I write about life as a contemporary gay man in Hollywood, CA. I have a passion for spaces where gay men explore their authentic selves and thrive as a result. I'd like this blog to be one of those places.
I write and teach yoga.
During my life so far, I've been a Mormon, a ballet dancer, a city bureaucrat, an AIDS era survivor, International Mister Leather, and a yoga teacher. All of these journies have informed my philosophies on being human, being gay, and being awesome.
If I need to explain why this is another example of how gay men and the dominant culture do not respect or honor our own dignity, pain, and passion, then the cause of internalized self-worth in gay men is dead as well.
Today is World AIDS Day and it appears to be an afterthought for… well, for everybody. On facebook, on TV, and in my email inbox. AIDS and all the bravery, horror, and heroism of that time is not something anyone wants to acknowledge when we’ve got Black Friday sales and the Hollywood Christmas Parade.
I get it. AIDS is not sexy and it’s not even lethal anymore for those of us lucky enough to be on meds. But AIDS killed more American men than World War II and a combination of those war dead and the dead from every American war since.
We fought and won a victory of sorts from the plague. Guess it’s over. Move on.
That’s all I’ve got. What else is there to say?
I miss my best friend, Alvin Lorenzo. I miss my boyfriend, Tony Pruzzi. I miss my mentor, Gustav.
If I need to explain why this is another example of how gay men and the dominant culture do not respect or honor our own dignity, pain, and passion, then the cause of internalized self-worth in gay men is dead as well.
Toxic masculinity is not a symptom of being a man, it is a byproduct of ignoring natural masculine evolution. Boys need to evolve into men. Boy Energy needs to evolve into Mature Masculinity.
Toxic Masculinity is, in fact, stagnate Boy Energy.
Are we men or boys?
Becoming a man isn’t about getting older, it’s about evolving into a useful member of the tribe.
Unfortunately, evolving from boys into
men is not supported in contemporary American culture and gay men’s culture as
a subset of American culture is ignorant to, or actively ignores, the roles and
responsibilities of mature men.
However, I’ve had a glimpse of what
happens when the ideals of mature masculinity (as opposed to boy energy) are
applied to my life. And I want more.
For me, Boy’s Town is a metaphor as
much as it is any particular physical space. The term includes all the bars where
I drank, the “sidewalk sales” afterwards, the house parties where I laughed,
the gyms where I worked out, and the steam rooms where I cruised for sex. It’s
a place for youth and young adults (under 35 years old) to explore who they are
I’m not a youth or even a young adult.
I’m 54 and I’ve realized that I’m in
the middle of grieving my time in Boy’s Town. That’s because it’s hard to let
go of. I don’t see a clear road ahead to anyplace else. This grieving is a painful
experience that nobody warned me was coming. It’s unexpected and that pisses me
But it’s as natural as the grief I’ve
felt when moving from one city to another, from one relationship to another, or
one job to another. Viewing my pain through this lens makes me excited for the
Now it’s time to move from Boy’s Town to
Man Country, a place where men celebrate their Mature Masculinity.
I’m fucking ready for that road trip!
The only problem is that Man Country
appears to still be under construction. Finding examples of Mature Masculinity
is difficult for all men but that is especially true for us gay men who have
been reveling in our boy energy with our boyfriends in Boy’s Town for
I’m done some sniffing around, mostly
out of desperation, and learned some things about getting older.
Somewhere between being young men and being old men, an energetic transition needs to happen from Boy Energy to Mature Masculinity. If not, we all suffer.
It’s happening. This suffering is an epidemic in our country caused by the
glorification of hero culture, but it affects gay men differently. Rather
than hold close to the Boy Energy of Hero Culture that tells men they need to
dominate through the use of destructive emotionlessness force, we gays hold on
to the Boy Energy that tells us to dominate through sexual attractiveness, cute
clothes, and shade.
Instead, we need to see ourselves as
men, not boys.
Our ghettos are often called “boy’s
town” and the moniker fits, but that’s because of our behavior more than the
age of the guys there in the ghetto.
Guys who do not consciously evolve
into Mature Masculinity usually stagnate in Boy Energy. That stagnation ripens
into a stench. It’s not pretty. They become entitled Man-boys. That stagnate
boy energy in old men is what people are calling “toxic masculinity”.
The public reaction to childish adult
men is to demonize maleness itself, to make men bad, but men and masculinity are
neither good nor bad. Eventual growth or stagnation depends on where you plant
your seed and how you tend to what you’ve planted.
Stagnate Boy Energy causes pain for everyone.
Younger men feel the pain.
Without examples of mature masculinity
to observe, our youth are adrift in the world without a compass to guide them,
anyone to lean on for support, or any idea of what a thriving older gay man’s
life looks like. They are left to sort out sex, body image, love, friendship,
money, bio-family, chosen family, and spirituality all on their own or with the
assistance of their similarly inexperienced gay brothers.
Each generation is forced to
rediscover life on his own. The evolution from one generation to the next is
stunted. Our community crawls rather than leaps forwards.
The next young gay man enters a lonely world he must discover on his own.
Older men feel the pain.
It comes from the emotional and
spiritual stagnation of our existence in the realm of boys while our instincts
are telling us we have so much more to give. Our experience has created
knowledge, wisdom, and resources. But we have no one to share this with.
Our age has made us vulnerable to
health issues, decreased social status, and loneliness due to the lack of
non-club venues that would be attractive to older men looking for more
intellectually engaged arenas to spar with others about the current state of
the tribe and its path into the future.
