If you have ever struggled with masculinity or shame issues, you'll want to give this episode a listen. My guest, Travis Stock, shares his struggle with all the early messages he received about masculinity and how much shame was associated with his own masculinity. He relates how all the coping mechanisms that he created as a child that were put in place to keep him safe, were the same coping mechanisms that held him back as an adult. He unpacks his journey of dismantling these coping mechanisms in his quest to become his fully authentic self. He shares how learning to love himself played such a powerful role in this process.
Travis is a coach, facilitator, teacher, and host of The New Masculine podcast. You can access a link to the podcast below.
The New Masculine podcast
Coach Maddox 0:03
Travis Stock, welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I am so glad you're here and thrilled to have you as, as my guest.
Travis Stock 0:12
Thanks for having me. It's a real pleasure to be here.
Coach Maddox 0:16
Well, thank you, um, let me tell the audience that we have known each other for maybe a couple of weeks, I'm thinking, new friends, and new friends. And it was really random how we met, I posted something in a Facebook group that Travis is a member of, and he liked it. And it only got one like, and so it got my attention, you know, and I clicked through to see who he was, and then discovered that he was a podcaster himself. And so I thought, oh, I need to meet him. So I reached out. And we had a, you know, a pretty lengthy one on one zoom, where we got acquainted and talked about our lives and our businesses and, and then we decided that we would collaborate. So here he is being a guest. And at some point, I'm scheduled to be a guest on his podcast. So it's just amazing what happens when you just click on that one little like,
Travis Stock 1:10
I love a little cross pollination. Yeah, I've been a part of that Facebook group for a long time, and I'm not active at all, I don't even necessarily pay attention that often. And for some reason, a notification came in from that you that your post and I, as a fellow podcaster wanted to celebrate that and be honoring of an of a another gay man that's really focused on helping us deepening our relationship to ourselves, and authenticity and thoughtfulness. And so it's just a quick like to kind of send you some good energy, and I'm so glad you were brave enough to jump out and and connect on a deeper level. Oh, thank
Coach Maddox 1:45
you very much, Sadie. You didn't tell me that in our first conversation. So it's really great to hear that. That story. I love that. Yeah, I don't I just, I just took a I thought take a risk. You never know what this is gonna go. And so yeah, I did. So a little bit about Travis. Travis is coach. He's a facilitator, a teacher, and the name of his podcast is the new masculine. And you can find a link to that in the show notes. And with that, let's start off with my first question, Travis. What does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man?
Travis Stock 2:28
It's a good question. I think I would say that my definition probably has evolved over time around what that means to me. I think initially, I probably would have said that being authentic gay man had something to do with being wholly myself without fear, claiming to the world who I am at all times. And I think that was an important part of my claiming of my identity as a gay man, when I was initially coming out, after spending many years trying not to be a gay man and trying to hide that, I think claiming it and saying this is my identity, and living fearlessly was trying to live fearlessly, at least was sort of the goal of my authenticity at that point. I think it's become more nuanced to me at this point, I think there is a broader acceptance of for myself around my own vulnerability around my own fears around my own safety around my own sense of belonging and community. And so I think how I would kind of define it now would be to say that it's, I'm an authentic gay man, when I am deeply aware of my own wants, needs and desires and set feeling safe enough to be able to communicate that to others. But then there's also this element of being within a community of people that I do, that I've gathered around me that I do trust that I do feel safety around, and that I'm aware of their wants and needs and desires, and that we're sort of back and forth, being able to show up for each other. I think that feels like authenticity to me. And it feels like my willingness to show up as an authentic gay man in the world has a lot to do with my willingness to show up with all of me. And even if that sometimes there's a vulnerable, scared part of myself, that doesn't want to shout from the rooftops, every single moment, that I'm a big gay man. Or that I that I'm constantly trying to claim that identity as a way of proving something to myself.
Coach Maddox 4:32
Wow, that's, that's an amazing answer. I, I, I love that. I love the way you went from the bowl to the more subtle and nuanced tissue called it. And I think that what you're describing in those early stages, is probably a rite of passage for most of us. You know, and then you I can remember a time when, you know, I had to announce to every new person right up front, by the way, I'm gay, you know, and And then that faded away over a period of time. I don't ever feel the need to announce that now. And I would notice when having conversation with somebody new or a stranger, they would say, oh, you know, my, my boyfriend, or my girlfriend does this? And I would say, oh, yeah, my boyfriend does the same thing. You know, and it wasn't an announcement. It was just responding in this in like kind and yet it let them know who and where I, where I was, it has I agree with you become much more nuanced and subtle.
Travis Stock 5:34
Yeah, I would say that it's probably very developmentally appropriate at certain phases of our lives to claim identities in that way. And to say, This is who I am, especially identities that have been painful or have been shameful, or that you've struggled with at different points in your life. As we learned, as we claim them, we get to integrate them on a new level. And then at a certain point, that kind of claiming becomes inauthentic, it becomes forced in some way, it becomes part of the coping strategy or part of the, the dealing with the discomfort that comes with that identity. And so for me, as I got more comfortable with myself, and as I became more just sort of integrated as a human being around my sexuality, it no longer needed to be the thing that I was pushing out in front of me, it could just be a part of me.
Coach Maddox 6:26
Yes, yes, absolutely. Well, I want to call out to the listeners that Travis did not know, I was going to ask him that question. So kudos for, you know, you're the second person that after you shared your, your thoughts about what it means to be an authentic gay man that I said, Wow, Mike drop, you know, that was like, and I've gotten some really, really good answers. But there's been a couple that have really stood out. And this is certainly one of them. Like, like, if the listeners didn't know, they would think you pre thought knew what this was. And they, and you completely mapped it all out. And that's not the case. He just shot that from the hip. So that's pretty impressive.
Travis Stock 7:08
Well, thank you. I mean, the title of your podcasts kind of gives it away of like, what to be thinking about. So so I can't say that I didn't put any thought into it. But But you're right. I didn't know you were gonna ask that question.
Coach Maddox 7:23
I love it. I absolutely love it. That is too funny. Well, now the real question. What in your life has been the biggest challenge, or it continues to be the biggest challenge that you are still working through?
