Well, maybe being old-fashioned isn’t that bad, after all. But at least out of all this I know one thing’s for sure; I will no longer have to put my heart at the mercy of someone’s slow typing skills and bad grammar.

Sean Manson is a playwright, a U of M student, and the new Outwords Inc. A&E editor-in-training.

Published: Outwords Inc. # 144 August 31 – September 27, 2007

the g bomb

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] the g bomb
[Byline] sean manson

It’s that one word that you never want to hear when you start to fall for someone of the same sex. It’s those two syllables that strike like a dagger to the heart when they’re uttered and sever any kind of possibility for a future relationship. It’s the “G” bomb. The last time it dropped, I swore I would never set myself up to hear it again. But this time was different, this time I could have sworn he didn’t have a … girlfriend. There is a right and wrong time to reveal your sexual preference when engaging with a person of the same sex. This is a story about the latter.

The setting was the Exchange District – the arts scene. Dressed bohemian chic with a touch of pretentiousness, I ventured into the depths of McDermot Avenue to take in the latest art gallery closing. Packed with fine artists carrying plastic wine cups, I knew I had walked the right door when I arrived. Not one to stand empty-handed, I headed straight for the bar and that was when I met him: the artist.

Aesthetically pleasing as some critics would say, I did not turn down the small-talk he initiated. At first I feared out conversation would evolve into a discussion including words like “modern” and “paint,” but I was pleasantly surprised. We hit it off right away. With him on the forefront of contemporary art and me on the leading edge of Microsoft Word, something in me felt there was a chance the night could hold as much potential as the artwork.

At first I feared out conversation would evolve into a discussion including words like “modern” and “paint,” but I was pleasantly surprised.

Maybe it was the smell of bohemia in the air that led my gaydar astray. But as we continued to talk I could not help but find myself standing on the corner of “Boyfriend” and “Material.” With thoughts of studio space and artsy scarves in my fine future, it was clear the artist had captivated me. As the night wound down and I geared up to ask him when we could meet again, it happened – as if all roads led to “do not pass go” – he dropped it: the “G” bomb.

As the dust settled it occurred to me that it was not the message that hit me this time, but its delivery. If his timing had been better, then a major explosion could have been averted. Had I made a move and he dropped it, nothing would have gone off. Had he brought it up earlier, I would have still had time to get under a table. But he didn’t.

So what’s the moral of this story, you ask? Easy. Next time you meet an artist in front of a bar, get him to buy you a plastic cup of wine first.

Published: Outwords # 145 September 28 – October 25, 2007

bright 'n' tight

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] bright ‘n’ tight
[Byline] by sean manson

For those of us who look better with more clothes on, fall and winter are the times to shine as far as fashion is concerned. I always rejoice when I can buff up with extra layers instead of thinking for hours about going to a gym. In the spirit of the stylish season, I accepted an invite to attend a good friend’s “Bright ‘n’ Tight” party. The invitation specified that unless you were wearing items from the implicit dress code, you would not be allowed through the door. Seeing as how my shirts seem to get tighter every year, I foresaw no problem with the request.

As I arrived at the party I was blinded by an influx of neon bodysuits, pastel leg warmers, and sequin pullovers. Quite suddenly it became readily apparent that my outfit was lacking more than just luster. To my shock and awe, my token-mo status at the party had been revoked simply by the fact that I didn’t look like an eighties gay bar. Feeling like the only gay in a flamingly heterosexual village I stopped to think, how much does a person’s style actually reflect their sexual preference?

My thoughts took me back to the day I bought my first pair of “gay pants.” Like a kid just coming home with new school supplies, I could not contain my excitement. Guaranteed to cut off circulation at the waste, I saw my fake-suede-polyester pants as my ticket to same-sex relationship success. It was not until my uncle asked me whether or not my new pants had a zipper that ran from the front to the back that I realized the error in my judgment.

Dysfunctional as it may be, the relationship between style and sexuality is a complicated one. And inevitably, discovering its ins and outs leads one directly into the world of stereotypes. Stereotypes are the reversible sports jacket of the fashion world. On the outside, they act as an incredibly useful guide when determining the right person to flirt with. Believe you me, finding Waldo when he is not wearing his classic stripes is not an easy task.

Dysfunctional as it may be, the relationship between style and sexuality is a complicated one.

But unfortunately life is not that red and white, and on the inside the deceptive little social conventions are more often misleading than helpful. I cannot even begin to explain how many metrosexuals I have accidentally fallen in love with. But it’s not their fault modern pop culture shifted the spotlight on sexual ambiguity to them.

So how much does a person’s style indicate their sexual preference? The answer is simply a lot, or not at all. It entirely depends on the individual. Looking around I may have not been the brightest or tightest person in attendance, but by the end of the night it didn’t matter. Because shortly after I stopped thinking I managed to steal some sequins anyways.

Published: Outwords Inc. #146 October 26 – November 27, 2007

the f word

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] the f word
[Byline] sean manson

There was something queer about the meeting I attended the other day, and for once it wasn’t just the people. At first I could not quite put my finger on it: this odd feeling inside, like something I had verbally ingested had just upset my unconscious. But than half way down the street I was struck by revelation and it all at once came back to me. As the street lamp shined its yellow light on me from above, it shed illumination on the cause of my queer reaction to such a normal affair: It was the “F” word, also known as Fag.

