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EP011: Aaron Ferrante-Alan: Healthy Sex

episodes show notes Jun 12, 2020

Today I talk with Aaron Ferrante-Alan.

Aaron is a very close friend of mine who I deeply respect for his intellect and his bravery, but most importantly, his vulnerable honestly.

He’s a man I consider family and I’m thrilled to have him on the podcast speaking about his professional specialty, sex/relationships, and how all that relates to our mental health.

We talked about:

  • Sexual Addiction vs. Compulsion [4:40]
  • Gay Mirroring and Overcoming Shame [15:00]
  • Open Relationships and Sexual Balance [25:23]
  • Gay Gifts [37:46]
  • Investing in Yourself and in Others [45:33]

Mentioned in this episode

Get connected!


Episode full transcript:

Mike Gerle  0:00  

This is the GerleMen podcast. My name is Mike Gerle and I'm the host and founder of; a site for gay men and anyone self identified as the other. Designed to help you invest in your own dignity, strengthen your connection to your chosen families, and thrive in general society. Now that you found us please hit that subscribe button. Contact me directly with questions or comments. We just might play them on the podcast, email me at [email protected] that's Mike @ G E R L E M E


Mike Gerle  0:37  

Today I talk with Aaron Ferrante-Alan. Aaron is a very close friend of mine who I deeply respect for his intellect and his bravery but most importantly for his vulnerable honesty. He's a man I consider family and I'm thrilled to have him here on the podcast speaking about his professional specialty, sex and relationships and how all that relates to our mental health. Enjoy the show.


Mike Gerle  1:04  

The moment you realized you were a gay man, you were forced onto the path of the other. So you know oppression inside and out. The calling of otherness has led you on your own hero's journey and that journey has prepared you for greatness. You were a man entering the cult of brotherhood, to conscious sex and to heart centered connection. Welcome home brother.


Mike Gerle  1:29  

Joining us today is Aaron Ferrante-Alan, he is a very dear friend of mine and man, I consider family. We have many years of history together, but today I am going to be talking to him about his professional life. Welcome to the podcast, Aaron.


Aaron Alan  1:48  

Thank you, Mike. It's good to be here. That was a nice intro.


Mike Gerle  1:51  

Well, it's true. It's all true. So my first question I've been starting to ask everybody is How are you feeling? And you may be the first person to actually be able to answer that question. Today is Saturday, April 25th 2020. The Coronavirus is raging, you're at home with your husband you're doing most of your professional life is on screen, I suppose.


Aaron Alan  2:15  

Yes. Yep.


Mike Gerle  2:16  

So how are you feeling? Gen two,


Aaron Alan  2:19  

Actually, surprisingly, well, the whole situation is upsetting. But in terms of what's happening in our home, I'm doing well. I love spending time with my husband, and I'm able to work doing zoom with my clients and keep my profession going. Now the actual location of where I work, that's a whole other story, because, you know, rents are all a mess, but and that's a stressor. I don't I'm not feeling it all the time. It's only when I think about it. But in terms of how I'm doing overall, I'm actually doing pretty well. I miss working out.


Mike Gerle  2:51  

I could imagine 


Aaron Alan  2:51  

That's one thing I actually really miss, and of course, connecting with people, personally


Mike Gerle  2:56  

Yeah, it's a big adjustment and...


Aaron Alan  2:59  

It is, but you know, this actually appeals to my lazy side, staying in bed, you know, maybe not taking a shower right away.


Mike Gerle  3:09  

Yeah. If at all, you know, so for me, I know it did for myself,


Aaron Alan  3:14  

Which is kind of funny, like I'm like, here I am telling you, okay, you know, good hygiene, take care of yourself, eat take a shower, get dressed like, I'm not always doing that.


Mike Gerle  3:22  

Yeah. And I do appreciate to since you are a sex therapist is that how would you describe?


Aaron Alan  3:30  

I'm a licensed mental health professional.


Mike Gerle  3:32  

Uh huh.


Aaron Alan  3:33  

I'm a licensed therapist, and my focus is on sex, relationships, trauma and addictions, but it's it primarily sex and relationships.


Mike Gerle  3:42  

Awesome. So, you know, what attracted you to psychology and why did you choose this specialty?


Aaron Alan  3:49  

Well, I got sober in my late 20s. And that journey pushed me to think about Okay, what do I want to do for the rest of my life? What can I age with? What can I do that up and help me develop. And when I came to was psychology and therapy, and I went back to school, got my master's in clinical psychology, and then I started practicing as an intern before I got licensed at the gay and lesbian center. And I thought I was going to do Addiction Recovery work because of my personal background. And then I got one of my first paying jobs out of grad school was actually working at a center that treats people with what I got a job working at a sexual treatment center, on a professional level and actually working there was not a good place for me. But the clinical work itself working with people who had out of control sexual behaviors appealed to me. I mean, sex is interesting. We all understand or know we all know sex and working with people that were out of control with that part of their life, it spoke to me, I understood their pain, I understood the compulsion. So the work appealed to me and I ended up doing work around around sexual compulsivity and out of control sexual behavior. And at the time I was referring to it as sex addiction. I don't call it that anymore.


Mike Gerle  5:09  

That's really interesting. So can you talk about that paradigm when people were and still are sometimes talking about it as sexual addiction and how you evolved?


Aaron Alan  5:19  

Yeah, yeah. So I built my practice working predominantly with the sex addiction model. And the model never quite sat with me, you know, I never really felt like it was a perfect fit. What I came to realize was that the addiction model, it's easy to understand when you put sex into the addiction model, but it doesn't actually really fit. So I don't see it as an addiction. I see it more as a compulsion more as out of control behavior. When I started to shift my language around it, my ideas started to shift around it.


Mike Gerle  5:54  

Okay, what parts of the model didn't fit?


