Is It Time to Grow Up?



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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Unpublished manuscripts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 article was published in 1984. Most of the issues discussed are still relevant thirty-five years later.


This article appeared in The Advocate, March 1984

Is It Time to Grow Up?

Confronting the Aging Process


Toby Johnson


Probably simply because of gay men's desire to appeal to prospective partners, homosexuality (and especially gay-identification) seems to inhibit aging. Have we discovered the Fountain of Youth? Or are we trapped in illusion?


Middle age is creeping up on the post-Stonewall generation—“the first generation of liberated gay men,” who discovered their sexuality and came of age during the turbulent years of the late ’60s and early ’70s. We are soon to reach our 40s. A few of the more precocious of us already have; and a few of the then already-adult men who were swept up in the youth rebellion of the ’60s and joined the ranks of the "liberated" are now in their 50s, 60s and beyond.

A curious quality of being gay is apparent in these men, especially when compared with their nongay contemporaries: classmates, brothers, boyhood chums—most of whom have married and raised children. The gay men generally look more fit, trim, boyish and sexy; in a word, younger.  Probably simply because of gay men's desire to appeal to prospective partners, homosexuality (and especially gay-identification) seems to inhibit aging. Have we discovered the Fountain of Youth? Or are we trapped in illusion? Have we missed out on aging? Are our souls, like a Dorian Gray painting sequestered somewhere in each of us, corrupting while our faces and physiques stay beautiful?

The current health crisis undermines our confidence that because we look youthful, attractive and healthy, we have staved off time's power over us. Ironically, the health crisis seems to manifest a tragically self-fulfilling prophecy most of us made impetuously (in the days when we "couldn't trust anyone over 30") when we said we dreaded getting old and stagnant and wished instead to live intensely and meaningfully, then burn out and die young—perhaps even martyring ourselves for the causes of justice and freedom.

This is a familiar theme of youth. The boy saints like Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, whom those of us who are Catholic were taught to emulate in parochial school, prayed to die young, devoured by the intensity of their spirituality. Today, in the ominous shadow of nuclear holocaust, teen-age punk rockers glorify death in a similar way as an escape from mediocrity and unattractiveness, and from what seems (from the perspective of a hyperkinetic youngster) like the boredom of the long afternoon of middle age: "Die Young, Stay Pretty," sings Blondie.

The phases of the body—childhood, pubescence, aging, health and illness, decrepitude and dying—are mechanical realities of the organic machines that are our bodies. They are also consequences of how we think of ourselves. Paradoxically, modern science is showing us that things are less mechanical than we've thought. Nuclear physicists find that their subjective expectations and observations influence the outcome of objective experiments. Brain researchers find that subjective self-image and expectation influence even the body's so-called autonomic systems.

The body manifests the psyche. The raw protoplasm, first formed by messages encoded in our DNA, continues to be formed throughout our lives by our lives. Not having magical paintings sequestered in attic rooms, all of us bear the consequences of our pasts and the implications of our futures in our own physiognomies. (The obvious "proof" is that gay-identification is obvious to us. It is not the jeans or mustache or keyring that makes a man a gay clone. His flesh itself takes on the group characteristics, just as, it is said, long-time couples, and dogs and their owners, come to resemble one another.) As much as from cellular deterioration and loss of tissue elasticity, aging results from alteration of personal identity and self-concept.


At least as long as the Baby Boomers are reasonably young, American consumerism will continue to make youth seem like a treasure to be carefully preserved. We homosexuals are not the only ones who are engaged in the battle with time. In an article in the October 1983 Esquire, David Hellerstein bemoans the psychological damage that occurs "When Men Won't Grow Up." Hellerstein, apparently a psychiatrist, a heterosexual and a member of the Baby Boom generation, reports on an epidemic of the "Peter Pan Complex" among his contemporaries. Hellerstein cites the work of Jungian psychoanalyst Marie-Louise von Franz, who elaborated Jung's notion of the archetype of the puer aeternus ("eternal boy"). According to Von Franz, "puers" are delightful men. They are charming and enthusiastic, adventurous and open to new ideas. Internally they are often intensely spiritual and externally caught up in social causes. They are sometimes remarkably successful. But they generally feel restless, dissatisfied, inadequate and unfulfilled—because their dreams are so much greater than the reality they see—and occasionally suicidal.

