PHOTO: Protesters took to the streets in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots in lower Manhattan in the summer of 1969. Stonewall marked a turning point in the gay rights movement.
The diagram above showcases the 5 stages oppressed people move through on the journey from oppression to celebration. We learned how to move away from being oppressed, now we need to learn how to move towards celebrating who we are.
Today’s episode is the 2nd installment of my “Being a Man” series.
This is an intimate 1-on-1 between me and you, the listener.
I will present ideas on “living” on “being” (as in Being A Man) that I find useful in my own life. Being A Man episodes are part older brother insight, part theoretical sandbox, and part Gay Elder pontificating.
These are ideas I’ve cobbled together from just paying attention during my life, from doing my own personal work with therapists, from writing my memoir, from belonging to different kinds of fraternal groups, from meditation and yoga, and from doing men’s work in the ManKind Project.
These are not “BE a man” episodes, they are BEING a Man episode.
I’m not telling you what to do to prove you’re a man. I’m sharing insight on “being”, the inward reflections of a conscious man who knows what he wants and how to get it.
Use the parts that work for you and leave the rest.
Your authenticity is the only tool required, and a heart-centered connection with yourself, with other gay men, and with your own chosen communities is the goal.
“Being A Man” episodes are wrapped up in a cool three-letter acronym. “BAM” So you can find the Being A Man episodes easily in the feed by looking for the BAM heading.
Enjoy the show.
We talked about:
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Episode full transcript:
Mike Gerle 0:00
Hello GerleMen. Today's episode is the second installment of my Being A Man series. This is an intimate one on one between me and you, the listener. I will present ideas on living or being as in being a man that I found useful in my own life. Being a man episodes are part older brother insight, part theoretical sandbox, part gay elder pontificating, you know, these are ideas I've cobbled together from just paying attention during my 55 year old life, from doing my own personal work with therapists, from writing my memoir, from belonging to different kinds of fraternal groups, from meditation and yoga, and doing men's work like that at the Mankind Project. You know, this is not a be a man episode. These are being a man episodes. So I'm not telling you what to do to prove you're a man, you're already a man. You know what I'm doing is sharing insight on being the inward Reflections of a conscious man who knows what he wants, and how to get it. Use the parts that work for you and leave the rest. Your authenticity is the only tool required. And a heart centered connection with yourself, with other gay men and with your chosen communities, that's the goal. Being A Man episodes are wrapped up in a cool three letter acronym B A M. So you can easily find the BAM episodes by just looking for the BAM heading. So now, on to the show.
Mike Gerle 1:40
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 answering the call to Brother head to college. Sex into heart centered connection. Welcome home brother.
Mike Gerle 2:06
Hello brothers. Today I'm going to talk about our evolution as a community from oppression to celebration. But before I get into the arc of a community moving from oppression to celebration, I'd like you to answer a question about community. Now when I said community, what came to mind for you? Did you think of a physical space like the city you live in? like Los Angeles, Detroit? Pocatello? Did you think of your neighborhood? Like Hillcrest or boy's town or your suburb outside of Kansas City, Missouri. Did you think of an identity based group? Did you think of the LGBTQAI+ plus community? Your sports team, your church, your favorite bar? Did you think the queer community? Did you think the Gay Men's community specifically? Now when someone mentions the word community, especially when someone says our community, you know, what do you think of? Think about that for a second. If you identify as a gay man, do you think of the Gay Men's community as your community? I'm curious, because today I'm talking about celebrating our greatness. And it's hard to celebrate our greatness if we don't own who we are to begin with. To be clear, today the community I'm talking about celebrating is the Gay Men's community. And I have to say, just saying that out loud brings up fear in me. You know, as I talked about in the last BAM episode, I know that I don't make the best decisions when I'm coming from fear. Fear causes me to think small, so bear with me if I first deal with my own fear. You know, the fear that I'm dealing with is that serving the gay community specifically will bring me under attack. Yeah, weird fear, I have a fear that doing something specifically for gay men will bring me under attack. You know, it's not entirely rational, but the fear is there. You know, this fear has me wanting to move away from the pain my game has caused me away from the rejection of family and institutions away from the humiliation of taunts from bullies away from ridicule, received after, you know, making authentic choices related to my queerness you know, fear has me moving away from oppression away from pain and suffering, you know, because that's fear's job, to protect me, to move me away from harm. But fear is a limiting paradigm to act from. I will never know joy, true freedom, or dare I say enlightenment, when I'm pushing away from something out of fear. So this is what I'm gonna do right now with you. I'm going to take what Tara Branch in her book on Buddhism, radical acceptance calls a sacred pause. You know, she wrote a whole book on this deceptively simple act of consciously deciding to take a short pause, just stopping activity. I'm closing my eyes, checking in with my physical body, and my emotions. And this is a key part. I accept everything that I find. The sacred pause is just that it's a pause.