Aaron Alan  5:56  

Well, that it's that's an addiction using the addiction model. Addiction is binary like you're doing it and you're not doing it, and it works well for substance abuse like you're drinking you're not drinking cocaine you did. snorting or you're not snorting.


Mike Gerle  6:12  



Aaron Alan  6:13  

With sex. It's not binary. It's like there's it's really just a people are engaging in a destructive twist on a normal life experience. And behavior can get out of control. But...


Mike Gerle  6:25  

So I said, Well, it sounds like you're looking at the behavior, rather than just labeling sex outside of this box is bad. And you're focusing on the behavior.


Aaron Alan  6:37  

The addiction models, what you're doing it you're not doing it. So it's not a really very good way to look at sexual behavior because we can say, okay, there's these specific behaviors might be out of control. And then there's okay what you consider healthy behaviors. And this is all self defined. This is not like there's no rule about what is healthy and what isn't healthy. It's really a definition you have to work encounter yourself. And then there's a massive gray area in between. and the addiction model doesn't really address that people can identify their bottom line behaviors, and you can stay away from those. But counting time and days, when it comes to sex, I think can be really problematic.


Mike Gerle  7:19  

And so the big part I heard about in that is that you're saying that it's self defined, as opposed to like a substance abuse thing. It's like a either did or did not drink today. That's right. Like I it's like I I wouldn't be able to go into a 12 so I was in 12 step program for 25 years and I no longer am, but it was I was either participating in the program 100% or I was, I had slipped, I had to start over. I couldn't say Well, yeah, I just had one drink today.


Aaron Alan  7:49  

Right, right. It's it's hard to apply that to sex and sexuality because we need to connect to people.


Mike Gerle  7:55  

So then you were saying...


Aaron Alan  7:56  

You never say someone needs alcohol.


Mike Gerle  7:58  

Yeah, yeah. So then you were saying it's about behavior. It's about compulsivity, though. That's, so talk more about that, about how that was part of your evolution was was focusing on that.


Aaron Alan  8:11  

Well, what I was seeing, I mean, there are some recovery programs that define sexual sobriety for you. And the more extreme conservative ones, which is, it's largely a very conservative field. Yeah, actually conservative field, the more extreme ones defined sexual behavior, excuse me destructive sexual behavior as no sex outside of marriage, no masturbation, and before gay people were allowed to marry what that really meant was, you had to shut your sexuality down and become abstinent and celibate...


Mike Gerle  8:45  



Aaron Alan  8:45  

In order to be in recovery, and that is destructive.


Mike Gerle  8:48  

It really is. And one of the negative things about the religion I was raised in, I'll put this in the show notes is we actually had a I felt very... The only time I felt close to killing myself was when I was trying to not be gay and not masturbate and they had this like 10 page manual on how to not masturbate when you're 15, 16, 17 years old. And I still personally as someone with no actual background, but a lot of lifetime experience to say that that's a lot to put on a teenager.


Aaron Alan  9:20  

It's completely unrealistic.


Mike Gerle  9:22  



Aaron Alan  9:23  

It's not, I mean it doesn't, it doesn't acknowledge the realities of human sexuality and sexual development. Yeah, all the challenges of being a social creature, which is what humans


Mike Gerle  9:33  

Yeah, it did provide a mechanism for me to feel really, really bad about myself.


Aaron Alan  9:39  

And I saw a lot of that with the sex addiction models. So over the years, I just came to see the problem differently. I saw I slowly let go of the addiction model in treating people with sexual compulsivity and have adopted more of what's called OCSB which is out of control sexual behavior .


Mike Gerle  9:59  

Okay, so before we talk about out of control sexual behavior maybe, Can you tell me what a what good sexual behavior is like? How can I tell after sex whether or not I've had a good sexual encounter?


Aaron Alan  10:11  

Yeah, there's questions you can ask yourself that I would never say this specific behavior is good or bad, because for someone, let's say, auto erotic asphyxiation, I'm gonna make an extreme example just to illustrate, asphyxiation for one person can be a part of a healthy BDSM sexual experience, for someone else, if they were assaulted and choked during the assault, they could be actually be traumatizing themselves with a reenactment of a traumatic traumatic experience. Now they there you can make a psychological argument that they might be trying to psychologically undo the experience by having control over it today versus not having control over it yesterday or in the past. You can make an argument that they're actually working through it, but that would really require a high degree of self awareness and you help us to help guide you through it. But two identical experiences for one person, it could be destructive. And for another person, that could be completely fine.


Mike Gerle  11:11  

So that's the full version of the question.


Aaron Alan  11:13  

Yeah, I want to answer the question. Okay. It's a really good question. So you, you said how do you know if something was healthy or unhealthy? How do I know if it was healthy? Yes. Asking yourself, is it shaming? Do I feel bad about myself afterwards? Am I being secretive? Am I lying to somebody? Is it destructive? meaning is it harming me? Is it harming someone else? Am I exploiting another person? So if the answer to these questions is no, you're probably fine.


Mike Gerle  11:42  

Okay, but then that leads to other like, deeper questions is like, do I feel shame? But where's that shame coming from? You know.


Aaron Alan  11:49  

Right, right. Like there's different kinds of shame. There's shame that informs us like okay, this is not the person I want to be and I don't like I would if I had harmed somebody and I feel shame about it, that's not a bad thing. That's my conscience telling me: "Don't do that". And so that can guide me to doing having engaging in behavior that doesn't generate shame. Shame can also be toxic, which is when we get messaging from our community from churches from society telling us that you're bad for wanting that specific kind of sex. You're bad for masturbating. You're bad for being gay. That's toxic. There's nowhere to go with that.


Mike Gerle  12:28  

Yeah. And then so I know I have way too much experience carrying around that kind of shame myself. And there's a lot of things I did with it. But how do you What's your advice for people who experienced that kind of shame, the shame that comes from not from doing something that's exploiting another person or the shame that comes from stealing or being dishonest but the shame of, yeah, toxic shame that comes from other people's values being imposed on you?


