Part I Angelo’s Purpose
I approach gayness as something that’s positive, natural and healthy. Much of our suffering comes from experiencing other people’s negative reactions to us being gay, not from being gay by nature. I think almost all gay men experience social trauma because of gay stigma. We’re challenged by our heterosexist culture, negatively impacted by the dysfunctional responses of others.
For closeted and out gay men, internalized homophobia has been found to be the largest impediment to mental health. Sexual oppression can forge gay men to view their sexual identity in a negative way. This often results in low self-esteem, emotional distress, addictive coping strategies, high-risk behavior, increased suicide risk and physical problems. Maladaptive coping responses like unsafe sex, excessive: alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, food, exercise, work, etc., decrease stress, but are ultimately self-destructive. Symptoms like anxiety, depression, overemphasizing masculine traits, body image issues, sexual objectification, addiction, disconnection, isolation, and loneliness emerge. I work to free gay men from fear, humiliation and shame. I work on eliminating the negative impact of homophobia and developing a positive sexual identity.
It’s my goal to help change damaging experiences for gay men by: eradicating toxic homophobia in our culture, lessening gay men’s troubles arising from these sensitive issues, fostering self-acceptance and self-love, affirming non-shameful sexual identity, authenticity, encouraging personal growth and improving relationships. Thus, all of my work is in the context of being gay affirmative.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone more deserving of your love than you are, but that person will not be found. You deserve your love most.”- Buddha
Part II Gay Is Natural
It’s perfectly natural for most men to have a “gay tendency” to some degree. The project leader of an exhibition documenting homosexual behavior among animals at the Oslo Natural History Museum stated, “homosexuality has been observed for more than 1,500 animal species and is well documented for 500 of them.” Based on these findings, the museum concludes that “human homosexuality cannot be viewed as ‘unnatural’ ” or a “crime against nature” since it’s found across the animal kingdom.
Homosexuality has been practiced in all cultures throughout history. In the late Victorian period (Europe 1930′s), Freud said humans were bisexual. In the conservative 1950′s (US), Dr. Kinsey concluded from his research on human sexuality that most men aren’t all straight or all gay, but fall somewhere between. These facts don’t mean everyone’s bisexual, but rather that everyone isn’t as polarized or fixed in their sexual orientation as we like to believe. They suggest sexuality is more fluid and most men have a range of sexual potential.
If it were more socially acceptable for men to be with other men, we would see more men exploring the full range of their sexuality. It’s gay stigma, shame, and the threat of public humiliation that prevents men from doing so openly. Consequently, we have only about 5-10% of people self-identifying as gay.
However, studies have shown that many more people have same sex thoughts, fantasies and experiences – they just don’t openly acknowledge it. Having a “gay” experience means you’re a normal human being with a range of sexual potential and that isn’t the same as being gay.
Part III These Ask Angelo letters shed more light.
As far as I know I’m a happily married straight man. I dream about having sex with men on occasion. I’ve never done it in real life and really have no desire to do so. But does having gay dreams mean I’m a “repressed” gay?
Signed, HomoErotic Dreamer
Dear HomoErotic Dreamer,
There’s a difference between sexual fantasy (what you think), sexual behavior (what you do), and sexual identity (what you are). In fact, they can all be independent phenomena, meaning one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other.
Having same-sex fantasies doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gay. Having many different kinds of fantasies you may never act on is normal, especially when you masturbate. For instance, some people have fantasies of being forced to have sex, but wouldn’t want to be raped in real life.
Same-sex behavior is also fairly common. Dr. Kinsey published Sexual Behavior In The Human Male in 1948. Even in those relatively conservative times and much to the shock of America, Dr. Kinsey reported that a lot of the men he surveyed acknowledged having a same sex experience in their lifetime. In fact, almost half of the men said they had a sexual experience with another male at least once. And at least one out of three men said they had reached orgasm with another guy before age 45. The vast majority of men self-identified as heterosexual, not gay. A more recent survey out of New York showed at least one in ten straight men acknowledged having sex with another man in the last year.
Both Dr. Kinsey and Dr. Freud believed that human male sexuality is fluid. Most men aren’t either all gay or all straight. Gay sex is a natural occurrence in humans and animals. Fruit flies, rams, flamingos, apes, whales – over 1,500 animal species in all – sometimes “play” with the same sex, some exclusively. So homosexuality is not unnatural, or a crime against nature, and having sex with a member of the same sex is relatively common. In many cultures, same-sex encounters are not unusual for straight men who are the tops, active, or insertive partners. It’s only the bottom, passive, or receptive partner that’s viewed as gay.
So a man can have gay fantasies and even gay sex and still not be gay overall. Although, suffice it to say that a fair share of men may compartmentalize such spheres because of the profound stigma and potential danger that comes from openly acknowledging a full gay identity.
