Him-Magazine JULY ‘HEROES’ Issue : We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day

davidbowie_lifestyle_jul13London, England, is lucky enough this summer to be privy to a major retrospective of Bowie: David Bowie is… the biggest sell-out show in the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum’s history! It sold out online for the whole four month run, with Five-Star reviews from the media critics. Tickets were only available in limited slots if you visited the museum on the day, so I was lucky to view my own personal history walking around, remembering coming out, broken relationships, pills and clubbing to Bowie’s tracks. His major anthem always was, and still is for me… Heroes… “We can be Heroes, Just for one day.”

The beginning of the exhibition features a collage of influences surrounding teenage David Jones (later Bowie), including the impact of Yuri Gagarin’s first human journey into Outer Space and the Russian Sputnik floating above the ether. Gagarin must have been a hero to a 14 year-old David as much as anyone else, especially as he wrote “Space Oddity” at age 22 in 1969, creating the fictional “Major Tom” spaceman character that became his signature, his vision and legacy. During the same year, Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon, while fierce gays and trannies at the Stonewall Inn bar refused to be walked all over by police raid brutality, sowing seeds of the Gay Liberation Movement. Heroes, all of them. Checking out the music, costumes and memorabilia dragged me back to a gay life pre-AIDS, when open hard sexuality was the drug of choice. Clones, tartan shirts, bathhouses and above all — hirsute chunks of men – became as ubiquitous as the Marlboro man.

stonewallheroes_lifestyle_jul13

When it came to therapy work in the 80’s, everything was new; addictions, treatment centers, codependency and empowerment became buzzwords, but you only entered these portals of personal development if you had AIDS or were mentally unbalanced. Looking inward was deemed unnecessary in the UK; that was for Americans and their “shrinks” and “Celebrity Rehab” hadn’t started and we had no idea that the worst was yet to come. Before burn-out, I spent two years on an HIV project working with people holding CD4 counts under 50, mostly under 20, who were just preparing to die.

When you think of the media version of a hero it’s easy to recall a man diving into a pond to rescue a drowning puppy, yet the real heroes of those years were those affected by HIV/AIDS who taught the value of everything, including hope, gratitude, true friendship and dignity. A true gift for those left behind in the darkest of times.

supermanbatman_lifestyle_jul13For many gay men, the most heroic stance is to come out. Therapists refer to the “inner child” as a recovery tool, and the discovery of toxic shame connected to a differing sexuality, family of origin and the impact on adult inter-personal relationships, but I always encourage people to find their own ‘inner hero’ because it’s very easy to pass over, ignore or overlook the courage it took to come out. Heroes Gagarin and Armstrong were trained to float around outer space, yet few teenagers are trained to come out, so it is truly heroic when they do.

The “inner hero” decides inside, awaiting an opportunity to reveal itself, all those occasions when you thought you would’t make it, but you did. When you made changes and took risks, you ultimately won out. Coming to terms with your self and a differing sexuality is as brave as Superman flying across the skies, and not all gay men get off the ground. This is where therapy can assist you to teach the bird to fly.

Bravery is also required when leaving an abusive relationship; when the odds are against you. It takes courage to rescue yourself, instead of waiting for someone to come and rescue you; to be scooped up in Superman’s arms and held safe. Many men wait to be chosen, rather than choosing themselves, awaiting rescue “by a great dark man” as Quentin Crisp put it; either online or in real spaces. This tale of a damsel in distress is an epidemic in the lives of gay men. One plays the victim, the other the fixer.

The victim who has less feels held and safe but inadequate, and fixer gets off on the  control they have due to the codependent nature of the relationship. Eventually, a stalemate is reached and couples counselling is suggested and taken up. It’s at this stage with a counselor as the intervener, that truth begins to unravel, failings honored, observed and owned. Not many couples are brave enough to take this adult route to save themselves. It may look like the therapist is acting as rescuer, but a good one will not be trained to fix clients, but allow clients to fix themselves. When this occurs the “inner hero” unleashes, boundaries begin to be respected and esteem is raised, even if the outcome is not to one partners agenda, but honesty and acceptance is far more heroic than rescuing a puppy.

