Homo-Eros: The Dark Places He’s Walked

The dark places he walked left a mark on his soul. The very air around him changed where ever he entered.

He was not bathed in light, but rather he was a beautiful creature of darkness.

Real, grounded, tested by reality, fully embraced in the incarnate world of the senses.

He carried the green soul of man, that connected him back to old mystery long forgotten by men.

Darkness can be a transformative place when you know it well, it can even rejuvenate and replenish the soul.

He was touched by the soul of the green man. Male’s other male half.

He is the mysteries in the earth, the life and death of the soil, the mortality and pleasures of the body. He is life embodied.

In a world full of those running from themselves, afraid to feel the power in the earth…afraid to embody themselves in the realities of life…Afraid of their own unclaimed power, it’s good to have the green man as my lover. He helps me remember who I am.

His is the very nurturing spirit man has alienated himself from…but must discover again in the mystery of men loving men.

Picture Colored and Poem Written by Elliott Belue

Concept of the color Green in how it is poetically used as a homoerotic mystery was inspired by “The Secret Lore of Gardening: Patterns of Male Intimacy” by Graham Jackson.

Picture taken from “Color Yourself Furious” by Golden Czermak dba Furious Fotog
http://www.onefuriousfotog.com

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My Holy Grail: Homo-Positive Relationships

People who’ve gotten close to me over the years know this is one of the things I am most passionate about. There simply isn’t enough affirming and positive feelings about homosocial spaces, sub-culture, and in effect the relationships that come from gay experiences. Between how isolating it can feel to grow up in a hetero-dominant environment, the institutional homophobia/heterosexism we can internalize, and how critical we are of each other within our own homo-social experiences…achieving a sense of uplifting homo-brotherhood is a holy grail that is difficult to find sometimes. Most guys that have stayed in tune to cultural conversations about gay culture have probably read things like “Why I No Longer Want to be Gay [i].” The disapproval of gay life exists from multiple perspectives. All justifying their disapproval of gay men in a shallow surface analysis of our normalized behaviors.

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Barriers to Feeling Connected Between Gay Men

Some blame generational changes ruining a golden age of gay culture. Particularly in the prevalence of gay networking apps like Grindr, Growlr, and Scruff [ii]. Yet plenty of men, long before Grindr and the like ushered in a new digital age of gay culture, still felt frustrated with the normalization of certain behaviors in the scene. One such example is how one of the gay men being interviewed in “We Were Here” (a documentary on the AIDS endemic) recalled he didn’t fit into the casual sexual norms of gay life in pre-AIDS-endemic gay culture [iii]. I’ve met a mixture of perspectives and attitudes of elders that lived in earlier times. While they all might have criticisms of how new generational norms have ruined gay culture (which is typical of every older generation that comments on younger generations)…not all of them necessarily feel gay culture was that great in the pre-Grindr era either. So I do not think it’s fair to imply internalized homonegativity is entirely a Grindr era phenomenon or even a generational one.

Homonegative attitudes exist in many different contexts and are justified based on many different kinds of reasoning. When I did a senior thesis project in my undergraduate days of college. I did lots of ethnographic work interviewing many different gay men across the country from different age groups, life experiences, and cultural/geographical environments. One thing I will never forget is no matter what age group, area of the country (urban or rural), or interests they had in gay relationships (ethical non-monogamy, or traditional styled monogamy), the majority of them had something negative to say about the gay community. This was in regards to what they perceived to be normal in other gay men. One who wanted a traditionally styled monogamous relationship commented on how he thought gay men were too experimental, not commitment focused, and too emotionally immature for serious relationships. Another who was a sex worker (who liked his career as an escort) and was all about ethical non-monogamy commented on how he wasn’t a “cookie cutter gay” and how he felt most gay men wanted to find the perfect husband and have a normative life and he simply didn’t fit into that. Both were opposites in how they expressed their sexuality…yet both felt the common behaviors of what the gay community was, was something they didn’t “fit into” and were very critical of that. The majority of the mixed population of gay men I interviewed felt the gay community didn’t represent them, was not a positive experience for them, was not an environment they felt comfortable in, and so on. It didn’t matter if they attributed that to grindr, bars, or prides…it was all some kind of critical statement of gay culture and how they didn’t fit into it for whatever reason they justified.

But I also met a few men in my interview process that had positive things to say about the gay community. The more I talked to them, most of them would say there might have been an earlier time in their lives when they were not comfortable around other gay men…but once they found the right social circle and environment it dramatically shifted their feelings about the gay community. This process was personally transformative for me. I saw a lot of myself in all my informants. No matter what area, interests, or background they had. The common element of needing connection to other homosexuals was underlying all of them. They were struggling to do so because of internalized beliefs and preconceptions about other gay men. This is where I give a lot of credit to Cass’ identity formation model for gay men and lesbians [iv]. While she doesn’t capture all our developmental narratives perfectly…in general there is a long drawn out process of developing one’s relationship with one’s gay identity and how that defines both oneself and one’s relationship with a larger gay community. Depending where you are at in this process. You shift from making gay identity about how you define yourself as a homosexual to how you find, maintain, and feel good about relationships with other homosexuals. Even though Cass’ model was made in the late 70s…it still holds a close to accurate representation of what many gay men go through in their identity development. I know I use to feel out of place in homo-dominant environments. I also didn’t know how to relate to other gay men. It took many years of deconstructing my internalized belief systems, and homonegative feelings before I started learning how to connect to other gay men and develop positive relationships with them.

This struggle is incredibly common. Many gay men are resistant to challenging this discomfort. Perhaps out of fear that being a part of a larger gay experience then their own requires them to change themselves. Yet does it really? Are you really less masculine for celebrating a diversity of homosexuality that may include feminine male expressions too? Do you have to change your personal relationship goals by celebrating a diversity of sexual expressions? Participating in a larger gay community really doesn’t require you to change anything other than your attitude about other gay men who may or may not be different then you are. I’ve met many gay men who are hyper masculine, and hyper feminine, and something inbetween. I’ve met guys in open relationships, polyamorous ones, and monogamous ones. I’ve met gay guys that love pop star divas, and I’ve met gay guys that like rock and heavy metal.

I’ve also noticed a tendency that is fairly common. Gay men criticize each other a lot. “he’s too much of a queen…he’s gotten really fat…he’s a skinny bitch…you don’t know [something about pop culture]?! You’ve lost your gay license…gays are too sexual…he’s a prude…I’m going to ‘read’ a bitch…That bitter old queen…” All this and more. I often wonder why we don’t give each other more compliments…or even particularly notice when we try to. I don’t mean objectifying complements like “you’re hot” which is nice to hear sometimes. I am more meaning encouragers, validating each other’s feelings, being a more nurturing community for each other…instead of tearing each other to shreds and expecting each other to fend for ourselves in an already homophobic and hostile world. There is a huge difference between narcissism and self-esteem. I am not encouraging an unhealthy sense of narcissistic ego coddling, as much as I am advocating for acknowledging each other’s value, feelings, and self-worth. Being a community that is more nurturing of or emotional needs is important.

