We can hope for change, we can hope for things to get better, we can hope for LGBTQ equality, but hope internalized is nothing but a silent wish kept in the closet.

To be a change-maker – to be the change you want to see in the world – you need the help of others and more importantly, you need to express that hope with action.

You Must Give Voice to Your Hope.

And you need to speak up. You need to share your hopes for improving the world. You need to communicate those hopes with empathy in a conversation with others. You may also need to stand up and physically demonstrate your presence – your existence – for others to feel your hope.

Hope in the Mind is Nothing But Folly.

Hope expressed with action is the most ethical approach to having an evolutionary impact and making the world a better place. Hope when shared connects us with humanity. This is why a larger conversation about how to bring our hopes to life is so important.

How to Use Your Difference to Make a Difference.

If you who want to engage in the conversation about what I’m presenting on the podcast, to think more critically, to take action and be a change-maker, I’ve come up with a solution. I’ve chosen to partner with Patreon so that I can offer a variety of membership options for us to work together in conversation on an ongoing basis.

Get details about the Living OUT Membership benefits.

Header image: Darren Tunnicliff

What’s right with gay men.

Recently, YouTube superstar, Davey Wavey released the video, “Are Gay Men REALLY Different?”, which he made for Gay Men of Wisdom.

I’ve referenced this program/organization and the book, “Gay Men And The New Way Forward by Raymond Rigoglioso in many episodes of the Living OUT Podcast. The 5-month program and book have had a profound impact on my life as a gay man.

Watch the video:

Months in the making, this video interviews men involved with Gay Men of Wisdom about their differences and how being gay is a gift.

Davey’s video provides Gay Men of Wisdom with one of its best opportunities for widespread visibility to date. It will help spread this positive message about gay men and their unique gifts and insights far and wide. The video is an important reminder about what’s right with gay men.

“Imagine a world that recognizes and celebrates its gay men for who they are from an early age. Please help create that world.”

– Raymond Rigoglioso

Want to Learn More?

Living OUT Podcast episodes and articles about the gay male gifts, as taught by Rigoglioso:

Image: Raymond Rigoglioso, Founder of Gay Men of Wisdom

As a gay man, what does it mean to live OUT the best of who you are?

For me, it’s about recognizing if I’ve left any best parts of me in the closet, and which of those skills, desires, or talents I want to bring OUT to experience and enjoy.

When I was a teenager growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I fell in love with figure skating, gymnastics, and contemporary dance. I never got to practice any of those athletic activities, but I watched – in silence and in secret.

My memories are in black-and-white, simply because we had a black-and-white television when I was a teenager at home. All joking aside, I made sure that I didn’t seem too interested if I was watching something like the Olympics with my parents. I didn’t want to give away the attraction I had for the beautiful bodies of the men figure skating, dancing, or performing gymnastics on the rings and the bars.

I never felt the freedom to express my desire to my family or my friends. At my high school, all those athletic pursuits were considered gay and anyone who expressed interest was immediately called a faggot. I longed to try out for a dance or gymnastics program, to at least discover what it would be like to express myself through that form of movement.

Queer Leadership / Mentorship

What would it have been like at 16 to have had a queer mentor, someone who would’ve seen the struggles I was facing as a closeted adolescent? It wasn’t until my very early 30s when I decided to study personal training that I realized I had rediscovered one of the best parts of myself that I had forgotten about in my closet.

One evening at the end of a yoga class the instructor said to me, “you are so flexible. Were you a gymnast when you were younger?” It was a bittersweet question because it hurt a little but made me smile at the same time. I had unconsciously prided myself on taking care of how well my body moved and I was trying to find part of myself that I had otherwise locked away.

A story like this doesn’t have to be true for every gay man, but I know for many of us, especially those closer to my age at 53, we grew up at a time when we didn’t have resources like the Internet to find others like us. If we felt threatened and unsafe we kept our identity as closely guarded as possible.

As we grow up we may have faced our demons, talked things through, went to therapy, or used personal development to better understand ourselves. But it’s amazing how great we can feel, how successful we can become, yet still feel empty. We can still wonder, is that all there is?

If you’ve ever had a feeling like that, think about my story, and ask yourself,

“Have I left the best parts of who I am in the closet? What I am not living OUT?”