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You can read my monthly article here in original form here : http://www.him-magazine.com/2013/07/01/we-can-be-heroes-just-for-one-day/

Post Pride Balance

Gay rights activists hold a rainbow flag during a rally to support same-sex marriage in central SydneyWelcome to post PRIDE recovery. The great parties, parades and gatherings have passed, now it’s time to put PRIDE into your life with balance, inner spirit and meditative observations. But where to find time for that?
 
” There’s just too much – too much to learn, to see, too much information, technology and techniques, too many ways to pleasure, too many ways to pain. Too much! How can we be expected to take it all in and deal with it? Perhaps we don’t have to take it all in OR deal with it. What a relief to know that we can go deeper and deeper into whatever we wish, and through that exploration come to understand the everything. Since all of creation is a whole and the oneness of all creation is a reality, our world is indeed a holo-movement or hologram. In exploring the depths of one thing, we gain wisdom about others. Our task, then, is to see what calls to us, what piques our imagination, what stimulates our being and asks us to delve deeper and deeper into it. When we follow this calling, we will find balance. “
 
838032f589b0baac501416bab1b00dc3_previewThese wise words of codependency recovery guru Anne Wilson Schaef remind me that my current intuition has value. When I was bang at it, using chems & alcohol  regularly, I thought that spontaneous thinking and acting out was intuition. What I discovered with personal development was that I was addicted to imbalance and that this spontaneous ‘acting out’ was unhealthy, unfounded in wisdom and detrimental to my health. Basically I couldn’t trust myself and conned myself that I could. Most gay men come into therapy, recovery or personal growth to find balance, but the moment we start searching the net, self help books or lists of therapies to consult, it’s easy to become unbalanced with too many choices. Best if we leave it another day then.
 
Most of us choose have chosen at some point a stimulant to balance us ; alcohol, coke, hash, club drugs, nicotine or a person for example, at first it works then it starts to get out of hand, it gets too much and then we are hooked into being taken hostage, kidnapped until we set ourselves free.
Recognising that we are not the most important person on the planet is a beginning in unfurling the freedom flag. Freedom comes from standing back and making informed choices rather than letting the ego run amok. It’s easy to think we are missing something if we don’t join in. Many people don’t possess a mobile phone, an ipod or have access to a computer. They more than survive. Many have learnt that it takes courage to be with yourself, to sometimes dispense with the demands of the modern age. This is why we crave a day by the sea, a walk in nature or wear sloppy clothes for a week or two. No performance needed.
 
12840957931FnH9uWhat most of us find in personal development is that we are quite amusingly mad. When we get clearer about our own insane thinking we see that the world is madder than first thought. No wonder Antony Newley sang ” Stop the World – I want to get off “. But the result of any therapy is to decide which world we want to live in, so ask yourself that question, take stock and seek balance. What perception of the world ” out there ” do you have “. Does it deliver? It is only a mirror image of your inner world view. Think sanely in balance and the world will change around you.
 
Take stock, by checking out the past few weeks, or the last weekend. Write down what caused you to feel PROUD, then write what could be improved, what needs addressing, what needs to be thrown out. The lighter you are balance is achieved.
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This blog of mine first appeared on July 2 2013 on http://www.guyspy.com/post-pride-balance-2/ in my RELATIONSHIP GUYD column.

Bugger Politics, let’s party.

Having witnessed the aftermath of London’s PRIDE event, rinsed of any LGBT suggestion in it’s title, many Stonewallers will echo Cameron’s mantra ‘We’re all in this together’ as a badge of progress. Str8 actings on gaydar, str8 acting marriages at the altar and straight men ( who have sex with men ) indicate that the gay sensibility is no longer in vogue. Thank God for drag queens I say, and twinks like Harry on The Only Way Is Essex, to carry the fierce flag of gay individuality. I fear waking up to find a gay scene styled by NEXT, but thanks to those fashionistas in the East End who certainly know how to cause a stir : geeks are  now in, muscle mary’s certainly are out. Thin is in. Before dress code clones in the 70’s, styled by America, London swinging sixties gayer’s had their own stylist hero. Not many realise as they do the cottage in Carnaby Street, that the street’s fame was started by outrageous John Stephen, a scottish queer who created the swinging sixties peacock revolution for men. He sold women’s knickers and created see-through lace and chiffon shirts for males to strut in, and high stacked collars to wear in clubs like La Duce, a gay mod club in ’67. How many of those ‘marchers’ blowing whistles down Regent Street were even aware there IS a gay history? Thanks to Thatcher’s Clause 28 & Minister Gove it’s not taught in schools so much.

