Published: 30th January, 2017
Thirteen years ago, before this website came into existence, I was running the international LGBT website, Guyslink.com. And, as website owners do, I would periodically surf for materials I could share or link to.
During one search I stumbled on an amazing website owned by a couple of gay guys, Benjie Nycum and Mike Glatze. They had worked together for
in San Francisco since the mid 90’s and had been boyfriends for most of that time. In 2000 they had coauthored the highly acclaimed book “XY Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Being Young and Gay”.
The following year, they left XY Magazine and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Benjie’s family lived. There, they launched Young Gay America, aka YGA, and it was YGA's website that I had just discovered.
In the words of Benjie and Mike, Young Gay America was
“a project that aims to save lives by educating and informing queer youth about their importance and relevance to society by placing their individual stories in an international forum and context; fostering and encouraging the exchange of ideas by queer youth on issues pertinent to queer youth (to
allow their voices to be heard); and promoting positive self-image and sense of belonging.”
Today, many could stake claim to a similar mission but, back in 2004, Young Gay America was unique. It not only published articles reflecting the views and advice of its youthful staff, it also invited and published feedback from LGBT youth across North America.
Each year, Benjie, Mike and another member of the YGA crew embarked on road trips, driving around North America interviewing gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, and straight-allied young people in their own towns and cities. Youth stories and interviews were then published on the YGA website. In 2003 they had also visited Zagreb in Croatia, to bring a glimpse of LGBTQ youth culture overseas to their website.
I quickly updated my own website to include information about YGA, plus a link to younggayamerica.com. And I wrote to Benjie and Mike to ask if they would return the favour. They agreed and provided a reciprocal link.
Soon came news that YGA had created a documentary video from one of their road trips. Its title,
“Jim In Bold”, is the name of a poem written by Jim Wheeler, a gay high school student in Pennsylvania. Jim was continually harassed at school until he committed suicide in 1997. The video features the tragic story of Jim’s life and contrasts the torment Jim suffered with improved acceptance of gay sexuality in 2003, when the film was made.
Needless to say, I was soon in contact with Mike and Benjie again, eager to obtain a copy of the video. A few weeks later I placed one of the first online orders ffor the DVD, the moment it became available. In the years since then, in my various pursuits as an LGBT activist, I have lost count of the number of youth audiences that have watched my DVD copy of
“Jim In Bold”.
Amazingly, after all these years, the website for
‘Jim In Bold’ is still online and it is well worth a visit. The site features excerpts from the movie and it can be found at
Come 2005, YGA launched
“YGA Magazine” a bi-monthly magazine for LGBT youth. To quote
“The magazine had the distinction of being the only English language publication catering for all queer and questioning youth, as opposed to the male-only youth-oriented magazine XY.”
As well as subscribing to the magazine, I also thought I should advertise it on Guyslink. So I was in communication with YGA once again, this time asking for a banner image that I could use to advertise their magazine. In return, YGA offered to feature an ad for my website, which then appeared in the April/May 2005 edition of YGA Magazine.
One of my own favourite pieces of poetry is Morte d’Arthur by Tennyson and notably a quote from that poem: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” It gives testament to the inevitability of change. All the same, it has never managed to lessen the sadness I have felt when faced with various changes.
So it was with the demise of Young Gay America in 2007. And my quoted poem maybe offers the only rational explanation for the cause.
First my copies of YGA Magazine stopped arriving. Some months later I noticed that the younggayamerica.com website had gone offline. Some surfing for news soon revealed why.
A health scare in 2004 had led Mike to what he calls his
“spiritual awakening.” As the son of an agnostic father and Christian mother he reconnected with his mother’s faith as he started trying to reconcile his sexuality and spirituality.
In 2005 he had written in YGA Magazine that
“People have been raised incorrectly to believe that the prejudices they’ve been taught by their pastors are God’s word.” But, by the end of that year, he had started to question his own sexuality.
YGA had shutdown in 2007 when Mike’s relationship with Benjie had fallen apart and he had moved out of the house they had shared. Mike now believed that, as a teenager, he had mistakenly taken on a gay identity. But, following his health issue in 2004, he had gradually arrived at the belief that he was straight.
It was almost a year later by the time I understood what had happened and decided to write to Benjie. Realizing that he had dealt with such a painful ordeal, I wanted to convey my best wishes. It also occurred to me that, following these events, he may well no longer wish to be the activist he was before. But I knew that YGA had vast quantities of articles, photos and other resources that they had accumulated during their existence. It seemed sad that these might never again be used to benefit LGBT youth across North America. So I also made an offer to Benjie - that I would be prepared to publish any materials that he might be prepared to supply.
From his reply, it became clear that he wasn’t ready to take me up on my offer although he did consider it might be a future possibility. As a professionally qualified architect, he had become intensely involved in his career and had just been promoted to a CEO position at his family’s firm of architects. Benjie indicated that, as a result, he now had little time for anything else.
This came as no surprise as, on several past occasions, I have buried myself in work to take my mind away from personal issues. So I decided to leave it at that.
As far as I know, Benjie is still CEO at his family’s company in Halifax. Meanwhile, Mike is now a preacher in a small town in Wyoming where he married a local girl at the end of 2013.
Personally, as a gay guy who is also a Christian, I can’t relate to Mike’s transformation but hey, we’re all different. All the same, I’m very intrigued.
That intrigue plus my past involvement with YGA, caused a new movie to pique my interest when it was released last week.
“I Am Michael” starring James Franco tells the story of Mike Glatze from his time with YGA through to the present.
Having watched the trailer I have to remark that the leading actors, who are ten years older than the characters they portray, appear nowhere near as youthful. Other commentators, for example on IMDB, have been far more direct by asserting that, because of the age difference, it’s a clear case of miscasting. There is no place in this movie for actors with crow’s feet, they say. In addition, for reasons that perhaps only Hollywood knows, Benjie has been assigned the new name of Bennett and a guy called Scott is now Tyler. Had I been the producer of this film, I would have left first names unchanged and may well instead have changed the title to “I Am Michael 2.0” - or to a more considerate “Shed A Tear For Benjie”.
For these reasons and perhaps others, reviews for the movie are mixed, with an average score of mediocre. All the same, I’m looking forward to seeing it even though I doubt that it will lead me any closer to understanding Michael.
At this time, I Am Michael is not being screened in Canadian movie theatres.