Tag Archives: gay health

RULE NO. 19: DON’T WORSHIP FALSE IDOLS

TOM FORD STEVEN KLEIN GAY VALLEY OF DOLLS

We are surrounded by false idols who we unwittingly worship but at what cost?

False idols give us nothing in return for the attention and praise that we give them. They present themselves to the world and tell us that they must be worshipped without considering what they really have to offer or what their followers really want. False idols do not engage with their followers. They yearn to be seen as different, elevated, better and divine. They are disconnected from the rest of us. It is only through this disconnection that their false sense of power exists.

False idols are committed to superficial pursuits and are driven by their egos. They appeal to the negative qualities inside of us such as greed, envy, vanity and feelings that we are not enough. It’s easy for us to be tempted by false idols, because much like the golden calf of the bible, they appear shiney and beautiful which is attractive to the superficial and egoic mind. The superficial mind however is never fulfilled hence why we continually partake in pointless worship.

When we worship false idols, we are left feeling empty, demoralised and worthless.

On the other hand there are role models. Role models contribute to our lives, they inspire us to be better, motivate us to improve and engage in two-way communication with the world. We learn from role models.. Role models appeal to our soul needs and although our soul needs are sometimes muffled by the noises of the superficial mind, they are much healthier and positive and when met lead to true fullfilment. You’ll know when your soul needs are satisfied because you’ll feel uplifted, loved and joyous.

Who are these false idols? They are reality TV stars (and their families), half-naked “Insta-celebrities”, social climbers, the “popular” group at school and anyone else who is worshiped based on superficial qualities.

The choice is yours who to praise but my advice to you is that if you’re not left feeling uplifted by the people who you worship then perhaps it’s time to shift your attention from false idols to role models.

Image Credit: Steven Klein, “Valley of the Dolls”

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MODERN GAY STYLE: AESOP

Aesop

Aesop, the skincare brand that originated in Melbourne, Australia in 1987 is internationally recognised for its signature stores which are located throughout Australia, New York, Paris and Hong Kong but it is the Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque that makes this brand particularly attractive to the modern gay man.

Although each of its 60 plus stores is a uniquely designed architectural masterpiece the success of the brand is based on the products sold within these temples of beauty. In particular, the Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque is the perfect antidote to a big weekend of drinking and partying or a particularly tiring week in the office. The clay-based masque deeply cleanses and refreshes the face, leaving the skin feeling softened, tightened and revitalised.

To view the full range of products available from Aesop or to order online, click here.

Aesop Facial Masque

Aesop Store Interior AESOP-STORE-AU-PRAHRAN-01

Aesop Bondi BeachAesop Interior

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MODERN GAY PERSPECTIVE: A MUSLIM MAN’S STORY (PART TWO)

Modern Gay Guide

In Part One of his story, our author describes his experiences as a Muslim man coming to terms with his homosexuality, dating and the gay scene. In the final chapter we find out more detail of our author’s relationships as well as an incident that he shamefully regrets which was the result of his previous dating experiences.

A few weeks later, I met someone else. We connected over our shared interest in spirituality. It also helped that he was extremely handsome but jaded by my previous experiences, I couldn’t understand why he was interested in me. We hung out, got along and got intimate and it was nice and the attention made me feel special. Obviously, there had to be a catch. He was an escort. While I don’t judge him for his choices, I couldn’t imagine myself being in anything but a monogamous relationship so I ended it.