Puers make poor husbands and fathers, since they are apt to run off on new adventures. Domesticity is for them a vice that threatens both their freedom and their integrity. Their greatest problem is loving and being loved. Hellerstein explains that puers are afraid of making commitments; they don't want to give up adolescent freedom; they resent being pushed to choose some options and exclude others. They have great expectations for the future of what they'll do, whom they'll love and who will love them, but frequently they lack the wherewithal to fulfill their fantasies.

In the psychoanalytic literature, the qualities and shortcomings of these men are explained as "narcissism." Frequently homosexuality is cited as one of the shortcomings of the puer aeternus. It is to Hellerstein's credit that he makes no references to homosexuality (though he'd be myopic not to see that gay culture exemplifies the psychodynamics he describes). Hellerstein, in fact, dismisses the old psychoanalytic characterizations and explains the currency of the puer personality as a cultural phenomenon: "It's not that these men are immature but that the world has changed: the solutions of previous generations don't really work anymore."

The problems that Hellerstein sees among heterosexual men now in their mid 30s are problems that, perhaps for slightly different reasons, gay men are facing collectively. The health crisis—this sudden confrontation with mortality, this demand that we make choices and limit our options—is forcing us to assess the roles of sex, love and relationships, and to seek new models for gay life. For us too, love is a primary issue in our experience of growing old. Our culture has been so focused on vitality and sexiness that, at least according to the view popularized in our media and in our culture-shaping institutions, we seem to have dismissed love in favor of fleeting sexual infatuations. We've appeared to judge our partners and ourselves less on personal lovableness than on physical attractiveness. Because it promises to take away our sexiness, aging represents a massive threat.

There's recently been a rebirth of interest in relationships among gay men. AIDS has made monogamy look attractive and prolific promiscuity (lionized in the porn industry, if not actually lived by most homosexuals) look lethal. The media-presented image is changing. Andrew Mattison and David McWhirter, the new gurus of relationship, estimate that 50% of homosexuals are in lover-type relationships. (That's a startling statistic—not that it's wrong, but that it calls into question how we've thought of ourselves and how our culture has presented us to ourselves.)

One aspect of the health crisis—and one of the reasons why it discomfits even those of us who don't seem to be likely candidates for AIDS-is that it is forcing us to face our mortality. Of course, it is true that AIDS is really killing people. But it is also true that men like Larry Kramer, who have done so much to alert the community by describing their shock at seeing their friends die, would have begun noticing deaths around them anyway, simply because they've reached the age at which friends and peers do die. That is to say that not only are we having to face adjustment of our sexual mores, we are having to face adjustment to the reality of time—an adjustment this "first generation of gay men," and this whole society influenced by the consumption patterns of the Baby Boomers and by the dizzying speed of modern life, have been trying to avoid.

As Hellerstein comments: "The solutions of previous generations don't really work anymore." We are casting about for new models of living and especially of sexualizing and loving.


That "gay men have a difficult time with love" is an old chestnut. It is true but seems to say something it really doesn't: that gay men have a more difficult time with love than heterosexuals do. That probably is not true. It's just that the heterosexual relationships and styles of loving that are touted as models for everyone look so different from homosexual ones that ours seem to suffer in comparison. In fact, gay men have developed some remarkably adaptive, sophisticated, and nonneurotic styles of relationship that surpass the heterosexual norm.

The major difference, of course, between the two sexual orientations is the purpose and function of sex, love and relationship. Heterosexuality implies childrearing. Rules (exclusivity, persistence, custom, etc.) guarantee patrilinearity, family stability and social acceptance. The presence of children—both potentially and actually—changes things totally. After a child arrives, the identities of the adults change. They cease to be lovers and start to be parents. Their relationship is freed up from the pressure of intense intimacy. The joint relationship with the child substitutes for the relationship between the two of them. The love they each express for the child is seen as an expression of love for each other and, at least in theory, holds them together. As their identities change, their self-perceptions change. They begin to see themselves as parents; they begin to feel appropriately older. Their sexual projection is less central to their experience.

