April 5, 2022

Jonathan Rivera discovers his responsibility in being socially excluded

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Jonathan Rivera shares his experience with the more subtle aspects of racism.  His big challenge is around frequently feeling like he is excluded in social settings.  It's glaringly obvious when he is only one of a couple of men of color in a room filled with white gay men, who don't acknowledge him and treat his as if he is invisible.  He talks about his journey from victimhood to learning to take responsibility for his part in these situations.  Our dialog explores many options of how he can take a proactive role in creating a new experience for himself.  If you have every felt excluded or ignored, these ideas will be beneficial, if you are willing to take action.  FYI...these ideas are applicable in other situations that don't include racism.

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Coach Maddox  0:03  
Well, hello, Jonathan Rivera, and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I'm really happy. Like to have you on board, buddy.

Jonathan Rivera  0:13  
Gotta be here. Thank you.

Coach Maddox  0:16  
So let me tell our listeners a little bit about how you and I know each other. And this is they're starting to like have heard this many times. You and I met in a large online gay group on Facebook about a year ago. And we have been on many groups and calls, we've had our personal one on one calls where we've gotten acquainted a little bit better, we've had lots of good conversations. And so it's been almost a year. And that's it. That's how we know each other anything that you'd like to add to that, Jonathan?

Jonathan Rivera  0:57  
Um, yeah, it'll be pretty much said, how we met, and it's been great getting to know you personally. And, you know, I'm glad to be able to be on this podcast with you, and talk about subjects that, you know, near and dear to my heart, and to your heart into the hearts of anybody out there that can relate to whatever it is that we're going to talk about.

Coach Maddox  1:29  
Absolutely. And I will, will ditto what you said. And that is, it's been really, really good to get to know you. And I know that today, as we deep dive a little bit deeper, I'll even get to know you a little bit more. And I'm really looking forward to that. So thank you so much for your willingness to, to do this. So let's just jump right in. And I would like to ask, first of all, what does being an authentic gay man mean to you?

Jonathan Rivera  1:57  
So me being authentic gay man is, you know, I'm not hiding who you are. Being able to express yourself, express who you are inside, being able to express that outwardly, like, your demeanor, the way you dress, you know, how you interact with others, who you interact with, too. And making sure that that doesn't, I'll just say you're not deterred from, you know, doing what you want to do, being who want to be interacting, who you want to interact with, expressing yourself. You know, how you want to express yourself. So just being yourself? Being yourself not. I mean, I guess it's like, okay, you can be yourself inwardly and know who you are, but being able to express that so others see who you truly are. So I think that's, I guess that's the main thing about being authentic. It's like, being able to express yourself to others. So that they see who you truly are inside. Beautiful.

Coach Maddox  3:21  
I love that. I you know, I've gotten a lot of different renditions. But I think you think you nailed it. So let's see row in a little bit more on your journey to being an authentic gay man, you know, I've come to realize in my own journey, that we come into this world fully authentic, we come out of the womb fully authentic. And then in our formative years, we get all kinds of messages that somehow tell us it's not okay to be who we really are. And we go through this process through because of those messages where we literally sever ourselves from our own authenticity. And then, you know, as a result of that, we feel kind of cut off, we feel like we're not completely something's not right. We don't may not know what it is, but we just know something's not quite right. And we spend a lot of time seeking. And I believe that our seeking, I've really come to believe that our seeking is looking for the parts of ourselves that we've lost track of. It's not that it's not there. It's that we've just lost sight of it. And so we spend time seeking to find that authentic part of ourselves that we had when we were babies and tiny children before society. Basically, you know, beat it out of us. Not literally but metaphorically. So, my question today is, how it pertains to you being or becoming an authentic gay man. What what has been and I know you and I have had a little bit of conversation about this, what has been the biggest challenge in life that has played a role in that whole? You as an authentic gay man.

Jonathan Rivera  5:21  
I think for me, the top thing for man would be, you know, I grew up in a religious environment, going to a religious school. And so, I mean, I took me a long time to break away from that, to be able to finally be myself as a you know, as a gay man. But I think that's the top thing. It's just like, you know, it's like, I grew up in a religious environments, not only with family, but going to a religious school. And it was, it was after, after I decided I made a decision for myself, I'm gonna just break away from all that. That's when I truly started, you know, you know, becoming more of the authentic man I want to become. And, yeah, so that's the top of my list. The other thing too has to do with Well, anyways, yeah, that's, that's the top Oh.

Coach Maddox  6:39  
Well, and I know, in a, in a previous conversation, you also mentioned that you, one of the biggest challenges that you kind of can still continue to, to confront and are still dealing with and working through is sometimes the the the racial bias that happens in our community. And I would love for you to speak on that and tell the listeners a little bit more about that journey, what that's been like, and where you are in that journey.

Jonathan Rivera  7:14  
Yes. Okay. Yeah. So that's, that's another thing too. What I feel like is that, you know, after coming out, and, you know, just the coming out process is a process, it's not something that happens right away. And, you know, after coming out and being finally comfortable with myself, being a gay man, then I get into the community and start experiencing the gay community. And, you know, I've started to realize this, like, there's a lot of there's a lot of prejudice, prejudice, see, within the gay community itself. And there's a lot of things that I've noticed some experiences that I had, that makes me realize it's like, you know, you know, it's like, being gay, that's already, that's one thing that's, uh, you know, that's, it's tough to be a gay man and life in general. But then to come into a community where you feel like, you're not being, you're not being included, or it's very exclusive, and it's very segregated as far as like, you know, ethnicity, ethnicity, sorry. Um, and it's just, like, it's just one of the things that just, I mean, I, you know, I'm, I'm coming along with it, I'm realizing, you know, I'm the type of person I'm very I interact with people from all ethnicities from all over the world. You know, I travel the world. And so, you know, I love different cultures and stuff like that. But it seems like within the gay community, there's not, there's not that integration, you know, it's just like, I feel like it's like it's just like, even okay, just so for example, just going out to, to a gay bar, you know, I feel like it's, you know, you have very different ethnic groups in their little cliques, and there's not much integration. And I'm the type of person who I like, I like to. I like to be liked to learn about other people, different cultures and stuff like that different ethnicities. I'd like to interact with everybody. And I don't I don't see that happening within our gay community. agree it's very segregated. I guess. It's

