Photo Credit: Cleon Thelton Day III
Cleon Thelton Day III recognized there were no books written to show Black gay males how to date so he wrote “Grand Prize, Lookin’ For A Winner! Gay Men’s Guide to Dating & Relationships.” “Grand Prize,” is a guide to help gay men of color navigate through the dating process. The Atlanta area writer self-published “Grand Prize” based on his own dating experiences, and by observing the experiences of others. Day’s book doesn’t give one size fit all rules of engagement for finding Mr. Right; he instead offers simple guidelines that anyone can follow.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): Tell us about yourself; share with us your story.
CLEON DAY (CD): I was born in 1954 and raised in Cleveland Ohio in a two parent household with two brothers. We are stair step children, meaning, born year after year and I am the middle child. I was named after my father who was named after his father so I’m the third. My middle name comes from a combination of a nickname they gave my father in the army, Felton and my mother’s first name, Thelma. My middle name is Thelton.
In growing up I was a late bloomer and didn’t have girlfriends until the 11th grade. I was a quite child, a little shy but was always an elected leader in classrooms throughout elementary school, I think because no one else wanted it. I remained low-key through junior high, however, in high school started taking more visible roles and became co-editor of both my high school newspaper and yearbook.
I graduated from high school in 1972 and headed down South to Atlanta Georgia to attend Morris Brown College where I majored in Business Management. It was there in my sophomore year I had my first sexual encounter with a man, also a student who was married with two children back in his hometown of Gary Indiana. Although I had a girlfriend at the same college and one back home this new sexual experience took me completely off guard. I never had an interest in other men before then but strangely enough after that first time I never went back to women.
PI: Why did you write “Grand Prize, Lookin’ For A Winner! Gay Men’s Guide to Dating & Relationships?”
CD: As I started exploring the gay scene for the first time in my life (gay clubs, functions, discussion groups and dating) at age forty-seven I would commonly hear guys complaining about how men don’t date. Guys were saying they would like to date but the men they meet don’t know how and there wasn’t a book out there to teach them how to date. Since I was doing a lot of dating I was motivated to fill this void.
PI: You dedicated “Grand Prize” to your mother who has Alzheimer’s. i’d read that while packing her home you discovered she had several books on creative writing and self-publishing. How did it motivate you to write “Grand Prize?”
CD: Actually it didn’t. I was already in the process of writing it. Well actually the manuscript was written and I was in the process of doing some re-writes, re-editing and getting the book ready to print. It was just surprising to me that she was thinking about writing a book. My mother was very creative and I have those same traits but we never talked about either one of us writing a book.
PI: Tell us about any notable challenges you encountered while bringing “Grand Prize” to the marketplace. How did you overcome them?
CD: After attending a two day writer’s workshop featuring a number of successful writers such as J.L. King (On The Down Low) and James Earl Hardy (of the B-Boy Blues series) and reading various books on publishing, I decided to self-publish. It was also a way for me to get to learn the publishing process and perhaps began a publishing operation as a business venture. The real challenge of being self-published is money, money to publish and market your book. I decided to have the book sold at two gay bookstores here in Atlanta and developed a website for the book to be sold nationwide online.
PI: Is this book based solely on your own dating experiences?
CD: No, of course I used a lot of my dating experiences but it was also based on the number of conversations I’ve heard in various discussions throughout Atlanta, whether it was in a formal discussion or a social gathering with gay men, the topic of dating and ex-boyfriends would come up and I would listen.
PI: Describe how the rules of dating for gay men of color differ from dating for heterosexuals?
CD: First off, I don’t look at what I have written as rules, the do’s and don’ts of dating. When I came into this community that’s all I was hearing, dating rules and in the back of my mind I kept hearing that old saying “Rules are meant to be broken.” And yes, there were a number of broken relationships and broken hearts because guys were following “rules.”
I grew up in the time where heterosexual men and women had specific roles. The man was to take the lead and a woman was to follow. Men had chivalry and asked the woman out, open doors for her, moved back her seat in a restaurant. It still goes on today but back then it was more common. But what happens when you have two men, does someone play the female? (As a lot of heterosexual think) so gay/sgl men didn’t know what to do.
PI: Your detractors might say that your rules of engagement are too simplistic; and the perfect man does not exist. What do you say to them?
CD: Here we go again with the rules! (LAUGHS). What I suggest are guidelines not rules and the simplicity of them makes it easy for anyone to follow. And for the most part I’m not introducing anything anyone doesn’t already know but I bring perspective to it. When things are seen in writing, things become a lot clearer.
I’m in complete agreement with those who believe there is no Mr. Right and suggest there’s a Mr. Alright, not perfect just alright for what you need.
PI: Gay men were once considered to trendsetters from everything from fashion, to pop culture. Now it seems like some of us are the followers of the thugification mindset and lifestyle. How does one break free of this?
CD: When you read my book you will notice I don’t make judgments on a guy’s lifestyle. Basically nothing’s off limits, take for instance drugs. If you’re into drugs you need to be in a relationship with someone who also does drugs rather than someone whose never done drugs or have an interest to do. However, you better be clear on what kind of drugs he does, how much of a habit it is and how much money is going towards it.
I spoke with one guy who was in a 3 year relationship. He and his lover both smoked weed so it was cool. One day he was cleaning out the back of his car, digging down in between the seat and back cushion and found needles. His boyfriend was confronted and admitted to doing heroin but had kept it hidden from him for over two years.
It is universal for men and women to be into bad boys and thugs for the most part are bad boys, guys with an edge to them. There have been a number of research studies done in the media asking why women are attracted to bad boys and they really couldn’t come up with anything concrete. I will just say this, if you are attracted to the thug type just be clear on what you’re getting yourself into and don’t complain when it doesn’t work out.
PI: Why do you believe some men are attracted to the wrong kind of men?
CD: Many men are attracted to who they are attracted to; unfortunately they don’t spend enough time upfront in trying to know these men. Many men think if they have good sex with a good person they will have a good relationship and most times that’s not the case, hence the saying “Everything good, ain’t necessarily good for you!” It’s about compatibility!
PI: What’s next for CTD III Enterprises?
CD: We’re putting together a project to bring the Grand Prize concepts into a business venture. And no, it’s not a dating service. I cannot disclosed any details of it until everything has been legally protected. However, what I will say, it’s something that hasn’t been done before in either the straight or same-gender loving/gay community.
By the way, if any of your members (PrideIndex readers) want to purchase a copy of “Grand Prize, Lookin’ for a Winner” I have a special just for them. The book retails for $21.95 but I will discount it to your folks for only $15 plus $6 for shipping & handling (U.S. only). It will bring your total up to $21 but you’re not paying $6 on top of the retail price $21.95. You can pay for your copy through my paypal account. Cleon@ctdiiienterprises.net and we will shipped the book out to you. One week only! (This special is for one week only, when this interview hits the site!)