As my brain was kind enough to rewind the preceding events, the word came back to me over and over again. Never before had I been referred to as a fag in such frequency since Junior High. But this time was different, and not just because the braces were off and the clothes were tighter. This time the people on the other end of the slang were not repressed but the exact opposite, totally out. With enough light shed, and the fact that I look better in lower lighting accounted for, I continued on my way and wondered whether I had missed the reclamation memo announcing the “F” word had been taken back.

Reclaiming derogatory slang is something that is not new to the community whose acronym I can never get right. As Mariah Carey was awarded the Grammy award for “Best New Artist” in 1990, a raging battle was happening on the streets of New York as the term queer was being recaptured by a militant AIDS activist group named Queer Nation. Since then the controversial term has continued to gain positive adjectival power for those of us who consider ourselves as decorations that fell far from the tree.

My relationship with the term queer has been similar to all my other relationships to date, on and off. Once upon a time last year I encountered the word while on my way to the supermarket. It all happened when I walked passed a girl, who for naming purposes I shall refer to as Guerilla. In a bold move, Guerilla used her warfare tactics to freeze me in my tracks when she uttered the word at the exact moment our two personal space bubbles became one.

My relationship with the term queer has been similar to all my other relationships to date, on and off.

In defense, my initial reaction was to yell, “Nobody gets away with calling me queer unless it’s followed by ‘as’ and ‘Folk!’ But I didn’t, and before I could properly explain to Guerilla that her offensive vocabulary tactics were outdated she was long gone.

Coming into the New Year, the battle over the derogatory value of certain words is still as prominent as it was twenty years ago (minus the militancy). And as for my own use of the notorious “F” word when engaging in good ol’ queer conversation – well, I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to jump on that bandwagon yet. But in the meantime, I will continue my educational search for Guerilla so that she can come up with something different to call me next time.

Published: Outwords Inc.  #147, November 23, 2007 – January 4, 2008

i wanna hold your hand

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] i wanna hold your hand
[Byline] sean manson

The little school girl inside of me is always overjoyed when I see a queer couple holding hands out on the streets of this town. At the sight of such a rare occurrence, I am momentarily driven to run up and shower accolades over the brave couple like confetti. But selfishly that feeling soon passes, and I find myself enviously contemplating how long their happiness will last instead. But of course naturally I manage to repress all these emotions, as if the little girl inside of me were Catholic.

Just before winter hit this year with a diehard vengeance I was given the ultimate queer assignment in school. Fresh from studying gay and lesbian classics that involved themes ending in ‘ion’ (desolation, isolation, and desperation) my classmates and I were set to put our queer theory in to practice. In order to learn what “hetero-normative space” meant, we all ventured onto the tumbleweed blowing streets of downtown Winnipeg with hands-held in faux-same-sex-couple-bliss.

Paired up with a male classmate just as fabulous as I, for the purpose of this piece I shall refer to him henceforth as David. As if I were a hypothetical out Giovanni to his in David (in the most literary sense), it was apparent he was much less keen about taking our public display of affection outside the classroom. Never one to stray far from the limelight myself, I ensured him I would take into account all the reactions to our queer display. Setting off down Portage Avenue together hand-in-hand we knew there was no pride parade or men in buttless leather chaps this time to back us up.

Our first interior stop was The Bay, where the promise of designer labels and retail clerks seemed friendly enough. However, it appeared our tiny embrace was a little too scandalicious for some of the clientele. Stopping one older couple dead in their tracks, I was temped to ask them if we were in the right direction to get to Hell. In the Men’s Department, we almost gave another guy whiplash as the two of us walked passed. With a look of terror on his face, it seemed he would’ve been more comfortable if we stopped holding hands and started picking out clothes for him instead.

Aside from the glares and whispers, David and I shared a most pleasant time together on our academic tryst.

Aside from the glares and whispers, David and I shared a most pleasant time together on our academic tryst. I have to admit, I was taken a back (no pun intended) by some of the more notable reactions we received. Of course I realized our urban centre is more than a far cry from the homo-hopping Church Street, but even still I longed to make some kind of comparison. However, ultimately I still think our venture was worthwhile. Because even if one person in the closet managed to pass us by, I am confident the little school girls or boys inside of them would be just as hopeful as mine.

Published: Outwords Inc. # 148 January 4 – January 31, 2008

Sean Manson is a playwright, he has been published in Out in Canada, and he’s the A&E editor for Outwords Inc. magazine. He is working towards a B.A. in English at the University of Winnipeg.

chickens, cruising and cock

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] chickens, cruising and cock
[Byline] sean manson

If I could turn back time, I can tell you exactly what I would’ve wanted to receive at my coming-out party. If I could reach the stars, I would make the obvious Cher joke, but I digress. Besides general acceptance, I would’ve asked for a dictionary, a queer dictionary. And not just because I like words so much, because I do. But rather because I can’t even recall how many times such a book could’ve eased my dramatic exit from the closet. Navigating one’s way into the queer world is tricky enough without having to learn an entirely new vocabulary.

There are few times in this life that I have sympathized with Jessica Simpson, but the night I learned what “chicken” meant was one of them. Fresh out of failed heterosexuality I ventured into my first gay bar. As if the words “naïve” and “oblivious” were stamped on my forehead, I was perplexed at why I was being called chicken; at least in grade school they gave me time to run away first. However once I realized the not-obvious metaphor, I knew it would be a while before I made it off the farm. Had I chance to speak to Jessica then, I would’ve informed her that chickens did not come from the sea but rather from the suburbs.

