LGBT people have sacrificed a lot to be whole sexual beings. Often, we have had to go against the tide of peer pressure, cultural norms and religious traditions just to simply be honest and authentic people in terms of our sexuality. I think it is then particularly challenging for our community to come to grips with changes to said sexuality as we age. I most often hear from primarily gay men who say things like “What sex will be left if I can’t get hard anymore or if my prostate is removed?” “How will I want to have sex with my partner when he looks like an old man, yet I’m attracted to youthful men?” “How will I conceive myself as sexy at all, after all the work I’ve put into my body has faded?”
These are good questions and these are ones I have asked myself as well. Alas, no one is exempt from gradually (and not so gradually) losing control over the look and function of our bodies. Dwelling on the prospect of future and even present limitations can be depressing to be sure. Yet fixating on the “hotness” that once was can only emphasize what we don’t have now, sometimes preventing us from dealing realistically with our present situations. It is in this catch 22 scenario that a lot of us find ourselves unable to get beyond.
Consider this story from another time in my life: Up until my late thirty’s I was a full time musician. Music was my life. It was the clear goal and purpose of every waking day since I was a child. So when I chose to set music to the side to attend graduate school and become a sexologist, I knew it would be a change, but I never realized how emotional it would be. About six month into school, a friend asked me how my music was doing. Before I could articulate my thoughts, I began to cry and I could not stop – for hours. The flood of loss was so great, I felt like I had abandon a lifelong partner. I felt horrible, deeply depressed and it felt like it was all my fault. Furthermore, the grief felt as if there was no upside to the experience. I was mourning the death of music in my life and it was completely tragic – a death in every sense.
Although that’s how it felt, I realized in the depth of those emotions, it was not an utter end. Music would always be in my life. How would I ever not have a song humming through my brain? A friend reassured me that going through this grieving process was not just an end, but a stepping stone to something else. Only when I was able to embrace the feelings of loss and let go of what music once meant to me, would it then be free to transform into what music would be from now and into the future.
My friend was right. It was not the end of music in my life, and I can’t help but think that this letting go process can be applied to our sexuality too. Only when I let go of what my “hotness” once was can I allow my sexiness to transform into my next incarnation of “hotness.” And – Damn it! – within the parameters I am given, I can pretty much make it into whatever I want it to be.
Looking at this from yet a deeper angle, I suppose we do this “letting go thing” all the time. As the sun rises on another day we let go of the set of circumstances, events and happenings of the past day and begin the particular set of “whatever”s of our next day. Often times we do this effortlessly and without the need of going through a difficult set of 5 phases of grieving, or three steps of letting go, or ten hops, skips and a jump. We have somehow accepted that this is the nature of existing within the experience of time, and our lives are full, and free, and far beyond whatever we anticipated. Could we not grieve more in this manner?
My guess is that sometimes the grieving process is made far more stressful because we fear its darkness so much. There is a growing amount of evidence that shows the reason many people are depressed is not because they are only grieving life’s difficulties, but instead, they are resisting grieving life’s difficulties. We resist letting go, and resist and resist until the built up emotional pressure finally gives us no other choice but to release the pressure like a volcano. No wonder this seems so horrific. But the culprit of the stress is not emotion, but resistance. And think about all the energy that is expended and wasted just trying to resist all that emotion.
Still, letting go is not always easy. For those “letting go processes” that seem to carry more weight, the ones that truly seem more difficult, like letting go of the sexuality of my “youth,” I hope I can learn to accept and fully feel the changes effortlessly, not just because it’s more “healthy” than fighting it with all my resistance, but because I want to see unobstructed what transformation comes next. Indeed, grieving is not the end. I want to experience my sexy transformations with all the naturalness and freshness of each new day. I want to experience sex (whether solo or not) with all the presence and amazement as if I am the spirit of creation itself, making a sunrise that has never existed before and never will exist again. Amen!