Aaron Alan  12:57  

The best way to reduce shame is to talk about it and shed light on it. Shame is reinforced in secrecy and in quiet and isolating around it opening up to people who understand, opening up to people who would be accepting and not judging and talking about it is a great way to start releasing shame.


Mike Gerle  13:18  

That's amazing. And I assume a therapist is a great place to start. Is there anybody else?


Aaron Alan  13:24  

Right, play short? Listen. So when you came from Idaho, and you move to West Hollywood, I'm sure you noticed a profound shift in how you felt about yourself.


Mike Gerle  13:31  

Oh, my god, yes.


Aaron Alan  13:32  

Coming from a community that was judging you either explicitly or implicitly. It even just by not being mirrored. Yes, the message is you're not okay. And coming to West Hollywood, where you are mirrored and you're affirm and no one's judging you for your sexuality, you're accepted, you're celebrated for your sexuality. That shed shame so you're in a much freer space, you're connecting to people that were similar.


Mike Gerle  13:56  

So seeing myself and other people so talk to people like that. I have you know, I visit Tucson I've, I have family I visit Kearney, Missouri, where I have family. And I don't usually see any gay people when I'm there and if somebody is listening there, what do you mean by mirroring?


Aaron Alan  14:15  

and mirroring is when we see ourselves and others you know think of it like a psychological mirror, really think about an actual mirror and a person you see ourselves reflected in somebody else.


Mike Gerle  14:26  

So you're seeing just by seeing another gay person that's thriving and...


Aaron Alan  14:32  

Or just see another gay person.


Mike Gerle  14:34  

Or just seeing another gay person


Aaron Alan  14:35  

Whether they're thriving or not is actually not relevant. It's just seeing another person that is like us. It's affirming because the message, the meta message, the message underneath that is, you're okay, you're not alone. You're not fucked up. There's nothing wrong with you.


Mike Gerle  14:50  



Aaron Alan  14:51  

You know, there are others like you and those are all positive messages.


Mike Gerle  14:53  

Wow. So right right here this


Aaron Alan  14:56  

Gay people are the only community that are not mirrored by our parents. Yeah, what usually it's changing now. But by and large, we are the only community that's not mirrored by our parents. Think about that.


Mike Gerle  15:09  



Aaron Alan  15:09  

What the impact on our community on what each one of us is and growing up in a family, that's not like us.


Mike Gerle  15:15  

I know everybody's different. But can you generalize and say, like, What are what do you think are some of the impacts of of that of growing up first with parents who don't mirror us? And then maybe Are other institutions aren't mirroring us? What can happen with gay people?


Aaron Alan  15:33  

Will we learn to hide? We learn to become really good at deception. We've learned to take care of our needs, without the support of other people, which can interfere in how we develop relationships.


Mike Gerle  15:46  

Yeah. And so that is part of it. You know, the question I ask later is like sometimes like, is coming out of hero's journey. We'll talk about that later. I think this speaks to that a little bit. I think we can go to different ways. We can go into or we can go into hero and sometimes you need to go through one to get to the other. What do you think?


Aaron Alan  16:05  

I think there's a third path Mike and I think we could go into Punisher perpetrator villain.


Mike Gerle  16:11  

Oh my god, I hadn't thought of that. Well, can you talk about all three of those outcomes? So we're talking about mirroring and then not having that and the impact on that on a gay man or gay boy. What are the different? Can you talk about it?


Aaron Alan  16:24  

Yeah, the three, when we talk about three unhealthy tracks what leads to drama, what leads to toxicity?


Mike Gerle  16:30  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  16:31  

One is the hero, which I think of as the archetype hero where we're throwing ourselves on the track where the best student were the best child. Think of hero as an impenetrable excuse me, a person with an impenetrable exterior, become bulletproof. And when we're bulletproof, we're not people are not able to reach us, we're inaccessible. And that usually leads to feeling bad about yourself or feeling disconnected. Yeah, to track his victimhood. victimization and what what you said,


Mike Gerle  17:03  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  17:04  

And victimization is where we're not responsible. Other people are responsible for our problems. We can wallow in self pity or sink into self pity. we're unable to operate in our own best interest when we're in a state of


Mike Gerle  17:16  

Okay, disempowered.


Aaron Alan  17:17  

Disempowered. Yeah.


Mike Gerle  17:19  



Aaron Alan  17:19  

And then the third track is perpetration.


Mike Gerle  17:24  

I forgot about that one.


Aaron Alan  17:25  

Yeah. Which is fueled by anger, and anger and resentment, and we can feel justified lashing out and hurting people.


Mike Gerle  17:32  



Aaron Alan  17:32  

Because you're harmed.


Mike Gerle  17:34  

Are you talking about any senators or Congress people in particular?


Aaron Alan  17:38  

I think, yeah, internalized homophobia can.


Mike Gerle  17:40  

Yeah, yeah. So when we face that, and I think that gets to our first question, you know, overcoming shame, What can happen if we do that work and we overcome it? Do you think that we're better for the experience or would have been better that we just not have that experience?


Aaron Alan  17:56  

We can be better for the experience if we're able to work through it and emerge on The other side, if we're actually able to do the work, because we come out on the other side, more self aware, less shame, usually left less destructive behaviors, we're able to connect to others, our best self is allowed to come forward. And that's good for us. That's good for everybody.


Mike Gerle  18:15  

Yeah, that does sound great. That does sound good. So part of that I think one thing I didn't learn, this is about boundaries growing up was, I think I was kind of in the victim hero thing in high school, and being the perfect kid and having life happened to me, I didn't understand boundaries that I had any sort of self agency. And this is something that I've talked to you about privately and I still think I struggle with that because I want to be the best people pleaser person around. Can you talk about the importance about what boundaries are, The importance of boundaries...