A few months later I met someone again. By now, I had completely given up hope of dating someone but when it happened, I thought I should have an open mind. We went out for a few weeks and seemed to get along well but then he decided to break things off as I wasn’t “gay enough” for him. I still don’t understand what that means because for me as a man who’s attracted to other men and sees myself in a relationship with a man, that is what being gay is about. What it meant for him though was that I didn’t frequent the scene and he felt that if things became serious then he would never be able to meet my family. I can understand the latter but in retrospect it also showed a lack of empathy. My family comes from and still lives in a very conservative part of the world, which has no understanding of what it means to be gay. Homosexuality as it exists in Muslim cultures currently is not about orientation but sex. In addition, if you’re doing something that is not acceptable to the mainstream, the idea is to do it within the privacy of your home and not publicise it. This is also a culture where even admission of heterosexual pre-marital sex is disapproved so me coming out might not only mean complete rejection but also possibly assault (as has happened to someone I know by their father when he came out). Explaining my orientation and getting them to understand it requires time and patience. While I’m not there yet, I think by slowly coming out to people from my own generation I have made progress and allies for when I inevitably come out to them.

These recent dating experiences had left me distraught and emotionally exhausted. I had also drifted apart from several close friends, and was caring for some other friends who within a few months of each other had lost a loved one. Having no one else to speak to and feeling quite lonely and depressed, I slipped up and found an unhealthy outlet. I still can’t understand how it even happened but I created a fake profile on Grindr to find an escape. It’s too uncomfortable for me to even admit but all the loneliness helped me create an alternative reality quite easily, which I was easily able to sell to others on Grindr. Most of it was nothing more than harmless flirting; but there was one exception. As I admit to this, I am almost in tears. I started chatting with this amazing guy, N.T. and we connected over our love of Trance music. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s so funny, kind and incredibly sweet that my alter ego and him became good friends. I could just unwind, joke and be someone else that I conveniently forgot that this would only cause both him and I pain in the long term.

However, as time went on I couldn’t ignore what I was doing. It was out of character, unhealthy and disgusted me because I was deceiving someone the same way I had been deceived. I sought professional help and it was suggested that instead of telling the truth, I disappear. But my sense of accountability prevailed and I finally came clean to him. Even in his anger and disappointment he was so kind and gracious to me and he listened to me as I tried to rationalise and explain my behaviour.

This is why I have such a heavy heart right now. If I had been less lonely and had the courage to be more open, I probably wouldn’t have done this. Writing this is my way of trying to articulate and explain to him what happened. N.T., I am so sorry that in my desire to forget my problems for a while, I lied to you and hurt you. You’re one of the few gay guys who made me feel like I was more than just my background and while I disappointed you, talking to you made me so happy and allowed me to share our love of music, be lighthearted, funny and laugh again. I can’t thank you enough for that. It couldn’t be more bittersweet and ironic that as you lifted my spirits, I damaged yours.

Sharing my story is also a request to gay culture to be a little more understanding and less harsh on its minorities. Yes, there are people who don’t fit your perceptions but they’re a minority within a minority. After dealing with cultures, which reject them for lack of understanding or tolerance, when they face another blow in what they assume is a safe haven damages their self worth even more.

If you would like to share your story, please email josh@joshvansant.com

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RULE NO.14: YOU’RE NOT PICKY, YOU’RE INSECURE

Steven Klein Male Models

It was a Sunday afternoon in summer. A female friend of mine had asked that I entertain a friend of hers while he was in Sydney. She assured me that although he was ten years my senior, he was handsome, charasmatic, successful and friendly. Obviously I was sceptical but being the friend that I am, I agreed to do her a favour. I met him at a popular Sydney restaurant for drinks and we hit it off instantly. He was handsome and charismatic, just as she described. The conversation flowed and we were getting on like old friends. After a bottle of champagne we headed to a local gay venue for a few more drinks. Being a Sunday, this particular venue was wall to wall with gay men.

“Is there anyone here you like?” he asked.

“Not really” I replied after scanning the room for potential. “I’m very picky”.

“You’re not picky, you’re insecure” he responded instantly.

My blood began to boil.

How dare this guy presume to know me after one bottle of Clicquot and an afternoon of small talk. Couldn’t he tell that I’m confident and self-assured? That I’m successful and intelligent. That I’m the whole package. That I’m just waiting to find the right guy. That I’m…. insecure.

