The Hero’s Journey

I’d like to present a guest post by David Gormong.

This is very profound and an excellent allegory.

 

THE HERO’S JOURNEY

The heroes of myth and legend have so much to teach us gay men. We too are called to the hero’s journey.

Consider the story of Hercules, for instance. The ancient Greeks loved the tale of Hercules, or Heracles, as they called him. And well they should have. His is a tale of intrigue, adventure, agony, and triumph. It is a classic example of the monomyth, the hero’s journey, made famous by Joseph Campbell.

The heart of the story, the Twelve Labors, begins with Hercules enjoying life with his wife and children. But all is not well. Hera, the wife of Zeus, is dripping with spite for Hercules because he is the son of her husband and a human woman. She means to do him in, and spares nothing to torment and kill this half-breed. She drives him mad. In his derangement, Hercules murders his children, and in some tellings, his wife. Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

When he regains his wits, he exiles himself to recover his decency. He puts himself at the mercy of the Oracle of Delphi, the great Pythia, priestess of Apollo. Hera whispers in the Pythia’s ear: Send him to King Eurystheus of Mycenea, she says, for whom Hercules must accomplish ten impossible feats. The punishment is particularly humiliating because Mycenea should have been Hercules’ kingdom, had not Hera intervened to install her little bully on the throne.

One by one Hercules accomplishes the ten feats to the fearful astonishment of Eurystheus. The king refuses to count two of them, however. So he requires Hercules to accomplish twelve labors in all. The twelfth mission sends Hercules to Hades to capture the three-headed monster Cerberus. Descending to the realm of the dead, Hercules wrestles the malformed creature with his bare hands, and ultimately prevails. He brings it back to Eurystheus, who tremulously begs him please to take it back. Having accomplished this final feat, Hercules is at long last released from his humiliation, and allowed to return home.

I tell the story here not because I suspect Hercules of being gay. Far from it. He was surely as straight as a loon’s leg. I tell it as a way of understanding my journey as a gay man.

Guilty of filicide, Hercules somehow knows in his gut that redemption lies in exiling himself. Of his own will, he walks outside the walls of his hometown and begins his hero’s journey. As gay men, we are given no such choice. We are cast outside the gates of straight society from our birth, maybe even from our conception. We are transgressive, not because of anything we have done, but for who we are.

Like Hercules, our transgression is the doing of the gods. We have no conscious choice in the matter. We are different from the start, boys who bear the mark of some goddess who has imprinted herself on our psyches. We are feminine of soul, and therein lies our sin against the collective.

We begin our exile not as full-grown men, having once enjoyed the comforts of being at home among kinsmen. No, we come as aliens into a straight world. As children, not yet skilled with sword or club, we begin our exile. We become keenly aware of it just as we are feeling the adolescent compulsion to fit in. It’s a lot for a boy to bear.

Having not yet consented to a sexual act, we are nonetheless guilty of what Michel Foucault called “the arrogance of sex,” what Jamake Highwater so poignantly described in The Mythology of Transgression. We have transgressed — etymologically, gone across — across the threshold of straight society, out into the wilderness where bane and beast await.

How we long to be taken back inside the gates. Oh how I longed. This longing held me fast till I was forty-nine. Seven times seven years. There must be some mythical meaning to that number. I twisted myself into a straightjacket of heterosexual marriage. I became a pastor in a conservative denomination, of all things. I refused to read pro-gay theology, fearing it might actually be convincing. I could pass as straight. More’s the pity.

“Often in actual life,” writes Joseph Campbell, “and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered.” The result is that one’s life becomes “a wasteland of dry bones… life feels meaningless” (The Hero with a Thousand Faces). I know that feeling. As I passed beyond middle age, I was slowly dying. My life was rotting from the inside out.

I resisted the call for all the right reasons. I loved my wife. I loved my family. I loved my church. I loved my God. But I did not love myself. I was living someone else’s life. I was scared. I was like Frodo Baggins, another classic hero, who did not wish to bear the ring. His aversion was well-meaning. He did not want to succumb to its power, to become possessed by it like his Uncle Bilbo. No matter. All of Middle Earth would have fallen into shadow had he not borne it into the fire of Mount Doom. We refuse the call not to our own peril alone, but also to that of our friends and family. They need the balance of masculine and feminine that we carry within us.