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What Being Gay Positive Is.

Therefore, I am focused on celebrating homosexuality, and being a proponent of homo-positive attitudes. There are so many wonderful things about gay men and culture. We need to take the heat off all the criticism we receive and perpetuate amongst each other. We need to acknowledge the good things that are there, and create the good things that have potential to be there. Gay culture has survived persecution by law, fought for its right to exist (and won), survived the AIDS endemic, and earned greater levels of legal equality. These achievements are no small feat and something to be proud of, to own as a cultural heritage we inherit and carry forward. We have opportunities to be sexually liberated and to non-judgmentally celebrate the pleasures and excitement of homosexuality. Dick is pretty damn great! I like being able to talk about that without shame with other men who appreciate it, and to laugh about it, share stories, and affirm what a wonderful thing sexuality is between consenting adult males. Male beauty is wonderful, and its diverse too. Be it bear, twink, otter, muscle stud, young or old, skinny or big, hairy or smooth, or whatever undefined grey area…we all appreciate the male form in some way or another…we should celebrate and express that. It’s part of the reason I started my Homo-eros poem series on this blog. Coloring beautiful pictures of men and writing homo-erotic poems celebrates my desire of other males, and expresses how good it feels to have that desire. In a culture that is both homophobic and erotiphobic (negative about sexuality in general) we need an outlet to express and celebrate how great homoerotic feelings are and affirm it as something that is a good and wonderful thing.

Just imagine what it would be like if instead of your homosexual existence always being a statement about how hetero-dominant society should treat you or not…you just enjoyed being homosexual with other homosexuals. Imagine you had easy access to homosexual friends and the potential for the different kind of relationships that come with that. You just simply felt good about liking other guys and were around other guys that felt the same way. That instead of worrying about how people will respond to you expressing or sharing things about your homosexuality…you could just say it, laugh about it, enjoy it, and hear them reflect similar experiences. When can we stop trying to justify our homosexuality in a heteronormative world…and just enjoy our homosexuality with other homosexuals? And not have to compartmentalize that either? I don’t think a non-heteronormative world will ever exist, nor a society free of homophobia. An increasingly more supportive but still very hetero-dominant society? Maybe, but we will ALWAYS need to seek out exclusive homosexual spaces for homo-social experiences. What we choose to make of that space, how accessible it will be to future generations, and the general quality of homo-social experiences it produces…is entirely up to us and how we choose to collectively interact.

We need a greater nurturing presence in homosocial experiences too. Just because we are men who love men does not mean we as males cannot contain and express receptive and nurturing qualities. After all it takes men willing to receive to please the men that give 😉 (or men like me that like doing both). As explored in The Secret Lore of Gardening: Patterns of Male Intimacy by Graham Jackson [v], we often rely on this gender binary, heteronormative, ideology that certain traits are masculine and others are feminine…but masculinity can be nurturing and receptive and exists in examples of homoeroticism going all the way back to pre-Christian Pagan literature/mythology. This is especially true in homosexual relationships, and we needn’t even rely on heteronormative assumptions to call it “feminine,” unless that is a word you personally identify with as a male. But we do need to explore that expression of our selves more. How often are we nurturing each other? Giving each other space to express and validate our feelings (in a healthy way, sometimes we are so deprived of healthy expression of feelings it comes out unbalanced and explosively). How often are we allowing empathy to guide how we interact with each other? Whoever this guy is that says he doesn’t want to be gay anymore because of what he perceives the gay community to be…I consider myself proud to be apart of the gay community and if you are reading this blog feel free to contact me. I see you brother <3. I know it’s hard to feel connected in the surface realities of gay culture. Literally I know, it’s been my life work to explore that issue and try to encourage a more connected brotherhood of gay men. There is some real deep pain there for you and others like you in what you’re saying. I am sending you lots of hugs XOXO. We need to stick together because all we have is each other in our struggles, especially if what we want out of those struggles is homo-social/sexual relationships and a sense of togetherness in the gay community.

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The Holy Grail of Homo-Social Positivity

My journey started ten years ago when I came out. To try and find connections to other gay men. For me it really was like a quest for the holy grail. Because it is such a challenging and difficult thing. For all the reasons explored above and more. It’s taken me years to finally find the grail and quench my thirst for homosocial connection that is fulfilling to me. It’s a quest of overcoming challenges both external and internal, and learning and growing as a person. Frankly it’s not for everyone. It takes a lot of work to look at yourself, be honest with yourself, and to go against the grain of the social norms you’ve been taught all your life. It’s also hard to love and accept others. Gay men suffer a lot of internalized social conditioning and marginalized stress. It’s no wonder that we show significantly high rates of mental illness as a demographic [vi]. Finding the grail of positive homo-social experiences means not only deconstructing your own internalized baggage…but holding a space for your homo-brothers to go through that process too. I’ve had plenty of gay drama…but I’ve learned how to navigate those experiences effectively over the years. To know where my boundaries are, how to enforce them reasonably, and how to recognize those red flags between friends that will not impose their issues on you and try to grow…and those that are best kept at a distance. All I can say is repeating what a mentor, fellow gay man, and spiritual teacher use to say to me “Unconditional love, does not imply unconditional relationships.” Sometimes you can kick someone out of your life while still hoping the best for them in their journey and in your heart.

I’ve undergone the quest. I’ve tasted the waters of my holy grail of fulfilling gay relationships. Its now just about simply living it and wanting to share it with others who thirst for it too. I’m just enjoying the connection I share with other homosexuals who’ve been walking the same road. I get vitalized by simply being here now with them and enjoying what we share. Rather that’s intimacy with lovers or time well spent with new and old friends. I truly believe deep in my heart and soul there is a spirit of fraternal brotherhood between gay men. But, like the holy grail, you have to go on an initiatory journey to find it. You have to learn how to tap into it. The quest will change you internally and externally, and you have to want it enough to stick with it. Homosexuality is a life force, a holy well spring of energy between homosexuals. We are born into a world that doesn’t prepare us to drink from it…so we have to choose to go on the journey ourselves to find it.

I’ve met many gay men from all ages, parts of the world, walks of life, and still am always meeting more, which is a constant adventure that always leaves me feeling vital and alive even when we disagree on things. One consistent theme I’ve always seen in all of us is a thirst for connection. Sometimes we are so deprived from this need we even convince ourselves we don’t need or want it. Yet every time I see that resistance…I see the guy develop, change, and eventually discover what he’s been missing. Then there are those who simply never do get there, and that’s fine. The journey isn’t for everyone. But there is a deep human and spiritual need between gay men to be connected to each other. Some never will want to dive deep into those waters, because it is a challenging journey. but for those that have, you know how deep those waters can go…and how sad it is when people deprive themselves of it, or don’t know how deeply important it is.

