Review:  The Soul Beneath the Skin: The Unseen Hearts and Habits of Gay Men

by David Nimmons



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Also on this website:


Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from smashwords.com, the Apple iBookstore, etc.


Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III


Gay Spirituality

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness


Gay Perspective


GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe


Secret Matter


SECRET MATTER, a sci-fi novel with wonderful "aliens" with an Afterword by Mark Jordan


Getting Life

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:  A Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods


The Fourth Quill

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil




Two Spirits
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams



charmed lives
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers


Myth of the Great Secret


THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell



In Search of God


IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey



Unpublished manuscripts


About ordering


Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series


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  Toby has done five podcasts with Harry Faddis for The Quest of Life

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  Articles and Excerpts:

Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness


Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality


Why gay people should NOT Marry


The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage


Toby and Kip Get Married


Wedding Cake Liberation


Gay Marriage in Texas


What's ironic



Shame on the American People


The "highest form of love"


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Gay Consciousness


Why homosexuality is a sin


The cause of homosexuality


The origins of homophobia


Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness


What is homosexuality?


What is Gay Spirituality?


My three messages


What Jesus said about Gay Rights


Queering religion


Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men


Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?


The purpose of homosexuality


Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality


What the Bible Says about Homosexuality


Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men



Varieties of Gay Spirituality


Waves of Gay Liberation Activity


The Gay Succession


Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?


The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter


Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center


Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism


The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey


The upsidedown book on MSNBC


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Enlightenment


"It's Always About You"



The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara


Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara


You're Not A Wave



Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging



What is Enlightenment?



What is reincarnation?



How many lifetimes in an ego?



Emptiness & Religious Ideas



Experiencing experiencing experiencing



Going into the Light



Meditations for a Funeral



Meditation Practice



The way to get to heaven



Buddha's father was right



What Anatman means



Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal



The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika



Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva



John Boswell was Immanuel Kant



Cutting edge realization



The Myth of the Wanderer



Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss



World Navel



What the Vows Really Mean



Manifesting from the Subtle Realms



The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse


The est Training and Personal Intention



Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven


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Gay Spirituality


Curious Bodies


What Toby Johnson Believes


The Joseph Campbell Connection


The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)


Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy


The Two Loves


The Nature of Religion


What's true about Religion


Being Gay is a Blessing


Drawing Long Straws


Freedom of Religion


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The Gay Agenda


Gay Saintliness


Gay Spiritual Functions



The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.


The Sinfulness of Homosexuality


Proposal for a study of gay nondualism


Priestly Sexuality


Having a Church to Leave


Harold Cole on Beauty


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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Not lashed to the prayer-post


Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality


Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process


Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)


Redeem Orlando


Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar


Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson



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Mystical Vision


"The Evolution of Gay Identity"


"St. John of the Cross & the Dark Night of the Soul."


Avalokiteshvara at the Baths


 Eckhart's Eye


Let Me Tell You a Secret


Religious Articulations of the Secret


The Collective Unconscious


Driving as Spiritual Practice


Meditation


Historicity as Myth


Pilgrimage


No Stealing


Next Step in Evolution


The New Myth


The Moulting of the Holy Ghost


Gaia is a Bodhisattva


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The Hero's Journey


The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016


The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)


You're On Your Own


Superheroes


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Seeing Differently


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil


Allah Hu: "God is present here"


 
Adam and Steve


The Life is in the Blood



Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"


Seeing with Different Eyes


Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom


What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?


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The Vision


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside


A  Most Remarkable Synchronicity in Riverside


The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


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The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby


Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara


Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection


Part 4: A Course in Miracles


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The Secret of the Clear Light


Understanding the Clear Light


Mobius Strip


Finding Your Tiger Face


How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


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Joseph Campbell, the Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part presentation on YouTube


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About Alien Abduction


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke


Karellen was a homosexual


The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance


Intersections with the movie When We Rise


More about Gay Mental Health


Psych Tech Training


Toby at the California Institute


The Rainbow Flag


Ideas for gay mythic stories


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People


Kip and Toby, Activists


Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.


Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement


About Hay and The New Myth


About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"


About Michael Talbot, gay mystic


About Fr. Bernard Lynch


About Richard Baltzell


About Guy Mannheimer


About David Weyrauch


About Dennis Paddie


About Ask the Fire


About Arthur Evans


About Christopher Larkin


About Mark Thompson


About Sterling Houston


About Michael Stevens


The Alamo Business Council


Our friend Tom Nash


Second March on Washington


The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"


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Book Reviews



Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook


Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer


The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter


The Gay Disciple by John Henson


Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry


Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr


Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois


Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson


Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low


Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman


The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman


Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor


Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine


The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada


The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook


The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther


The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel


Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak


Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez


Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr


Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman


Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano


The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo


The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar


Occam’s Razor by David Duncan


Grace and Demion by Mel White


Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso


The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery


The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass


Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen


War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar


The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal


Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal


The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre


Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak


A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey


Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes


The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes


Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour


In Walt We Trust by John Marsh


Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary


A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary


Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott


Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou


Internal Landscapes by John Ollom


Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks


Yes by Brad Boney


Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler


Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal


Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson


Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette


The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson


The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire


"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught


Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology



The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons


Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert


The Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker


Out There by Perry Brass


The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh


The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan


It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja


ReCreations, edited by Catherine Lake


Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard


Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson


Dating the Greek Gods
by Brad Gooch


Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan


The Substance of God by Perry Brass


The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols


10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort


Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe


The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke


The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann


Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall


Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

An Interview with Ron Long


Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner


Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard


Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak


Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan


Rising Up by Joe Perez


Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez


That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco


Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman


Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang


MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether


Double Cross by David Ranan


The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak


Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry


In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson


The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson


Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray


Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak


Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A. Minor


Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien


Queering Christ by Robert Goss


Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage


The Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato


Catland by David Garrett Izzo


Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson


Yoga & the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main


Simple Grace by Malcolm Boyd


Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza


What Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett


Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans


Gift of the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen


Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden


The Liar's Prayer by Gregory Flood


Lovely are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman


The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak


3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke


Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak


Only the Good Parts by Daniel Curzon


Four Short Reviews of Books with a Message


Life Interrupted by Michael Parise


Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire


The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman


Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny


Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman


True Religion by J.L. Weinberg


The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer


Everything is God by Jay Michaelson


Reflection by Dennis Merritt


Everywhere Home by Fenton Johnson


Hard Lesson by James Gaston


God vs Gay? by Jay Michaelson


The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson


Roxie & Fred by Richard Alther


Not the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen


The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether


The Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber


AIDS Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar


Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost


The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal


Secret Body by Jeffrey J Kripal


In Hitler's House by Jonathan Lane


Walking on Glory by Edward Swift


The Paradox of Porn by Don Shewey


Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire


Enigma by Lloyd Meeker


Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson




Toby Johnson's Books on Gay Men's Spiritualities:




Gay
Perspective cover
Gay Perspective

Things Our [Homo]sexuality
Tells Us about the
Nature of God and
the Universe


Gay Perspective audiobook
Gay Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Matthew Whitfield. Click here







Gay
Spirituality cover
Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity and 
the Transformation of
Human Consciousness



gay-spirituality-audiobook
Gay Spirituality   is now available as an audiobook, beautifully narrated by John Sipple. Click here








charmed lives
Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling

edited by
Toby Johnson
& Steve Berman







secret matter
Secret Matter

Lammy Award Winner for Gay Science Fiction

updated







Getting Life
Getting Life in Perspective

A Fantastical Romance





Getting
Life in Perspective audiobook
Getting Life in Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Alex Beckham. Click here 






The Fourth Quill

The Fourth Quill

originally published as PLAGUE




johnson-the-fourth-quill-audiobook
The Fourth Quill is available as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie Moreland. Click here






Two
Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo

with Walter L. Williams




Two Spirits
audiobookTwo Spirits  is available as an audiobook  narrated by Arthur Raymond. Click here






Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III
Finding Your Own True Myth:
What I Learned from Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Great Secret III








In
Search of God in the Sexual Underworld
In Search of God  in the Sexual Underworld










The Myth of the Great Secret II

The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell.

This was the second edition of this book.




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Toby Johnson's titles are available in other ebook formats from Smashwords.



This is a Must-Read for Every Gay Man



the-soul-beneath-the-skin
The Soul Beneath the Skin: The Unseen Hearts and Habits of Gay Men


By David Nimmons

May 2002

 $18.69


978-0312320409


Available from Amazon.com

The Soul Beneath the Skin: The Unseen Hearts and Habits of Gay Men

Also available for Kindle and ebooks.

