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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Evoco Center is a Place Where You Belong

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.  

New Venue at Plyo Fitness

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. 

It’s a place where you belong.   


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Getting Real with Getting Old

The Angst of Diminishing Superficial Beauty

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.

It seemed that getting old was not a state of being I’d ever need to face.

Until now. I’m 54 and healthy.

I’ve buried 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.

Even when sex would literally kill us, we still wanted to stick it in. It’s a powerful force of nature that refuses to be tamed.

Denying the 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.

I’m not 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.

In another 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 is.

Before 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 was.

When 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.

Sex and offers to have sex helped define my sense of self.

Suddenly 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.

Through R.L., 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.

Being desirable afforded me protection, information, and what at the time I thought was most important of all, SEX!

Superficial 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 gay man.

Superficially 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.

It’s one of the big reason’s I won International Mister Leather in 2007. It’s the reason I could not keep up with all the offers from guys on hook-up apps.

But that’s mostly gone now.

That 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.

Men would 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.

That’s no 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.

Now, it’s time for the younger guys to have all that kind of attention.

It’s time for me to learn how to be in the world differently.

While 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 felt right!

If the 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.

It appears 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 resource.

It’s still grasping.

I’m interested 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.

Honestly, I wish I were above this kind of vanity. It would hurt less.

Ways through this?

  • Acceptance
  • Clearly understanding the roles of youth, adults, elders, and ancients
  • Cultivating mature masculinity (as opposed to “boy” energy)

Those will 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.

Judging by 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.


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Drama Club: A kiss that saved my life

Inside my new memoirDrama Club  

During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, Bart and I attended a ballroom dance camp held on the campus of BYU. In our shared dorm room, my life realigned after our first kiss and I no longer had thoughts of killing myself.

Only two months earlier another boy had my heart soaring through joy filled fantasies of a perfect future together. “You look like Superman,” I said looking directly into Bart’s eyes as we lay facing one another on a tiny dorm room bed. We were dressed and ready to head out to dinner with our ballroom dance teammates, but had found we shared more in common than our fashion sense. “Shut up!” He giggled, looking away, and just as quickly turning his face back to mine. Our eyes stayed locked together. I heard the sound of my own heart pounding in my ears. The smell of his Polo cologne was intoxicating, and our knees were touching sending bursts of passion through my entire body. 

When he stopped smiling, panic gripped me. Was he going to freak out? And then, as if we were two celestial bodies caught in each other’s gravity, we moved together and kissed. Our lips touched, and a surge of truth and ecstasy rushed into me. The kiss that was supposed to be so wrong simply wasn’t, and if it was wrong, it was worth risking everything.” 


These photos were taken in the wedding reception hall we used for ballroom dance rehearsals in the Pocatello. Bart is in the Micky Mouse shirt and I’ve forgotten the names of two girls. 


Group Thoughts on Intimacy

Last night, twenty-five gay men gathered for the monthly TRIBE Gay Men’s Discussion group to discussion intimacy. Enthusiasm was high in the room and several discussions started on their own before the meeting even started. Maybe it was the fact that we were back from a two month break so we could attend the two Pride meetings held next door during our regular time slot. But I think it was the topic. Many regulars who have been coming for years and some brand new faces were all very eager to dive into a topic men are often accused of avoiding. 


TRIBE is more of a passionate think tank than anything else. It’s decidedly not a therapy group and we do not bring in “experts” to lead the discussion. My role as facilitator (along with my co-facilitator Brendan Rome) is to offer a space where these men can transform experience into wisdom, share differing lifestyle choices as options for other men to try on, and open up to each other so they might solidify their internal dignity and confidently lead a joyful existence. That’s a tall order. Why not aim high? Time and time again these men have met the challenge. They have taken the risk of exposing their vulnerabilities, doubts, and observations. They have vigorously, but respectfully, disagreed. Over the years and particularly last night, these man have grown both individually and as a tribe. 

Identifying what intimacy means was a slippery bugger to pin down. After listening and sharing a bit, I came to the conclusion that intimacy is about lowering barriers between me and the person I want to become intimate with. It’s about me making a commitment to another person to be there for them when they show me who they really are. It’s way of being in the world that can be antithetical to the Hollywood and consumer culture we find ourselves in today. But if we make a conscious decision to focus on our what we really want, it’s still possible. 

