Monday, March 14, 2016

Posted: 14 Mar 2016 05:25 AM PDT
Gay Relationships: The Abusive PartnerSame-sex domestic violence doesn’t seem like a big problem to many gay men. Statistics are hard to come by; it’s hard to know the scope of the problem. 
Just like male rape, however, men find themselves being victimized on occasion. For men there can be the additional issue that because we think it can’t happen to us, we have a hard time understanding what has happened -- or we are quick to blame ourselves.
Violence in gay relationships can be physical, sexual, emotional -- or a combination of all three. Emotional abuse is indicated by frequent put-downs, name-calling, humiliation, mind games or guilt trips. Similarly, relationships that become controlled by jealousy, isolation and obsessive control are abusive.
Abusive relationships don’t usually start out violently; if they did, it would be easier for victims to recognize and avoid them. Instead, there is a progression of abuse.
The perpetrator may be very affectionate, then become more controlling or have angry outbursts. Apologies may follow these episodes, along with promises of change.  But then the occasions of hostility become more frequent. Angry words are thrown, as are objects.
Threats are made. When the relationship deteriorates to breaking things and making threats, battering is just around the corner -- pushing, slapping, restraining, punching. Sexual assault, broken bones or other serious injury may be next.
Problems that affect gay relationships are often pretty much like those that affect our hetero counterparts. Women are far and away the greatest victims of domestic violence -- and heterosexual men are overwhelmingly most likely to be perpetrators -- male-male or female-female couples can also become abusive. Individuals with low self-esteem who have unrealistically romantic ideas about relationships may be especially prone to find themselves in abusive relationships. Relationships in which drugs and alcohol play a significant part can be more at risk for abuse and violence.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you must take your situation seriously. This is not a time for unrealistic optimism and sentimentality; this is a time for saving your life. If your partner is serious about change, he will do two things: First, he will accept responsibility for his own actions, rather than shift the blame to you. Second, he will seek treatment -- not as a way of manipulating you into staying in the relationship, but treatment on his own, without conditions. If he meets these conditions, you will need to decide whether the relationship is one which is healthy for you to continue or not. You may want to seek professional help.
If your partner does not accept responsibility for his actions and does not seek to change, you must establish a plan for safely separating from him.
Batterers often become enraged when their victim seeks to leave. If you are sharing a home with your abuser, you will need to establish a plan for leaving to minimize the likelihood of a violent confrontation. Are their friends who can help? If you will need to move out, where will you go? Establish a plan to help you move to safety.
For more information, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly toGAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. -

Friday, March 11, 2016


Posted: 10 Mar 2016 05:25 AM PST
6a00d83451c50069e201538eb87088970b-300wi"Healthy relationships require patience, creativity, skill and commitment. It can be hard work, but few accomplishments in life are more satisfying."
Healthy intimacy is a dance that honors and enjoys our partner while not losing our sense of individuality. Time and activity with our partner must be balanced by activities we do by ourselves or with people other than our partner. There is a saying that healthy families are alike, but unhappy ones are each unhappy in their own unique way. I’m not certain that this is strictly accurate.Still, there are certain attributes of relationships that tend to mark them as healthy or unhealthy.....
There are gender patterns that seem to emerge in relationships: men tend to be good at maintaining individuality (perhaps at the expense of deeper intimacy) while women tend to value connection with the other (sometimes at a cost to their sense of individuality).
An ability to put the partner’s needs on a par with our own is something healthy relationships have in common. This rarely means splitting decisions right down the middle; it’s more likely that I give you what you want sometimes while I get more of what I desire on another occasion. We don’t keep score, but we have a rough sense of balance that works for us. When things get out of balance, we talk about it.
Communication between lovers is critical to healthy relationships; no surprise here. Communication involves an ability to speak our truth to the other, to express our desires and needs in a way that helps them to get met. (Of course, know what your desires actually are is an important first step here, and not always an easy one.) Equally important is an ability to listen to what the other person is saying, and to be able to respond.
This may be quite a challenge when emotions are close to the surface – or out in the open. For this reason, some couples fall into the trap of avoiding conflict. While most of us dislike conflict, an ability to express differences in a way that helps us to work things through is a critical attribute of a successful relationship. Handling differences or disagreements with skill helps to keep a relationship safe and growing. Avoiding conflict often results in storing up resentments and grievances. One or both partners start withdrawing from the relationship and it begins to fade.
A commitment to working things through and to each other’s well being helps to keep a relationship safe for intimacy. If every disagreement results in a threat to leave, the relationship will not feel like a safe container for one’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
Finally, passion is an important component of enduring and “juicy” relationships. It’s not unusual for the erotic energy to shift in a relationship as the partners grow more familiar with one another and the everyday demands of life intrude on the passion that may be all consuming early in a relationship. Identifying our desires, communicating them, not judging, trying new things…. all of these approaches can help to maintain or increase the level of sexual excitement in a relationship. Some couples find that as they grow more familiar with one another and more skilled at bringing the other pleasure, sexual excitement in a relationship can actually increase.
Healthy relationships require patience, creativity, skill and commitment. It can be hard work, but few accomplishments in life are more satisfying.
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly toGAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. -