Mike Gerle 5:44
It allows me to just sit quietly with whatever sensations and feelings I find. And when I find fear, like I do when I'm talking about this subject of doing something specifically for gay men, I simply feel it in my body. And it just bounces around like a ping pong ball in my body. I acknowledge it, and I embrace it. You know, I welcome it as an old friend with lots of emotions, he regularly voices in my head. He wants to protect me. That's fear's job. This friend I'm calling fear has been through some trauma around being a gay man. And that i've you know, I've been through some trauma about being a gay man in the community. My fear won't let me forget that. This friend called fear has been, has even experienced trauma linked to being a cisgendered man, especially a white man in the far left politics that characterize my gender as toxic and my right race as that of the oppressor. Know with that voice in my head, it's hard to celebrate who I am because I'm moving away from something. In this case, I'm moving away from here. And that's not creative, it's not expansive, it's not inclusive, it's small, it's tight, it's hard, it's closed off. That's when the sacred pause of honoring my current reality is really useful. That creates space for something else, it opens a door. It allows me to make a decision to move towards something like celebration instead of away from something like oppression. You know, moving towards something allows me to be authentic, honest and open. It allows me to come from love, which is creative and expansive and allows me to get what I want. So honoring the fear and more importantly, honoring myself and what's really happening to me internally, somehow quiets that emotion and makes way for creative generative, conscious choices. I don't know why it works. It just does. You know, those pauses give me an insight I wouldn't have had a otherwise, that's the good stuff. Now I can create, I can explore, and I can design my own future, a future that I want. So thank you for allowing me to process that emotion with you. Again, I don't know why it works, it just does. And that's important because moving towards something requires to know what I'm moving towards. So, if I'm not going to move away from something, and if I'm going to move towards something, I need a vision, a vision that starts with the true sense of who I am, and to radically accept who I am at each step of that journey, all while remaining open to growth. I need a vision with a clear picture of who I want to be, so I can choose a path that will lead me to the manifestation of my authentic self, a place where I live in my zone of genius. How awesome is that? Again, living in my zone of genius is outlined in the book "Leading Above the Line" by Jim Dethmer. He says, your zone of genius is your unique power. It is a one of a kind quality that you bring to life and to your work that lets you do certain things better than almost anyone else. So with that in mind, let's talk about moving towards celebrating our greatness. Okay, so process my fear. I've done all that I've connected to my zone of genius. Now, I'm ready to celebrate my vision of who I am as a gay man and as this is off script, I mean, this is just, I don't know, it's scary putting this out there. Y'all talk about where we've been from as an oppression, where we've been from as a movement, but first I want to touch on the possibility of what we can be moving towards, as in toward celebration. So what does celebration mean? I say when I celebrate something. I am talking about a process. I'm talking about an act or a ritual that just imparts my, our unique intrinsic nature to each other and to the entire world.
Mike Gerle 10:14
So the following is my vision of the world that I'm already being in by doing this podcast. It's happening right now. It's not going to happen in the future. Life is happening now. So this is what's happening right now, it's the vision of a community that I'm doing my part in to move us towards. This is the mission, the vision, the proposition and the declaration of the GerleMen podcast community. It's a work in progress. It will evolve as the community grows. You know, this is a banner I'm raising for the world to see and those who resonate with the message are encouraged to follow it. The mission is we provide space for gay men to evoke our full authentic brilliance, to honor, nurture and celebrate our intrinsic nature. And yes, part of our intrinsic nature is our desire to connect sexually. Next is our vision, our vision is to create a sacred and protected space in which man can explore their richness and bounty of their most fundamental self, their community and their own values. We celebrate gay identity, leveraging our intrinsic instincts to generate lives of contentment, self reliance, communal responsibility and dignity. Then there's the proposition. Yes, the word proposition. Our proposition is that our attraction towards other men creates a unique culture that is fertile with connection, brotherhood and community, internalized Heterosexual Supremacy found in society standard narrative on sexual identity hinders a full expression of the powerful spiritual and generative nature of gay men. Using the traditions of meditation, ritual yoga, and radical honesty, we are able to release what does not serve our higher good, reveal our loving spirit and celebrate our true self. So that being said, the last thing is our declaration, we declare that we love gay men, laughter, spiritual connection, sex, healthy bodies, enlightened minds and open hearts. We believe that understanding and loving ourselves as individuals makes the world a better place for everyone in it. We are committed to offering transformational experiences for men to cultivate mindful, mature masculinity and to speak with an authentic generative voice. Hmm! That's a lot of words, but I find them necessary to focus my energies towards something. All those words outline the something I'm moving towards, and I invite you to join me.