What I heard, were stories of successful and failed attempts to get closer to other people, how intimacy extends to many kinds of people in our lives and not just the ones we have sex with. That in gay culture, sex can lead to intimacy, and on rarer occasions intimacy can lead to sex. 

What I felt in the room was an open and honest desire to dive deeper, to honor our desire for connection and take the risks necessary to get there. With that intention was set, something wonderful happened. I had a feeling. 

I’m not sure if it was intimate, but I do know love was in the air.



Side note: We’ve been calling our gay men’s gathering “TRIBE” long before we knew another local organization was using a similar name. 

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!



MikelGerle.com

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…  

Killing Condom Only HIV Prevention

This is my answer to a question posted on the TRIBE – WeHo Gay Men’s Discussion Group facebook page.

“If condoms are only 70% effective at preventing the spread of HIV, and less that 17% of men who have sex with men are using condoms every time, where do we go from here?”
Putting the Nail in the Coffin of Condom-Only HIV Prevention

We should change the discussion to match today’s sexual and medical realities.

I think we need to start being honest with men (like you are in your column, thank you!) about the real risks of HIV transmission. We need to insist that “prevention experts” like AHF stop their infatuation with the false notion that condom use leads to a panacea of prevention. We need to insist that they redirect the insane amount of money they are spending on ineffective, shame based, sex negative, billboards into programs that give men the real tools they need to slow or stop infection. The established AIDS communities infatuation with the condom-only-nothing-else-matters concept, is only leading to more infections because guys are fucking without condoms. It’s a fact! How many studies are we going to do before we face that reality? If our brothers are fucking without condoms, we need to talk to them about doing it in the safest possible way…which, by the way, may be safer then putting ALL their trust in condoms alone.

We need to stop shaming and start celebrating sex. We need make it cool to be responsible. Make a trip to get tested for HIV or STIs a badge of honor.

I’d like to know more about the men still getting infected.

Do they know all their options? Do they know there is a sliding scale or risk? Do they know who is most likely to shed the virus and under what circumstance? Do they know about PrEP? Are they being taught to talk openly about medications as well as HIV status with their partners? Do they know what “undetectable” means? Do they know that a guy whose on meds and undetectable is statistically safer to have sex with then a guy who doesn’t know his status and is wearing a condom?

Facebook Slams Bareback Page

Facebook Shuts Down Barebacking Page

My contribution to a facebook disucssion in the TRIBE – WeHo Gay Men’s Discussion Group.

Are we talking about public health here or our inability to talk about sex?

To me, this is just another example of American’s fear of sexual content and homophobia from both gay and non-gay people. FB hides behind public health, but I’m guessing it is really the discussion about sex, especially gay sex in particular, that bothers them. I’m guessing that it was easy to find a gay man in the office with enough internalized homophobia to support their decision. “Oh god! That is inappropriate. What about the children? What about public health?” Well, that’s what parenting and security settings are for. btw, I grew up in a state without sex education (it would give children the wrong message) I graduated high school with two pregnant girls, three parents of toddlers, and I soon became HIV positive myself. Maybe a little more talk about sex can be good for kids, but I digress.

Pulling this site down is not about public health. Public health and the strain on our economy by disease would be better served if we shut down all sites contributing to obesity and stress. Google tells me those are the top health concerns of Americans.