Coach Maddox  9:51  
I'm fine with you. I have a great appreciation for diversity. I like learning about different cultures. and different backgrounds and people who have a different way of life, whether it's cuisine or the way they dress, or D, all of the above, I would love for you to share with our listeners, some specific experiences, draw some pictures for us on what you've experienced, that you felt, you know, we're racial issues, people, the experiences that make you feel left out or set apart, because of your ethnicity. You have some some, as an example, a lot

Jonathan Rivera  10:37  
of stories I could share, I'll give you one I'll probably share a couple examples. One example is a i a. It was a gay pride event, we can pride events in my city. And a friend of mine had invited me and another friend to this house party. And so we are the only ethnic people there. And I'm not saying just like, I'm saying, like, I guess when I say ethnic I'm, I mean, like non white. Because that they could be any, you know, any ethnicity, such as, you know, Indian, or at least or, or whatever. But my friend knew the guy who was hosting the party, and then me and my other friend, we showed up, and everybody in the room, or everybody in the houses, everybody was white, you know, and it was me and my friend, we were like the only ethnic people there. And we didn't get any greetings. Nobody came up to us to say hi, or anything like that, or nothing. It was like, it was just like, everybody was in their little cliques talking to each other. But we were like, kind of like off on the side. We're just like, trying to figure out. I mean, at that point, I was just like, This is real. This is like, come on, at least try to intermingle with people. Especially, you know, people you don't know. And just like, I mean, I didn't even meet the host of the party. So that, was it

Coach Maddox  12:30  
like being invisible? Pretty much. Yeah. And has anybody outwardly rude to you? I mean, did anybody say anything? Or was they nothing outwardly rude?

Jonathan Rivera  12:41  
Nobody was just, you know, it was just pretty much it was just like, very, you just felt like, Okay. What am I doing here? Kind of thing. And so me and my friend, we decided to we stay there for a little while. And then we decided, hey, you know, let's go. And we left. Nobody noticed, as I told my other friend, which he was like intermingling with the guys because he knew them. But it was like, kind of like we felt excluded. And it was like, we didn't feel right there. So we just, I was like, Hey, let's go, we just left. And that's, that's why I suspect

Coach Maddox  13:20  
that other gay men of color have experienced what you're describing. And this is probably not anything new to them. But I am hoping that this dialogue will perhaps reach the ears of some of our non ethnic, some sub ethnic, gay men, some of our white listeners to understand you know what that's like. So, when you experienced that at that party, how did that make you feel, Jonathan?

Jonathan Rivera  13:52  
I felt totally excluded. I mean, because that's not my nature. Because if I were me hosting a party, I'll make sure if I were me, I'll make sure I go to everybody, at least know who's here. Introduce myself or anything like that. Well, and I just felt like, I was just like,

Coach Maddox  14:14  
what was underneath excluded though? I mean, I'm digging a little bit deeper. But what I mean, when you realize nobody was going to talk to you, what did you feel I know you felt excluded, but what was underneath excluded the more baseline feeling? No, like gallery, or did it make you sad or?

Jonathan Rivera  14:34  
No, it didn't? Well, it didn't make me angry. Um, I guess it's because, uh, you know, I felt like, you know, I guess this is like, this is I've experienced that a lot. So it's to the point where it's like, okay, yeah, I know what it's all about. It's all I need to put it this way success. It's just a whole bunch of white guys getting gay guys getting together and just like nodding, not really wanting to include other races and other ethnicities So, and I found, yeah, I felt, I mean, I didn't feel sad either. I was just like, I just felt like, oh, well, this is just like not for me. So time to leave. Yeah,

Coach Maddox  15:24  
so you What am I hearing that you took it less personally, and just thought, you know, this is just not my, my tribe, this is not my people.

Jonathan Rivera  15:34  
Right? I didn't I didn't take it personally, um, even though I, you know, because of my own personality and stuff like that, it would have been nice to be able to, you know, at least interact with some of them even make some new friends. But it's kind of like, I felt like there was just a wall. It was just like, it's them. And us, and how do you break that wall? So it's like, okay, you just leave. And maybe that was a probably, I mean, not I think about it probably, you know, everything I've learned this past year. If I were to go, if that worked, if I were to go back in history and relive that, I would have probably taken more of an initiative to break that barrier, maybe, at least myself try to talk to

Coach Maddox  16:32  
speak and become a little bit more. So what would that look like? If you were going to take a little more initiative? If you could relive that experience? What would that look like?

Jonathan Rivera  16:43  
That will look like me, instead of being my friend, just kind of like, on the side, you know, kind of waiting for someone there to come up to us, then maybe I would have gone into the crowd and say, you know, just walk around, and it's like, maybe just do something as simple as giving a smile, or looking at some guy and say, Hey, how are you? And that's it and just go around,

Coach Maddox  17:17  
you know, not to have

Jonathan Rivera  17:21  
resulted in anything further at least, I gave it that effort.

