Raymond L. Rigoglioso is the founder and executive director of Gay Men of Wisdom and author of Gay Men and The New Way Forward.
Through his book, Ray has synthesized the body of literature that explores gay men’s nature and purpose and created a framework describing gay men’s 14 distinct gifts. I’ve spoken about a few of these gifts in previous episodes of the podcast, based on my experience being part of Ray’s group.
What began as anger for Ray when he came out at 19 – as a human being to express his needs, wants and feelings – has turned into a creative endeavour. According to Ray, anger is an energy that you can use for positive or negative ends. You can turn it inward or outwards. It can consume you, but if you channel it correctly, anger can do a lot of good if you channel it into something positive and thus creative.
Teachers of compassion, generosity and the authentic masculine
How we responded as gay men to the AIDS epidemic was an indication of a positive and creative response. Gay men embodied the authentic masculine traits of taking action, being bold, courageous, and taking risks like shutting down the New York Stock Exchange. The entire movement changed the FDA’s approval process for drugs, which facilitated the quick release of anti-virals.
But gay men also changed hearts and minds. Gay men and our allies created entire new systems of care. There was a lot of masculine energy that gay men channeled without violence. What’s interesting is that no one is surprised that we never did anything like bombings, nor did we shoot people up, yet we never reflect on this. It’s worth considering because this tells us a lot about who we are as gay men.
How Gay men embrace the masculine and the feminine energies
Ray asks us to consider three different levels of the masculine and feminine:
- Personality traits: things that any human being can express. As a culture we tend to identify certain traits as masculine and others as feminine. Being bold, courageous, decisive, and a leader are generally considered masculine traits. Being collaborative, cooperative, sensitive, nurturing, and empathetic tend to be considered feminine.
- External traits: the visual and auditory clues that tell you if someone is masculine or feminine. We all pick up on these cues. This includes tone of voice, how we speak, what we wear, posture, and how we walk.
- Energy: this level is more difficult to describe but it shows up in how we express ourselves via our personality traits compared to others.
The secret language of gay men
We pick up on all of the clues and cues that tell us someone else is gay – our “gaydar” – but we haven’t developed the language to describe these clues. This is what Ray has attempted to do with his program, Gay Men of Wisdom.
Magic happens when gay men gather with intention and purpose.
When we remain open to each other and see who we truly are, we feel and step into a connection that defies language. Tribe is the only word that seems to define this “coming home”; that we are among our own. Tribe allows for an ecstatic communion and a continuity of our shared energy as gay men and how we express our role in society.
What do we model as gay men that teaches humanity?
Ray’s work helps gay men recognize their magnificence. He wants to change the conversation gay men and society have about difference – to recognize that differences are gifts. This doesn’t just apply to gay men, this applies to all of humanity. If gay men develop a way to value our differences, we can give this gift to the rest of humanity so that we can better get along and belong together on this planet. Ray want to break down the linear hierarchy of difference and help people see difference as something that is circular.
Ray brings to Gay Men of Wisdom an extensive background in fundraising and writing for nonprofit organizations. In 1989, just months after he came out, he co-founded the Danbury (Connecticut) Area Gay and Lesbian Youth Group and facilitated this group for a year. Ray lives with his husband in Hudson, New York.
Gay Men and The New Way Forward is available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.
The next Gay Men of Wisdom group begins on February 6th, 2019.
P.S. Ray mentions a book towards the end of the episode for which he couldn’t remember the title: “The Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America” by W. E. B. Du Bois.
More Living OUT Episodes on the distinct gay male gifts:
- Forgiveness and Acceptance of Internalized Homophobia – LOP039
- How My Parents Influenced My Gay Male Identity – LOP040
- How Gay Men Imbue Culture With Beauty and Creativity – LOP042
Living OUT theme music: “Summer” by Bensound.com.