It was that same evening that I also discovered another important ‘C’ word … cruising. Found right under creepy and just above crystal, I was unaware of the popular mating habit of my forefathers. Nervously nursing a beer with my best friend and fellow hen, I was shocked when she told me I already had a stalker. Apparently for the last two extended-remix songs, he had been staring at me from the bar entrance. As I confirmed that yes, it was true and no, I did not have lipstick on my teeth we both made a b-line for the back exit. Knowing now that he was not insane but just interested, I think the night could’ve ended on a much less terrifying note.

Found right under creepy and just above crystal, I was unaware of the popular mating habit of my forefathers.

But those words were minor compared to my ignorance about any kind of sexual terminology. Thanks to Queer as Folk I had learned what a rim-job was, but I was still baffled when it came to the words top and bottom. My Catholic high-school sex-ed class taught me everything I needed to know about saving myself for marriage but nothing about man-on-man intercourse. Of course the true definitions of some words are better left to learn on your own.

Queer life wouldn’t be nearly as exciting if it weren’t for all the double-meanings, euphemisms, and abbreviations that characterize its language. Conducting a little internet search I discovered, that at the touch of my fingertips there are more than 1,400 different words to describe ‘penis.’ With that in mind, it’s ironic I had so much trouble articulating my sexual preference. With over a thousand words to choose from, you’d think I’d easily have figured out I liked the one-eyed throbbing python of love.

Published: Outwords Inc. #149 February 2008

roses, vomit and romance

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] roses, vomit and romance
[Byline] sean manson

First dates are some of the trickiest beasts I have ever had to deal with. From my early forays into romance at the ripe old age of fourteen, I can remember their potentially disastrous nature. After testing out the ‘fake-yawn-arm-around-the-shoulder’ move with my first girlfriend at the movie theatre, I accidentally elbowed her in the side of the face. That and the fact that I was a raging homo made it clear our love was not meant to be. Be it thirteen or eighty-two, the prospect of new romance can be equally as terrifying as it can be magically delicious. This next story is about a first date that went so wrong, it turned out alright.

That and the fact that I was a raging homo made it clear our love was not meant to be.

After flirting with the option to refer to the date in question as ‘Dreamboat,’ upon further consideration I have decided upon ‘Jack’ instead. (I also realized that I am not a twelve-year-old-girl.) After meeting a couple of times, Jack and I set our first date a week in advance: 8:00 pm, his place, the following Saturday night. If my math is right, I had just less than 10,000 minutes to stress about it. After consenting to a personal mental agreement not get too worked up about it, I spent the next days doing exactly that.

Once the day had finally arrived I had successfully shaved, naired, clipped, exfoliated, and detoxified everything above and below the neck. Denying the fact that my before and after shots looked exactly the same, I removed my narcissistic self from in front of the mirror. But tragedy had struck! I looked great but did not feel it. My stomach was in knots and I blamed it on the nerves. Taking deep yoga breaths I tried to calm myself. But I ended up cursing whoever came up with that cutesy butterflies saying instead.

Arriving casually but totally intentionally late at his place, I decided a glass of red was just what I needed to kill the vicious butterfly suckers in my stomach. Like an alcoholic who had just relapsed, I drank to ignore the pain. But alas I reached the point-of-no-return. Twenty-minutes into our date I apologized, excused myself, and proceeded to be sick in his washroom. Watching my first impression flush down the drain, I longed to escape the literal and figurative mess I had just created.

Asking me if I was alright, Jack knocked on the door. As I walked over to open it, I found him standing there with the benevolent offer of mouthwash. Gladly accepting, the only thing I could think to say in return was, “that’s one way to draw attention to my mouth.” Unbelievably afterwards, I felt better and we carried on to have an excellent night. Of course jokingly I reassured him that I generally only throw-up to lose weight.

All in all I learned two things: the first being that if it’s meant to work out it probably will. And second, don’t ever confuse butterflies with the flu.

Published: Outwords Inc. #150 February 2008

gay nostalgia

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] gay nostalgia
[Byline] sean manson

Once upon a Friday night at the gay bar, I was caught off guard when someone else was caught with their pants down. It all happened as I was engaging in some casual liquid therapy. Attracted to the pulsating beats of the artist formerly known as Britney Spears, I gravitated towards the dance floor when I saw the half-naked boy in question being dragged off it.

I must admit that it takes quite a bit to shock me these days, especially here in gay ol’ Winnipeg. But something about the sight of this scantily-clad queer youth threw me for a loop. As I did my best Emmett under the neon lights, I struggled to put my finger what exactly was troubling me. Something told me he previously had no problems putting his finger on it, but that is beside the point. Then just like a prayer it struck me! Maybe it was the music, or maybe it was just insight – but I was jealous. I wanted to be caught with my pants down! Well not exactly.

A little Freudian part of me cannot help but feel envious as kids come out younger and younger these days. Do not get me wrong, I am more than happy for them … yeah pride! But in the utmost symbolic sense, in their jovial carelessness I see the reflection of a gay past I missed out on. It’s not like given the chance I would drop my pants as soon I could turn back the clock. But sometimes I do wonder what life at eighteen would’ve been like outside the closet. That is until I see a picture from my childhood.

As soon as I fumble through a family photo album or pick up a yearbook, it always occurs to me how misled I am. Who I am kidding I missed out on a homosexual past? I knew from the second I left a vagina that I would never be going back. Nothing about my elementary days was heterosexual and certainly nothing about my adolescence was either. Sure, maybe I didn’t get to make out with any boys at high school dances, but that never stopped me from awkwardly staring at them.

