Why I’m Deciding to Redefine Gayness?

Photo by  rawpixel on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As a queer white gay man, I’m taking a radical stance on making changes in how we gay men are seen through the lens of society. This means, examining everything from white privilege, racism, hyper-masculinity, to how we’ve attached ourselves to unhealthy internalized messages we’ve picked up along the way, and especially how we perceive ourselves.

It’s also about supporting LGBTQ people in life-affirming ways.

And the best way I know how to do this is by:

  • Approaching this work from a place of culture changing. 

  • Helping gay men pinpoint, examine and dismantle unhealthy family and societal messages they’ve internalized, so they can claim their self-worth, and do life on their terms. 

  • By examining what social aspects of gayness has rendered their humanity invisible, so they can claim their true life’s purpose.

  • To uplift and amplify their inherent gifts of creativity.

  • To help gay men learn how to navigate the dating world with confidence, honesty, and integrity.

Is it always safe to speak up?

I’ll share something with you. Yesterday I was sitting in the dining hall at school working on psychology homework, and I couldn't help but overhear two men talking about homosexuality. (A term that makes me cringe.) They were there as part of The National Boy Scouts Convention, at the end of one of their meetings. The group dispersed and exited the room, and two men stayed behind to talk.

They were talking about “homosexuality” (their word) - the term they used - and as soon as the words Sodom and Gomorra spilled out of one of the men's mouth, my ears perked up, and I felt compelled to say something. I said, “you can say gay people. The men replied, "what?" I said, " you can use the term "gay people”, because the term homosexual is considered as a slur.” I wasn't going to address the Sodom and Gemora comment, because I was already feeling vulnerable and triggered. I wanted to approach them without aggression, but with knowledge and patience.

One man was ignoring the request and the other man was kind of open to listening.

The more open-minded man asked me to repeat myself, so I did. To make a long story short, there wasn't any deep interest on their part to continue with the dialogue, but there was a feeling of self-empowerment in that moment, because I spoke up. (And to be clear, it’s not always safe for LGBTQ to speak up and defend ourselves. So, this isn’t about what you should do, but perhaps an example of amplifying voices that are too vulnerable to speak up.)

The whole point to this is, we’ve been conditioned to stay quiet out of fear. Fear of being harmed for simply being who we naturally are. We’ve learned to just mind our own business and not create a disturbance. When I heard the H word in the context in which they were using it, it hurt my heart. Then something compelled me to speak up. I didn't need to be aggressive or attacking.

In this instance, It was a perfect learning opportunity for these two men to witness our humanity and hopefully learn something new. Unfortunately, they weren't very interested in expanding their world view, however, it was a step.

So, why can’t we always interrupt the narrative by speaking up? Most times it just isn't safe to do so. The way society is constructed, our sense of safety is never guaranteed. We come across people who are just, you know *deep breath* — who trigger fear within us just by being in the same room together. We speed up our walk, we code-switch by changing our mannerisms, language and voice tone to assimilate into the culture of straightness. We adjust, we cater, we act more “straight”. We shrink and seek refuge in our "safe-spaces” without realizing how much stress this has on our nervous systems.

LASTING EFFECTS OF A HIDDEN HISTORY

Once upon a time, not very long ago, the medical field was prominent in pushing the narrative that gayness is a mental abnormality. It was the dominant narrative for a very long time.

It wasn't until 1973 when the American Psychological Association decided to come together and vote on whether they believe ‘homosexual’ was a mental disorder. (a term that makes me cringe because it carries such a weight of stigma.) So, after much debate, and a vote, it was decided that same-sex attraction wasn't a disorder and it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

The DSM is a reference manual utilized by mental health professionals, in psychological diagnosis. But it wasn’t until 1987 (31 years ago) when the term “homosexual” fell completely away from DSM.

Let that sink in.

The effects of this toxic narrative are still, to this day, alive and well in the collective mindsets of American people, and we, as gay men, internalize this. Religion also pushes a toxic narrative too, but in a completely different way.

After we’ve internalized these narratives, they can result in deep and lasting stress on our nervous system and can produce long terms residual side-effects like isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, social challenges, and so much more.

So, why am I choosing to completely redefine gayness, and work with gay men? It’s to help gay men look within and be able to identify where we’ve internalized these social and family messages that tell us that we’re not worthy of our gayness, worthy of our humanity. So we can flip the script and arrive at a place of true self-empowerment.