Posted: 11 Mar 2016 05:25 AM PST
Richard_b500I heard from a friend recently who told me about a recent conversation with a young friend over dinner.  Seems the young guy had recently split with a boyfriend after finding out that his man had been sleeping around.The conversation turned to gay men and sex. Why is it so hard to find a gay man who is interested in monogamy?  
Why is it so hard to find intimacy and sexual connection in the same person? My friend told me he was stumped and found the questions a bit haunting. What is it about gay men and sex? Are all gay men promiscuous? We may wince at the word “promiscuity,” but research and personal experience both indicate that gay men have more sexual partners than heterosexual men. It’s reasonable to question why that might be, and to think about the costs and benefits of our sexual choices.
Sex is important to gay men. In addition to the obvious reason – sex is highly pleasurable – until recently sex between men was illegal, disapproved of and marginalized in most parts of our country. And gay male culture tends to be both sexy and sexualized. Ellen DeGeneres tells a joke about looking in the gay yellow pages when she first came out and remarking, “Wow! Look at the abs on that mortician!”
Gay men have always had long-term, committed and monogamous relationships, of course. That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider all the obstacles placed in the way of such relationships’ success: lack of legal recognition, frequent lack of family support, etc. But gay men don’t always assume that sexuality can only be healthy in the context of a committed relationship. (Contrast this with the situation of heterosexuals, where sex is supposed to be only within marriage, yet sex outside of marriage isn’t at all uncommon.)
Pleasure makes the sexual urge very strong, but that doesn’t mean our reasons for having sex aren’t complex. Sex can be lovemaking – celebrating the passion and connection with a partner we love. But there are all sorts of other reasons why people choose to have sex: maybe they’re horny or lonely. Maybe they’re drunk or just bored. And some men have learned to use sex as a way to escape from stress.
Sex can be a deep expression of intimacy, but pursuing many sexual partners can reflect just the opposite – a fear of real intimacy. Casual sex can allow us to scratch our itch to physically connect with another person without requiring us to do the hard work involved in having a healthy relationship. Over time that can decrease our ability to have those sorts of committed, fulfilling relationships.
Does the gay community encourage gay men to have a large number of sex partners, particularly outside of relationships? The sexual infrastructure of our community includes cruisy bars, circuit parties, bathhouses, sex clubs and Internet hook-up sites with names like Manhunt or Cruisingforsex. Sex is instantly available to anyone with a car or Internet connection. It’s not that recreational sex is a bad thing, but sex can become compulsive and unhealthy if it becomes the source of our identity or if it becomes compulsive. When we become preoccupied with sexuality or anything else, life loses its balance.
Back to my friend’s dinner conversation. Is it difficult to find gay men who are ready for committed relationships? I don’t think so. Our community presents lots of alternatives, though, and guys who spend a lot of time in the hypersexual parts of the gay community aren’t good candidates for monogamous life.
Chalk up another reason why it’s good to take plenty of time to get to know the person you’re dating before you imagine giving your heart to him.
John R. Ballew, author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHERor John R. Ballew, M.S. -

