On November 20th, 1968, during a general audience, Pope Paul VI expressed himself so: “One forgets that man in all his spiritual being, that is, in his supreme faculties of knowing and loving, is correlative to God; is made for him; and every conquest of the human spirit increases in him the restlessness, and ignites the desire to go further, to reach the ocean of being and life, the full truth, which alone gives beatitude. Removing God as a term of research, to which man is by nature addressed, means to mortify man himself. The so-called “death of God” turns into death of man. We are not the only ones to affirm such a sad truth. Here is a testimony that has been left by a very cultured avant-garde writer and unhappy type of modern culture (Klaus Mann, son of Thomas). He wrote: “There is no hope. We intellectuals, traitors or victims, we would do well to recognize our situation as absolutely desperate. Why should we make illusions? We are lost! we are won! The voice that pronounced these words – the testimony goes on -, a voice a little veiled, but pure, harmonious and strangely suggestive, was that of a student of philosophy and literature, with whom I met by chance in the ancient university city of Uppsala. What he had to say was interesting, and it was still characteristic: I heard similar statements by intellectuals everywhere in Europe. . . And he said in a voice that was no longer certain: We should abandon ourselves to absolute despair …” Dear sons, for us no, it is not so.”
Who is Klaus Mann, the man Paul VI considers the most unhappy paradigm of modern culture? And what is the meaning of the reference made by Klaus Mann to that student met in the ancient university city of Uppsala? As mentioned by Paul VI himself, Klaus Mann is one of the sons of Thomas Mann, that is the son of one of the men who most influenced European culture in the last hundred years, but it is not about literature that I intend to speak.
The fact that Klaus is son of Thomas has enormous significance, from my point of view, because both the father and the son found themselves having to deal with their homosexuality and in front of it they gave very different answers. In the work of Thomas Mann the atmospheres are very particular and, in general, the gay reader feels immersed in a world that doesn’t seem strange to him at all. The conflict between the “serene” bourgeois world where everything is codified and ordered and the appeal of art that has anyway the charm of the abyss, often emerges. This conflict in “Death in Venice” reveals itself, out of metaphor, as the conflict between heterosexuality and homosexuality.
Thomas Mann, born in 1875 in Lübeck, when he was a high school student, confessed his feelings to a friend who didn’t share them because he simply couldn’t share them. That experience constituted the first falling in love of Thomas Mann. One gets the impression that the image of that high school mate often returns within Mann’s work. But Mann experienced a much more engaging falling in love with Paul Ehrenberg, a young violinist and impressionist painter a year younger than him. Between 1899 and 1903, according to the diaries and letters of Thomas Mann, falling in love became a real infatuation, which led to an intense relationship between the two guys. A painting by Ehrenberg entitled “Die Hetzjagd” (the hunt) hung for some time in the room of Thomas Mann. In those years, from a set of memories of family life written by Thomas for Paul Ehrenberg, who lived in Munich, the drafting of “The Buddenbrooks” began.
Both the character of Hans Hansen of “Tonio Kröger” (1903) and the character of the painter in the novel “The hungry men” (1903) and that of Rudolf ‘Rudi’ Schwerdtfeger, also a violinist and an object of homosexual interest in the “Doctor Faustus” clearly refer to Paul Ehrenberg. In the case of Tonio Kröger the analogies become very strong because in Munich, where he used to meet Ehrenberg, Mann saw by chance for the first time a twenty year old girl who was talking animatedly with the tram ticket collector, he tried to know who she was, he was told that she was Katia Pringsheim, a student of mathematics, physics and chemistry, daughter of the great mathematician Alfred Israel Pringsheim, a university professor very rich and of Jewish family, who lived in a grand palace the most beautiful life that a high bourgeois could dream of. The professor Pringsheim was not an observant Jew, and he let his sons follow Lutheranism but it was not enough to save his family from Nazi persecution. Mann, through friends, managed to get introduced to Pringsheim and “fell in love” (I’ll explain later why I put this word in quotation marks) with Katia but she wished to enjoy her youth and was not willing to marry and nothing followed.
Mann left for Denmark where he wrote the Tonio Kröger, in which Tonio falls deeply in love with both his school friend Hans Hansen and the young girl Ingeborg Holm, both had blue eyes, light hair and a distinctly Nordic appearance. The strength of Tonio Kröger derives from the fact that it is a substantially autobiographical novel in which the true passions of the young Mann are transfused. It should be emphasized that Tonio is identified as “a different one”, in this case for artistic reasons, that is, as someone who cannot enjoy what others enjoy. In Denmark Mann not only wrote the Tonio Kröger but also wrote letters to Katia Pringsheim that convinced the girl to agree to the wedding, celebrated on February 11th, 1905. It was a “happy” wedding, here too I have to put the term happy in quotation marks, six children were born. However, many doubts remain in considering this marriage as the outcome of a love story.
In his essay “On marriage – toast to Katia” Mann argues that marriage and art are both a bourgeois service to life, an ethical pact and a sacrament, because it is precisely through art and marriage that the spirit arrives to dominate on matter, on flesh and blood. It should be noted that shortly before the marriage Mann had lived with Ehrenberg a very strong relationship and it was not a sublimated relationship, such as the one described in Tonio Kröger, but a sexual relationship that decades later Mann himself will consider the fundamental emotional experience of his life with unequivocal words: “I lived and loved, . . . finally, with a new happiness, because I held in my arms someone I was deeply in love with”, but, it must be underlined, these evaluations of the relationship with Ehrenberg have matured in Mann several decades after their relationship.
