In his how-not-to book Gray & Gay: A Journey Of Self-Acceptance, Fort Lauderdale resident and octogenarian John D. Siegfried, M.D.—with two artificial knees, an artificial hip and a quintuple cardiac bypass—tells an engrossing story of his bad decisions, protracted anxieties and forks in an anguished road that eventually lead to what he claims is personal happiness.

The youngest among us will find his coming out story difficult to understand in light of the fact that the Stonewall riots are now 43 years old. The middle-aged among us may be more inclined to allow him his rather apologetic explanations for why and how he negotiated gay sex while being married to a woman, but even his contemporaries may raise an eyebrow when he describes his rationale for staying with his long-time partner, Howard Apperman, who according to Siegfried never wanted sex with him, but began a passionate affair with a close friend of theirs.

Siegfried writes, “I realized gradually my sexual fulfillment wasn’t his responsibility; it’s mine.” Really? He adds that he decided to stay with Apperman, recalling that he himself had cheated on his wife three times. That odd equation and some counseling got them into an eighteen-point contract in which both partners are free to get sex on their own. While I might laugh at Siegfried’s convoluted route to this contract, most long term couples I know reach that same understanding, albeit through a variety of methods, and I’ll never turn down a story of a gay man who finally gets the sex and/or love he has been denying himself. The book ends without Siegfried describing his current sex life, but it leads us to believe he’s gettin’ some.

I have to admit to reading every page of this memoir even when it became painfully obvious that Siegfried has gone to great lengths to arrange favorable lighting for the facts of his life. Is this a negative criticism of Gray & Gay? No. Not one among us is totally above attempts to justify his extrications from disingenuous situations very much of our own making, and I love a story in which a smart man does stupid things. I’ll hold with Apperman when Siegfried reports his saying, “Mostly, you’ve been a success throughout your life, but in some ways you’ve screwed up.”

Read Gray & Gay for its colorful details. Siegfried tells us that on the first night of his honeymoon, while his wife was in the bathroom changing into a white silk night gown, he put on a pair of “silk red-and-blue boxer shorts emblazoned with the University of Pennsylvania emblem.” Again, really? John, are you sure you’re gay?

Siegfried writes about his visit to a pastor when contemplating divorcing his wife. The pastor’s advice was in the form of a question. He asks Siegfried which he would prefer, a year in the Caribbean with the wife or a week in DC with the boyfriend. Somehow this question leads Siegfried to justification for his asking for a divorce. It illustrates the theme of this book: How do we look at the half full or empty glasses of our lives and how do we learn to accept what we are and are not given.  In addition, Siegfried repeatedly wonders what he might have become if he had been an honest and openly gay man and if the major binary decisions of his life had been the opposite. When asked if he regrets not having become divorced much earlier in life, he responds with an emphatic no, and rationalizes that through the grace of God, the constraints of his marriage kept him from becoming a victim of HIV/AIDS. Again, really?

How will acquiring Siegfried’s story benefit you? All profits from its sale will go to the National Stonewall Museum and Archives, 1300 East Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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