A gay identity is forged when you are predominately attracted to the same sex, act on that attraction, and feel like you want to romantically love and share your life with a member of the same sex. And the personal is political. In short, being gay is about a convergence of feelings – a mind, body, spiritual, and social orientation, not just a sexual one.
Don’t be afraid of your fantasies. They mean you’re human. I encourage you to explore them in a self-accepting, open, and honest way and see where that leads you.
All the best, Angelo.
How does one really know they’re gay?
Signed, The Quest
While it’s true that gay men are attracted to and have sex with other men, there’s more to being gay than that.
Being gay isn’t just about sex. For example, a gay person can be celibate for life and still be gay. A gay youth can know he is gay years before his first sexual experience. Alternatively, a man can have gay sex in prison for years but not be gay.
Being gay is not just about attraction either. There are many men who are attracted to other men, but they never act on it. They identify as straight. Having same sex fantasies doesn’t mean you’re gay. Fantasy is normal, especially while masturbating. Dr. Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior In The Human Male in 1948. Even in those conservative times, Dr. Kinsey found that many men he surveyed acknowledged having a same sex experience. Almost half said they experimented with another male at least once in their lifetime, and over a third said they had reached orgasm with another guy by age 45. Dr. Kinsey believed that male sexuality is fluid. Freud himself thought everyone was bisexual. Men are not simply gay or straight. Same sex behavior is common.
So what makes you gay? The essence of being gay is about feelings. The key is how you feel, not what you do.
A gay identity is forged when you are predominately attracted to the same sex AND when you feel that you want to romantically love and share your life with a member of the same sex. When you desire to truly love another man. When you dream of waking up next to a man and creating the moments of your life with a man. When you wish to create a union and perhaps a family with another man. These feelings are at the core of being gay. It’s also political. Being gay is a mind, body, spiritual and political orientation, not just a sexual one.
You may have trouble identifying you’re gay because the powerful stigma around it can make you confused about your feelings. To get more clarity, give yourself permission to explore what you already know about yourself. Following what you know will lead you to uncover more of what you don’t know. Gay Affirmative Counseling and coming out peer groups like PFLAG can also provide very helpful support.
All The Best, Angelo.
Is it wrong to be gay?
Signed, Questioning Metrosexual
Movies like Brokeback Mountain, based on E. Annie Proulx’s story, have helped change people’s minds. All our lives we are taught that “real men” aren’t gay. But by contrasting American culture’s most celebrated man’s man two Marlboro men with a gay love story, Brokeback Mountain makes us question the very foundation of our concept of manhood. That’s what makes it uncomfortable for many. It dares us to deny the men their love, their manliness or their humanity. What keeps the gay lovers apart is the fear of what other men will do to them if they find out.
In the part when Jack Twist asks Ennis Del Mar to live with him, the terror of homophobia comes to life. Ennis says no. He’s terrified. He says he can’t because he doesn’t want to end up dead. He tells Jack about two old guys he remembers that ranched together. When he was nine years old his dad made sure he took him to see one them dead in a ditch. His body was mangled, haven been beaten and dragged by a horse from his penis until it pulled off. This is what “real” men can do to queers. Ennis says he wouldn’t have put it past his dad to kill the rancher, and he wouldn’t put it past him (his dad) to kill him now if he found out. If you think this is out of America’s rural past think again. Hate crimes, including murder, still happen today – even in our cities.
It isn’t wrong to be gay. What’s wrong is the social stigma gay men face. The powerful movie Brokeback Mountain brings the consequences of homophobia for gay men and their relationships into broad daylight. If it weren’t for the potentially dangerous consequences of coming out – being seen as not “all man” – nothing would be wrong at all.
Brokeback Mountain also portrays that being gay is being about love, not sex. It’s a love story between two men. Their gayness is portrayed as a natural expression of who they are, rather than a lustful “immoral perversion.” Ennis and Jack respectably try to squelch their “compulsion,” attempting to live the “right lifestyle,” and do the “the right thing.” They act straight and stay closeted. But being gay is part of their essential nature, so they suffer. Unfortunately, innocent woman get hurt too.
We have to challenge homophobia everyday by redefining manhood and being the gay men we are so homophobia stops. Otherwise, shame, anxiety, fear and harmful coping responses can cloud our entire lives. A central theme in gay men’s lives is reconciling their gayness (which they learned is “feminine”) with their manhood.
Like left handedness, being gay is not a choice. More and more research points to biology perhaps a gay gene. The only choice is to live courageously and authentically as we are.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone more deserving of your love than you are, but that person will not be found. You deserve your love most.” Buddha
All The Best, Angelo.