At the time of their relationship, Mann’s attitude was radically different and was dominated by a kind of self-denial as a homosexual and by the condemnation of “abnormality”. In practice Mann condemned himself to marriage to try to remove from himself the homosexual passion he had lived deeply with Ehrenberg. Thomas’s brother, Heinrich, who also claimed that Thomas’s relationship with Ehrenberg was madness and insisted that his brother get married soon, suspected that the marriage had been accepted by Thomas for reasons of social opportunity, of course it is that the social position of his father-in-law undoubtedly favored Thomas.
Some, given the existences of marriage, have tried to talk about a bisexuality of Thomas Mann but the reality would rather make us think of an escape from homosexuality to a bourgeois paradise much more reassuring. The poor Ehrenberg had no choice but to follow the path of marriage, too, and ended up marrying the painter Lilly Teufel. Mann, after the wedding, wrote “Royal Highness”, the story is set in the Grand Duchy of Grimmburg, a tiny imaginary state, reduced to situations of economic hardship, and the protagonist is the second son of the Grand Duke who is forced to marry a rich heiress to raise the fate of the state. The contrast between “Royal Highness” and “Tonio Kröger” could not be more jarring. Thomas Mann had six children from Katia, the first two were admittedly homosexual, the eldest Erika, born in Munich on November 9th 1905, married on July 25th 1926, not yet twenty-one years old, with Gustaf Gründgens, but in 1929 divorced. Erika, a declared lesbian, had her first relationship in 1932 with Pamela Wedekind, whom she met in Berlin and who was engaged to her brother Klaus, who was also a homosexual.
We known, in successive periods, at least three other important and sexually passionate lesbian relationships of Erika Mann, on whose sexual orientation there was never any doubt. Her father Thomas had a very positive attitude towards women with whom his daughter had a love affair, but he didn’t show the same openness towards his son Klaus. The attitudes of Klaus and his father towards homosexuality were radically antithetical and this didn’t encourage dialogue between them. I don’t elaborate the discourse on Klaus Mann’s homosexuality here, because I will take it analytically again after concluding that on his father.
Even after the marriage Mann didn’t abandon the homosexual topic and in 1912 he published “Death in Venice” which was the basis of the homonymous film by Luchino Visconti of 1971 and of the homonymous 1973 melodrama by Benjamin Britten. Needless to say, both Visconti and Britten were homosexuals. The story is imbued with a tragic spirit. Gustav von Aschenbach, a fifty-year-old man who dedicated his whole life to art, after remaining a widower, went to Venice and in the grand Hotel des Bains in the Lido island, was struck by the beauty of a Polish boy aged more or less 14, Tadzio, sailor suit, stayed in the Hotel with all his family. On the boy Aschenbach builds a thousand arguments apparently related to his conception of art, while he observes the boy trying not to be discovered. But it’s too hot and in Venice cholera breaks out, the authorities minimize but Aschenbach realizes that the danger is real, he should warn the family of that boy but he doesn’t because he doesn’t want to see him leave, in the meantime, from an exchange of looks Aschenbach is led to believe that the boy shares his feelings, the presence of Tadzio becomes obsessive in Aschenbach’s mind who comes to realize that his interest is a sexual interest and that the art plan is just a fictional overlap. Aschenbach weakened and sickly sees Tadzio play with friends and then raise an arm almost to greet him, that will be the last image of Tadzio that will accompany the last breath of the man who had hiddenly loved him. The novel has its undeniable tragic power, but the association between homosexuality and death seems to be a too emphasized theorem.
Mann’s difficulty in accepting his homosexuality was also found in 1925 when Thomas wrote a small essay entitled “On Marriage”. In this little work Mann opposes marriage (obviously heterosexual) to homosexuality as if they were the only two possible options. And his position against homosexuality appears very clear, I would say far too sharp to appear credible. In 1927, when Mann was 52, during a holiday in Silt, he met the then 17-year-old Klaus Heuser and invited him to his villa in Munich. The one for Klaus Heuser was probably the last great passion of Mann, but always very restrained. When Heuser went to see Mann in Zurich in 1935, Mann noted in his diary: “He has not changed at all or just a little: skinny, still a boy at twenty-four, the same eyes. I kept looking at him and saying ‘My God!’ … He expected me to kiss him but I didn’t, but before he left I was able to say a few words of love to him.”
I come now to a critical moment, not only for the life of Thomas Mann and his sons but for the whole of Germany and unfortunately also for the whole of Europe and not only for it. The elections of May 1928 had brought to the Reichstag 12 National Socialist deputies, but already in the 1930 elections the National Socialist party of Hitler had passed to 107 deputies. In the 1932 elections Hitlerian deputies rose to 230 out of 608 seats in total and the National Socialist party became the first party in Germany. Hitler ran for the presidential elections of January 1933. In the elections, Hindenburg, a hero of the First World War, outgoing president, appeared the only candidate able to stop the rise of Hitler and was supported by a coalition that went from the nationalists to the Social Democrats. Hindenburg again won the presidency with 53% of the votes against 37% of Hitler, who was appointed Chancellor on January 30th, leading a coalition of parties (Nazis and German-national popular party), but a few days later, in the elections of March 5th 1933, the climate had radically changed. It was voted in the week when the Reichstag building was burned (February 27th 1933).
Marinus van der Lubbe, a 24-year-old Dutch communist, blamed for the fire, was beheaded for this reason on January 10th 1934. The majority of historians agrees that the fire had been organized for political purposes by Nazi leaders, the evidences in this sense are many and were collected from independent sources. The Reichstag fire became a pretext to banish an anti-Bolshevik crusade against democratic parties. The fact is that Hiltler convinced Hindenburg to issue the so-called “Reichstag decree” on the same day of February 27th 1933, on February 28th the decree became law and most of the rights guaranteed by the Weimar Constitution were suspended for emergency reasons. In this climate, the elections for the renewal of the Reichstag were held on March 5th. The leaders of the Social Democratic Party were forced to flee. Despite an endless series of threats and intimidation, the Nazis didn’t obtain the absolute majority. Hitler was therefore forced to maintain an alliance with the German-national popular party. Hitler aimed not at a coalition majority but at obtaining the so-called “decree of full powers”, i.e. a legislative power independent of the Raichstag, to pass the decree of full powers a majority of 2/3 of the Reischstag was needed. On March 23th the decree was approved with the support of the Catholic Center and with the only Social Democrats voting against, and entered into force on March 27th. Many social democrats were physically prevented from entering Parliament while all the communist deputies, who constituted 17% of Parliament, had been arrested.