Blessedly, the gods will not relent. In another Greek myth, Apollo pursues the fleeing Daphne, “I who pursue you am no enemy,” he cries after her. “You know not whom you flee.” When we gay men hide from our calling, we are not fleeing an enemy. We are refusing the gift of our own lives. We are refusing the very gift we have to give the world. We can offer no other service than the giving of our selves.

A long-delayed coming out is not the only way we refuse the hero’s journey. The push for gay rights is about many things. It is about justice. It is about owning our identity. It is about affirming our humanity. As brightly as those ideals shine, they also cast a shadow. The gay rights movement is also, dare we admit it, about denying our difference. “One love,” we sing. “Same same,” we say. It is only half the truth. And the fundamentalists of all faiths are only too ready to remind us of the other half.

Jungian psychologist Mitch Walker has long warned that gay rights cannot be our ultimate aim. Sometimes he has sounded shrill. In 1976 he wrote, “The Homophile Movement for Equality is a dead thing: dead to the vision, anti-magickal [sic], counter-revolutionary. Its spokespeople and theorists shun the roots (the radical, [which is the] source of nurturance and understanding) in favor of surface values: the social norm, success, integration, acceptance, assimilation. Its shallow reality suffocates the vision in us, co-opting gay people and vitiating the creativity and potential of the Gay Movement” (Visionary Love). Was that too strong? Of course. But he had a point.

Today he writes more temperately. “Reconciling to one’s same-sex-loving orientation and forging a ‘healthy gay identity’ which is socially successful,” he writes, is not enough. Yes, they are “absolutely pivotal steps in appropriate self-empowerment.” But they do not heal all the damage of “growing up alone in a hateful, alien world.” Nor do they heal the constant abrasion of having to prove our worth to “a social universe which is still vastly inhumanely biased against” our homosexuality (Gay Liberation at a Psychological Crossroads). We gays can get caught up in pursuit of money, fame, and power just to prove that we matter. But the real value we bring to society is not that. It is something far richer and deeper.

In other words, guys, we’ve got work to do. Psychological work. Spiritual work. We have labors we are called to complete. We must go down deep into the psyche. We have to get in there with our bare hands and our bare hearts and our bare guts. We need to wrestle malformed monsters, the monsters of our personal histories, the monsters of our social collective. We must wrestle till we can rescue all the parts of ourselves that we and our society have consigned to Hades.

Being exiled is not our choice. Taking the hero’s journey is.

“Nice” Christians

It’s always bugged me. Even when I was a pentecostal bible basher.

“Nice” Christians. 

You know the type…
Always smiling, always have an encouraging “word” for you, and ignoring everything “bad” in the world and only trying to think “good” thoughts.
Plastic, is one word that comes to mind, or shallow. They are out there in their millions.

Most live happy lives and I guess that’s OK. But it’s not OK when you interact with them on anything other than how lovely the pastors wife looks, or discussing how your latest sponsor child in Africa is going.

I had a run-in online with an old acquaintance from my pente church in the 80s. She was commenting on the upcoming vote in Australia on gay marriage and was posting articles as to why we should vote no. I was quick to jump on them and point out the many flaws in the facts and research they stated. They were highly inaccurate and offensive for those who actually know what they are talking about.

The comments were all “oh, dear, how terrible, yes we must vote no!”. But I had the guts to point out the flaws. It didn’t go down well. But here’s the rub. You see, she’s a “nice” christian, so wouldn’t dream of confronting me with her real feelings, so proceeded with patronising comments that had that “I’m being firm but loving” attitude, and it was wrong of me to confront her and make assumptions about her views etc, and then finished off with “God bless”, and the unfriended me.

