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Straight Jacket

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  900 ratings  ·  75 reviews
'This is an essential read for every gay person on the planet' - Elton John



Straight Jacket is a revolutionary clarion call for gay men, the wider LGBT community, their friends and family. Part memoir, part ground-breaking polemic, it looks beneath the shiny facade of contemporary gay culture and as
Published June 16th 2016 by Transworld Digital (first published July 1st 2012)
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Elwycke The first one that springs to mind is 'The Velvet Rage' by Alan Downs. Very good indeed, life-changing in fact.…moreThe first one that springs to mind is 'The Velvet Rage' by Alan Downs. Very good indeed, life-changing in fact.(less)

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Far from a groundbreaking narrative, Matthew Todd's Straight Jacket (2016) is just that: exceptional in accounts of journalism, but the material is far from novel. Todd utilises a common appeal to psychoanalysis, admitting he is not a trained practitioner and prescribing all the same. His reliance upon anecdotes is powerful and engenders meaningful images of ‘authentic queer’ lives, an ontological hinge upon which his psychological thinking wavers. (Never mind that the 'authentic queer self' col ...more
Andrew Marshall
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
A sincere and heartfelt cry to the gay community to come out of denial about the impact of childhood pains on our lives today.

Todd is a journalist and former editor of a glossy gay magazine with lots of pictures of cute and sometime famous people with their shirts off. However, he has a campaigning soul and is concerned about the number of gay deaths from suicide and drug overdoses. He calls it the second health crisis facing gay men - after HIV/AIDS. He is particularly strong on how many gay m
There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between this book’s title, and its relentless focus on the socio-cultural consequences of gay culture being perceived as celebrating “partying as a central tenet of our identity.” You know the drill: sex, drugs, rock ’n roll, P(R)EP, HIV.

‘How to Be Gay & Happy’ does make for necessary, if rather relentlessly sober, reading. But the ‘happy’ bit, which attracted me to read this initially, is a kind of tag-on at the end, as if Matthew Todd realised he eith
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I tend to agree with Elton John - this 'is' an essential read for gay men. I do get why some people felt the contents of the book didn't live up to the book's subtitle. Maybe that could be changed for a future updated edition or Matthew could write a follow up, which tells more positive stories from members of the community who have gone through recovery and seen its positive effect on their lives. Having seen the destructiveness of the scene first hand, losing loved ones along the way, and goin ...more
Despite the subtitle 'How to be Gay and Happy', this isn't very happy reading. It's more about the psychological damage being LGBT in today's society does to you. Although I really don't want to say anything bad about this book because it clearly is very necessary and has had a positive impact on some of those who read it, I did find it a bit repetitive, anecdotal and clunky in parts. I would also have loved more focus on the 'happy' bit, which Todd does do in a few chapters at the end - I found ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it liked it
A rallying call for the 'mainstream' gay man.

It's an ambitious attempt to draw together the ills facing gay men (and lgbt people by extension) currently.

There are a lot of issues with it, of course. I'll note the three that stuck out most for me. Lots of the information presented is anecdotal, but as Todd points out, this is due to a lack of research on the most part, and he does qualify his opinions as opinions. Additionally, the emphasis on personal therapy and twelve step programs are somewha
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ive read "The Velvet Rage" by Alan Downs and by and large i found this book built on the ideas covered there. I found much of the stories to be impactful and at times quite troubling. Being gay in a heteronormative society is not easy, but add the macho aggression found here in Australia and it changes it to a very bleak place.

I was at times affected and effected by the plight of the people discussed in the book. It brought back many many memories from my past, not all bad but mainly painful.

Scott Morrison
Didn't quite deliver on its promise ...more
George Fenwick
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
very painful and confronting to read in moments but also inspiring and uplifting. There were some moments where I felt Matthew Todd was overly defensive of Attitude, and perhaps a bit simplistic in explaining things like; "people who criticise shirtless covers don't turn out to support the non-shirtless covers," which I think has a foundation of truth but doesn't interrogate the issue much. I guess as an international reader I didn't need him to dwell on that so much; an acknowledgement of the i ...more
Amraj Lally
At once radical/transformative yet clumsy/unscientific.

I’m glad to have read the book because it has transformed my thinking on a number of issues that many have been too scared to confront. But I wouldn’t recommend without a word of warning: Much of the book is filled with hundreds of cherry-picked, tragic ‘case studies’ of gay men across a number of issues which are blended with the author's own stories. The author also fails to successfully deliver his promise to set out steps to set free (al
Mark Young
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book. Very informative. And very helpful.
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book helped me, I found it moving in places. The core messages of the book are important, and something anyone is struggling to live well in gay culture in any way, is worth reading to realise you are not alone.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've literally just finished reading this incredible book. So I'm going to review it straightaway and state that this is one of the best books I've ever read.
It's certainly not easy reading...I cried a lot because I recognised myself a lot. I can only offer my gratitude and love to Mr.Todd and the people within these pages who spoke about their experiences with such candour.
I honestly think EVERYONE should read this book. It's that important......Every school should have at least one copy, every
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Todd writes from experience and offers advice for those who are struggling with addiction and low self-esteem. The book encourages empathy and understanding of why some gay men act the way they do, and he outlines how they can find support to overcome their problems themselves. This book is a great place for guys to start their journey to recovery, and he lists services for readers to use to help them on their way. I have a lot of respect for Todd. He is not a doctor or a therapist, but he is do ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Outside shell, the person we present to the world, is not our authentic self: This is the adapted adult child. It's a child wh has adapted to deal with the wound but not been able to develop into an emotionally authentic adult."

And for real this book is all that I need a couple of years ago, but doesn't matter it was a experience to read and remember how I, as a gay man, deal with all the issues that the society force me to face everday.