Travis Stock 7:42
I think for me, I internalized a fair amount of shame growing up. And oddly enough, I'll put a caveat on that I don't, I didn't grow up in a family that was shaming me for being gay. Or I actually grew up in a reconciling congregation of The United Methodist Church, which was performing gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies, while I was growing up in that church. And so it wasn't like I had some really awful, horrible story of families that were shaming me. But I came into the world as a pretty sensitive little boy, still am a sensitive little boy in many ways. And I internalized messages that were around me in the media and in broader conversations around the rights that we as gay men deserve, or as gay people, or as queer people, now, sort of one of the languages we use around our community. And so I internalize this flaw about myself. And I could I remember witnessing on the kindergarten playground that boys, other boys were interacting with me differently than they were interacting with others. Now, we didn't have language for that at the time, but I could notice that I was being noticed. And that scared me, I could notice that I that I was being seen as different than that scared me. And then I spent a lot of my childhood really trying to avoid that difference. And sometimes that came out in sort of my emotional sensitivity, I was, I still am a very emotionally sensitive person. And so vulnerability and tears and crying were something that were easily accessible to me and that and yet, I very clearly saw around me that boys weren't supposed to be doing that, and men didn't do that. And so there was a lot of suppressing parts of myself as a way of trying to stay safe. I'm, I'm grateful for that little boy that figured out some coping strategies for the places that he didn't feel safe within. But it's been my life's work to sort of go in and undo some of those coping strategies in those ways of staying safe in the world. That served me back then but our have been, as I've grown have become quite limiting and have can become quite restrictive in how they allow me to move through the world.
Coach Maddox 10:01
Were you you are, my, your story is really resonating with me, Travis, I, I experienced so much of what you're describing the playground, I knew that I was different at an early age, and so did they. And I don't think I did very well with the coping mechanisms I, I don't, I wasn't good at making anybody believe that I was like them or not the way that I was. And I too, was a very sensitive and still am a very sensitive and emotional, little boy. I, I literally cry multiple times a week, you know, and I've drawn friendships to me that, you know, are the same way one of my friends came over for dinner last night and sat at my table and just, you know, just just cried, he's going through a lot of transitions, all this fabulous stuff going on in his life, but it's so much transition. I mean, and I do mean, it's all fabulous stuff. But there's just so much transitioning goes on overload. And he and he cried, you know, and there's just something about that, that, I mean, that that certainly is a big part of authenticity and vulnerability is is our ability to really feel our emotions and express our emotions. And I'm very drawn to men who can do that. I will say I'm a sucker for a man that can cry. And I don't mean on any romantic or sexual level, I'm just a sucker for any man that can cry. It just draws me in like a moth to flame.
Travis Stock 11:35
Yeah, I've gotten to that place to where it, I used to reject that part of myself. And so then I would reject it in others. But as I've done the work of accepting and belonging within myself, that has become something that I value and a need to see in the men in my life, the men that I draw in close that that kind of vulnerability, that willingness to go there is something that I find really attractive in the part of the the men that I allow into my inner circle is that the men that are willing to take that risk to break the rules of the man box and actually show up as a real human being. I think for so long, I was very interested in fitting in, and belonging and looking very similar to the way other people do not I don't mean physically, but just appearing to be very similar to whoever I sort of acknowledged was successful or popular or doing well in life. And that required me to reject lots of pizza pieces of myself. And so the more and more I do that sort of belonging work with myself and acceptance of myself, the more and more I have space to find the other kinds of men, like you're saying that are willing to go there that are willing to show that vulnerability and to cry. So it's definitely something I'm attracted to at this point in my life, too. Hmm,
Coach Maddox 12:54
yes. And you so beautifully articulated, you know, I said frequently say, fitting in, and belonging are two very different things. And in order to fit in, we have to literally carve parts of ourselves away, you know, just like you'd have to squat and carve part of the square peg away to get it into the round hole. And you just very clearly articulated that and that you had to deny pieces of who you were, in order to fit in. Whereas belonging to me belonging is about showing up fully authentic, and people accepting you and honoring you just exactly the way you are naturally, behind the masks.
Travis Stock 13:42
Yeah, I mean, that's a conversation that I'm having on the podcast that I host around masculinity in some ways. One of the sort of belief systems that I have at this current my current stage of observing and conversations and development as a man is, is that there are a lot of ways that that the socialization that we go through as boys, as we become men, is inherently asking us to divorce ourselves of who we really are. So that we can become this ideal version of a man we can't be emotionally aware, we don't pay attention to our impact on others. We are not able to express caring and vulnerable emotions, which to others. There are places that our socialization really teach us that only boys play with this only girls play with this man up, be stronger, don't cry. There's there's ways that we socialized boys into manhood that is inherently in some ways traumatic, because it asks us to leave parts of ourselves behind in order to be successful as a man. And for some of us, especially those of us that like kind of dive into coaching work or introspection or any level of therapy, we start to recognize that our life's work becomes a About finding who we actually are, versus who we learn to be in the world to be successful, to belong to receive love. And so I think that's sort of my life's mission is to continue finding what are those coping strategies that I developed to to navigate the world? And what to actually who I came into this world as? What are my real values versus what are my adopted values? Or require values?
Coach Maddox 15:25
Yes. You know, I think because we come into the world fully authentic, we are born fully authentic. And it's all those messages that we get that separate us from who we really are. And some people never ever make it back. So if we're, if we're on the path to reconnecting with something that's deep inside of us our true authenticity where we're ahead of the head of the game, I would love to hear more. And I think that it would be a value to our listeners to hear more about those coping mechanism mechanisms, that you're speaking about what they look like, and how they worked. And, and then how there was a point where you realized, although they had their, their value in their place, at one point in your life, there was a point where they stopped working and became detrimental, I'm assuming Mm hmm. I know. That's what I've experienced in my life. Yes, please. I will just, yeah, let me let you go with that. I want I want to hear all of it, please.