I’m inclined to think these types are far worse than the Westbro psychopaths. At least with Westbro you know exactly where you stand – there’s no fake mask, no pretence, what you see is what you get. (Yes, I’m generalising)

But the “nice” ones are insidious. They hide in their little isolated worlds and even when they “go out into the world”, it’s to do good deeds and help those poor 3rd world people and the “underpriveliged” (a very apt word). Of course, they may bring practical help but it’s always with an agenda of getting them saved and making them into “nice” acceptable western Christians, just like them.

In daily life, they avoid conflict, and if it arises, they default to bible verses, spoken in love of course. If that doesn’t work they may gently rebuke you with a smile and claim they still love you, but not your actions. They think that being “nice” is all they have to do to be “Christlike”.

The truth is, they are just like the Pharisees. Pretending they are wise and caring. Pretending they know best and we should just all be nice like them and get along. We must follow their doctrines and only allow questions that are within the constraints of their bible study guidelines. They are gutless, controlling, patronising, arrogant and everything Jesus stood against.

If you try to interact with these folks, you’ll come away feeling like you are the one with the problem. They may trigger all your issues of religious abuse, and then quietly, and oh so politely, point out that you are the one who has reacted badly. They may suggest a good Christian counsellor, or if you really get up their noses, they may snub you and remove you from their circle of niceness.

These are the ones I really struggle with, and I now realise it’s ok to call them out on it. It’s ok to challenge them. We don’t have to be “nice”. We have to be loving and compassionate but also real, honest, exposing bigotry and injustice – just like Jesus did!

#WSPD – LGBT suicide

In my last blog I talked briefly about suicide.

Here’s an excellent follow up from Anthony Venn-Brown.

I can’t begin to stress how serious this problem is! It’s why I’m here. I fought with suicide ideation constantly my entire life for these exact reasons. I survived. I lost my faith as a result, but I have no regrets about that. For me, I realised that my entire Christian belief system was unnecessary to be a healthy, happy functioning human being who could bring unconditional love to myself and the rest of the world.

Many do find a way to reconcile their faith with their sexuality and gender identity, and Anthony is one who has done this with integrity. Check out his site ABBI.

Read his post here.

Suicide

Over the last few years, as I’ve developed the Silent Gays project, I’ve observed something very disturbing.

People put forward many ideas about why young guys, in particular, commit suicide. This article is powerful and points to one of the major issues concerning young guys inability to talk about themselves and share what’s going on inside.

But there is one problem that is never addressed – how many of these young men were LGBT?

We know for a fact that LGBT teens have the highest demographic for suicide, but this information never makes it to the mainstream awareness surrounding the issue! The question is very rarely asked “were they struggling with sexuality or gender issues?”.

Despite the legal acceptance of LGBT people, and efforts to break the stereotypes, young male culture is still cruel and belittling to anyone outside the typical image of the “tough guy”. As a result, so many guys become very good at successfully hiding their sexuality, and live in constant fear that they could be “outed”. The tragic thing is that when it finally becomes to much, and they take their lives, no one has any idea why. There were no signs of anything wrong – something you hear far too often. As I talk to more and more people, I have found so many who have experienced this and fortunately made it through to tell the story.

We must include this aspect in all our efforts to work through the suicide problem. Suicide prevention programs must directly address this, otherwise we are going to let thousands of young guys tragically end it all for reasons we don’t apparently understand. I now firmly believe it’s a far bigger aspect than we would care to admit, and this is reflected in the lack of material around this in mainstream suicide programs.

We’ve come a long way with addressing the suicide problem, but we have a heck of a long way to go. I’m going to be focussing more on this in the Silent Gays resources, but it’s up to all of us to bring any change.

Please, help raise awareness however you can.

For help – 
New Zealand: www.outline.org.nz
USA: www.glbthotline.org
England: www.switchboard.lgbt
Australia: www.au.reachout.com
There are many other services available world wide specialising in helping young LGBT people. Just ask Google.

Love yourself!

A wonderful friend (Ru Gof) posted this pic today, which reminded me that this is the greatest and most powerful truth we can embrace.

We may THINK we feel love for others – we may become overwhelmed by emotion for others and feel a huge heart response to them.