Aaron Alan  18:51  

Well, boundaries allow us to know who we are and where we end and someone else begins. It's knowing the difference between me and another person, me and another thing. And when I know who I am, I'm better able to operate in the world. So I mean, that's like the most basic definition I could probably give.


Mike Gerle  19:09  

Well, and then I think that gets to what I some other things that we've been talking about is our intuition. So for me to know who I am, I need to be able to hear that intuition and follow it. Is that what you're saying?


Aaron Alan  19:21  

Wait, say that again?


Mike Gerle  19:22  

Well, if I need to know that a boundary separates me from another person or institution, first thing I need to know who I am. And I need to know my inner self, like...


Aaron Alan  19:35  

It's because you know who you're not. And I think that...


Mike Gerle  19:38  



Aaron Alan  19:38  

 when drama and toxicity start to develop, we're probably not using good boundaries. When crazy making develops.


Mike Gerle  19:46  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  19:47  

And thing when we feel like things are coming off the rails, or things feel inappropriate, or they don't feel messy. Chances are you're not really engaging in very good boundaries.


Mike Gerle  19:56  

Do you have any examples of that?


Aaron Alan  19:58  

Yeah, yeah. Being secretive is a poor boundary, triangulation is a poor boundary. Learning everything that comes to the top of your mind is a poor boundary.


Mike Gerle  20:13  

Because I'm not separating when I'm just blurting everything out, that's on my mind. I'm not separating, saying that I have my own stuff, and you have your own stuff.


Aaron Alan  20:22  

Right. Right. That's you're just melting all over the place. And also not knowing where I ended another person begins can lead to enmeshment. Yeah, we're locked together.


Mike Gerle  20:32  

Well, some of the best advice you ever gave to me is that "NO" is a complete sentence. And I'll use this I don't know who's listening to this. I don't know if anybody will put this together. But I reached out to you because I didn't want to be give somebody a ride to an event that was five hours each direction. And, and I thought I needed to explain myself and I think I don't know I had a whole book in my head about why I didn't need to do this and how I could explain it. And this person is that and whatever. And I'm this and I, here's our whole history together and you said, no is a complete sentence.


Aaron Alan  21:07  

Yeah, that I don't want to do that is valid. Sometimes people feel the need to have a legitimate reason.


Mike Gerle  21:16  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  21:16  

Legitimate as defined by that person. But just because I don't want to do it is somehow not good enough. So people feel like they have to have a reason to do something versus I'm not up for that. You know that. That doesn't appeal to me or I'm too tired. I don't feel I don't feel like it.


Mike Gerle  21:32  

Yeah, and I guess one of the reasons I'm so into this is because when I first moved to California from Idaho, I was 20 years old, I was, you know, cruising for sex, and I was in bars, and I was still like, this good, perfect boy who didn't like to make waves and wanted to make everybody happy. And I ended up literally the short story is having sex with people I didn't want to have sex with because I didn't want to be rude.


Aaron Alan  21:57  

Mm hmm. And yeah, so that's a poor boundary right there.


Mike Gerle  22:01  

It's a terrible boundary. And and the answer was like, I'm just the answer is no. And I don't need to engage. I had this other guy telling me I was a bad person because I wouldn't have sex with him. Because, you know,


Aaron Alan  22:13  

Well, that's actually how people pull you back into the drama and to the toxic relationship. Now, granted, somebody you're hooking up with is in a relationship as we would normally think of, but you are engaging with the person. Yeah, people, that's a very common tool, which is you're a bad person. And that's how they pull you back into orbit. And back into rescuing. I don't talk


Mike Gerle  22:34  

To anybody who's young or new at negotiating sex, that you NO. Period. is all you need to give somebody, we all have that agency over our, our bodies, and ourself


Aaron Alan  22:43  

Agency is a really important topic when we talk about self determination, boundaries, knowing who we are, an agency is just our ability to act in our own best interest.


Mike Gerle  22:56  



Aaron Alan  22:56  

And I don't mean that in a selfish or self centered way. I just mean in the various simple being able to act for yourself.


Mike Gerle  23:03  

Yeah. So we've been talking about boundaries. Actually, I was just talking about negotiating sex and not the way I remember it was I would make a different decision today. I just have a general feeling about hookup culture. How do you feel about hookup culture? Is it fun and connecting and community or is it you know, obsessive, compulsive sexual addictive behavior?


Aaron Alan  23:25  

I love hook up culture. I think. I think it's tremendous. I mean, I it's like anything, I think if it's a part of someone's sexual experience and sexual expression, fine. It like anything that can get out of control. If that's the only way that we're connecting with other people and listen, I get it feels good. It does feel like a connection, but if if we're engaging in only hookups and we're not nourishing ourselves by having deeper connections are more intimate connections with others than it will end up feeling empty and that think about it like balanced diet and it's like... and you're only eating crackers, you're gonna end up in a malnourished state and sexually we're not a lot different.


Mike Gerle  24:08  

Okay, so you're saying it's one course on the menu?


Aaron Alan  24:11  

Absolutely. Yeah.


Mike Gerle  24:13  

So then what are the other courses? So are Can you can you? Can you be my waiter? Can you be my waiter and describe? What's the hook up? What? What will I get when I have some hookup culture? What will I get with a with a long term relationship?


Aaron Alan  24:28  

All of those things are what do I get for my friends sexual diet? I like to think of it as food. This is why Yeah, good. Sometimes I love a five course meal with my husband with the white linens and the candles going, but we don't eat every meal like that. And you know, sometimes sexually, we have a protracted experience. Sometimes I just like to stand in front of the refrigerator and just gorge on whatever happens to be in front of me or sometimes it's like to look at it. And then I close the door and realize, okay, I'm bored. Yeah, you know whole bag of potato chips, I'll make a sandwich or I'll make my husband and me a sandwich or I'll make somebody else's sandwich. You know, and I'll go out to eat, you know, in my diet in the way that I eat is varied.


Mike Gerle  25:12  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  25:12  

I think a balanced sexual life would be similar.


