What Gay Men Could Learn from the OWN Network
The topic of gay guys being “mean girls” to each other is old news at this point, I know. But the topic of how to holistically put an end to this tragic phenomenon has, in my opinion, remained disappointingly surface-scratching.
And this is where the Almighty Oprah comes in.
Seriously, have y’all seen her weekly empowerment series Super Soul Sunday? If your answer is no, then I urge you to set those DVRs, watch it for a few weeks, go to a gay bar, and then talk to me. Let’s discuss.
I’m starting to think that our biggest problem is a lack of vulnerability. Yes, I’m getting into Dr. Brene Brown territory — he TED Talk star and latest Super Soul Sunday alumnus. One of the tenets of her approach to personal and spiritual fulfillment is the idea that we need to be willing to “dare greatly” — to put ourselves out there for who we are and take risks that will lead us to the things we want most out of life. If we can face the fear of being vulnerable, we can stand in our truth — living for ourselves rather than for others.
This is where it gets sticky for us gay dudes. In many ways, we’re schooled in this stuff early on in life, maturing faster than our straight counterparts — after all, if we’ve chosen to be out, then we’ve already chosen to be vulnerable and live honestly. Our work here is done, right?
Our work is so not done, it’s ridiculous. Still, it seems that many gay men get off of the spiritual growth train immediately after that initial stop of coming out. If I had to put it into words, I’d say that the thought process is something like, “OK, so now that I’m out and subject to the world’s judgment of homosexuality, I’m going to do everything in my power to shield myself from ridicule. I’m going to make sure that I can consider myself more successful, smarter, hotter — superior — to everyone around me so that I never actually have to explore my vulnerability in any real way.”
Mindsets like this are toxic—especially when there are other gay men in the arena. Rather than looking at them as brothers whom we need to encourage and lift up and support, we look at them as competition. Rather than admitting that we want to be loved by other gay men, many of us tell ourselves that we don’t really need them at all. We “just want to have fun.” Can you imagine a Grindr profile that reads, “I want to fall in love?" The honesty in that one line alone would probably crash the entire system.
But we do want to be loved, and that’s like, a human thing. Yeah, admitting it is scary and exposing, but it’s also honest and powerful.
This brings me to another point — watch any given episode of Super Soul Sundayand you’ll likely hear that before you can be vulnerable you have to first come from a place of self-love. Before you can do anything authentically, you have to come from a place of self-love. Self-love is the bedrock of happiness, and I believe it’s the answer to ending the popularity contest that it seems the gay world seems to sometimes turn into. So let’s all look inside and focus on that.
Now, I could be totally wrong about all of this — I haven’t done any research aside from simply having lived as an openly gay man for the past seven years and watched OWN while engorging on cheesecake for the past few months.
But I’d still like to encourage gay men to be vulnerable.
Opening up is scary but necessary, and here — I’ll go first. Writing this piece is me being vulnerable. Also, bonus! I don’t have a six-pack. I don’t have an any-pack. I haven’t achieved even a fraction of what I want to achieve professionally, but I’m patiently working hard at it. For myself. I want to get married and raise children and I want to be deeply and permanently in love. And I’m willing to wait for that to happen.
In the meantime, I’m choosing to love myself. I’m not perfect, but I am perfectly vulnerable — and I believe that’s a huge first step.