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The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World
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The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  3,039 ratings  ·  327 reviews
The gay male world today is characterized by seductive beauty, artful creativity, flamboyant sexuality, and, encouragingly, unprecedented acceptability in society. Yet despite the progress of the recent past, gay men still find themselves asking, "Are we really better off?" The inevitable byproduct of growing up gay in a straight world continues to be the internalization o ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Da Capo Lifelong Books (first published 2005)
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Liam I don't know which book you read, but it wasn't this one. Yes, it reviews the past as well as the near-present experience of being gay, but at no…moreI don't know which book you read, but it wasn't this one. Yes, it reviews the past as well as the near-present experience of being gay, but at no point does it glorify that. Rather, it uses those experiences as a pathway for gay men like myself to closely examine who we were and are and why.(less)

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Hannah Greendale
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Velvet Rage provides a three-stage model for the journey gay men are encouraged to take in order to (i) embrace their sexuality, (ii) acknowledge what habits or addictions they rely on to compensate for insecurity; and (iii) discover a life of authenticity and subsequently enjoy healthy relationships.

The experience of being a gay man in the twenty-first century is different than any other minority, sexual orientation, gender, or culture grouping. [. . .] Our lives are a unique blending of t
...more
Hani Omar
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book way more than I did. Downs' broad premise - that gay culture is awash in deeply calcified narcissism - is a valid one, and bears the additional virture of being entirely true. However, like many readers, it became clear to me very early on that I did not fall into this book's target demographic, which has led me to wonder if its scope is much more narrow than many (including the author) realize. There is a white upper middle class American-centricity to Downs' approach ...more
Corey Fry
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every gay person or friend/family of a gay person
this book gave me chills because i've never felt an author hit so close to the mark with his description of gay male psychological development. i couldn't have read this at a better time and i am eternally grateful to the author.

my only caveat is to take from it what you will. i think as gay males in our twenties and thirties, we might have a different developmental arc than the gay male generation ahead of us, for which this book seems to be written. however, the fundamental truths still exist
...more
Okey
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
While I somewhat relate to his message I had to question (a) his methodology and (b) his not-unrelated narrowness of view and sweeping generalisations. Regarding (a) I think there's a serious lack of statistics to back up his statements - he relies on readers being convinced by the familiar sound of the problems he describes, and on their being disarmed by the idea that they aren't alone in suffering those problems, which I think is quite dodgy. And then (b) yes, he does acknowledge that he can ...more
Jeremy
Jul 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This is kind of at the intersection of 2 genres I seldom read: non-fiction about LGBT issues, and popular psychology. The former genre is something I've just never paid much attention to, the latter is something I've actively ignored from my own snobby contempt (I still remember rolling my eyes every afternoon as a kid when my mom would put on Oprah).

Anyway, the basic underlying assumption of this book-- that gay men specifically have a spate of psychological issues which follow them throughout
...more
Cale Dietrich
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Honestly one of the most powerful and thought provoking books I’ve ever read. Certainly one of the most important nonfiction books of my life, and I say that after just finishing it. I’m not sure I exactly agree with *everything* in it – the worldview of the author can seem really bleak at times, but a lot of this genuinely struck home for me and the whole thing really made me think deeply. I honestly think this is a book all gay men should read. Actually everyone should read this, as I think it ...more
Jim
Sep 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
As self-help books go (and I will admit that I am not a fan of the genre), The Velvet Rage is actually quite good. The problematic issue with many self-help books is that the underlying philosophy (or approach, or methodology, or treatment, etc.) is based on the assumption that everyone who reads the book is suffering with or struggling with the same condition (e.g., obesity, addiction, unhealthy relationship). This kind of essentializing or pathologizing of a condition usually results in overly ...more
Conor
The other day, as we were sitting around the office trying to be thoughtful about trans rights legal guidance for the city, a moment of levity transpired. Someone said that someone else who had been involved in the drafting had said, "Don't LGBTQ people want gender and sex to be conflated?" And without wading into the practical and theoretical morass of that debate, I'm glad we could laugh it off, because though I admire our unfortunately rare moments of solidarity and I hope for more allyship-- ...more
Mike
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it
The quick review: the book is targeted toward gay men, but it’s a worthwhile read if you have any interest in reflection, self-help culture, and even philosophy (if that seems grandiose, just remember that philosophy includes the search for meaning and happiness, whether it's Aristotle or a hippy dippy secular guru doing the philosophising). It’s not as ordered as it could be, it is more than a bit new-agey, but if you can get over that there’s more than a little here. And as a side note: if all ...more
Chris Colman
I'm conflicted on this book. While I could relate to many of the author's points on gay shame and how it affects us, I struggled with the position from which the author was writing. Early on, the author puts forth a homogenous view of the gay experience, one that oftentimes seemed moneyed and white. With practically every example the author employs, there's mention of fabulous wealth, executive careers, and many other hallmarks of affluence that I just couldn't relate to in my experience. Early ...more
Evan Oare
Dec 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
While I started reading this book believing it was telling me exactly what I needed to hear, the effect quickly wore off as the book progressed to be obviously addressed to a slightly different audience. The book panders to well-to-do gay men who are well on their in years who are looking in retrospect over their lives. While I still found many of the lessons helpful whether or not they have applied to me already or might in the future, the constant anecdotes about men who have everything (ultra ...more
Stephen Bird
I was looking for a therapist and during one consultation this book was recommended to me. This work addresses problems that are classically inherent to gay men: body fascism, objectification, perfectionism, inauthenticity, "instamacy", abuse / self-abuse, shame. The author is at his best when focusing on the clinical aspects / analysis of the particular gay male subject is being discussed. In general -- This work is a very fast read.