Given this historical picture, one wonders what was the position of Thomas Mann and his sons. If one considers that in 1929 Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature it is easy to understand that his position would not have been indifferent to the Nazis. In January 1933 Mann held a public lecture at the University of Munich on the theme “Pain and Greatness of Richard Wagner” in which he effectively denied the links between Nazism and Wagnerian art, the Nazis present in the hall gave signs of nervousness because Mann represented a voice openly out of the chorus, just in the critical moments of Hitler’s assault on power. Mann realized the danger, especially since his wife’s family was of Jewish origin, and he immediately moved to Switzerland and then to the United States, and a group of German anti-Nazi exiles gathered around him.
I limit myself to remembering that from 1940 to the end of the war Thomas Mann recorded a long series of speeches in German that were broadcast by Radio London to be heard in Germany. In these speeches Mann is the first to refer to the extermination of Jews in the gas chambers, the report of crimes perpetrated by the Nazis is documented and there is a very clear attempt to awaken the consciences of the Germans by making them aware of the atrocities that Hitler’s propaganda had systematically hidden. There is no doubt that Mann was one of the very few and tenacious “German” animators of anti-Nazism. Immediately after the surrender of Germany on May 8th 1945, Thomas Mann will read in German on the radio the radio message titled “The lagers” announcing the destruction of the culture and life of Germany and making the Germans understand how the horror of the extermination camps had shamefully destroyed the image of Germany in Europe, Mann argues that this is a sin against the German spirit that cannot be forgiven.
If already in 1945 Europe began to make a difference between German and Nazi, this is due to the few characters who behaved like Thomas Mann. But one thing should be stressed, Thomas Mann did not make choices of convenience but of conscience, and when in 1952, the most ferocious “McCarthyism” spread in the United States, a sort of witch hunt against the Communists or presumed such, wanted by the Republican Senator Mc Carthy assisted by two young men who would have had considerable weight in the history of the USA as Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy, Thomas Mann became indignant and abandoned the United States as the greatest foreign intellectuals did, for example Charlie Chaplin and his wife Oona O’Neil. Even if the discourse would deserve much further study, let’s leave aside Thomas Mann and take care of his son, whom Paul VI presents as the unhappy paradigm of modern culture.
Klaus Henry Mann, second son of Thomas was born in Munich on November 18th 1906. From the age of 19, in 1925, with the publication of his first novel “The sacred dance”, an autobiographical book of a unique and disarming sincerity in which he portrays the life of the gay Berlin of the 20s, he declared himself homosexual. In the same year “Anja e Ester” also came out, a very delicate love story between two girls. If you think that the pretext for the murderer of Ernst Röhm and the top of the SA by Hitler in 1934 was just homosexuality, it is understood that in 1933, with Hitler’s coming to power, the situation of Klaus became particularly dangerous and Klaus followed without hesitation his father in exile.
He was a sensitive and fragile 26-year-old guy, but he was one of the most tenacious and courageous adversaries of Nazism. His liberalism was guided by great ideals, it was, in essence, a faith that in some respects recalled certain aspects of socialism. Fascinated by the Christian ideal, Klaus had deep friendships in every social and cultural level. He himself tells us with the utmost seriousness of fleeting loves with some sailors from the port of Marseilles. He loved without being returned the surrealist writer René Crevel and later had a history of a few years with an American journalist Thomas Quinn Curtiss. He became a fraternal friend with the lesbian writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, with André Gide, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947, and Jean Cocteau, a French academic, author of novels, theater and film director. Both Gide and Cocteau were explicitly homosexual. A work by Klaus Mann is particularly well-known to the general public due to its film reworking, which won the Oscar in 1980, and is “Mephisto or the story of a career”, in which Klaus describes the story of his former brother-in-law, the actor Gustaf Gründgens, who had divorced his sister Erika in 1929, and had sold his soul to the devil in order to make a career in the Nazi regime. Obviously Gründgens didn’t like the publication of the work at all. The adoptive son of Gründgens, in the 1960s, turned to the court and after seven years of legal battles he succeeded in obtaining from the German Supreme Court that the book was not reprinted, but after his death the book was printed again.
In 1934 Klaus published an article titled “Homosexuality and Fascism” for a Prague magazine and composed a fictional biography of Piotr Illich Cajcovskij, also a homosexual. In 1937 he published “Window with bars” on the last days of Ludwig of Bavaria, the homosexual king who hated war and loved art. A film will be drawn from the book by Luchino Visconti, “Ludwig”, in 1972.
Just before the war, in America, Klaus lives poor and alone, tries suicide but then reacts and when the United States enter the war he enlists and enters the military department of the Ritchie Boys, a special group made up of Jews and German refugees, particularly trained in psychological warfare who are very motivated and know perfectly the German mentality. In 1942 the American soldier Klaus Henry Mann was added to the Fifth Army that would fight in Africa and in Italy, before departure Klaus Mann asks to have an interview with a Catholic military chaplain because he intends to convert to Catholicism abandoning Lutheranism, as it is clear from the letters (“Briefe und Antworten” Letters and Answers). It seems that the meeting actually took place but that the chaplain refused the conversion, probably because of Klaus’ homosexuality.