As I tried to reach for a defensive response I was stumped because in that instant it dawned on me, he was right. I wasn’t picky at all, I was afraid of rejection. I was insecure. Behind the confident facade, I was a scared boy, afraid that nobody would  love me. For so long I had hidden behind a vail of protection disguised as “pickiness”  in order to dismiss guys before I even had a chance to make a move; before I had the chance to be rejected.

He’s too short. Too buff. Too skinny. Too gay. Too butch. He dresses badly. He’s too old. Too young. Too tanned. Too many tatooes. Too clean cut. Too hipster. Not hipster enough. He’s not successful. He’s not my type anyway. I doubt I’m his type.

There have been so many excuses.

I realised that I had created a defense mechanism which had protected me for so long from facing rejection. Before I even had the chance to be rejected, I would justify reasons why I shouldn’t approach a particular person or give them a chance. This is such a limiting view of life. In retrospect, the greatest loves I’ve had have come from finding the courage to approach the handsome guy across the bar. But I’ve missed so many moments too due to my insecurities and unjustified justifications. I think about the times I wished I had said something to the guy who made eyes with me in the supermarket, or the boy from Canada my friends brought to the party. What could have been if I just had the courage to say “hi”?

A heart that is never broken dies of dystrophy. It’s only thorough the broken heart that light shines through. Without risk there is no reward. So instead of pretending that you’re just picky or waiting for someone to approach you, recognise your insecurities and try work on them. We need to have faith in ourselves and what we offer to the world.

A friend of mine who worked in marketing for an energy drink company (let’s call it Energy X) once told me a story that changed my way of thinking. She said, “Josh, at Energy X we don’t try convince people to like our brand. Some people drink Coke, others like Iced Tea. We have enough faith in our incredible brand that we appreciate those that love Energy X and it is those people who we pursue. We don’t try convince someone who only drinks Coke to drink Energy X too. You are like Energy X. Have faith in your incredible brand. Know that not everyone will like you or be attracted to you but appreciate those that do. Pursue them“.

This has stuck with me till this day and has helped me overcome my insecurities and my fear of rejection (a fear that we ALL share). We cannot convince someone to like our drink if they only drink Coke. Just the same as you aren’t attracted to everyone you meet, not everyone will be attracted to you. Be brave and be honest and realise that all this time you haven’t been picky, you’ve just been insecure.

Photo Credit: Steven Klein “Games and Restrictions”

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RULE NO.13: 30 IS NOT THE NEW 20

Modern Gay Guide

The video that every 20-something must watch.

Throughout my 20’s I’ve lived by the motto that “20’s are for learning, 30’s are for earning”. This has helped me survive the long days at work or hours spent in the library at university but I’ve been tempted to give it all up in the spirit of YOLO (You Only Live Once). During those stressful days when I wonder why I’m working so hard for very little immediate return, YOLO thoughts play on repeat through my head. Shouldn’t I be running around, enjoying my youth without a care in the world? Isn’t this the time for experimentation and exploration? Can’t I just put it all off until I’m in my 30’s? Am I too young to be working this hard?

Clinical psychologist Meg Jay, puts forward the argument in this TED Talk that your 20’s are your most formative and defining years of your adult life. What you do (or don’t do in your 20’s) has a lasting impact on the rest of your life. This is the video that should be mandatory for every 20-something. Watch below and share your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Richard Phibbs

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RULE NO. 12: IF YOU WANT TO FIND LOVE, PUT YOUR PANTS BACK ON

river_viiperi-grindr-interview_magazine-ftape-com_

Personally, when I’m about to have sex with a new partner I want to be able to unwrap the present, not already knowing what the gift inside looks like.