Now that I’ve drank from my holy grail, I can never go back to seeing “gay” as being a compartmentalized and small unimportant part of who I am. Nor would I ever want to. When I spend time with other gay men just between us alone…there is a vitalizing spirit there that exists nowhere else. It’s a life force that only exists in that context between us. Just as there are many different Gods and Goddesses throughout human history, there are many sacred feelings of connection to be experienced in our humanity, and they don’t all have to be the same in all contexts and groups. Homo-social life force is its own unique experience, and I see so many in the gay community starving for it. The best way to make this more accessible is to under go this quest for homo-social connections. Challenge your self to deconstruct your own barriers to having fulfilling gay relationships. Learn how to more effectively navigate gay culture instead of assuming a few shallow assessments of it are the core reality of it Get more comfortable in your own homosexuality. If we encountered more gay-positive guys in our gay spaces…more of us might feel more a part of a community. We always need a space for critiques, so we can grow. But we can’t just simply erase the beautiful experience that is homosexuality and the relationships it can create…if we learn how to tap into it the right way (which is key because many never learn how to). It is because we lack a sense of being positive and celebratory that many struggle with this issue…so be gay-positive and celebrate fraternal homobrotherhood <3.

References

[i] https://thoughtcatalog.com/luis-pabon/2014/11/why-i-no-longer-want-to-be-gay/

[ii] https://dearstraightpeople.com/2015/10/14/how-grindr-is-ruining-the-gay-scene/

[iii] https://wewereherefilm.com/

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_identity_model

[v] https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Lore-Gardening-Patterns-Psychology/dp/0919123538

[vi] http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb02/newdata.aspx

Assimilation Is Not Liberation…The Importance of Preserving Gay Culture

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We could have plenty of conversations about injustices of gay people in society. Some having to do with institutional issues, others with social prejudice. Many gays simply just want to live their lives in society without being persecuted for being who they are. A good many would feel satisfied as long as they have the right to marry who they want, and have the same opportunities normative sexualities and gender expressions have for success and happiness. The conversations on “equality” primarily aim to portray us as no more or less “the same” as everyone else. If you are satisfied with a normative life style where you can live the monogamous, picket fence, raising kids, American dream life…this may end your desire to think of what your needs are as a homosexual at marriage equality and social discrimination. However, not all queers are satisfied with “fitting in” and wanting to be the “same as all the straight people.”

There has been a unique sub-culture formed by history, communal identity, common struggles, and the socialization of uniquely “gay spaces” since Stonewall (and even arguably before in some ways). While it is true times have changed and we are nowhere close to the same level of persecution that we use to deal with in earlier times. Our needs to have a sense of community with those of compatible sexual orientation have not changed. Prejudice and institutional discrimination still exists. Just like issues of racism are not the same they use to be, they still exist and likely always will. The same can be said for homophobia. Even in changing times with different (though at times still very similar) challenges, a need for gay togetherness still exists. Personally, I believe it always will.

When I refer to this sub-culture, we can remember that it’s extremely complex and different communities and gays define what it is differently. Some trace it through cultural icons like Judy Garland and Madonna. Others through major social/political events like Stonewall and the AIDS endemic and how it influenced social awareness around gay identity and societal experiences. Others still trace it through common customs, language, and social norms that have come out of gay bars, gay pornography, bathhouses, and prides. These things might include drag, use of the words “top, bottom, and verse” or “twink, bear, and otter,” leather/kink norms that include color codes and ways of non-verbally identifying oneself and sexual desires in a way that is intended for only other homosexuals to know. A lot of it centers around sexuality, but it does become so much more. It becomes something unique you can share with other homosexuals. Something that can create a greater sense of togetherness and connection that can instill a fraternal comradery amongst gay men.

While there are plenty of criticisms one can assign to all these things about the normative expectations they are perceived to create amongst gay men. They don’t have to be expectations…but rather an affirmation of homosexual identity, sexuality, and honoring different aspects of our historical-cultural development. Not all of us are drag queens or have a desire to do drag, but one cannot deny the role drag queens have played in bringing gay men together over the years and fighting for our rights. One does not have to be into leather and kink to appreciate that the leather/kink sub-culture in the gay community has played an important role in our sexual liberation and reminding us to have just as much pride in our sexuality as anything thing else in our gay experiences. Few people want to examine how gay pornography has played important roles in gay rights history. Such as how it pushed boundaries to acknowledge the reality of homosexuality and that it’s equal right to be acknowledged and to be enjoyed and explored. Not everyone perfectly fits into categories like “twink, otter, bear, daddy, and geek” but they are creating a common language amongst us to joke, celebrate, and explore our sexuality and homosocial experiences.

I’ve met many gay men that resist being a part of a homosocial community, that cast judgement on it, that don’t see a purpose in participating or exploring it. I personally believe most of the time this is due to a sense of internalized homophobia/heteronormativity/heterosexism/etc. There is a deep resistance to acknowledging what makes one different as a homosexual and having a sense of pride in that. Perhaps some gay men can live assimilated lives in heterodominant society and feel fulfilled. In which case this entire conversation is a moot point that becomes impractical to their sense of fulfillment as homosexuals. But there are many homosexuals out there that deeply struggle to feel connected to other homosexuals. They have supportive heterosexual friends, may or may not live in a supportive environment…but have little to no access to other homosexuals. They only see being gay as an unimportant part of who they are instead of integrated and inseparable to the totality of who they are that deserves acknowledgement and defines certain social needs they have for access to intimacy and others like them.

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I’ve seen a huge transformation in gay men many, many, MANY times when they finally begin to discover a sense of fraternal brotherhood to other gay men. When they finally begin to tear down those internal barriers they’ve carried all their lives to feeling connected to other gay men. They no longer carry a narrative inside themselves that sees being gay as “just a small part of who they are, otherwise they are no different than straight people” and it’s simply “yay gay!, gay pride! Gay is AWSOME!” There is no longer a need to compartmentalize homosexuality to a small part of your existence. It can be expressed in all aspects of who you are in any way you want to express it. You begin to see gay relationships as not merely sexual, but social fraternal bonds too. I am not trying to imply all gay men have to have this experience to be fulfilled nor is it fair too…but I am saying I’ve seen it happen a lot…and I do see a deep need in many gay men to continue to have a fraternal culture of gay brotherhood that is exclusively for us and amongst us alone. It’s a beautiful and heart warming experience for me, when I see other gay men shift from a sense of isolation from both themselves and other homosexuals, to having a sense of pride and feeling a sense fraternal brotherhood to other gay men.