Coach Maddox  17:26  
That love that, Jonathan, because I think that, you know, we can one of two things happen in a situation like that we either become a victim, or we take some responsibility. And what you're describing is taking some responsibility for the situation you're in, not full responsibility, because because it takes two to tango. But you know, saying at least I have a role in this and choosing to play that role to its fullest. You know, so I get some hearing you say that the way you did it is in the past in the past is not the way you would do it. Where you are in your life. Right now you would have reached out tried to strike up some conversations. So what would you like to to say to our now? Of course, not assuming we're not going to assume that all gay white men are like this? Oh, yeah. But but for the for the the gay white men that may need to just have their awareness increased a little bit? What would you say to them? About that situation? What what? How do I want to work this? What would you say to them to help them do their part? And and bridge the gap in our community? Is my question making sense?

Jonathan Rivera  18:55  
Yes. And so are you talking about for that specific situation? Or just in general?

Coach Maddox  19:01  
Well, yeah, just in general, you know, what can you do just to raise the awareness, because oftentimes, even those of us that may not have any bias may not have any issue with ethnic people, we still may not have the awareness that that you're affected that way or that sometimes you feel isolated and excluded when you're in a group where you're obviously the minority. I'm just, I guess I'm saying, you know, what would you say to them to just raise their awareness how they might be a little bit more thoughtful and yeah, aware of things in that situation. So people of color don't end up feeling left out or excluded.

Jonathan Rivera  19:53  
I would say in general, just be aware of If you're like, you know, like in a party situation and stuff like that house party, be aware of other people who are around you, besides the clique that you're in, at that moment. Be aware. And if you see somebody you've never seen before, no matter what ethnicity just, you know, I mean, you don't have to be attracted to the person. It's not about sexual attraction, it's about, hey, you know, oh, this is a gay party, hey, there's somebody here that's new, um, you know, maybe go up and say hi, or just strike up a conversation, you could learn a lot from that person. And I think

Coach Maddox  20:50  
they're, they're there, you know, when somebody realizes that you're new to the group, it just makes sense to be warm and friendly, and to do what they can to make you feel welcomed and invited, is my take, I don't, I don't understand the clicky thing myself, I've never been much of a clicky person. But I have been on the recipient, the end of that, you know, you don't have to be a minority to experience that. I've been in parties where it was, you know, the, what we used to refer to as the a crowd, you know, and I can recall, a couple of parties that I went to, it's been many years ago now, where no one acknowledged me or even spoke to me, they looked down their nose at me, like I was like, you know, a peasant or an inferior or something. And it was, it was very uncomfortable. It was very, it was upsetting. It didn't feel good. It made me sad, it made me angry. And there was no reason to do that. And I and I get you know, that's coming from a, that's coming from insecurity, you know, that's psychology one on one, when people are, are acting like they're all superior, that's usually a cover up for the fact that inside they feel really inferior. And so I get it, but that doesn't make it feel better. Knowing that doesn't necessarily make it feel better. So we've all been been subjected to what you're describing, and it isn't always have, it is isn't always about ethnicity. And your in your case, it was of course, that's kind of what we're talking about here today is how can we bridge that gap in our community, it's amazing to me that we are a community that we have been so judged by the population at large, and we've hated being judged. And yet we turn and judge each other within our community, it makes no sense to me, we do exactly what we hate having done to us. And and it's something we don't talk about. So here we are, to talk about it.

Jonathan Rivera  23:04  
Yeah. And I think for me, it's a it's been a lot more eye opening in where I'm living now, which is considered the South. Then where I was leaving previously, it's it even within the gay community, I think it's it depends what area you live the attitudes of the people and the attitudes of the people kind of like, it does get into the gay community as well, wherever you're at. So yeah, but we were saying about feeling judged is like, Yeah, that's exactly. Exactly the feeling. I have this is like, I'm just being judged for nothing to do with who I am. Is just what they see. You just walk into, what are they? It's,

Coach Maddox  24:17  
it's all they don't know.

Jonathan Rivera  24:18  
See you

Coach Maddox  24:20  
Yeah, right. It's just based on the color of your skin. Which doesn't make any sense to me. I mean, I get it, it's a real thing. But I don't understand why it's a real thing. Um, so you said you had another example, perhaps of that challenge that you've been up against where there's been, you know, where you've experienced racial bias racial bias in the gay community.

Jonathan Rivera  24:50  
Yeah, I think the other example I mean, I have a lot of examples but other example is just in my living community where I live actually live my condo complex why? live right now. Again, because I'm very, I'm the type of person, you know, I don't choose where to live based on. Like the demographics or you know, and so why live right now it's like, I chose a place because I like the location, it's in the gayborhood. And in I just like, the complex, I like, the condo that I bought and everything and but this particular condo complex, it's predominantly white, and there's a lot of, is because it's in the neighborhood, there's, it's, it's very, there's a good percentage of voters there that are, you know, are gay, and but I've always felt that's another place is like, just, you know, going around, walking through the hallways, and, you know, going back and forth from my condo for my unit. If I see someone, or they see me, I just get that feeling of like, okay, they probably think long here, because technically, I'm probably one of the very few owners there that are, you know, you know, have a different view. I mean, they're not, you know, why? Or? Yeah, so I have a different ethnicity, or a person of color, basically, and there to this day, I've been living there for several years now. And to this day, it's like, I feel like, you know, I kind of like after. Like, for example, I feel like I have to, you know, watch how I come in and out in community, how I dress and stuff like that. So they don't think I'm you know, not a resident or don't belong, or somebody who's trying to break into the building, or anything like that. That's and that mean, that's, that's how I feel. It's like, just the vibe that I get from the other residents in there. And so that's the reason why not long after I moved, when I started getting that vibe, when I moved in there. I was like, You know what, I need people to know who I am. Know that, Hey, I am a resident here. And so I decided to join. They're one of their HOA committees, you know, to do organize social events. And then we have different meetings and stuff like that. So they they get to know me. It was probably because of that, because I didn't want I want them to know, hey, yeah, when you see me around, yes, I live here. I do belong here. And that's not the feeling I get even to this day.