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016


Posted: 18 Jan 2016 05:30 AM PST
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Posted: 18 Jan 2016 05:25 AM PST
ASI175476I’ve got to beat the clock before we each lose interest.” Someone recently made that statement to me about his erotic life with his partner. His experience has been that erotic interest between two people dies pretty quickly, so you better get in as much sex as possible during the early years of the relationship.
If you don’t have good sex early on, it’s never going to get any better. Single guys sometimes tell me they get tired of their sexual routine, too: sex may be easy to get, but it’s often not deeply satisfying. They find themselves in a rut, feeling like they ought to be enjoying themselves more than they actually do....
Feeling like sex has become a chore can take a toll on how you feel about yourself. If you’re in a relationship, a sex life that’s as predictable as a 70’s sitcom rerun can make you feel like you with the wrong guy. Ruts suck. They’re boring and the siphon the juice out of just about anything: your job, your diet, and your relationships.
People are creatures of habit, whether we’re talking grocery shopping or lovemaking. Habits aren’t necessarily bad if they work for you. Trouble is, routines can become so…routine. We want a little variety, some jalapeno peppers spicing up the same old dish.
How to change things? A good place to start is with yourself. What’s it like when you’re feeling sexual and you’re also alone? Many of us have been pleasuring ourselves in the same way since we left adolescence. Get out the lube, turn on the VCR, enjoy yourself for 5 minutes, get a towel to clean up and turn out the lights for the evening.
Talk about ruts! What would it be like to take your time, to really notice how your body feels, to run your hands over the smooth places and furry places, etc? Or to get off your back, put on some music and touch yourself while you move and dance.
You may find your eyes starting to glaze over when you hear “So what are you into?” For too many men words like “top” or “bottom” become like straightjackets, confining sex to predictable routines. Why not mix it up?
Whether tricking, dating or relating, too many of us have picked up the mistaken message that a good lover is in charge of his partner’s pleasure. This is actually a little grandiose; how are you supposed to know what makes him feel good, especially if he doesn’t tell you? “I’m responsible for his pleasure” leads to disappointment. Try replacing it with “I’m responsible for my own pleasure and for being present with my partner.”
A problem some men experience when they are in relationships is that we seek unconditional love from our partner, but that sort of love can seem less sexy. In fact, the affection that builds over time can make the other guy feel like family – and sex with him feel incestuous on an unconscious level. Keeping a relationship sexy means breaking that taboo.
With a partner or someone else with whom you’re sharing erotic life, it can be fun to play the “Your Turn/My Turn Game.” It goes like this: Ask your partner to undress and lay back while you explore his body. (You may want to have some conversation first about his general likes and dislikes.) Explore touching different places in his body – including touching with your hands, fingertips, fingernails, lips, etc.
Try varying the pressure – light sometimes, more forceful. ake it playful; imagine a devilish look in your eyes, asking him “Which feels better, A or B?” See if you can learn what sort of touch doesn’t work for him, what’s pleasurable, what’s a major turn-on. When you’ve finished, it’s his turn to give and your turn to receive. The object of the game is for each guy to find out more about what sort of touch feels pleasurable to receive, and for each man to learn something about how to touch the other.
Don’t let your erotic life get boring. A guy could spend an entire lifetime learning about the landscape of his own desires and learning how to be a good lover. Turn off the TV and see what happens.
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. -

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vatican Marks David Bowie’s Passing By Praising Him