Our fully developed elders live in
loneliness until they and their wisdom wither, fade, and disappear without the
transference of their knowledge, love, and leadership skills into the hands and
hearts of those that follow them.
The drag queen Jackie Beat addressed this stagnation as part of
wanna hear a gay joke?
gay man walks into a bar.
day for 50 years.
not so funny when you say it out loud.
As usual, an artist was able to
illustrate our psychic pain long before we were able to articulate it. This
“joke” illustrates the isolation and evolutionary stagnation gay men have felt
Toxic masculinity is not a symptom of being a man, it is a byproduct of ignoring natural masculine evolution. Boys need to evolve into men. Boy Energy needs to evolve into Mature Masculinity.
Toxic Masculinity is, in fact, stagnate Boy Energy.
Young men are not evolving, they are
simply becoming old men without any thought of the responsibilities, efforts,
and rewards of being a conscious mature man.
So, what are the differences between
Boy Energy and Mature Masculinity?
Encourages the release of chaotic energy (challenges the status quo)
Encourages stability by promoting the talents of other adult men and boys
Is unsure of his identity, making him boastful and suspicious of intimacy
Is secure in his masculine identity, making him generous and open to love
Needs to be right
Needs to understand
aspects of boy energy are useful, and that’s why we need to encourage our
younger brothers, while they are still young (under 30), to revel in and be
fully conscious of their Boy Energy: to feel the thrill of taking on the enemy,
to have the idealism to fall in love, to be willing to break things. Those
tools, and others, should remain within reach as we grow older so that they may
be activated when circumstance calls for it.
just say this plainly, Boy Energy is not bad.
appropriate for boys.
becomes toxic when held on to for too long. Boy Energy was vital during our
fights for civil rights. That’s because activism is suited to Boy Energy.
Fight! Fight! Fight! Chaotic, deconstructing energy that knows it’s right. Rage
and breaking things were and are useful while fighting our enemies.
not have gotten so far so fast during the plague without it.
But now it’s time to build.
It is important to hold on to the
skills and generative attributes of Boy Energy such as altruism and innocence,
but, when it’s time to become an adult, we need to let go of the limiting and
destructive attributes of Boy Energy like dominance and the need
to be right.
Again, holding on to Boy Energy beyond
its sell-by date causes the stink of stagnation.
We stop building. We stop growing.
We flop around in an energy sucking bog
of our own making. Exhausted from dragging each other down into the mud, we
have no energy left to create a solid foundation the next generation can build
We need to step away from that
behavior and use our energy to till fertile soil so that our tribe may enjoy
the fruits of wisdom, support, and unconditional love. If we do not, and it’s
my opinion we have not, we live in a world of boastful, manipulative, frightened
man-boys. These man-boys’ need for status and dominance, coupled with their
natural identity insecurities, separate them from their gay brothers and the
entire community suffers as a result.
The major work to
be done in the current era of gay men’s evolution is to learn the difference
between Boy Energy and Mature Masculinity, and when to move from one to the
He uses the term “adulating” to explain
why he paid his rent on time, cleaned up after himself, or did anything that is
Hewears his adolescent
behavior as a badge of superiority and bullies others, often with loud
domineering behavior, and often in concert with other man-boys, if he receives
any whiff of disapproval.
either by running away from it or retaliating with name calling or bringing up
issues he knows will cause others pain.
Herefuses to give up his
style and dress like an adulteven when the venue calls for it, like
a wedding, a job interview, or a pretentious restaurant. Yeah, I get that some
venues are pretentious. Mature Masculinity honors the venue’s right to be
unique in its own way, or he chooses not to go. This is not about gender
identification. Gender identity should never result in barriers. It’s about
following the theme of the party.
Throwing a fit because the proprietor doesn’t appreciate your Marvel
T-shirt and blinky tennis shoes just reveals a man unwilling to step into his
For him, sex is nothing but sport. He
keeps score of the quality, quantity, and exoticness of every encounter and
gladly interjects his current scoreboard or former highlights into as many
conversations as possible, especially when he feels threatened of losing the
attention of the group.
His car is an extension of his cock. It
is not his “car”. It is not his “vehicle”. It is his “Beemer”, his “Bentley”,
his “Mercedes”, or his “Harley”. I always wonder if these guys eat “Wonder” or
“Oroweat” instead of “bread”.
He has lots of couples photos with him and his car on social media.
He cannot be trusted to show up. He
only shows up to a fraction of the events he marks as “Going” to on Facebook.
He waits until the last minute to commit to anything because it’s his access to
entertainment that matters, not the logistical challenges of the party’s host,
or the commitments he has made to his “friends”.
Our last President (Obama) was a good
example of Mature Masculinity. Essentially, these are attributes of a man who
is not toxic or swampy. He has integrated the four Jungian masculine architypes
of King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover.
He is more
interested in understanding then being right.
He can discuss religion, politics, and money because he approaches topics from
a state of open curiosity rather than one of prescriptive dominance (being
He is able to explore an idea with someone who holds the opposite view.
He is willing
to talk about commitment.
It might be about showing up for plans next weekend, discussing monogamy vs.
polyamory, being honest about his interest in parenting, or buying a house.
He is able to respectfully disagree.
He does not change the subject or suddenly leave the premises to avoid an
He keeps his
world in order. He does not require supervision to clean up after
himself, pay his bills, get a job, respond to invitations.
He seeks advice more than assistance.
He asks for
help. His humility enables him to seek advice from Elders
He makes no demands on them to fix his problems.
