Sat Nam in the City

When I lived in Kansas, I was homo on the range; literally—and as a matter of literature.

I was an out gay man running a political party at 19, and several years later a columnist for a popular local m10845912_10100546475785402_4435399975493342740_nagazine called Naked City. It was sort of like Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. Except my life really wasn’t glamorous, the city wasn’t New York, and I spent more time politicking than I did dating men. So actually it wasn’t Sex and the City at all. Homo on the Range, both the column and the life, was its own, unique creation.

Then I left the range and moved to California. There’s really nothing special about being gay in in the Golden State. It’s actually rather commonplace here, especially in Los Angeles. If you followed my adventure on Facebook, you saw a never-ending feast of vegan food, endless sunsets on the beach, palm trees galore, and an overall happy life. That was genuine. You didn’t see the other element that was equally real, though: the depth of how alone I felt after I moved.

Even when I was at my lowest, I always knew how to be me in Wichita. I continually attracted people into my orbit. I really didn’t have to do much work, either. I assumed LA would be the same. It wasn’t. This is a town of ambition, egos, and fast-paced movers. Friends are often seen as potential competitors, and the sprawl makes meeting up for coffee an arduous affair. I found myself wandering this curious city alone most days. That bothered me at first, but then I stopped fighting that loneliness and just went into it: deep inside its chasm, to the innermost chamber of my mind.

Turns out that the journey within has a range far more vast than Kansas—and it’s open to everyone, the gays included!

You’ve probably noticed that I post often about meditating and something called Kundalini Yoga. When I moved to Los Angeles, I anticipated spending a lot of time in West Hollywood drinking mojitos at The Abby and cruising hot boys on the Santa Monica strip. I think I’ve done that exactly twice in the fourteen months I’ve lived here. Instead, I spend a lot of time doing weird hand gestures, holding uncomfortable postures, chanting phrases I can barely pronounce, and breathing in and out at odd intervals.

It all started when I stepped into a place called Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood. I knew exactly two people when I moved to this city, and one of them always posted about going to that spot. I enjoyed yoga for a bit in Wichita, and wanted to get back into it. I assumed this was a “normal” yoga studio—you know the kind where they do down dogs and warrior poses while sort of tiptoeing around the fact that there’s a higher purpose to all the movement? Kundalini Yoga is anything but usual, and it’s totally out of the closet when it comes to its spiritual nature.

In Kundalini, you pull energy up your spine and through the seven chakras, working to balance the power-centers in your body. You focus on your body, mind, and soul being in unison. You quiet your thinking and let the stillness of a calm mind heal you. There are literally thousands of kriya for doing this, and pretty much any problem you’re having can be dealt with on your yoga mat. Weird energy or high stress at work? Mediate to release irrationality! Difficult boss? Ego eradicator! Want to manifest something specific, like say new friends or a more money? There’s a mantra you can sing! Addicted to Internet porn? There’s even a literal butt-kicking series that will help you harness your sexual energy! There’s a reason some people call it Kundalooney—it sounds bazaar until you give it a try.

It was in the range of this odd practice and within the science of its motions that I began to find my own footing in the new city that I now call home—and on a deeper level that I began to feel truly and wholly at peace. Loneliness gave way to a divine self-examination and allowed me to go deep—really deep into issues I’d never resolved. In Kundalini Yoga, we have a mantra that’s a constant refrain: Sat Nam. Loosely translated, it means “truth is my name.” There’s no segmenting parts of yourself when it comes to stepping in to your divine truth.

As a gay man who grew up attending a fundamentalist Christian school and came of age during the heyday of right-wing Christianity dominating our politics, I had divorced my spiritual self from my sexual self. Most of us who are gay feel at some point that we have to make a choice between being who we are or being true to our religion. I choose to be honest, and in doing so had to acknowledge the truth that Christianity (and organized religion in general) wasn’t the path for me. For my entire adult life, I pretty much left it there. Yet, somehow I could never leave behind the guilt and the shame that far too often accompanies the reality of being gay.

We busted through the closet door, survived an epidemic, lived our lives out in the open and among opposition, and have now won the right to march down the aisle to marry. Yet all of those battles have left us shell-shocked as a community and in need of healing on a deep and profound level.

