Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Book Nook: A Gay Man's Guide to Life - Get Real, Stand Tall, and Take Your Place

 Acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage has increased dramatically over the past two decades, but this expanding approval from society at large does nothing to negate the internal struggles that most gay men face — particularly young gay men — in response to familial and societal expectations. Their road toward self-discovery is long and arduous, pockmarked by generational biases and homophobic messaging. An introspective tug-of-war wages each time a new milestone approaches, and with no clear path in sight, many gay men simply find themselves in a proverbial roundabout, trapped in an endless loop of no-win situations. 

“If we don’t live honestly and openly, we won’t have the skills, wisdom, or relationships necessary to manifest our dreams,” says Britt East, author of A Gay Man's Guide to Life: Get Real, Stand Tall, and Take Your Place“But when we do come out, we must confront the full force of societal homophobia, and consider a variety of questions.”


Among those uncertainties are how to create a family without mimicking the norms of a straight society; how to overcome internalized homophobia and cultivate sustainable gay friendships; and, in a world of hook-up apps and disposable relationships, how to find lasting love.


A Gay Man’s Guide to Life, which is part memoir and part inspirational guidebook, addresses these crucial topics and many others, through the lens of a gay man, for gay men everywhere.


Britt candidly and vividly shares his own traumatic, personal journey, and uses his experiences and insights to inform an approachable, no-nonsense path to help gay men set down excuses and get to the business of improving the most important facets of their lives, including body, mind, spirit, career, family and more. He offers hope and support, giving readers the sense of family that perhaps they never had. A Gay Man’s Guide to Life is not comprised of new-age mumbo jumbo or wishy-washy self-help jargon. It is about real work focused on real results to help members of the gay community.


At its core, A Gay Man’s Guide to Life is a manual for personal growth and development, with plenty of pragmatic advice to challenge and inspire gay men to uncover their true selves and live their best lives. 

I had a chance to interview Britt to learn more.

  • Why did you write this book? This book is for anyone who could use a leg up in life, and is in particular a love letter to the queer community. It’s a life manual chocked full of timeless wisdom, designed to help gay people understand the culture they’ve inherited, the bigotry they will face, and the freedom they will crave to set their heart free and unleash their true power. And it also contains oodles of practical advice they can use on a daily basis to improve their lives. But the wisdom, insights, and recommendations I present are timeless, tried, and true, and would benefit everyone. I did a subtle thing with the naming of this book: it’s called “A Gay Man’s Guide to Life,” not “A Guide to Life for Gay Men.” That means the information in it is available and accessible to anyone, though I wrote it through the lens of my lived experience as a gay man. Too often we gay men are forced into mental gymnastics to make straight content applicable to our lives. As a gay man I speak directly to the gay community, using our language and cultural reference points – no translation necessary. 
  • What can people of all walks of life learn from the perspective of a gay man? Many straight people view gay people as their little, life-enhancing accessories. They treat us like eunuchs, pets, or wacky next-door neighbors on some sitcom. I want all straight people to understand that at some basic level we are just like them. We are complex, fully realized human beings, with rich internal worlds. We are essential, full-fledged members of our pluralistic society. And at another level, gay people are also very different from straight people. Our culture is separate and distinct from straight culture. As James Baldwin might have put it, “We are not your homos.” So if you want to know us, you must see all of who we are, not just those parts you find amusing or palatable. And you must get to know our culture. As you get to know us, you will learn the power of thriving amidst a culture steeped in homophobia and witness the triumphant power of the human spirit. You will see the intrinsic silliness of gender norms of expression, as well as the thrill that comes from consciously violating those norms. You will see how art saves lives, and learn that love knows no bounds. And most of all you will discover parts of yourself you never knew existed or thought possible.
  • Why is it important for everyone to work towards making their workplaces, recreation areas, social groups, and so on, more inclusive? Diversity is always the right answer. Increasing diversity brings a competitive advantage both in business, as well as life. But before we jump to the solution, we must first acknowledge the harm and get real about the work. In the same way that eradicating racism is white work, dismantling the societal structures that perpetuate homophobia is straight work. It’s immoral to ask someone to both experience bigotry and fix it. Queer people can help educate and attune straight people to the costs and consequences we have faced at the hands of their gentle genocide, but at the end of the day it is straight people who must take ownership over their biases. The only homophobia that we queer people can help eradicate is our own, which is also necessary work. Each homophobic choice a queer person makes not only harms the object of our bigotry, but us as well, and gives license to straight people to excuse and dismiss their own homophobic choices. Gay men are currently living with an epidemic of loneliness. And if we want to experience the thrill of togetherness, we're going to have to extend our hearts to the places that scare us. That means confronting our own internalized homophobia, as well as our racism, colorism, misogyny, ableism, etc. Not just because many of us stand at the intersections of these identities, but because it's the right thing to do. I'm speaking out of lived experience, but the same is true for all of us. No matter our walk of life, we will experience more love and togetherness as we learn to delight in our differences. 
  • How can people find support if they don't fit the expected norms of their family or friend group? It all starts with our stories. The first step is sharing our story with a benevolent witness, and being emotionally joined in that process. As we meet ourselves in their eyes, and experience their delight and wonder in our souls, our hearts will be healed. We can rely on friends, family, or loved ones to bear witness, if we must, but these folks are usually untrained and lack the skills or capacity to hold the necessary boundaries. In other words, it is typically unfair to ask them. I highly recommend hiring a paid professional (therapist, coach, mentor, etc.) if at all possible. They can walk you through the process of rediscovering your true self, reclaiming your personal power, and creating a personal practice of replenishment that will help you resist all the messages from society that you don't belong. That is a lengthy journey, so in the meantime I encourage everyone to leverage technology to find others like them that spark curiosity and joy. Find an online community of people that fit, and practice regularly connecting with them. Each little step you take will help you feel a little less alone in the world, so it's important to find at least one small activity each day to foster social connections, rather than waiting around for a big miracle.
  • How can people be supportive of the people in their lives that don't fit the mold of what's expected? It all starts with creating personal practices of loving inquiry in which we cultivate curiosity and empathy about our worlds. Each time you engage in this practice you will clear your mind of biases and preconceptions, as well as begin to resist the mass media narratives that corporations use to monetize our outrage and entitlement. But this is just the starting gate, not the finish line. And because our culture is saturated in stigma, this is a daily practice, not a one shot deal. You are now ready to begin to engage with people as they truly are, rather than the caricatures you carry in your mind. Inevitably as you encounter others over the course of your day your personal practice will allow you to behold others with a sense of wonder. You will find yourself listening more, and explaining less. Your heart will be drawn to their stories and you will delight in their uniquenesses. This is the little work required by each of us to start to see the world as it is, and it must come first. But we must also then engage in the big work of upending the institutionalized systems that we have created over the generations to "other" and penalize anyone we deem outside the mainstream. Because without that, nothing will ever really change.


Britt East is an author and speaker who uses his experience, strength and hope to challenge and inspire change-oriented gay men to get down to the business of improving their lives. With over two decades of personal growth and development experience in a variety of modalities, such as the 12 Steps, Nonviolent Communication, yoga, meditation, talk therapy and the Hoffman Process, Britt is committed to building a personal practice of self-discovery that he can then share with gay men everywhere. He lives in Seattle with his husband and their crazy dog.


For more insights from the author, please visit www.britteast.com, or follow him on Instagram (@britteast); Twitter (@britteast); or Facebook (@brittdawsoneast).

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