Another dose of reality

I’ve made it no secret that I sometimes wrestle with being gay. I accept that it’s part of who I am, but I can’t say that I always celebrate it. Kind of like how I accept that I will never look like this guy.

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Accepting, however, doesn’t mean I have to like it. Recently, I had the opportunity of having yet another dose of reality handed to me.

Not liking that very much either.

Before deciding to come to Romania as a possible long-term base, I knew that the culture isn’t too welcoming of gays. While things have improved, and its membership in the EU has required some positive law changes, homosexuals are still among the top 3 “most undesirable” peoples, according to a recent university-conducted poll. (Apparently, only the Roma are worse.) While I didn’t know about that latter kernel of information until after we were already here, I figured we could make it work. After all, I’ve lived in other places that weren’t exactly welcoming toward the GLBT community.

I was encouraged that the last Pride event in Bucharest experienced no violence this year. Some of the bigger cities even have a few gay clubs. I’m not a huge fan of a community based around the bar scene, but at least they exist. Even in Brasov, there is supposedly at least one.

Then the dose of reality paid a visit.

A few weeks ago while traveling between cities on our search for a base in Romania, we met someone on the train who seemed quite nice. We had a nice chat, and he asked for our blog address. Later on we connected via Facebook. We had some nice interactions there, and out of the blue the other day he announced he wanted to date me and suggested he come to Brasov for a couple of days so we could get to know each other better.

did you listen

I was absolutely elated! While men tend to be fairly superficial, it often seems the gay male community has perfected that and made it an art form. Generally, if you are older, don’t have the above fella’s physique, or aren’t loaded with money (aka don’t have sugar daddy potential), you face a lot of discrimination among your fellow gays. Especially from the younger ones.

Possessing all three of those attributes has definitely made things a challenge for me. So I will admit that being pronounced attractive and desirable, especially by a young guy, gave me quite the boost. I allowed myself to get really excited at the prospect of breaking a 3-year-plus drought.

Until I discovered said male had, in less than 24 hours, blocked me on Facebook.

At first I was completely mystified. Had I said something wrong? I went back and reviewed our conversation, and there was absolutely nothing I could identify as being a potential problem. Our whole conversation was basically him telling me he couldn’t stop thinking about me after the train (awww!), he would like to spend a couple of days here so we could get to know each other better, and me saying yes, thank you, you’re cute too, sounds good.

Nothing from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days in that convo!

Then I remembered the numerous times he used the phrase “I need to be discreet,” and it dawned on me that this was most likely the traditional Eastern European antigay-fed closeted world rearing its fiercely ugly head. I remember reading a recent blog post from a gay Romanian who mentioned that Romanians are so closeted that basically you could see a guy kissing another guy in a gay bar, and he’ll deny he’s gay.

That’s a lot of closet.

While I was initially bummed by this experience, it did lead me to have to consider our life here from a different angle. Living in the closet is a ubiquitous state for most Romanian GLBT. When I last exited the closet, I decided to make that condition permanent. I’ve had to step in and out of it just a tad during travel for safety reasons, but I think most of those times it wasn’t even necessary.

When you’ve spent your earlier years seeing your friends and other members of your community being beaten up for being gay, or perceived to be gay, I think it’s natural to perhaps overemphasize the safety card a bit. Even more so since I have a son that I need to protect from having that experience as well. I think most of my concerns as we’ve traveled have probably been unwarranted.

But, now I am forced to rethink Romania as a long-term base and that saddens me. We love this country and its people! But I refuse to live in the closet. Sometimes I am really sick and tired of being alone (as in lack of having a love interest), and I really don’t see that changing here. Even if I were to connect with someone, chances are our dating would be a closet relationship (which has been confirmed to me by a couple living in Romania). That puts me back in the closet.

I can’t live that life.

I won’t.

So back to the drawing board I go. I’m not expecting to find gay utopia. I just need to be somewhere that makes it easier to be more fully who I am and gives me a better chance at perhaps finding someone else being who they are. We still love Romania, and we’ll definitely be back to explore it more. But it can’t be our long-term base.

Not enjoying this latest dose of reality, but it has been a good lesson.

Even if it absolutely sucks.

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42 Comments

  1. Oh Talon, I read a lot of what you write, but don’t comment. I’m sorry you have to change your plans, but just wanted to say it’s great that you are strong in your convictions. I hope someone can be inspired by this post.

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    • Thanks! I’m saddened by it as well since we do love it here. But I’m also thankful I have that option. Many people don’t and are stuck living a lie their whole life which is tragic.

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  2. Ugh, I’m sorry to hear about this but thanks for sharing it with us.

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    • Thanks, Mike. Still trying to decide what I’m going to do with it. If we didn’t love it here so much, it wouldn’t be such a difficult decision.

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  3. Sorry this happened! But thank you for sharing it – I have never been to Romania but it sounded so appealing, I had been wondering about checking it out as a place to spend some serious time. This is a good reminder though.