Travis Stock 16:29
Yeah, I think the biggest one that comes to mind, my coping strategies was, in some ways, as a kid growing up, I know, I noticed the way that men held power and anger, and the way that they used it to dominate or they used it power over another person. And that didn't really sit with me very well, I didn't like that I didn't like feeling that way. In some ways, I already felt like in the in sort of like that, in many masculine kind of conversations, we're talking about who's the alpha male, and who's the beta male, like, in some ways already came into the world feeling like a beta male male or less than less of a man because I was gay. And so that sort of power over dynamic just kept reinforcing that I was less powerful and, and was vulnerable. And other men were better than I was. And so in some ways, I learned to cut myself off from a lot of emotional expression, while I was also pulling back that the crying in the vulnerable part of myself because that didn't feel safe. I also decided at one point, I was never going to be one of those men that used my anger over someone. And arguably, I think that's a good value system. And yet, that coping strategy created in the mind of a child whose brain isn't fully developed, it doesn't really understand abstract thought it was a little black and white. And so what happened was, I sort of cut myself off from my own anger, this divine emotion that exists within all of us that we all experience at different times in our life. And the consequences of that, folks, that energy has to go somewhere. And so for me, that anger, anger, I felt safer if I just funneled into sadness and kind of victimhood. And I realized at a certain point, that most of my 20s I was spending pretty depressed, pretty melancholy, pretty unaware of my own needs, pretty in pretty codependent patterns with other people of trying to make sure that I earned my value with people by making sure their needs were met, without necessarily knowing what mine were. And so my coping strategy of funneling my anger, energy into sadness and depression ended up being really hard to me. And I would say, as I was sort of saying, the biggest thing I've had to overcome in my life is or that I worked through is that that shame element, I'd argue that the shame the, that internalizing of my anger was just a form of shame was just that anger turned inward. Instead of lashing out at other people, I just kept using it as a weapon against myself to control and get rigid and try to be perfect, and try to be what everybody else needed, so that I could be safe. And so it cut me off from my own clarity of who I was, what I wanted, what my real values were. And it took a lot of effort to like kind of observe that see that and know that something had to shift and something had to give, in order for me to be able to actually fully express as an authentic human being in the world.
Coach Maddox 19:40
You're validating something right now that I've heard for quite some time now from the spiritual community and that is depression is anger turned inwards. Anger that has been internalized. And you just spoke of that and then how it played a Roll as well in in the shame.
Travis Stock 20:02
At least for me, it was Yeah, I don't know that everybody's depression happens to fall into that I think there are some sort of chemical versions of depression and there are different versions of it. But my for mine, for sure was an in like, I had divorced myself from sort of the fiery energy that that anger has to it, that empowered feeling that anger gives us and I spent more time sitting in the victim, why is this happening to me? Nobody gets me. Nobody wants to be with me. Nobody likes me. I don't belong. Why can't anybody see me? A lot of those kinds of that kind of energy. And so yeah, for me, the biggest thing that helped me move out of depression, once I realized that I was stuck there for a long time, was building a relationship to my own anger.
Coach Maddox 20:55
Travis Stock 20:58
and learning to actually utilize it as a constructive force rather than a destructive force.
Coach Maddox 21:04
And what did that look like?
Travis Stock 21:09
It, it actually looked like me sitting. So something that I've taken part of in my life, as I've done some level of plant medicine, psychedelic experience, work with a facilitator in order to do some of my own transformation and healing work. And I was in a ceremony and guided by a facilitator. And I really got in touch with my anger, I got in touch with the feelings that I had around the places I had been wronged the places where I didn't even know what my own needs were, how much space everybody else was taking up and how little space I was taking up. I got in touch with that anger, in a really embodied sense. It felt like in some ways, the image that came to my mind was sort of the way that a lion kind of moves and is empowered, running on a, on a plane in Africa. And this ability to claim space and to take up power. That didn't mean I had to use it over somebody, but that just that sort of inherent knowing of self and belonging to self that was empowering.
Coach Maddox 22:15
I wish the listeners could see what you're doing right now. I mean, guys, we're on video, and I'm watching him move like a lion. It's pretty incredible. Like your energy shifted, just as you started to tell the story.
Travis Stock 22:27
Yeah. And oddly enough, nobody else can see it, because they don't have the video either. But behind me on my shelf behind me as a Lions mask that a friend carved for me as a totem of that moment, that is sort of a remembering of why I need my anger. Why is it important to me, I don't have to leave it behind. Just because I've seen it in artfully used by others, I can learn to have my own relationship into you and utilize it in a way that's aligned with my value system. It's not so black and white, it's more nuanced than that it's a little bit more in flow with it. And it's still my work like I don't, I can't say that it's always that I'm always the best at with anger, anger, expression, and others or in my own anger. I can create a lot of space for it as a coach with my clients. But in my own personal life, I still have to navigate it. Sometimes I still have remnants of those places where it didn't feel safe to me as a kid. And sometimes it still doesn't feel safe to me now. But I have that totem behind me that helps me remember that there is a divine element to it that transformed my life out of victim in depression mode into a more empowered and authentic man in the world authentic gay man in the world.
Coach Maddox 23:45
This is just incredible. So tell me what that look like.
Travis Stock 23:53
Which part but there's so much to it,
Coach Maddox 23:55
that that channeling that anger in a healthier and more meaningful way? What did that look like?
Travis Stock 24:02
It looked like taking up more space. It looked like knowing where I begin and where others end, like so that so in some of my typical coping strategies were a lot of sort of more a meshed patterns to be blended with somebody for the boundary to be less clear between me and someone else. And so declare, do the work to clarify what that boundary is to make it a little bit more clear of here's where I begin and end and here's where you begin and end. And we here's where we collaborate. Here's where the Venn diagram crosses over. But here are the separate circles that I you belong in and that I belong in. And learning how to do that it's learning to get clear on what my needs were, and then to be able to express them in relationships to notice myself when I would get into those taking servicing and taking care of other people's needs and actually checking in first Is there a need that's unmet within me? Resolving that, and then seeing whether or not I want to provide that active service. active service is one of my love languages. And so it's, it can be a little tricky sometimes, because it's how I love to express love to other people. But it can also come from a very shadow side and on an unconscious side that's actually about me coping with something I don't I'm not aware of yet. And so for me, it's been slowing it down enough to check in what's the need, that I haven't met in myself, or that I haven't asked for, from my community? And then I can engage in that act of service. So it's really about some healthy boundaries with myself but healthy boundaries in my relationships to
Coach Maddox 25:42
Yes, yes, service to others is an absolutely beautiful thing. But it too can have a shadow side where we avoid dealing with our own stuff by over servicing others. Mm hmm.