Mike Gerle  25:16  

I'm just wondering if more specifics would be useful for describing... I get the metaphor.


Aaron Alan  25:23  

I can speak about me. I love being married to my husband, I get a lot of fulfillment from it. I love connecting with him. I love talking with him. I love being intimate with him emotionally, sexually, physically. And that fulfills a large part of my life. I also like hooking up and I really enjoy it. And it's fun and sometimes I do with my husband and sometimes I don't, but I couldn't my life couldn't sustain on just one or the other. I for me, I wouldn't feel fulfilled if all I was doing was hooking up. And I wouldn't feel fulfilled if all I had was my marriage.


Mike Gerle  25:58  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  25:59  

Which is why I've integrated the two. So...


Mike Gerle  26:02  

Yeah, well, let's talk about that integration. And let's talk about an open relationship. And I first I want to start off by saying, I know that you and I agree that open or monogamous or whatever it is, is each individual person's choice.


Aaron Alan  26:17  



Mike Gerle  26:17  

That it's, you're not prescribing this for...


Aaron Alan  26:19  

No, no, no, no, this is just what works for me.


Mike Gerle  26:24  

And with that disclaimer. Yeah. So can you tell us about that?


Aaron Alan  26:28  

I don't have judgment about people's sexual choices, you know, it. My interest is purely how it impacts somebody.


Mike Gerle  26:37  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  26:37  

That's that's really where my interest lies. All right, what was the question?


Mike Gerle  26:40  

So you were describing all the all the ways of of snacking or having a large meal or whatever, I'm just like, maybe if you can just talk about that with sex. What are the different options and and you were talking about, like all the different ways that you and you and David, what are adventures look like what your adventures look like and then are just like you like yourself. You're saying that you guys are thriving in this open relationship. I mean, I, you guys really, really intensely love each other, and you have an open relationship. And that's you know, and that's counter to like 99% of every television show is if my partner has sex with one other person, it's over, it's drama, everybody's family gets involved with the drama, and we all hate each other. And you guys are doing the opposite of that. So what you're breaking, you're breaking all the rules of the Hallmark Channel.


Aaron Alan  27:33  

We're breaking all the specific rules, but at the core of our relationship is honesty, respect, transparency, we operate as a team. There isn't anything he doesn't know that I do. There isn't anything I don't know that he does. So at the core of it, where we're open with each other, and I don't mean just open in the relationship, we're open with one another. And I think whether or not you choose monogamy or polyamory Or an open relationship or whatever your construct is, at the core of it, you've got to be honest, you've got to be honest with yourself. And you've got to be honest with your partner or partners.


Mike Gerle  28:10  

And I would say that is the big wow with you and your husband's relationship is that you are so open, you are so transparent. You are willing to engage when things aren't perfect. And I mean, I've seen all of that with you guys. And then at the end of the day, there's like this deep, deep love and again, it's like this is just just blows my Hallmark Program brain because the end, but I want to talk more about those. I mean, talk about how difficult is being transparent.


Aaron Alan  28:40  

It's... transparent can be challenging, because at times, if I do something that an old message comes back up and says that was wrong, or you're a whore or you're a slut, it can be hard for me to it less so now because we've been together a number of years, but in the beginning, in particular, I might delay telling him something and it would cause an issue. But what I realized was that this is just my shame. This is that toxic shame that we talked about earlier. Yeah, just my shame telling me to be quiet, don't say anything, don't have a voice. You're bad. And I have to push through that. And that's the key, I think, for anyone with being honest, is you have to push through that discomfort if you want to have a successful relationship, because withholding it will actually cause problems.


Mike Gerle  29:27  

Yeah, so yeah, it's, it's that it's that darkness. It's that you're causing separation with the other person when you're not being transparent.


Aaron Alan  29:34  

Right. And what I've discovered is that by being open with him, and I've learned he's felt very similar to similarly to me. So we share our adventures. We're excited by each other's adventures. I can't wait to actually when something happens, I've gotten to the point I can't wait to tell him about it. And that's allowed him to become my best friend, because there is nothing that I withhold from him which is what your best friend is, yeah. And having the ability to be able to share anything with my partner is just mind blowing to me because I didn't have that before him.


Mike Gerle  30:09  

Well, that whole idea of him being your best friend just, I'm actually like, emotional right now. My first job was a barback and revolver in West Hollywood. And I heard these guys say to each other, Don't lie to me. I'm not your boyfriend.


Aaron Alan  30:26  

Which, you know, it's, it's funny because it's true statement. Yeah, people approach their relationship that I can't be completely honest with my partner, because we're taught that we have to be a certain way. And when you accept and move through that, like I, the only way I need to be is myself. And yeah, the only way I can be successful in a relationship is if I myself, and I'm honest about it. Yeah, and


Aaron Alan  30:54  

Yeah, that's a scary thing to do sometimes.


Mike Gerle  30:57  

But you get to be with your best friend.


Aaron Alan  30:59  

Yes. And they're less than that this work is hard. But there's gold underneath. Yeah, that's, and I had a relationship prior to my husband where, for a lot of different reasons, we withheld big part of our sexual selves from one another.


Mike Gerle  31:14  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  31:15  

And it led to a distance that I did not want to repeat. I didn't want to do that again. And I knew I didn't want that. And I knew the only way to the only antidote to that was to be honest and open. So I shared that with my partner, with David and said, I don't want to be monogamous. It's okay if you don't want that, because that means that we'll be good friends, because I feel a connection with you.


Mike Gerle  31:40  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  31:40  

We won't build a partnership together. But we'll be good friends. And he actually showed up and said, you know, that actually appeals to me.


Mike Gerle  31:49  

That's amazing.


Aaron Alan  31:50  

And I was thrilled.


Mike Gerle  31:52  

Well, so this is let's do a little the word of the day is Compersion.


Aaron Alan  31:58  

Love that word.


