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Jason Dilts

By Jason Dilts
Jason Dilts lives in Wichita, KS and is a graduate of Wichita State University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He has been the Executive Director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party since he was 19 years old. He is also the President of the Kansas Democratic Party LGBT Caucus. He is an ardent feminist activist, avid reader and writer, and plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Gender Studies. He loves his life as a single gay man and enjoys spending quality time with his amazing friends.
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or years, I had a single problem. From the moment I stepped out of the closet and admitted to myself that I was gay, I immediately began to feel insecure about not having a man in my life as a romantic partner. What began as simple adolescent insecurity developed into a complex as I grew into early adulthood. The older I got, the more deficient I felt for not having someone to love me. I was excelling academically in college, building a solid and successful career in politics, and establishing and developing very meaningful friendships. I had it all, or at least as much as anyone in their early twenties could expect to have. Yet, I felt as though my life was lacking in some way. No matter how good life was, this problem – this single problem – persisted.

I assumed that it would go away the minute I found someone to love me. All of my insecurities about my life, my looks, and my place in the world would be fixed the moment “prince charming” came in and swept me off my feet. Like so many young girls find themselves doing, I was waiting on the fairytale narrative to give my life meaning (as if a life without love was also one devoid of this alleged “meaning”). Never mind that I enjoyed my college classes and soaked up all the new theories and concepts I was learning. Never mind that I loved my job managing and directing a local grassroots political party. Never mind the very deep and connected friendships I had built over the years. Never mind the fact that I actually liked living by myself, alone, in my own eclectically decorated and perfectly organized apartment. I was convinced that all these elements that made up my version of the “good life” were insignificant and meaningless. Under the ever-anticipated glow of love, I expected all my insecurities would just melt away.

What a crock!

Looking for and finding love, it turns out, isn’t quite so easy. The romance narrative – found in movies, book, and magazines –  is built on the idea that you’re no one until someone loves you. Without love, life isn’t even worth living. This trope is constantly re-enforced by social institutions (including religion and government), families, peers, and most of all, popular culture. Most of us are taught unquestionably from a very young age that getting married and having children is something of a rite of passage into becoming a full-fledged “grown up.” 

Our society constructs rituals and celebrations around this idea and exalts couplehood above all other forms of existence.  It begins when we are young – when middle school dances and later high school proms are highlights of the academic year for many teenagers.  Dating is all the rage among young peer groups as adolescent pairing off often equates to popularity and self-validation. This celebration of coupledom continues into adulthood when married people are thrown lavish parties to celebrate their dual partnerships, and when parents are rewarded with showers of gifts for their ability to reproduce.  The celebration of couples is everywhere! Couples get parties – single people get pity!

Along the way, we are constantly reminded by popular culture that single equals deficient. There’s Celine Dion, who docilely sings “I’m everything I am because you loved me”, suggesting that all of our accomplishments are the result of someone else having romantic feelings for us.  Avril Lavigne also doesn’t seem to be able to accomplish much on her own, at least not according to her song When You’re Gone, as  she confesses that when her lover is away, “I can hardly breathe I need to feel you here with me.” Jessica Simpson seems to think she can’t even stand up with out a man, as she confesses in the lyrics of her song, With You: “I can let my hair down / I can say anything crazy / I know you’ll catch me right before I hit the ground / With nothing but a t-shirt on / I never felt so beautiful. Baby as I do now / Now that I’m with  you.” LeAnn Rimes takes the cake, though, in How Do I Live, lamenting that she simply cannot physically live without her man.  “How do I live with out you; I want to know; How do I breathe without  you / If you ever go / How do I ever, ever survive / How do I /  How do I / Oh, how do I live”.  We can only hope that Ms. Rimes current relationship will never dissolve because she will apparently be dead if it does!

While these over-the-top lyrics might be dismissed as mere examples of a much larger genre of sappy pop-songs, they work in tandem with society at large to re-enforce the notion that a single person is not of equal value as a couple. Gradually, we learn and internalize the notion that what we accomplish on our own pales in comparison to what we accomplish by falling in love and tying the proverbial knot.

I tacitly adopted this ideology for years without realizing it. Throughout my late teens and early twenties, I developed intense crushes on a handful of guys that I desperately wanted to turn into romantic partners. None of them showed any real, substantive interest in me, though – yet I hoped that, by pining after them, somehow they would see just how great of a guy I really was. When efforts to “catch” the current object of my desire failed, I resorted to looking anywhere I could for companionship. I tried Internet chat rooms, on-line dating services, gay social organizations, and gay dance clubs. I didn’t find anyone who interested me in any of those places, though I did manage to snatch up a few dates... (continue reading)

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Gretchen said:

My lesbian daughter told me when I was divorced and single and feeling much as you describe here that I should "Don't look for attachment; just do what you love and you will be radiant and your radiance will in time bring opportunities for attachment." I thought that was amazingly wise and found it to be true. Celebrating life, friendship, meaningful work you believe in, intellectual activity, service to your community--all this I loved...and in doing what I loved, I also found the person of my dreams.