Travis Stock 25:59
Yeah. And so another element to this that I really loved was that I learned during that process that someone shared with me is, is that if you step up, like if you watch the emotional ladder of what where anger comes from, and where it leads to, like, if you step up the emotional scale, you go maybe from Rage, to anger, anger, to frustration, frustration, to passion, maybe, once I saw that it could be a constructive force, that it could fuel me into certain things, it transformed my ability to be with that emotion. So for example, the podcast that I host, the new masculine, is just about just as much about the change I want to see out there in the world as it as it is about my own healing journey. When I, the new masculine is all about disrupting outdated models of masculinity in service of new ways forward for men. As a gay man, I don't know that I've always felt welcome to the conversation around what makes a man a man what is masculine, what is masculinity mean? I mean, I'm raising my hand right now. Yeah. And so for me, my anger about being cast out of that conversation are not welcomed in that space, actually fueled a sense of passion to say, I'm gonna, I'm going to claim some space, I'm going to take a seat at this table, whether I've been welcomed or not, because I do think I have something to offer to this, it became the fuel that drives my sense of passion to engage in the work that I'm really most hopeful to be a part of unwanted what the change I most want to see in the world. And so once I recognize that my anger was actually was actually the birthplace could be the birthplace of fuel and source for how I show up to improve the world. Then I was like, okay, there is there is divine element to this, there is something that's important, so that I can create spaces where we all get to benefit from power, rather than the old systems, which says, I have power and you don't have power we take from each other those scarcity models around power. I'm, I'm trying to create spaces where we have power with each other.
Coach Maddox 28:06
I love that, Travis. I love that. And, and I, you know, I that being invited to the table about the masculinity piece. I think I had an awareness at one point that it wasn't that I wasn't invited, welcome to the table. It was that I wasn't allowing myself to sit at the table, I had determined that I didn't deserve to sit at that table. It was never that I felt like nobody wanted me at that table. It was it was more about the way what I did with it internally. like I didn't belong at that table. I wasn't a masculine man. So I didn't belong at that table. It was me that cut me out of that not somebody else.
Travis Stock 28:48
I think that's true. And I also think we internalized societal messages over and over and over again, that there is a certain way to be a man. And if you don't fit into that, then you don't have a seat at the table. And so yes, I think a lot of that that's what I had to give myself permission to step into that conversation. I was needed to not hold myself back. But the reality is, is some of the early feedback I got was what does this fag have to tell me about being a man. And so it's like there are those societal messages that are telling us that we are less of a man because of XYZ. But that's why one of the values that I have with the work that I'm doing is to bring to the table voices that aren't heard men of color, trans men, people who identify as non binary but have a deep relationship to the masculine is to continue including more and more voices so that it's not just cisgender cisgender heterosexual, white Christian men who are deciding what manliness is or what masculinity is or what's acceptable ways for us to show up as men.
Coach Maddox 29:51
You know, and I'd be willing to bet that if you ask a cross section of straight women, especially those that know gay men, They have been around gay man and had gay friends. They would tell you that some of their gay friends are more men than their straight male friends.
Travis Stock 30:11
Yeah, what's more masculine than somebody that's had to break the rules of what their society told them to do good to go as counterculture as what what we as gay men have to do in order to show up and be authentic in the world.
Coach Maddox 30:22
Thank you, you know, it takes to go against the norm. People say Oh, but but that's that's weakness. Vulnerability is weakness. No, are you kidding me? It takes a shitload of courage and, and strength to go swim against the stream and and do what is deemed unacceptable. I, you said that beautifully. I
Travis Stock 30:48
love it, choosing to listen to your own voice versus listening to what others say is acceptable. And what's okay. To me, that's very brave, that's very courageous, and is not necessarily what I would say is only available to men. But in terms of masculine and feminine energies, it's pretty masculine, to have such a singular focus on, I know what my path is, I know what authenticity is, I know what my values are. And here's how I'm going to show up in the world. It's pretty masculine approach.
Coach Maddox 31:18
Yes, it is. Yes, it is, it's taken me a long time to figure that out. You know, I got those messages early on, you know, that we didn't use the word gay when I was growing up, you were a sissy. And I got called sissy until I internalize that. And I have always felt much more in alignment, and connected to the feminine energy than I have been the masculine energy, it's only been in the last couple of years that I have really begin to what I would call integrate the two, which has been an incredible experience. As I as I move into that it's brought a sense of peace that I didn't have prior to that, I don't I don't think we realize how much that balance of masculine and feminine energy in it impacts in in filter, try infiltrates every area of our being.
Travis Stock 32:22
It's actually one of the most, it's the framework for almost all the work that I do with my clients, whether they're male or female, somewhere, however they identify with the gender spectrum. My work is to help people deconstruct the concept that masculine and feminine does or tried to agender. And to give people permission to freely express in the moment, whatever energy fits, or whatever they're called to show up in in that moment, to find that, oh, this, this, this moment, is looking for vulnerability and looking for care. I get to express my feminine energy that's more feminine energy in in authentically, in that moment, I don't have to hold it back, I get to fully be it. But then I also can be very goal oriented and achievement oriented in other parts of my life and other moments, and lean more into that masculine when we free ourselves up to play on the whole spectrum. With there's so much more access to like showing up in that with to meet the present moment, as it is so
Coach Maddox 33:23
much more access. I agree completely. I love that we kind of segwayed off into masculinity. And I love it. It's It's amazing. I'd like to kind of circle back and continue your conversation about shame, because I think that's such a heavy hitter. Not that masculinity is not it is. But I'd love to dive a little bit deeper into the shame issue if you're willing to go there.
Travis Stock 33:52
Yeah, for sure. I mean, the reason the masculinity thing comes up is because it's where my shame exists. It's where I was coping with my shame the most in the world. So for me, they are very intrinsically tied and Yeah, happy to continue diving into the nuances of this shame. You
Coach Maddox 34:08
are right, they are intrinsically tied together. I've experienced exactly the same. So yeah. Well, where do you go from here with it? That shame conversation?
Travis Stock 34:23
Well, shame for me is it's a powerful force. And I think so many of us are walking around carrying bits of it. And I think in in the Brene Brown world, the researcher on shame and vulnerability, she would sort of differentiate shame and guilt from each other. That shame is is the acknowledgement that is the feeling that I am bad in some way. Whereas guilt is I have done something bad. There's a difference like guilt you can you've done something you can make amends for it. But shame is one of those like toxic things that really sits within us and keeps us feeling as if we're not enough. undeserving unworthy. unwell in some way. And I work within that definition a lot. I think that I that makes sense to me.
Coach Maddox 35:20
I agree. I'm a big Brene Brown fan. And I'm, I'm completely with with you there. That definition I think is spot on. I, you know, once again, Mike drop.