In Italy Klaus is employed as a war reporter following the Fifth Army, he works with Rossellini as a screenwriter of “Paisà”, after the war he goes in person to visit the horrors of the Nazi extermination camps. Intoxicated by drugs, in 1949 he goes to Cennes to detoxify himself. On May 20th, after walking for a long time in the rain, waiting for a certain Luois, he swallows a massive dose of barbiturates and on May 21th he dies at the age of 42. He was accused of everything, even of being a spy of Stalin but he remains a character of the highest nobility of mind for anyone with the ability to understand it, but Paul VI, in calling him the model of the desperate intellectual of the ‘900 that in the death of God had condemned to death the man behaved towards him exactly as the Catholic chaplain who had refused his conversion.
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I skip all the preliminaries on your site and its usefulness and I’ll get straight to the point.
I am a 40 year old guy, obviously gay, who lived for many years a rather retired life, I have never attended clubs or even chats or dating sites. I met some gay guys but up to 35 I never had real couple stories, in practice, attending a guy I realized that he wasn’t the right guy for me and the story ended there.
At the age of 35 I meet Marco by chance, who was then 24 years old, we chat a bit, I don’t feel overwhelmed by passion, but nevertheless we also get to have some sex and, to my surprise, it doesn’t seem at all a trivial thing. I mean that having sex with Marco was just another thing, I realized that it created a very special atmosphere. I could understand Marco’s needs, his hesitations. He trusted me. Sex was authentic, participated but also relaxed, we talked a lot about ourselves, he remembered everything I told him, it was clear that he was trying to create a true, important, strong relationship with me. After a few months we had no more secrets for each other and he had come to talk to me about very private things that he had probably never talked about to anyone.
I realized what Marco was carrying with him, inside himself, what kind of life he had done when he was a child and then gradually over the years. His experience had been very hard and had left indelible traces on him. I began to understand that a deep restlessness agitated him and that he needed a huge willpower to resist himself and not give in to fantasies that would then put him badly in crisis. We came to speak clearly and explicitly about all these things and I could understand that for him to be able to talk about those things was very important. He realized that in spite of his fears, I didn’t try to distance him but, on the contrary, I tried to stay closer to him.
Our relationship developed on two distinct levels, one sexual, so to speak, as a classic couple relationship, and another deeper, based on total sincerity and also on total mutual trust. It may seem strange, but this second form of relationship often ended up being more important than the first one. Marco often tended to consider himself as one at least potentially dangerous to others, he feared he would not be able to control himself. When we talked, I realized that he feared that there might be some rejection reaction from me, but exactly the opposite happened.
After the most difficult speeches it was time to make love, which was in practice a manifestation from our mutual acceptance “without reservations”. In those moments he completely melted, because he knew he was accepted and knew also that I wasn’t afraid of him. He always tried to avoid a relationship of tenderness between us, for him the alternative had to be clear: or only sex, apparently without affection, or very serious speeches and total sincerity, but he has always been afraid of affectivity. If I tried to say “I love you!” he would stop me and tell me that he knew it and that there was no need to repeat it all the time.
He was trying in some way to make our relationship appear just as a matter of sex, maybe a little to test my resistance. I tried to reflect a lot on his speeches and to observe his behavior with the utmost attention and I ended up falling in love with him as I had never happened to anyone. I thought very often about him, I wanted to stay with him as much as possible.
Then, one day, after a little hesitation, he told me that he had met another guy, that he thought he loved him and that he also thought that this could create big problems for me. I somehow expected something like that, sooner or later I thought it would have happened anyway, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. I replied with a smile that he should feel free and that I would always love him, without any conditions and I said it in a convinced way. After this talk we didn’t have sex but we have been talking for a long time.
From here began the series of attempts by Marco to build a couple’s emotional life. We continued to feel even later, not really with the same frequency as before but a serious contact has been maintained anyway. Sometimes Marco fell in love deeply but then the story didn’t go on for more than a few months. In the end he has remained practically alone and has stopped looking for a guy, he went back to studying with excellent results and, at least apparently, he returned to a more standard and tidier life, but when we speak, I realize that, however, almost nothing has changed at the deepest levels. He’s quieter because he’s substantially more detached from everything that happens to him. He tried to keep in contact with his ex-boyfriends but in the end almost all of them have disappeared, frightened perhaps by the difficulty of building a relationship with him.
We continue to talk on the phone or see each other in person, even if more rarely. He speaks to me of his attempts to build an emotional life and I don’t understand why the guys he falls in love with end up turning away from him, probably they don’t know him deeply. It is as if they were afraid of him, as if they couldn’t understand the meaning of his reactions. I too have sometimes been a little afraid of him and it still happens to me because I see that he insists on rejecting the emotional dimension of our relationship, but insists on rejecting it only in words, because spending so much time on the phone and talking very seriously is not just a way to spend time. Between us there is a special way to really understand each other, I would say that in our communication pauses are worth more than words.
I don’t know exactly how to behave, Project, of course I love Marco and I would like to see him happy, not necessarily with me, sometimes I thought that a closer relationship between us could be constricting for him and also because of this I don’t know what to do, he needs his freedom, but he also needs me, or at least I hope so. He is the only guy with whom I have had a very deep relationship and it is precisely this that has led me to fall in love with him. Being close to him is not easy but I understand that it has an enormous value both for him and for me. It would be a real pity if all this ended up in nothing, I would not want for anything in the world that he could find himself alone to reflect on his fears, an idea like that puts me in a crisis. The story is all here and now you have also understood a little my mood.
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I’m 27, many years, in theory too many if I had to start thinking about happiness now. What have I done up to now? I tried to lay the foundations … now I can finally think about putting the roof over it. I got out of high school at age 19, I took the first degree at 22, there I lost one year, I told my parents that I had lost the year because an exam had gone wrong but in reality the reason was very different and you will understand soon how things went. Now I’m an Engineer in a big waste disposal plant. I started working last year just before Christmas.