Fantasy Fire Ritual: Supporting The Diverse In Diversity

An essay written for Letherati

The One True Banner

Deep in the North American state of California, in the high altitudes of the Sierra Forest, the Leather Council convenes under a star lit sky and the glow of a roaring bon fire. Upon a giant granite rock, under the One True Banner, the First and Final Five Master Tenders of Leather Tradition sit in cloaked anonymity. Simple shadows of humanity encased in polished leather from boots to cover.
Only THE ONE ever speaks and it has always been accepted that THE ONE knows all and what is best for leather folk everywhere. His voice is like thunder. It calls forth the language of the leather Gods and makes it decipherable to mere mortal leather folk.
“The high court will recognize the leather boy in jump boots, jock strap, simple vest, and collar who calls himself “jim”. You may approach Us!”
Until now, jim has been kneeling dutifully at the feet of his black leather clad Master. Knees apart, arms behind his back and head slightly bowed forward. His short military hair cut lays under the trembling gloved hand of his Sir.
The thousands gathered in the meadow of the tall redwoods say nothing. Do nothing. Look neither left nor right. Only forward and upward to the Master Tenders on the high holy rock. The crack and spit of the fire threaten to puncture the delicate membrane that is holding back a torrent of expectation. The derision of difference presses in. Only the Master Tenders can make it right.
“You have two minutes to make your case for wishing to wear your boot laces threaded on top of the first two eyelets of your boots instead of threading them under the first two eyelets of your boots as it has been done since leather men first road out on their motorcycles from the port cities of old! Explain your BLASPHAMY!”
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Wow, where did that little fantasy come from and what does it have to do with Leather diversity? I wonder?
To me, there are a lot of attractive elements to that scene: the intense protocol, the leather itself, the Master/slave practices, the fire, the sense of tradition, the drama. I love that stuff! But there are other parts that suck: like the inflexibility of the Master Tenders of Leather Tradition, the stifling environment jim finds himself in, and the silence of the other community members present.
Please notice the words “to me” in the above paragraph. I have some intense ideas on how I think the community should behave, who belongs in it, and who doesn’t. Did anyone read Carpetbaggers? But at the end of the day, that is what is important TO ME. My little world designed exactly the way I want it is my own personal trip. They are MY ideas and I’m entitled to them.
Unfortunately (and I say “unfortunately” because it complicates my carefully arranged little world) I also value diversity. I value having a broader pool of talent and resources to draw on when I get into trouble or my community needs help. When I’m fighting for my basic human rights, or dealing with a catastrophic calamity (like AIDS) I need some strong professionals and kinky family to help me get through it.
I also value finding new and twisted ways to get off. I might get bored! I’m the kind of person who wants all the bells and whistles installed on my kink caravan. I want options for installing features I don’t even know I want yet. I’m selfish that way. Being around people who look, play, and think differently than I do is the only way I can think of to be exposed to those new ideas.
But that process seems random. It’s unpredictable and I like things in order. Diversity is messy. So what is a tight ass, OCD, kinky man to do? Find some all encompassing banner we can all get along under?
I don’t think so.
The members of the community in my imaginary world above all stand under one banner, and because of that, there is no room for the difference in diversity to flourish. jim is not even allowed to lace his boots differently without permission from THE ONE.
As a Leatherman, I have to call foul! A big fat non-consensual foul! He’s at the foot of the alter of the One True Banner. Where is jim to turn? How is the difference in diversity supposed to express itself under that kind of single-mindedness?
That scene might be hot to many of us (who no doubt see ourselves as THE ONE) but its expectations and protocols are best left in a smaller private club, under a smaller more distinct banner, whose values are shared by those who choose to follow it.
The values of one club should not be expected to be followed by the totality of the kinky world.
Trying to pull ourselves together under one big all-inclusive-all-the-time-banner brings us to a pretty oppressive and sometimes mind numbingly boring place. The best we can do is try to agree on a few general principles like “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” – “Risk Aware Consensual Kink” – “Trust, Honor, and Respect” and leave it at that.
Trying to agree on the smaller minutia of kink or leather is impossible and I think it actually hinders our growth as individuals and as clubs when we give up our autonomy and attempt to come to consensus on everything.
Let’s give ourselves permission to disagree with one another on the small stuff. Maybe even look at those differences as a good thing. When that happens, we’re actually supporting the development of diversity.
But there are times when I’m just not feeling it. When I don’t want to be politically correct and tolerant. When I just want to be around people whose values and principles and gear and play are all similar to my own. The good news is that there is actually still room for me in the fetish world during those times.
I just need to plan my schedule accordingly.
As a responsible kinky player I’m going to have to take responsibility for informing myself about the kinky world I live in by looking at the calendar of events available to me and only going to the ones I’m in the proper frame of mind to attend. When I’m not feeling the warm fuzzies of the all inclusive bug, I will be spending more time at private events, in private dungeons, in German dark rooms, and on-line hook ups than I will be at huge events where the doors are open to anyone and everyone.
There are lots of private events that are very specific to the kind of people and play that resonate with me. It’s my responsibility to identify them. If they don’t exist, guess what? I need to either create those spaces myself or I need to support the clubs, events, and parties that speak to me.
In the end I’ll be a much happier kinkoid.
It also means that I’m going to need to give those freaks out there who think and act differently than I do the same room and privacy I want when they are doing the freaky things they enjoy. No matter how bizarre. I need to accept what they are doing even if I’m not invited.
It’s an under 40 party? More power to you my brothers. I don’t qualify for entry. I can’t wait to hear about how it went.
Unless you are taking away my opportunity to organize and produce my unique flavored play spaces, I’m going to have to sit back, shut the hell up, and wish you well on your endeavor.
It also means I might have to stay away from events that I’m invited to, but don’t like how they’re being run or who is showing up to them. For example: Let’s say a big event like, well, IML or Folsom is not up to my standard of kink anymore?
Maybe I should stop going. It might actually be my responsibility to not attend if I can’t keep my complaining mouth shut at the event.
This conundrum just slapped me in the face at July’s Dore Alley street fair. I was grabbed on the arm and stopped by three spiky haired, iPhone carrying, tennis shoe wearing, early twenty something twinks and their two girl friends. They stopped me and my boy and wanted our photo.
I was so incensed I decided to tell anyone who would listen at Stompers about what had just happened. “I’m not freakin Goofy and this isn’t Disneyland!”
Unfortunately, nothing is more certain than change. Our big events are not immune to it. And I need to accept it. I either need to accept the change or stop going and create an event that truly speaks to me. After all, who is forcing me to go?
After giving it some thought and seeing how shrill my 45 year old voice sounded when someone else told my Goofy story (accurately, damn it), I’ve decided that “being Goofy” is simply part of the price I need to pay to enjoy an exclusive packed patio area of booted up kinky people in a twink-free zone at Stompers.
We are a confederation of diverse communities, not one single community.
Have you noticed that I’ve been using the term, fetish world instead of Leather Community? I’m going to try that on for size for a while because I think it’s more accurate than calling ourselves a “community.” Each member of a confederation can be encouraged to be brilliantly different from the other members. Individual community members are expected to conform to the rules of the community.
So I started thinking; would it be possible to I create an event that acknowledges my personal kinks while still honoring other perverts out there whose kinks look, behave, and maybe even smell different than my own? How can I create a fetish world event?
And then I said fuck it, I’ll worry about the “how” later. What would it look like? And this is what I came up with.
**********
The Fire Event