I knew from the second I left a vagina that I would never be going back.

Clearly I realized that all this heavy thinking at the bar could only mean one thing – I did not have enough to drink. As I headed back to the bar with another five dollars in my hand, I could not help but smile. Because like him, I too had finally been able to put my finger on it. And in my books, on Friday night at the gay bar, that most definitely equals a happily ever after.

Published: Outwords Inc. # 151 March 28 – May 15, 2008

do you march often?

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] do you march often?
[Byline] column by sean r. manson

Like my over-priced character apartment, spring and I have a love and hate relationship.As the temperature begins to rise, so does my stock of SPF 45. There is nothing hotter than the smell of a good sunscreen. I can recall all those warm nights at the bar when gentlemen callers would stroll my way and caught off guard by my scent stop to ask what I was wearing. My seductively casual reply would always be the same, “Coppertone, and you?” Yet why I have remained single continues to be a mystery.

But seeing as how this is the pride issue, I have decided to stop waxing poetic about myself and spring and instead muse about myself and pride. From some of the flaming stereotypes that I have perpetuated in the past, people may think that pride is my middle name. But contrary to popular belief it is not … because it is Robert.

A couple of weeks ago I talked to a most fascinating man about his first pride at Winnipeg’s first pride in 1987. At nineteen while he was preparing to march I was just learning how to walk. He relayed to me how he arrived at the parade anticipating masks would be supplied in order to cover-up. When there were none, people started using paper-bags in their place. Not partial to the bag look, he opted to discreetly wear a hat and designer sunglasses instead.

What a difference twenty years makes.

My first pride almost two full decades later was characterized by a considerably different experience. Of course I was concerned about appearances, but not in the same way my gaycestors were. My apprehensions were much shallower. With illusions of attracting a lover, I tucked my walking shoes away in the closet and polished up my loafers. Practicing pick-up lines in the mirror like “Do you march often?” and “That’s a nice pink triangle you got there” by the time I arrived at the parade I almost missed it.

Of course I was concerned about appearances, but not in the same way my gaycestors were.

Catching up to the rest of the crowd, no matter how fast or slow I walked I always seemed to end up behind the “gays for Christ” banner. Submitting to my fate, I decided to take my holy position in the parade as a sign. And like so many Christians before me I begged the eternal question, “why am I here?” Pride is not just about looking fabulous on Portage Avenue and Broadway. I call those days’ weekdays. Pride is about strength in numbers. (Kidding!) This is starting to read like a grade four assignment called “what is pride?” Heck I might as well go with it.

For me pride is the moment that comes in the middle of the parade, when you cannot see where the march began in front of you or where it ends behind you. And if in that moment someone happens to notice my fantastic loafers than that is just peaches.

Published: Outwords Inc. #152 May 16 – June 19, 2008

like a top

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] like a top
[Byline] column by sean robert

The other night I was overcome by an epiphany: to get to the bottom, one must always start on the top. Allow me to explain.

So here’s the story – you (and by you I clearly mean me) dress up in a powerhouse outfit to fly solo to an intellectual gathering of the city’s leading artists and theatre types. Now that you are accepting application forms again for your love, you are self-confident and unquestionably fabulous.

Arriving at the downtown theatre venue, your intent for the evening is not to attract gay men like moths to your burning flame: but are you ready in the likely event that should happen.

As you enter the theatre you look for a seat where you can blend into the crowd. After all, you do not want to take all the attention off the stage. But as it turns out rush seating is not in your cards, and (not happily) you proceed to take your empty seat, in an even more vacant row.

But then, just as your confidence begins to wane, a miracle happens. As if the god of homosexual men had finally cut you a break for once, a gorgeous gay man takes the seat right next to you. Suddenly, trying to act a little less desperate than usual, you take your eyes off him and on to the program and panic-struck ask yourself the question, what do I do?

Do you seize the opportunity knowing that like your outfit, you are in fact a gay powerhouse? (Not to mention the fact that finding gay men outside club(s) in this city is an almost impossible feat.) Or do you fall apart like Joey Potter on Dawson’s Creek overcome by a wave of low self-esteem and your underlying fear of rejection?

Well if you were me you would have chosen the latter and run. And oh yes, run I did, right past the cheap champagne bar and straight on home to my safe empty bed. But as I lay there, that’s when the epiphany came all over me.

One cannot be a bottom in life and expect to achieve the same satisfying results as in the bedroom. No, one has to grab life by the balls like a top, and for heavens sakes stop when they get to the bloody champagne bar.

One cannot be a bottom in life and expect to achieve the same satisfying results as in the bedroom.

Had I carpé diemed my way in there that night instead of passively rolling over, who knows what could’ve happened? Had I also been accompanied by my best friend Shiraz I’m sure none of this would have been a problem. And who cares if I would’ve been rejected? It’s not like I haven’t faced potential rejection from my best friends, family, church, culture or greater society before.

So next time I find myself blessed by the homosexual gods, I will take a moment, excuse myself to the washroom, and like Junior from Cool Runnings look in the mirror and say, “I see Pride! I see Power! I see a bad-ass mother who won’t take no crap off nobody!” (Or something like that.) But if that doesn’t work, then there is also something to be said about the health benefits of running.

