By Armando Sanchez of “Gay Men and Blog”
Everybody say radical self-love!
You may be wondering, What is radical self-love? Why does it matter? And, How am I supposed to do it?
I’ll start with the why. Why does it matter that we, as gay men, radically love ourselves? I, for one, can think of many ways in which we are taught to reject, exclude, and shame ourselves and each other. And I know it’s not doing us any good.
Our natural attraction to men, our femininity, body size and shape, skin color, sex position, trauma, spirituality, kink, health status — everything is used against us. It can drive us to do things like spend money and engage with people who don’t always align with what we truly want in life.
So, what do we really want?
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
We want love. Plain and simple. We want to be loved. We want to feel love. We want to create love. We want to see love. We want to give love. We want love to go into the deepest, darkest parts within us and shine its warm, healing light. Imagine if all of the times that you experienced pain, rejection, and shame were replaced with unconditional love. How would that have changed your life? What sort of person would you be today?
Love is our power, and a lot of us have moved through life feeling powerless. A lot of us. And I’ll name ‘em.
I listened to an episode of Brené Brown’s podcast where she talks with Sonya Renee Taylor about bodies, shame, and the ladder of social hierarchy that we are taught to climb in order to feel good about ourselves. I gay gasped so many times throughout this episode; it completely blew my mind.
One of the many truths from this episode that shook my understanding of life, and how we live as gay men in particular, is that acceptance is not enough. As an LGBTQ community and movement, we’ve learned to ask for more than just tolerance. We’ve moved beyond that meager request and toward a movement of acceptance.
However, as Taylor states, acceptance won’t get us where we want to be. She says:
“I don’t want to be accepted, I want to be loved. If you had the choice between love or acceptance, which would you pick? You pick love. Love is richer. It’s warmer. Love DOES something. Acceptance is an inert word. It does not do anything. It stops there. It just lays there. It is a passive term. Love is an active term. It is a thing that makes you get up and do something. To change something, to shift. It creates its own momentum. I want, for the world, a love that changes shit. I want the love in a way that disrupts, that destroys the ladder. Acceptance won’t get us there.”
When we radically love ourselves, we stop perpetuating the negative messages that exist in society about any marginalized people. We stop them from living within ourselves and we stop pushing them onto others. This is how we destroy the social hierarchical ladder.
Instead of stepping over others and making them feel less-than in an attempt to inch your way higher up on the ladder, let go of it. Let go, and destroy the ladder within you by radically loving every part of you, every part that we’re told is unloveable or only lovable if it looks or acts a certain way.
That is what radical love is, and what it can do.
Show me love and what it’s all about, alright
I recently participated in a gay men’s healing group with Ryan Allen, a life coach, spiritual healer, and fitness trainer. The purpose of the group was to gather gay men to acknowledge, not only our personal pain, but the pain of gay men who came before us. A particular type of pain that was brought up in the group was the shame and rejection that festers in spaces where we gather, like clubs and dating apps. I’ve experienced this shame and rejection over the years, and I acknowledge that I’ve contributed to it, as well.
The reality is that the shame and rejection that’s transmitted from one gay man to another is rooted in the shame and rejection that lives inside of us. When it goes unchecked and unhealed, we contribute to the very aspect of the gay community that most of us despise. It is on us to heal this, change it, and lift each other up and off the ladder.
We make this happen through radical self-love. Admittedly, it can feel difficult to do this because shame and rejection in the gay community is like a vicious cycle — we show up to gay spaces with our shame and rejection, we pick up more shame and rejection, and we dish it right back onto others. We have even normalized and made it fashion by calling it a read, shade, or a dragging. It’s the projection of shame and rejection for me.
This is why it’s important to take time for yourself, to create enough distance from the shame and rejection in order to make room for radical self-love. Below are a few ways you can create the space you need to make this happen:
- Pause the exposure to content that stimulates your shame and rejection. Things like thirst trap accounts on social media, posting selfies for validation, gay dating/hook up apps, etc. feed our self-loathing. Allow your mind and spirit to function without the constant exposure to these warped messages.
- Reflect on and acknowledge the shame and rejection that occupies space in your mind, heart, and lineage of gay men before you.
- Own the ways in which you contribute to the shame and rejection within yourself and others.
- Challenge and release the shame and rejection that is tied to aspects of who you are and replace it with radical self-love.
Love is our power. It’s the answer to the questions inside of us. Radical self-love liberates, dismantles, and builds. It’s how we honor ourselves and others. It keeps us accountable and to aspire to be better. Radical self-love leads to happiness, fulfillment, and to each other. When we radically love ourselves, we refuse to accept anything less than what we deserve.
What is your relationship to love? Does it come naturally to you? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? If so, why?
What do you stand to lose by practicing radical self-love? What do you stand to miss out on by not practicing radical self-love?
How would radically loving yourself change the way you engage with other gay men, whether they be friends, lovers, or strangers?
What would it be like to be in community with other gay men who radically loved themselves?
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This blog is dedicated to the growth and empowerment of gay men to lead a life of love and fulfillment. Read more articles at Gay Men & Blog on Medium (list of articles below).
Whiteness Has Never Existed Peacefully in America | The Culture that Creates “PV Gays” | A Gay Man’s Manifesto for Love, Healing, and Growth | The Power of Making a Vision Board | The 12 Gays of Christmas Part 1 & Part 2 | Improving Our Dating Experience | Dear Fathers, Your Gay Sons Are Hurting | Putting an End to Ghosting | Redefining “Coming Out” | Anti-Blackness | Self-Care | Emotional Numbing | Complicated Faith | Body Confidence | Body Image | Loneliness | Self-Talk | Self-Worth Part 1
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