Many are having a continuous debate about the changing times and what purpose gay community has in it. There are those that feel we should just leave the past behind and assimilate into society, not making our homosexuality set us apart from anyone. Others feel assimilation is an erasure of unique needs and experiences that make us who we are as homosexuals. I lye on the latter end of the of the two perspectives. I don’t want to see gay culture and the community it has created be erased simply because we have less political battles to fight then we use too. We can co-exist with a larger society and community, while still having a gay community and sub-culture too. I see no reason why we have to erase gay uniqueness, history, communal togetherness, and so on to be a part of society. I see no reason why I can’t pursue a life of seeking and celebrating gay brotherhood and also be a citizen of larger society too. If we erase where we came from, what makes us different, and our need to have our own unique social spaces and experiences…we erase who we are and assimilate into a social structure that will never fully fulfill our need to have homosexual relationships. It’s great to be in a society that doesn’t persecute us nearly as often or intensely as it use too (and it still definitely does and I think it likely always will to some degree)…but if all you have is supportive heterosexual friends and little to no gay experiences, friendships, and relationships…are you truly fulfilled as a homosexual? Therefore, assimilation is not liberation. We do all homosexuals a disservice by erasing our unique sub-cultural identity and the community it creates for us.

Homo-Eros: A Mark in Dedication to Gay Brotherhood

A Mark in Dedication to Gay Brotherhood

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In dedication to the brotherhood I wear this permanent mark.

Forever shall I hold my homobrothers within my heart.

10 years of owning who I am, and 10 years of seeking connection.

I once felt so isolated and alone, but because of the gay community I found my home.

We are not merely a movement of rights, or a network of dating and hook-ups on the DL at night.

We’re a brotherhood, a community, a tribe. I am your family and you are mine.

I wear this permanent mark of pride on my skin.

To honor my brothers whom I love and will never be forgotten.

In spite all the pain, fear, and sadness. I have pride in our communal gladness.

Forever and Ever shall I hold my brothers in my heart.

We are family no matter how far we are apart.

 

Poem Written by Elliott Belue

Endnote:

This is my first tattoo. In honor of my 10th year anniversary of coming out and of the sense of pride and emotional bond I have with my brothers in the gay community. The Poem is written from a deep sense of connection to the gay community. One that I hold near and dear to my heart.

Homo-Eros: The Man with Strong Arms

The Man with Strong Arms

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He was a military man, one longing to be free…full of regrets and shadows that haunted him.

He was so use to living a lie, he could even fool himself into thinking he was happy.

I loved him, more then I had any man. His big strong arms made me feel protected and safe. His boyish smile was infectious and I could never stay mad at him for long because it was too damn cute. He gave more then any man I ever met, and he never expected anything back…from anyone. He nurtured and showed his love by making those around him feel safe and cared for.

The tragic part was, he showed love by protecting others…but he never felt safe himself. His own brothers in arms once violated him and because of public policy during that time…he could never say it happened. Who gave him PTSD? Not terrorists his country wanted him to fight…his own brothers in arms his country expected him to live and even die with, if necessary. He was use to being a protector…but no one would protect him, even those he was suppose to rely on most.

Behind that boyish smile and charm, and those big strong arms…was a tortured soul who sacrificed everything for others…but no one ever sacrificed for him. He never learned how to let people in because he was too use to hiding behind closet doors so he could feel safe.

We got close to sharing our life together, but all he knew how to do was hide.

So he shut me out and sent me away, despite my attempts to love him. Some will never know how harsh and cruel homophobia can be. It tears lives apart. It destroyed a Love that I will always look back on wondering what could of been.

I will always remember how tightly he held on to me each night, as if our closeness was the only thing that grounded him and kept him alive. His desire to serve his country and be close to the man he loved were in conflict, and they shouldn’t have been.

I had never had a man look at me with such care and love as much as he had. Yet the world would not give him the decency to love who he wanted, and let that person love him back.

Despite the mistakes he made, I know deep down how he truly felt and had the world been more accepting of how he loved…he would of never lived a life of lies, and shutting others out.  If only more people knew the pain a closet will inflict on someone, how it slowly destroys them from the inside out.

So forever a chronicle of the man I loved shall stay a memory in my heart. Always an after thought of what could of been had the world of been a little more accepting. I will always miss his strong arms holding me tight as though we were the only two people in the world at night.

His giving, charming smile, and protective nurturing nature will always be honored in my heart…and so will the tragedy of what could have (and should have) been.

Picture Colored and Poem Written by Elliott Belue

Picture taken from “Color Yourself Furious” by Golden Czermak dba Furious Fotog
http://www.onefuriousfotog.com

Homo-Eros: Let Men Be Roses

Hello readers. As I am trying to be more creative in how I explore homoeroticism. I am going to try my hand at creative writing and artistic expression. I’ve gotten a homoerotic coloring book that lets me color black and white pictures of men with tattoos. Every time I complete a page I am going to take a picture and write a short homoerotic poem with it. I am not an expert creative writer, I’ve always been a more intellectual/analytical writer. So I am not trying to compete with major professional homoerotic literary standards. I am just giving myself permission to non-judgementally express my creative side and share it with friends and readers who find it interesting. I hope you enjoy. I will be making this apart of a series I am calling “Homo-Eros” named after the God Eros of Love and Desire.

Let Men Be Roses

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Men are so taught to cover up. They are so taught never to show who they are naked and exposed.

I have known men naked. They are beautiful, delicate, and soft. I have seen them exposed.

They say beauty, softness, and delicate sensation is not the role of men. Who said this?

For I have seen the bare skin of men as soft and sensitive as rose petals.

I have whispered in his ear how beautiful he is and felt his softness close to me.

What toxic message is this that tells men they cannot love men, they cannot be “pretty,” they cannot be soft like roses?

Never have I seen anything so beautiful as the softness of a man naked, shedding the prison of masculinity behind.

For in this moment he defines himself not for what he hides, but what he is.

Let men be roses: soft, beautiful, and delicate. For when men are free they are like roses: soft, beautiful, delicate…and exposed.

Picture Colored and Poem Written by:
Elliott Belue

Picture taken from coloring book: “Color Yourself Furious” by Golden Czermak dba FuriousFotog http://www.onefuriousfotog.com

The Awkward Conversation About Allies

Today we’ve enjoyed a great amount of progess in society. This is in no small part due to the contributions of allies. It’s great to see more and more heterosexuals that are “cool with the gays.” Society as a whole is becoming a more inclusive environment for homosexual individuals because of allies. There is still a long way to go for us, and there are still plenty of homophobic environments and individuals in the world. But that does not diminish the fact that if we compared today’s society overall to a decade ago, 30 years ago, or even 60 years ago we have significantly more opportunity for success and happiness as homosexuals. We don’t want to alienate the allies that support our cause and contribute to the ongoing progress of a more inclusive and supportive society. Yet at the same time with greater heterosexual supporters wanting to share our space and cause, we find that not all our needs are about inclusion in greater society. A big part of homosexual existence is having abundant, accessible, and focused opportunities to socialize with others who share the same experience and have compatible sexuality. No matter how cool and supportive our heterosexual friends are, they are not attracted to the same sex. Therefore, not everything in gay culture is about their support and inclusion in our activities, even though we do not want to alienate them from the more political/social-justice aspects of our cause.