Coach Maddox  28:03  
Well, and I want to acknowledge you Jonathan for you know, once again, taking responsibility, you took a proactive approach to your challenge. The challenge is a real challenge. I have an FF Nick friends and I've had these conversations enough to know that it's a real challenge that this is a common everyday occurrence in most people, most people's lives that are of color. And I just love that you are taking the necessary steps to change this, you know, to make yourself known to the community to let people know Yes, I am a resident I own my unit I pay here I pay my HOA dues. I pay my taxes I'm you know I belong here. And and you've gotten involved to get acquainted to meet people and to become a part of instead of you know, because we oftentimes do this woe is me thing you know, I'm nobody's accepting me I'm on my own I'm here I'm invisible. Nobody's you know, paying attention to me and and we don't it's and I've done this in my own life not certainly around ethnic issues, but I I've played the victim role and and then actually literally beyond victim i There were some things that I did to further promote the fact that I didn't didn't belong. If that makes sense. You know, I can I can look at there have been times for many years. I said, Man, I just don't I don't feel like part of the gay community. I don't I don't fit in with gay man. I'm always on the outside looking in. And there was this point where I had this stark realization that there was some unconscious way that I was choosing that and that I was literally doing things that would set me apart like I would I would go to you know, I'd come home from a gay party and say, well, nobody even talked to me, nobody speak to me It spoke to me or knowledge me. But the flip side of that was when I finally had my realization, I realized that I was going to parties, and rather than mixing and mingling through the rooms and talking to people, I found a dark corner to stand in and stood over by myself on the parameter and didn't engage. And then I made that about them, you know. And it's really easy to do that with anything, whether it's racial issues, our gay issues, or, or whatever, it's real easy to, to do things, to hold a belief system, or to do things that actually create, the thing that we feel so challenged by. And what I'm hearing you say is that you have taken a different approach. And I just want to play that up. So the listeners really can see that we do have some responsibility in our own challenges. And we do have some opportunities and options that can change our situation, you know.

Jonathan Rivera  31:10  
For my example, it's, you know, I could have easily just, you know, I took that practical approach, but I could easily just say, you know, you know, what, I'm the beginner, whatever, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna try to engage with anybody here, anything, and just be in a cocoon in my own condo, and just go in and out and not be any neighbors. But because of the fact I took took this proactive approach, even though most of the neighbors, you know, even to this day, I still feel like, they see me as like, not belonging, I have, because of the fact I joined the HOA committees. I have met a few neighbors and become friends with them. That you know, I have that great neighbor relationship with. But if it wasn't for the family, for me taking that initiative to be proactive. Paul, we've never met them. And they're great guys. You know, one of the things I've realized is, it's like, it's, it's those neighbors who are well versed in other cultures. And who traveled the world, they experience different people experience different cultures and places. Those are the ones that I guess, I'm able to have a connection with

Coach Maddox  32:45  
awe, because that's your tribe. You know, that people because you embrace and appreciate diversity, you're going to naturally attract people that embrace and appreciate adversity, not diversity. Hello, wrong, versity diversity.

Jonathan Rivera  33:08  
But my question is like, okay, so you find your tribe, but then how do you reach out to those who are not in your tribe?

Coach Maddox  33:20  
To? Well, are you saying that there are people that could be in your tribe? Are they people that probably embrace diversity, but you just don't know them yet? Or are you talking about people that don't embrace diversity?

Jonathan Rivera  33:35  
I'm talking about? I'm talking about people who don't embrace diversity, who could actually, actually, I mean, they don't embrace adversity, because they don't know, they don't understand what diversity is. I guess, that makes sense. Reaching out to those people who, you know, the people who tend to have a law because of what they perceive, you know, what, what they perceive diversity to be, or in what they perceive, when they see me what they perceive me to be, is, you know, how to break down that wall to others. You know, who have who have, who have that wall? Like how do you break through that wall and saying, hey, you know, it's like, okay, like for my neighbors, it's like those neighbors who just, they walk around and they don't look at me. I mean, they will say hi, but it's kind of like the high was like, that kind of like side loop. It's like, for you kind of why you saying hi to me. How do you break down that barrier?

Coach Maddox  34:47  
I don't try to have answers. Oh, yeah, I don't I don't proclaim to have all the answers, but I can tell you what I think my approach would be and I've actually done this not Of course around the ethnic issue, but or the racial issue, but I think it would be as simple as you have maybe approaching maybe just one at a time, maybe you just approach one of them and say, you know, senior round, we're neighbors, would you be? Would you be open to having an ethnic friend? It could be just as simple as that. I mean, I've literally approached in my life, I have literally approached straight men that I thought were cool. And that I that I would like to know, and said, I, you know, I, I would be interested in striking up a friendship with you, would you? Would you be okay, having a gay friend? I mean, I've literally, I mean, I guess there's a lot of people that thinks, Oh, my God, that's scary. But I mean, the worst thing they can say is no. And if you don't say that to them, then you've gotten the equivalent of No, if you don't put yourself out there, then it's a no anyway. So you don't have really a whole lot to lose. I'm a person that just point blank will will ask, Hey, how do you feel about having a gay friend? And or? Or you could you could reach out to a handful of your neighbors and say, you know, I'd love to invite you over. I'm planning a little group discussion among some gay men where we can we can talk about diversity in our community.

