If you would like to have a better understanding of Authenticity, this Fireside Chat With Maddox is for you. My guests, Ed S, Randy Woodring, and Britt East and I take a deep dive into what it means to be an authentic gay man. We each delve into questions such as...
The conversation was deep, very connected, playful at times, and chock-full of golden nuggets of wisdom.
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Coach Maddox 0:03
Hello and welcome to the Fireside Chat With Maddox. Tonight our topic is What does it mean to be an authentic gay man? My guests are Ed Salamanca, who's in the financial world and a close friend of mine. Randy Woodring, who is in the therapeutic psychotherapy, therapeutic world, also a friend of mine, and Britt East who is author of a book called The Gay Man's Guide to Life. Did I say, right? You sure did. Awesome, awesome. And also a friend of mine, but a newer friend than the other two gentlemen. So I want to start off with just telling, sharing a little bit about what's come to me recently about this whole authentic thing. And what I've come to realize is that we come into the world. As babies we pop out of mom's womb, fully authentic, fully in touch with our feelings and our emotions fully expressive. And then as we grow, we start to get messages from the world around us from our environment that tell us so much of who we are authentically is not okay. And there's this point where one of the one of my podcasters that I follow Justin Baldoni calls it soul murder, where we actually separate ourselves from our authentic self. And then we spend a good portion of our life, if we ever find ourselves, again, we spend a good portion of our lives seeking, we're all seekers. And it looks like the perfect job and the perfect relationship or the perfect title or, or the big bank role, or it can look a lot of different ways. And that's never really what we're seeking. I've come to realize that what we're seeking is that part of ourselves that we lost track of his children, when society gave us all those messages, what we're really seeking is reconnecting with our most authentic self. And when we are trying to satiate that seeking aspect with things like houses and cars and wardrobes and jobs and relationships, it's kind of like it's kind of like a July 4 sparkler. It doesn't last very long. it fizzles out pretty quick. And then we're still seeking. So with that, I'm just gonna throw the question back out on the table. What does it mean to be an authentic gay man? And who wants to speak first?
Britt East 2:58
Well, I feel so attacked right now. I mean, you summed up the gay community so perfectly. I love it. And that was really beautifully put. You really, I think you really nailed us as a community. And I suspect every one of us has gone through some version of the journey that you just laid out for us. I know I sure have. And like you said so eloquently, I think so much of my adult life has been devoted to excavating those corners of my heart. removing all of the cultural conditioning and the family programming and all of that stuff, clearing it out, so I could feel more fully expressed, take up more space in the world and be more of myself.
Coach Maddox 3:51
Thank you. I guess I should have asked you did you guys resonate with the whole concept of soul murder?
Randy Woodring 4:01
It's new to me. It's a new concept to me. But I hear where you're coming from. What what came up for me? Y'all was not too far in the past, I was on a beach being able to watch children play. And I saw that just that innocent and that authentic joy and jubilation every time a wave would come in, bearing each other in the sand just that that childlike wonder of being a kid and I My mind went back to that place and then it's like, wow, all the things that have happened that happened in life that take us from that innocent childlike behavior to through some really dark times. So I this the term soul murder is new to me, but I understand the concepts. For sure.
Coach Maddox 4:54
Yeah, it really struck me when I heard Justin say that in one of his podcast episodes, and he talks more about how we as men experienced that soul murder because we come into the world of these beautiful little authentic beings and then because of the way that society views masculinity, we we commit to soul murder, but I thought it applied just as perfectly to the whole authentic thing because yeah, yeah, it just felt like it really applied
Randy Woodring 5:33
Okay. I'll jump in here and kind of address the the main question here. What does it mean to be an authentic gay man? A question I've been asking myself ever since Maddox, this has come to life for you. Because I think it is a very profound question to ask, in, in my life. And for me, this journey has really started about four years ago, I grew up in a very conservative religious community and being gay was just not part of it. So I learned how to be someone else for a majority part of my life and how to seek validation, through other means throughout the majority of my life. So what it means to be an authentic gay man, recently to me, is stimuli around being honest with myself, first and foremost about what my own struggles are, what, what hurts me what, what I need to fix in my wound itself. And being honest with that, because I believe if I'm not honest with myself, it's difficult for me to be honest with the world around me. So I think being an authentic gay man in my life is just that is connecting with other gay member or gay, the gay community, the queer community, then being able to talk about things that are important and having that vulnerability on my end, to give to someone else, which in turn allows them to have the window of opportunity to do that themselves. Yes, I
Coach Maddox 7:12
think when we step out there and get vulnerable, we give those in our presence permission to do the same.
Randy Woodring 7:19
And learning to be vulnerable with myself has been part of this journey, this last four years, have been able to acknowledge my own pain and, and give that kid in me the chance to heal. And to be proud of who that young kid is.