Travis Stock 35:32
And so I think I spend a lot of my own personal work is to continue recognizing where I have, where I'm telling myself that message that I'm not enough, that I'm not worthy that I'm not I'm unwell in some way, I'm undeserving in some way. And I think something that's been really healing is, in my coaching work in helping and supporting others, I get to also see how many others are carrying similar burdens with them. And I get together, we get to find our way through new avenues for how to release ourselves from that shame to heal from that transform our relationship to that shame, so that we are connected to ourselves so that we belong to ourselves so that we move to the world, understanding our value and worth rather than spending so much energy trying to cope and trying to hide the fact that we don't feel enough in the world.
Coach Maddox 36:37
Yes. Do you see a distinction? Because they're they're a similar energy. I sense that there's a, I don't have a language for the distinction. But I sense that there is a definite similarity, from shame to embarrassment. What are your thoughts on that? Or what are your experiences on that? Maybe?
Travis Stock 37:02
Yeah, I think, for me embarrassment, I don't, I know, I know, Brene would have another definition of this. And it's not coming to my mind around how she clearly differentiates the two. But what comes up for me when I think about this is that embarrassment is a temporary, acute experience. And a situational type situational Yeah, it happens in a moment, and it can flood your system fully. But then your system can regulate and go back to a normalized sense of, of your status quo, where a shame is a bit more prolonged, a long held belief system about self or, and it even may not even be a conscious belief system, it may have gotten so far into your subconscious, that, that you just carry it around with you all time at all times. And it's it changes your perspective on when you view the world, it's sort of like you put a different lens on the camera, and then now you're looking at out the world through the lens. And it's distorted in some way. Because you have a different lens on the world. Whereas embarrassment can be a bit more of like, Oh, that feels really vulnerable. And I've just like been exposed in some way. And I think that I just think that there's a difference in sort of the triggers and the the longevity of the experience of it.
Coach Maddox 38:29
I agree. I think you defined it really well. Thank you. I'm glad I asked that. I'd like to, perhaps ask you if you could share something about the shame that you've experienced and the way you work through it, but from an angle that allows the listener to feel it? Does that make sense? My question makes sense.
Travis Stock 39:01
Try asking. Just another way.
Coach Maddox 39:07
Well, I think that we can, you know, talk about this from kind of a cerebral point, more factually, or we can get more on a feeling level I'm wanting to see if we can get a little bit more on a feeling level. Because I think the listener will get value out of I mean, I think maybe everybody probably knows you know what the feeling of shame feels like. But yes, if it as you share your own personal story, if you could tell it in a manner that that that we feel it.
Travis Stock 39:47
Yeah. What comes to mind when I hear you say that is is when I so I have a master's in social work and I was working as an investigator for Child Protective Services for a few years in In the Phoenix, Arizona area, right out of grad school. And so I was in a really tough job, it was my job to, to investigate abuse and neglect with children, I was seeing people in the worst points of their life with many compounding issues like poverty and mental health issues and drug use and family histories of trauma. And so I was in I had a job that was taking a lot from me, it was very stressful as it was. But it's also the timeframe just after my coming out process, I came out when I was 25 ish. And so I had a lot more work, just because I came out does not mean that the work was done, like I had so much more personal work to do and self reflection. My coming out process came with like, I deleted, deleted, deleted, and then it just quickly accelerated in one way that fell outside of my control. And so I didn't do all the prep work beforehand, I did it all after I came out. And so I remember sitting in I was living in a small studio apartment 308 square feet, I think in the in the Phoenix area. And that little space first started out as a place of independence, I'm on my own, I can afford this. This is my first like, real job out of grad school. I'm not getting paid very much, because social workers never get paid very much. And so I was asserting my independence. And yet that space became really suffocating that small space where I isolated, where I disconnected, where I wasn't sure how to make my way through it. I had been previous to me coming out, I had been in a relationship with a man for seven years before I came out. We were best friends and roommates to everybody else. But we were both struggling with our sexualities. We were both really struggling to own who we were, we could do it with each other. But as soon as it meant anything about the outside world, we both locked up, we both became very afraid We both became very unable to deal with and cope with what that meant the outside world. Part of right around my coming out was also when that relationship ended. And so I was sitting there in grief, I was sitting there with a challenging job. And then I had all of this shame, that wasn't really letting me come out into the world and actually start to experience myself as a gay man. So while I was telling people, I wasn't getting any of the fun benefits of being an out gay man and being authentic out there in the world. And in some ways, I was doing a job that it felt really unsafe to own my sexuality as a social worker in CPS, not because of my colleagues. But because we as there's a there is this thread of storyline that is told about gay men that gay men are predators that are sexually abused children, that they're deviants in some ways. And so I had no fear about myself, but I had this big fear that I just took one parent making up a lie about what I did with their child, for my career to be ruined. And so I locked up my sexuality and I had, I did come in as a force as an investigator because it was my job to investigate whether these kids were okay. And so I learned like, there was a couple of years of really entrenching some coping strategies, some hardening up some disconnecting from my vulnerability and my emotions as a way of staying safe and as a way of coping with the intensity of my life at that point. And I just remember being in that small studio apartment and feeling like it became a box of depression for a long time.
Coach Maddox 43:52
Well, and what you're describing too, is I'm getting to you're going through your first serious relationship breakup. And because nobody knows and you're closeted you don't even have anybody to confide in so you had to go through that breakup solo
Travis Stock 44:11
rough I did have some a few people that I could talk about it with but my my that my ex was very afraid of me talking about my even myself because it without him, he wasn't ready for that. And so there were a lot of places that I was dealing with it alone, and I may have had a few outlets for it. But it seemed like even within the context of our relationship, we only had each other to process what was going on. And so we got into some really codependent loops with each other trying to like, I don't know how to navigate all the things I'm feeling and all the struggles that I'm having, and we can't do it with each other all the time because we're both scared little bullies. And that's not helpful. And so there were a lot of places where I pulled in and was trying to deal with all along I'm strong enough I can deal with this. All alone now clearly wasn't handling very well, because I spent most of my 20s pretty depressed and pretty struggling and pretty disconnected. And without a sense of belonging, for sure.
Coach Maddox 45:16
Mission accomplished I'm feeling at all. Yeah, yeah. Wow. So what steps did you take to get past that?