This is a starting point of my Living OUT Leadership “Incubator”. LOL (for short) is a space for gay men to work together, understand their uniqueness and difference as gifts of leadership, to dig deep and find out if they’ve left the best parts of themselves in the closet, and to bring OUT those gifts to make the world a better place.

As gay men, we have unique and vital insights to teach others.

We have a different insight than straight people. Hence the word queer, meaning different or odd (as in not the status quo). If you grew up in the closet, you will have had more than one coming out experience. You came out to different people at different times. As you discovered more about yourself, you may have let out more of who you are. You may act one way around people and another way around others.

Because you can’t simply point to someone and label them as gay (since there is no visible identifier) we learn to wear a mask. That mask is a social contract to keep us quiet to fit into the norm. But that’s not good enough. That’s not acceptable. And that might be one of the reasons why you’re wondering, is that all there is. To be who you are you need to disrupt the norm!

An Invitation to Make a Difference

If you’d like to explore how to use your difference to make a difference, head over to my coaching page and complete the questionnaire to book a discovery session.

Header image: torbakhopper

Last week I was invited to speak with the students of my colleague, Jeffry Iovannone, in his class, Foundations of Social Justice, about the issues of sexism, masculinity, and the negative, angry responses to Gillette’s recent ad campaign, “The Best Men Can Be”.

The class was asked to review my episode, Authentic Masculinity Is The Best A Man Can Get – LOP052, in which I deconstruct not only the ad but the problematic responses from people like Piers Morgan and James Woods.

We were discussing ways to get to the root of the problem, i.e. where does misguided masculinity, toxic masculinity, and similar forms of hatred come from. I suggested that we need to recognize at the basest of levels, ignorance is the core problem.

Ignorance is not bliss – it’s a human rights issue.

Ignorance in this sense is based on a lack of relevant education, or a life lived under the dogma of an ideology – a religion or a social/political structure where the messages taught about humanity are hegemonic and patriarchal; the only message taught is a reinforced binary – a biblical status quo.

The Dalai Lama speaks to the ideas I shared with the students of Jeff’s class – that we need to bring people out of ignorance to help them cross the bridge towards us:

“The ultimate source of a happy life is warmheartedness. Even animals display some sense of compassion. When it comes to human beings, compassion can be combined with intelligence. Through the application of reason, compassion can be extended to all 7 billion human beings. Destructive emotions are related to ignorance, while compassion is helpful and related to intelligence. Consequently, it can be taught and learned.”

Dalai Lama

We need to teach and learn emotional intelligence.

There is something else we need to do in the face of pushback, anger, and rage in the extreme as a response to societal change and challenging social norms:

Those of us with higher “emotional intelligence” (and that does not mean “better than”) need to demonstrate vulnerability and have the courage to face this backlash head-on with kindness.

I spoke about this in the episode, Why We Need to Engage Critics and Defuse Outrage – LOP051. We need to help those who do not understand, those who are “ignorant”, take the first step across the bridge of understanding. If we take that step for them, they will most likely take a step back, or push back against us.

This is the work I am doing, something I’m teaching myself and practicing. It’s something I realize I need to teach others, more broadly and more quickly because this is the change I want to see in the world.

In the episode, What Are the Qualities of Gay Leadership? LOP065, I shared my thoughts about evolutionary leadership for gay men, and what I termed,

The essentials of leadership are demonstrated in the following ways:

  1. Don’t lead others directly. Lead by example. In other words, lead yourself with the utmost integrity, authenticity, and transparency, as if everyone is watching – even when no one is.
  2. Give people a philosophy. Give people better ways to think and ways to think more critically. Help people think in a way for the betterment of all humanity; to create a transformational, evolutionary change that impacts the world.

Not leading others directly allows them to see you for your authentic leadership and to follow by example. It’s gentle and allow others to come towards what you stand for.

Giving people a philosophy – a framework to think for themselves, untethered from the status quo – is how we lead people out of ignorance. The person pushing back wants to live, wants their rights and freedoms too. To help them understand that you have the right to the same rights, and why that’s so vital to humanity, will be a necessary transformation that will impact others who orbit within their circle of influence.

The Living OUT Survey

Your opinion matters! Would you take 5-10 minutes now to complete the survey below to help me choose what to create next, and how to improve the podcast? Your help is much appreciated!

Header image: djpoblete09

Last week I was listening to Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast, Getting Curious (whom many of you might know from the Netflix show, Queer Eye). The episode, What is Toxic Stress & Why is She So Bad?, featured Dr. Caroline Leaf who’s a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology and a BSc in Logopedics and Audiology, specializing in metacognitive and cognitive neuropsychology.