My mom and dad have been married for 32 years. Theirs is a relationship out of a fairytale. They actually remind me of Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun from The Notebook. It’s not that my folks have ever been engaged to other people or that they’ve lived in the Southern States of America. My dad has never built a house for my mom and as far as I know my mother isn’t an heiress. As a matter of fact, my parents and these characters have nothing in common except their undying love for each other. I have never seen two people who are as much in love, apart from the movies, quite like my parents. Their story truly ends happily ever after which is problematic for a person like myself who doesn’t believe in Hollywood endings.

One evening, while I was chatting to my dad about another one of my failed relationships, I asked “Dad, what’s the secret to meeting your soulmate?”.

“There is no secret” he responded, “everyone is just so overexposed these days that there is no magic or mystery in relationships”.

His words instantly struck a chord me with me. I’ve always felt nostalgic for the bygone days when men would court their love interests and couples would create relationships founded on newly learnt knowledge of each other. Perhaps this is why The Notebook is a favourite amongst gays and single women. We’re all hoping that one day our Noah or Ryan Gosling will appear out of anonymity and save us from singledom. But nowadays, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Grindr, Manhunt, Scruff, Dudesnude etc it seems that nobody remains anonymous for long.

There are no surprises anymore, no intrigue or mystery surrounding people. Not only do I know what you look like without your clothes on but I know what you ate for breakfast. I’ve witnessed all the holidays you took with your ex-boyfriend, your intimate moments in bed together, the walks along the beach, what he bought you for Valentine’s Day. Hell, I’ve even seen the collages of pictures from each week you were together (and I noticed when they stopped too!). I know what you look like in your underpants, I’ve seen your entire wardrobe, I know all your friends and I even know which is your favourite movie. I’ve witnessed all the songs you listen to on Spotify, read all your funny jokes, followed your check-ins at your favourite cafes and know who else was there with you. I’ve virtually met your mother, grandmother and siblings. I’ve seen the inside of your bedroom, know what car you drive, where you have you hair cut, how you take your coffee and what your desk at work looks like. I’ve seen pictures of you when your were a kid and to be honest your were #cuter when you weren’t so vain and wore a shirt more often. Which makes me think, who takes those “selfie” shirtless pictures for you anyway?

Now before you accuse me of hypocrisy, I openly admit that I am responsible for partaking in many of the previously listed activities although I draw the line at soft-core porn. Quite frankly I find it all rather attention seeking but before I digress too far let me bring it back to the purpose of this post. In a time when we are all encouraged to be more linked-in, wouldn’t you prefer it if people kept their face out of your book? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if new love interests had the opportunity to discover all your subtle character traits for themselves? Personally, when I’m about to have sex with a new partner I want to be able to unwrap the present, not already knowing what the gift inside looks like. If everyone’s already seen the package on Instagram, where’s the excitement?

So before you complain about never meeting your Prince Charming or that your relationships never last, step away from the gym mirror, lay down your phone, put your pants back on and ask yourself “what would Noah do?”.

Image: River Viiperi (Paris Hilton’s boyfriend) for Interview Magazine. Here are some more pictures from the September 2012 underwear editorial featuring other male models.

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RULE NO.11: YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY

dansk-homotography-eidem-01

Throughout puberty I wondered “why am I gay?”

Before Lady Gaga confirmed that she was born this way, before Kurt Hummel vocally expressed his problems 3 octaves higher than most 16 year old boys and before any celebrity promised that it would get better, I was a confused teenager trying to understand why I was gay.

Attending a conservative private school that prescribed to a certain Judeo-Christian religious persuasion, homosexuality was merely a subject in a health book that was superficially brushed over one afternoon in grade 9. This particular book claimed that teenagers often experienced passing attractions to the same sex as a byproduct of hormone release. I wished that when the hormones stopped releasing so would my my same-sex attraction. It wasn’t to be.

Needless to say, my understanding of homosexuality was rather limited.

Furthermore, my belief and comprehension of God was shaped by my educational institution and by all accounts, God didn’t approve of gays. So why did he make me gay?