Travis Stock 45:29
Yeah, I mean, as I was saying, my coming out process came out came a little quicker than I, it appeared suddenly. And it was like, Well, I guess I'm coming out now. But I was fighting it a little bit. One of the biggest things for me that transformed things for me was I was working as a behavior coach with kids. During my time, in my as an intern, during my master's program, and I was working for an agency and I was being given a client that was a 16 year old boy who was trying to kill himself because he was gay, and Mormon and couldn't reconcile his faith and who he was as a person. One could argue that is not a case that should be for behavior coaching, nor should it nor is it appropriate for an intern to be handling. So just want to say those right up front, that there was some inappropriate things being put in my in my on my plate. But I also wasn't out yet. And I had this huge ethical crisis, having just like, been in my master's program, and, and following my code of ethics as a social worker, where I recognize like, I haven't even figured this out for myself, how am I going to help this kid? I haven't even been able to figure out how to be okay with myself, what do I have to even offer this young kid. And that was a big turning point for me. And it actually forced me to ask for help from a supervisor of mine. At through the university that I was going through of like, I don't know how to navigate this, I don't feel safe to bring this to my internship. But I also can't take this case on because I, there's no way I can be of help or service to this kid. And so that I never even met that kid. And yet that kid changed my life. Because he, he showed me where I was out of my value system, and where there was no moving forward until I address something. And so it made me ask for help, and set me on a trajectory of actually doing the heavy lifting. And there was a lot of years of crying, there was a lot of years of meeting with a mentor of mine that that supported me through this process, who became a de facto a second mother in my life, who could hold different parts of my coming out journey than my mom could. And it really helped me find more pieces of myself. It's also what set me on the trajectory to becoming a coach leaving the social work per field and moving into being a coach a few years down the line.
Coach Maddox 48:04
No, I think what you're describing right now, and I've certainly experienced it myself, the heavy lifting in the years of crying, the it's the road less traveled. And I think this is why so many gay men won't go there. I mean, I mean, that probably applies to the population at large. But that's not what this podcast is about. It's about gay men. And I think that we as a community, generally tend to really shy away from this, because we're, we're frightened, we've we've already been beaten down as children. And now we're going to, you know, walk down a pathway where we're going to go through you know, well, there's a reason they call it the hero's journey. I you know, it's I've been on it for many, many years. And it's all over the map. It's up and down and all around and all over the map. And yes, it does get easier as you go but there sure was a lot of a lot of really hard before it started to get easier and and yet I wouldn't trade for it for anything. Like I wouldn't try it for this journey for any as hard as it has been. It's also been beautiful in so many ways. And I there's no doubt in my mind that I now live a far more fulfilling, happy, joyful, contented life then I would had I not done the heavy lifting.
Travis Stock 49:38
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. It when I decided that I no longer could run from this thing and had just confront it. Maybe and maybe not all gay men have to do the same level or maybe not all gay men are open to doing the same kind of like confronting the darkness confronting the sadness, the grief that all of the repressed And on navigated emotions along with it. But when I chose to confront it, it opened something up. And I had, I had work to do. And my evolution has gone from I was kind of resentful that I had to do all that work, I was kind of resentful that I was kind of pushed out of the closet, there were more elements that were playing out, that kind of pushed me out, I look back on it. Now with gratitude, I'm like, well, thank goodness, I am such a risk adverse person that I will just keep trying to feather the nest before I ever have to actually take the leap of faith. And I think in some ways, the universe knows that about me. And so it kind of gave me that little kick out of the nest that I needed. And I moved from a place of resentment around that to a place of I'm so grateful, because as you as you're saying, My life is so much more fulfilling, I'm so much more on purpose, I'm so much more, I belong to myself more, I have community of people that I belong with. And that doesn't mean that there aren't challenges along the way. And I think sometimes as coaches or therapists or people that are in the mental health and psychological fields, we can sort of be either we projected out from ourselves or people projected on us that our lives are perfect. And then we don't have those struggles, and we don't have our fears, and our patterns don't come back up. For sure mine still do. But it's a lot better than it was and it's a lot more fulfilling. And it's i There's no regrets now at this point on the choices that I made to actually start to claim myself and do that work to claim my anger to claim who I was in the world to live more bravely in the world.
Coach Maddox 51:44
Yeah, I agree with you completely Travis, you know, I I liken it to that journey, that really, really tough journey. It's like the blacksmith takes the piece of steel and puts it in the fire and gets it red hot, and then pulls it out and puts it on the anvil and starts hammering on it, you know, that piece of steel goes through hell, and and then at some point, it emerges as this beautiful work of art a sword that is just to perfection. And that's what the work is about. Yes, it was, it was still sometimes painful. And yet, I mean, I and I believe this is true of our biggest wounds, I look back on the the biggest traumas that I experienced in my life. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I am grateful for those, I wouldn't want to relive those traumas. But I'm grateful because those experiences forged me into the man that I am today. And today, I can sit here in front of you and tell you, I really really love the man that I am today. Like, like, I wouldn't be this guy, if I hadn't been through all those painful experiences and through that journey, and that road less traveled, and I hadn't been in the fire and on the anvil and under the hammer. There is a a really, really good reason to do the work. It's not, you know, it's doable, it's doable.
Travis Stock 53:20
It's probably one of my biggest wants for our community as gay men is that more gay men get to have the experience that you just said, which is to maybe maybe you don't hold it in every single moment of your life, but to have experiences of really, truly loving yourself. Not being impressed by yourself or being pleased with the body that you have, or the sort of more external measurements of success, but to really sit with self into love self. I think that's the biggest thing I want for our community. I think it's a it's a huge part of our next developmental stage. I think in some ways, the bullying, we've experienced the rejection, the trauma of like, in some ways, our community has gone through trauma, many different times. But most importantly, like thinking about like the 80s during the AIDS crisis, it's like we lost a whole generation of men
Coach Maddox 54:14
of my generation. So yes, we've
Travis Stock 54:17
lost a whole generation of elders of people that have walked the path before us and can help guide us and and so we're doing the best we can all the time. But in some ways we've gotten stuck at a certain developmental stage. And I think there's another layer for us around having those moments of really loving ourselves really loving the man that we sit within. That I think is what I most want for our community.
