I totally identify with Will. I’ve had severe addiction issues with porn and sex in the past…I eventually took a hammer to my pc and put it in the skip, the sex addiction ended up with me in hospital. Most people think that having lots of sex is great, makes you a man, is all part of having an adventurous Gay life style etc. I’ve been monogamous now for almost 8 years, for the first time in my life. As for holding hands in public, or kissing your lover goodbye in the street without feeling guarded and afraid….for me this is as important an issue as Marriage. What real ‘Pride’ or equality can there be if I can get married but still be afraid to hold hands with my Husband in public.
the negative messages are so pervasive, we aren’t even aware they are embedded in us.
Spot on, Matthew.
Rehan, you are right. Looking back at my life although I would love a permanent relationship, Yes I have lived with guys, I could not make it last.
I am scared and no longer wish to try again.
abolutly true, I still can´t get rid of that feeling of shame I´m 46. Even I´m not in the closet anymore. I never had a realationship and sex always was something to be kept secret (like Parks or Toilets) quite frankly I quite messed up :-). These days I rather have no sex, than freeze my arse in some park :). Okay by now I can laugh about it. But it used to be quite of a problem to me
Thank you Will and thank you Matthew for bring to the fore the heart of the damage that this ‘inflicted’ shame causes.
It’s a powerful reminder of why we must rid our society, and especially our schools of all forms of homophobia.
My partner and I live on the beach and we walk everyday. We do not hold hands or kiss for safety, not because we are ashamed.
But perhaps you understand that feeling unsafe for just being who you are can lead to feelings akin to shame, however internalised?
I entirely agree with Will’s and Matthew’s points. Shame, and the consequences of it, are something that should not be compounded in any sector of society.
The question is – what can we do about this? How can we both prevent future generations from the burden of gay shame, and can we also help relieve those who grew up with it from living the rest of their lives under its shadow?
The problem is that any attempt to educate our young is attacked as “brainwashing”, “gay agenda”, “political correctness” or some other daft label.
Until we overcome the current right-wing atmosphere of hatred for minorities (gays, immigrants, etc.) we can make little progress.
Equal Marriage will certainly help and will be here relatively soon.
It’s a generational thing, so the passage of time will do the trick; religion, Telegraph readers and the Ann Widdecombe brigade will all just die out.
Good for him. Some rather stupid responses to Todd on the Guardian website suggesting anybody who see substance abuse or alcoholism as a good thing is some sort of crank and other comments from straight people saying they have it just as bad.
Totally agree with what Will said. I’m 54 and have been struggling with this all my life and still do.
Matthew for Stonewall Hero of the Year!
He has used Attitude magazine to empower gay men to see past issues of shame and realise our true potential when we are so often encouraged – not least by each other – to see ourselves as the downtrodden victim.
Gay men can be one anothers’ worst enemies in this respect as the danger is we begin to feed off each others’ shame and negative belief patterns, which is why gay environments can often appear backbiting and hostile.
This is the environment each new generation of gay men enters into and so such behaviour perpetuates.
It would be great if Matthew and others’ brilliant insights could be put into practise via a course gay men could attend that would help dismantle symptoms around shame and target the core underlying issues.
At a time when gay men should be holding their heads high, it’s a tragedy that so many of us still harour issues of shame and guilt about who we are:- a pattern we should be looking to break once and for all.
Last year he organised an excellent half-day seminar/workshop around addiction and addictive tendencies, based around ideas raised in The Velvet Rage, which was very interesting, but I don’t know if it’s been taken any further.
I couldn’t agree more with what Will and Matthew said.
All the points of view here are from Gay men. But as a gay woman it took me a long time to come to terms with who I am and to tell those closest to me. I found myself hiding behind the ‘I’m not bothered about marriage or children’ excuse so no relationship of any kind at one point. I wasn’t obviously interested in men and because of the nature of where I lived I didn’t dare be seen having a relationship with a woman. And I do feel this has had an adverse effect on me.
My partner and I both came out in midlife. We we behave like any normal middle aged couple who love each other would. Pecks on the cheeks when we meet or part, holding hands in public. We aren’t obsessional about it, and don’t make a display of it – but we do it normally. One local mum has written to us to say what a great example we are, and how it has helped her in talking to her son about sexuality.
Visible examples of normal uashamed gay couples will help a great deal. And as for not being able to act normally because of fear of violence – shame on our society! We have had a very small amount of name calling – but apart from that all we get are astonished looks – and sometimes we see men looking at us with a look of longing and almost jealousy…
That’s great Jeremy – out of curiosity, could I ask what is local to you? I mean, do you live in a city, suburb, large town, small town, village? Living in the West End of London it’s not at all uncommon to see men holding hands (and reassuring to note the almost complete absence of reaction to the sight), but I suspect it’s restricted to quite a narrow radius of this city so I’m keen to know the degree to which it’s possible elsewhere.
It really upsets me in this day and age that so many gay men still feel ashamed of who they are, even at the level of giving someone a peck on the cheek in public to say goodbye. I sympathise with them fully, as I can understand that it must be inordinately difficult to express yourself fully if you feel any degree of shame about your sexuality
I do consider myself lucky in that it has never bothered me in the slightest. I’m in my mid-30s, in a 10 year relationship and it doesn’t even cross my mind not to kiss my partner goodbye or not to hold his hand in public – it’s the most natural thing to do in a relatnionship. It must be heart-wrenching for others to feel that they can’t do this for fear of judgement. I came out at 14 to my family and at school, but always felt secure in who I was, or in tackling those who might have an issue with it.
I know this might sound trite, but you only have one stab at life. Be yourself, enjoy life, and let people judge if they must!
Religion has FULLY understood the concept of ‘shame’ for millenia. If you can instil shame into someone by making them feel guilty about what are perfectly normal behaviours, you can control them -body and soul. I think many older gay people are homophobic. They have bought into the ‘shame’ of earlier times and are even against same-sex marriage for this reason. Until organised religion is dead and buried or is prevented from perpetuating hate towards gay people, there will always be some who are ashamed of who they are.