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There seems to be a misconception that everything in gay culture is about something political and social justice oriented in society. While that’s definitely an aspect of it and a really important one. Gay culture is not always a “cause” sometimes is simply a social atmosphere for homosexuals to have sexual and social experiences with each other. Allies don’t always understand that society is hetero-dominant. They never have to complain about a lack of heterosexuals in their environments, and the lack of opportunity that creates for sexual/romantic development and to socialize with people that relate to their sexuality and experiences. Therefore, part of supporting us, is honoring that we need exclusive homosocial spaces to ourselves without taking that personally.

This is a hard conversation to have with allies sometimes. They think gay culture is just simply about “tolerance and inclusion” but the truth is that’s only the political aspects of it. It’s what we want for greater society. Greater society isn’t just about us, it’s about everyone. I definitely want our allies to feel unique things about them are acknowledged in greater society too. But when we aren’t going to a protest chanting “Love not Hate” in regards to discriminatory legislation, it’s nice to have a space to go to where we can meet and socialize with others who have a compatible sexuality. Frankly that social experience isn’t all just about sex either. It’s definitely an important and fun part of that experience, but I like having gay friends and being in a space where its only us. We get inside jokes about our unique experiences, it’s a fraternal brotherhood that affirms our unique experiences and sexuality. It helps us mutually grow through sharing this bond that simply doesn’t exist with our heterosexual friends. Whom we love and value…we just don’t experience this fraternal bond with them because their sexuality is not compatible and they don’t have the same developmental experiences.

When I try to explain how frustrating it feels when bridal showers and sorority girls invade gay bars, or when hordes of straight girls come with their boyfriends to karaoke or trivia night at the local gay bar. They react like they are being personally attacked. “What, straight people can’t do karaoke and trivia?” Of course straight people can! But karaoke and trivia night AT THE LOCAL GAY BAR isn’t about straight people enjoying karaoke and trivia with their friends and heterosexual partners. It’s about having a space for gay people to socialize and meet other gay people in a society that is hetero-dominant and doesn’t give us those opportunities. It’s not about the karaoke and the trivia, it’s about gay people having social opportunities with each other. When we see more and more of our gay bars becoming dominated by allies who think it’s all about them having fun and they think they are entitled to that because they support our cause…it’s frustrating. It’s literally getting to a point that guys don’t want to go out to the bars anymore because we feel it’s no longer an opportunity for us to meet other gay people because the ratio of straight to gay is THAT unbalanced in a space that is SUPPOSE to be gay.

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We don’t want to alienate those that support us. But we NEED a place where we can socially and sexually develop with each other and celebrate our fraternal bond. If you don’t honor our need to do this…are you really “allies” that support our equal opportunities for our happiness and relationships? You certainly don’t have a lack of heterosexual opportunities to access connections to other heterosexuals in society. Acknowledging that, that is a privilege you enjoy in society and that gay people need access to those opportunities, makes you a true ally that is really empathetic to our experiences. If you call yourself an ally…but make those aspects of gay culture all about you feeling “excluded vs. included” how are you helping us address our needs to experience accessible opportunities to relationships with those of compatible sexuality? Acknowledging that you don’t have a need for that, but we do, is a part of fixing that inequality. Sure heterosexuals have plenty of issues dating each other…but that’s not because of a lack of heterosexuals around them and it’s certainly not going to be solved by making that experience less accessible for homosexuals.

I am sincere when I say that I appreciate our allies, and I want them to continue to support us. But I don’t want that support to come at the cost of me having less opportunities to socialize and connect to other homosexuals. We need to have these conversations more. It’s hard to talk about because it’s frustrating, and allies can have unintentional blinders that makes them insensitive to how important this is to homosexuals. Sure some of their GBFs may not see the problem as clearly (or simply don’t express their real feelings about it). So they feel content to say “I have gay friends and they don’t feel that way” to justify their voice on an issue that is ultimately not about them. However, in my experience most gay guys that don’t see or care about the issue, tend to feel more comfortable around supportive straight friends then they do around their own kind…internalized homophobia much? That’s an issue with their own homosexual identity development (or rather lack thereof) and its part of the reason they need to be in a space that has a concentrated homosexual population so they can learn how to get more comfortable around us and address their internal barriers to that. We love our allies and we want them to show up to political and social-justice causes in large numbers…but we don’t want them to invade spaces that are about our social experiences with each other.

My 10th Anniversary: The Healing Power of Celebrating Homosexuality

10 Years ago, around this time of year I came out of the closet. I was 16 years old. I had just transfered from an all boys Christian school to a co-ed secular school. I had a lot of scars like we all do from homophobia. I was one of those boys that never fit the masculine mold. Because of that I was called “gay” and “queer” before I even knew what it meant and bullied, harassed, and hazed because of it. So I internalized that homophobia and was in denial about it…that did not stop people from treating me the way they did though. But now that I was in a more secular and co-ed environment, there was less testosterone putting judgement and pressure on boys that couldn’t compete with masculine standards. This new environment gave me more room to breath and explore myself with less heteronormative masculinity putting social pressures on me. Also in a post-pubescent environment with both girls and boys it was significantly clearer to me that, that turning in my stomach I felt around boys did not exist around girls. So I slowly began to own that feeling. But with it came unpacking years of fear and trauma that toxic homophobic, heteronormative, and masculine standards taught me to believe about it.

My journey has scars as it does for all of us, and while scars can mend and stop bleeding, they leave a mark that never quite fully goes away. Those scars tell a story, one that can change in what it means to you over time. When the wound is fresh it represents pain, trauma, abuse, and agony. As it begins to heal its represents anger at injustice and the cruelty of those that both did it and those that allowed it to happen. After it’s healed and has become a characteristic mark on your skin, it represents lessons from your past and sometimes memories that can haunt you…but most of all it’s a testament of your resilience, your determination to survive, and how far you’ve come since the wound was inflicted.

(side note: because I love animated musicals. As I talk about the themes of this narrative I think of this song from Moana. Thought I might share it to add more nuance and meaning to this discussion)

My healing wounds have become a journey I want to reflect on and share with my community. I want to celebrate my connection to the brotherhood of gay men that have helped me heal, both friends and lovers (and even adversaries that have taught me more about myself through adversity). I have come so far from the traumatized teen I once was, afraid of the world, bullied into silence by homophobia and bigotry. I’ve become a confident, celebratory, and happy gay man. One with scars that tells a story of how far I’ve come. A story that exposes my imperfections, insecurities, traumas, and fears…and tells the story of how I survived. I’ve come to a place where I celebrate that narrative. Because it’s brought me closer to others. It’s also distanced me from others that would do me harm, which was all a part of the process. The healing of my scars was not accomplished by picking myself up by my boot straps and doing it alone. It was from seeking connections to other men who were walking the same journey. Other men who mirrored back reflections to me no one else could. Reflections that made me see myself clearer. These men were friends, lovers, and even adversaries at times. But I have a deep gratitude in my heart for all of them.