Published: Outwords Inc. #153 June 20 – July 17, 2008

the holy grail

[title] the holy grail
[byline] by Sean Robert

So I had two options when I got home last Saturday night: stay home and sulk over relationships-gone-wrong past à la Bridget Jones or go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday at one of the city’s hottest new clubs.

As a fabulously functioning alcoholic, both choices provided me with an excellent excuse to have a drink; the only real difference between the two was the price. And what a price! After making the decision to go out and reflecting on my bank account balance the next day, there was no doubt hosting my own pity party would have been much financially smarter. But as I always say: the best times are priceless, and those that aren’t can be taken care of by my boyfriend VISA.

Back to the club – after spreading them and getting padded down by the bouncer (a security precaution I can’t help but delight in) I made my way up a luminescent staircase that was spray painted with all the neon colours of an 80’s rainbow. For a moment I thought I was Vanilla Ice, but then when I saw the bling on the guy behind me I quickly got over that thought.

As I made my way to the bar I thought: why do I always make relationships the holy grail of my existence? With the amount of bending over backwards (no pun intended) I do to find one, you’d think that I was less like Bridget and more like Indiana Jones in the Gay Crusade. Part of me feels like if I don’t drink from, or rather pick the right one my being will melt or even worse spontaneously combust. But the other part of me feels like if I don’t stop looking soon, I am going to miss everything else that is precious right in front of me.

Making my way on to the dance floor, in the utmost poetic sense, a totally unassuming girl knocked the sight right out from me. (Carried away by the electro-beats she literally hit me in the face and knocked my glasses off.) And when I managed to put them back on, for the first time in what felt like ages, I could finally see what was right there all along. Not sadness or pain but just bunch of guys; a bunch of guys dancing atrociously with their girlfriends. And one very pretentious gay in me scrutinizing their every step and move.

They always say that as soon as you stop looking you will find what you were searching for. Well had I been a rugged heterosexual man that night, it turned out that would have most definitely been the case. Hit on by three girls throughout the course of the evening, it was a three-hundred percent increase from the number of guys I have been hit on at the gay bar in the last year. Maybe it was my testosterone-ish facial hair that led them astray, or perhaps it was something more.

Perhaps on some unconscious level they had sensed I had found the Holy Grail they were looking for. I can’t tell you exactly what that is – but I can give you the faith that like Indiana, you will know it once you see it. 

gaymencessories

[Title] fabulous disposition
[Deck] gaymencessories
[Byline] by sean robert

One feverish night at the gay bar, out of nowhere my best girl erupted at me “I am just your accessory!” and made a break for the washroom. “As if!” I gasped frantically following behind her. Using the harsh sounds of her stilettos as my guide, I traced her steps all the way down to the basement. And navigating my way through all the men in the women’s washroom, I found her.

Exasperated she shot at me, “You only use me for show! That’s it!” Thinking she was going to break in to a verse next from Carly Simon’s “You’re so vain,” I quickly thought about what could’ve triggered this attack. Maybe it was something someone slipped in her drink, or just the fact that I may have kind of ditched her at the first sight of a penis – but deep down inside of me, I knew that she was right.

Gay men use women as accessories all the time. Whether they call them wives, hags, or BFF’s there is definitely an element of show to every Will and Grace out there. But that is not to say it cannot, and does not work the other way around. I can recall several times in my life when I have been used by female friends as a gaymancessory. I have been taken out like a purse, twirled around like a scrunchy, and shone off like a pearl necklace. Allow me to explain.

Less than a month after I crossed over to the pink side, my not-so-close friend Claire called me out of the blue to go shopping with her. “Oh my god,” she said reeking of ulterior motives, “it’s so great that you’re gay now because I have been dying for someone to buy clothes with!” And so my life as a purse began. Strapped on like a cheap Gucci knockoff, I linked arms with an endless array of girls on their way to the mall. And like any bag, once they got tired of me they would try on something different at the next sign of a boy who swished.

As far as scrunchies are concerned, Carrie Bradshaw said it best when she exclaimed that a Manhattan girl would never be caught dead in public bearing the neon colours of the elastic accoutrement; this gaymancessory is largely used behind-the-scenes. Just like women use the material elastics to keep their hair together when it is a mess, they use metaphorical gay men scrunchies to keep their straight lives together when they fall apart.

They use metaphorical gay men scrunchies to keep the straight lives together when they fall apart.

I cannot tell you how many times I have received the late night phone call that goes “as a gay man, you of all people must know what it feels like to be alone.”

Last but most fabulously not least is the pearl necklace. Now I know what you’re thinking – but I am referring to the one that comes off one’s neck without a towel. That beloved necklace is only shown off on the most special of occasions: best friend’s weddings, graduations, family reunions and etc. Regardless of whether the rest of the party knows I wear my sunglasses at night, I have attended many an event as the pearly plus one of several of my single female friends. That said, always one to relish the spotlight, this detail is by far my favourite use.

Gaymencessories are everywhere. So next time you are accused of treating your girl like nothing more than an accessory, just remember all those trips to the mall, late-night phone calls, or countless weddings you were dragged to against your will. And then look at her, and smile.

Published: Outwords Inc. #155 September

fashion hurts

[Title] fabulous disposition
[Deck] fashion hurts
[Byline] by sean robert

I don’t know much in this life, but I do know one thing: with fall comes great fashion. As the yellow leaves begin to plummet to the ground, I cannot help but revel in one of my favourite pastimes: layering. After an uninspiring summer of t-shirts and shorts, the thought of being able to combine clothes together once again is like music to my ears.