He uses their insight to develop his own plan for action.
responsibility for his decisions. He understands that his decisions have impacts on
others and he is willing to acknowledge those impacts.
He admits when he’s wrong.
Mature Masculinity requires us, as gay
men, to fundamentally change how we view our social responsibilities regarding
It requires us to be more than
fighters and fuckers.
It requires us to be consciously aware
of our social responsibilities for our brothers.
It requires us to create, bless
(high-five), and protect things that are in the best interest of the entire tribe.
Good news! Gay men have the intellect,
the resources, and the creative energy to maintain what is great about Boy Energy
while simultaneously moving those of us, when the time is right, onto the path
of the Mature Masculine.
Look at what
happened when we were faced with a lethal pandemic. We had the brains, the
heart, and the courage to fundamentally change how we are seen and how we are
served by the greater society. That’s fucking huge!
Now, it is
time to change how we see ourselves and how we are served by our own
institutions and social groups.
Center needs more programming that is specific to gay men.
is a beacon of hope for all queer people, but its focus is on those most in need:
the homeless, elderly, youth, women, and transgender and left this work undone.
Men are privileged. That’s a fact in today’s culture. However, being privileged
does not mean I don’t feel pain, loneliness, and shame. It does mean, that men
are left to do our own community building. That includes transitioning gay
individuals from boys into men.
This blog is
meant to start an authentic conversation, to knock open the door of new
possibilities, to take action, to hold ourselves accountable,
This blog is
meant to start an authentic conversation, to take action, and to hold myself
accountable for creating movement on these ideas that grip my soul.
gay man has already lived a hero’s journey. Each of us has be forced out of the
known into the unknown. We have faced challenges and temptations, usually
alone, where we sorted out allies, mentors, and beasts. We have slain the
dragon of oppression, both external and internal. Part of us has died and is
reborn, usually to such an extent that others see that change in us when we
return to our place of origin.
place, we can make this next expression of gay men’s existence, brilliant in its
satisfaction, dignity, and joy.
Hero culture has set an impossible and
dangerous standard for men in this country.
The John Wayne type of independent, self-reliant, emotionless icon has been replicated, digitized, and repacked into countless new action actors and movies. Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Dwayne Johnson make up just the tip of the iceberg that is, unfortunately, acceptable American masculinity.
At best, men’s hero culture is simply causing us pain; it gives us the option to be 1 of 2 things, 1) on top (a winner) or 2) NOT on top (a loser).
Since there can only be a small number of people on top, that leaves the majority of men not on top who live in shame, trying desperately to keep their “loser” status hidden.
At worst, and unfortunately the worst
is happening at an alarming rate, it is filling the morgues of this country
with dead bodies ravaged by self-inflicted gun shot wounds.
Something must change.
This is very personal, and although it
affects men of all ages, I’m focusing on men like me in their mid fifties. While
sorting out my own day-to-day malaise, a malaise I have not be able to shake
for nearly a year, I’ve become aware that this feeling of discontent is common among
men my age.
When our careers are winding down, we
look to the future and find it surprisingly free of road signs. From my point
of view, a 54 gay man living in Hollywood, California, the future appears to be
completely void of any roads at all.
There is no clear path to walk either
alone or with companions.
This is why so many men end up in
isolation. We feel lonely, vulnerable, and disoriented.
All things hero culture abhors.
Hero culture ideals require us to show
no vulnerability, to need no one, and to have all the answers. Our need for
love, our desire for friendship, and ALL our fears around money, relationships,
relevance, and death must be buried under a façade of muscle, fast cars, and
sexual conquest. If not, the culture considers us weak.
And weakness is currently reviled in
So, alone with our fears, desires, and dreams it is.
This is more
than just sad. It’s dangerous.
The hero model of masculinity that our
society embraces causes a toxicity that is alarmingly fatal.
This is not the “toxic-masculinity”
used to describe narcissistic, selfish, hostility from men. This is a toxicity
that causes self-destructive life-threatening isolation inside of men.
It’s a toxicity that is causing men to
kill themselves at an alarming rate!
Suicide is one of the top leading
causes of death for men.
I am not in a suicidal state, but I am
experiencing a midlife malaise that I want to turn around before it flirts with
the kind of loneliness that kills.
Notice, in my earlier statement about
my malaise, that I didn’t used the word “normal” to explain my condition; I
said, “common” because I refuse to believe that this many men quietly killing
themselves in the shadows is normal.
This is a clear and present danger that must be addressed.
The first step is for us to talk about feelings, listen to others when they express their feelings, and trust that the culture, deep down, wants strong, empathic, community-oriented collaborators more than it wants men who break things and can only express themselves with one emotion: anger.
The more open and honest I am with
other men about my own desires for friendship, love, and relevance
(usefulness), the more confident I am that our current state of hero worship
will change. This past Sunday I met with a small group of Gay Men Over 50
(GMO50), a private group started by a man I’ve known for 34 years, and we
talked about our living options as we age.
There was a palpable creative energy in
After we got past the realization that
there are no brick and mortar venues or “arenas” for gay men to gather that are
not bars, sex clubs, or sex apps, we had an exciting conversation about
communal living spaces, elder roles, and what “community” means.
We need places to connect.
Not chat rooms or conference calls. We
need to breath the same air, hear the same laughter, and lean in when the quite
moments present themselves for heart-to-heart connections.
This is a new frontier. We will need to
find the answers and build the future together.
For my part, I intend to keep talking
about these issues, listening to ALL the feelings my brothers are able to
express, and follow all leads that guide us to a physical community space (or spaces)
where gay men thrive.