We may genuinely put others first and try to meet their needs. We might do everything that looks like love – but it isn’t. It’s a subconscious construct that we adopt to hide our own lack of self love. Its a deflection from the need to look at our own self loathing and fear. Our lack of self love/worth colours every single thought, emotion and action.

Self love is THE only way to truly love others, no matter how you justify it, no matter what your emotions might say, or how loving your actions look. It’s not real.

Love yourself first. Only then will the love your experience and express for others be pure and untainted by our own needs.

This is a hard reality – very hard!! Because there are so many beautiful people who do incredibly loving selfless actions, based on their emotional perceptions and responses. They are genuine and do amazing things for so many, and they can be incredibly empathetic and compassionate as well!

But it’s not real love!

This can be horrific for those fragile ones amongst us to recognise, mostly because it means they have to confront their inner demon of self hatred, which often masks itself as “sacrificial” love, and “empathy”. It can be a large can of worms, especially for abuse victims – which includes religious abuse (and even just devotion to standard christian doctrines!), as well as physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Self love is the key to freedom, no matter what any religion or philosophy tells you. It’s not pride or arrogance. It’s not narcissism. It’s a true evaluation of the uniquely beautiful and perfect you.

Be brave – live loved!!

My Legacy

Many people think that I’m “out and proud”, and that my days of living in hidden trauma, depression and self loathing are long gone.

I guess I do give that impression because I’m a passionate advocate for helping people untangle the mess of religion that causes untold damage to millions (and not just LGBT people). I speak about how amazing life is now that I’m free from the bondage and abuse from that belief system.
But there’s a legacy (a very large legacy) that I live with – that most who have been through this sort of stuff live with.
Let me explain…
On one level I’ve never felt more at peace to be free from religion and dogma. I understand love in ways I never thought possible. Life is infinitely better!
But I lived a nightmare for most of my 60 years. I lived a life of shame and guilt – of being a failure, a “freak”, faulty, rejected and deeply tormented for being something I couldn’t change, which culminated in a meltdown after my wife died.
It’s been a slow journey out of that mess, and the legacy of that life is deep and lingering. I’m on antidepressants and still have bouts of depression and anxiety. I have ADD that became far worse after the meltdown. I can’t absorb complex technical information any more (I used to be a technical writer and Instructional Designer). My brain runs full tilt all the time, dancing from one thing to another without a word of warning. I get confused easily. I’m impulsive. I lose track of what I’m doing. It’s not just old age, lol, although I’m sure that doesn’t help!
I struggle every day. It took me 2 years to write It’s Life Jim… not only because of the time it took to untangle so much of the mess, but also because my mind doesn’t operate in linear coherent ways any more (not that it was ever that good at it anyway). Some days I get up with the best of intentions and clarity only to find it turns to vapour the moment I start to be “productive”. I practice mindfulness and go for long walks. I take time as best I can, to slow down. I like my wine and beer, and the odd bit of wacky weed to help slow down the endless barrage of chatter in my head.
I struggle with how most of my life was a complete waste, never finding peace or integrity, self worth and living a complete lie, damaging those closest to me, as well as myself. Sure, there’s all the platitudes about my life’s journey and nothing is a waste etc… I get that, really I do. But that doesn’t help the deep scars left by the endless years of crap.
Daily, “normal” life is not something I do well. I’m one of the walking wounded, with a pronounced limp that I’m slowly realising may never go away. And yet, the paradox is I’m happier than I’ve ever been. A deep happiness and peace – so much better than my previous life.
One thing I can give, without hesitation, is my integrity and honesty about who I am, what I’ve done and where I’m at. I can only “share my journey” (cliche alert) with as much honesty as I’m capable of mustering, because that is the only thing any of us can do in the end. Sure I “preach” about the things that have set me free, and I’m passionate about everyone growing into real life and love without fear or dogma. But I’m just me, still discovering my own biases, how my paradigm works, how I affect others, how much I really live what I preach.
My favourite tag line is “Live loved”. I’m still learning how powerful and profound those simple words are. Some days are better than others, but it’s always a step forward.
The legacy of christianity, for me, is deep. I’ve seen the utter failing of it’s core doctrines. I’m not as bitter as I used to be, and have always recognised that many beautiful, loving people have found a belief system that works for them. They are the ones who have shaped their beliefs around their own inherent beauty, rather than the reality of the belief system itself, but that’s a whole other story, lol.
So I guess I’m saying that if I (or anyone) give the impression that I’m suddenly free and perfect after a lifetime of abuse, then sorry, it doesn’t work like that.
Now, where’s that beer?…

New levels of support!