Coach Maddox 54:44
I agree with you completely. I firmly believe that self love is literally the keys to the kingdom that when you when you can firmly put that in place. And it's it's not black and white. It's not like you Like go down to the grocery store and buy it and put it on the shelf and it's there forever. It's an it's an everyday process. Love is not a place you get to it's something that you do. You live it every day. But when self love is in place, all of the rest of the life becomes sweet and falls into place. It's the key to everything.
Travis Stock 55:24
Yeah, I can't think of one negative thing that comes from self love. Neither can I, I don't find people that truly love themselves to be harmful people to be engaging in some of these unsustainable patterns that we notice in the world. Yes, they're humans, and they have their foibles and their flaws, but goodness comes from that self love. Absolutely. Yeah,
Coach Maddox 55:51
absolutely. And you can't know that until you experience it, you know, we can tell you about it. But there is there is nothing like being alone with yourself sitting with yourself and just feeling this intense love for yourself. And that can look a lot of different ways. I mean, I in times when I know that I need loving, I'm a single man, I live alone. And in times when I you know, I'm by myself and I know that I need some type of consoling, I will pile up in my bed and wrap my arms around myself just the way I would wrap my arms around a partner that needed to be consoled. And I talked to myself in the same manner that I would talk to that partner that I love that needed consoling, we have absolutely have the ability to, we're all out there looking to get our needs met from someone else. And the truth is we it's great to have have that. But we the way we're only going to really ever be able to enjoy it is if we're able to give it to ourselves first.
Travis Stock 57:07
You mentioned that talking to yourself in a way that you would talk to a loved one that needed consoling. I think that's so much of the work for those of us especially those of us who've integrated a significant amount of shame. If you actually pay attention to the way you talk to yourself. And the way that you treat yourself when you're struggling when you're feeling afraid when you're feeling vulnerable. Many of us have a pretty harsh voice.
Coach Maddox 57:32
Yes. And don't even realize it totally. We think normalize it. Yes.
Travis Stock 57:36
It's just so a part of our normal that we don't even have any, like awareness of it.
Coach Maddox 57:41
Well, and the truth is, if you talk like that to any friend that you have, you wouldn't have that friend, right? Yet we do it to ourselves ourselves. Yes,
Travis Stock 57:52
I think that's where a lot of a lot of bang for the buck can happen when we start to put some awareness on the internal voice that we have with ourselves.
Coach Maddox 58:01
Your ridership word is awareness.
Travis Stock 58:04
And then we start giving ourselves permission to explore what would that what would the voice What would my voice be if I was talking to someone I deeply loved and cared about? And then utilizing that with yourself bringing that inward allowing yourself to experience that, I think is there's a lot of bang for the buck in that.
Coach Maddox 58:23
I agree completely. So bringing it home, you know, you've taken us through the the journey of the the shame and the coping mechanisms and the ways that you began to reintegrate with your authentic self, what is present in your life now, that wouldn't be present, what are the things that you attribute very much to that process. In that work, you've done those things that you wouldn't have if you hadn't taken that journey?
Travis Stock 58:59
My relationship. So the first things that come to mind. One of the things I'm most proud of is the relationship I have with my family of origin at this point. It hasn't always been an easy journey, but with my parents and with my brother. But we've all done a lot of really good work. And we've all done the work to see each other and to give each other the space we need. And I'm just so proud of who we are as a family. And I love celebrating all the work because I don't know that everybody gets that experience. I don't know that a lot of gay men get that experience of the healing and the transformation that happens with their family of origin.
Coach Maddox 59:38
You know, I want to call out that what I heard you say that I want to really put emphasis on when I asked you that question you said relationships as in plural. And the first thing you went to was your family of origin, which is so not the norm because we as gay men so often are so laser focused tunnel vision on love and a partner in a relationship a husband, however you want to work, sex, that we fail to see that there's a whole world of rich relationships out there that don't have anything to do with romantic love or sex. I mean, we, we focus on one thing, and we lose many. And you did just did such a beautiful job of bringing some balance into it. You know, I'm assuming that somewhere in that mix, you'd have gotten if I didn't, didn't interject, you've gotten to your partner, because I know you have a husband, we are married, correct.
Travis Stock 1:00:48
We're not married, but we're just over four years out. And that would have been my next spot is, this relationship is so different than any relationship I've ever been in. I've spent so many relationships chasing men, trying to earn them being with men that are sort of in and out of the relationship. And it's constantly like chasing them to continue proving that I am lovable, and trying to get validation from people. And my current partner, I've we've been together for over four years, I've never chased him once he is present, he is there he is willing, and that never would have come if I had not done the work on myself.
Coach Maddox 1:01:26
And what I'm hearing, is it specifically the Self Love is what transformed all that. Is that correct? Yeah. Yep.
Travis Stock 1:01:33
Because I started that relationship from a place of being deeply aware of my needs, and being willing to communicate them and recognizing, instead of shying away from them to get somebody to like me first and then trying to bring them in, I brought them in from the beginning. And let him make a decision. Is this work for you or not? And gave him the freedom to say no, and it? And he said, Yes. And he says yes, over and over and over and over. And that to me has been a really powerful awareness of how many years I spent chasing a relationship, wanting that putting all of my focus on my worth and value on whether the fact that I was single for so long. And when now that I'm in this relationship and feel as safe and secure in it as I do, I can recognize how much of my own work was important to get to this place.
Coach Maddox 1:02:24
Yes, absolutely. My tagline in my business is that we train people how to treat us. And your story is just a beautiful example of that. When you started embarking on the self love and treating you better, that sent a signal energetic signal out to the whole world and the whole world reflect back to you, the better you treated yourself, the better the world treated you. The more you cherished yourself and honored yourself, the more people showed up in your life that were also willing to honor and cherish you. And this is not Hocus Pocus, mumbo jumbo, this is the real deal here. And you're clearly depicting that in your story. We train people how to treat us. And one of the ways we do that is by the way, they see us treat ourselves. Now it's it's not a conscious thing. It's it's an unconscious thing. It's an energetic thing. There's three ways that we train people how to treat us, but that one is, to me the big kahuna, because it's the one where we're least aware of usually, we don't realize that, you know, we're bitching about how we're being mistreated. But we're not noticing that we're the ones that are mistreating ourselves. And the rest of the world is just following our example.
Travis Stock 1:03:46
It's so true and easy example of to see that as how often like in a parent child relationship, a parent will set a rule, but then they break their own rule. And the kids very aware of that and can see that we learn from other people's behaviors just as much more moreso than that what they tell us. Yes. And so if we are crossing our own value systems, our own belief systems, our own worth, then other people get to do that too, because they see it happening.