Aside from my birth parents, this is the longest
relationship of my life. The fact that it’s a relationship with an inanimate
teddy bear does not change the fact that I truly and deeply love this hunk of
fabric, fiber, and buttons.
Love is mysterious.
My teddy bear and I met 52 years ago when I was
only two years old, shopping with my mom at a garage sale in North Platte,
Nebraska. At least that’s what I’m told. I don’t remember. It was 1967 and I was
two years old.
Grandma Derra found two buttons in her ample sowing
kit that became perfect eyes for my new best friend.
Knowing he had already had his eyes and most of his
fur loved off of him (at least that’s the story of his haggard appearance that
I choose to believe) I felt that he brought important wisdom to our
relationship. He had been there for another young boy or girl and was now ready
to handle the needs a new little boy, a boy whose parents were about to
I named him “Ted”, an act of irony I felt was
unappreciated by the adults and other children around me.
This ode to Ted was written 12 years ago as a
writing exercise. I had recently broken up with a man I was not ready to let
go. Using the writing prompt, “who or what was an early love?”
This is what poured out.
Ted, you have been with me for 42 years now.
Your fur is mostly rubbed off and the holes I did
surgery on when I was six years old, meant to keep your stuffing inside, have
You’re back on my bed again.
Back because Keith left me and went back to San
Francisco, back on my bed again because someone has chosen to leave me, just like
mom did when I was two.
Were you in my bed back then too Ted?
Smelling like garage dust because we had bought you
second hand at a yard sale? It must have been you there keeping me company when
my young parents argued and ended their marriage.
Mom is the only one who has told me the story of
their breakup. How her drinking and crazy nature were the cause of it. It’s
interesting that she is the only one who told me how it all played out since I
ended up living with Dad.
Ted, you must have been there in that tiny bedroom
I can now barley remember, first door on the right, off the living room in our
single wide trailer home.
Ted, you must have been there because you are still
here with me today, waiting patiently, if not a little decrepitly, on top of
the boxes I store thousands of dollars worth of cycling clothes in. You usually
sit facing my new fancy mattress that sits in my new fancy West Hollywood condo.
You sit patiently and wait with unconditional love
even though you have been shut away in closets while I lived with Steve
Chaison, and Tony Peruzzi, and John Nieto, men who shared my bed for five-year
stints or died in a hospital room leaving me no one to come home to except you,
Ted, you have soaked up tears of a child left
behind, have been pushed aside to make way for fucking, you have endured my
private shame as a bed wetter, and you have placidly worn satin outfits I made for
you out of scraps found in my step-mom’s sewing basket.
You came with me to Tucson to visit Mom in the psych
ward. Your presence told her instantly that consoling love had arrived. She
pulled you close to her heart and soaked in twenty-five years of reassurance.
She was unhappy when the attendants would not allow
you to stay with her overnight, but I was secretly glad to be able to hold you while
waiting for her to find enough healing to be released.
You see Ted, between my parents and you, it’s been you
that’s been there the most for me.
You were there to calm my 8-year-old nerves when I
was alone in bed and monsters in the trees threatened to crawl through the
window of our first house on 6th Street in North Platte, Nebraska.
You were there to commiserate with when my stepmom
gave her daughter the bigger room and the canopy bed in Cheyenne Wyoming.
You were there when I unpacked the box marked
“Mike’s Room” in Pocatello, Idaho after my parents moved (unannounced) from
Wyoming to Idaho, couching the information in a birthday card they sent to
their son who was five thousand miles away on an adventure picking pineapples on
Nearly hairless and formless, you have never given
up on me Ted.
Your fancy button eyes sewn on by Grandma Derra
have steadfastly kept their gaze on me for over four decades. Watching and
waiting for my need of comfort to return. Your threadbare head is ready to be
nuzzled by your boy. I know you can’t help it that that wire pokes out from
your ear and jabs my tender lips.
Nose-less and mouth-less you exist only for my
solace, seeking nothing for yourself.
How could I possibly not love you as fiercely as I
As gay men, we spend so much of our lives existing in a world that is not built for us, we forget that there is an option to finding ways of “fitting in”. We can actually belong.
A week from tomorrow, on Tuesday, Sept 24, 2019, I will relaunch my yoga classes, so I thought it would be a good time to repost my vision for Evoco Center.
Right now, I am renting space by the hour, but eventually, if all goes well, I will open my own venue. This post outlines who these offerings are for and why the project is so important to me.
After the venue I was previously using suddenly shut down at the end of May 2019, I took some time off to do “men’s work” with the Man Kind Project in New York and LA, spoke with Joel Benjamin and participated in his Powers of Man – Tantric Workshops for men and his gay men’s yoga offerings at Yoga Smith in Seattle Washington. I also took a very deep dive with Eben Oroz (a modern guru for sure) into meditation and breath work during a four-day phoneless, vegan, and often silent intensive in Topanga Canyon here in the Los Angeles area.
The new location for my yoga classes is Plyo Fitness on La Brea just south of Santa Monica Blvd., 815 N La Brea Ave, Hollywood, CA 90028. It’s bigger than our previous venue, in a better location, and already home to many queer individuals seeking to better themselves through fitness. As I said, my first class in the new location is a week from tomorrow, on Sept 24, 2019 at 8:30 PM.
EVCO CENTER – What? Who? Why?
Evoco (Latin); to call forth, summon, evoke
The current offering is yoga, but this is not yoga for the masses; this is a yoga experience built specifically with you, the gay man, in mind. Evoco Center is a place where your gay male authenticity is celebrated.