Coach Maddox 7:39
And and what does that look like? Randy, can you can you draw a little bit more of a picture of what that looks like to to validate that little kid?
Randy Woodring 7:49
Yeah, for sure. Being able to not judge myself not being able to, or to give myself grace, I think that's a great way of putting this. Oftentimes, I've heard that term grown up so much, but in the biblical context of what grace is, but I've learned to apply that as giving myself a pass, being gracious with myself for for things that for old behaviors that keep popping up. And being able to be on and that word just keeps coming back being honest, and allowing myself the chance to sit face to face with with who I am and Dean okay with it.
Coach Maddox 8:40
Yeah, I love the distinction that you made when you talked about grace, not necessarily being the religious version of grace, but about self graciousness. I love that, thank you for for adding that.
Ed Salamanca 8:55
All and I add on to what Randy's saying, you know, we've had a few conversations about our similar past. And it's been like taking off layers. You know, like, the initial layer for me was, you know, being gay inside of a religious organization and, you know, preaching truths, but not living my own personal truth. And I had that conflict in me where it's just like, You're being a hypocrite by being out here. You know, spreading a truth, but you're not true to yourself. How How is that? Okay? And to me, that was the biggest inconsistency in who I was and who I was pretending to be. And then with time you keep on finding different layers of where you're being inconsistent. You know, you say you want this but you but you're doing something completely different. So how do you align those two things? And, you know, relationships and you keep finding places where you realize the programs and the patterns that you were exposed to, you know, because we all have different patterns that we're exposed to. And so that and that results in our own, you know, our own way of seeing the world, our own religion or her own logic, because of the individual patterns that we have. And get becoming aware of those has been, like what I focus a lot of my attention on. And as I release them, I feel more authentic. And I think that the authenticity is reflected back to you. Like, you know, if someone says there's an authentic person, it's because they felt authenticity from you. So it's, it starts with with me, but I have to get rid of the inauthentic parts, you know, so that's been a lot of what I've dedicated my time to is healing those things really letting go healing, softening.
Britt East 10:58
You know, I was struck when both of you are talking, it seems that like the foundation for this really is pain, it is the pain of the awareness, the conflict that our inner world is, is not in alignment with our outer world. And then having the awareness and the discipline and the fortitude, to do that fearless moral inventory that you described, where you really take a clear eyed look at yourself, and start to get real, start to get real, maybe for the first time in our lives as queer people because we are. I mean, that in and of itself is an act of resistance. It's a even a political act of resistance, when so much of the world is trying to annihilate us. So for us to first acknowledge the discrepancy and excavate the truth underneath that, and be able to look ourselves in the mirror and claim our identity. That's how we become that phoenix rising from the ashes. That's how we can learn to stand tall and pick our place in the world and, and I think start to radiate the authenticity that Ed was describing.
Coach Maddox 12:10
Randy Woodring 12:12
I really love how you use the word denial, and Natalie, and I can say it another way, I'm saying it wrong, someone annihilate. Thank you. Because for me, if I was, I grew up being demonized as being a gay person, and I develop this sense of self that, well, I'm going to be the best at being a sinner. If I'm a sinner, and I'm doing I'm going to be the best at it. So I'm going to drink the most have used the most drugs sleep with the most men like this, I want to be the best at it. And when I began to uncover that, and peel all those layers back, I'm able to see more of who I am. And not this version that I wanted to present to people. I'm glad you use that. Right that.
Britt East 13:04
Yeah, it's like we start our lives fighting, you know, fighting, resisting who we really are because of the outward pressure put upon us. And then, like you said, flipping the script and fighting everybody else in the room for putting us through that. And it's not until we you know, as we gain agency in the world and grow up and and step into more of our power, then we can learn to, you know, set down our shield, set down our sword, take off our armor, and actually be more of who we were always meant to be.
Coach Maddox 13:37
No, heard a speaker one time say that if a child hears you are bad enough, there will be a time when they intentionally become bad to live up to the expectation that has been placed on them. And that's what came to my mind as you were both talking about that that we as as queer gay men have been demonized. We have been made wrong. We've been made bad we've been called sinners. And when you hear that enough, you you'd feel compelled to in some way to live up to it and your your story beautifully validates that Randy powerful Wow. Well, in the past, what has possibly stood in the way of your being fully authentic?
Britt East 14:42
Straight people. I mean, if we're gonna get real, we have to own the fact that we live in a society steeped in straight suppression and that straight supremacy I mean, and that it was functionally illegal. I mean, it was functionally illegal for us to exist, much less to congregate, much less to have a committed loving relationship. For decades, for generations, it's only been in the last. I mean, there's never been anything like it in recorded human history, the amount of rapid progress we've made in our community in terms of social political progress. And so functionally, it's been straight people, it's been our parents, it's been our grandparents, it's been our uncles and brothers in our family, friends, and our coaches and our educators who were oppressing us, these were decisions that they actively made these choices that they made. And so that's our first act of resistance is learning to resist those we love most.