I try to ask myself the questions you would ask me. How does the emotional life go? I reply that, all in all, during all these years, even if sex was a very rare reality, I had my gratifications. At the beginning of the university I had in mind that my goal was only to graduate as soon as possible. I never haunted locals, I don’t like spending the night out. My fixed idea was to shorten the times. I didn’t have the problem of coming out, I simply didn’t do it with my family or with my friends, with one exception, but you’ll understand in a bit. It was not an ideological choice, only a postponement of my emotional life after graduation and after finding a job. In fact at the beginning I was living strictly monastic, university and study and that was all.
Nevertheless my emotional life has found a sense and a turning point right at the university, when I least expected it, because I was going to university just to study, the idea of chasing guys seemed nothing more than a way of wasting time and delaying even further the solution of my problems. There were so many guys I liked but I deliberately put the topic aside. I liked in another way only one guy, his name is Camillo, a name that seemed strange but that now seems to me the most beautiful in the world. I looked at Camillo but nothing more. We greeted each other when we were in class, in the morning I took the place for him and he took it for me, but these things also happened with other guys.
One day the professor didn’t come and we chatted a bit. I kept myself at a distance and I was just talking about the university, at one point he asked me when I would give analysis, I told him in June and he told me: “Would you like to try to study together?” I immediately said yes, then I regretted it because I thought he would have made me waste time, I wanted to say that I had changed my mind but a little I didn’t have the face to do it and a little Camillo was just my type of a handsome guy. So we started studying together. Sometimes I wanted to take a break and have a chat and maybe he wanted it too but then we did without it and we continued to study. Studying with Camillo was productive and at the same time pleasant.
Practically for months we have only studied together, at the time of the exams we went together to get them and we took the same vote but there was no celebration, after the exam we immediately returned to study for the next one. However, even if we never talked, we were all right with each other. In practice there was only talk about how to schedule the deadlines for the examinations of how to condense the maximum study effort, but it was fine, it was damn fine. We used to see each other once in his house and once in my house.
His parents were a little nosy and wanted to know a lot about me, especially if I had a girlfriend. I played my part pretending to have a girl as if I was straight inventing everything in front of his parents and I acted so well that they believed me. When he took me back to my house, I asked him: “Do you have a girlfriend?” He shocked me saying while he laughed: ”Oh yes! Just like you! Today you have done well to say what you said to my parents because if they get too involved it is a problem.” I replied: “I think you’re right!” This was our mutual coming out, it didn’t last more than 20 seconds.
I wanted to talk a bit but he stopped me: “Now we know why we’re fine together, but together we have so many things to do and we don’t have to take missteps. The engineers first make the foundations and then build on them. We continued to work together like crazy. Then at the third year, at the time of the first level graduation he got sick. No one understood what it was, he always had a little fever, they admitted him for a while to the hospital.
He didn’t seem in bad condition, I used to go to see him to the hospital and I went out of the ward with him to walk in the garden. I went there every day, then he told me he didn’t want me to go so often, he said that if I wanted to make him happy I had to study and then I started going to the hospital no more than once a week. He has had a pneumonia in light form that took a long time, it has not had major consequences but he has been in hospital almost two months. The result of all this was that he failed to do the thesis and to deliver it on time and so he lost a year, I instead took the first degree.
If I have to tell the truth the day I graduated I felt terribly uncomfortable because even if Camillo came to see me, he couldn’t graduate and then I did something that he still scolds me, I stopped studying for a year to wait for him and to start studying together again. And it took a whole year because when he was ill he had practically not studied at all. I would have liked to help him with the exams of the last year but he didn’t want to. This fact put me in trouble but Camillo used to spend the evening with me practically every day and we used to go out for a walk together.
We resumed working together after he graduated. We took the second degree the same day and then I felt realized. Now he works in engineering department of the region and deals with large air-conditioning systems and I take care of the recycling of waste. We decided to take the big step, that is to go to live together but in separate houses … or almost. I try to explain …
Next Monday we have a meeting with the builder to buy an apartment, or rather two apartments, they are two apartments of two rooms each one neighboring one another. The builder will leave them communicating. Two houses and not a big one because now we are fine together but in case of necessity everyone would have his own. Honestly it’s only a theoretical possibility. It will seem absurd, but we have placed two shelves on the open partition so that you cannot see that the two apartments are actually connected. A carpenter will give us two false bottomless cabinets, one different from the other, two and ten meters high so nobody will see that the two apartments are actually a single apartment. It’s not really necessary, let’s say it’s a bit of a strangeness, but we don’t want to let anybody know about us. Yesterday morning his parents and mine came at the same time to see the apartments, they noticed that they were one next to the other but the thing stopped there.
Thanks for reading everything! Good luck!
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I don’t know if you remember me, a few years have passed, but I still remember the strange effect that made me talk to you, because I realized that I didn’t know gay reality at all and that I had an infinite series of fears, practically almost all nonsense, and I didn’t realize what could be the real problems of being with a guy, then I was 25 (good times!), now I’m 31 and I must say that things have changed a lot. I don’t know if you remember, Project, but a few months after our first conversations, I sent you a picture with a dedication on msn, a picture that represented me and the one whom I was hoping, even with a thousand uncertainties, was my boyfriend. Well … we’ve been together for 5 years now, and we live together. Now I’m not a boy anymore but I see my dream come true, Project, I feel loved. Do you remember the night you were talking to me on the chat? When bad thoughts passed through my mind? You told me that my life could have made another guy’s happiness and it seemed impossible to me, but that’s exactly what happened.