Most gay men spend much of our day to day life existing in a world that is built for someone else. This is so pervasive that many of us are comfortably numb to the fact that we are so isolated. The world, especially in the United States, is built around rituals of hetero-normative culture, of opposite sex dating, pairing, and parenting. Leaders in media, government, and religion make decisions prioritizing those issues. As a result, we as gay men do what we can to fit in.
Let me repeat that; we as gay men do what we can to fit in. The problem is, fitting in has a profound negative affect on human beings. The psychological and spiritual effect of fitting in diminishes us. It makes us psycho-spiritual (psycho, as in, loony, head case, crazy…); most often the effect is mild, but sometimes the effect overtly warps our mind and spirit.
Yes, that’s heavy.
Brené Brown researches shame and illustrates the profound difference between fitting in and belonging. In her book Braving the Wilderness Brown outlines, in elegant, humorous, and scientific detail, the cost of fitting in. The bottom line is that shame diminishes our authenticity. When we are denied our authentic expression, we experience the toxicity of shame.
Shame leads to loneliness, which,according to Brown, is more toxic than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. It can, and does, kill us.
So, who are we authentically? Well, all of us are truly unique, but gay men do have a number of distinct gifts for humanity. According to Raymond L. Rigoglioso and his book Gay Men and The New Way Forward, we have 14 specific gifts. They include Serving & Healing, Reinventing Manhood, and Freeing and Enriching the Human Spirit. The good news is that one of our gifts is being models of authenticity. It’s in our DNA.
According to my own life experience, the joys of belonging can only be accessed through authentic self-expression.
In 2007, when I won the title of International Mister Leather, I chose to participate in the competition being as honest as possible. Several of the answers I gave to questions put to me during the competition caused many raised eyebrows on faces of the 9-member judging panel.
I choose to stand in what Brené Brown calls the “wilderness” by speaking my truth, as opposed to giving answers I thought would make me fit in. So, when I won, and the waves of applause rushed over me in the Chicago Theater auditorium of 2,000 people who apparently agreed with the decisions of the judging panel, it felt real.
I felt loved because I was being applauded for my authentic, honest, and open communication.
When I received a text from my straight boss, a man literally managing the City of West Hollywood, I felt a human connection with him I didn’t think possible. He had seen the real me and congratulated me for it.
As gay men, we spend so much of our lives existing in a world that is not built for us, we forget that there is an option to finding ways of “fitting in”. Once we do some self-reflection we will know where we belong. Many of us have never experienced what it’s like to participate in an occasion that is built specifically for us and our particular expression of humanity on the planet.
That is the primary reason I have created Evoco. Its manifesto is a very specific set of ideals for a very specific set of human beings.
Not every gay man will belong at Evoco, but those who do will find joy.
Eventually we will have our own physical space with offering that include not only yoga, but also meditation, discussion groups, celebrations, silent areas, food, phone-free hangouts and a spa. Until that happens, I will continue to welcome those who resonate with Evoco Center’s mission and vision at Plyo Fitness on Tuesday evenings. It is the venue for my current yoga offering; it is a space where the owner embraces us as we are.
When the doors close, for two short hours, it becomes Evoco Center, a place for gay men to revel in our legacy and intrinsic nature.
It’s a place where you will be offered opportunity for heartfelt connection with other men.
It’s a place where you will be challenged to be authentic.
When I was
22, I sat across the table from a San Diego County Healthcare Worker who told
me I had 6 to 18 months to live. That’s what they told newly diagnosed HIV
positive men in 1987.
that getting old was not a state of being I’d ever need to face.
I’m 54 and healthy.
many friends who died during the plague, received a reprieve from death thanks
to medications, and am now missing more than a half million
peers who could be
helping me sort out this aging stuff. And, as an added bonus, I now get to
watch my face and body wrinkle and sag.
In all the
chaos, fear, and grief of the plague, it never occurred to me that survival
would include getting old.
The most glaring challenge of aging, and one I’m not hearing anyone talk about, is sex. Or, more to the point of this post, diminishing access to sex.
For gay men
like me who have received copious amounts of joy and validation through sexual
encounters, facing waning access to the quality and quantity of those
encounters is psychologically daunting.
If you are a
man who doesn’t relate to the swelling of contentment that follows one or more
particularly hot sexual experiences, you probably should not read this post. That’s
because a big part of me just doesn’t believe you.
Men want to
stick it in.
sex would literally kill us, we still wanted to stick it in. It’s a powerful
force of nature that refuses to be tamed.
power of sexual energy is like denying global warming. Unwise.
I also don’t
want to be judged for my sexual lifestyle and I’ve found that type of judgment
usually comes from the white picket fence gays doing their best to adhere to
the demands of a hetero supremacy culture.
interested in retiring like a straight person. Gay culture is not only more interesting,
it serves my authentic mental, physical, and spiritual needs. And much of gay
men’s culture is tied to sex.
post, I will explore what we might do on the other side 50 that is not tied exclusively
to sex. I’d written a four-page post on those topics when I realized I was
hiding my most shameful and painful real feelings about getting gay-old
behind those topics.
My ego’s deep
desire to avoid the topic of diminishing superficial beauty makes it clear that
this is exactly what I need to be writing about.
So, here it
hitting puberty, I thought I was one of the least desirable kids at school.