Jonathan Rivera  36:41  
Yeah. And that's a good idea. Yeah,

Coach Maddox  36:47  
you know, and it doesn't, it doesn't have to be anything that's big and planned, just pull people together, serve some wine, and just start the conversation. So, you know, let's talk about diversity, and then see where it goes. And I've done that. On many occasions, where I'll pick a topic, I'll invite a group of friends over and say, Okay, we're gonna get to know each other a little bit better tonight, we're going to do a little little break the ice and, and I will I did this one time, was just before the pandemic, it's been hard to do this during the pandemic, but I did invited a group of friends over, we were going to play a board game. There were about seven of us, maybe eight of us. And I said, before we start the board game I'd like to play. So I've got a little thing plan that I think will kind of help us break down because they some of them didn't know each other all that well, they were they had been exposed but didn't really know each other. And so I gave everybody an instruction, some paper and pins, right, so and so down on this paper and fold it up and put it in the center of the circle. You know, we played this little game that I thought would maybe take 20 minutes, and then we would start our board game. Well, we got into this little game where we were going around the circle and answering the questions and reading them and talking about them. And two and a half hours later, we're still having this discussion, and we never played the board game. Oh, wow. The board game never happened. And at the end of the discussion, several people said, Wow, this was really cool. Can we do this again? Wow. Because we broke through the ice. We broke through the I mean, we're all familiar with the really superficial chatty conversation that can help guys social circles and settings. Yeah. And in this day, this particular incident, this situation, we broke beyond that and had some meaningful conversation. And it was, it rocked. I mean, to be real honest, it was kind of an accident. I didn't really, that wasn't the plan, you know, I thought it would just be a little fun icebreaker. And it turned into a whole afternoon of deep conversation. And these these guys, we'd gotten together, not so much, you know, in real time because of COVID. But we have gotten together, we've gotten together out of the park a few times, and we've gotten on Zoom a few times and done a little bit of this. But I think that it needs a fire starter. I tend to be a little bit of a fire starter. I'm I'm comfortable initiating. So I'll just reach out to a handful of people and say, Hey, come over, let's have some wine and have a conversation. And then I direct the conversation I asked the tough questions that engage and sometimes not everybody engages some people if it gets a little too deep for them, they just sit quietly and listen and that's okay. And maybe next time I invite they don't come back because that made them feel a little bit uncomfortable. Yeah, that's okay too, because that tells me they're probably not my people. They're not my tribe. I'm kind of want to dip below the surface. I'm kind of want to have a little more meaningful and intimate conversations and I suspect you are The same I am we, that Chitty chatty stuff.

Jonathan Rivera  40:07  
Yeah. And I, you know, for me, it's like when you're talking about this, they brought up, I had forgotten that there was this one party that, uh, this was like several years ago that I was invited to. It was a little house party, it was really, really nice. But yeah, they started off the party, just as you did, it was kind of like, you get around, and you talk about, I forget what we talked about. But it was just like, going around a room talking about this particular subject in a deep subject, and you would just share it, share your opinion if you wanted to, or not. And it was a good started, because I think I think for me, it's like, I want to delve deep, and get to know somebody first, before getting into the, you know, the small talk, and, as opposed to vice versa, where it's like, you know, you go to a party, and it's just like all check to chatter, small talk and stuff like that. You really don't get to know somebody. The so yeah, I think I think that's yeah, I think I like

Coach Maddox  41:29  
that group. Beautiful. You know, when you break the ice, then it leads the way where you may not come back to the Chitty chatty, you know, once you break broken through that barrier, even the rest of the evening will tend to be a little bit more intimate conversations may not be deep, deep conversations. But deeper than small talk. Yeah. So, you know, I mean, what do you see as a possibility that you could do there in your community? I mean, I'm like thinking, you're, you're an outgoing and social person. I'm wondering what might happen if you just reached out to a handful of your neighbors and said, you know, come over for some cocktails and some munchies? Yeah, maybe plan a little icebreaker where you could get people a little bit more into a little bit deeper conversation, but just invite people over and socialize and see where it goes.

Jonathan Rivera  42:29  
Yeah, and that's funny, because it's for a while now, I've been thinking about I hardly ever do any get togethers. The last get together I did was like, years ago, one summer where it was a nice day, I bought some friends over to do a barbecue up on the rooftop pool deck area. And but even there was just like, it was just, it was just, it's all a small talk. It was nothing. Sitting down and actually having a conversation, the conversations and so I've been thinking about that and thinking about like having like a little get together for some type of event or something. And just have a group of friends come over. And then

I actually, uh, I have a new next door neighbor I haven't really talked to yet. But I mean, that's, that could be a start there too.

So I could, you know, hey, when I seen him again, tell him hey, you know, I'm gonna have this little get together. Would you like to come over? I mean, yeah, you're bringing some, you're making my money.

Coach Maddox  43:49  
There's some really, really easy ways to make this happen. I know for me, I live in a townhome community. And there's, it's small, there's only 17 homes. And, and I haven't done this with all of my neighbors but my immediate neighbors right around me. I have let them know that, you know, I'm here a lot. I work from my home office. So I'm here a lot. And I've said You know, if you need something reach out to me. And I do little favors for people. You know, one of my neighbors went on a trip recently and he texts me on his way out of town and said I'm going to be out of town for a few days and I've just realized that I had placed some orders and packages is going to be delivered to my front door. While I'm not there. Would you mind picking my packages up? Not at all. You know my next door neighbor travels a lot. And so I have a remote to his garage and on trash day. When he's out of town. I bring his trash bins out and at the end of the day I put him back in and and we just you know we just do favorite For each other, I'll text a neighbor and go, Wow, I am out and about way away from home and I just got a message saying a package has bins left on my front door, would you mind taking it in for me, because we've had some thefts. And we just have this little thing where we kind of do little favors for each other, you know, I was doing the trash bins for my neighbor, he's, he's young and muscular, and, and very strong. And so I'm doing the trash bin thing. And then I reach out to him every once in a while, like, I need to move some furniture and I will reach out and say, Hey, I need some young muscle, can you come over and help me with this? And and he does. It's this give and take. But I've built rapport with my neighbors by not only doing supportive things, but asking for support. I read a book recently that said one of the quickest ways to build a sense of relationship with someone else is to ask a favor of them that people feel really needed and desired. When you ask a favor. It could be something really simple. Like, I'm going to be away all day and I got a package coming today would you bring it in. And there's this report that happens almost immediately when we ask for a little bit of assistance. So there's just so many ways to to build the the beginning of a relationship with somebody in your community that lives right around you. It could be with a co worker, it could be any kind of relationship. But we we do have to take action. That's the bottom line here is you can we've all sat in our home and not known our neighbors and wondered why nobody was speaking to us. But we weren't speaking either. It's really easy to get in that that groove. And I wish that we lived in a world with more initiators. The problem is there's the the initiator sort of the minority. And if more of us were willing to step up and be an initiator, it would change our experience. I mean, I can tell you, and it's a choice, you know, some people say, Well, I'm not an initiator. No, no, you're choosing not to be an initiator, because it's a choice. Anybody can be initiator, all you have to do is just say, Hey, will you it's the question, anybody can ask a question. But I can guarantee you that if you initiate with your neighbors, it's going to change your experience.