I met Luke in a chat, not in an erotic chat, but in a chat where they talked about architecture. There was talk not only of architecture but also about how a young architect can look for and even find work. At that time I was not working yet, neither was he. In his answers I saw the tendency to leave space, to make me talk, he was never impositive or aggressive, but was conversational without falling in the banal. We continued to talk in that chat for several days, then we discovered that we lived in the same city and we decided to meet up to try to plan together the search for a job. When I saw him I was electrocuted, he was a beautiful guy. We spent the whole day together and it was just fine! We only talked about job opportunities and we decided to give ourselves to do as much as possible to look for work together because economic independence was our first desire. I didn’t know anything about him then.
He has come to my house many times, he met my parents and I met his, obviously we were just two friends looking for a job together but the atmosphere was very positive. At his house, in his room there were many photos of a girl and it was like a stab to me: Luke was beautiful but obviously he was straight! My mood collapsed from one minute to the next. He noticed it and immediately told me: “It’s my brother’s girlfriend!” And in saying so he smiled at me. I thought that his smile was his way to come out with me and I also answered him with a smile and a breath of relief. When we said goodbye, beyond the usual handshake there was also a hug that I didn’t expect and it was not a formality. Since then our relationship took a different way.
You know, Project, you always say that the real problem is knowing if the other is gay, but if he is, the problem remains to understand how he thinks, what he thinks, how he sees the situation, and it takes time to understand it. Note, Project, that we never declared ourselves explicitly and that starting a speech beyond work was really difficult. Then one evening, after going to get a pizza, we stopped to talk in the car. He asked me: “Do you think it would work?” I had no doubts about the interpretation of that phrase and I replied: “We have to do everything to make it work …” He told me: “All right! Then I start.” He told me about himself without reserve and told me that he felt happy next to me and that he thought of me a thousand times a day. I took his hand and kissed it. It started like this. I skip the details you can imagine. I was really good, sexual transport was very strong. His way of experiencing sex was practically identical to mine: enthusiasm, but also prudence: doing the test, absolute mutual loyalty and lots of cuddles. I always wanted to be with him, when the time came to part from him I felt really halved. When I saw him smile, in his eyes I saw heaven. He had beautiful, warm hands and when he was holding mine he inspired me so much trust. And then he was not neurotic like me, he was quiet and close to him I began to overcome all my neuroses.
But there was a huge problem: we could go and make love in my parents’ country cottage, especially in winter, because no one ever went there, it was cold, but we knew how to warm up: a double duvet and we didn’t need anything else, it was fine but we often wondered what our parents would say if they understood how things really were. In practice we did everything in secret. For all the rest, we met each other, either, at his house or at mime, but we had to be careful to talk only about work. Another underlying fear was related to the fact that one of us could find work in another city, because such a thing would have been shocking. We were looking for work hoping not to find it. And we even arrived to present ourselves together for job interviews, saying that we were very close and used to working together, even if it is not easy for two architects to be hired to work together.
After about six months of “cohabitation” we got a job offer for a six-month contract in Kazakhstan, which seemed very strange, but the proposal came from an important multinational for which we had already held job interviews, we thought about it a little and then we accepted. Our families were very worried, but the fact of going there together led us to accept. After two days we were on the plane. The work was in Astana, a very special city, without western-style buildings, but with huge neighborhoods made of small houses with small gardens, very well kept, even if the city is almost in the middle of the desert. We have been housed in a villa, with three bedrooms and a bathroom, with a delightful little garden. People were also a pleasant discovery for us, but our dialogue with the locals could only take place in English, and on the other hand any contact with our superiors (Canadians) was only in English. In Astana we were really good and our relationship become deeper. We have worked together and a lot but we got also great satisfaction.
After the six months in Astana, they told us that we would spend another six months in Vancouver to oversee the construction of a port building, of course we accepted. The city is incredibly multiethnic and between the mountains and the ocean it is spectacular, we have happened there in summer, a very mild summer, similar to the springs of southern Europe. We had an apartment with a wonderful view. In Vancouver, however, we experienced that our English was very rudimentary and we tried to improve it with a group of local friends, including a gay couple, but of gays over 60, something that is rare to see in Europe. In Canada, the work didn’t have the relaxed rhythms it had in Astana, and several times we had to work even at night to keep up with the demands of the construction sites. We have worked, we have gained well but the nostalgia of Italy was very strong. By the way, work had distracted us from our basic problem: “what to say to our parents and how to say it”. For our parents we were in effect only two work colleagues.
A month before departure from Vancouver our superiors let us know that they would send us back to Italy to Milan, which is far from our home, but it is still in Italy. The second of September we arrived in Milan, also this time they placed us in the same apartment, which however was not even the shadow of the one in Vancouver and had not the eastern grace of that of Astana. Once settled, we decided it was time to speak clearly with our families. We didn’t know what to expect or even if it was the case to speak first with my parents and then with his, or to create an opportunity to make a single speech that would be good for everyone, but we were determined.
We set a lunch at my house for September 6th. The day arrives, we do the usual compliments, then Luke immediately enters the topic: “Listen to me a little … so we got to know each other better by working together for a year and we understood that we want to spend our life together, because we love each other and it seemed right to let you know.” In our opinion, the most was done, but the reaction to the words of Luke was disconcerting. My father pretended not to have understood, just like that, Project, while he had understood very well, he made a perplexed face, followed by a strange smile. Luke preferred to immediately eliminate any possibility of misunderstanding: “We are gay … and we love each other.” His father and mother did not say anything, they were almost paralyzed and did not know what to say. It was evident that a completely unexpected atomic bomb had fallen on them. My mother tried to lighten the situation but in the wrong way: “Now it can be a difficult moment but then things can get settled …” Luke immediately stopped her: “There’s nothing to settle …”. The most radical silence fell, interrupted only by banalities, like “Now let’s think about eating … we’ll think about other problems later, a solution will be found …” Luke also tried to avoid misunderstandings: “Solution?” My father started the wrong way again: “These are things that can happen, maybe these are moments of fatigue …” Luke looked at me in a very questioning way and said to me: “What do we do?” I answered with one word: “Let’s go!” We got up from the table and left without saying goodbye, and on the other hand our parents didn’t even try to hold us back.