With lots of reinforcement from my older brother and one or two adults
responsible for my care, I was under the impression that I was an idiot, that I
didn’t know how to carry myself, comb my hair, or dress right, that I was an embarrassment
to be seen with, and that anything I said only revealed how hopelessly stupid I
started having sex with men, and I started young (in Junior High), all of that
changed. Much of that is captured in my memoir, Drama Club.
offers to have sex helped define my sense of self.
everyone was laughing at my jokes. I was told how smart I was. I was often the
center of attention. In this new secrete society of gay men I was popular. A
man named R.L. Ferguson became not only my lover, but also my mentor regarding
all things that active adult gays needed to know.
Sex was a form a protest against the establishment. Gay sex was illegal in the three states I grew up in. That just made getting a blowjob even more intense. It was defiant, liberating.
and the men he introduced me to, I learned about the 1978 realities of STDs,
civil rights, things that get a gay guy arrested, and the slang we use to
negotiate sexual tastes. This was all the stuff my older brother and adults didn’t
know or would never tell me.
desirable afforded me protection, information, and what at the time I thought
was most important of all, SEX!
beauty brought me more than my fair share of dating opportunities and sexual
encounters, even with HIV in my veins. Without beauty, I doubt my first
roommate situation would have materialized when I moved to San Diego in 1985. I
would not have received my first job as a fry cook in a restaurant owned by a
beauty allowed me to pay my rent when I ran ads in Frontiers magazine as a
masseur. It allowed me to travel to New York City for the Gay Games in 1992,
and subsequently secure a room on Fire Island.
It got me
access to clubs, VIP rooms, and private after parties. At sex clubs I could
choose the guys I wanted to play with. It landed me a job dancing on a box at
the Palm Springs White Party, a life event that made it clear (if only for an
instant) that being the focus of desire has its limits in its ability to heal the
frightened boy inside me.
image of myself as a powerful being is threatened as age slowly takes away the
attributes that once allowed me to have so much access to sexual validation.
I lived in
West Hollywood for nearly 30 years, from 1991 until 2018.
pull over and offer me a ride when I was waiting at the bus stop. Guys would
usually try to catch my eye as I walked down the street. I received big tips as
a bartender at Revolver and as a waiter at Figs. It felt like everyone wanted a
piece of me.
So much so,
that it was annoying.
longer a problem.
Guys I pass on the street invariably are not interested in checking me out or even making eye contact. My hook-up apps do not draw the onslaught of attention that they once did. My workouts at the gym are now free of guys offering me advice on how to work out, compliments on how my shorts fit, or the size and shape of any particular body part.
time for the younger guys to have all that kind of attention.
for me to learn how to be in the world differently.
discussing this idea with a member of my gay family, who is also a therapist, the
suggestion was made that I need to grieve the loss. The instant he said it, it
plague was good for anything, it taught us the transformative healing power of
facing loss. Pretending people are not dead does not help us celebrate their
lives or integrate the beauty of their love into our souls. And, pretending my
circuit body days are not behind me will not help me honor the delight and stressors
of that life or transform the journey into wisdom. Grief transforms experience
into wisdom and wisdom brings peace.
I am also
aware that daddy culture is a real thing.
I was “daddied”
by guys before I was expecting it; calling out “daddy” during sex or on hook up
apps was my unceremonious initiation into Daddyhood.
to me that the daddy image can simply be a look, just as superficial as a
circuit queen look. Stepping into it in that context, however, feels like I’m
just moving closer to my sell-by date, repackaging aspects of a failing
in “Daddy” culture that puts social responsibility on the Daddy to use the wisdom
he’s cultivated during his extended time on planet earth. I’m intent on
providing generative, protective, and challenging space for my peers and our
younger brothers so that we can use our authentic intrinsic instincts (sexual
energy) to bond, grow, and love.
wish I were above this kind of vanity. It would hurt less.
understanding the roles of youth, adults, elders, and ancients
mature masculinity (as opposed to “boy” energy)
be in another post.
For now, as
much as it must infuriate those that have never felt particularly beautiful,
the fear and loneliness are real for me.
the waves of beautiful guys I’ve watched come and go through West Hollywood
(and The Athletic Club, Golds, and Crunch) decade after decade, there are
plenty who’ve felt, or feel, the same way.
I wonder where they are now, what they are doing, and if
they’re ready for the next step of gay men’s evolution.
…under that wave of fear is a desire to connect heart-to-heart with true friends – to share love – to be able to see people I know and love them and feel their love in return.That’s the good stuff. That’s the true Holy Grail I seek. Until now, I have found it hard to admit, even to myself, that I want it so bad.
It’s Sunday morning on the last day of June and it’s time
for me to participate in a Southern California ritual that still makes me uncomfortable.
The pool party, or more specifically, a gay pool party.
This one is at an impressive home literally under the
HOLLYWOOD sign. I know the host and have been to this location before. Guests
will be able to see the HOLLYWOOD sign above, a view of Hollywood Lake below, and
the skyline of the City of Los Angeles in the distance. It’s stunning.
Since I’ve been trying to identify my emotions lately, let’s unpack what happens during the arch of the event, starting with the instant I become aware of the party’s existence.
I feel contempt.
That’s right, my out of the gate feeling is not
gratitude, excitement, or anticipation, it’s contempt.
I feel the contempt as tension in my upper chest, the
back of my neck, and the top of my skull. I tell myself the contempt is because
I’m above the need for beautiful houses, beautiful views, and beautiful bodies.
That’s right. I lie to myself.
Under that feeling of contempt are the feelings of fear
and jealously born out of my fragile-male-ego-Facebook-comparison-capitalistic-consumer,
need to compete. My ego tells me I need to come out on top as the prettiest,
most entertaining, guy with the most toys and prettiest friends.