Coach Maddox 15:46
Wow. Wow, I would not have even gone there. And I'm so glad you did, I'd have gone in another direction. And I'm so glad you went there.
Britt East 15:55
I mean, have you ever sat down with a straight person who you love deeply, maybe even somebody in your family who's known you since you're a child and asked them to hold and really consider the cost of their prejudice and bigotry, the impact it's had on your life. And I don't mean from a place of blame or shame. I mean, from a place of love and communion, so that they can truly start to see you and understand the journey and know you more fully, it will bring them to their knees. If they're willing to love you and receive that it'll bring them to your knees and to their knees. And that's that's really the only way that we can truly move forward together for going to get real and have real, full loving relationships. Like in these cross cultural senses. If we're going to get real with our straight friends or straight family, they have to understand the cost of their choices. Yeah, no, I'm
Coach Maddox 16:51
realizing the reason that I didn't come up with anything that was remotely like your answer. And, and that's because I, I didn't have a really bad experience. When I came out. I came out to my family. They had to go through a divorce and adjustment, but they were mostly pretty accepting my whole family. And after the adjustment was over, they were completely accepting. I didn't. And, and, and in all my friendships, I mean, I was bullied unmercifully as a kid growing up, but in my adulthood, and after I came out the straight world. Like really supported me. Like really supported me, I ran up against very little resistance when I came out and started sharing with people in my life. And this was in the early 80s. This was 81. This was a long time ago. Federal taxes in a small town in central Texas. Yes, that's cool. Yes. You know, there were people that it made a little uncomfortable, but there was nobody that attacked me or demonized me. And that's why I didn't naturally go to that place that you were, you were describing. And I didn't realize that until, like, I don't know, just now. So Wow. And what about you?
Ed Salamanca 18:24
Yeah, I agree. Britt, you know, for a long time, I wasn't even aware of the damage of the, from the relationship patterns that I was growing up in. You know, it wasn't until I realized that there was some patterns that were unhealthy, that I realized how that affected the rest of my relationships. And, you know, Maddox and I have had, you know, lots of conversations about a lot. Lots about this whole belonging and intimacy, you know, and because of the, the fear because of the weaponization of relationships that I experienced growing up, you know, I was told I wasn't opening up and I wasn't being intimate and that there was some kind of block and I didn't see it for a long time until two or three people who I was close with Maddox being one of them, pointed it out to me, and I realized, wait a minute, I have some kind of, I don't know what to call it, but some kind of intimacy disorder. You know, I don't know what else to name it. But once I, you know, when you name it, you tame it. You know. So that's been a lot of what I've been working on, but as a result of the, the, the straight suppression in the most loving, non violent way, you know, but it's a rejection of who I am as a person and the inability to have an authentic relationship with them.
Coach Maddox 20:00
Well, and I think it's important for the listeners to know what you're talking about that ad grew up Jehovah's Witness. And so it's it's a whole different ballgame than the rest of us what we experienced religiously, Jehovah's Witnesses, a whole different league and all of itself, would you agree? And
Ed Salamanca 20:18
I had a tough time accepting from the therapist that it was a cult. But as I learned more, I would say it's one of the more benign cults
Randy Woodring 20:29
you know, to and Maddox, you asked about, like, what's what it has an impact on becoming that fully authentic person. And this ties in with religion, for me was that weapon, and God was even weaponized against me, which, as a 12 year old, I distinctly remember sitting on a wooden pew, hearing how people like me were going to this fiery pit. And I was trying to reconcile this as a 12 year old, this puffy white cloud image over here and myself roasting over a fire on the spit, as a kid, because of, of who I loved, and that cognitive dissonance was like, being expected to do calculus without even knowing pre algebra. And, and the religion for me was one of the major blockers of me, getting to my authentic self, being able to pull back what that demonstrates to me.
Britt East 21:33
I mean, if you're, if your primary caregivers write the templates for your life, just in those two stories alone, it's no wonder that many gay people are out here struggling to find ourselves struggling to form intimate bonds with others may be slapping on band aids, as Maddox was alluding to earlier with, you know, casual drug use or sex use that's not in alignment with their values, or, or whatever the band aid might be, whatever, you know, best little boy in the world behavior or thinks somebody was describing or, or earning lots of money, being in the rat race, whatever that bandit might be. Avoiding our true selves at all cost, almost as if it's an issue of affordability. It's almost like we learned as children, we cannot afford to be ourselves.