Mike Gerle 13:06
So now, finally, let's talk about our community of gay men, where we were, or possibly still are on the arc of moving from oppression to celebration. I see it as a five step progressive process. And here I'm talking about the communal arc of gay men moving step one, oppression, step two, tolerance, step three, acceptance, step four, liberty, and step five, celebration. So this is step one, oppression. Oppression was and is vile hatred. It's something to move away from. That is the reason fear of oppression is actually healthy. We needed to move away from it. Those still experiencing oppression still need to move away from it. Examples of oppression in my own life include, you know, I had a new boyfriend who went to Europe and I was sitting at his house and my boyfriend's landlord, called the police, the Burbank police department, who forced me and my boyfriend's two cats and his turtle out of the guest house. And it includes senator Jesse Helms, referring to me and my HIV positive brothers facing the horror of a deadly disease as quote, "perverted human beings, not worthy of federal money to combat AIDS". He said that on the floor of the Senate, the third thing example of oppression these are easier than the other ones guys, I was being called a faggot and having eggs thrown at me on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vincente, in the heart of West Hollywood. It was 1991 You know, that's the same corner the sheriff's station was on and I the example of oppression was the deputy at the counter of the sheriff's station, listening to the story of eggs being thrown at me and being called a faggot. And then him telling me that a crime had not been committed, and there was nothing he could do. So there's oppression. Step two is tolerance. You know, tolerance was and is a step up from oppression. Tolerance is civil disagreement. It's witnessing something that we find offensive and letting it be without actively working against it. Examples of tolerance are not calling out your coworker who farted in the elevator. You just tolerate it. Tolerance is a government like Los Angeles in I'm going to get the day round when we had our first gay liberation parade, you know, issuing a permit to an organization that they were on the record being against, you know, tolerance in my life, you know, in Idaho school system, tolerated my all male drill team. We could do exhibitions, but we could not compete or integrate with the girls. So on to step three, acceptance. Acceptance is being deemed worthy of inclusion. Acceptance is turning on the blinders of the dominant class to the individuals differences. The folks in charge have evolved to the degree that they are making a conscious effort to keep people's differences from holding them back. You know, acceptance is being received as adequate and suitable, there is little to no acknowledgement of diversity and acceptance what there is is an effort to treat everybody exactly the same. In my judgment that acceptance levels the playing field, but it does not honor diversity, it just makes us all the same. Examples of Exceptions include being hired for a job by my employer who is making a concerted effort to emit any attribute about the applicant they find acceptable like race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, let's assume they are not putting the blinders on those things. Because they're forced to by the state that would be tolerance, acceptance is an employer making a conscious effort to dismiss all diverse aspects of an individual and treat everyone exactly the same. I experienced full acceptance from my bio family. They do not treat me with any less love or respect than they do my sibling. I share details about my primary relationship, my work, my vacation destination, but I don't share queer details like the fact that I was at a conference exploring racial justice, self selected pronouns and negotiating BDSM sex. And to be fair, I asked very little about their religious lives, what they do in their temple and whatnot. I accept that their religion brings them peace, joy and support. I accept it because I love them the way they accepted me because they love me. So then we're on to Step Four. Step four is liberty. You know, liberty is, finally we're getting into the real area of diversity of celebrating diversity, which is the last step. But liberty is having the ability to move freely in life with my individual diversity, completely intact, unmuted and unfold, glorious display, my race, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and more are seen and respected. They're even valued. You know, I can just do as I please. The laws of the land apply equally to me. You know, I can plan events, create art, perform rituals, work where I want, an associate who I want, love who I want, and say what I want. Liberty is the freedom to choose my own path while remaining true to my authentic self. And examples of liberty are interesting. You know, evidence of liberty in my own life shows up in this actual arena. You know, I've been