The great sacred meadow of the redwoods has been meticulously cleared in preparation for the annual ritual. The full moon and stars that are shining through crisp mountain air blanket the ground with light. The movement of the towering redwoods in the cool summer breeze is all that can be heard. A thirty foot high and equally wide pyre waits in solitude in the center of the meadow. A ring of countless unlit torches are staked into the packed earth a safe distance from the still cool stack of wood which lays more than seven hundred footfalls from the tree line.
Inside the woods the Kurrent Kinksters are making their way through the dark forest down a well worn path that leads to the revered field. In the tradition of the annual gathering, they walk behind their new banner, mounted high on a tall staff. They are dressed in retro hipster low slung pants, button up collared shirts, thick black rimmed classes and untied hiking boots. Some wear a black leather armband on their wrist. Many of them carry classic medium sized brown overnight cases from the 1960’s.
From the covered darkness of the redwoods they emerge onto the field of the sacred meadow and see that from every point on the compass other banners are emerging from the ancient forest edge into the moonlight. Ten, twenty, thirty banners come forward. A myriad of crews expressing their own kink each find a torch and plant their banner behind it. Some reverently approach the circle while others roar with boisterousness revelry.
The Kurrent Kinkster quietly watch as the meadow fills with hundreds of clubs comprised of thousands of individuals. Motorcycle, drag, skin, uniform, rubber, sport, spandex, all genders, all ages, all colors are present. Each under its own banner. Additional torches are brought out when they are needed to be matched with new banners.
“Satyrs, motorcycle club!” A voice rings out with clarity. The light of the relatively small flame and decisive declaration quiets the great sea of people. The oldest crew present, by tradition, has fired up the first torch.
He and his crew have searched the gathering and have found the newest crew present. “The Kurrent Kinksters!” is called out nervously by the twenty-two year old banner carrier and his crew’s torch is lit by the light of the Satyrs’ torch fire.
One by one ever crew name is called out. Every torch is lit. Every banner’s colors are brought to light from the torches that are now lit.
“Whose flame remains undeclared?” The question is answered by the quiet reflections of smiling faces looking at the cornucopia of diversity they are surrounded by.
“Then it is time to light the one fire that brings us all together.”
Simultaneously, every torch is carried forward and the huge pyre is brought to life. Music bursts into the night air and with a collective roar the individual crews disperse into the sea of kinky brothers and sisters around them to celebrate their differences.