The first of what I hope will become a recurring feature (weekly? bi-weekly? monthly?) about the amazing people I meet around the globe. Today, I write about a new friend I’ve made on the road…. enjoy!
I walked into the hostel in Mexico City one night, two weeks ago. Beyond the unattended reception desk, there sat three men. We got to chatting and I learned a little about their travels and who they are. Fast forward, later that evening, and I find myself chatting with this one guy, who’s quite flamboyant, opinionated (but with research to support those opinions) and an overall enjoyable personality. Let’s call him Kellen. My alarm bells started ringing when Kellen gently touched my arm as we were chatting… “Uh-oh! That was a little too close for comfort. I need to distance myself from this guy…”
Within a matter of minutes (and perhaps because he sensed my unease), it casually came up in our conversation that he was a “flaming homosexual” (his words) from a conservative family.
Since then, we’ve had numerous conversations, shared almost constant laughter, and cooked a bunch of meals together.
As I said, Kellen’s family is quite conservative, religious, and does not approve of homosexuality. They are, however, educated, and love their family. Kellen’s sexual preferences are just something that they don’t talk about. His parents know, and the accept him for who he is, but they don’t embrace it. They don’t talk about it. They are a family and nothing will stop them from loving their son, even if they wouldn’t choose this life for him.
There was a point in his life, though, when Kellen tried to be straight. He was even married to a woman for 3 years! Luckily no kids came from that. He and his wife reached a point when they both knew there was a problem and, as Kellen told his wife when they decided to split, being married didn’t make him straight. It’s quite a happy ending really, as they’ve known each other almost their entire lives: she is remarried and Kellen is the godfather to her children. It’s nice when an imperfect scenario really is a positive change for people, and they can both accept that, and move on happily with their lives.
Back to the hostel. One of the other guys there was also gay. Let’s call him Gaysian. I figured out that Gaysian must be gay when I noticed Kellen and him sitting closer than most men, or any friends-only, would be. Gaysian is from an even more conservative family. So when he came out to his parents, in his teenage years, it didn’t go over so well. He realized that his parents would not be able to accept this truth, and made some lie about how he was joking, or experimenting, or something – but that he is actually straight. He thinks they know – regardless of whether they know they know – but he’s still living a partial lie… and maybe always will. Now that…. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. Coming from a country where you can marry whomever you please, where people are open-minded, proud, and supportive, where I see on my facebook pictures of my lesbian friends’ children and how happy they are as a family… well, it’s sometimes all too easy to forget that there are parts of the world (and, indeed, parts of Canada) where homosexuality and other “different” lifestyles are unacceptable, shameful, worthy of disowning a child… While Gaysian certainly seems quite content with himself and his life, I know that he will always have this semi-secret, he will never truly be himself in the presence of his family, in his home.
But there’s more happy than sad in this story. Kellen, Gaysian, and I hung out for a couple days before Gaysian returned home and I changed hostels. I returned one night to find Kellen sitting in the common room in my hostel. He came to visit! We hung out for a few more days (almost a week in total) in Mexico City, and then met up again in Cancun. Aside from simply having a blast – all the time – Kellen has taught me a lot about the life of a gay man. At least the life of a gay man like himself (yes, he is my first gay friend who I’ve really spent a lot of time with).
As I’m sure you know, or can guess, the gay community has apps similar to what Tinder is in the straight world. Apparently there are lots of them. And pretty much everyone in their community is on them. Kellen had lost his phone (well, actually he had everything stolen) shortly before I met him. But when he got another smartphone, he commented on how much time he spends online, and that he had felt quite disconnected from “his people” when he didn’t have such easy internet access (you have to picture him saying this in a stereotypically gay way).
Everywhere we go – and I mean EVERYWHERE – there is someone within 1km of us that is on this app. Kellen is constantly chatting with new men, and meets up with some of them. It doesn’t necessarily lead somewhere, but they meet up and spend some time together. I’ve met a few of them, we’ve hung out all together. It’s quite casual; there doesn’t seem to be much pressure. They just enjoy meeting new people… and maybe they’ll move to the next level, maybe not. Bottom line is: No gay man ever has to go somewhere without knowing other gay men are nearby.
So that’s been my education on the gay lifestyle. I’m sure it’s not representative of the entire gay community, but I think I’ve gotten a pretty good glimpse… I mean – there was ALWAYS at least one person nearby…. in the same hostel even!
Aside from that, Kellen is a fantastic person! It is not abnormal for us to be found, arms around each other, singing and dancing down a busy street. He is not afraid of what people think, nor am I. It’s a wicked combination! He is also a very giving, caring kind of person, which rounds him out so wonderfully. It’s been lovely getting to know someone so different from others I’ve met. And while Kellen is meeting lots of people all the time, I’m pretty sure he’s really excited to see his gaysian again soon! 🙂