able to produce three gay men sex parties two were public, you know, where I charged admission at the door with my my leather club, and one was private and highly exclusive. I had the liberty to do that because of the laws and the culture of the region of the world I live in here in Southern California. I never once worried that my employer, the City of West Hollywood, would discipline me because of that activity. You know, that's liberty. Whether like it or not read MAGA hats are an example of liberty. You know, choosing a crazy name for your kid is liberty, a ridiculous paint job on your car or boat is liberty, creating art that conveys a message counter to the dominant culture, that's liberty. Naked Gay Men's yoga classes. That's liberty. Sex clubs, like those found in Europe, that's liberty. I don't see those same kind of sex club back houses here in the United States, that allow us to have the dignity of gathering in a restaurant, maybe having a meal, and a beer, in addition to the sex, that we're having other places, we're not allowed that kind of liberty here in the United States. Finally, let's get to celebration. celebration is, quote, "The action of making one's pleasure at an important event or occasion, by engaging in enjoyable, typically social activity". At least that's what the internet says, and I agree with it. You know, I'll restate what my own definition I said earlier, which is, when I say celebrate, I'm talking about a process, an act or a ritual that imparts our unique intrinsic nature. I just want to say that again, celebration imparts our unique intrinsic nature to each other and to the entire world. And celebration is definitely something we should be moving actively towards. Celebration is a conscious choice to elevate some aspect of ourselves and have others affirm it through some sort of act or ritual. So, you know, creating art, that's an act, getting a birthday cake and singing a song, that's a ritual. You know, examples of celebrating gay identity, I've got to say are kind of hard to see on mass right now. The examples that I do see are, you know, those of us out on the fringes in the leather community, like the erotic art fair, and the erotic art all by itself, that the tama Finn foundation celebrates. My own memoir drama club is a book celebrating my experience growing up gay and Mormon in Idaho. That was a form of celebrating a very unique life. pride parades and festivals are celebrating, you know, the collection of many groups. One of which is the Gay Men's community. However, I've always felt that gay men need to go off the parade campus to find a place that's specifically ours. And we do create those with parties. I'd like to see more than parties. I'd like to see more than gay bars, you know, being the only physical drop in spaces where we're able to celebrate gay men specifically. And this is my challenge to even like the LGBT Center here in Los Angeles. Brothers and sisters, you have done an amazing job of serving those in need, and I hate to push you further, but gay men who aren't sick or aren't old, have almost nothing to drop into at the gay and lesbian center.
Mike Gerle 22:45
Anyway, I want you, dear listener to join me in celebrating your greatness. And celebrating our greatness as a community of gay men on this five step arc from oppression to celebration, I think we, as the Gay men's community are stumbling around, somewhere between steps three and four. We're stumbling around somewhere between acceptance and liberty. And when it comes to celebrating what makes our distinct facet of the rainbow shine, I judge that we are falling short. I judge that gay men are still in so much fear. I talked about it because I have it myself, and that's where my judgment comes from. I judge that gay men are still in so much fear caused by the collective trauma of oppression, that we are moving away from that we're spending so much time moving away from that, and in doing so, we do not lean into a full throated roar of celebration we deserve. The celebration of who we are, what brings us joy and how we find connection that's what I'm pushing for, that's why a vision is necessary. That's why I offered that vision here. Breathe into and accept your fear brother. Breathe out, lean forward and move toward the celebration of our greatness that we all deserve. Until next time.
Mike Gerle 24:13
Thanks for listening to the show my friend. Now stay connected by subscribing to GerleMen podcast and sharing with your friends on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else podcasts can be found. Visit the web page at Gerlemen.com. Sign up for the newsletter and find more details about each episode. Let's make this a conversation because I'd really like to hear from you. Join us on Facebook at GerleMen; submit your questions, suggest topics or just chat with your brothers. Want to add your own two cents? Use the voice memo feature on your smartphone. Ask a question or say anything, we just might play it on the podcast. Email the file to [email protected] Until next time.