Remember AIDS?

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.


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From Boy’s Town to Mature Masculinity

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 as men.

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 off.

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 adventure ahead.

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 generations.

***

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 her act.

            You wanna hear a gay joke?

            A gay man walks into a bar.

            Every day for 50 years.

            Yeah, 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 for decades.

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?

Boy Energy  Mature Masculinity
Possesses altruism, unbridled energy, naiveté (innocence) Possesses wisdom, generative energy, integrity
Self-identified Community-identified
Pursues pleasure and fun Pursues just and creative ordering
Manipulative action Disciplined action
Desires status and dominance in the community Desires order and wellbeing in the community
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
DeconstructsStabilizes
Needs to be right Needs to understand

Several 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.

Let me just say this plainly, Boy Energy is not bad.

It’s appropriate for boys.

It only 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.

We would 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 upon.

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 other.

This is what I’ve sorted out.

***

Boy Energy:

Our current president (Trump) is, unfortunately, a perfect example of stagnated Boy Energy. He’s what the authors Robert Moor and Douglas Gillette, in their book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, identify as the “highchair tyrant”, an older man full of furious self-centered demands.

Here are my own examples of Boy Energy.

  • He uses the termadulating” to explain why he paid his rent on time, cleaned up after himself, or did anything that is not “fun”. 
  • He wears 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.
  • He avoids conflict, either by running away from it or retaliating with name calling or bringing up issues he knows will cause others pain.
  • He refuses to give up his style and dress like an adult even 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 manhood.
  • 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”.

***

Mature Masculinity:

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 right).
    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 uncomfortable topic.
  • 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 and experts.
    He makes no demands on them to fix his problems.
    He uses their insight to develop his own plan for action.
  • He accepts 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 our brothers.

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.

The LGBT Center needs more programming that is specific to gay men.

The Center 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. 

I imagine a physical space designed with the values of Mature Masculinity in mind, a place where men lead lives informed by their inner Lovers, Warriors, Magicians, and Kings.

Listen, every 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.

From that place, we can make this next expression of gay men’s existence, brilliant in its satisfaction, dignity, and joy.


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Hero Culture is Killing Men

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 American.

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!

Brené Brown, a shame researcher, and Psychology Today, point to studies that show loneliness is more fatal than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or living with obesity.

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, who uses Center for Disease Control data, American men kill ourselves at 2 to 3 times the rate of women; we are more likely to die from suicide than homicide, and a gun is the most likely way we do it.

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 the conversation.

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.

SF vs LA wtf?

“None of the bars in San Francisco are as bad as the bars here,” says the new guy I just met at an intimate pool party in North Hollywood. The typical refrain from one of our brothers up north rolled easily off the early thirty-something man’s tongue. His lack of self-consciousness was so striking I withheld my usual defense.

Is it the cleaner sidewalks, the safer streets, the urban forest, the sunny weather, the real beaches, or the prettier go-go boys? Why is it that the SF gays can so easily hate on the LA gays so much?

Coffee Douchebags!

Finding the break room coffee pot simmering on empty sets off a tirade of self-righteous anger my head. Every time. On a regular basis. What kind of butt wipes am I working with?

If I’d tried to get away with this kind of behavior during my extended tour as a Denny’s waiter, my up-do, aqua net plastered, polyester skirted, co-workers would have snubbed out one of their constantly burning cigarettes in my left eye. That “training” became a “value” I’ve taken to heart. So now I’m outraged that my present day office co-workers don’t perceive the empty pot with the same sacrilege as myself.

Douchebags!

Of course, as I’m making a new pot of coffee in my silent rage, it is quite possible that chatter-all-day Bill from “Good-Neighbor-Southern-Twang, USA” who has just walked into the room is equally incensed at my continued reluctance to make small talk about the unrelenting repetitive weather patterns of Los Angeles. How could I repeatedly sidestep his attempts at small talk? How could I be so rude as to answer his daily inquiry of, “How are you this fine day?” with “Good, thanks.” Didn’t my parents teach me better than that?

And then there is the tough young lesbian who gets pissed when I hold the door for her, somehow diminishing her dignity as a fully capable person. Where is my cultural sensitivity?

And the princess on the 3rd floor who sees me walking into the building as she’s parking her car (in customer parking) who has long ago written me off as the Neanderthal who doesn’t know how to behave around women because I won’t wait for her next to the door prepared to open it upon her approach.

I suppose the cycle of impropriety is never ending.
 

