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

4.3 27
by Alan Downs Ph. D.
     
 

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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. Despite the progress made in recent years, many gay men still wonder, “Are we better off?” The byproduct of growing up gay in a straight world continues to be the internalization of shame, rejection, and anger—a toxic

Overview

The most important issue in a gay man’s life is not “coming out,” but coming to terms with the invalidating past. Despite the progress made in recent years, many gay men still wonder, “Are we better off?” The byproduct of growing up gay in a straight world continues to be the internalization of shame, rejection, and anger—a toxic cocktail that can lead to drug abuse, promiscuity, alcoholism, depression, and suicide. 
 
Drawing on contemporary psychological research, the author’s own journey, and the stories of many of his friends and clients, Velvet Rage addresses the myth of gay pride and outlines three stages to emotional well-being for gay men. The revised and expanded edition covers issues related to gay marriage, a broader range of examples that extend beyond middle-class gay men in America, and expansion of the original discussion on living authentically as a gay man.

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
Philadelphia Gay News bestseller, 5/11/12

“A groundbreaking examination of the psychology of homosexuality, why it leads to shame over one’s identity and how to overcome it. This book has remarkable staying power.”

Artvoice, 11/26/15
“The clearest, most succinct delineation of the origins and consequences of internalized homophobia, and how to address them.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611746457
Publisher:
HighBridge Company
Publication date:
06/12/2012
Edition description:
Unabridged; 7 hours
Pages:
435
Sales rank:
802,625
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.60(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, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, California, and the former CEO of Michael’s House, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Palm Springs. The author of eight books, he is a nationally known expert in the field of mental health and addictions and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs including The Oprah Winfrey Show and NPR’s Morning Edition.

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The Velvet Rage 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While elucidating the experiences of invalidation experienced by gay men, Dr. downs also illuminates the toxic landscape of shame of many other wanderers. He explores the emotional dynamic that 'quakes even the most stable part of our soul.' This isn't just a social commentary or self-help book aimed at a minority population. The reader will journey through cultural values about human flaws and perfection to arrive at a place where real authentic human relationship may be found. And this isn't a therapist's case study, viewed from a distance. Dr. Downs writes with compassion and insight about his own life as well as the lives of his friends and patients. Read this book if you have any interest at all in intimacy, relationship or honesty!
kabussey More than 1 year ago
I've undergone many of experiences outlined in this book; many weren't new or foreign to me. What served as several "ah-ha" moments were the explanations Dr. Downs provided for why I have behaved the way that I have and how I've deal with such behavior from other guys. This book made me feel a lot less "broken" and "stuck." I was able to put into perspective my ways of thinking and behaving, no longer carrying around guilt and shame for why I thought and behaved in any particular way. Again, this book should be read by every gay man, provided as a birthday gift, Christmas gift, or just something to read when a friend is having a hard time navigating the very treacherous gay waters.
ExplorerNE More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent for anyone that is LGBT. It offers insight and advice that is compelling and very educational.
1Atomic More than 1 year ago
As a therapist working with individuals who are gay, straight (especially those questioning identity), bisexual, transgender and/or uncertain, I highly recommend this self-help book. Clients, professionals and lay people should enjoy this book. It is highly useful and even enjoyable. It is perhaps the best easy to read and understand resourse to help a friend, family member, co-worker, one's own self, or merely to become a far better individual. This book moved me. I worry about teen suicide amongst all segments of the population; this book is a MUST for any one dealing with a gay or questioning child, teenager or young adult, especially. This great text should help ensure the rights of others through its "knowledge is power" approach - without being political. There are many facets of an often homophobic society that are addressed here. A great read for all. It is suitable for youth above age 15 in my opinion. I have purchased dozens for patients and as gifts. Enlightening!
Aspblom More than 1 year ago
It deals with what people do not want to face, shame; not guilt, but shame.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
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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