The feeling of bitterness was very unpleasant, we both realized that the relationship with our families was over. Fortunately we were economically independent and we were working permanently in Milan, so the relations with our parents were in fact already very reduced. We immediately returned to Milan, our parents did not even make a phone call for a whole week, then my mother called me to ask: “How are you?” I noticed immediately that that “you” was referred just to me, she had only asked how I was and had not asked anything about Luke like she was used to do before, because by now Luke was like the devil who had taken his son away from her. I answered her. “We’re fine! (underlining the “we”) And how are you?” The embarrassment was evident, after a few minutes of banality the call was over. In the evening Luke’s mother called him and the script was virtually identical. We were not shocked by this thing, after all “maybe” we expected it. Up to this point our story may seem like the story of a double family failure. Two gay guys who would have all the credentials to feel fulfilled, are on the contrary frozen by relationships with their homophobic families that end up radically disappointing their expectations, but in reality things have gone differently. My father sent me the e-mail that I transcribe here below:
“Hello, your mother and I realized that we behaved very badly with you (Leo and Luke) and this makes us deeply uncomfortable. Luke’s parents share this unease with us, we talked about it together several times and we realized that we had everything wrong. We cannot be without our guys, we are living days of bitterness, but I can swear that we understand that we have to change our attitude altogether. We were not in the least prepared to face a similar situation. If you and Luke agree, we could maybe come to Milan for a weekend, so we can stay a little together. And then, what can we do to get a little clearer ideas? Because we tried to search for news on the internet, but orienting ourselves is very difficult. We await your response by mail and we hope so much that it is positive.”
I read the email to Luke and we agreed the answer.
“Hello, I spoke with Luke and if you agree we can meet not the next Sunday, because we have work commitments, but the following Saturday and Sunday. To get a little clearer ideas you can read the Gay Project Forum, it is very easy to find it on Google and you could also talk with Project, with whom I had spoken several times, he is a very good person and knows the gay world from the inside. As for our relationships, well, we are very happy with your email. Now we must try to rebuild everything without hiding anything and without pretending anything. Problems, sometimes, exist only in our imagination. Common sense is needed, it is true, but we are not naive and our choices have been made with good reasoning.
We embrace you strongly.
Leo and Luke”
The recovery of relationships with our parents on the basis of clarity, was not so easy, but on both sides there was a willingness to understand each other and, after about a year, things really became normal. By now our parents consider us as a couple and have overcome all or almost all their resistance and their complexes.
Project, I told you my story and I would like to see it on the forum because I would like to tell all the guys who see their future gray, that for a gay guy life can be beautiful and that finding a serious partner is not at all an impossible thing, even if the difficulties are certainly not lacking. I’m attaching in my skype contact, I would like to talk with you again, maybe to meet you at the beginning of the summer.
We embrace you!
Leo and Luke
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every time I talk to my ex-boyfriend my brain gets agitated and I start thinking about a thousand things. My ex is an honest guy, he’s good inside, he has his problems unresolved, but we all have them, we’ve been separated for a few years now but we’ve never lost touch. When he calls me, I listen to him with the greatest attention and try to answer as seriously as possible. When he talks to me, he has the habit of taking long breaks, that is, the talk begins, then he stops for a few seconds (not very few) to put the ideas back together and answer me in a strictly pertinent way, then he starts talking again. I feel his effort to tell the truth and understand what I want to convey to him. Honestly, I’m glad that everything is not finished between us, because this means that he has not kept a negative memory of me. Things didn’t work between us, or rather they worked to a certain extent, but then there were misunderstandings. Today, after some time, I have to say that those misunderstandings seem to me much less significant and somehow I realize that I was scared by things that actually didn’t have anything special, though, I must say, his behavior and his way of seeing things have changed over the years. I, after him, remained alone and he exactly the same. Sometimes I begin to think about the end of our story and it seems to me only the result of a series of misunderstandings dependent on each other, a kind of chain of events, which once started becomes uncontrollable and that ultimately led us to split up, although in fact there was no serious reason to do so. I understand that you can leave your boyfriend if there is another story that is being born, because you cannot be with two guys at the same time, but when we broke up, he didn’t have another boyfriend and neither did I. So why throw everything away?