You know, a “winner”.
To feel comfortable, I feel like I need to be dominate in
the socially elevated arenas of money, property, and prestige that come from
possessing two superficial things: 1) resources and 2) beauty.
Ugg! Rather than being above it, I’m a poster child for conspicuous
The pool party is a perfect time to exercise the kind of conspicuous
discussed in his nearly 100 year old essay The
Theory of the Leisure Class. The party is an arena to enjoy publicly
displaying our resources and beauty, or maybe acquiring said treasures so that
we might move up the social ladder and be accepted by the ruling class –
whoever that is.
But, what is really going on here?
Well, feeling contempt is my way of protecting myself
from confronting my vulnerable truth. What’s really going on is that I’m
afraid, afraid of not being enough. I feel the fear in my gut and in the
shallowness of my breathing. I have fear that my now waning beauty or moderate
income don’t possess enough social prestige. I fear that I won’t measure up.
yet, I persist on going. Why?
Well, under that wave of fear is a desire to connect heart-to-heart with true friends – to share love – to be able to see people I know and love them and feel their love in return.That’s the good stuff. That’s the true Holy Grail I seek. Until now, I have found it hard to admit, even to myself, that I want it so bad.
want to belong. I want love.
That’s why I write this blog and teach yoga the way I do.
I want to give and receive unqualified love to and from my gay brothers.
But that’s too scary to confront. So,
let’s talk about what’s not scary, you know, profile pictures. With the Facebook
invite open, it’s time to dive into what really matters – assessing who is invited.
There are usually one of three reactions to the list:
1) Being appalled at the unattractive crowd,
2) Being overwhelmed by the crowd’s beauty, or
3) Seeing that although you won’t be the hottest guy there, at least you’re
within striking distance of the top tier hotties.
The real reason I’m looking forward to this party is that
I’ve been working on my body and know that it will present adequately AND the more important reason, the reason that
makes this in an investment in my current happiness and my future contentment, is
that a few of my gay family will be there.
I have taken clear unambiguous steps towards identifying
my gay “family”. Through a ritualized process, we have committed to each other
our trust, honor, and respect.
With that comfortably sorted in my mind (who is most
important in my life) I am able to shift
my focus from conspicuous consumption to sharing love with my family.
It’s not a light switch I change from off to on, from
superficiality to love, it’s more like setting down to meditate in an attempt
to still the monkey chatter of my mind. The intension is clear, but sometimes
the thousand thoughts remain.
the intension that matters and it’s a constant effort.
In yoga the effort is called Dharana, the practice of
focusing the mind on a single point. In Darren
and the Path of the Urban Mystic, he illustrates the utility
of the 6th limb of yoga. He shows the pragmatism of Dharana. It’s not just a
practice of focusing the mind. It’s not a practice of set it and forget it.
It’s a practice of focusing the mind, acknowledging it’s drifted away, and
returning back to the intention of focusing the mind. That’s Dharana, focus,
drift, focus, drift… That gets us to the 7th limb, but that’s not
what this post is about.
Even the ancient yogi’s acknowledged that the human
mind’s condition of drifting away from single pointed thought is normal and
should be expected, even accepted. The key is NOT to judge ourselves for having
monkey brain in the first place. Our practice is to NOT judge ourselves for being
afraid, or anxious, or full of contempt.
So they developed a tool for getting us back to where we
want to be.
When I’m overwhelmed with up scaling my social prestige
through conspicuous consumption, I give
myself a break, acknowledge that my ego is doing its job of trying to protect
me, and then bring back into focus what really matters; the smiles on my
true friends faces when I’ll see them, the comfortable hugs we will exchange,
and the beauty of the heart to heart connected love we will share in that
Anxiety is a constant companion, tied to every choice, decision, or plan that comes into my head.
Most days I
fight with anxiety.
days I fight. Most days I just tolerate it, like a bad roommate assigned to me whom
I’ve gotten used to, one full of bad advice. Or it’s like clouds at the beach. It’s
there to dampen my day with whispers of confusion, doubt, and fear, hindering
my ability to connect with others.
Anxiety is a constant companion, tied to every
choice, decision, or plan that comes into my head.
now. Should I be writing this blog post? Wouldn’t my time be better spent on
another task? What about the grocery shopping, those plans I need to be making
for my parent’s visit next month, or the yoga class I thought about taking
today? What will happen when people read this? I’m teaching guys to find their
bliss in the yoga classes I teach. How can I do that while I’ve got my own
carefully hidden tumor of anxiety lodged deep inside me?
Well, I must
write about it. If I’m going to stay true to my own value of authenticity, then
I’ve got to talk openly about the anxiety I carry.
It’s mine. And I’m not ignoring it anymore. In fact, I’m introducing it to all
of my friends. With their help and my own internal work, I’m finding out what
it has to teach me.
facing it has improved my daily meditation in that regard. I sit. I listen. I
let go of the judgment I have (as best I can) for feeling it. I feel where it
is in my body. And I identify what it’s trying to teach me. I explore it with a
I think it’s trying to teach me how to feel.
Until now, it
always seemed to come from another dimension, from origins imperceptible to my most
intensely conscious reality.
I’ve come to realize that is because I have always tried to live in an empirically driven, measurable reality, a world where reasoned, rational thought prevails. Unfortunately, anxiety grows out of the world of emotion not reason. So guess what? Even after I’ve put every behavioral aspect of my existence into its own perfect little box, labeled it, categorized it, and sent it off to peer review to be validated, I still feel anxious.