Within Kundalini Yoga, I found an integrated acceptance that I’ve never known. I’ve discovered a practice that I can come to as an out gay man where I can sit equally and without shame. Once I got serious about the practice, I started to find a community of like-minded people on a similar journey. And recently, I’ve found a spiritual home in Venice where I’m making new friends and collaborating my talents.

I’m not in Kansas anymore, but I am very much still on the range—a never-ending horizon of deep discovery that’s guided by something greater than me. I acknowledge my spiritual self, and because of that I am very much proud to be a homo!

I went over a year without updating this blog because I really didn’t know how I could be “homo on the range” in California. Now I understand that the range stretches far beyond the prairies, and that gay people everywhere have continual expansion to do themselves, no matter where we live! I’m going to start updating this again regularly, though instead of the whole gay boy in Kansas shtick, this will focus on the spiritual path that’s unfolding as I step out of shame and claim the divine nature of having incarnated as a gay man.

I guess I’ll never be Carrie Bradshaw. That’s ok. I can settle for Sat Nam in the City!


Sex and the Single Gay Men: A Valentine’s Day Rapprochement

Attitudes - "Single Gay Man" Trucker Hats

There’s a lot more to being a single gay man than a dating site acronym

I’ve been at war with Valentine’s Day since I was old enough to understand what it means to be single. I’ll also admit to being insecure over the central theme of the date itself: being loved.

In my early twenties, I concluded that the unattached had much to celebrate; Carrie Bradshaw taught me that! The Sex and the City heroine made solo existence enticing, even seemingly preferential at times. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, when the gay parallel to New York City’s most famous fictional single person would manifest. Women have a framework for discovering the importance of being strong, independent individuals: it’s called feminism. We don’t really have a homo-parallel, though, that allows gay men to realize self-empowerment.

When we accept the fact that we are gay, most of us aim to find out what that means by finding another person to, well, be gay with.  We quickly attach ourselves to whoever will have us. In the process, we spend little time unearthing the beautiful complexities that are our own uniqueness. Often, we allow other people to mold our personalities and shape our futures. In the Midwest especially, there’s a certain way that religious guilt, lagging cultural awareness, and rural isolation combine with inner strife to create havoc. We look to ease the tension by hooking up with other people. Our boyfriends will be our saviors, even if we barely know them. Let’s be honest, though…Grindr isn’t exactly a gay emancipator!

I’ve long identified as a feminist, and for years, I hailed its mantra as the focal point of my pride as a single, gay man. Something was always off, though, and it’s a deep-rooted issue I’ve just recently begun to examine.

The simple fact is that gay men face a distinct set of issues that women, gay or straight, do not. We are marginalized differently, many of us having our dignity defrocked because we don’t live up to societal standards of masculinity. Our sexuality develops more aggressively, with pornography and casual sex being far more normalized than most of us want to admit. The social circles we form can get convoluted by body image wars, alcoholism and drugs, and a constant one-ups man ship in pursuit of chasing an Adonis like perfection. Oh, and did I mention the fact that we can’t really talk about any of this openly for fear of retribution from the religious right? There is so much inspiration to be drawn from feminist writings and icons, but we need our own movement of empowerment.

What feminism can’t offer to gay men is something that only we can give ourselves: love. Women didn’t need a movement to find love; they needed to get beyond pigeonholed roles, actually! In a world still hostile to us, and where we are often our own worst aggressors, we do need a movement toward self-reliance. We need to get secure in our identities as single people before we aim to couple with someone else. We need to celebrate our uniqueness, appreciate our success, and value our worth when we do. We also need to see examples for how we can stand strong as individuals first and lovers later on. Television shows like Modern Family and The New Normal, which are fantastically helping mainstream gay families, are great steps forward. The time is nearing for the next wave, though, when single gay men are celebrated in popular culture as the multi-faceted, ever-evolving beings that we are! Will Truman started this on Will & Grace, but focused too much on his co-dependent attachment to his straight best friend, Grace Adler.  Neither was particularly empowered by their status as a single person. We need to get beyond the fag hag motif. We have to liberate ourselves!

This year, I’ve decided to pull out from the war on Valentine’s Day. Instead, I’ll focus on learning to love myself and doing what I enjoy. Maybe I’ll even write a treatment for a TV show that is the gay answer to Sex and the City. What will you, a single, self-respecting individual, do with your time and your talents?  Your answer might just change the world—or at least your world!