When I arrived in NYC in the fall of 1980, promiscuity was the
...more
Matt John
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alan Downs, Ph.D. is a California licensed clinical psychologist who specialises in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), gay men’s issues, and psychological assessment. Using his own experiences and those of his patients (names changed), Downs defines what all gay men deal with - shame. Downs theorises that this shame is born out of being different (ie gay) in a heterosexual world and it this shame which causes many gay men to be the superficial, spiteful and non-commited persons that fit the ste ...more
Bobby Simic
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adultnonfiction
Psychologist Alan Downs believes gay men have an inherent form of shame because of a lack of acceptance from our straight male-dominated society. Because of this shame, we've adapted, suppressing certain behaviors, adding others and seeking validation, in order to overcompensate for our percepted faults and to be better welcomed into society. According to him, gay men often feel unfulfilled because we've lost our "true self," and this has repercussions in our relationships and other endeavors. I ...more
João Vaz
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Good good insights, I couldn't really relate with most of it but at least one learns what to avoid. BUT! I sometimes felt as though I was watching a National Geographic documentary: the gay man when at stage three does tarara, the gay man goes and hunts lol
Then there's this last part of the book on how to reinvent yourself to be better, self-help that is! I was bored to distraction. So I just thought: skimming throughhhh!
Michael Kage
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
Great book. Really isolates the average experience of the gay male in our society. While not every topic will apply to every gay male, the author acknowledges this, it does ring true at some level in nearly all gay males I know who have read it. Also, there is valuable knowledge for straight men and women also who wish to better understand their gay counterparts.
Alex Grigoriev
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly insightful.
Morgan Blackledge
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh god what a life affirming and inspirational book.

It's ironic that many men, gay and straight alike, will be diverted from reading this healing, insight engendering book, simply out of fear.

It's sad that many women may not feel drawn to this liberating and empowering book because it's about men.

A lot of people will even avoid this review out of fear and shame.

And that is such a shame.

Because this book is a thing of beauty, intelligence and excellence (all things commonly associated with ga
...more
Brandon Will
Oct 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-halp
Downs acknowledges the symptoms and hurts this book describes aren't solely experienced by gayish dudes --but this is a book I wish every GBT dude or anyone who closely interacts with GBT dudes would read.

This book is a masterpiece, culled from a lifetime of trying to figure out how to move past hurts, while helping other gay men do the same.

