During one of my many visits to LA, I came across this book on my friend’s side table one morning and started reading the first few pages. Immediately, I was hooked, and as soon as I got home, I had ordered the book and started reading it on the weekends. I am on the last few chapters and have learned a lot about myself and why gay people are the way they are. We unfortunately live in a society that views homosexuality as shameful, and we cope with this shame in a very specific way, the book explains.
From 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.
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“An immensely accessible, readable self-awareness book that…is definitely not for gay men only.” — Southwest Book Views Autumn, 2005
“There are certainly some readers who will find their own lives reflected in [Downs’s patients’] healing.” — Q Syndicate6/20/05
“Will influence the public discourse on gay culture and positively change the lives of gay men who read it.” — Mom Guess What, 11/15/2005
A gay psychologist demonstrates how to heal the trauma of being a gay man in an uncompromisingly straight world
Whether he is flamboyantly fashionable with a body chiseled to perfection or chronically dissatisfied and without lasting relationships, the stereotypical extremes of male gay behavior are fueled by the same dark force: shame. The inevitable byproduct of growing up gay in a straight man’s world, the experience of shame in childhood and adolescence sends a boy the message that he is other and that he is worthless. To avoid feeling shameful later in life-and even after he is no longer explicitly shamed by his sexuality-a gay man will quietly rage against the memory of this message and strive to excel dramatically to prove it wrong. The stereotypical manifestation of this inner battle is a gay man’s success in the arts, fashion and in his body image; as with all the other forms of beauty, creativity and success, he is hiding behind the facades he creates.
Building on the collected psychological research and the author’s own experience of the past twenty years, The Velvet Rage will help gay men profoundly understand their dichotomous extremes. Explaining the psychological underpinnings of the forces at play in their lives, it also offers helpful strategies to stop the insidious cycle of avoidance and rage. Empowering and validating, The Velvet Rage will influence the public discourse on gay culture and positively change the lives of gay men who read it.
From the Inside Flap
“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….”
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 compared to straight relationships, sexually transmitted diseases among us are at epidemic proportions, and depression and suicide occur far more frequently than among straight men.
Even though an entire generation of us has openly and freely come out of the closet, we still find ourselves asking, “Are we really better off?” Through bravely honest individual stories and compassionate analysis, The Velvet Rage explores how our contentment has been destroyed by lingering, deep-rooted shame-a shame that 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 the shame we feel so acutely, masking it behind a facade of beauty, creativity, or material success.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way out of this emotional bind.
Drawing on contemporary psychological research, the author’s own journey to be free of anger and of shame, as well as the stories of many of his friends and clients, Velvet Rage outlines the three distinct stages to emotional well-being for gay men. Offering profoundly helpful strategies to stop the insidious cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behavior, Velvet Rage is an empowering book you’ll wish you read long ago.
It’s not too late to begin healing now.
From the Back Cover
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
About the Author
Alan Downs, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist practicing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His fifteen years of treating clients have already been reflected in numerous books about both leadership and self-help. A personal and professional milestone, The Velvet Rage is his first book about the psychology of gay life.