Mike Gerle  32:00  

Tell us Yeah, what does that mean?


Aaron Alan  32:02  

Was that coined by Dan Savage was that coinedt by you?


Mike Gerle  32:06  

Yeah, was not my word. I forget where it came from. I'm sure I probably heard about it from Dan Savages.


Aaron Alan  32:12  

He's the first person I heard it from too. And when I heard the word I was blown away. Maybe I heard it from you. And it was about you were talking about Dan Savages,


Mike Gerle  32:20  

I'd be happy to take credit for all the interesting things that you know.


Aaron Alan  32:28  

Compersion is the opposite of jealousy. Jealousy is a fear based shame based experience, and it's destructive. Compersion is the absence of fear. It's the absence of shame. It's about being turned on by my partner's experiences and enjoying them, enjoying watching them enjoy themselves.


Mike Gerle  32:51  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  32:52  

And I love seeing my partner happy. I love seeing David have an experience that puts a smile on his face. I don't have to be the person that's doing it to him in order to feel good about it. And I actually get joy that he has joy.


Mike Gerle  33:05  

Yeah, that's amazing. And I think that that's an alien term, which is why I wanted to talk about Compersion. And it really affects a we're preaching to the choir here. And it's lovely and my relationship I would say, we enjoy hearing about each other's experiences too. And it actually helps our relationship I've just noticed in in the sex we've been having while we're monogamous during this Coronavirus thing. It's missing a little bit about that we sometimes we even talk about those things we make it part of our scene and everything. It's like oh is this is what we have or what's going on with so and so and it's so sexy and so fun. And we get to relive our other experience we get to I get to share it with with my partner. It's just a cyclical thing that just adds a lot of fun energy into our sex life.


Aaron Alan  33:54  

That just puts a huge smile on my face hearing you say that.


Mike Gerle  33:59  

Yeah, and since I know that his parents are listening to the podcast, I'm just gonna leave it right there. Okay, so we've been talking about a lot about your therapy stuff, and, and whatnot. Now I just want to talk to Aaron Ferrante-Alan about being a gay man. And experience doing, I think you have some experience with that. And what would you say to my intelligence, like how old you are and what advice you would have for your 16 year old self?


Aaron Alan  34:27  

Yeah, sure. Yeah. I'm 51 and my 16 year old self, one the biggest thing that I would tell myself is, stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. I spent a lot of energy I think a lot of us do spend a lot of energy contorting ourselves to what we think other people want of us versus being our own self and approval seeking and seeking validation from others. And while I get the certain amount of that feels good, but I think I could have spared myself a lot of pain. If I had been more accepting of myself earlier.


Mike Gerle  35:02  

So what does he need to pay attention to if he's not listening to the voices of the outside world?


Aaron Alan  35:08  

My 16 year old self, I think I'm gonna reverse that and say not what he needs to pay attention to when he needs to stop paying attention, putting so much weight into and stop paying attention to is what others think.


Mike Gerle  35:20  



Aaron Alan  35:21  

Yeah, because I think that that would liberate me.


Mike Gerle  35:23  

Liberation. So that goes to my my next question. I'm planning on doing a piece I haven't done it yet on this five step process from oppression to liberation. And I think it's, I think that the gay community I think that most oppressed communities go through a five step process from its oppression, tolerance, acceptance, liberty and celebration. And I would argue that in where we live in West Hollywood, we're somewhere between you know, we've been through oppression we've been through tolerance, we found acceptance and we're somewhere in Liberty, but I don't think we're really celebrating gay men specifically, what do you think about that?


Aaron Alan  36:03  

I think that is genius model. I think when you first shared it, when I first heard it from you was when you were doing the discussion groups.


Mike Gerle  36:13  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  36:13  

At the West Hollywood library, and I was just blown away. When I saw it. I thought it was brilliant.


Mike Gerle  36:20  

Thank you, that is a lot coming. You know, because someone


Aaron Alan  36:24  

It's just so clearly articulate and illustrates the journey that as a community where what we're on, but it also tells us where we're going. Hmm, I think sometimes we can get so caught up in the fight that like okay, what is this about? What are we actually moving towards moving towards celebration, and I think that that's a really beautiful concept.


Mike Gerle  36:46  

Now, I've been measuring my own motivations on whether I'm moving away for some from something which is fear, kind of as opposed to going towards something which is more love. And that's the reason And I think it really changes the whole dynamic when we instead of moving away from the oppressor and what happens if the oppressor disappears, do we exist as a community anymore? And I would argue, yes, that we do. Do you have any ideas about what celebration would look like?


Aaron Alan  37:19  

Well, the first thing that pops into my mind is the gay pride parades that we have.


Mike Gerle  37:23  

Mm hmm.


Aaron Alan  37:24  

That looks like celebration to me.


Mike Gerle  37:26  

That's totally celebration. Absolutely.


Aaron Alan  37:29  

When I walked into the eagle here in LA, that's a celebration to me.


Mike Gerle  37:35  

Yeah, totally. Totally.


Aaron Alan  37:38  

You get to be yourself and not just be yourself. But you're, I'm gonna I guess this is redundant to say we're celebrated.


Mike Gerle  37:45  

Yeah. So I think in that area, then I think what happens in that magic space is first like what we talked about, we see mirroring. We're mirroring each other, and we're able to share our common experience. And what I would argue is, in some ways, our special gifts, which I believe we have, do you think that there's any special gifts from going through this kind of, you know, being required to come out? Well, yeah, I think this is for all queer people, you know, we're born this way we're labeled a certain way. But we're really not that


Aaron Alan  38:21  

There's two things that I can think of what our gifts are. One of them is our sexual adventurousness because we didn't fit into the heteronormative box. We've had to explore sexuality without a rulebook. And it's allowed us to be much more free and adventurous. For better or worse, I think Yeah, for better, but that's a gift that I think the gay community is far beyond our sexual counterparts in what we accept as sexually quote, normal or sexually Okay, much less judgmental, as a whole about our sexual choices. And I think that A gift. And I think we can model for the rest of the people and people who are not in our community, that sexuality can take a lot of different forms and be okay. It doesn't have to look a certain way. The other gift is that because by and large, we don't have children. Our gifts are the arts, those are our babies, the things that we create, whether it's music, or poetry or paintings, I mean, we're driven to be creative, because we don't our attention and energy is not focused on procreation.


