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

by Alan Downs

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3271159,919 (3.66)4
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, and depression and suicide occur more frequently than among straight men. Although an entire generation of gay men has freely come out of the closet, we still find ourselves asking, "Are we really better off?" Through honest individual stories and compassionate analysis, this book explores the lingering, deep-rooted shame which 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 this shame, masking it behind a façade of beauty, creativity, or material success. Therapist Downs outlines three stages to emotional well-being for gay men and offers strategies to stop the insidious cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behavior.--From publisher description.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Absolute required reading (or listening) for every single gay man on this planet. Brings together a lot of the bits and pieces of becoming a self-actualized, authentic gay man in a perfect digestible and enlightening package. ( )
  scout101 | Sep 15, 2020 |
If you have any questions about how growing up gay in a straight world impacts adult behavior, this is a good solid read. Gay men aren't so very different from men generally (except in choice of partners). All men, straight or gay, have to face up issues to do with shame and authenticity but for straight men coming to grips with these issues is usually achieved by the late twenties or early thirties. For gay men overcoming shame is much harder as it is intensified and then reified by their experiences in the world from adolescence on. Gay men will do almost anything to avoid shame. Downs divides the evolution of the gay man into three stages, wild, denial, and falling apart--and rebuilding an authentic self. (The third stage doesn't always happen.) I'm simplifying this but this makes a lot of sense to me. This book would go well with Brene Brown's [Daring Greatly] where she addresses shame the ways shame drives us all. Here, however, Downs makes the case that gay men experience shame squared. **** ( )
1 vote sibylline | Aug 8, 2020 |
While there were of course many generalized assumptions or observances about the gay community, for the most part this I book offered a very interesting and profound theory into the struggles of gay men that I came away from feeling so much more enlightened.
I have never in my life underlined, highlighted or written in the margins more in my life, then when reading this book. There was so much of myself I found in there, and so much for me to really think about and ingest.
I do think this is an important book, and even if you do not identify with everything Downs has to offer, it's still worth the read. I found insight into my friends, my past relationships, and of course myself throughout the entire book.
Insightful and in depth, Downs has really put forth a powerful theory that is worth knowing and discussing. I think every gay man should read this book. ( )
1 vote Kiddboyblue | Dec 23, 2018 |
This book gave me a lot of perspective on friendships I've had, into myself, and offered great suggestions on how to address complications and struggles as they may arrive. Insightful, touching, and sincere. ( )
  LaPhenix | May 3, 2016 |
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. ( )
2 vote jimrgill | Nov 30, 2013 |
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Dedicated to Blake Hunter and Bob Ward | May I grow as young in spirit, as wise in life, and as steadfast in love as you.
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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, and depression and suicide occur more frequently than among straight men. Although an entire generation of gay men has freely come out of the closet, we still find ourselves asking, "Are we really better off?" Through honest individual stories and compassionate analysis, this book explores the lingering, deep-rooted shame which 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 this shame, masking it behind a façade of beauty, creativity, or material success. Therapist Downs outlines three stages to emotional well-being for gay men and offers strategies to stop the insidious cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behavior.--From publisher description.

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