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.

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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The pain many of us elite liberals are ignoring

A Trump presidency has exposed the pain and humiliation of million’s of working people’s unfulfilled American dream. This thought provoking article, written in October 2016, explains how we got here as a nation and suggests some “respectful confrontation” to move us forward. I LOVE that this is not an us vs. them article. The author suggests that Trump’s nomination was a wake-up call to help us face an ugliness of American values, embraced by both the right AND the left, that must be confronted.
In my opinion and maybe the article’s author as well, the ugliness that must be corrected is a shift in American values:
We moved from worshiping love and character to worshiping fame and money.
We moved from being citizens to being consumers (the man with the most toys wins – why isn’t it the man who has provided the most service to his family and community?)
We moved from celebrating character (a man who will help you harvest your crops or stay to true to his word) to celebrating personality (a man who will tell you what you want to hear and be the life of the party)
We moved from identifying with our values to identifying with our possessions.
I’ve used the male pronoun because, as a white man, even if I’m a gay liberal white man, I can empathize with the pain many of us elite liberals are ignoring.
 

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?

The Talk of Shame

Hello Shame. We need to talk.

Why don’t you sit your veil ass down over there in your favorite chair by the fire – the fire of my mind – that fire you had convinced me the world was not ready to see.

Yeah, it’s bright and beautiful isn’t it?

Shush! You’ve had your say. And there are plenty of others out there still convinced that living without you will leave them rudderless – drifting in a life with no meaning. Just shut up, listen, and then you’re free to go.

No, I don’t need the protection you’re offering. I’m not falling for that again. That’s not power or stability. You lie. That tool you offer is just a sea anchor you use to dredge up flotsam only you can feed off while the rest of us starve and spiral deeper into our own individual voids. I see what your protection has done, and worse, what it has NOT DONE for my mom and her sisters, and their mother as well.

Your coaching to find fault and ability to twist a knife in others only leads to a sharper blade that feeds your ability to bleed the soles of those who wield it. You foster nothing but their ability to scar the lives of those they love the most.

The feast with this family is over Shame. I will not feed you! It is over. And hear me on this, I am watching you with a vigilance tempered by the forces of love and dignity. Your prowling in this arena will only leave you wanting.

Yes. I agree. You should definitely be going now.

Echoes of our previous lives

Transplants take root, but the echoes of our previous lives live deep inside us.

I try to cover the tainted reverberations of small town youth with a gym body, fierceness, designer tennis shoes, and a biting wit – but the seed of discontent will always be with me. It lays dormant, unfed, and contained. I had convinced myself that it was dead forever, that I am now freed from past. Free from the pain of being different, shamed, hunted, and persecuted.

Then I agreed to go back to the town of my birth to shelter my mom as they lower her mother’s body into the ground. It is my honor to be there for my mom, no matter what her shortcomings. It is a reminder of how far this gay man has come. It is a reminder that those memories were not a nightmare.