Customer Reviews for

The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2007


    I enjoyed this book more then I intended. I myself am a gay male in soceity. The book is aimed for older audiences but being that I'm only 17 it provided much insight on what I should prepare for and what to expect in the future. I think teenagers would highly benefit from this. I didn't feel if I was reading what a doctor wrote. I felt he was just a typical gay guy living his life. But the fact that he has studied in that field makes this book worth much more.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2013

    As self-help books go (and I will admit that I am not a fan of t

    As self-help books go (and I will admit that I am not a fan of the genre), The Velvet Rage is actually quite good. The problematic issue with many self-help books is that the underlying philosophy (or approach, or methodology, or treatment, etc.) is based on the assumption that everyone who reads the book is suffering with or struggling with the same condition (e.g., obesity, addiction, unhealthy relationship). This kind of essentializing or pathologizing of a condition usually results in overly generic (i.e., pretty much useless) strategies for correcting the condition. This book, however, is based on a more solid foundation—the belief that most gay men face similar challenges during the course of their development. These challenges result in deep-seated shame that often precludes any ability to maintain healthy, loving adult relationships with other men. And on this point, Dr. Downs pretty much gets it right.
    I recognized more of myself than I care to admit in Downs’ descriptions of men crippled by a shame that dooms any attempt at a loving relationship with another man. The book is therapeutic and enlightening without being overly patronizing. In other words, Downs explains how and why our contemporary culture (20th century America, to be exact) makes it well-nigh impossible for a gay man to grow up as a healthy, self-actualized person, yet he does not excuse any of us for our failure to overcome these obstacles. He uses clear, frank language and relates anecdotes from his private practice to illustrate the various ways in which gay men sabotage their own relationships. (Unfortunately, Downs’ practice seems limited to middle-class or upper middle-class white men, so there is not much diversity within the stories he tells. We do not get, for example, a clear idea of what it might be like to grow up poor and gay or black and gay or Latino and gay or Asian and gay…). More importantly, he offers practical, specific advice for overcoming the various stages of shame many of us grew up with. Downs never explicitly draws the comparison, but the shame-redemption process he describes seems to closely parallel the coming out process in general. And for many gay men, coming out is merely the first step on the long road toward mental, emotional health and self-acceptance. 

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