We are pleased to announce the addition of a new support group to Silent Gays.

We now have two Facebook “secret” groups –
SG1 and SG2 to cover the level of support you may need.

SG1 (our original support group) is a group for people to share their hearts and stories, to rant and rave and find people who can relate to their experiences with religion and being LGBT. It’s very safe, supportive and non-judgemental. It’s also relaxed, fun and a great mix of all kinds of belief systems. Unconditional love is the foundation.

SG2 is for those who are really struggling, especially if their mental health has been compromised in any way. It’s moderated by counsellors (who care enough to help people voluntarily) who can provide gentle, loving support and advice, as well as referrals to the right kind of help. It’s a community of people who don’t feel safe anywhere else. And yes, unconditional love is the bottom line.

We are really excited about this, and welcome folks from anywhere in the world.

You can join SG1 by sending us your email address and we’ll send you the link.

To join SG2, send us a message with your email address for the link and a very brief statement of what’s going on for you.

Confidentiality is our number one priority, nothing will EVER be shared beyond the groups!

Feel free to contact us for more details.

 

 

The Psychological Legacy

If you’ve read my book “It’s Life Jim…” you’ll be familiar with how my mental state was affected by my life of battling sexuality with religion and the constant fight with depression and suicide ideation.

When my wife died it all came to a head and I had a “meltdown” or whatever you want to call it. The symptoms were a relentless combination of heavy depression (like walking around covered in a wet dark blanket, unable to think beyond the pain and confusion that keeps pounding your head), Intense anxiety attacks (that created a physical gnawing in the gut, confusion, a strange disassociation from my environment and a feeling that I was about to burst into tears), and an escalation of ADHD symptoms (lack of focus, restlessness, confusion, thought’s racing etc).  The suicide ideation thankfully went!

This lead to counselling and medication and living on the benefit. There was no way I could hold down a job!

Nearly six years later I’m doing pretty good, but there’s the legacy that I just have to live with despite my best efforts. All of these symptoms are still around. Yes, I get days where the depression hits (although nothing like it was) and I still get anxiety attacks, and the ADHD symptoms are the bane of my life.

I’ve learnt the triggers (mostly) and how to handle it all. I can sense better when I might take a nosedive, and I know how to “roll” with it and not be fearful.

But it’s still there. This is the legacy of a life ruled by religious control, cognitive dissonance, self loathing and emotional abuse. Will it ever go away? I’d like to think so, but I’m not holding my breath.

It’s like this for countless others. We are presumed to be over it and “all better now”. Sure, we’ve moved on and even enjoy life in ways we never dreamed of. My life is fantastic and fulfilling. But the legacy quietly lives on, reminding us daily.

Be gentle with yourself.

Learn your weaknesses and accept them.

Roll with them, don’t fight them.

Find the best way through it – socialise or retreat – talk to people or hide in your cave… there’s no right or wrong, just whatever enables you to move through it safely.

Get help if needed, any time, don’t be a martyr.

Life is good, no matter what the past has done to us. Life is rich and full of wonder and love.

Live it!!

It’s Life Jim… – New Edition

It’s finally here! 

This new edition has a couple of extra chapters and various tweaks. I have felt for some time that I needed to “finish the story”. Although the 1st Edition covered all the basics, there were a couple of things that I was never brave enough to include.
Grab a copy and write a review – please, reviews are the lifeblood of a book!

It’s Life Jim…
NEW EDITION!

Available now from Amazon