Is an essential book to understand how we don't know t
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book felt very sincere and deep dive into the personal stories of gay men. At times it was incredibly difficult to read but I think it was because I saw myself reflected back at me. Some of the stories had a profound and heartfelt impact. I felt like the solutions section was a little lack luster at times but the author is a journalist not a psychiatrist and provides information for people who are trained to help so I feel like that is forgivable. Ultimately this book made me feel less alon ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the 21st century version of "The Velvet Rage", with its raw and confronting look at the way in which internalised and externalised homophobia has infiltrated the gay culture, especially with the rising drug and sexual abuse within the community. Whilst it aims to use substantial pieces of evidence to back Matthew's evidence, it still relies quite heavily on anecdotal evidence from interviews with acquaintances of his. However, he balances this with interviews with leading sexual hea ...more
Chaz Harris
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having previously read 'The Velvet Rage' this is a great companion to that covering a number of contemporary issues impacting gay men in particular. Both books tackle the impacts of shame on the life of a gay man and although it can be a disturbing read at times, perhaps one day when society has truly reached a place of acceptance and equality this book won't do accurately portray the lives and struggles of a lot of gay men anymore. One can only hope. Until then this book is well worth a read to ...more
Alastair Toft
Covers some serious and important issues, which are (thankfully) not particularly relevant to me. The subtitle is a little misleading as to the actual focus of the book. While it highlights genuine problems in a small part of the gay community, I didn't get any useful take-away from the book. ...more
Julie Bozza
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, gay, lgbtq
A lot of this was hard to read - but for the right reasons. I really appreciate Matthew Todd's choice to try to make a difference to how we live our lives. ...more
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Without wishing to slip into grandiloquent generalisations, I can honestly say that Straight Jacket has fundamentally altered the way that I understand my relationships to mental health and with other gay men. In Straight Jacket, Todd presents his ideas about queer people’s social development, particularly focusing on his theory of how, for LGBT+ people, a matrix of anxiety in childhood as a result of societal homo/bi/transphobia leads to the possibility of developing issues in adulthood. He com ...more
Simon Vandereecken
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: advised, lgbt
A bit less interesting than The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World and perhaps a lot more depressing, this book shows the state of the occidental gay world and the damages caused by depression, drugs, addictions, ... explored through the lens of the childhood trauma we encounter growing up in a world that still doesn't let us be who we are.

Nevertheless this book was really insightful, as I learned a lot about some of the coping mechanisms I used through
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know I'm not the first person to say that this book resonated with them on a deep level, but it undoubtedly will touch the lives of any gay man who reads it, or anyone who knows someone who is LGBTQ and wants to understand more about our lives. It is powerful, honest, moving and has the ability to help change peoples' lives for the better. You may think I am overreacting, but this book has made me think so much about my life and those of others who have experienced or are experiencing so much ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
"It is not your fault" - this should be the biggest takeaway for every LGBT person. The book describes very well growing up gay as trauma that has a lifelong impact. It's trauma that we continue to face in adulthood as we carefully navigate this world and make millions of calculations of when it is even safe to be who we are. It is also trauma that we always face - in my case being told by relatives not to let politics divide family when "family" donate to and support an anti-gay-marriage propos ...more
BhaviK Shah
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Matthew Todd’s exceptional and outstanding piece of work called “Straight Jacket” speaks about the confinement the hetero-normative society imposes on all of us, explaining the specific constraints for the LGBT+ community — dating back to the inception of when societies were formed. It took me approximately 5 months to read through this work of art, not because I was busy or had no time. I was scared. I have been on an emotional roller coaster ever since I read the first few pages of this book, ...more
Jordan Risebury-Crisp
I expected the book to examine restraints placed on LGBTQ+ people in overly hertonormative societies. Which is does fairly quickly.

Todd believes all LGBTQ+ individuals have inherent internalised shame from how we are raised in very hetronormative societies, particularly southern Britain in the last 30 years. This shame leads to addictions, which I can believe and have witnessed throughout the gay community in London. The book is then 1/3 guidance on seeking support and dealing with the addictio
Greg Lawrence
May 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a particularly challenging book to read as a gay man as it, in multiple ways, hits the nail on the head and brought some emotional experiences to the surface that I had supressed. It covers topics from coming out, LGBTQ representation in schools, and dating apps to eating disorders, drug and sex addiction, and the recovery process. I beg any gay man to read this book - it has opened my eyes (and filled them with tears). My life, with all it's acceptable flaws, are a product of where I'v ...more
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been avoiding reading this for a while, not being a fan of "self-help" books but in need of something to reset and calm my brain I dug this off the shelf. Truly this was an eye opening book. Thankfully many of the subjects of extreme addiction raised in the book do not apply to me, and yet the explorations and examine of the underlying causes are worth the time to read. Lots of things in my head are now ticking over differently than before. I would certainly recommend all of my gay friends ...more
Matthew Jarvis
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
This is kind of the English version of the acclaimed 'The Velvet Rage', or perhaps a follow up. It deals with ideas people may have constructed about themselves from outside sources and internal shame for being gay, but really it's mostly common sense about emotional management. The author leans on learnings by other 'Shame researchers' such as Brene Brown, who points to our strength in being vulnerable. At the end of the day, if you are worried about your self acceptance, this is a good book to ...more
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Revolutionary Read

I reccomend all to read this , even if you approach it and think it is purely a self help book. It is so much more than that. I was hesitant myself and mainly because I was afraid of facing past demons and taking off the jacket to see what was under the surface. In other words by reading this book it may help you strip off the layers of what potentially has held you back in life. For me it uncovered some dark areas and made me uncomfortable at first but I am glad I persevere
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