Mike Gerle  39:32  

Yeah. And I would I would say to that,


Aaron Alan  39:34  

I don't know. I just want to say I realize I'm making a generalization. Yeah. And we're all speaking the offensive to anybody because I know there are people in our community that are focused on procreation and do you want to have children and I think that's wonderful if that's what people want to do, and that's where they are, I support that. I can celebrate that.


Mike Gerle  39:53  

And I would say that if I'm celebrating diversity, I need to listen and understand. And appreciate your specific view even if it doesn't match mine.


Aaron Alan  40:04  

Correct. Well, that's about knowing who you are. I mean, that's, I mean, that's a really wonderful boundary right there. Yeah, I know who I am. I know who you are. And it's okay. You can, I can be me and I don't need to judge you or oppress you.


Mike Gerle  40:18  

That creativity that you're talking about. Also, I think that I think that we're all potentially creative. But I think since we are forced to fit into a heteronormative dominant culture, even if it's pleasant, even if it's, it's not built for us, there's not a dressing room for us. There's not a


Aaron Alan  40:40  

bathroom for us, you know,


Mike Gerle  40:42  

Are just, yeah. So we're, I think that feeds our creativity. And I think that those are creative muscles are just they're buff, you know, they're awesome, which is why we're able to create,


Aaron Alan  40:53  

Right I mean, it's no accident that gays, and the gay community are stereotyped as you know, artistic, and yeah, and creative. I mean, that doesn't come from nowhere is Yeah. Yeah. My personal view is that it's because that's where we procreate.


Mike Gerle  41:12  

Absolutely. And it's funny, I just had another therapist on Dr. Frankie, and who's a lesbian matchmaker. And she talked about the gay community as a community and the lesbian community as community and she said that we've led the way on helping them understand polyamory. Hmm, I had never considered that before. So we're even teaching within the letters. We're teaching each other, the L, the G's are teaching the L's and then L's are teaching the G's and yeah, and that trans and drag queen culture has taught me a lot about being myself and all of that. So again, when I was talking about that diversity I I kind of bristle because I think our community does a lot of damage to itself. I'm getting on my soapbox here for a second. We do a lot of damage to ourselves when we say My way of living is the way you should live. We should all be kinky, we should all be monogamous. We should all be in church, we should all be drag queens, whatever your ism is, it doesn't serve the community. So I just had had to throw that in there.


Aaron Alan  42:16  

And I think what drives that is the need for us to be mirrored. You know what, yeah, sentimental human need. But I think that that's when it's taken to an unhealthy place, when I need to be mirrored to the point where I have to legislate or dictate or direct you to live your life in a way that has me feeling comfortable about myself. That's not healthy. That's not coming from a healthy place. Yeah, talk about love versus fear. That's fear driven. Yeah, love driven. It's like, okay, you be you. But yeah, and let me be me,


Mike Gerle  42:48  

Right. And if we don't match, which I learned from Dan Savage, then we just don't match on this area. But let's look at all the other places we do match. This you know, you know, intersections of identity is That's where we could just really get a lot of power as a community if we if we would focus on where we agree rather than on the places where we don't agree.


Aaron Alan  43:10  

Like you said, if we don't agree, we don't have to push each other to agree, or have someone feel bad about their disagreement. I don't expect the people would see relationships the way that I see them. And that's okay.


Mike Gerle  43:23  

Yeah, and I can respect that. You know, I, I didn't always and this reason, I'm speaking as the elder that I am now, I had two great conversations with this guy who's been monogamous with his husband for like, almost 30 years is the Reverend of that forget that church upon that we've passed by with big rainbow ribbon on it. And I used to think of him as like a threat is like, what are you doing and you're being all habit a hetero normative and blah, blah, blah, ah, and it turns out we have a lot of common space. He cares about gay men and he wants us to be healthy and happy and he doesn't want us all go into His Church, he just wants us to be healthy and happy. And, you know, I was projecting a lot of my drama on him, rather than looking for places where we can work together.


Aaron Alan  44:10  

Did you see him as an oppressor by living the way that he lives?


Mike Gerle  44:14  

Yeah, I would have I would say 15 years ago, absolutely. I'm just like, you are. You're just trying to like cram this whole heteronormative thing into the gay way of existence and why don't you just be like me, and live the perfect life of however, I was living it at the time.


Aaron Alan  44:34  

You saw him as a threat, Mike, that's fear driven.


Mike Gerle  44:37  

Yeah, exactly. And when I'm fear driven, I'm not going to get what I want. You know, when I'm fear driven, I'm gonna find drama. When I'm fear driven. I'm gonna get I'm gonna feel pain and disconnected and rejected.


Aaron Alan  44:52  

Yeah. In a previous conversation you had on one of your previous podcasts, you talked about being thirsty. I just loved that. conversation


Mike Gerle  45:01  

Is that about being fear driven as opposed to being love driven?


Aaron Alan  45:04  

Yeah, yeah. Thirsty is not attractive. You know? Yeah. The same thing is having desire.


Mike Gerle  45:10  

Yes. Desire is sexy.


Aaron Alan  45:12  

Desire is sexy thirst is it's needy. It reads as needy. Yeah, holing versus desire is an invitation.


Mike Gerle  45:22  

Yeah. And I would argue that one of you know, if I'm going, if I'm going out thirsty and in fear, I'm probably going to have an okay to negative sexual experience.


Aaron Alan  45:32  

Mm hmm.