Coach Maddox 1:04:13
Yeah, yeah. People are always going to model either follow the that's what's been modeled to him, not what's been told to him. You know, we've all heard that about the parent who said, Do what I say not what I do. Yeah, good luck with that. Good luck. Good luck with that. Yeah. Well, I have loved your your stories. I've loved the gold all the golden nuggets that you've shared. This has been absolutely amazing. Do you have any words of wisdom that you'd like to share with those listener before we wrap it up?
Travis Stock 1:04:48
I think a piece of advice or an invitation that I have for other gay men who are on their own journey of becoming an authentic gay man, is to lean into some curiosity of yourself with yourself. Listen to yourself, make some some space and some time to really hear what's really going on for you and to ask a lot of questions of yourself, rather than just taking your patterns and behaviors as just a given. Start asking why start asking, Well, what does it mean to me? If what am I afraid of asking those questions to dive in a little bit deeper to your relationship to self, I think we will something that we've talked about in this conversation that is so vital and important is that belonging to self, it changes the world. It changes your perspective, it changes how you engage in the world, it changes how purposeful and fulfilled you feel in the world, it changes your relationships. And so being curious and learning how to belong to yourself, which we weren't taught those skills. So it is it isn't something that you're going to necessarily know how to do right away. It's foreign. Yeah. And that's why people like coaches, and therapists exists, because there's an outside person that can help you with that work. But that self belonging to self is where you're going to get the most bang for your buck. And so get curious with yourself, listen. And if you need some support, ask for help. It's it's your it's breaking the rules of being a man to ask for help. But I encourage you to break that rule.
Coach Maddox 1:06:25
break that rule. Absolutely. And so I'm hearing somewhere in there, tell me if I'm wrong. You know, we hear people say it's just the way I am. And if you're really, really getting curious and asking yourself those questions, that's just the way I am. Is a cop out
Travis Stock 1:06:44
an easy answer, because it's an
Coach Maddox 1:06:46
easy answer. Yes. Because we get to be anybody we want to be. You get to show up in life any way you want to show up in life. And so I love what you're saying there about get curious and ask questions and challenge yourself. Is it why is that the way I am? And do I want to be that way? eautiful I love your words of wisdom, Travis very much.
Travis Stock 1:07:12
Yeah, that phrase of it's just who I am, or just the way I am. It ends the conversation and puts a period at the end. Whereas asking more questions like, Well, why is it the way I am? What does it mean? What is the benefit of me continuing this way? What would be the benefit of me trying on a different pattern that keeps the conversation going and keeps the development process going for us as beings?
Coach Maddox 1:07:35
I love it. You know? Yeah, yeah. Another good couple of questions would be what's the payoff of staying the same? And what's the cost of staying the same? Beautiful, beautiful. Thank you so much. So let's move into our rapid fire questions. Are you ready for some Brandon our question buckle in with a rapid fire answers. When was the last time you cried in front of another gay man?
Travis Stock 1:08:03
Two days ago, with my partner?
Coach Maddox 1:08:07
That was an easy answer, wasn't it? I love it. What is the one thing that you most wish that you could change about the gay male community?
Travis Stock 1:08:20
I think it has to do with in some ways, I see us often engaging in patterns that we learned from all of the ways that we were bullied and disempowered in the world. And so we are seeking to empower ourselves by taking powers from power from other people or judging others or condemning others. And so it would be sort of to unlearn some of those ways that we were bullied and to stop bullying each other stop rejecting and re wounding each other.
Coach Maddox 1:08:48
You took the words right out of my mouth, except for you said it a lot more eloquently than I probably would have. You articulate your thoughts exceptionally well. Everything that you've said today has been it? No, if we didn't know any better, we would think it was all rehearsed. It was so beautifully stated. You're very articulate.
Travis Stock 1:09:08
Your my parents have always said I started speaking at nine months and didn't stop. So lots of practice.
Coach Maddox 1:09:16
I love it. Oh, and final question at the end of your life when you're about to take your last breath. What is the feeling that you most want to feel?
Travis Stock 1:09:32
Coach Maddox 1:09:34
Oh, I love it. I love it. I think I think you I was sitting here thinking I haven't answered that question. And I think I think that would be my answer to I don't know if I would have said that. But now that you said it, that would be my answer to
Travis Stock 1:09:50
I spent too much of my life not belonging that I'm just on that train that that's that's that's the that's the gig right there for me,
Coach Maddox 1:09:57
man. I'll tell you what, and And when you first when you go from a lifetime of feeling like you don't belong, and you experience a feeling of belonging, there isn't anything quite like it. So true. It is down to my very core. Travis, there's one thing I want to leave you with. First of all, I want to say thank you so much for coming on to the podcast and being an amazing guest. This has been great. I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I feel like I know you better I feel like we're we're like, we're kindred spirits.
Travis Stock 1:10:33
We went deep, you gotta you gotta be vulnerable. And that's how you get to know people. We went
Coach Maddox 1:10:37
deep. And I hope that the audience felt it because I did. I certainly did. So thank you for that. And the one thing that I want to leave you with is I want to tell you that you indeed my friend are an authentic gay man.
Travis Stock 1:10:53
Thank you. It's been a lot of work to get there. And I appreciate that,
Coach Maddox 1:10:58
and continues to be I agree completely, but you're certainly well on the path.
Travis Stock 1:11:04
Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thanks for allowing me to share my story and for getting curious about my story. Not everybody has the space to have somebody be that curious with you with them and continue sharing their story. So just appreciate you inviting me here and being able to just be fully myself here. So thank you.
Coach Maddox 1:11:24
It was completely My pleasure.
Travis Stock, MSW is a Master Certified Life Coach, Equus Master Facilitator, and teacher. Travis helps others find what creates balance in their lives by first seeking acceptance of what is. He utilizes the Equus experience to connect others with the often forgotten wisdom of the body, allowing for more fully explored and developed choices in their lives. Travis has a passion for the balance between masculine and feminine energies in each of us, regardless of gender, and believes in the importance of nurturing a relationship with both types of energy to create a sense of wholeness. (Click here to read more – http://www.travisstock.com) Travis brings with him interest and experience in the areas of emotions, the LGBT community, transformation of trauma and shame, interpersonal relationships, family systems, men and masculinity, and living open-heartedly.