In the gay community, we all share wounds. Those wounds can make us feel isolated from each other at times. They can get us stuck in oppression Olympics at times. They can lead to coping behaviors that don’t always make sense and can even be destructive. But it’s all a part of the perfectly imperfect process of the healing work we are called to do. If we stick with it, we develop relationships we would of never expected to have with each other. The journey eventually turns chaos into something more harmonious. Connections and bonds are formed that create a co-healing experience. The narratives of our traumas shift from victims to survivors. I would of never made it this far without the other gay men in my life. It’s because of them I’ve grown and I’ve found meaning in my past and it’s something I’ve come to celebrate.

Not all gay men are at a place in their life where they are ready to hear that simply celebrating who they are and the connection they share with their community…is sometimes all you have to do to heal. We define so much of who we are as political rights, social injustice, and narratives of our pain and suffering. We rarely take the time to enjoy who we are, our sexuality, and how it connects us. To get to a more fully realized homosexual existence, at some point we need to feel good about it. It’s like Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. I realize not all homosexuals are ready to focus on developing positive relationships, self-esteem, and actualizing who they are as homosexuals. After all, many of us are dealing with our sense of safety in otherwise hostile environments. But sometimes we get stuck in that place. I know if I told myself 10 years ago to celebrate my sexuality as a homosexual and my connection to other gay men…I would not of been ready to hear it. I needed to process things first emotionally, physically, sexually, environmentally, and philosophically to get to the place I am now. But now that I am here, I am experiencing a bitter sweet joy in simply celebrating who I am, and the connection I share with others that walk the same road. I also want to work as a community for those that are still searching and have not realized that place of higher needs…because they are so vulnerable.

So on my 10th anniversary of coming out, and go to my hometown’s pride. I not only show up to fight for our rights and social justice…I celebrate our community, who I am, how far we’ve all come, and the love I have for those that have come this far with me…and the love I have for those still searching. I celebrate my brothers in the gay community. Without you guys I would not of come this far. You’ve healed me, supported me, and held a mirror in front of me to see myself more clearly. As mushy and gooshy as it may sound, deep in my heart I feel a deep sense of fraternal brotherhood with you guys and I feel a deep bond of celebratory love. This bond is by no means “fluffy,” at times it’s been tough love, messy love, and had adversity and petty drama involved. But upon reflection, that’s been a learning experience that helped me grow just as much as the more nurturing and tender love of lovers and friends. So for those of you that have walked the path of seeking queer spirit like I have. The spirit of the connection between gay men. I challenge you to pause in the chaos and celebrate how far we’ve come. To celebrate our bonds and connections and the friends and lovers you’ve met along the way. To celebrate the story of our scars that tell a chronicle of how we’ve survived and come this far. Not that we should become complacent, or stop the fight. But just pause from it for a moment, and find the time to celebrate our brotherhood. You may find this simple experience is the very healing we need to fully realize our personhood as homosexuals…and the fulfillment we are starving for.

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It’s Healing to Talk About Sex

One of the most under talked about subjects is Sex. The unnecessary discomfort we are taught to feel with it contributes to shame, fear, trauma, and neurosis that surrounds the subject. Our sense of morality on the subject is often informed by discomfort and shame and not by considering the harm of our actions. We tend to be more comfortable with sexuality fitting a socially defined image (regardless of rather it is functional and healthy or not) then we are with it being openly expressed in both ethical and diverse ways that defy a socially acceptable role. How many times has society permitted religious Clerics to get by with convictions of pedophilia so long as they maintain the illusion they are morally sanctioned by their God? How many times have we shamed those openly practicing ethical non-monogamy with consenting adults who respect each other? For no other reason than bigotry and mild discomfort with sexuality? Sexuality is a touchy subject for so many because we are taught from an early age by family and/or society that something about it is inappropriate and must be kept locked up behind closet doors of shame.

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What is true morality? Fallowing an arbitrary social standard? Or avoiding harm in your actions? Is someone who maintains a public image they are monogamous with their opposite sex partner, but secretly molests children, morally superior to a gay couple having an open relationship with consenting adults? For that matter, is someone practicing a healthy expression of monogamy morally superior to someone practicing a healthy expression of non-monogamy? If you think so, you probably believe morals are less about “do no harm” and more about “being socially acceptable by arbitrary standards.”

As a Pagan, I’ve believed the only true ethical concern in any action, issue, or problem is rather there is “true” harm or not. Obviously this not always black and white. A doctor saves a patient by harming cancer cells. A warrior may harm an aggressor in self-defense ultimately to preserve life and prevent harm from being caused. However, I do not feel “social standards” that have nothing to do with harm equate to morality. Social standards are nothing more then arbitrary control, and can often harm those that do not fit the mold of their expectations. The truth of the matter is humanity is complex. No body will ever fully fit a socially acceptable mold. Aspects of them might, but there is always something that makes someone unique and different. Sexuality is best understood as a spectrum of diversity. Not a limitation based off what mom and dad or society told you growing up. There is nothing more wrapped up in useless shame and harmful silence then sex.

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When was the last time you had sex, and truly enjoyed it? That you and your partner(s) communicated shamelessly about your insecurities, likes and dislikes, enjoyed each others bodies beyond just the orgasms, and just felt vital and alive from sharing sexual pleasures? If you can say yes to all these things, you’re probably more well adjusted then most in your sexuality. Unfortunately most people aren’t. We rarely have role models, and mentors that teach us that sex is a valid, healthy, and wonderful expression of who we are. We often struggle to figure it out on our own in silence with constant negative messages telling us that anything sexual about who we are is not appropriate. I feel my own struggle to accept and feel comfortable with my sexuality was a long journey of unpacking fears, traumas, insecurities, and internalized shame. Not only because I exclusively am sexually attracted to men as a homosexual…but because being sexual itself rarely finds safe places to be expressed and shared without shame and disapproval.

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As many as 1 in 5 adults (regardless of gender) will experience rape at some point during their life time. However, given how few feel comfortable admitting to even themselves that they suffer such traumas, that number is likely a lot higher. Especially amongst men who are less likely to admit it happened to them. Why is this so high a number? Because we don’t model good examples of healthy sexuality. We create unrealistic standards for sexual behavior. We teach shame instead of embracing diverse expressions of sexuality as a valid and healthy part of our humanity.

As a graduate student of mental health counseling aspiring to become a sex therapist, I deeply see the need for people to have safe spaces to talk about sex. I was lucky to find people in my young adulthood that modeled diverse, affirming, and celebratory attitudes about sexuality. As a victim of sexual violence, it was a healing experience to see people openly talking about their sex lives and enjoying it. To see examples of adults who loved sex, had it a lot, and did it with respect and honor for both their boundaries and the boundaries of others. Most of these role models practiced ethical non-monogamy, and were in the kink and BDSM communities. They were fellow gay men who had no apologies for the homophobia and erotiphobia (discomfort with sex) in society. They pursued and expressed their sexual lives openly without shame, and did so with a sense of honor and respect for themselves and their partners. A good number of these men I didn’t have any sexual relationship with, I just had a friendship with where I could share my thoughts, feelings, and insecurities without judgement or shame. We need more of this in the gay community…AND in society as a whole.