5 stars

This review appeared in White Crane Journal #54, Fall 2002

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

  Speaking of gay community and the decades of gay liberationist thought, here’s a wonderful presentation of what all this effort has resulted in. Subtitled “The unseen hearts and habits of gay men,” Dave Nimmons’ book marshals evidence from hundreds of social science studies and anecdotal reports of actual people to tell the truth about gay life. I was so taken with this book—and with this truth—that I prevailed upon the author to excerpt and summarize the book as the anchor article for this current issue of White Crane. See below.
David Nimmons
He agreed with the same kind of enthusiasm with which I was inspired to ask—’cause obviously he’s enthusiastic about the truth of who and what gay men really are. Because the problem is that while it’s so clearly true that most of us are happy, productive, peaceful, non-violent, cooperative, friendly, sensitive, generous people (whose vision of life would, literally, save the world from self-destruction), most people—including most of us—still don’t get it. We are still suffering from negative stereotypes, imposed on us by homophobia both from without and from within, that being gay is a hardship and a failure. Too many of us, experiencing our own motivation as so good, tend to think of ourselves as exceptions. Indeed, we feel marginalized from the gay community because our political and social opponents (themselves suffering from unintentional—or at least unwitting—errors in perception) have succeeded in preventing everyone from recognizing the appropriately positive and contributing place gay identity currently has in the evolution of life and transformation of consciousness on Earth. It’s time that misperception change.

The recommendation for Soul Beneath the Skin is the optimistic feelings and excitement you experience reading the excerpts below. Read the rest of the book. I bet you’ll love it, as I did.



Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of
The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell, Gay Spirituality, Getting Life in Perspective and other novels and books




This article in based on material excerpted from David Nimmons’ remarkable book The Soul Beneath the Skin: The unseen hearts and habits of gay men published in 2002 by St. Martin’s. White Crane is proud to enthusiastically recommend this book to its readership.

Changing the World from the Margins


It may well be that gay liberation’s pioneering a new model of intimate relationship on the margins of society, which will eventually resolve the problems of larger society. “The love which has no name” may give new names for love, new love styles to all humanity.     —John Lee

For forty years, gay men have conceived and defined our primary cultural work to cleave out social space for our erotic selves. In that time,we built what is without question the richest sexual culture the planet has ever seen. Yet the possibility that such innovations may hold anything important, humane, or liberating goes largely unaddressed in majority culture and media. At best, our practices are viewed with studied silence; at worst,media view and dissect our customs with wide-eyed alarm and ferocious distrust.

We see that our culture is everywhere misrepresented, even to ourselves, always presented in the dimmest light. Consider: the alarming, sensationalized statistics that a third of gay men fail to practice safer sex, equally suggest that two thirds of gay men in those studies do consistently practice it. When, in that light, we look at the motives for such behavior, we discover it is often based in altruism, compassion and concern for other gay men as brothers, not outof fear or avoidance of sex and intimacy. Perhaps we practice safe sex not because we’re those promiscuous, uncaring sluts recklessly endangering our own and others’ lives but because we are caring and compassionate comrades who seek to bravely reach out to one another, with a new vision of sexual connection.

Consider: the early headlines about HIV being spread by gay men donating blood or about the prevalence of homosexuals joining the priesthood or wanting to be Scout Masters, soldiers or teachers.

All might be read to suggest that gay men have notable tendencies to volunteer, to be caretakers and social servants. Yet when do we hear about our uncontrollable urges…to volunteer?

Consider: scary headlines that domestic violence is a scourge in gay communities mask the reality that, in every other situation, we demonstrate a remarkable absence of public violence. To be sure, any domestic violence is too much, and for those involved, the human cost is as real and hard as a clenched fist. Yet two facts ring with absolute clarity. First, that it is hard to make the case that gay men’s domestic violence levels are any higher, and they may in fact be lower than in the dominant society.But second, and far more important, when one expands the analytic lens to include the full range of violent assault behaviors—not just domestic violence but public violence, bar brawling, street violence, mass gatherings, and bias violence—one conclusion emerges clearly. We have created one of the most peaceable populations of males on the planet.

