In his book Raising Boys, Steve Bidulph starts a chapter discussing the development of sexuality like this:
‘We all want our boys to feel good about their sexuality and to enjoy it in an intimate, caring and exuberant way.’
A young gay man who tries to embrace his sexuality on a basic level must not only be strong to stay true to it but he must simultaneously deal with rejection by friends and family, harsh words, careless and degrading comments from peers and schoolmates and the accumulation of homophobic quips that have been stored in our psyche’s and memories from a life time of naïve and unaware strangers.
Straight men often struggle to develop healthy sexuality in many cases. Can you imagine what gay men must work through to establish a healthy sexuality?
The truth is that much of the time gay men simply hold onto their sexuality and scrape through surviving adolescence and early manhood. At best we could hope that he will make it through valuing his sexuality and respecting it. At worst he will want to embrace it terribly but without the tools to do this he will turn to promiscuity, addictive sex patterns drugs and alcohol, addictive relationships as well as simultaneously distancing himself from loved ones and family because of accumulated carried shame and guilt. Self-loathing and despair can be the final outcome.
If you came out to your family and they were accepting from the get go and told you that in terms of love nothing had changed then you were truly fortunate. Many parents have created a plan for your life in their own minds and when they discover you are gay it can understandably create grief and disappointment. Unfortunately negative reactions and rejection do not help the formation of an individual’s healthy sexuality.
If you are aware that you have negative views towards your sexuality or a sense of self loathing then the awareness is a GREAT place to start. Many gay men never become aware of this at all and remain stuck in self-destructive behaviours to avoid looking at the issue. With this awareness you now have the opportunity to re-parent your self and your sexuality. Start by looking at all the negative messages you received at school and in your home and identify whether they are actually really true. Then any negative messages turn them into their opposites For example if the message was ‘gay men are weak’ or ‘gay men are sick.’ Then it becomes ‘I am a gay man and I am strong’ or ‘I am a gay man and I am healthy.’ Make these into affirmations that you say each morning when you wake up. Start hanging around strong gay role models, read positive literature and books that deal with healing wounded sexuality The Velvet Rage and any of Joe Korts books come to mind. Get involved with a support group that deals with gay men’s issues or sexuality so you can hear other perspectives for identification and to get support. Seek personal counselling or therapy to explore this issue.
Next when you hear any one degrade gay people or put them down – where its safe to tell them its not O.K. to speak in that way. Check your own use of terms and words - is their any unconscious homophobia lingering in your vocabulary or speech?
We are not responsible for what we were taught about our sexuality and the messages we received but the great thing is we now have the chance to take responsibility for rebuilding our sexuality and embracing it in a healthy and confident way so that we are role models to other young gay men but more importantly able to value and respect ourselves and the way we carry ourselves in all of society, in our relationships and in our search and journey towards love.