Jonathan Rivera  47:33  
Yeah. It's funny, it's because it's like when I don't initiate it's those. I mean, there are others who are initiate with me, have not, you know, I have to say, there's been others, my neighbors who have initiated with me, but I haven't been to the only time I've actually done a big initiations. When I said I was, you know, I decided to be a part of the HOA committees to, for people to know, get to know me and who I am. But I kind of like, draw myself back some a lot of times where I'm like, Yeah, I guess I played the victim, like, you know, it's like, you know, most of the neighbors didn't want to get to know me. But I think, do more of the initiating.

Coach Maddox  48:37  
I want to stop you for a minute, because I think that's a powerful statement, you just said, you just said, I play the victim sometimes. And that's a powerful admission, you know, because because when you really can own that, then you can change it. It's hard to change something that we're not willing to own. But if you can own that I've been showing up and playing the victim role. Now you you have everything you need to change it, you know, you and I have both in some of these gag groups that we're in for virtual groups, we've sat in on what they refer to as connection calls. And I might take some heat for saying this. And if I do, I just do but it's my perception. I'm not saying it's the truth, or it's the way it is. I'm just saying it's my perception. There's always a percentage of men on these connection calls that are present in moment and boning about being isolated and lonely. And yet, those are most often the same men that do zero, initiate initiating, no responsibility. You know, if you're isolated and lonely, then start reaching out to people and change that the buck stops here. I can't expect somebody else to be responsible for my lunch. lameness and isolation. I'm the only one that could do anything about that. And only the way I'm going to do that is by initiating, reaching out and asking to get together with people, whether it be virtually or face to face in real life. Yeah, we got it, we, you know, I play the victim role from time to time I'm guilty myself every once in a while I catch myself and go, Wow, that's like a victim stance that you're taking right there. You know, we all have blind spots.

Jonathan Rivera  50:35  
Yeah. And also, you know not? Not how would you say is like not getting angry? Because if somebody says rejects you and says, Oh, no, I don't want to do this. It's like, okay, well, then it's not for you then keep looking forward. Because I think in the end, these connection calls and groups you're talking about,

I think they're guys who will continue to pursue the same thing over and over again, and then

and, and not finally take the head and say, Hey, okay, this is not working out, go to a new direction, take a new direction, you know, focus on somebody else, or, you know, what I'm saying? It's just like, not trying to pursue the same thing. You know, it's like, if somebody rejects you, then take it out as it is. And that's your answer right there. Move on. It's like, look at something else, though towards something, some someone else.

Coach Maddox  51:46  
But the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same action over and over and expect a different result.

Jonathan Rivera  51:54  
That's one of my favorite quotes. Albert Einstein.

Coach Maddox  51:58  
Albert Einstein.

Yeah, so if you were going to identify where you are in your process, I mean, the whole process that we're talking about is dealing with working through getting to the other side of the challenge of this racist issue within the gay community. If you were gonna say, on a scale of one to 10, one is man, I'm at the very beginning, I don't have a clue. And 10 is, I'm on the other side of this, I've got I've got, you know, I've got my part of it figured out, I know how to navigate this. I know how to work around it. I know, I know how to deal with it. on that scale of one to 10, where would you say you are currently?

Jonathan Rivera  52:46  
Oh, I think I've come a very long way. I would say about about an eight. Okay. I, I mean, I know. You know, I think the main thing is like, I know that I am not going to prevent myself or hold myself back from doing something because, you know, I feel like I'm not gonna fit in, you know, like, just an example is like, okay, you know, going out to the gay bars and clubs, it's like, you know, usually the gay bars and clubs are pretty, even within the same establishment, or even like a gay restaurant, it's like, it tends to be pretty segregated and click ish into different ethnic groups. I'm the type of person as like, I will just go in and, you know, I could strike up a conversation with anybody, whether they're white, black, Asian, Latino, whatever, you know. But, so long as they allow me to interact with it, because if they have that wall up, that's where I get. That's why I get hung up. It's like, if they have that wall, then how, again, it's like, how do I break through that? It's like, hey, you know,

Coach Maddox  54:19  
well, maybe the question is, maybe you're asking the wrong question. How do I break through that walls? The question you just ask, and what if that's the wrong question? What if the question is more? Why would I break through that wall? Or why do I want to break through that wall? I mean, I guess I'm thinking, you know, I've come to a place where in my own authenticity. I, you know, I find that as we become more authentic, it polarizes our social life. It polarizes people. The more authentic I get, the more I just show up without the masks. And I'm just me. i There's two kinds of people, there's those that it makes them uncomfortable, and they scream and run in the opposite direction. And there's those that wow, really get it really appreciate my authenticity, and they want to come and sit right next to me. And I'm grateful for the ones that scream and run. Because that creates more space for those that want to come and sit right next to me. So when you are in these social settings, and you find that somebody is acting like they're not open to having that conversation with you, for me, now, I'm not telling you this is the way you need to navigate this, I'm telling you the way I would navigate navigate this, I would go Oh, not my people, just move on, you wouldn't make them wrong, wouldn't wouldn't, wouldn't place any big judgment on them just say, these are not my people, this is not my tribe. And I would just move on down the line of the people that really are our tribe. Not always, there's exceptions. But most of the time we spot them immediately. We spot them immediately in that first few moments, that first sentence or two that we have with them. There's just if they're your tribe, you just click with them. There have been times when I have been introduced to somebody and in the first sentence, I went, Oh, you are my people. You know, I was somewhere recently where I just in upon introduction, I went, You are my people, and they looked at me and they went you are my people. And we both burst into laughter and then the conversation just went from there. I think we spend time sometimes trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. And it's painful. You know, it's like a dildo with no lube on it. It hurts.

