Dismissing the post would be an easy way out, and I am not a fan of “easy.” Besides, the psychologist in me was curious to see how someone can rationalize the disowning of crucial parts of his own core self. After all, it is not like saying – I no longer want to eat meat (no pun intended), or I no longer want to sport a beard. Our sexual desires and erotic attractions are well formed by the time of adulthood. Although the sexual fluidity is possible, the full range of our potential sexual expression is likely to be defined by the time of our sexual maturity. When we reject our own sexuality as being wrong or bad, where does it leave us?
Alan Downs in his brilliant book “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World” describes three key stages gay men go through in forming an integrated and empowered identity. He talks about the uniform starting point which only very few fortunate ones are able to escape – The Closet. The first stage of identity development is called “Overwhelmed by Shame” and describes living life with the “big dark secret,” in the closet, hiding from the world the truth we are no longer able to hide from ourselves. The second stage of “Compensating for Shame” delineates many ways gay men numb the feeling of inadequacy, wrong-ness, and shame through being uber-successful, super-fabulous, hyper-masculine, very popular, outrageous, and, of course, sexually desirable. This is the stage where drugs, sex and rock n’ roll serve to distract us from our inner struggle to accept and love ourselves just the way we are. The final stage Downs talks about is “Cultivating Authenticity.” He clarifies “Not all gay men progress out of the previous two stages, but those who do begin to build a life based upon their own passions and values rather than proving to themselves that they are desirable and lovable.”
In the “Why I no longer want to be gay” piece Luis Pablon states: “The self-loathing in this community forces you to encounter a series of broken men who are self-destructive, hurtful, cruel and vindictive towards one another.” He is right. Unfortunately, we have plenty of gay men who have internalized the negative cultural messages surrounding us. They accepted the beliefs that gay men are inadequate, are not “real” men, and are in some way inappropriate. These men project their sense of inadequacy and brokenness onto the people around them and see the gay community through the prism of inadequacy and brokenness. It is much easier to reject someone else, than to face one’s own self-rejection. Mr. Pablon fell into this old trap.
Luis Pablon chose to denounce the “gay community” instead of looking for the beautiful aspects of it. He chose to blame the victim and join the ranks of the oppressors, proclaiming the “gays” to be bad and inappropriate. Without realizing it, he saw in the gay community a mere reflection of himself. He struggled to find self-acceptance and self-love and identified the community of gay men as the culprit. He was called to rise to a challenge facing every man – gay or straight. The challenge of finding the inner truth and standing by who we truly are; The challenge of defending our innermost freedom to be true to ourselves and living an authentic life.
Gay community is no different from any other community. We have the full spectrum of the good and the bad. The examples of generosity, love, compassion, and selflessness are at the very least as plentiful as the examples of prejudice, superficiality, and self-loathing. Out of the full spectrum of experiences available to us on the playground of the “gay community” we find those experiences that match our current beliefs about the world and ourselves. If we feel inadequate, inappropriate and bad, we are likely to encounter experiences that will support our current perspective. However, if we find the compassion to look at ourselves with a softer eye and see the beauty within us, we will see the beauty around us as well.
To summarize, I have a personal message for Luis. Life is very simple, my friend. We get what we give. Our attitudes and beliefs, along with our choices and actions have the power to create. Your experience is not uncommon. We were never promised a rose garden. Coming out can be tough; finding your voice as a gay man can be tough; seeing your worth and loving yourself despite the hostile culture around us can be tough. However, as tough as it might be, it is our only chance to find freedom to be our true selves, to love wholeheartedly, and to live fully. It is worth fighting for. Do not give up. To use the wise words of Winston Churchill “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Things get better.