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

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

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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. 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.

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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

PhiladelphiaGay 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.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611746457
  • Publisher: HighBridge Company
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged; 7 hours
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 435
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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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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

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Table of Contents

Preface to the 2012 Edition ix

Introduction 1

The Roots of Rage 7

Chapter 1 The Little Boy with the Big Secret 9

Chapter 2 Ugly Truths & High-Fashion Dreams 19

Chapter 3 Out&Raging 31

Stage 1 Overwhelmed by Shame 39

Chapter 4 Drowning 41

Chapter 5 Bewitched, Betrayed 55

Chapter 6 The Real Me: A Crisis of Identity 63

Stage 2 Compensating for Shame 71

Chapter 7 Paying the Piper 73

Chapter 8 Stuck in Shame: The Vicious Cycle 85

Chapter 9 In the Mood for a Man 93

Chapter 10 What's It All About? A Crisis of Meaning 103

Stage 3 Cultivating Authenticity 107

Chapter 11 Mighty Real 109

Chapter 12 Healing Relationship Trauma 121

Chapter 13 The Road to Contentment 155

Chapter 14 Skills for Living an Authentic Life 167

Epilogue: This Peter Pan Grows Up 221

Notes 239

Acknowledgments 241

Index 243

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2007

    impressive

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2005

    Compassion and insight wisdom for us all

    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!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Every gay man should read this book

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2012

    A must read

    This book is excellent for anyone that is LGBT. It offers insight and advice that is compelling and very educational.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    Could Save Lives!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2014

    Read it.

    It deals with what people do not want to face, shame; not guilt, but shame.

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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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  • Posted June 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Finally, I feel that Dr, Down is mostly projecting " So I have written it as a gay man who has experience all of this and more..." So I feel sorry if he is not happy. For the record, I am.

    The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs, PH. D.

    According to Dr. Downs, "the inevitable by product of growing up gay in a straight world continues to be the internalization of shame, a shame gay men strive to obscure with a façade of beauty, creativity, or material success."

    The Velvet Rage outlines three distinct stages to emotional well being for gay men.

    Stage 1. Overwhelmed by shame
    Stage 2. Compensating for shame
    Stage 3. Cultivating authenticity

    According to Dr. Downs, gay men "have more sexual partners in a lifetime than any other grouping of people. And at the same time we also have among the highest rates of depression and suicide, not to mention sexually transmitted diseases. As a group we tend to be more emotionally expressive than other men, and yet our relationships are far shorter on average than those of straight men. We have more expendable income, more expenses houses, and more fashionable cars, clothes, and furniture than just about any other cultural group." The he questions if we are truly happy.

    I disagree.

    On promiscuity and STD's: "The number of sexual partners an individual has varies within a lifetime, and varies widely within a population. In the U.S., a 2007 national survey had the following results: the median number of committed female sexual partners reported by men was seven; the median number of committed male partners reported by women was four. It is possible that men exaggerated their reported number of partners, women reported a number lower than the actual number, and/or a minority of women had a sufficiently larger number than most other women to create a mean significantly higher than the median. Twenty-nine percent of men and nine percent of women reported to have had more than 15 sexual partners in their lifetimes.[2] Studies of the spread of STIs consistently demonstrate that a small percentage of the studied population have more partners than the average man or woman, and a smaller number of people have fewer than the statistical average. An important question in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections is whether or not these groups copulate mostly at random (with sexual partners from throughout a population) or within their social groups (assortative mixing). A 2006 comprehensive global study (analyzing data from 59 countries worldwide) found no firm link between promiscuity and STIs, with poverty and mobility being more important factors.[3] [4] This contradicts other studies.[5] [...]

    On Suicide and mental disorders: Mental disorders are frequently present at the time of suicide with estimates from 87%[13] to 98%.[14] When broken down into type mood disorders are present in 30%, substance abuse in 18%, schizophrenia in 14%, and personality disorders in 13.0% of suicides.[14] About 5% of people with schizophrenia die of suicide.[15] Depression, one of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders[16] is being diagnosed in increasing numbers in various segments of the population worldwide,[18] [19] and is often a precipitating factor in suicide. Depression in the United States alone affects 17.6 million Americans each year or 1 in 6 people. Within the next twenty years depression is expected to become the second leading cause of disability worldwide and the leading cause in high-income nations, including the United States. In approximately 75% of completed suicides the individuals had seen a physician within the prior year before thei

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2006

    The presentation left a lot to be desired.

    This book irritated me. A lot of what he wrote was opinion stated as fact and the 'facts' are only backed up by anecdotal evidence. And since he doesn't provide any solutions for dealing with the shame, how do I know he knows what he's talking about? The author also doesn¿t connect the dots. As it is, I don¿t know if he even knows how his clients progress from one stage to another. And there are other problems with this book. He says the same things over and over again. He brings up that old chestnut about ¿domineering mother, distant father.¿ Some of his word choices are odd. A gay clinician in 2006 describing a male rape as ¿being sodomized¿? Lastly, the examples are all of gay men that are wealthy and/or live extravagant lifestyles. What about the rest of us?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 5, 2011

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    Posted March 23, 2011

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    Posted May 24, 2011

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    Posted September 21, 2013

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    Posted November 25, 2010

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