However, current gay shame was alive and well in the streets of Soho over the weekend as vomit and pinned pupils were common markers of FREEDOM to be who you are. Many on Facebook updated, that PRIDE is now just an excuse for a piss-up and that Compton Street was beyond sanity by dusk. We have been soaked in shame for centuries, and each same-sexer is still tainted by this genetic lineage. Check the history boys. Sodomy became an English civil crime in 1533 and then became a criminal offence in in 1592, although it had been a capital crime under ecclesiastical law long before this. Cases could be tried through the Assize Courts or the Quarter Sessions and, if convicted, the accused was hanged. In order to prove sodomy, however, several elements had to be demonstrated and both penetration and ejaculation had to occur – one in itself was insufficient and there needed to be two witnesses who could attest to both factors being present. Legal jargon meant that if one man grassed on the other, both would be hung, (not what you think) so 16th Century gayers played the game of silence. However, courts usually passed a pillory sentence if intent had occurred, bummers were placed in stocks on public view (in London: on the Strand outside The Royal Courts of Justice) where the throwing of rotten fish, mouldy fruit, doggy doo and stale piss from piss pots were thrown our way. This became standard public humiliation for the likes of us, way before we were called homosexuals in the Victorian age. Blacks were treated as slaves and we were treated as shit, black history reclaimed the past with pride and we need to go back way before Stonewall to quell the shame.The genetic shame of these events remains tightly inside every English gay arse. So giving yourself the GIFT OF HISTORY can assist you in recognizing that you are a small knot in a trail of collective energy, but joined together the rope is strong enough to hang ourselves. The rope we can hang ourselves with today is internalized homophobia and apathy.

Not many are aware that Oscar Wilde went down ( to the cells ) because of shit on the sheets, evidence of sodomy provided by his housekeeper, soldiers during the wars were accused of “taking it up the Marmite” if emotional boundaries were crossed and fondness occurred. Now str8s have gone gay on the anal front, it’s all the rage apparently boy on girl. Twenty years ago in America ACT-UP speared homophobia by reclaiming the word QUEER within the shamed shadow of AIDS. In the UK the queer movement started just before LOVE MUSCLE hit the Fridge in ’92 and ended up dissolving itself with New Labour promises for equality. GAY PRIDE was everywhere so we started ‘parading, not complaining’. Now the new UK Queer Resistance Movement : Queers & Allies Against the Cuts and fighting hate stickers in East London has created our own ‘2011 Gay uprising” bringing politics and social network ‘complaining’ back to the community.

About time too.

We are in no doubt that London remains the queerest capital in the world with the broadest table of amusement but we might as well be back in 1533 when it comes to GAY SHAME. For centuries we were judged and now we need to judge ourselves, it’s time to take personal responsibility laying down, for if we don’t release the many forms of gay shame from our antics and our compulsive behaviors the party will end before time and we will not deserve to feel a pang of GAY PRIDE. As I have said many times before, freedom comes from inside – not from a flag. No one is suggesting you halt bum stuff or chem feasts, but your lifestyle could be a celebration of unity, history and PRIDE, a glorious tribute to those same-sexers hung at Tyburn Gate, Marble Arch in the 16th century for the sin of sodomy. In homage to these brave warriors,respect your body and those who invade it, respect your own personal history – it is as unique as DNA – and give yourself the GIFT OF HISTORY by checking out your defects of character that defend your actions, regular comedowns that increase in addictive cycles and lifestyles that stop you from feeling proud. Somewhere along the line you are still connected to the stocks, the public shame and suppressed secret desires. Next year is WORLD PRIDE in London, it’s a tough call to be a role model to those gayers struggling around the world, but for once we must bring politics back to the party and honour our gay sensibility, past and present.