David Bowie
Even the Vatican has marked singer David Bowie’s passing, praising the artist whose life and career perpetually challenged sexual and gender norms, and who, at varying points in his life, identified as gay and bisexual..
Among the first to honorBowie was Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture who tweeted lyrics from the musicians 1969 song “Space Oddity”:
“Ground Control to Major Tom/Commencing countdown, engines on/Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie)”
L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, published an obituary complimenting Bowie. The New York Times reported:
“The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has eulogized David Bowie as a singular musician, ‘never banal,’ who grew artistically over five decades thanks to his interest in art, film and theater.
“The paper, which frequently weighs in on pop culture, noted the ‘ambiguous image’ Bowie cultivated early on in his career and blamed it on his aim to attract media attention.
“But it said that aside from such ‘excesses,’ Bowie’s legacy ‘is one of a sort of personal sobriety, expressed even in his dry, almost thread-like body.’ “
Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 6.11.13 PM
Tweet by Cardinal Ravasi
This is kind, if unexpected, praise from the Vatican for Bowie, who challenged gender norms. Zack Ford of Think Progress explained:
“This confusion was apparent in his own sexuality, which never seemed to fit neatly into any particular label. First he was gay. Then he was bisexual. Then coming out as bisexual was the ‘biggest mistake I ever made,’ because he didn’t ever feel that he was a ‘real bisexual.’ He admitted to having same-sex sexual interactions, ‘but frankly, it wasn’t enjoyable.’ In terms of sex and relationships, his own description of himself as ‘promiscuous’ may have been the most accurate of them all, but it reflected, as in the other aspects of his life and career, defiance of convention.”
Commenting further on Bowie’s significance for LGBT communities, a columnist with The Daily Beast wrote:
“In his refusal to label himself, there didn’t appear to be a cowardice, but rather an honesty and maturity around how unfixed, at least for him, the notion of sexuality was. That proved to be its own liberation, or at least freeing, moment for so many of every kind of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The Vatican’s praise for David Bowie has generated global headlines, fueled by the dissonance created in bringing together rigid Catholic officials and the unconfined seeker that was David Bowie. That the Vatican’s newspaper was so affirming is a positive sign for LGBT issues in the church, likely another outcome from Pope Francis’ improved engagement with the world and demand for all people to be respected and valued.
I think Cardinal Ravasi and those behind the L’Osservatore Romano article are touching a deeper truth that connects Pope Francis, David Bowie, and all of us in between: the path to holiness is the journey towards authenticity. To paraphrase the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, “To be a saint is to be yourself.”
The world benefited from Bowie’s art, just as Catholics benefits from the many LGBT people who, in their own journeys to authenticity, help break down harmful gender and sexual norms in the church. We are all richer for the carefully tended fruits which then emerge.
David Gibson of Religion News Service headlined a column, “Saint David Bowie?” Perhaps we can just remove the question mark and simply say, “Saint David Bowie.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Francis explains 'who am I to judge?'

  • Pope Francis talks with a woman during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 18, 2015. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Interviewing Pope Francis in July, Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli asked the pope how he might act as a confessor to a gay person in light of his now famous remarks in a press conference in 2013, when he asked: "Who am I to judge?"
Francis' reply appears in a new book The Name of God is Mercy to be released Tuesday.
"On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?" the pope says. "I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized."
"I am glad that we are talking about 'homosexual people' because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity," he continues. "And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love."
"I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together," says Francis. "You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it."
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Asked whether there is an opposition between truth and mercy, or doctrine and mercy, the pontiff responds: "I will say this: mercy is real; it is the first attribute of God."
"Theological reflections on doctrine or mercy may then follow, but let us not forget that mercy is doctrine," says the pope. "Even so, I love saying: mercy is true."
The Name of God is Mercy is the result of an interview between the pope and Tornielli, the coordinator for the Vatican Insider website. The book is being published in 86 countries and about 20 languages on Tuesday. NCR received an advance copy of the English-language version of the text.

At one point in the book, Tornielli asks Francis why God never tires of forgiving humanity.
"Because he is God, because he is mercy, and because mercy is the first attribute of God," the pope responds. "The name of God is mercy."
"There are no situations we cannot get out of, we are not condemned to sink into quicksand, in which the more we move the deeper we sink," he continues. "Jesus is there, his hand extended, ready to reach out to us and pull us out of the mud, out of sin, out of the abyss of evil into which we have fallen."
"We need only be conscious of our state, be honest with ourselves, and not lick our wounds," says Francis. "We need to ask for the grace to recognize ourselves as sinners."
The interview ends with Francis reflecting on the traditional spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
"By welcoming a marginalized person whose body is wounded and by welcoming the sinner whose soul is wounded, we put our credibility as Christians on the line," the pope says. "Let us always remember the words of Saint John of the Cross: 'In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.'"
[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]
Editor's Note: This is Part Three of a three-part story on Pope Francis' new book-length interview. Part One is available here. Part Two is available here. 
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