I had the impression that he could feel conditioned, perhaps less free, that once the initial enthusiasm had passed he perceived the transformation of our relationship into a routine, and for this I felt obliged to talk with him explicitly. He, in turn, interpreted my concerns as a diplomatic way of telling him that maybe I got tired of him and then he thought it was his duty not to make me feel tied up and give me a chance to get out. The idea that the speeches of the other were not entirely authentic but hid other motivations, much less altruistic, ended up conditioning our discourses and, step by step, we started to move away both thinking that it were the only thing to do, but this, always taking for granted that it was the other person who wanted to end the relationship. Even the moment of detachment, let’s call it so, definitive was in fact very particular, no resentment and on the part of both the feeling of having fulfilled a duty for the good of the other. After the separation we both missed each other, but we both held our positions firm, thinking that going back would be trying to tie the other. But what usually happens between the former partners of a separate couple didn’t happen between us: we have continued to stay in touch, not like boyfriends, not like a couple, but not even like mere friends. It was clear that there was an important relationship between us, as far as I am concerned I have no doubts at all, and as far as he is concerned, the thing has been evident. However, we didn’t get to get together again, just to not condition each other. Perhaps our relationship really needed to reorganize as it is now, without constraints, without obligations or formality, maybe the problem was not between us, but it consisted in the fact that we had in mind a model of couple relationship that had little to do with us, an almost matrimonial model, which in fact could not stand. Are we a couple? Are we an open couple? Frankly I don’t believe either one thing or the other, we simply love each other and up to this moment our freedom has not only not destroyed, but has strengthened our relationship. I cannot say if there is love between us, certainly there was, but perhaps now it remains above all a deep affection, mutual respect, a feeling that we can trust one another. He tried with other guys, but in the end he could not build anything lasting with anyone, sometimes he even fell in love deeply, but he was not reciprocated. He often talked to me about his disappointments and even his enthusiasms, he knew very well that I would not feel jealousy but that I would think only of his happiness. I asked myself many times how I would react if he could sooner or later build a strong and exclusive love story, in the sense that he would get to forget me too. Sometimes I think that such a thing cannot happen, other times I think it would be hard to get used to the idea of not hearing him anymore, but then, in the end, I would give up if I saw him happy. We are not so young, Project, we are now over 35, and at our age we begin to feel the need for stability. Project, there’s another thing I didn’t tell you but I think it’s important, I’m not healthy, even though I’m not old, I have many physical problems, which don’t condition me too much at the moment, but I foresee that over the years my problems can become serious problems. A bond of stable couple would force my ex to become a carer and this would ruin his life. I never talked about these things with him, because the only time I tried it he became terribly melancholy and I had to change subject. Something leads me to think that he too is not in good health and that he tends not to show it, and I think he too can have a fear very similar to mine. Maybe coming back together we could really live better both by overcoming our psychological brakes. What do you think, Project?
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I wanted to tell you shortly my most recent story, which began quietly but that is becoming the backbone of my life.
I’m 41 years old, so I am no longer a boy for a long time, I have had my stories, especially between 20 and 30 years old, then under the sexual profile I entered a kind of limbo, I dedicated myself mainly to work and in practice I put my emotional-sexual life on standby. I met my friends, I spent the evenings with them and I was fine with them but I had put aside the idea of finding a guy. My work, which I like a lot, involved me and occupied almost all my time, I dedicated the time left to friends.
This condition, let’s say this suspension of emotional life has been going on for several years, I would say almost up to 38, then I met Steven, a guy who was then 25 years old, I was 39. With Steven something new and unexpected started, which at the beginning I struggled a lot to define. It was not the classic love story, even if he is really a handsome guy. He has his emotional and sexual life, he has a steady boyfriend and wouldn’t certainly leave him for me. On the other hand I have never considered him as a possible boyfriend and for the truth I have had very few sexual fantasies about him, fantasies happened especially in the earliest times, when I tended to frame the relationship as a classic couple relationship, then, as I realized that things were not like that, sexual fantasies also disappeared.
Steven calls me more or less once a week, I send him a very intense text message on holidays or in response to text messages sent by him. We don’t speak often but between us has created a special relationship that I cannot define, we are fine together, there are very intense moments but he is with his boyfriend and from what I see for him his boyfriend is really essential, he speaks often of him and not superficially, he speaks with respect, with esteem, it is clear that they love each other and that there is a serious communication between them, but his boyfriend is 21 and I’m 20 years older and this certainly makes the difference, at least that’s what I think.
I think that Steven tends not to load too much his boyfriend talking about his problems, somehow he feels he has a protective function with respect to his boyfriend, he tends to reassure him. He spoke to me about his boyfriend and insisted that we had to meet all three of us, which happened. They exchanged tenderness in front of me and not only it didn’t disturb me in the least, but it seemed very beautiful.
Now his boyfriend, from time to time, calls me, above all to know if Steven is in my house, I think he has realized that he has nothing to fear, and on the other hand to undermine a love story of a guy 21 years old, who by the way is Steven’s happiness, it would really be a squalid thing.
But let’s get back to Steven. Now I take his presence for granted, I think it will be a constant in my life and already now he’s a fundamental reference point. I asked myself a thousand times and I keep asking myself every now if my presence can in any way damage Steven or the relationship with his boyfriend, because I could also be a disruptive element, but I see that neither Steven nor his boyfriend see me as a danger, the relationship between us is absolutely calm, I don’t think at all that Steven’s boyfriend recites with me pretending sympathy to please Steven, I see him quite serene and at ease. On the other hand, I try to invade their field as little as possible.
Some time ago I was not well and I clearly perceived the presence of both Steven and his boyfriend. They came to see me several times, they called me several times. Believe me, Project, sometimes I don’t know what to do and I try to put myself aside, to leave them the maximum freedom, even, sometimes, not letting them find me at home or on the phone.
Sometimes I would like to get out of this kind of relationship that in some ways seems strange to me but then I don’t do it because I realize that they don’t allow me to get away, that in some way they don’t want to lose me. I feel almost loaded with a responsibility and not only towards Steven. I cannot deny that this is also deeply gratifying for me, because my emotional life now turns completely around these two guys and I finally feel alive.
I’m struck by the fact that all this doesn’t have sexual implications for me and that to the maximum I expect the continuation of things as they are now, what I consider really important. I don’t know if I would prefer a normal couple relationship including sex, after all, that is only a hypothesis, while the presence of Steven and his boyfriend is a reality and implies a very strong and mutual emotional involvement.
Steven considers me “only” a friend but telling “only” he only wants to specify that he has already made his choice of a partner that will remain, but there are other levels of implication in which a “simple” friendship can have a huge weight in determining the inner balance of an individual. I confess to you, Project, that I’m worried about doing damage that could occur after many years. I well know that everything that goes somehow out of the scheme presents risks, I just wish that all this did not transform over time from a beautiful relationship in a reason of misunderstanding and resentment. At the moment there is nothing like that and just to exorcise this eventuality I’m trying to gradually get myself out of the way.
What do you think, Project? Obviously, if you want, you can publish my mail.
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