As Australian sociologist Gary Dowsett has written, the gay world  of Adelaide, Australia, can best be described as a “tartan rug,” a complex patchwork shaded with different colors and hues, intersecting stripes, as interwoven as they are distinct. It is not, as the media—mainstream and our own—present, all white, all pumped, all employed, and all in the same Castro zip code. As we gaze deeper into this rich male mandala, read the studies, sift the weight of factual evidence accumulating in sociology, criminology, anthropology, public health and epidemiology, hear men’s stories and dreams, hang out in the watering holes and the Lofts of the world, one cannot help but be struck by the variety of uncommon practices in the lives of these men.

If gay men were simply finding new ways to be with each other, it would hold some descriptive sociological interest, like a treatise on Mennonite or Hopi Indian customs. But upon examination it becomes clear that the breadth and scope of gay male social innovations have no clear parallel in contemporary culture. Males just do not relate to other males in the ways we do.Yet the virtues and strengths of our connections with one another are often dismissed as marginal and insignificant.

To put this into relief, imagine that another group of men, say a previously little-known order of devout monks, has been discovered living scattered among the populace in our major cities and countryside. Social scientists document that these brothers are characterized by a virtual absence of public violence, high levels of service and volunteerism, and novel forms of caretaking with strangers and each other. Researchers further note that they manifest an uncommon amity across gender lines, enjoy distinctive rituals of bliss, worship, spectacle, and public play. Their patterns of friendships are distinctly powerful, with wide-ranging networks of intimate and intertwined social relations,whose members often live in closely woven networks of intentional communities.


If such a hypothetical band were indeed found, its discovery would arouse keen excitement. The brotherhood and its members would be lauded, lionized, if not canonized. They would be hailed as role models. The President might cite them in his State of the Union address; the Pope would praise them as moral exemplars.
Before you know it, Time magazine would put them on its cover and they would be trooping onto Oprah for their fifteen minutes of media spotlight.

Yet although every one of those attributes has been well documented in the cultures created among gay men, no such attention has materialized. We’ve gotten no calls from Time, no invites to the White House, not a peep from the Vatican. Not even a message from our pal Oprah. The wider culture seems to have missed the story that these homosocial laboratories are brewing a set of values experiments without modern precedent.

Objectively,we are innovating in areas of male care and nurture, altruism and service, brotherhood and peacefulness.We are crafting powerful changes around bliss and ecstasy; gender roles and sexuality; intimacy, friendship, and communalism. Yet because it is gay men who are both the innovators and subjects in these experiments, their dimensions have gone largely unremarked, their meaning virtually unseen. We have paid little heed to the most interesting implications of it all.

The metaphor of the monks is closer to truth than it might first appear, for one would have to examine highly determined male cultures—religious orders, intentional spiritual brotherhoods, fraternal organizations, places where rules and codes are formalized and enforced—in order to observe such similar male patterns.These habits, customs, and practices in our communities, this gay culture of male care, pacifism, intimacy, and service, recall a range of spiritual teachings. Yet in gay neighborhoods from San Diego to San Antonio to Seattle, one sees these habits arising natively as everyday social practice, the indigenous manifestations of chosen social norms.

It would be easy, and wrong, to read this observations as a smug brief for gay men’s superiority. Instead, we can put forth a more nuanced set of claims. First, that the lives that many gay men have been building do indeed hold demonstrable, culture-changing implications both for ourselves and for the larger society. Second, that we have long overlooked them in part because the accustomed stories offered to, told among, and accepted by gay men dangerously obscure central truths about the values evolution we are engaged in. Third, that viewed together, these queer cultural experiments can best be understood as a new, evolving public ethic. They are complex and contested, they do not happen everywhere nor uniformly, and not all of us are included in them. But throughout, they have a rich ethical basis in thought and theory, in action and relation. At its core, we are witnessing the birth of a newset ofmale possibilities, outlined in lavender.

The fourth implication may be, to some, the most provocative of all. Far from describing some latter-day Sodom, a society of sluts and sybarites, many of the customs of gay enclave cultures echo traditions of Judeo-Christian brotherhoods and intentional communities. Stroll down Eighth Avenue, La Cienega Boulevard, or Halstead Street, and you can just hear echoes of utopian philosophic traditions of caritas and beloved community.Wipe your eyes in the sweaty and smiling crowd at 2:00 A.M. at NewYork’s Roxy or South Beach’s 1771 or Los Angeles’s Factory, and you may well feel you’ve stumbled into a postmodern rendering of Whitman’s “dear love of comrades.” One might almost imagine that we were a society of friends, if only we knew it.