At first I thought he was punishing me for something I may have done before I was even born. Perhaps my soul was intrinsically bad and therefore I needed to suffer the burden of being gay as a form of repenting? The future seemed very daunting.

Then I was told by a religious teacher that God doesn’t hate homosexuals but he hates the sins that homosexuals commit. Was loving another person of the same sex a sin even though it felt so natural? So, I rationalised that it was to be my test in life to resist all homosexual temptations, thoughts and desires no matter how right they felt.

In my later high school years l began to consider that perhaps God had made me gay not as punishment nor as a test but because he knew that I could handle the pressure. Other boys might not have been able to cope with life as a homosexual. I was grateful that I, a strong willed, confident boy with supportive friends and a loving family was made gay instead of someone less fortunate who may have found themselves in the same predicament.

When my faith in God began to wane, as it does for most who’ve attended a religious school, I searched for other answers to my big gay question. Did my upbringing have an impact on my sexuality? I had read somewhere about childhood trauma and troubled upbringings affecting sexual development and causing homosexuality. Reflecting on my childhood there was absolutely nothing that could have adversely affected me either obviously or subconsciously. I grew up in an “ideal” environment with parents who were besotted with each other, who provided their children with love, support and unnecessary material possessions. I had an amazing relationship with my mum and dad and my sister was one of my best friends. We lived in an affluent area, participated in extracurricular activities too many to name, traveled often, spoke openly about our dreams and fears and comforted each other when the family dog died. My friends even commented on how “extraordinary” my family life was. Surely this wasn’t the cause of my homosexuality?

During this period of questioning I had some dark days. Days when I wondered what was the point of it all. Maybe it was better not to be than to be gay? Luckily these days were few and far between but I know that others have suffered more deeply with their own feelings of confusion and questioning.

In the end, I found the answer. I was born this way. It never crossed my mind that it was a choice; that in some way I had chosen to be gay. What teenager would choose such a challenging path? I was born this way. My upbringing was not the cause, my soul was not bad and I definitely wasn’t being punished. I was born this way. It’s as simple as that. There is no other reason or further questioning needed.

I hope that by sharing my experience, others who are going through or have been through this process will see that a part of self-acceptance is undergoing a period of questioning. The greatest relief is discovering and then believing that you are the way you are because that is the way that God or nature or the universe intended you to be.

Read Rule No.1: There are no rules (except for one)

Photo Credit: Benjamin Eidem by Stefan Zchernitz

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RULE NO.10: BEWARE OF LATE ON-SET ADOLESCENCE

Gay Youth

I’ve coined a new disorder that affects many gay men. It’s called “Late On-Set Adolescence”  and although I’m sure someone has already conducted a study into this phenomenon, I think that it is still widely undiagnosed. 

“Late On-Set Adolescence” (LOA) is the result of gay men having to hide their sexuality throughout their formative development years and missing out on the same experiences as their straight counterparts (sexual exploration, dating, forming friendship groups with likeminded peers etc). In doing so they experience a self-identity growth period that is not indicative of their true self. Whey they finally come out of the closet, they go through a second adolescence whereby they learn about their sexuality, experience sexual contact with the same-sex for the first time, begin dating, find similar friends, go out to gay venues, become more focused on their appearance and experiment with drugs etc. This may happen when they are 18 or 25 or 35 or 50 but for most gay men I know who have been closeted, it does happen at some stage. During this stage, gay men often find themselves drawn to other men who are experiencing LOA and this is one of the reasons that you see groups of friends who are of mixed ages; the 30 year old who socialises with 18 years olds, the 50 year old who hangs out with guys in their ’20s.

LOA is a period of experimentation and self discovery that gay men must experience. It can be an amazing time for growth and self acceptance but conversely, just like acne during puberty, there are down sides. Some men become fixated with “making up for lost time” and take their sexual experimentation to a whole new level, sleeping with many different partners and becoming obsessed with the pursuit of sex. Although I am a strong advocate for (safe) sex and sexual exploration, I believe  that any excessive behaviour is unhealthy and detrimental to one’s happiness.

