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

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

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by Alan Downs
     
 

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"The most important issue in a gay man's life is not 'coming out,' but coming to terms with the invalidating past where we learned that we are shameful...."

The gay male world today is characterized by seductive beauty, artful creativity, flamboyant sexuality, and, encouragingly, unprecedented acceptability in society. Yet despite the progress of the past century,

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Overview

"The most important issue in a gay man's life is not 'coming out,' but coming to terms with the invalidating past where we learned that we are shameful...."

The gay male world today is characterized by seductive beauty, artful creativity, flamboyant sexuality, and, encouragingly, unprecedented acceptability in society. Yet despite the progress of the past century, our intimate relationships are generally short-lived compared to straight relationships, sexually transmitted diseases among us are at epidemic proportions, and depression and suicide occur far more frequently than among straight men.

Even though an entire generation of us has openly and freely come out of the closet, we still find ourselves asking, "Are we really better off?" Through bravely honest individual stories and compassionate analysis, The Velvet Rage explores how our contentment has been destroyed by lingering, deep-rooted shame-a shame that can be traced to our childhood experiences of feeling "other" and perhaps emotionally abandoned by the first men in our lives, our fathers. Most of us rage quietly against the shame we feel so acutely, masking it behind a faade of beauty, creativity, or material success.

It doesn't have to be this way. There is a way out of this emotional bind.

Drawing on contemporary psychological research, the author's own journey to be free of anger and of shame, as well as the stories of many of his friends and clients, Velvet Rage outlines the three distinct stages to emotional well-being for gay men. Offering profoundly helpful strategies to stop the insidious cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behavior, Velvet Rage is an empowering book you'll wish you read long ago.

It's not too late to begin healing now.

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Editorial Reviews

Q Vegas 8/1/05
"[Downs'] ideas are presented clearly, concisely and with great compassion .. Provides important insights for anyone wanting a greater understanding of gay men."
Out in Asheville August 2005
"Often, as you read this book, you'll find yourself saying, 'Hey! That's me!'"
Publishers Weekly
With a title that plays on Janet Jackson's epochal 1997 LP The Velvet Rope, and its anatomy of unmet desire, therapist Downs's book describes the paradigmatic ways in which early childhood molds the future lives of gay men: scorned on the playground, disrespected by Dad, loved only by Mom until their first sex with men. Through this mechanism of rejection, gay men feel unlovable, correspondingly angry and, he says, driven to heights of creativity and "fabulousness"-in addition to shopping addiction and obsessions with fat, muscle and penis size-in a bid to distract themselves from their inner shame. For Downs, the only thing that will bring an end to this spiral of torment is, finally, "validation," which produces "authenticity." Downs is an engaging writer, though prone to repeating the same few points in different words, while his patients, quoted in sidebars, often make witty quips that rival Quentin Crisp for dry, bitter sarcasm. While many gay readers will fail to recognize themselves here, others will find Downs's logic warming and even generous. Agent, Susan Schulman. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Downs, a practicing psychologist in Santa Fe, NM, has previously written on corporate dysfunction and the crises of adulthood. Here, he joins other recent commentators, most notably Patrick Moore (Beyond Shame), to offer a self-help book for gay men coping with the shame of their sexual orientation. While some readers will find his stage approach to gay development a bit deterministic, those familiar with gay men will find a good deal of honest reporting here. Without being maudlin, Downs, himself a gay man, writes movingly of his clients and their struggles to come to terms with themselves -no small task. For many gay men, the most important chapter will be the one that comes last: there, the author outlines ten lessons that lead to a life of authenticity. Though these would apply to anyone seeking a mature adult life, Downs uses a uniquely gay spin that makes this book stand out in the literature. Recommended.-David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“[Downs’s] narration is well matched to his message.”
AudioFile

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738210612
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
04/28/2006
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

The most important issue in a gay man's life is not "coming out," but coming to terms with the invalidating past where we learned that we are shameful. Only within that awareness can we confront the shame and eliminate its insidious influence over our lives. For certain, the most damaging part of social oppression has never been the act of oppression, but the oppression that we internalize within ourselves.

As a therapist and a gay man, I know that it is utterly life-changing when a man sees the truth about the shame that has driven him and his constant, sometimes frantic efforts to avoid it. This avoidance of shame has shaped our lives, determined our careers, and chosen our lovers. Not until we acknowledge its power over us are we free to choose a different, more fulfilling life. -- From The Velvet Rage

Meet the Author


Alan Downs, PhD, is a clinical psychologist practicing in Beverly Hills, California. The former CEO of Michael’s House Treatment Center, Downs now maintains a thriving private psychotherapy practice and an intensive outpatient addiction program.
 

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