I have this unwritten rule: if I meet a guy without having a proper date first – the "let’s go straight to bed" kind – then I can't have conversations about feelings, or any personal stuff for that matter. But if I like the guy enough after having a long conversation (or two), then it’s okay to hold back on sex until I’m certain the feeling is mutual. This was why I was taken aback when an older man I was having a tryst with recently started talking about feelings out of nowhere.
“I don’t have any friends,” he said.
“And why are you telling me this exactly?” I thought to myself. Discretion prevailed, so I kept my mouth shut.
I looked him in the eyes (more than once) and I could see that he was lonely. I knew this was true since he had told me even if I didn’t ask. It weirded me out because, well, look at my rules. That’s just how I operate. Also, he's married and I don't want to be involved with him on a personal level.
But at the same time, I feel sad for him. Sure, I don't want to be with someone who's married or will be married with a woman. But I don’t harbor any hatred for this kind. Because... well, “society happens!” I perfectly understand how hard it is for a lot of LGBT people just to accept who you are, or “coming in”. Even if that’s not the case, there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome. Questions like “Do I want to have a family of my own?” or “How will my twilight years look like?” might also be a source of nuisance.
Even without him telling me the specifics, I actually felt sad when he laid his heart on the line. I didn’t press him further on the matter, because I couldn't help him anyway. I know maybe he just needed someone else – another gay man – to listen to his story. But then again, I have my rules. I was also worried that he would grow too attached to me and I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle that, simply because I didn’t want to. I don't usually have this kind of worry but, with this particular man, I do.
Hearing his story made me think a lot about the realities faced by LGBT people of bygone generations. Some may have a support system, but many do not. Dating apps were not readily available, and even with these apps being at our disposal, a lot of older people are struggling to keep up with modern technology.
In the past, it was hard to find any information about LGBT stuff. Not impossible, but hard. These days, it’s everywhere. The Indonesian version of National Geographic even published a special edition on gender and sexuality back in January 2017. A few months ago, national weekly Tempo dedicated an issue to persecutions against LGBT Indonesians. Online media portals such as Tirto and BBC Indonesia, as well as The Jakarta Post daily also frequently cover LGBT issues.
It is inevitable, then, that many LGBT statesmen and stateswomen continue to seek cheap thrills, while still harboring the fear of coming out. Even if they’re out to one degree or another, loneliness is always hanging in the air. Many even cave in to the pressure of establishing a traditional, heteronormative family. In reality, they do (as do we) have a choice not to follow that path. However, I understand that it’s a very hard choice to make, even when some of us think (and feel) "it's easy!". It's hard because of the society we live in.
But blaming society doesn't help at all. If you wish to see a change in your society, it would be wise to start talking about these pressing issues for once – all things gender and sexuality – with anyone willing to uncover them at great length, especially our nearest and dearest, or, better yet, those still carrying on with false ideas on these complex matters.
One thing to remember is to take your time and keep it positive when having a discussion. Steer clear from the binary lingo. Instead of saying “Gay people are not [insert adjective here],”, you might want to tackle it from a less confrontational angle and say something along the lines of, “You know what, gay people could be your favorite cousin, your witty co-worker, the nice security officer at your bank,” and so on. Do NOT perpetuate the stereotypes; reduce them instead.
Equally important is to build and maintain a support system of your own. Don’t have one yet? Find it. Can’t find it yet? You will. There are always like-minded individuals ready to befriend you around the corner.
Be strong and stay strong! If you’re not there yet, keep trying to get stronger. Why? Because as much as we are together in this, your own strength is what will sustain the collective in the long run. It is this strength that will ensure we won’t fall into the trap of the victim mentality. We are not victims! In fact, we are survivors. And as survivors, it is our duty to help one another.
Budskiy is a single gay guy who loves reading, singing, writing, watching Netflix, and listening to Spotify. He also loves hanging out with friends once in a while (after which he’d feel really tired and love his room a lot more).
*Illustration by Karina Tungari.