Love in all the wrong places

By |2006-09-07T09:00:00-04:00September 7th, 2006|News|

Richard Cohen has his fingers crossed that prince charming will sweep him off his feet soon. But since his move from California to Ann Arbor he’s crossed more potholes than smooth surfaces while looking for love.
He attempted speed dating: 30 dates in 60 minutes. He’s tried social organizations and placed personal ads in the newspaper. He’s read Joe Kort’s “10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Find Real Love.” And he made his dining debut at aut Bar in Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago.
“If I’m gonna meet someone it’s not going to happen if I’m sitting in my living room,” said Cohen, 41, as he lounged with a book at the bar’s outside patio. “Maybe I’ll be able to strike up a conversation with someone that I have something in common with. That’s the plan.”

Control. Alt. Delete.

Several studies indicate that 40 to 60 percent of contemporary gay men are single, a higher percentage than heterosexuals and lesbians, according to journalist Steven Bereznai’s new book, “Gay and Single … Forever?”
Bereznai blames anxiety.
“It is rampant in the gay community,” he said. “That’s why drugs like ecstasy are so popular because for a short period you get to experience what it’s like to be surrounded by hot guys and not feel totally anxious.”
Bereznai, who lives in Toronto, has never had a boyfriend. He’s had his share of hook-ups (although it’s been a while since his last lay). And at 32, he no longer feels pressured to find a mate – even if he does put out quickly. “I think there’s also a greater expectation on the part of gay men to have sex in a relationship,” he said. “With straights, they may be willing to stick it out past the end of sex (with each other). I think gay men are less inclined to do so.”
Bereznai’s book references a quote from a joint issue of Gay Sunshine/Fag Rag from 1974: “All faggots carry in their heads a computer system/switchboard in which they weigh each other. On the grid we process such factors as height, penis size, ass shape, eyes, clothing, personality, smile, weight, age, skin/hair color, virility, education, intelligence, sun sign, birthplace and so forth. The inexorable computer says: Meet my Fantasy or be gone, what do you think this is, some kind of charity?”
Although it was published over three decades ago, Bereznai said it’s still relevant.
“It demonstrates that nothing’s changed … ,” he said. “The Internet has just made the computer analogy literal, rather than figurative.”

‘Men don’t date’

It hasn’t been difficult for Ann Arbor resident Linda Jarvie, 43, to find a partner. But, then again, she’s more content with one. “I just like to be partnered up.”
Jarvie met her partner Liz eight years ago at an all-lesbian social group at /aut/ Bar in Ann Arbor.
“It started off as a social group to meet women but most of the women who have founded it have partners now. So it worked.”
There’s one word that separates lesbian relationships from gay men’s. It’s sex, according to Jarvie.
“Men don’t date,” she said. “Men go have sex.”
Dr. Michael Chaney, assistant professor in the department of counseling at Oakland University, agrees that men are sexual beings, which has led to an Internet hook-up revolution dominated by gay men. While he’s neutral to Internet chat rooms, he believes they change the shape of dating in the gay community for those seeking a monogamous relationship.
“I think two men who are truly looking for a genuine authentic relationship really need to have good boundaries once they meet up. There’s a lot of ambiguity online,” Chaney said. “People need to be congruent.”

Past the ‘prime’ age

Chaney believes many older people use Internet chat rooms, not only to pick up younger gay males but because of an age stigma that’s prominent in the queer community.
“If you don’t look a certain way, if you’re not going to the gym every day, if you’re not wearing A&F-type clothes, you’re considered an old troll,” Chaney said. “If we have limited social connections to begin with and the gay community starts discriminating, starts becoming ageist, then for the older population it makes it even more limited for them to meet people.”
Julie Richmond, 53, doesn’t hang out at bars anymore. “As we get older a lot of us, at least the lesbians I know, … don’t like the environment or the smoking.”
She has used the Internet for dating, but the results “haven’t been the best.”
“I think it lends itself to developing this relationship with a person based on words and the excitement and the thrill of all of that,” she said.
“The other thing within the gay community, particularly among men, aside from it being anonymous, it’s very accessible,” Chaney said. “There’s this new online culture in the gay community where the social cues aren’t there online as they are face-to-face. So somebody may want to find a partner or somebody to date but because the Internet has become associated with sex and sexually hooking up, many of those relationships don’t last.”
When Richmond met some of her online catches, the connection wasn’t as strong as in person.
“It’s not as easy if you meet them in person and you chat with them and that chemistry hits you,” she said.
But even then it’s difficult to meet potential dates in person, Cohen said.

Limited social outlets

“Not only is there a greater variety of opportunities for gays and lesbians to do all sorts of diverse social activities (in California), but there are a lot more cultural events which tend to attract gay men, generally,” Cohen said.
Tommy Cole, who was visiting his friend Todd Bootz from Wayne, feels there’s a lack of community here compared to his Dallas hometown.
“You can meet people everywhere, (like) coffee shops,” said Cole, 28. “We have a really big gay community.”
Bootz said, “You don’t have to hide your sexuality in Dallas.”
A couple of years ago, Chaney moved from Atlanta – another homo happening area. “There are so many outlets for the LGBT community there,” he said. “There are all kinds of social groups and it’s a huge sporting community. Since moving here to Detroit, there’s just nothing. I think that comes from the blue collar mentality.”
After moving from a small town in Ontario to Toronto, Bereznai, to his dismay, discovered a slew of hotties back in his old home town on “Sometimes boyfriendships are easier in smaller towns because there isn’t this whole lineup of guys making you think that there’s something better out there.”
Chaney suggests joining advocacy or political groups and volunteering at AIDS service organizations, but besides that “there isn’t really much more than the Internet or bars.”
For those interested in checking out a bigger city, Bereznai suggests giving it a shot.
“If you’ve got an itch to be in a big city, then go. Check it out. Find out if the grass is or is not greener, but at a certain point, what are you really looking for?”

Love in the fast lane

“There’s a lot of men who feel this (is an) area (where it) is really difficult to find partners,” Michael Chartrand said. “I’ve heard that over and over and over again. I’ve lived here for 16 years and a lot of my single friends … find it very hard to meet people for a relationship.”
But that wasn’t the case with his recent beau.
After an initial conversation in French with Chris Leicht of Ypsilanti, Michael Chartrand knew he had found a keeper.
“When Chris and I met I knew he was special, even online, by the way the conversation went because 99 percent of the conversations start off with, ‘How big is your dick?’ or ‘Are you a top or a bottom?'” he said. “With Chris it was never like that.”
Several phone calls later, the two singles met for lunch at Nordstrom’s in Somerset Mall, where Leicht was working.
“I fell in love with him,” he said.
While Chaney believes Internet dating doesn’t usually lead to long-term relationships, the couple, which has been together for two-and-a-half years, have beat the odds.
“It does happen,” Chartrand said. “And it’s pretty neat when it does.”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi is the Editorial Director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ wire service. He has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.