You’d be surprised how common it is to have an issue with “pre-ejaculation” or taking too long to orgasm. You’d be surprised how often monogamy simply doesn’t work for everyone. Do you know how many people watch porn…but yet still feel like there is something “bad” about it? Cybersex? Please!! Sexting and webcam sex are more common than most people realize and saying “don’t do it” is not going to make it go away. Maybe being careful about how you do it and with whom might be a good idea…but people are going to do it and you might as well hold a space for it. Not to mention fantasies and kinks. But guess what? We all have different boundaries and comfort levels with these things. I find guys in leather harnesses hot. I also find dom and sub role play hot. But my fantasies and the realities of what I actually like to do when I am faced with sex with a real partner can sometimes be different. Could that change over time? Possibly and possibly not. That’s my choice to make and not anyone else’s. What? Just because I admit I have a fantasy I am now obligated to do something with you? HELL NO! Having boundaries is healthy and you should only surround yourself with people who respect them. If someone doesn’t, they’re probably not that great of person.

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Sex is a beautiful and life affirming experience and everyone expresses it differently. It’s important for us to coexist in our diversity and sex is no small part of that. If you personally don’t want to express your sexuality a certain way…can you hold that boundary for yourself without shaming someone who does express their sexuality that way? If someone does draw a boundary with you, can you respect it? These are the only morals that are important in sex…otherwise it should be celebrated as a beautiful and fun part of our lives and our humanity. We need to talk about sex more. So that people suffering in silence can heal. So that we can educate each other about our differences. So we can develop proper ethical etiquette in what is “true” moral behavior and what isn’t. So that we can embrace the true diversity of our humanity…SEX…and all.

Cass’s Pride Identity Formation and Anger Management

Vivienne C. Cass is a sex therapist and Psychologist that came up with an important model for gay and lesbian identity formation in 1979. While there have been plenty of valid criticisms of her model, it remains to still be a useful tool for homosexuals to reflect on their development. Reflecting on this model and the issues that are encountered in each stage of development has helped me understand my internal reality as a gay male. I’ve focused a lot in this blog on external realities primarily in social issues both within society and the gay community. But this pride month I thought I might write an internal reflection inspired by Cass’s homosexual identity formation model.

Vivienne C. Cass

Vivienne C. Cass

Summarizing Cass’s Model and the Pride Stage

I have left some references about Cass’s model below for those interested in exploring it in more detail. For those looking for a light summery there is a Wikipedia link[i], for those wishing to have greater depth I’ll put in some academic references[ii] [iii](assuming you have access to academic databases). Essentially Cass purposed gay and lesbian individuals go through 6 stages of identity development. We often talk about the significance of “coming out” but our issues of identity do not simply stop there and are more complex than that. Each stage of development has its own tasks, challenges, and issues to consider. I personally am long pass the formative stages of telling heterosexual people who I am. If anything, I am closest to the 5th stage “Pride.” At this stage homosexuals are less concerned about how they are perceived by heterosexuals and gaining their acceptance, and more concerned about establishing and maintaining gay community exclusively around them. I’ve seen some media about Cass’s model that implies this stage can last nearly 10 years or potentially never really end once you’ve established yourself in it. However, it should be noted that not everybody fallows Cass’s model perfectly, and not everyone goes through all 6 stages to “synthesis” at the very end (nor do I feel they have to, to be fully fulfilled as a homosexual).

The 6 Stages

The 6 Stages

At the 5th stage of “Pride,” a sense of anger tends to be a common experience towards the heteronormative nature of society, sometimes even at heterosexuals themselves. For those of us that have watched Queer as Folk (American version) we all know that famous line from Bryan Kenny “There are only two kinds of straight people in this world. The ones that hate you to your face and the ones that hate you behind your back.” That’s an example of the kind of anger that can be common in this stage. There is a greater comfort around other homosexuals then there is around heterosexuals. The gay community is seen as the primary source of social support and community. People in this stage often intentionally distance themselves from heterosexuals in order to pursue and focus on homosexual community and relationships. I know this has been very true of me. Cass also recommends anger management during this stage as it’s a natural side effect of becoming less tolerant of heterosexism.

I have often advocated for the need of the “gay vacuum” effect of exclusive homosexual spaces. There are some things a homosexual will NEVER discover about himself, without a vacuum where heterosexuality is absent and homosexuality is normalized and accessible. I’ve seen it time and time again where we internalize the homophobia and heterosexism around us in statements like “I’m not like most gays…I only like guys, otherwise I am just like straight people…I don’t identify with the gay community.” I use to say stuff like this myself, having no idea how self-defeating and self-isolating these statements were. I would complain, complain, and complain about not having a boyfriend and not knowing any gay people that I liked. Yet held this internalized homonegativity that wanted straight people to feel comfortable with me by distancing myself from the gay community with damaging false beliefs about what the gay community was and what being gay meant in general. It wasn’t until I experienced a week-long retreat at a camp ground of exclusively around 180 gay men, where not a single heterosexual was in sight, that I came face to face with my own internalized homonegativity. Where I began to realize how my desire to feel comfortable around heterosexuals and to make them feel comfortable with me when I came out…ultimately caused irrational and self-isolating beliefs about the gay community. So few gay men ever experience that “gay vacuum” effect at depth where they are forced to acknowledge how indoctrinated they are by heteronormative society and how unnecessary that self-isolating and self-damaging inner voice is. I deeply believe more gay men need access to this experience, I’ve seen it time and time again in myself and in other homo-brotheren. Gay men need community exclusively with each other to put a mirror in front of ourselves and tear down our internal barriers to feeling connected to each other. Having allies is great and when we have a political rally I think they should be valued and welcomed, but when it comes to our social need to have community and relationship with each other…they can’t help us with this process specifically nor is it really about them. There is no point to being gay, without quality gay relationships in our life. We don’t get access to this through a hetero-dominant society, even when it is supportive.

So that’s the important task of Cass’s 5th “Pride” stage. Seeking out gay community exclusively. This can be somewhat politically and social justice oriented, but more importantly its about developing homo-sexual/social relationships and less about disclosing your identity to straight people and trying to feel okay about that. In this process, you become more aware of how heterosexism and heteronormativity has impacted your own psyche. So OFCOURSE you’re going to feel anger towards the fact you had to deal with that, when you realize you really don’t “have to” passively accept it. You can start focusing on gay relationships and unapologetically seek them out. It causes you to face the reality of your sexual desires and feelings. It makes you focus on developing sexual, romantic, and even social connections that heterosexuals could never give you and you never are going to apologize for that birth right ever again. You’re going to respond to straight people saying “I’m not homophobic but…” by cutting them off and saying “…but you can stick whatever your about to say up your ass!”