However, as the world turns, such fabulous style does not come without a devastating price. And that number is not just listed on tag. No, much worse, it is cruelly measured by the fall of mercury in a kitchen thermometer. And so to revise my previous statement: with fall, not only comes great fashion, but also frigid temperatures and dire illness.

With this in mind, the following is a story of how fall once ruined my sex life.

Ravaged by last year’s cold and flu season, my body launched a full-out war against me.

With months before my next scheduled doctor’s appointment, I was left with no choice but to become a regular at my local walk-in clinic. For months I became medically promiscuous, opening wide for every new physician that walked in the door.

Several trips and minor illnesses later, I realized something quite suspicious: no matter what symptoms I presented each doctor with, their medical prognosis was always the same: an STI. After waking up one morning with a mysterious rash on my upper body, I proceeded to get it checked out. Needless to say my mouth dropped when after taking one look, the practitioner asked me if was sexually active and then told me the first sign of H.I.V is a rash.

Despite my attempts to convince the medical authorities I was Miss Monogamy Sunshine, my efforts were futile. Within moments of each doctor’s arrival, I wouldn’t even have to say anything before they’d peg me as the whore of Babylon. The next time I walked into a different physician’s office with a sore throat, I walked out five minutes later with two pills for Chlamydia, three for gonorrhea and a blood test for herpes.

Naively, during all that time, I never once stopped to think how my penchant for flailing scarves might translate in the medical world. Unbeknownst to me every time a doctor walked in, my crossed legs and fabulous outfits were accompanied by flashing lights on top my head that blinked “high-risk group.”

My crossed legs and fabulous outfits were accompanied by flashing lights on top my head that blinked “high-risk group.”

For months afterwards my experience with the public health system left me with an irrational fear of anything sex-related. Never once in that time was I actually diagnosed with an STI, but that did not stop me from still thinking I had syphilis every time I came home from Gio’s.

The moral of the story is that if you want a healthy sex life during cold and flu season, dress down every time you visit the doctor.

Published: Outwords Inc. #156 October 2008

memoirs of a redhead

[Title] memoirs of a redhead
[Byline] by sean robert

With dreams of green tea and sake, I recently found myself on a trip to the other side of the world also known as Japan. Stepping off the plane a jet-lagged day later, my imagination started to run wild with thoughts of what mysteries my adventure could possibly bring. That suspense was quickly put to rest however when I learned my first stop in the new world was the exact same one I left, Starbucks.

Resigning myself to a globalized fate, I had almost lost my joie de vivre when by a double long shot; the barista behind the counter offered me a demitasse of hope. Without a clue as to what he was actually saying, I knew on some level that we both spoke the language of gay.

Questioning me in Japanese whether I wanted tall, grandé or venti, for a moment I thought we were talking about something much more than cup size. But deciding to play it safe, I settled for a balance between the two and walked away thinking: is gay Japan really all that different from homosexual Winnipeg?

I knew on some level that we both spoke the language of gay.

My initial tryst at the international gay bar reassured me that some aspects of queer culture do transcend borders. This was also the case I soon discovered, with language. Half-way into my trip I had picked up two essential Japanese words to take back in my suitcase with me: neko (bottom) and arigato (thanks). After all, being a Canadian I had to make sure I knew how to be polite.

However I did come to the realization that, as far as fashion is concerned across the Pacific Ocean, queer style does not translate. Blending into a sea of designer shirts and silk pink ties, if I was that optimistic, I would’ve thought the entire country was covered in gay men. Accustomed to feeling like a pride float every time I leave the house in here in Winnipeg, I was surprised when in Kyoto, not one of my outfits managed to muster a second look.

As if they had been stripped of their sexual orientation, I slowly became aware of the fact that my clothes no longer signified flaming to the general population. Having flown off a North American sexual map so rigidly divided into stereotypes and small spaces, it was refreshing to leave the hotel and walk down the street just feeling like me.

That said, on the flipside of the equation I hadn’t the foggiest clue as to how to tell which Japanese men were family from those that were not. As a result of this I decided it best to stick near every coffee shop I could find. Because if there is one thing I learned on my trip, it is that it doesn’t matter if you’re at the corner of River and Osborne or deep within the gates of the Tokyo airport, where there is caffeine there are gay men.

Published: Outwords Inc. #158 December 2008

in loving memory of

[Title] in loving memory of
[Byline] by sean robert

“Finally, it has happened to me/Right in front of my face/My feeling’s can’t describe it” belted out Ce Ce Peniston as I nervously embarked into Club Desire for the very first time. The sound blasting, lights flashing and smoke billowing, I can remember that night as if it was yesterday. A hot Saturday in July, even though the sun was gone the temperature in and outside the club was still searing. Fresh out of the closet and barely legal, I found myself lost in a sweaty crowd that overflowed the main dance floor and spilled out on to the patio. Clichéd as one can possibly be, the thought streamed across my mind, “this night is the first of my entire life:” and in a sense it was.

Fresh out of the closet and barely legal, I found myself lost in a sweaty crowd.

Less than six months later I recall the sound of hundreds of mini-champagne bottles popping as I brought in New Year’s 2004 with a group of my closest friends. Dressed considerably gayer (and most definitely more humiliating) than my first night, I set out to seduce the object of my affection behind the bar. Unbeknownst to me the man on the other side of my spiced rum and coke was straight, I proceeded to spend my entire allowance in his tip jar. Naïve as an optimistic gay youth can be, once my pockets were empty I asked him he if he took VISA after he told me he’d take his shirt off for $50.