Most homosexual men do not experience this transition into the parental, elder identity. Attraction, desire and need for self-affirmation (to allay feelings of inadequacy that may be symptoms of "internalized homophobia") continue to be motivations for seeking sex and love. Sexual projection remains centrally important.

To deal successfully with the double dilemma of AIDS and aging we need to change our self-concepts and develop support networks consistent with these new selves.


One solution to our dilemmas may be inferred from the sociobiologists' theory of homosexuality. Very loosely, they argue that in the old-time extended family—children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all living in close proximity—nonreproducing members too played a genetically selected role that enhanced racial survival. Homosexual men and women were "good uncles" and "spinster aunts" who acted as role models and guided children in exploration of the world without embroiling them in such emotionally and psychologically complex relationships as those with their parents.

That extended family gives a good model of a support system that includes people of various ages in various forms of relationship—some sexual, some not; some biological, some not. Isn't that what many gay friendship networks look like? And aren't the appropriate nephews for our gay "good uncles" young homosexuals seeking initiation into gay culture?

Being a good uncle over time to a young man (or good aunt to a young woman) allows an adult to observe the maturing process, to identify as an elder, and to feel properly ensconced in time, with a past and a future through which to move with grace. It allows the youth to profit from the experience of the adult and to find a role model for living gay life. The older person brings to the relationship wisdom, knowledge, consistency and stability; the younger adventurousness, spontaneity, youth and sexual vitality.

In doing our study of teen-age hustlers, Toby Marotta and I found intergenerational relationships based on the "good uncle" model fairly common. But more familiar to most of us are those based on the Romeo-and-Juliet limerence model. These romantic relationships are problematic. The partners simply aren't equal. The adult is not the adolescent peer he'd like to imagine himself. The expectations are contradictory. The adult often becomes a daddy when he wants to be received as a lover, to prove to himself that he hasn't really grown old; yet the youth is attracted to him precisely for his age and not for his sexy youthfulness. The adult's need is for assurance and security; the youth's for liberation, adventure and variety. The sexual implications are different.

Mattison and McWhirter have found that an age difference of seven to fifteen years enhances relationship; they report that the age difference "cuts down on competition and makes it less worrisome for the couple to give and take and trade." This suggests that the age difference is comfortably acknowledged; the problems occur when it is denied.

The adult must identify as an adult, exercise and demonstrate responsibility, and not be manipulated. Contrary to popular beliefs, in such relationships it is generally the young person who possesses power—if only because he often controls the sex. He may simply not be equipped to exercise such power over an adult.

The "good uncle"/"good aunt" relationship is not necessarily nonsexual (though this certainly depends on the actual age of the youth; there are bottom limits): Sex is one of the things young homosexuals need to learn about. Sex may be part of the exchange that every relationship is necessarily premised on. But the sex is not the center of the relationship. The center of the relationship is, for the adult, the opportunity to participate in the youth's maturation and to alter his or her own self-concept so that aging becomes a grace instead of a curse.

Developing good uncle relationships with younger gay men—or even with actual nephews—may not suffice. Aging is difficult. Professional assistance may be needed. Across the country there are gay-identified psychotherapists who have honed their professional and interpersonal skills so they can be of service to gay people facing dilemmas that are specific to us. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression are serious problems in our community that frequently result from failures in making necessary and natural transitions through the stages of life. Our community's affluence is wasted if we don't spend some of it on professional assistance in improving the quality of our own selves, instead of spending all of it on gimmicks that promise unconvincingly to put off the inevitability of aging.

The obligation we all bear towards our souls is to learn to accept our bodies' aging, to envision positive and loving futures for ourselves in which we will still be loved and valued and in which we will have more to recommend us than just the freshness and sexiness of our bodies. Unless we really do prefer to stay pretty and die young, we need to prepare for future stages of our lives and to learn to watch with gratitude and gladness as our replacements on this earth grow into the men and women we once were ourselves. One of the most remarkable things about the gay liberation movement has been its continued intention to make the world better for future generations, even at great cost to our present selves. The greatest cost of all is of our very identities. This is precisely the one time demands.


Edwin Clark (Toby) Johnson's In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld: A Mystical Journey was published last summer. He says he's started wearing coat and tie to remind himself he's grown up now.


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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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