29 Gay Men Murdered in Fire – “The Lord had something to do with this.”

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the largest gay massacre in America. I did not know that until I saw this post on Facebook today. In June of 1973 I was enjoying the summer break between my 2nd and 3rd grade years in grammar school. Forty years have gone by and not one of my educators mentioned this massacre. I have worked and lived in a gay city my entire adult life and I have not heard about his until today. How is that possible?

Tomorrow the SCOTUS is going to announce their decisions on marriage. If it goes our way, do we just say “thank you” and blend neatly into hetro-normative society forgetting all the hate? Do we continue to bury this type of history because it makes the middle class assimilationists uncomfortable?

I’m just asking here, because the burial of this story for forty years – the story of my people being hideously murdered in mass – is outrageous.

Again, how is this possible?

Silence = Death…still

Notifying a community that they may be at risk for a potentially fatal disease for which there is currently treatment and a vaccine is not “yellow journalism,” it is leadership.

James Peron’s blog post in the Huffington Post attacks Councilmember John Duran’s press conference, suggesting that Duran’s actions unnecessarily put the gay community’s political agenda in peril. This is looking at the small picture and ignoring our community’s history. This is not a time to let our own internalized gay shame slow down remedies that will prevent people from dying.

This article misrepresents what Councilmember Duran said at the news conference. I was there. He stated the facts as he knew them, had LA County Health there to clarify details, and made it a point to call for calm while looking this problem directly in the face. Duran’s leadership could be the reason this scare becomes a non-issue. Ignoring a treatable communicable fatal illness that is likely to spread fast among gay men would almost certainly cost lives. Because of the news conference many many men will now get vaccinated or treated for symptoms and this out break will stop before it gets started. The author of this article appears to believe that we need a high body count first. Men like Duran and myself have seen that movie – we lived it. We won’t let it play again. Our friends died while nobody touched the uncomfortable topic. Such silence will never happen again because those of us who were there, know that silence = death. If that makes a few people uncomfortable, they can click away!



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suspended between two worlds

Airplanes, like the one I’m flying in now, used to be places where reality was suspended between two worlds. They bridged the gap, the chasm.

I was a son to my step-mom Patsy in North Platte, NE, only to get off the plane and be a son to my bio-mom DeLene in Tucson, AZ.

I was the gay ballet dancer in San Diego, only to get off the plane and be the fabricated version of a boy they had known before I moved away.

The plane was the only place I was neither and none of those things.

How strange it is to be on a plane being all of those things at the same time – closer to being whole than I’ve ever been – ready to share all of me with the bio-family I truly don’t know, and ready to accept all they are willing to offer.

What kind of world is this?

This is one of those days we are going to be talking about years, or even decades, from now – the time when it was against the law for two men or two women to get married.

Maybe the weirdest part of today is how commonplace everything around us is while something so extraordinary is happening. I dropped off my dry cleaning this morning, jotted off a to do list at work, checked my email, and all the while the Supreme Court of the United States is discussing marriage equality for gays and lesbians. And it’s looking good for us.

Today, in the state of California, in the United State of America, I cannot legally marry the man I love. When gay pride rolls around in June that reality will quite possibly be changed forever. I will no longer be legally second class.

It’s mind boggling.

I no longer need to wonder how this feels – feeling embraced by the world rather than shamed by it. Seeing thousands of people support my LGBT tribe in person at the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. and on facebook with red equal sign profile pictures is astonishing. Seeing Time Magazine’s cover proclaim that we have “already won.” Hearing the President of the United States, and the recently retired Secretary of State publicly state that, “gay rights are human right.”
What kind of world is this? Please don’t wake me up…  

The "heartland"

The Supreme Court of the United States heard Prop 8 arguments yesterday, DOMA is being heard today, and this gay man just confirmed his reservations for a three day trip to Gothenburg, Nebraska. I will consider this trip to the hearland a success if I make it back without my heart being ripped from my chest. A pleasure trip this is not. But it could be interesting. I’m going to play like I’m Jane Goodall. It will be a safari into the natural habitat of the right wing. I’m an out gay leatherman. My mom is cool, so we’ll see how the rest of the family and I get along over Easter and my grandmother’s funeral. The trip will possibly be the last one I make to my birth state. All my other bio family has moved to other states and Nebraska’s other attractions are… well, there aren’t any.

I can’t help but feel like I am about to step into a time machine or possibly an alternate reality. Beam me up Scotty!