Queer-inspired practices, from Radical Faerie gatherings to AIDS volunteer buddy teams, shimmer with notions of communal caretaking and altruism. At their best, they recall nothing so much as New Testament teachings of agape and caritas, male embodiments of service and nurture, nonviolence and gender peace, brotherhood and friendship, all spiced with equal dollops of sexuality and spectacle. Only in this case, the apostles are wearing Calvins or Abercrombie and Fitch . . . and sometimes not even that. Yet look at the soul beneath the skin, and you see we are rewriting the defaults of what a culture of men can be with and for each other.

The time has come to note the experiments of heart and habit now arising in gay worlds, to discern what they mean for gay men ourselves and for the shared world culture. Because our cultural practices don’t just differ from those of the dominant society, they shape them. America is a synthetic culture, with a long history of cultural borrowing. In that light, this people—public, self-identified gay men, gathered in communities—are just a few short decades off the boat. But ours is an odd niche, for we are emigrants and immigrants both, all without ever having left our own shores.
Perhaps we are more accurately understood not as immigrants at all, but as a recently emerging indigenous American culture. We are still in the process of becoming, the ink still wet on our ways and practices.But we have already proven ourselves a prolific source of societal change.

Obviously, the conventional wisdom that gay men are narcissistic sex addicts and sinners living in a marginalized demimonde of drugs and disease, creating nothing but problems for police and public health authorities (a set of opinions diameterically opposed to the facts)makes sense only if one believes that our larger culture gained nothing of value whatever from explorations of sex and gender in the 1960s. Or that, even if it did back then, that America has nothing further to learn about sexuality.
But if either of those isn’t true—if we’re not in sexual Jerusalem yet—then small wonder gay men’s sexuality frightens the culture’s horses in such a big way. For we embody a far more subtle and unsettling truth.

Perhaps sexual explorations bring not just costs, but unsuspected collective and individual benefits. At this historical moment, gay men are so troubling precisely as living, breathing proof that a subculture can play by different rules. We bring erotic tidings that many would prefer stay unheard: that humans are blessed with open hearts and willing bodies, the better to enjoy a robust erotic communion with each other. In a larger society that has resolutely held its erotic fantasies and desires at bay, we are a reminder that one could instead invite them in to sup—and have them stay the night. Even more disquieting, that maybe, just maybe, we could all awake in the morning to find our humanity not only intact, but vastly enriched. What then?

Our queer sex narrative is less a mere morality play of wanton hedonism than a stunning cultural accomplishment. It presents a systematic cultural elevation and recognition of the power of the erotic, a celebration of collective carnality.At its best, it is bounded by ethics and informed by care, and nurturant of relationships. It can open doors, personal, dyadic, and collective—although we have work to do to fully realize those promises.

Millions of gay men have built the planet’s most unabashedly sex-affirming culture. We have done it in a few short years, in a nation moving away from erotic pleasure, conflicted about sex, ashamed of bodies, and increasingly vocal about our suppression.

Yay for our side. But what if it turns out that sex is just a proxy? We built such unparalleled sexual cultures when we imagined that sex was what made us unique. Our sex and bodies were how the larger society saw to name us as different, and for years, they were how we ourselves grasped our prime difference. So we manifested that into being, big time.But our sex may be just the most visible marker of our cultural invention. The sex is the part the world has most easily seen. But what if it blinded us to something else all these years?

Maybe our key difference doesn’t lie in our erotic after all. What if it’s just our opening act, a way of learning what we can do together? What if all that sex—that lovely, magnificent, sticky, daring, tender, piggy, bold, sweated sex—is just a dry run for the glorious trouble we can make when we put our will to it? At this millennial moment, our deepest cultural impulses may be less about male bodies than about male hearts. Given our unnamed habits of nonviolence, service, caretaking and altruism, intimacy, the hundred ways that we rewrite the rules on men, sex may turn out to be the least radical of our differences.

It’s time to ponder the F-word at the center of gay lives. No, not that one. I’m talking about friendship, silly. But you went there, didn’t you? Of course you did; our sexual exploits usually steal the headlines. Yet when we cast an eye beyond the bedrooms, backrooms, and baths, a far more profound set of gay affectional innovations comes into view. For we are rewriting the rules and habits of intimacy.The very practice of friendship is being reinvented in gay worlds.