Also, during this period one might see gay men become cliquey and “bitchy”, enjoying the drama that comes with dating, sleeping around and making new friends. Often their social lives become reminiscent of a high school playground with cattiness, drama and fighting. These traits are particularly unpleasant and contribute to the stereotype of gay men being bitchy queens.

For many, this period is short lived as they move into the next phase of deeper “inner” self discovery.  The problem arises however when gay men become stuck in LOA, when they sacrifice ambition for trivial pursuits such as time in the gym or on the dance floor or finding their next sexual conquest. They may mature in age but  they seem to always be chasing the next  guy who is experiencing LOA (perhaps in order to avoid growing up and facing the next stage of develpment?). You’ll notice these guys as the 30/40 somethings who still dress like teenagers (revealing singlets, short shorts, baseball caps and high tops) and always appear to be dating or surrounded by younger guys.

The cure for LOA is self-acceptance as soon as possible. Gay boys should be encouraged to experience adolescence when it was intended for them to do so. The most well-rounded gay men that I know are the those who “came out” the earliest or didn’t need to come out at all. As society becomes more accepting of homosexuality, it is my hope that more gay men learn to accept their sexuality at a younger age and eventually LOA will simply be ‘A’.

Photo credit: Willy Vanderperre

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RULE NO.7: GAY MARRIAGE ISN’T EVERYTHING

Gay Marriage

Gay marriage should be legal. Period. But in the struggle for equality it’s important not to lose sight of the blessings we’ve been afforded as gay men. 

When I was coming to terms with my sexuality I often wondered if there were any benefits to being gay as opposed to being straight. Sure, some might argue that sex is easier to come by or that gay men don’t have children so they have more money for themselves but neither one of these arguments convinced me. What finally helped me accept that being gay wasn’t all that bad was the realisation that society’s plan for what constituted a normal life did not apply to me. All around me, people were expected to date, go to college, find someone to marry, commit to a career, have children, buy a house, either stay married or divorce, retire and then die. This expectation of life was terrifying to me as I wanted to travel and meet new people and live in different cities and explore and have various sexual experiences. So when I realised that being gay was the key that unlocked me from the metaphorical cell of expectations, I began to look at my homosexuality in a whole new light. I could make up new rules for the way I wanted to live life, discover what really makes me happy not what I’m told will make me happy. All of a sudden life seemed like an exciting blank canvas on which I could paint my own picture with all the colours of the rainbow.

To this day, I thank God (or the universe or whatever you want to call it) for making me gay. This is the greatest blessing I have been given; permission to re-evaluate what is truly important to my happiness.  That might be kids and marriage and a mortgage but if those things do happen in the future then at least I know that I chose them for myself.

So what does this have to do with gay marriage? While I  support the fight for equality and equal rights 100%, I think it’ important not to lose the uniqueness that is intrinsically linked to being gay. Of course I want the same legal recognition as my heterosexual friends but I don’t necessarily want my life to look like theirs. If seen positively, being gay is so very special in that it allows us to look at the world and ask “how do I fit in here? Where is my place?”. When the ultimate goal for gays becomes to find a partner, marry and blend into society so that people don’t think we’re so different anymore, then I think we’ve missed the point. Furthermore, looking at the rates of divorce and depression, I would argue that marriage as it exists today isn’t actually an institution that I would like to be part of.

If you fight for gay marriage because you believe in legal equality for all then I salute you. However, the moment we try too hard to fit back into the “normal” mold that society has created or concentrate too much on blending in,  we neglect the blessings that we were so fortunate to have been afforded when we were born gay.

Photo Credit: “Viva Las Vegas” by Matthias Vriens McGrath

Do you believe that homosexuality is a blessing?

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