Jonathan Rivera  57:00  
Yeah, it you know, and just focusing on focusing on what's already been shown to us, right? There's like, it's not right for us. If somebody is shut off, then it's like, okay.

Coach Maddox  57:17  
You know, Oprah Winfrey tells us that people tell us and show us exactly who they are in the very first meeting right up front. We just don't listen, most of the time. They either verbally tell us who they are, or they show us who they are, or both. You know, I approached the gentleman for friendship one time, this has been a number of years ago. And we went out to have a bite of dinner one night. And he point blank said to me, this was our first time to be in each other's presence. This was not a romantic thing. I was not approaching him. There was a Yeah, big difference in age it wasn't. And he said, right across the table during dinner. I'm not good at Friendship. Oh, point blank, no ands ifs or buts. I'm not good at friendship. And I didn't, I chose not to listen to that. And we engaged in what I thought was going to be a friendship. And over a period of time, it became clear to me that he was telling the truth. He wasn't good at friendship. And although we're on good terms, we're not friends. I don't I may bump into him publicly every once in a while and we're we're warm and friendly to each other. But we don't hang out. Together. Yeah. Because he was right. He's not good at friendship. And and that's not a judgment. It. I mean, he's he's the one that place that judgment. I'm just affirming that, that, that that judgment that he placed. And he was honest, he was honest. And I just asked him not to listen, you know? Yeah. And when when Pete When you approach somebody and they just cut you off, or they don't seem interested at all, they're telling you right there, who they are and what they're about. And I just don't spend any time with people like that anymore. In fact, one of my favorite things are you know, I'll meet somebody and they'll clearly show me something. And I'll go wow, it was great to meet you and have a conversation with you. I hope you have a lovely evening and I walk off I just don't invest my time and energy as soon as I realized not my people Yeah, and and we do we have the ability that most of the time see that there have been a few times in my life where I met somebody and what it wasn't right away. It was a slower build. And then we did become friends and we were each other's people. But that's been the exception, not the rule. I think most of the time we get the information pretty much right up front

Jonathan Rivera  1:00:02  
And then that just brings up a point too is like something I did recently is like, I've never done this before, but I decided it's like, hey, you know, I'm gonna go to my friends list on Facebook. And and say, Hey, these people, are these really my friends who are my friends who are not. And just start deleting, especially people who just like, I never really interact with, they never show interest in anything I do or anything I post or so it's like, why are they on my friends list? So yep. Well, I wonder that and that's something I'm going to do on a regular basis. I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna go back. Hey, you know,

Coach Maddox  1:00:52  
well, we need to do the same thing offline. You know, there's value in doing something offline, looking at our friendships. I want to circle back a minute ago, when I asked you on that scale of one to 10, you said you were an eight. And my question is, what's a solid step that you could take? And I'm going to ask you to be specific? What's a solid step that you could take to increase that number? From an eight to a nine or a 10? Maybe

Jonathan Rivera  1:01:23  
I could I could stop focusing on I guess, mentally on those people who I see that have a wall with me. And just let mentally let them go and focus on people who would potentially the,

you know, have that potential to be my tribe light, like you said, My tribe? And I think that is, like I said, it's like, I just got a brand new next door neighbor. So it's like I could, instead of just saying a quick Hi, every time I see him, maybe engage with him more and say, Hey, introduce myself to him.

Coach Maddox  1:02:17  
Yeah, you know, take him some cookies, or something. Welcome to the neighborhood. I mean, the beautiful thing about what you just said is, it's a better investment of your energy. If you're focused on the people that are not responding favorably, that's a waste of energy, focusing your energy on the people that do respond favorably, even if it's only one in 10, people that respond favorably, you're still putting your energy in where it can grow, and where it's going to have some meaning. You know, the other thing is, I think it's real, we all hit social walls, where somebody doesn't respond to us. And I have to wonder sometimes, in your specific situation, because of the racism issue, if when you meet somebody that doesn't respond favorably, if you immediately have this tendency to think that it's a racial issue. And it could be just the perhaps that person's just shut down. Maybe that person reacts that same way to everybody straight gay, male, female, different races, black, white, maybe they're just a shut down person. And that's just their mode of operation. And maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that you are a person of color. That could be true, too. Yeah. You know,

Jonathan Rivera  1:03:52  
I do think I tend to think, yeah, I do tend to that, because the race issue always, that's the first thing that pops into my mind, whenever.

Coach Maddox  1:04:05  
Well, and certainly not to minimize the racial issue. There is a huge racial issue in our community and in our world. And it's something that we, we need to unpack, we need to keep talking about AI, you know, keep learning about AI. I'm an advocate of that. And I hope to have many conversations on this podcast, about racial issues, because it's something that I want to I want to do my part to unpack that and put put that to rest. Maybe that's something that'll never completely happen, but we can certainly have in the right direction.

