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A Gay Man's Struggle With Identity

I was a little late getting to the party. It was not until I think 2015 or 2016 that I found my way to Grindr and Scruff. I had been in a long term monogamous relationship, so I had no need for them. When my relationship ended I went running to the apps. I could not remember what it was like to have sex with anyone else and boy was I excited.

Picture of Mike in Upstate New York.

After much trial and error and some help from a friend I had my profiles ready and was set to go. I can still recall how scared I was at first to put my face picture up and have people see me. I remember thinking what if someone I know sees me. It took me a while to realize that they were on the apps also. If anyone had told me in a years time I would have pics of me up in a leather motorcycle jacket and bare chest, I would have told them they were crazy.

When I first got on I was totally amazed at the number of guys trying to hook up. At first I was so excited I hadn't seen this much action for years or probably ever. Eventually I had to stop the notifications, they were disrupting my life. At first I tried to be polite and answer everybody. It took me a while to realize this was not possible and I made up some rules for myself. It has been so long I can’t remember what they were but they seemed to work with only a few people telling me I was an asshole.

The few years I spent on Grindr and Scruff looking for sex was quite an experience. I learned more about the gay world and myself than I could have imagined. As for sex I probably spent more time looking for it then actually having it. Also the more I had the more I wanted. Up to this point I was pretty inexperienced sexually so in many ways I tried to look at it as a great chance to see what I really enjoyed.

I tried to learn to be a good bottom and a better top. I learned about sex toys. I learned about role play. I learned about the different lingo. I did my best to be a good study. I always tried to keep an open mind. I could not believe how much I had missed out on. In addition I was learning plenty about the gay world. In the past I had not spent that much time with gay guys. I was having a field day. If you looked hard enough, whatever you wanted was there.

Mike in leather harness.

Slowly it got to the point though where I only had sex on the brain. In the evenings I would be out with friends or at some sort of event and start looking at my watch. All I could think about was getting home and looking for some fun. While lying in bed trying to hook up I had to watch how. many loads I shot or I would be a complete waste when I finally hooked up.. Nothing is wrong with this but suddenly I was not doing other things I enjoyed and often I didn’t even hookup. I was letting Grindr, Scruff and the thought of sex take up to much of my life.

What was causing this preoccupation? It was time for a little self-examination. Why was I allowing these apps to become such a big part of my life. Could sex really be that important to me or could I be trying to fill some other void and what was that void. Even though I liked hearing, you're so good looking, you have a great body, your so sexy, you have a big dick. I never needed those affirmations before.

I noticed that many times after a hookup left my house I felt less fulfilled than before they came. Maybe I wasn’t looking for sex after all. I did enjoy texting with some of the people more than the sex. I thought I might be looking for a boyfriend but if that were the case I would go to a dating app not a sex app. ( I do believe these days that Scruff and Grindr have now included dating in their apps.)

It slowly began to dawn on me that I was looking for some sort of connection. Not necessarily friends but some sort of connection. I thought this was kind of odd. I had a good amount of friends and close friends who I had known for years. I also took some classes at NYU. I was pretty social, involved in the art world and a few charities. I was surrounded by all different types of people.

Mike is just feeling good.

I told myself that I was going to spend a little less time on the apps and beating off, and keep myself busy with other areas of my life. This for the most part kept me off the apps. I always say if you want to stop yourself from doing something the best cure is exhaustion. The void did not disappear. It took a while but then it clicked I felt a certain loneliness. (Not sure if loneliness is the right word).

Despite having many good friends, being social, travelling quite a bit and basically having a fairly full life I only knew one or two gay people. I was a gay man in my fifties and could only call two gay guys friends and I did not see them often. It was slowly dawning on me that being gay was a large part of my existence and I did not feel gay except when I was having sex. I flunked out at being an aware gay man.

I missed a sense of belonging. I wanted to feel like I belonged in the gay world .At first I thought it odd since I had spent a large part of many summers on Fire Island. I had gone to a few of the big parties and spent more than enough time in the bars, but even than I felt mostly like an observer and not someone who belonged.

I wanted to have a gay circle of friends. I wanted to be able to go out to dinner with a bunch of gay men and talk about being gay. I wanted to make jokes that only gay people would get. I wanted a gay best friend I had good friends I could tell everything to but I realized it was not the same as having good gay friends. I was now discovering that being gay was a large part of my identity! I wanted to get to know that part of me. Obviously Grindr and Scruff were not the right places to go for this but they did open my eyes to it. I think they helped me connect to a lot of people and I did learn many things.

I think coming out so late I missed the chance to make a good group of gay friends. I tend to think that after 30 it is a bit more difficult to make good friends. I had good friends, work friends, art friends, etc just not a circle of gay friends or a sense of my gay identity. I realize now as great as my friends are there are different types of friends and I wish I had more friends who also shared in my gay identity.

I have discovered that I missed out on so much living basically in the straight world. I want to learn more about the struggles of gay men, the fight for equality, the different things that being gay stands for. I have come to realize it is part of my history and who I am.

I am also Jewish. I went to religious school, Hebrew school and was Bar Mitzvahed. I am not a practising Jew unless you consider accepting invitations to holiday dinners being religious. When I am with my Jewish friends I know there are certain things they would understand that other people would not, simply because of our shared identity. I also never feel out of place among other Jews. I want to feel this way among other gays.

I cannot speak for everyone but I have come to believe that each of us has many identities: our sexual identity, religious, race, nationality etc. If any of these identities play a large facet in who we are it certainly helps to be around people who share some of the same identities that you have. I have always been proud to be a American and have that as part of my identity, but it has never been a big factor of who I am as a person. However, the few times I have lived in another country it usually brought a smile to my face when I met another American, even if it was simply to say hello and keep walking I suddenly felt like I was not so alone. There was a common denominator that connected us.

I left New York soon after I made my discovery and moved to Ireland. Where Aaron and I are now married. As I continuing on my journey I hope together we make some good friends and I become a part of the gay community.

Gay couple, Aaroh and Mike in Mykonos.

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