Where Does Toxic Stress Come From?

Leaf describes how negative thinking – especially the same negative thought repeated over time – creates toxic stress. For example, if you always criticize and judge your body every time you see it in the mirror, that negative thought creates “bad wiring” in your brain that affects the health of your body.

What about the Toxic Stress of Homophobia?

As an example, last year I began to feel physically tired and almost ill whenever I received a homophobic or hateful comment on my Medium publication, Th-Ink Queerly. The anger began to negatively affect my health and my relationship. In my emotionally frustrated state, my creativity was completely blocked, which is the essence of my livelihood. I knew I had to change because the situation itself wasn’t going to change.

The Importance of Being the Witness.

How to observe your behaviour by “standing back” and learning how to change what you’re feeling. Things that help with this process include regular meditation, becoming aware of your triggers, and practicing noticing. You can take this to another level by asking for help in the form of an “awareness buddy” or working with a coach.

How can we think in ways that make for a physiologically healthy brain?

You Think, You Feel, You Choose.

You can’t suppress an emotion like grief or anger. It doesn’t go away. Instead, you need to acknowledge and express the emotion to deal with it over time. Yet you can re-wire your brain, even if you’ve been stuck in a pattern of negative thinking for a long time. Your brain and your thoughts are not who you are, and just like a habit, it takes time and consistency of practice to create new and healthier ways of thinking.

Leaf’s 5-Step Process to “Switch on your Brain”

  1. Awareness
  2. Deep analytical thinking.
  3. Write it down
  4. Edit
  5. Action

References

Take part in my Facebook Group, Living OUT Leadership for Gay Men.

Header image: oatsy40

You need to keep trying, no matter what.

”How long should you try? Until.”

Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn never fails to say so much with so few words. What will it take for you to achieve your goals, be it your health, your business, or personal goals?

But what if your goals involve LGBTQ equality, human rights, and absolute freedom from oppression and bigotry of any kind?

It takes willpower, clarity of vision, determination, steadfastness, the ability to pick yourself right back up and continue when you “fall back”, and finally, faith.

Yes, faith, but I am not talking about religion or faith in a higher power.

Instead I’m talking about faith as an unwavering belief that you will succeed, even if the goal seems inconceivable. The kind of faith that supports you when you don’t know how to take the next step - you just do it anyway.

Faith is blindness, through which you can see.

How do you quantify faith? You can’t. There is no measure for faith - you have it or you don’t. But it’s the quality of your faith that matters. You feed your faith with frequency and quality of practice, i.e. how often you take one more step on the path towards your goal. Your faith is your own, and no one can challenge it except you.

I know this might be too metaphorical for some. So be it. When you are ready, you are ready. And when you are ready, you will make it happen.

How often do you heard self-defeating statements from people around you like,

  • “I can’t do it alone.”
  • “I don’t know what to do to make a difference.”
  • “That would be too hard to organize.”
  • “Someone else will do it. “
  • “I don’t have enough time to get involved.”

Every single one of those statements is a horrible excuse.

When we make statements like the above we defeat ourselves - we defeat who we can become, who we are meant to be. We allow those, against whom we are fighting, to win. Heteronormative patriarchy is like a fortified wall surrounding a city. All we have at our disposal to bring down the wall are our words, our actions, our visibility, and our bare hands.

The quality of your faith will determine how often you make excuses versus how often you take action to improve yourself and the world.

Evolution versus Revolution

Revolution is about change and is very different from evolution. Just as change and personal growth are two very different things. You can change any part of your life, but change alone might not lead to improvement. Personal growth is about the evolution of the self.

When we seek to change the world for the better, a revolution will fall short of what we want and need. A revolution is seeking to create change, but to what end? By replacing one leader or one government with another? By enacting or striking down a law that translates into better lives for LGBTQ peoples?

If all we do is change something, someone else can come along and change it back, or make it worse. The United States witnessed eight years of improvement under the Obama Administration that bettered the lives, rights, and equality for LGBTQ people.

One simple change in government and much of what was changed for the better is being taken away by Donald Trump and the GOP.

Evolution is about change for the better.