Jonathan Rivera  1:04:44  
Yeah. At least have the compound, how the discussions because even for me, it's like, it's not something I'm well versed in either, you know, I'm kind of like learning myself. I mean, I have my experiences but, you know, it's just lately I've been like, oh, just trying to read more about it. And to try to, you know, understand, in my mind, what really is going on. But I mean, I'm not. I'm not no expert. Yeah, you know,

Coach Maddox  1:05:14  
I'm not either I'm on I'm on the learning team, but very open to learn. So, Jonathan, let's, let's start to wrap this up a little bit, I want to ask a final question about our topic. And then I'm going to go into what I call rapid fire questions. And then we'll, we'll wrap it up. But in the in the topic that we've talked about everything we've talked about, how do you see all of these experiences and your your navigating through this? How do you see that contributes to you being an authentic gay man? Is there a correlation? Do you see those two coming together in some way or another and how they have one has an influence on the other?

Jonathan Rivera  1:06:00  
Yeah, because, I mean, for me, it's like, I'm a gay man, being a gay man, in a minority, ethnic minority, that all has it Interplay together. And so you know, it just, it just all blends in together. So I, you know, being a gay man and being ethnic gagne and a minority, it's like, it's part of my identity, you know? And so, yeah, just see, I answer your question. Oh, what was the question?

Coach Maddox  1:06:40  
Well, how does that How has that? Or is that playing a role in you becoming a more authentic?

Jonathan Rivera  1:06:49  
Um, it definitely plays a role in the sense that it's,

it's helping me to be well, not helping me to be but helping me to

show who I am. So my true nature show. Like, you know, this. This is a part of me, and I want people to know, and to see that this is a part of me. And that this is, this is who I am. And this is what I'm thinking, this is what is going on within me. I want them to see that and not hide that

Coach Maddox  1:07:38  
part of me. So are you I'm kind of getting a feeling Are you describing that these parts? These are things that you are more fully owning about yourself? More fully owning that you're a gay man more fully owning that you are an ethic, man? Yes. And and not only

Jonathan Rivera  1:07:55  
owning? Yeah, not only that, but showing that to others and not being afraid to show that part of me.

Coach Maddox  1:08:06  
Yes, and that's where it becomes authentic, beautiful. Beautiful.

Jonathan Rivera  1:08:11  
I don't want to I don't want to suppress that. They just keep it to myself. I want people to know. This is me. This is why I am.

Coach Maddox  1:08:21  
Okay. I love it. I love it. Are you ready for some rapid fire questions? Whoo. Okay. Right. So so rapid fire answers, you know, is keeping one word answers short. No, not in a one word. Just just short and sweet. Maybe maybe one or one, maybe two sentences. So when was the last time that you cried in front of another gay man?

Jonathan Rivera  1:08:48  
Ah. Oh, was this? Oh, yeah. It was about six months ago. Yeah. And then retreat, you know about?

Coach Maddox  1:09:07  
I do

Jonathan Rivera  1:09:08  
I do. eautiful it was it was a good moment.

Coach Maddox  1:09:10  
So you have a time machine. And you can go back in time to when you were just a kid. And visit yourself as a kid. What would you tell that little boy of whatever age you land on, maybe it was seven, maybe it was a teenager. Maybe it was a young adult at age 18 or 19. But whatever time you want to go back to then visit yourself at a younger time in your life. Knowing what you know now what would you say to that younger version of yourself?

Jonathan Rivera  1:09:48  
I will tell him when back maybe five, six or seven years old. I will tell him it's like you have no idea. Your life is not going to turn out the way you ever expected at all. But it's going to be amazing.

Coach Maddox  1:10:08  
Beautiful, beautiful. So final question. You're in the time machine again, and you travel into the future to a time when you are a ghost at your own funeral. And your gay peers are at your funeral, those that have survived you? What do you hope that they will say about you at that time?

Jonathan Rivera  1:10:37  
want them to be able to say that I've made a true impact in their lives, I changed their lives. And that I was able to do that by just being myself be my true authentic self, and then see that which changed them, you know, to be their true authentic selves. So, and I want to be them to say that, you know, not only that, I changed them that I made a significant contribution to peace, love and happiness in this world, not only in the gay community, but just in the world and with people that I truly impacted lives. Whatever that may be, you know, for me, it could be music, physiology, music, and I think that's one of the things I want to really make an impact on but and one area that I would want to be able to make an impact on but But yeah, that's, I want people to remember me for really making a contribution to this world and changing people's lives. people's hearts, people's minds. See better for everybody.

Coach Maddox  1:12:02  
Beautiful. Love your answers. So, Jonathan, I just want to say thank you. So this was awesome. I really enjoyed our conversation. I feel like I know you better. Thank you so much for coming on and being a guest. And I want to leave you with one thing and that is to tell you that You my friend are indeed an authentic gay man.

Jonathan Rivera  1:12:27  
Thank you, Maddox. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure being on here and I look forward to more podcasts in the future and and continuing to grow, you know? Yes,

Coach Maddox  1:12:42  
me two. Thank you.

Jonathan Rivera  1:12:45  
All right. Thank you, Maddox

Jonathan RiveraProfile Photo

Jonathan Rivera

El Maestro

Jonathan is an educated professional who works in the field of radiation safety. He is a strong supporter of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, especially in the gay community, since he understands the struggles of being a double minority as an ethnic gay man.

Jonathan envisions his tribe of gay men to be an inclusive group made up of a colorful variety of nationalities and cultures, where they learn from each other and their differences.

Jonathan enjoys traveling the world, wining and dining, deep conversations, the outdoors, biking, swimming, fitness, playing the piano, and music production as a hobby - he was given the nickname “El Maestro” when he produced and recorded a fun music project with his fellow coworkers.

Jonathan cherishes the little moments in life that bring much joy, is very lighthearted, and loves the company of others where they can have heart-felt laughs and great conversations.

Most importantly, Jonathan is extremely proud to be a Gay Black Hispanic Man.