Some key points:

"We are born into this world helpless, love-starved creatures" who "avoid abandonment at all costs." GBT dudes know they're different from a
...more
Steven
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not everyone can afford to see a therapist, but here is a "self help" book that can really help if one reads it with an open mind. It may terrify some people, because this is one doctor who politely pulls the masks off the Oz-like wizards so many of us gay men wear in order to cope with being gay in "a straight man's world." I recognized myself in these pages;perhaps you will too. My only quibble with the book, and it's minor, is that the author uses the umbrella term "shame" in defining the sta ...more
Andrew Rumbles
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Can we be happy gay men, when the pattern of life thwarts us at every turn? Alan Downs is a clinical psychologist and gay man who wants to help gay men become happier human beings.
The Velvet Rage explores the typical stages of growing up and coming out as gay. Alan looks at the shame and rage we overcome as we become out and looks at how we compensate and seek validation as authentic human beings. He quotes examples of men he has worked with throughout the book, which does add life to the text.
...more
Tucker
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it
The sole focus is the emotional problems of gay men who act out their internalized shame through sex addiction and drug addiction. The suggestion is that "everyone" is acting out this drama, and, if you are on that kind of scene, I suppose it might seem that way. Of course, not all gay men have these particular problems, and the book would have been more interesting to me had it explored why some people behave this way and others do not. Many people find this a powerful book, nonetheless, and I ...more
F.E. Jr.
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Velvet Rage- great title. Because I think it's true. We swallow down our anger. Our fear. Our past. We drink and get drunk on it. We let it consume us. And are consumed by it. It's everywhere we look, it's in the lives that we've led. There is an anger there. An injustice. And it's hard to kick against society and taking a step out into ourselves.
I found this book to be enlightening. Several times I set it down and thought about past relationships, parental discord, familial discord, feelin
...more
Scott
Mar 01, 2012 added it
Interesting. I have a few issues with it. I think the author spent a lot of ink explaining stereotypes instead of questioning them. For example I am not sure that all gay men are actually affluent, successful and generally fabulous. I've never been invited to a single white tie party in Malibu or wherever it was in my entire life, much less hosted one. I think that many gay men are fairly average.

I am also quite uncomfortable about his -- what is it?-- assumption or belief -- that life-long rel
...more
Wade
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this for work, and it provides an intriguing theory about the effects of shame on gay men. While the childhood stuff about fathers, etc. may ring true for a specific number of gay men who grew up in a specific culture-and-time period, I think the author's description of the ways that we internalize and run from shame is a great template for considering a pathway toward more authentic way of life. I'm using it as part of training the interns I work with. What I'd love to know is how much t ...more
Kalem Wright
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Velvet Rage argues that invalidation drives the inward-facing shaming and outward-facing search for acquisition and avoidance that gay men experience early on in coming out. It utilizes several brief case studies from the author’s psychological experience and additionally layers a discussion of learned gender roles as influencing the emotional illiteracy of men in relationships. A great read for a professional although its reliance on psychodynamic perspective and lack of discussion of intra ...more
Rick
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a gay man of a certain age, this book provided a cold, hard look in the mirror and solid, practical advice for issues I've been dealing with for years (whether I was aware of them or not). Excellent, thoughtful, and thought-provoking reading.
Ben
Mar 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Not sure how to react to this book. On the one hand, the premise seems a little melodramatic. On the other hand, I can't say there weren't a lot of elements I could relate to. Definitely gave me stuff to think about. Could have used a good copy-editing.
Kylan
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend recommendation and good to read over again. Some of the messages are simple but it's usually those simple messages that become lost in life.

I certainly relearned a few skills.
Dana Sweeney
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not for me.

For starters, this book was more self-help than sociology, which I wasn’t expecting. I picked it up because I have seen or heard it described as a classic text in LGBTQ literature, and for queer men specifically. I wasn’t what I hoped for, but by virtue of its self-help style, it was still sometimes practical. It was, at turns, deeply insightful and helpful — there were dozens of times while reading that I felt a deep sense of recognition or lingered over a particular piece of concret
...more
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32 followers
Alan Downs, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and the CEO of Michael's House.

His fifteen years of treating clients throughout America's culture have already been reflected in his numerous books in both leadership and self-help. His two most recent books include The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World and The Half Empty Heart.
“The damaging part of learning to live your life in two parts , whether in reality or fantasy, cannot be underestimated. It is an infectious skill that you learned, one that would eventually spread beyond the bedroom of your life. Life wasn't ever what it seemed on the surface. Nothing could be trusted for what it appeared to be. After all, you weren't what you appeared to be. In learning to hide part of yourself, you lost the ability to trust anything or anyone fully. Without knowing it, you traded humane innocence for dry cynicism.” 4 likes
“Always seek to allow others the space to be imperfect.” 4 likes
More quotes…