When I was at art school in Brooklyn, I was looking for an apartment to share.
One guy I went to see was a bodybuilder with rippling muscles.
He was about 30 and, at the time, that seemed really old to me.
He said he was gay and did I have a problem with that?
I said I wasn’t and I didn’t.
He told me he used to go ‘straight-bashing’ at the weekends.
I asked what that was.
He said he’d get a small, gay friend of his to go around various bars and act really camp.
Meanwhile he would wait outside.
Eventually some drunks would start picking on the little guy.
Calling him faggot and shoving him around.
When they took him outside to beat him up, this guy would be waiting.
And he’d kick the daylights out of them.
He told me was actually bisexual.
He said, in his time, he’d had sex with around 500 women, and 1,500 men.
I didn’t end up sharing a flat with him.
But one thing he told me did come in very useful.
He said the canteen at my college was the biggest ‘cruising’ venue in New York City.
It came in useful because one of my courses was psychology.
And to pass, we had to write a thesis.
This meant coming up with a question.
Interviewing lots of people.
And drawing conclusions from the results.
Basically, crude research.
For a creative person this could be a dull process.
Unless I could find an interesting and provocative question.
Now that I knew the college canteen was full of gay men that was easier.
I made my title something like, ‘Gay: nature or nurture?”
I had lots of potential subjects to interview.
I’d ask them all about their history, when did they know they were gay, patterns of behaviour, etc?
This is many years ago now, but I remember one thing that surprised me.
The majority of these guys had lived in denial about it for a long time.
They had sex with many times more females than a straight guy would.
Until they stopped resisting and admitted they were gay.
Ever since then, I thought the subject of denial was fascinating.
How we try to impose our will about our self-image on the physical universe.
Without looking at the evidence.
I was in denial about advertising when I was young.
I thought it was just big-business manipulating the gullible masses.
I thought I should be involved in something better.
Like joining the Peace Corps and serving in the Third World.
But the evidence said I was good at advertising.
I was in denial.
I spent years resisting it.
Eventually I came out of the closet.
I admitted to myself that I loved advertising.
So the question was, could I be in advertising and help the Third World?
Well, if you’re creative there’s always a way.
I figured, I could earn a lot more in advertising than I could in the Third World.
And I’d be in a position to influence people’s attitudes more.
So I began donating part of my salary every month.
And the government had to donate the tax on it.
It added up to enough to pay for at least one person to replace me.
Plus I began making press ads, posters, and commercials about the Third World debt.
A huge amount of media and production, all for free.
So, me being in advertising was actually better for the Third World.
A lot of us wish we were doing something else?
So we make ourselves unhappy about our situation?
And by resisting what we’re doing we make it worse.
The best thing is look at the evidence.
And be honest with ourself.
Then stop resisting.
When we come out of the closet, about whatever it is, we release all the energy we previously wasted in pretence and denial.
We can start enjoying what we always wanted to do.
And that’s a better way to spend our time on the planet.