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    • If you aren’t planning on dating, it’s a great place. While Romanians don’t typically care for homos, they aren’t violent about it. If you aren’t walking around advertising it, there’s no problem whatsoever. Especially if you’re female.

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  4. So sorry to hear about this. Yes, many Romanians are anti-gay and we can thank our Orthodox Church for most of the ‘teachings’. There are people who have no issue with this, but overall it’s good to not advertise your choice in men and just date discreetly.

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    • Well, it isn’t like I go around skipping while holding a rainbow flag aloft. LOL But from what I’ve seen so far, and have heard from others, it can be quite difficult to even date because of the depth of closeted life so many here have to live. It’s quite sad.

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      • I have few gay-friends here in Timisoara and they do agree it’s not that easy to find a date. They’ve been active on some forums and sites (if I recall it well) and were able to find people to meet/date.

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        • If they wouldn’t mind passing those links on, I’d appreciate it. Also I’d love to interview them (they can anonymous) about their experiences if they’re willing.

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  5. Cross Romania off the list. Being free to be yourself is a major deal.

    Also, not to feed the endless questions that delay closure but if Romania is as closeted as you say it is and he wants to be discreet, could it be he discovered your blog and saw it as a threat?

    Anyways, last type of relationship you’d want is to be with someone who is uncomfortable with who they are. Kiss the moment and look forward to the adventure of the next.

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    • It is a big deal to be oneself. I wholeheartedly agree.

      He knew about the blog before we even connected on Facebook. He’s the only one who knows, though. But in a way I’m grateful for it. I knew the culture was more closeted, but this was an eye opener for me. After speaking with the other couple and hearing from them how “careful” they have to be, I really have to reconsider things more fully. For whatever reason it just never connected with me that the culture would affect dating, etc., in such a way.

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  6. Talon, that sucks! I know you two seem to really like Romania. I hope you can find a place where your options are more out of the closet. 🙂

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    • Thanks! We absolutely love it here, so this is very tough. I still go back and forth and wrestle with the decision. Tigger is on board. He wants to be where I can be me. But we do both love it here so much. There are some other options out there which seem promising, and perhaps we’ll love it in those places even more. One never knows. But it is sad.

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  7. Sucks big time! But know that your attitide and way forward from this sets you apart Talon! You are brave, honest, and open and your son is so lucky to have a dad with that kind of spirit!

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    • Yes, it definitely is better to come to the realization early on before leases have been signed and visas pursued. Still frustrating, though.

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  8. This is a crappy thing to have to experience. Boo.

    Kathryn sorta jumped back in the closet while we were staying in Harlem (probably unnecessarily) but she was making friends with a lot of our older neighbors. They would ask her if she was married and she would tell them she was married to someone named Michael! Huh? Then they would see us walking up and down the street together all the time with this Michael person nowhere in sight.

    Hope you bounce back and break the drought soon 😉

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  9. Sorry you had to go through this but everything happens for a reason and maybe the reason here is that Romania isn’t the place to be long term.

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    • Could very well be true. I have considered that we might find another place that we love even more. Weirder things have happened. 🙂

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  10. So sorry but I think Sam is right … better to discover earlier than later. Finding the right person can be such a lottery, so many mysterious factors at play. All I can say is that when you do find the right person, don’t let them go!

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  11. What a shame. I’m sorry this happened to you, but at the same time it sounds like it was better to find this out now rather than after you’d already settled into Romania and made it your base. I completely understand your reasons, and think I would react the same way. It unfortunately seems very similar in many places we’ve been here in South America for gay guys, but then we’re not considering making a base here, so it’s easier to ignore I suppose. Which makes me feel bad, now that I think about it. My partner and I try to be a model of a happy, loving same sex couple to the few closeted guys we meet, hoping that our openness will rub off. I’m probably being naive, but it’s the best I can think to do – otherwise, I’d probably just get angry, and that helps no one.

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    • Well, it was a couple like yours that helped me accept myself more and give me hope, so I don’t think your thinking is that naive.

      That is sad about South America as we’re seeing more countries allow same-sex marriage and have civil unions.

      It’s definitely a tough choice for me. The mind and the heart are not in agreement, as is often common.

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  12. This sucks. I wish people would look deeper and see that we’re all really the same underneath. Sadly, this is the way the world is and at least it’s changing, even if it happens slowly. I’m sorry you have to move again and I hope you find a home base soon, Talon. All the best with your next adventure.

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    • Thanks, Deia. It is sad. There is some movement forward, but it more than glacially slow, unfortunately. I keep telling myself that perhaps the next place we’ll love even more, but it’s still hard when you love a place as much as we do here.