Posted at: May 22, 2008 5:26 PM

Brent Lank said:

It took me until I was twenty-eight to start realizing that everything that I wanted out of life I could do on my own. That includes traveling, owning a home, and even having a child. Having a partner to share those things with might be wonderful, but it's not a requirement.

Posted at: May 27, 2008 3:02 PM

Seth Macy said:

I think this is just the tip of an iceberg. Let's keep in mind that things fall apart at any moment. This feels like the beginning of an idea, more than the middle. But what Jason has said here is that we must be aware of our own identities, and he has made it very clear. I'd like to think that this would be enough, but I know that when we as human beings affirm a belief like Jason's, it often quickly becomes endangered by our own doubts. Forging on...identities get lost very easily in gay culture. I'd like to know what to do once we get to this point. I've grasped it too(affirming my own identity after accepting I'm gay) but I can still feel the pressure about me embracing it. Am I/are we that distorted?

Posted at: June 10, 2008 5:28 PM

Chris Coulson said:

What Jason said about how he felt was a perfect description of me. I enjoy the things that I do in the community and haveing my own home but I'm tired of being alone without the love of a mate. I've been with two people in the last 4yrs and they both told me that they loved me and cared about me yet they both walked out on me and the most recent was just last month. How can u truly love and care about someone and tell them this to their face and yet walk out on them and not even tell them why u are doing it. I'm gay and have known this for multiple years and I fully accept this fact and enjoy being gay but it feels like there is a part of me missing not haveing someone to come home to when I've been gone or spend time with in the evening doing whatever we decide together to do. I have alot of love to give someone and am a very tenderhearted person and I want to think Jason for writeing this story but I needed to write this comment and get this off my chest as I have nobody else that I can talke to about this kind of things especially my family as they don't approve of this kind of life style but I'm 46yrs old and I run my own life not my family so if they can't except me for me and that I'm a part of that family then they aren't even worth being called family in my books.

Posted at: July 8, 2008 9:26 PM

Earl Nissen said:

I read about Jason's essay in "Liberty Press" of July 2008. It reminds me of the latest episode of HBO's "Taxicab Confessions" where a transsexual lady gets into the cab and shares her stories of love and loss. She ends up her interview by saying (I'm paraphrasing) "it's taken me along time to learn that the most important thing is to love yourself."

I've lived alone for the past 10 months and it has opened up my eyes to what I like to do and who I am. I cut out the word "should" and have just done what I like to do because it's pleasing to me! I've turned off the TV and read and listen to Public Radio and that's what I like to do!

As long as I don't harm myself or others, I'm OK. I feel if this is my last day on earth, then I have made myself happy first. Hooray for me!

Don't get me wrong. I give of myself to others (in listening, writing, visting and sharing good times) because I like to share and am joyful and curious about others. But I have let go of the desire to "please others" and am happy to please myself.

Posted at: July 18, 2008 5:48 PM

boredwell said:

Well, you might have the opportunity yet to write a sequel entitled My Relationship Problem. People who are in a relationship often want out and those who are single want in. What's up with THAT?! Our society's approach to both being single and being married is paradoxical. Both states are supposed to make us happy. Both are fraught with trial and tribulation. Yet being single carries a certain stigma, one often self-inflicted. Many people, I've found, in their desperation to be connected approach relationships with a consumer mentality. Looks, career, future are all given dominance while humor, mutuality and communication are given shorter shrift. Understanding oneself is the best, indeed, only way to aspire to contentment. Sharing this with someone may or may not be the cause for celebration of more contentment.

Posted at: February 15, 2009 10:13 AM

Rachel Rutledge said:

Great essay. I don't know Jason at all, just seen him around town at a few events. His reputation proceeds him. I am really impressed with what he has been doing with the community and the Democratic party, and he just seems to be such a vibrant and vital individual. I really enjoyed reading the essay, and I'm struggling with some of the same issues with singlehood - being a 37 year old single woman is not so easy, either. However, I do love living alone and I have friends in my life and people who love me - I still hope to find someone but I have no idea when that will be, or what kind of man it will be when I find him. Anyway, a great article, really related to it, thanks for expressing yourself so powerfully.

Posted at: October 14, 2009 1:12 AM