You become something much more than you were before. It’s not about changing clothes, jobs, or your home. This is about evolutionary transformation. The seed becomes a flower. The child becomes an adult. The caterpillar becomes the butterfly. These are visible, evolutionary changes we can observe over time and the type of change that does not go backwards.

Time is what it will take for people to evolve.

This is why we need faith to keep up our energy. We need to support one another so we can work together to make the kind of evolutionary change needed in this world where difference isn’t perceived as a threat, where financial greed doesn’t corrupt basic human decency and respect for human lives, and where religious ideologies no longer exist to reinforce exclusion, bigotry, oppression, murder, heteronormativity, and fanaticism.

Have faith and get passionate about your rights and freedoms.

Make a plan to take action. If you don’t know what to do, ask for help. I don’t have all the answers, but that’s why I publish my magazine, Th-Ink Queerly to provide a space for LGBTQ+ people to share their passion for improving humanity and eliminating prejudice.

What I do on the Living OUT Podcast is to empathetically provoke critical thinking about what we perceive as “normal” to help create evolutionary change in the world. Finally, I provide a space for gay men in my Living OUT Leadership Facebook group to learn how to lead from their uniqueness as powerful, out gay men.

Evolution is a seed waiting to be planted. You must have faith that the seed will take root, but you also need to water and feed it.

Cover image: Ted Eytan

Are you a “Yes-person”, someone who says yes to everything, because you think if you don’t, people might not like or respect you?

If you’re a gay man, did you start saying YES to everyone as a way to deflect attention from who you are? As a way to stay hidden in the closet?

Perhaps Saying YES Became a (bad) Habit.

You said yes more and more, keeping friends and family happy, to such an extent that they didn’t need to know anything “vital” about you. Everyone knew you as the person they could rely on. This made you feel worthy and accepted, but not for who you really were, authentically, as an out, gay man. Instead, you were accepted as the “great guy” who “takes care of everything”. In short, you became accepted for your actions, not for who you are.

Saying YES is a Great Way to Allow Opportunity.

But how do you say YES to opportunities that serve you best, at this moment, now? Can you say YES to rest and taking care of you first, before saying YES to something when you’re tired?

Can you say YES to a request, when in fact you’re actually saying NO? In other words, play a trick in your mind. Allow yourself to say YES to saying NO.

Say YES to What Serves You First.

Say YES to get your own needs met first. Say YES to what you love about yourself that makes you feel that you are enough. Find ways to say YES to yourself first, when others are used to you saying YES to what they want.

When you say YES to yourself first, you establish boundaries that serve and protect your needs and identity.

Links


Say YES to Living OUT

As gay men we are unique. Come explore how to use your leadership gifts as an out gay man for the benefit of humanity in my private Facebook Group, Living OUT Leadership for Gay Men.

Header image by Julian Lozano.

“…from the standpoint of the ego, the universe is seen as the “other.” The ego concludes that this “other” is against it and, therefore, that I must struggle to survive.”

The Tao of Abundance, Laurence G. Boldt

Are You Struggling in Any Part of Your Life?

Is your love life, career, or your life purpose a problem or are you at ease with who you are, and making the best of your life? Many clients come to me as a coach wanting to work on a creative endeavour. More often than not, there’s something much deeper and more profound to the reason they’ve chosen to work with me. It almost always has something to do with the ego.

It’s not that a client has ever come to me and said, “Hey Darren, you know I’m really challenged by my ego. It just keeps getting in the way and keeping me from getting what I want.” That would be an interesting conversation!

“I exist as I am. That is enough.”

Walt Whitman

The Ego is a Delicate Construct.

Ego is “I” or “me”. We first learn about the ego as babies when we are taught to recognize our name; to recognize “who we are” at the level of owning or identifying with our name. Our naming is when we first learn about ownership and possessions. How else do we come to understand that we are a “Darren” or a “Kathy”? We learn to own our name in contrast to, or in defence of everything “other”, everything that is outside of us and not who we are.

Another way of say that is,

I identify as me, and what is not me is you, or something else – an other that I do not identify with or as.

Defence of the ego forces us to seek some construct to which we belong that demonstrates “otherness” as all that out there, against which we must defend ourselves. We seek to belong to a group of people, a family, a religion, a political movement, or an ideology that strengthens our ego identity and the need to “possess” that belief or self-perception.

What is the Opposite of the Ego?

Listen to today’s episode and find out how we can accept the ego for what it is without having to defend it at the expense of creating an “other”.