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  13. Even though I watched this being played out in my own family, I can’t believe it still happens. To not be accepted because you’re gay is so backwards. Even the most forward thinking countries are still stuck in a time warp, I think. it’s pathetic how people are judged by their sexuality. We used to be friends with a hetero couple, we had dinner with them several times and visited each others homes on occasion. I’m not gonna lie, the first time I met the husband I was like, “I wonder if he knows he’s gay”. I’m not lying, it was pretty obvious to me anyway. Long story short they moved away from here and I hadn’t heard anything about them in about 5 years. One day while looking for old friends on FB I find the husband – with a whole lot of pictures of him with his new companion, a male. We wrote back and forth and he said he couldn’t try to be what everybody expected anymore. He was tired of living a lie and this is just the way he is, that his real friends would understand. I wholeheartedly agree! Imagine my surprise when I told my husband I had been in contact with him, that he and his wife were divorced and he was living with another guy. I told my husband I was so happy for him to finally be free to be himself. My husband told me he didn’t care if I was friends with this guy, but he (my husband) never wanted to talk to him again! Wow! I knew my husband didn’t really care for my brother, but my brother is a jerk, I assumed that was why they had never gotten along. I never knew my husband was such a jerk about LGBTs. It pretty much got ugly a couple years ago when my nephew told the family he felt like he was a girl. Until that time, my husband had gotten along well with “Jacob”, but now that she’s “Janelle” he doesn’t want her in our house. I don’t know how to deal with this kind of behavior. Some people just can’t have an open mind, it’s slammed shut and locked!

    You know I wish the best for you Talon, and I’m sorry that you found yourself in such a wonderful place to live with people that can’t accept you. I’m wishing you find another place where you can truly be happy and don’t have to be someone else to make yourself and Tigger happy.

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    • That is so incredibly sad about your niece. So hard to have family members, the people who are supposed to love you through thick and thin, turn their back on you like that. So sad.

      I go back and forth. We love it here so much, but I just don’t know that it would be healthy for me to stay in that type of environment, even though it isn’t overtly harmful.

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  14. Berlin. Marcy. GO!! Don’t spend time being sad, go find a new adventure. The world can be a horrible place AND it can be a wonderful place. You know that! I love you, my friend, and it’s a good post, but chapter finished. What’s next? *stops shaking finger at Talon and smiles*

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    • It’s a tough one because we love it so much here. Part of me is tempted to say screw it and just be an agent for change since they don’t tend to be violent here. Perhaps wait it out and hope there’s someone else like me here and I just have to wait to find them. But then another side is aware that’s perhaps not the healthiest response.

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  15. This really sucks, Talon. I am saddened for you… I agree that living in a place that simply puts more stress on you and your struggle to accept who you truly are is not healthy… It is quite disappointing, especially since it seems like Romania had so many things you were looking for…

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    • Yes, it truly does. We both are absolutely in love with Romania. I suppose it’s better to come to this realization now before I’ve invested time and money in long-term visas but still!

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  16. It never ceases to amaze me how different the world is depending on where you are. It’s a shame Romania hasn’t worked out for you because I know how keen you were to unpack for a while – but it just means it wasn’t meant to be. Keep an open perspective (which I know you do) and keep moving forward.

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    • Yes, it’s quite sad really. We absolutely love it here, and I wrestle with it almost daily. Part of me says “Talon, you haven’t dated in 3 years, so what’s another year or 2?” but there’s another part that is not okay with this. Sigh.

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  17. Gah, that sucks. I wish I had good suggestions or even something constructive that might help, but I don’t. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry to hear it and am really bothered by the whole situation on your behalf. Best of luck to you both in finding somewhere soon that will be home in ALL the right ways.

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    • Thank you! I’m quite bummed about it. Every day we walked around the town, and I just think about how much I love it here. If I didn’t care about not dating, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

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  18. I agree with what you and Tom said–it seems like it’s not worth it for you to live somewhere where you can’t be yourself, even if there are other pros to that place. It will stifle you. There must be other places in Europe that are not to expensive but are also a lot less backward in their thinking.

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    • So far the Czech Republic and Germany are looking good. The former is more in my budget so will begin there I think.

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  19. Eurgh. I remember asking a couple of gay guys that I met in Cluj Napoca – a Couchsurfer and his ‘friend’ (I think they were sleeping together, but not dating) – about gay life in Romania, and they just laughed, telling me that only a handful of bars exist in the entire COUNTRY, let alone their city. A small-ish city in the UK usually has at least 4 or 5 gay bars, and you can meet guys very easily – not the case with a similarly sized city in Romania. Korea was worse still: Seoul, the city with the 2nd largest metropolitan population in the world, has a woeful gay scene, and everyone is in the closet. Not even in a violent way. Koreans deny that homosexuals even EXIST in their country.

    Anyway, I totally understand your reasons for moving. Korea’s attitude to homosexuality was flat out denial, which didn’t make me feel uncomfortable in the same way that open bigotry and anti-gay sentiment makes me feel. Hopefully you’ll find a place where dating a guy and not hiding it is an option. I know the LGBT group on FB has given you lots of options – Lisbon, Brno, Berlin etc. – so hopefully you’ll find somewhere that feels like home and where you don’t have to retreat back into Narnia.

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    • So true. I think there are a total of 5 in the whole country, but it could be less since I know a couple have closed.

      Definitely have several options I’ll be investigating further. Not willing to live life backward.

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