I’ve always been the first one to say “a gay bar is a gay bar is a gay bar.” After spending late nights on the streets of Church, Davie and St. Catherine’s I came to the conclusion fairly quickly that it doesn’t matter where you are in this country: the men, music and drinks are all the same. That said I am also the first person to readily admit I take these places for granted. For as large as Canada is, the square footage in which you can dance with, hold hands and kiss your partner pales in comparison. And with all politics aside, in this prairie town that space has now become smaller.

It was that same December 31st that I felt the burn of stubble for the first time, receiving my first male kiss. Rubbing my upper lip afterwards, I whispered under my breath in an enlightened yet devastated tone “so this is what it feels like to be gay.” Half a decade later, I am filled with memories of endless Saturday nights that I can hardly remember but will never forget. For many queer Winnipeggers, Happenings holds the key to their fondest recollections. For me it is Desire.

It makes me smile now when I think back to how much I had to learn that first night I stepped in the old bank’s entrance. Locked in the vault of my mind forever more is the sight of an optimistically terrified redhead: who cowered underneath the sight of his first drag queen and entered the men’s washroom filled with trepidation. Like any bar, the faces have long changed since then but the memories will always remain the same.

Published: Outwords Inc. #159 January 2009

modern romance in three acts

[Title] modern romance in three acts
[Byline] by sean robert

It was love at first text-message, or so I thought.

The first act of the play found the two of us meeting as most modern lovers do, on the internet. He, a size-12 Times New Roman, was bold and confident, while I on the other-keyboard was relatively more modest Arial Narrow. Measuring in two-points smaller, I recognized my spacing could be a titch too tight – but knew I had the smooth edges to make up for it.

By the end of our initial instant conversation, against all odds he had managed to pass my final test: a spelling and grammar check. So I awarded him with my phone number, and as the curtain went down, sat eagerly awaiting his call.

Act II found me at home the following Friday night, ecstatic to see a text-message with his name on it. Replying back right away like any desperate gay man would, it was not long before I found myself on my first text-date. New to the technology then, he taught me everything I know. And after easing me into T9, we were well on our way to filling each others inboxes.

Curled up on the couch with a bottle of Cab in one hand, and my cell phone squeezed tight in the other, I was happy to not be alone. That was until another three hazy hours later, when I stumbled across the major problem with our first digital date. After texting goodnight I realized my hand was sore, but for all the wrong reasons.

Curled up on the couch with a bottle of Cab in one hand, and my cell phone squeezed tight in the other, I was happy to not be alone.

Taking an intermission to gather my thoughts, I pondered how the digital revolution has not only changed the way we interact with one another, but also the way we form relationships. I figured that if my text-message lover and I could not carry a conversation over the phone, then there was no chance we could shoot the breeze over Sunday breakfast without killing it first.

When the net began invading peoples’ homes in the mid-90’s, it seemed Sandra Bullock was the only one smart enough to run. Let it be said that I do not deny the benefits many individuals have experienced with the formation of online communities. For many people, small-town queer kids and closeted-folk included, virtual reality can provide the escape that actual reality cannot.

My only problem pops-up, when the lived existence of our everyday lives becomes a bit too artificial. Last year I was reproached by a boy after I chose not to list myself as “in a relationship” on Facebook, when he clearly did. I was surprised to overhear myself tell him in defense that the thought of ‘de-listing’ myself online, seemed more devastating to me, than the idea of us actually breaking up.

Returning to close the third act, the two of us carried on text-dating until it was clear our love affair would never leave the two-inch screen of my cellular phone. The real tragedy however did not come until a month later when I opened up my actual mailbox. It appeared that with no text-plan to speak of at the time, after all that I got stuck with the bill.

just a gay intuition

[Title] just a gay intuition
[Byline] by sean robert

I knew it was love at first drink order, when he pulled out a bottle of his feature Cabernet. As he took time to describe the delicate tastes of the wine before me, I was confident that it would only be a matter of time before I showed him my feature red. The handsome server in question was well-balanced, medium-bodied and most definitely wooded. However, his sexual ambiguity left me questioning how fruity his character actually was.

Prior to the appetizer, I had no doubts he could be flaming enough to singe a crème brulee. But closer to the main course, he started to cool enough. Pulling an Anderson Cooper 360º, I was amazed at how fast he had managed to turn full circle from gay to straight right before my very eyes. As the dinner went on, I found myself in an arousing game of Clue to guess his sexual orientation. I only hoped the answer I was looking for involved a bedroom and a candlestick.

Flustered by the time dessert had arrived, I was left wondering: was it just my gaydar that was experiencing technical difficulties? Or was it that my gay sixth sense was simply ineffective, in a world where the line between gay and straight was no longer as clearly defined?

It was only a short time after homosexuality was invented in the late 1800’s that gaydar came into existence. Once Oscar Wilde was convicted of being fabulous, the message to Western gay men was clear: if you are flaming, you will get burned. Forced into walk-in closets and even worse outfits, dandies had no choice but to develop a sixth sense in order to find one another. Refining a good sense of gaydar was the only hope these men had to hit on others of the same sex, without getting hit too hard back.

It was only a short time after homosexuality was invented in the late 1800’s that gaydar came into existence.