That’s because I don’t know how to truly identify
or have a feeling.
funny, and it would be if it were not such a serious impediment to another of
my core values, the value of “contentment.” With regard to anxiety, feelings
are all that’s left to explore. I’ve tried ballet, moving, extreme sports, sex,
extreme sex, computer network administration…anything that’s formulaic and
to mitigate the clouds of doubt with extreme rational organization techniques,
using: Frankly Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Master/slave roles
of the BDSM world, Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, and restructuring computer
and permitting systems at my city hall job. I find all of those protocols
helpful and edifying, but, for the most part, all they offer is an escape from
the origin of all behavior, which is emotion.
I thought my gayness had forced me to be more
advanced then this.
prejudice, I observed that us gays were more willing to express feelings than
the non-gays. And by comparison to straight men, yes, we are better at it, but
only to a relational degree.
Guys my age
(I’m 54) had to teach ourselves about the human homosexual experience on planet
earth, all without any help from the dominant culture. With my other queer
comrades, I thought I had learned about love, community, and compassion.
We built an
activist culture. A warrior culture. Practicing it brought me dignity, but it
didn’t teach me much about how to process a feeling.
thing I learned was how to identify a quantifiable policy issue that needed to
change, like job protection, AIDS research expedition, etc. and then fight like
hell until we won. And we won a lot!
But, I’m I still anxious…
Again, it’s because of this whole emotion thing. I was taught that feeling them would expose me to loss, rejection, or violence. I’m a man born and raised in the northwest heartland of the USA, a world where emotions are shamed if not expressed as anger or triumph. Even in Los Angeles culture, hell, even in West Hollywood culture we support each other if we are really ANGRY or totally WINNING (look at Facebook) but expressing doubts or any other vulnerability is like wearing a blindfold and walking down Hollywood Boulevard naked with the words “kick me in the balls” written on my body in black magic marker.
To be honest
– and that really is what this exercise is about, being honest, and that’s why
it’s scary – my anxiety is such a part of me that I find it hard to visualize
my identity without it.
Who will I
be without this constant companion? As uncomfortable as I am with this tumor of
doubt, I’m not sure I would know how to live without it. Would I still be Mike?
My ego tells me, “No.” I would no longer be me without it. Its loss would
threaten my primary relationships and I would end up alone if I told anyone
about my real fears, dreams, and regrets.
So that’s my anxiety. At least I recognize it.
I know how it limits me because of its affect on my behavior. I know it has something to teach me and those lessons are probably about grief, aging, and ego.
simply feeling rage or pride – being less than or greater than – I now give
myself permission to feel, no matter how vulnerable that
makes me. Because inside my vulnerability is where the juicy stuff is hiding.
to hug it and love it until it no longer serves me. I’m willing to be with it
until I attract a world of men who have done the work already and can teach me,
or are willing to walk this path of emotional exploration with me.
Yes. It was indeed, just like a prayer. In a studio packed with yoga practitioners, I felt my soul being revealed. In that up-dog during a hot MODO yoga class, a sacred feeling overtook me.
The physical stress of that class was intense and uncomfortable. It fit my mood as a man no longer living in the same house as my husband, a husband I was in the active process of divorcing. Somewhere in the breath between down-dog and up-dog, the tears of clarity came to me a fell freely, gently opening my heart.
The memory is so clear to me: I am in my body; this is now. I’m breathing deep, lungs fully expanded; sweat streaming off my body and nearly every other yogi present, all bodies fiercely beautiful, a shared intention. A ritual revealed.
That’s when the 200-hour teacher training I had recently completed, hit me. I’m ready…to endure grief and the unknown.
The clarity came to me in that sweaty moment when I connected to…to…what?
I had known physical intensity before this. Having been a ballet dancer and a WeHo gym boy preparing for the White Party, I know what it’s like to work a body hard. This was different. On that Tuesday night’s “workout” I needed the concentration. In the tears and the sweat, sharing space with the human steam of other bodies, I touched peace. I found surrender.
This is what yoga is for me today, a ritual to uncover authenticity. I am honored to be sharing my journey and invite you to come take class with me.
My teaching has evolved over the last two years as I’ve lead specialized naked classes for gay men; at first it was just in the fetish community. Now I am teaching twice a month at Flux Rebellion, on Melrose, across from Fairfax High School. I’ve recently re-connected to a dear friend who has a dance studio in Pasadena that will be conducive and comfortable not only for yoga, but community and hang out space before and after. Exposed brick! What gay man can resist exposed brick?
A lot is possible. I look forward to sharing this path with you.
My “real-mom”: a term used in my childhood that now makes me bristle. Yet, I still have not found a way to respectfully differentiate, with proper dignity, the two women in my life who both married my father (at separate times) and both parented me with highly individualized mentoring styles.
In the chapter “What Happened” of my new book, Drama Club, the mother who gave birth to me decides to let me know how the divorce between her and my father played out.
Here is an excerpt:
“She was unpredictable and intense, just like the monsoon rains that flooded the Tucson desert floor: sudden and powerful; unable to ignore; exotic to my Northwestern sensibilities; and absolutely necessary to the ecosystem. I had learned that the panic caused by her sudden lightning strikes and claps of thunder quickly dissipated. After that, I usually enjoyed her unbridled insights into the life of our family. I just needed to let the information pour over me like a warm deluge of Arizona rain.”
This photo shows us sitting on the sofa where the conversation happened. She had given me a perm and I was enjoying the summer heat, oblivious to fact that I was nearly naked.