“Ego is no longer ego when you know there is ego.”

Eckhart Tolle
Links Mentioned and More Thought Leadership

Header Image: ”Ease” by Delete*

When Your Heroes Start Dying.

Baby, life’s what you make it
Can’t escape it
Baby, yesterday’s favorite
Don’t you hate it
Baby life’s what you make it
Don’t back date it
Baby, don’t try to shade it
Beauty is naked
Baby, life’s what you make it
Celebrate it
Anticipate it
Yesterday’s faded
Nothing can change it
Life’s what you make it

Life’s What You Make It – Talk Talk

Last week I read that Mark Hollis, the lead singer from the 1980’s band Talk Talk, had passed away at the age of 64.

Mark Hollis: reluctant pop star who redefined rock

There are so many bands from the 1980s that make me feel an immense nostalgia for my youth. I came out in 1984 after my last year of high school. For many of us, the defining music of our lives is what we listened to during our adolescence – potentially our most formative period of growth.

In the last few years too many of my musical heroes from the 80s, like David Bowie, George Michael, Pete Shelley, Whitney Houston, Prince, Lou Reed, and Mark Hollis of Talk Talk have passed away. Most of them are older than I am now, but usually not much more than about 10 years.

The music of the 80s helped define my identity.

When the news informs me that one of my “heroes” has passed, it reminds me of what I have or have not accomplished. It makes me feel somewhat antsy, aware of my mortality and where I am in this present moment. I will often listen to their music for hours, some songs on repeat.

I loved Talk Talk. So many of their songs take me back in time with the wisdom of their lyrics. “Life’s what you make it, don’t backdate” is so apropos at this very moment. What I’m doing with my Living Out Leadership Group for gay men is potentially legacy work. That’s not meant to sound like hubris. That’s simply the awareness that it feels like everything has led to this moment; to this inspired work.

“The only real meaning in life is found in being who you are right now, without apologies.”

The Velvet Rage. Allan Downs

Truly, life is what you make of it.

Regrets, worries, and shame only hold you back. Fear of what might happen or potential failure blocks you from taking action. Sometimes we need a gentle reminder from a favourite poem, a ballad, or a pop song that life is about Living OUT the Best of Who You Are.

Life is about living in this moment now and taking action on what you want to make of your life.

Links

Image: Richard Harris

Evolving Insights Into the Evolutionary Leadership Abilities of Gay Men.

Possibly the most important and vital quality in a leader is honesty. I would also add the qualifiers, transparency and vulnerability.

If I were to ask you, or a group of people, the question, “What is leadership?”, I could create a massive list of attributes. We could also select from the hundreds of thousands of leadership books and come up with the top 10 books on leadership. We could even create a list of the top 10 books as recommended by the worlds top 10 leaders! Yet we would still have the space to develop a new style, a new mode, a new path of leadership.

But for this episode, I want to narrow down my focus to pull back the veil of my idea. I’m going to loosely term my explanations of the core essentials of leadership as “evolutionary” and “humanitarian”.

The essentials of leadership are demonstrated in the following ways:

  1. Don’t lead others directly. Lead by example. In other words, lead yourself with the utmost integrity, authenticity, and transparency, as if everyone is watching – even when no one is.
  2. Give people a philosophy. Give people better ways to think and ways to think more critically. Help people think in a way for the betterment of all humanity; to create a transformational, evolutionary change that impacts the world.

The qualities of leading and characteristics of a great leader.

What if we chose the path of influence, via the qualities of the 14 distinct gay male gifts (see Ray Rigoglioso’s book, “Gay Men And The New Way Forward” and the resources listed below), for their capacity to lead the status quo in thinking outside the narrow confines of how they think that they’re supposed to think?

While we could look at the qualities of a great leader through the lens of aspiring to leadership qualities alone – including the confluence of several qualities at one time – what of leadership when a gay man understands and embraces his unique gifts to lead? Not just in leading other gay men, but all of humanity? And what does that style of leadership look like, or is it simply a choice to manifest the embodiment of the unique gay male gifts?

Resources on The Distinct Gay Male Gifts:

Image: Rally the herd by Xavier Vergés

Want to Take Part in this Evolutionary Path?

If what I’ve spoken about in today’s episode intrigues you, I invite you to join the Living OUT Leadership Facebook Group – a private group where we can meet to discuss how to use our leadership gifts as out gay men for the benefit of humanity.