Here’s the set up:
BOB BERGERON was so relentlessly cheery that people sometimes found it off-putting. If you ran into him at the David Barton Gym on West 23rd Street, where he worked out nearly ever morning at 7, and you complained about the rain, he would smile and say you’d be better off focusing on a problem you could fix.
That’s how Mr. Bergeron was as a therapist as well, always upbeat, somewhat less focused on getting to the root of his clients’ feelings than altering behavior patterns that were detrimental to them: therapy from the outside-in.
Over the last decade, he built a thriving private practice, treating well-to-do gay men for everything from anxiety to coping with H.I.V. Mr. Bergeron had also begun work as a motivational speaker, giving talks at gay and lesbian centers in Los Angeles and Chicago. In February, Magnus Books, a publisher specializing in gay literature, was scheduled to print a self-help guide he had written, “The Right Side of Forty: The Complete Guide to Happiness for Gay Men at Midlife and Beyond.”
It was a topic he knew something about. Having come out as gay in the mid-1980s, Mr. Bergeron, 49, had witnessed the worst years of the AIDS epidemic and emerged on the other side. He had also seen how few public examples there were of gay men growing older gracefully.
He resolved to rewrite the script, and provide a toolbox for better living.
“I’ve got a concise picture of what being over 40 is about and it’s a great perspective filled with happiness, feeling sexy, possessing comfort relating to other men and taking good care of ourselves,” Mr. Bergeron said on his Web site. “This picture will get you results that flourish long-term.”
But right around New Year’s Eve, something went horribly wrong. On Jan. 5, Mr. Bergeron was found dead in his apartment, the result of a suicide that has left his family, his friends and his clients shocked and heartbroken as they attempt to figure out how he could have been so helpful to others and so unable to find help himself.
To his friends, Mr. Bergeron maintained a positive tone. He went on vacation, dated some, visited museums.
Still, he privately expressed misgivings about what the future held. Olivier Van Doorne, a patient of Mr. Bergeron and the creative director of SelectNY, a fashion advertising firm, recalled Mr. Bergeron telling him that every gay man peaks at one point in his life.
“He said a number of times: ‘I peaked when I was 30 or 35. I was super-successful, everyone looked at me, and I felt extremely cool in my sexuality.’ ”
Mr. Siegel, the therapist who supervised Mr. Bergeron in the early days of his career, said: “Bob was a very beautiful younger man, and we talked a lot about how that shapes and creates a life. The thesis of his book is based very much on his own personal experience with that. And the book also emphasized what to do when you’re not attractive or you no longer have the appeal you once had. The idea was to transcend that and expand your sexual possibilities.”
With the book about to be printed, Mr. Bergeron became convinced that he’d written too much about the shame and isolation involved with hooking up online; that people weren’t even really doing that anymore, now that phone apps like Grindr and Scruff had come along.
His book, he felt, had become antiquated before it even came out.
[…]Though some of his friends, Mr. Rappaport among them, wondered whether drugs were involved, leading to a crash Mr. Bergeron did not anticipate, the suicide seemed to have been carried out with methodical precision. On an island in the kitchen, Mr. Bergeron had meticulously laid out his papers. There was a pile of folders with detailed instructions on top about whom to call regarding his finances and his mortgage. Across from that he placed the title page of his book, on which he also wrote his suicide note. In it he told Mr. Sackheim and Mr. Rappaport that he loved them and his family, but that he was “done.”
As his father remembered it, Mr. Bergeron also wrote, “It’s a lie based on bad information.”
An arrow pointed up to the name of the book.
The inference was clear. As Mr. Bergeron saw it at the end of his life, the only right side of 40 was the side that came before it.
What’s the problem?
I think that the problem is that in the gay lifestyle, you have a typically male emphasis on physical appearance, sex and pleasure. There is none of the moderating influence of women, which tends to push men into commitments, responsibility and stability.
According to the research, the gay lifestyle is very different than the traditional heterosexual courting approach:
The 2003-2004 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census surveyed the lifestyles of 7,862 homosexuals. Of those involved in a “current relationship,” only 15 percent describe their current relationship as having lasted twelve years or longer, with five percent lasting more than twenty years.
A study of homosexual men in the Netherlands published in the journal AIDS found that the “duration of steady partnerships” was 1.5 years.
In his study of male homosexuality in Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times, Pollak found that “few homosexual relationships last longer than two years, with many men reporting hundreds of lifetime partners.”
The Dutch study of partnered homosexuals, which was published in the journal AIDS, found that men with a steady partner had an average of eight sexual partners per year.
In their study of the sexual profiles of 2,583 older homosexuals published in the Journal of Sex Research, Paul Van de Ven et al. found that “the modal range for number of sexual partners ever [of homosexuals] was 101-500.” In addition, 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent had between 501 and 1,000 partners. A further 10.2 percent to 15.7 percent reported having had more than one thousand lifetime sexual partners.
A survey conducted by the homosexual magazine Genre found that 24 percent of the respondents said they had had more than one hundred sexual partners in their lifetime. The magazine noted that several respondents suggested including a category of those who had more than one thousand sexual partners.
Even in those homosexual relationships in which the partners consider themselves to be in a committed relationship, the meaning of “committed” or “monogamous” typically means something radically different than in heterosexual marriage.
A Canadian study of homosexual men who had been in committed relationships lasting longer than one year found that only 25 percent of those interviewed reported being monogamous.” According to study author Barry Adam, “Gay culture allows men to explore different…forms of relationships besides the monogamy coveted by heterosexuals.”
[…]In their Journal of Sex Research study of the sexual practices of older homosexual men, Paul Van de Ven et al. found that only 2.7 percent of older homosexuals had only one sexual partner in their lifetime.
In the gay lifestyle, men seem to have the most value when they are younger and more good-looking. The whole thing seems to be very much about appearance and sex – having as much sex as possible with as many different men as possible. (See, for example, the popular Grindr application on the iPhone, which allows gays to find other gays for anonymous hook-up sex)
This is really sad, because it means that as the gay men get older and their looks fade, they lose value in the area that counts the most to many of them: sexuality. This is different than in a traditional heterosexual marriage, where the man retains his value longer since he can perform his traditional male roles as a husband and father even after he gets older and loses his looks. In fact, his ability to protect, provide and lead on moral and spiritual issues can actually get better as he gets older – so his self-esteem goes up. Now it’s true that he can get depressed when he retires, but by then he’s probably around 65! And at least he will have a wife there to take care of them, and probably children to support, too. My Dad, for example, does lots of things to help me even though he is retired.
I think this NYT article sheds light on why people with traditional values tend to disagree with homosexuality and also to refrain from celebrating and affirming the gay lifestyle. We treat the gay lifestyle as if it were similar to smoking. It’s permissible, but not to be encouraged. We are not trying to make anyone feel badly just for the sake of being mean to them. If a certain lifestyle is not fulfilling, then it is a good thing to say to people “you should think twice about getting involved in this”. It’s not loving to tell people that harmful things are not really harmful. Telling someone that something unfulfilling or unhealthy is actually good for them doesn’t help them any. It’s not loving to tell a child that touching a hot stove won’t burn them – the loving thing to do is to tell the truth and then let them choose.
Here’s my previous post outlining a secular case against gay marriage.