Freedom

In some quarters to admit “being in therapy” is as shaming as owning membership to the Jan Moir Fan Club, so you might wonder why gayers seek it, pay for it and continue the process of on-going examination. Coming out as “being in therapy” is the new celebrity ring-a-ding these days, going into REHAB is so over, unless your recording contract insists on it. In order to experience real freedom most need to sacrifice something, including the freedom to be reckless in our lives. You may think that having a freedom flag mouse mat while you lose 6 hours on Gaydar, is the freedom to be who you are but REAL freedom comes from inside – not from a flag.

To find that freedom, a sense of balance and a wake up call is the reason many smart gayers choose therapy, counselling or coaching of any kind as a route to change. In decades gone, it was all about “accepting yourself as gay”, now it’s about “accepting yourself as a crack whore”, serial debtor, codependent, a boozer or someone who just CAN’T find a relationship. I blame Thatcher. It was the mad month of March 1988. Thatcher brought in Clause 28 and free newspaper Capital Gay said “unless you get out on the street, Thatcher will close the Gay Bars. Until that time I had never seen 36,000 gayers and their str8 friends in one place, but I remember looking back on the march when we reached Piccadilly Circus, and all I could see as far as the eye could see, was US. Now that’s REAL freedom, and instead of controlling gays Thatcher was actually responsible for the 60,000 people who turned out for the 1988 Summer Gay Pride March that same year. Yes we marched then, not celebrated. How times change.
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In the late eighties and just after, you only “had therapy” if you were close to someone with AIDS, had AIDS or had received an HIV+ diagnosis and told you were about to die. It seemed we weren’t affected by other diseases aside from the dis-ease of being a gayer, we had no other mental or physical health issues. In 1998, a decade on, I was invited by EUROPRIDE (that year in Stockholm, Sweden) to present my own series of seminars I started in London in 1994 called QUEER LOVE QUEST, to be the first Gay Personal Development Programme ever to be part of the official Europride festival itinerary. The tide had turned and a claxon of gay issues like homophobia, ageing and addictions were being addressed in an open political way. Thatcher had long gone, Nu Labour was the flavour, combos had arrived and our freedoms began, but without that vile attack by Thatcher, we would still be simpering and apologising, sitting on the fence.
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Many different forms of therapy exist, but the purpose is the same, FREEDOM from the past and present habits, resentments, toxic shame and guilt. Watching ITV’s Loose Women the other day I was shocked that half the panel saw therapy as “self -indulgent “. Codependency has often been described as a pattern of behaviour where you lose your own sense of self while caring for, parenting, worrying, rescuing or taking too much responsibility for others. Along the way we have been told that others come first, so I can see that within this context caring for yourself would be “self-indulgent”. Prompted by some gay activists we have been told for so long that we are just like straights now and should not have “gay issues” anymore, we are just humans not defined by sexuality. Unfortunately the “issue” is still that you can’t walk down an average street holding your same sex partners hand in complete freedom. Until we can do this with ease we have no cause to wave a flag. Until we can safely get off a bus and not hear homophobic abuse from feral youth or be beaten to death for standing our own ground we will not feel free. In order to handle these outside interferences therapy can teach you to feel free from attack, free from the judge and jury in your head, and free to live in the world of extras. I call it this because when you reduce a habit, or change an unhealthy routine you find extra time, extra interests and extra pride in yourself.
So while you fiddle with your mouse mat consider where you feel FREE today – is it on grinder for a spontaneous shag, or having a purse of disposable income, a chance to be yourself in a relationship, to speak honestly avoiding people pleasing, or do you think that you still have “issues” that cost you more than money. Maybe you think that being political is only for activists, that your voice and vote don’t count. All forms of therapy create awareness and in a lot of cases a realisation that we are not as free as we think. The usual escape routes we encounter encourage procrastination and denial. Are you going to sit back when a vigil takes place in Trafalgar Square, to fight against energies that hate your very existence? Are you going to stand in a bar or make a stand in a square? While you ponder that, consider the 36,000 that marched that winters day in 1988 for the right for YOU to feel free and ask yourself how political you are, what you do about it and how loud your voice is. The recent events in East London have spurred the young into reality, marching, shouting and proclaiming against hate. To do so with such vigilance is a combination of freedom and therapy. Join them and see how therapeutic it is. Then wave the freedom flag.