My Pride and Anger

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My entrance into my Pride stage was characterized a lot by cutting people out of my life. My identity was no longer about just wanting to be accepted by straight people, it was about wanting to unapologetically find and maintain gay relationships and community. Straight people couldn’t give me that even if they were trying to be supportive. After all they are heterosexual and not homosexual. I often found when I would attempt to find gay relationships they would often make it all about them. “Its hard for everyone to find relationships, not just homosexuals.” So when have you ever been in a public space where you had to assume everyone around you was gay and to assume someone is straight could get you heterophobically assaulted then? Have you ever been afraid to hold hands with a date in public out of fear you could be harassed or assaulted because your date is the opposite sex? Have you ever felt like there are so few heterosexuals around you that you have to use a mobile networking app just to feel connected to them? Not even just to date them, just to simply feel connected to them and feel like they are out there? Sure, heterosexuals have relationship problems too…but none of those problems are due to there being a lack of other heterosexuals around them. So I got tired of being silenced by those that could not relate. That couldn’t really appreciate or understand where I was coming from even when I tried to explain my perspective to them. My fuse got increasingly shorter, and my angry reactions to even the smallest microagression increased in intensity. My boundaries turned into a big gay, liberal, feminist, sex positive bubble that had no room for conservative, heteronormative, patriarchal, slut shaming bullshit.

I am not the only queer that has gone through this experience. I think it’s a natural part of our development. I may happen in different ways for different queer identities (ie someone who is Trans might not have the same exact microaggressions or social oppressions, but might be similar in that at some point they start cutting people out of their lives that remind them of or want them to be who they were before transitioning). It was a transformation for me, becoming an unapologetic homosexual and choosing to only be around people that could affirm that or that could support the process of gay socialization. But, especially after this last election cycle, I am beginning to see the wisdom of Cass recommending anger management to homosexuals in the Pride stage. I’ve seen, shared, and expressed a lot of anger with the LGBTQ community. I think anger is a legitimate expression of injustice and the oppressed, but it can easily become so common place that it stands in the way of social harmony in our community and personal resilience and well being.

Critical Issue: Internal Integration, Not Heteronormative Synthesis

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I use to think of Cass’s 6th stage “synthesis” as it is described in some media being rather heteronormative itself. Why does someone “have to” reintegrate into heterosexual society to be a fully realized homosexual? Is it wrong to want to focus on gay relationships, community networking, and so on? If someone feels they are deeply defined by something they are passionate about, such as being an actor…why do they have to belittle that passion and social experience as “just another part of who I am?” Yes there are many other things beyond being gay that make up who I am…but why do I have to compartmentalize that part of me or separate it in any way from the totality of who I am? Especially if I have a deep passion, interest, and enthusiasm about it. I love homosocial experiences. I love watching other guys go through homosocial experiences and discover things about themselves. Watching them process things they never could otherwise, and discover a sense of community and connection with each other. Even when that experience comes with stressors and melodramas, I still love it. No different than would Barack Obama always attach importance to being a Politician. As would Patrick Stewart always see being an Actor as a defining part of who he is. If being gay has so much passion, experience, and meaning attached to it, I do not feel it’s fair to expect me to belittle it as “just another part of me” (as some people describe Cass’s model, though others word it differently) in order to be a wholistically integrated homosexual. I realize not all homosexuals feel this way, but not all homosexuals have nearly as much passion and emotional investment in their community either. That’s really the issue I have with Cass’s 6th stage in  how some people define it as no longer seeing gay identity as a central and important part of oneself. But, that said, I do think there is some wisdom in at least getting to a place where the anger is processed and expressed in healthier ways. This is what I think we should take away as the important experience of the 6th stage. After all she does mention anger towards heterosexism “diminishes,” but does not “go away,” during the 6th and final “synthesis” stage. I take that as being better able to choose your battles. Being able to walk away from that microaggression you may not like, but decide its not worth the emotional energy and there are more important things you could focus on. Essentially being able to “respond” instead of “react.”

Healing Means a Healthier Relationship with Anger

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I am sure some of my readers have seen the commentary that went viral by Lady Bunny the drag queen.[iv] While I do not think it’s realistic or fair to expect queers to stop getting angry and having the knit picky arguments we have, I do think she has a point. Are we letting knit picky battles over microagressions distract us from larger issues? Are those battles even worth fighting half the time? Maybe they are worth fighting in some situations, in which case by all means assert yourself. However, do you find yourself getting exhaustively angry all the time and you can’t just simply take a break from it and enjoy what good things we do have? Queers have a natural process of healthy development that they eventually get to a place where they assert themselves more and cut out toxic relationships that prevent affirmation and happiness in their experience. But with that process unresolved issues in our consciousness surface. After the extreme cultural polarization from the 2016 elections, I know it was getting hard to focus on bigger goals and keeping things in perspective. The cultural wars made me and so many of us so angry and reactionary. So much of my personal wounds festered and came to the surface. Now that I am going to grad school to become a counselor, I am having to challenge myself to monitor my emotional reactions to things and get them under-control. After all someday I may have a LGBTQ youth client who’s coming out, and I will have to work with their parents who may or may not need to process homophobic/transphobic feelings. I cannot be an effective counselor for either the queer youth or the parent if I react instead of responding and allowing it to be a process of slowly getting to a better place.

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Lady Bunny

The anger I’ve carried for so long has been like a defense mechanism, trying to override the anxiety that is triggered by the traumas of my past. I think if most angry social justice queers are honest with themselves, they probably have a similar internal reality. My anger protected me, gave me the strength to assert boundaries and advocate for my needs, and helped me challenge toxic oppressive things I internalized. It was also very useful when I ran an LGBT organization and gave me the motivation to push an agenda to a school administration and get things done. There are times anger is useful and healthy, but there are also times that it’s just masking a deeper distress in your consciousness. Are you really doing yourself or others any service if you just let those wounds remain unhealed and unprocessed? We are so focused on the external realities (which are important and should be addressed) that we can neglect nurturing our internal realities. I am not a fan of shallow New Age approach that would tell you to just “think positive” and pretend like all your raw and very real human emotions don’t exist. I am not telling you that your (or my) anger is something to avoid or that you can easily just let it go.  But I am saying to address where it is internally coming from and own it. Work on processing those emotions, if you doubt it will undoubtedly come out in other ways such as alcoholism, substance abuse, and other self-destructive behaviors. I can’t change the past, the homophobic bullies of my past have left a deep scar on me that will likely never go away. But I can treat and mend the wound…and though the scar will be there forever, hopefully it will become less tender and venomous over time. With such healing work, hopefully I can become a better person everyday, and be a more effective advocate for generations after me who need us to pass on the torch. Hopefully as Lady Bunny said, we should model the gay community, and the larger LGBTQ community as well, to be a community they’d be proud to be a part of. Is a community that only focuses on what there is to be angry (while ignoring what there is to be celebrated) really a community to be “Proud” of?

References:

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_identity_model

[ii] Journal of Homosexuality: “Homosexual Identity Formation: A Theoretical Model” by Vivienne C. Cass, MPsych, MAPsS; 1979

[iii] The Journal of Sex Research: “Homosexual Identity Formation: Testing a Theoretical Model” by Vivienne C. Cass; 1984

[iv] https://www.queerty.com/lady-bunny-lets-cancel-gay-pride-20170616