In a remarkable essay, “Friendship as a Way of Life,” French philosopher Michel Foucault defined friendship as the core philosophical issue at play in queer men’s lives: “Affection, tenderness, friendship, fidelity, camaraderie, and companionship.
Things which our rather sanitized society can’t allow a place for. . . That’s what makes homosexuality so ‘disturbing’: The homosexual mode of life much more than the sexual act itself. To imagine a sexual act . . . is not what disturbs people. But that individuals are beginning to love one another—there’s the problem.”

Foucault argued that openly gay worlds offered “unique historic opportunities for an elaboration of personal and ethical creativity analogous to that practiced by certain moral athletes in classical antiquity.Only now such creativity need not be restricted to a social elite or a single, privileged gender, but could become the common property of an entire subculture.”

Understanding how we do that, to more fully recognize the values we demonstrate in our actions, has to be the goal of our collective effort. The first step is to name those special parts of being gay that we don’t usually talk about. This does not imply an uncritical or simplistic queer rah-rah boosterism. Nothing in this discussion is intended to “build esteem” or “create” pride or “show our best face to the world.” The goal is simply to tell the whole truth we know in our lives, and what we may feel in our gut. That is, to widen the analytic lens to view more of ourselves and our practices. We need to recount our wisdoms as well as we do our warts, or we’re telling only half a truth. Yet all that truth-telling is just preparation forwork in the real world. Because it turns out that if we seek to feel love manifest with those in your life, you need to manifest love.

I really do believe that we as gay people have an involved role in the world. I see gays as a kind of perpetual Peace Corps. We are meant for something far beyond ourselves and our own selfish concerns. This is a part of the meaning of being gay.

       —Reverend Malcolm Boyd


If we could some wise contrive to have a city or an army composed of lovers and those they loved. . . when fighting side by side, one might almost consider them able to make even a little band victorious over all the world.

        —Plato, Symposium



In an interview with a French gay magazine, Foucault once made this observation:

"[Homosexuality] would make us work on ourselves and invent, I do not say discover, a manner of being that is still improbable."

It is to the invention of improbability we are now called. Its exact shapes and forms depend on us. But basically, it comes down to this: If we want to rewrite the code of conduct in this Queer Kingdom, everybody has to grab a pen. The only way to get a more trusting and affectionate queer men’s world is to make it. Because, it turns out,when we’re all being that way with each other, the next thing you know . . that’s what we are to each other.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. —Mahatma Gandhi
We cannot yet know what will happen when this confederacy of beloved men unabashedly claims our values before the world. If we better understood and celebrated our best practices, gay lives would never look the same.

Then, of course, all hell might break lose. In a world beset by violence, with male nurturance and caretaking in short supply, for a society confused and guilty in its sexuality, where practices of intimacy and the pursuit of pleasure are viewed with suspicion, where relations between the sexes are fraught with risk and confusion—in such a straining world, might not the lessons of such men help us all? As our distinct habits diffuse, how might that change the life of our larger culture?

Who knows what it could look like if our gender were less prone to violent solutions; if new varieties of communalism and caretaking now seen in many of our lives were a broader norm; if celebratory sexual exploration were a more accepted feature of our culture, enjoyed and explored, not hidden and lied about; if we structured our intimate communities in more inclusive ways; if our national life included more freely loving, publicly altruistic men; if we could find new understandings across gender lines. In a dozen demonstrable ways, our habits have the potential to shift the most deeply held values of the majority culture. How might that transform the experiences and fears of women, of children, and of men? What promise does it hold to sweeten the shared life of our planet? If, as facts suggest, society harbors a hidden army of lovers in its midst, the challenge is to celebrate and nurture these gifts, this genius. It is a cultural patrimony we can offer to our shared life as a nation. Equally important, it is a gift to ourselves that will transform our own experience with and for each other. For now we know only this. A resolute community of fiercely loving males can only heal the world.

We, whom Plato called the best of boys, the bravest of men, can compose his army of lovers.When we more fully manifest love in word and deed and we live out the values of our hidden hearts, the larger culture can only follow. It always has.

David Nimmons was formerly President of New York’s Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center. This text was excerpted by the author from his St. Martin’s Press book The Soul Beneath the Skin.


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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of nine books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, four gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality and editor of a collection of "myths" of gay men's consciousness. 

Johnson's book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.

His  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They remain in print.

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III tells the story of Johnson's learning the real nature of religion and myth and discovering the spiritual qualities of gay male consciousness.

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