Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Book Review

The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's WorldThe Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World by Alan Downs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“What was once a feeling has become something deeper and more sinister in our psyches—it is a deeply and rigidly held belief in our own unworthiness for love. We were taught by the experience of shame during those tender and formative years of adolescence that there was something about us that was flawed, in essence unlovable, and that we must go about the business of making ourselves lovable if we are to survive.”

I had thought I had my internalized homophobia well in hand. Being gay has long been the one part of my life that I'm most comfortable with, most secure in, and most willing to protect and demand respect of. I've long been aware of internalized homophobia, have examined my own, and kept a watchful eye out for the tiny ways it surfaces throughout my life. But still that line from the Friends theme song; "your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA" is totally me. I had never associated those gaps with internalized homophobia. But in The Velvet Rage Alan Downs connects those dots in a direct line. He shows how the early message of "be this, not that" and the absence of a mentor or a sympathetic ear gets into our DNA and travels with us into adulthood, prompting us to foreclose on fulfillment in many areas of our life and not just in our sexual expression.

Based on a lifetime working with his own therapy clients, this is an amazing important book that remains imminently readable despite the complex ideas discussed. Best of all he includes a list of skills, actions we can take in order to move towards a more fulfilling life and he emphasizes that moving from shame to acceptance is a skill, a practice, something you do rather than something you think about.

Highly recommended, possibly required reading for all gay men.

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