Except that was then, and this is now. And in this country, believe you me things have changed. Today we live in a society where more gay men design their closets than live in them. Since it is no longer necessary for homosexuals to conform to such rigid stereotypes in order to point one another out – the meaning of gay signifiers like the platinum hair-do and use of the word fabulous have lost their prominence. Nowadays, having a good sense of gaydar doesn’t matter so long as one has access to the internet or $5 to get in a bar.

Returning to reality back at my table, I realized the answer to my question. It was not my gay intuition that was malfunctioning. Rather, my sexually confusing server was just proof that in today’s world, something things are no longer as gay or straight.

Of course that was until I saw him working the over-sized pepper grinder and knew: a gay man could never be that careless with an object that size or shape.

the case of the dateless boy

[Title] the case of the dateless boy
[Byline] by sean robert

I’ve always said that I look better in lower lighting. That is why it comes as an absolute mystery (if not downright travesty!) why I have yet to get a date at the bar on a Friday night.

Far from the horrendous glow of fluorescent lighting and close to hundreds of men whose vision is slightly impaired: by logic, you would think that men would be lining up to buy me drinks. But judging from my dismal track record as of late, by jove I can assure you, I don’t got it!

The unsettling nature of my dilemma led me to seek direct help with an insightful friend who has been known on more than one occasion, to have the answers to my life’s problems. After inviting him over for a delicious dinner fit for two starving students, I began to lay him out the facts.

Starting with a vodka-martini appetizer, I told him that it could not be my outfits, because I have spent thousands of dollars to ensure they are fabulous. I also told him that I was fairly sure it was not my scent, because what man does not love the smell of spiced rum and coke after midnight?

Moving into our full-bodied main course, I disclosed to him the private details about how I am a closet-Narcissus, and told him about the strange feeling that has overcome me, only while at the club. “Sometimes it just feels like, like you know, the pond has dried up.” Grappling the gravity of my situation, he pried me for more details and the two of us moved anxiously into our fortified dessert.

Suddenly, when it seemed like we had exhausted every possible reason as to why, against all odds, I kept bottoming out – I got it. My brain working a tenth-a-mile a minute I stumbled over my words to him, “It’s not that, I’m not hot…It’s just that, I’m not hot at the bar.” Having broken on through to the other side, the two of us felt it more than appropriate to award ourselves with a drink to celebrate.

For those of us who do not look like we just walked out of a Bruce Weber photograph, the club might not be the best place in which we can properly strut our stuff. I mean please. There is no way that I can compete with a set of biceps, when the only exercise I get during the week, is from turning the page of a textbook, or lifting a 10oz. glass of red wine. Case in point, this is why I love Pride so much.

There is no way that I can compete with a set of biceps, when the only exercise I get during the week, is from turning the page of a textbook, or lifting a 10oz. glass of red wine.

Pride is the one week in the year, in which gays in this town can be lured out of their homes without the promise of drink specials. Whether you are a movie-lover, baseball player, poet, or roller-skater: the week’s festivities actually offer something for everyone under the rainbow. And if you are like me and have developed freakishly good legs after walking everywhere this winter, the march is the one day in which you can hold your shorts up high and say, “Screw you biceps, I have killer calves.”

the mo must go on

[Title] the mo’ must go on
[Byline] by sean robert

Inspired by the Pet Shop Boys, I recently moved west. Signing the lease on a cute studio with a mountain-top view, I packed my umbrella next to my entire existence, and boarded a one-way flight to the Pacific Ocean. Arriving at the airport with only myself to meet me, I puffed up my chest, tucked my designer scarf in my jacket pocket and thought, “now I am a man.”

Scrambling to balance my fourteen pieces of luggage on top of each other, I wobbled over to the rental car place, and presented the kind lady behind the blue-topped counter with my credit card and two pieces of I.D. Seconds later, she looked at me with a minimum-wage-smile and said, “I’m sorry but you have to be 25 to rent a car here.” In absolute disbelief, I returned her apology and said, “there must be a misunderstanding, because you see, now I am a man.”

When anyone asks me why I decided to move to Vancouver, I tell them the answer is simple: I ran out of men to stalk in Winnipeg. But in all seriousness, my reason for moving here has nothing do with the same sex (for once). I am not Jennifer Hudson and I did not come to the big city to “find love.” I mean please, who needs love when three liquor marts and a beach filled with shirtless men are right down the street?

Fact of the matter is, before this redhead can spread his legs, he needs to spread his wings first. And so the desire to pursue a fresh start, is the reason why I kissed all my friends and family goodbye.

Before this redhead can spread his legs, he needs to spread his wings first.

One of my favourite quotes in this life is by an author named Unknown and reads across coffee mugs, “life is not about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.” Waking up each day to a new setting and cast of characters, I feel as if I am doing exactly that. Crawling out of bed in the morning, I first check to see if the mountains are still there, and once that is done, walk over to the mirror and ask, “how would you like to write yourself today?” Rest assured however, my leading man will always be penned well-dressed and fabulous.

With my West Jet-exodus from the prairies, I started a new volume in my twenty-something life and closed the cover to an old one. And so it comes with the first pages of this West Coast story, that I must conclude the one I left back at home. And so without further a due, I must say goodbye, but just for now. For those of you who have been with me for the last two years, through all the bad dates, flaming mishaps, and major name changes, I wish to thank you for reading. I have enjoyed opening up the curtains on my life for you and look forward to continuing our relationship in the future. For those of you who have been with me for the last five hundred words, this is a good time to catch up.