Mike Gerle  45:33  

Okay, I ask everybody three standard questions. How do you invest in yourself? How do you invest in your chosen family and what are special gifts? I think we covered the third one. So let me just ask that first one. I asked it in a little esoteric way. It's like, how do you own your personal dignity but what I really mean is how do you invest in yourself as a man just just you as Aaron, what do you do like on a daily monthly yearly basis, to make sure that you are stronger?


Aaron Alan  46:02  

Ah, that's such a good question. I guess if I answered the question, literally, what I do to make myself stronger I work out. Yep, actually is one of the ways that I take care of myself. It's, it's my alone time, it's my personal time I put my headphones on, and I go into my own little world. I don't really socialize at the gym. It's really just because I just want to have my own time and my own thoughts. And that, for me is crucial, because I'm talking to people all day long. And I'm interacting with people and I love interacting with my husband and my personal time and I love seeing my friends and interact with my friends. But all of that interaction, also, conversely, means I need to take care of myself by myself. And there's, that's something I know about myself.


Mike Gerle  46:48  

You go to the gym, and any that's great and I liked how you said that. It's because of your personal situation where you need to be engaged fully with, as part of your job that the gym is a good place to go inside, while being around other people and and good things.


Aaron Alan  47:08  

And I from one of my creative outlets is to write music. I've been a songwriter since my teens I haven't written in several years I just haven't felt inspired and then with the safer at home orders, I've got a lot of time on my hands to be creative.


Mike Gerle  47:26  

Okay, let's move on. So that's yourself and like how do you invest in your chosen family and which may or may not include your bio family. I noticed people on the spot so you can either talk about who they are or just tell me about how you invest in them.


Aaron Alan  47:42  

You're part of my chosen family, you know


Mike Gerle  47:44  

Thank you.


Aaron Alan  47:44  

The way that I am. vest in my chosen family is by spending time with them connecting, doing actually this podcast with you. This is has a lot of meaning for me beyond just having a conversation about sex and relationships. I get to support you and I get to show up for you. And I learned more about myself as I talk about it too. So it's good for me too. And I feel closer to you. So doing endeavors like this, are really meaningful.


Mike Gerle  48:13  

So your like, because you know that this means a lot to me.


Aaron Alan  48:16  

Mm hmm.


Mike Gerle  48:16  

And so you're supporting that.


Aaron Alan  48:18  



Mike Gerle  48:19  

And that's a way of investing in a relationship.


Aaron Alan  48:21  

Garret's a member of my chosen family.


Mike Gerle  48:23  

Yeah. Garret's our producer, which I've mentioned once or twice and but and that's great. Any particular like just nuts and bolts?


Aaron Alan  48:32  

Yeah, we go away we will rent a house in Palm Springs and invite a core group of friends and and family core group have chosen family and sometimes a few friends outside of the circle to help expand the circle and it's those are incredible experiences. I love. I love doing that. Yeah, oh, went to Lake Powell. And that was just phenomenal.


Mike Gerle  48:54  

Well, this is what's just like, I love doing these interviews because I hadn't even thought of that. I'm just like, I keep getting stuck on the things that I hate to do like phone calls, you know.


Aaron Alan  49:05  

Well, I'm the same way. I'm not a phone talker at all.


Mike Gerle  49:07  

Yeah. But I've had other people say, Oh, I call these people on a regular basis and I don't argue via text and I'm like, okay, those aren't things I'm doing.


Aaron Alan  49:20  

Yeah, for me, I've seen people in person and doing things with people like the weekends away. I love them. It's like the perfect amount of time. It's like three, four days, and then you come back into your life.


Mike Gerle  49:32  

Yeah. And that's the family that I know about your your queer family. How do you stay close to your mom? Because I do know that you're close.


Aaron Alan  49:39  

Yeah, I'm very close with my mom. And she is not the same woman I grew up with. I know that she's delightful now and I can appreciate her for who she is. But it She's like a different person. Maybe it's cuz she's mellowed out. You know, I think that happens when we get older. We just kind of chill out.


Mike Gerle  49:57  

Mm hmm


Aaron Alan  49:57  

And become less stressed about the things It used to stress us out. It was fear based, I guess. I call her regularly. And David and I will go and visit her for a weekend or she'll come up here for a few days or overnight.


Mike Gerle  50:11  

Okay, yeah, that's fantastic.


Aaron Alan  50:13  

Variably makes me laugh like every time I talk to her.


Mike Gerle  50:16  

And can you tell me about your your trips to see your your new in laws? What have you done there?


Aaron Alan  50:22  

Oh, yeah, they, they're from New Orleans. David's from New Orleans. He comes from a big family. I come from a really small family, I can count my family members on one hand. I expect families to be like drama filled and crazy and not talking to each other and fighting and that was my experience, but...


Mike Gerle  50:40  

Mine too.


Aaron Alan  50:41  

His family is a lot of fun. They clearly love one another. They are very close and for a family of his size. I think that's really a testament to what his parents have built and developed. So I'm really I'm grateful to be a part of this family and to have been brought into the family. I feel a part of a family too.


Mike Gerle  51:02  

Thank you for being on the podcast. I it's really painful not hugging you guys all this time.


Aaron Alan  51:08  

I know.


Mike Gerle  51:08  

And I look, I look forward to when we can again. And I just want to thank you for being examples of dignity and of constantly growing and being fun as hell. With that, I'll close it out and say, thank you very much.


Aaron Alan  51:27  

Thank you.


Mike Gerle  51:28  

Well, talk to you later.


Aaron Alan  51:29  

That was amazing, Mike. Thank you.


Mike Gerle  51:31  

And that my friends was Aaron Ferrante-Alan, here's my friend, my family and a mental health professional, able to navigate shame, toxic behavior, being thirsty, and just being wonderful. I hope you enjoyed the show. If you want to contact me, it's [email protected] Send me an email. Until next time.


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