Are You Keeping Shame & Anger In The Closet? Find Ways to Break Free
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
On Sexual and Shame-Based Trauma
Gay men take much too much heat for being natural, normal sexual human beings.
Here’s what that imbalance looks like: in this world, if straight men are oversexed, then gay men have to be hyper-sexual. If straight women want sexual fulfillment and gay men want it too, we have to call it something else—anything else.
LGBTQ men are relegated to sex-focused ghettos of conquest, topping and bottoming, butch-dominant, straight-acting, femme-repressive, “sassy gay best friend (neuter),” performative (sexy, funny drag queens only) and over-blown sexual expression, or the back alley of regret (“He’s so hot! I wish he were straight!” Rather than, “He’s so hot.” Period.).
Of course sexuality isn’t just about sex, yet this is where much of our self-expression comes to the fore in queer culture.
Clinical psychologist and author Dr. Alan Downs is all too familiar with this. “I grew up in a very religious household,” Downs told Oprah on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“I thought if I met the right woman and married her, [I] would change. … ‘The Velvet Rage’ is about the anger that develops when you have something inside yourself that you have to hide.”
Many gay men and male-identified LGBTQ guys go through depression after coming out. Even if you’ve been out since you could remember, mental health issues spring up: shame, anger, fear and depression are essentially kissing cousins.
These ideas are messy to think about, but so necessary to wrestle to the ground and ultimately, to conquer. We don’t hear about sloughing off the intricacies of anger or free-floating fear. So, feeling blocked or frustrated, folks turn to drugs, additive behavior, at-risk sexual activity, and a general lack of self-care.
Common Sense Solutions
“I was very close to my ex-wife,” Dr. Downs went on. “She was my best friend. I just confused that with, ‘This is going to make me straight.'”
As a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Downs’ California-based private practice addresses LGBT issues head-on. In his book“ The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World,” Downs tends to the psyches of gay men, exposing the soft underbelly of pain, shame, and vulnerabilities that we barely take the time to examine.
Because he also shares anecdotal findings (that of his friends, himself and his clients), the book has raised eyebrows and a bit of controversy while continuing to rank high on GLBT bestseller lists. It took a long time for Downs to come out, and he approaches the idea of coming out or being out in a realistic manner, ensuring the reader that he is at-choice in terms of his timetable, methodology, reasoning, and making the decision to do it.
Check out these select passages from the book:
“The inevitable byproduct of growing up gay in a straight world continues to be the internalization of shame, a shame gay men may strive to obscure with a facade of beauty, creativity, or material success.”
“Today’s gay man enjoys unprecedented, hard-won social acceptance. Despite this victory, however, serious problems still exist. Substance abuse, depression, suicide, and sex addiction among gay men are at an all-time high, causing many to ask, ‘Are we really better off?’”
“Shame starts in childhood,” Dr. Downs writes, parsing out the healing process into three stages:
1) Becoming overwhelmed with shame, staying in denial by “splitting” or leading double lives (avoidant behavior, leading to identity crisis).
2) Becoming overwhelmed with a sense that “who you are is wrong.” (Not what you are doing, but who you are as a person.) Addictive, self-destructive or chronically depressed psychological issues arise, and the breakdown becomes more obvious.
3) Becoming whole. In this resolution stage, we open up to the possibility of embracing joy, fully.
Something you’d like to learn more about? For more information, visit: http://www.alandowns.com.
No man is an island: these concepts speak to lesbians and queer culture in general, too. What’s the hardest thing you’ve experienced and overcome after you came out?