Coach Maddox 22:21
I think that's completely accurate. I mean, like, spot on. And it's really sad. Yeah. And it affects, you know, as gay men, it affects every relationship we have. And oddly, the relationship that I believe it affects the most are our relationships with each other. Mm hmm. We've been so conditioned that even when we're in a room with each other, where there are no threats, there's no outside forces. There's no straight people in the room. There's nobody that's condemning us. We still can't be ourselves, even with our own brothers.
Britt East 23:01
I bet I bet I completely agree. And I bet if you've found a any random, gay man on the street, and you ask them, the two biggest issues would be why can't I find love? And why don't I fit into the gay community?
Coach Maddox 23:17
Yes, yes, we all have this outside, on the outside looking in thing going on. It's a theme. And I've had so many articles that validate that the biggest epidemic in the gay community is loneliness. And it's an isolation and it's bigger than HIV and AIDS itself. Mandy, what were you gonna say?
Randy Woodring 23:41
I just want to echo like those two questions you said about asking gay men. As my as doing as being a mental health professional therapist, I, I see that all stems in childhood, as from shaming and just from, not even if we take religion out of just the culture that gay men are brought up in. Being able to know who been able to love themselves first, as a gay man comes a lot down the road for many, many people. And it's not instilled as children or as adolescents. And we're not taught that. So I validate those questions if you ask those. Hey, of course, why can I find love? Well, you weren't shown what love was as a kid.
Britt East 24:28
Yeah, think about all the self limiting beliefs we carry. Think about all the way that all the ways that changes our body, the way we present in the world, it changes the way we display our energy in the world. I mean, how would you have found love you don't even know what you're looking for? Are you even loving yourself? I mean, there's, you know, we have to begin at the beginning. And so many of us as gay men were like trying to skip all the foundational stuff, the rites of passage, the traditions, the initiation ceremonies that we all missed out on. Most of us missed out on growing as gay men, it's like we're trying to skip all of that and go straight to the successful, easy, long term romantic relationship, it's, you know, just doesn't really work that way.
Coach Maddox 25:09
No, it's It's putting the cart before the horse. And it doesn't work that way.
Randy Woodring 25:22
And I'm curious what has stood in your way, like we were talking about what's kind of that obstacle that's been presented for you and your human experience.
Ed Salamanca 25:35
I think those close relationships with family and realizing that even though someone may be family, they may not be healthy for you, and knowing how to navigate that relationship, you know, and distinguishing, you know, some people are more toxic than others. And so realizing that you can, you can make distinctions and you know, I have family members that I only communicate with through writing, because it's the only way to have a semi productive relationship, you know, since you know, you kind of stuck with them. But I have other relationships with my family that we talk once a week on the phone, and we have a designated time. Because more than that would be just completely ignoring my boundaries, you know, and it's, it's my way of helping them learn boundaries, you know, and whenever, you know, they, yeah, it's getting good with the people closest to you, because I feel like once you get a handle on that, it kind of solves the majority of your problems in that area. You know,
Coach Maddox 26:45
well, family is almost always the hardest. Yeah, I mean, when we they're the hardest people to set boundaries with they're the hardest people to confront. It's it's the like, in some regards, the final frontier. I mean, I think really the final frontier is is in here it's it's confronting and setting boundaries with ourselves but the family is is right below that. Yeah.
Ed Salamanca 27:12
That's been challenging but but then you turn that from disadvantage to a huge advantage. You know, most people aren't going to be as crazy as your family.
Coach Maddox 27:25
Well, if they are you, you can walk away or practice right. You know, I mean, you can walk away from family but it is it's harder. It is harder to walk away from family most people don't have the constitution to do that. I have the constitution to do that. I could do that. I have no doubt in my mind. I could do that if I if it was that toxic, but I rarely meet anybody else that can can do that. Because it's that that blood thing we just believe so much in that bad blood that we can't
Ed Salamanca 27:59
just can't do it. Curious what you think Randy? As far as toxicity and cutting off close relationships, you know, like, Well, how do you navigate that? close
Randy Woodring 28:18
relationships as family friends, all the above?
Ed Salamanca 28:23
Yeah, whatever's closest but toxic. And you know,
Randy Woodring 28:27
I think for me that's taken decades and decades of trying to understand and identifying what toxicity is, since I grew up being around it and being forced to attend a church that didn't that didn't align with who I was and and even a member of that church molested me so it's like that toxicity brand so deep in me from the beginning. So I for me, it's like once I learned how to stop being toxic to myself. That gave me more clarification of Okay, now, now that I know what's harm and me what I'm doing to harm me. I can put up boundaries appropriate boundaries, so other people do not cross into that in army. Oh, man, it's been a it's been a struggle for for sure. Thank you.
Britt East 29:39
You know, there's nowhere for us to go almost to learn these skills. For men our age, most of our mentors died. I mean, you know, to a certain degree, they were annihilated by the US government and the AIDS epidemic and So it's left a huge void where we have had to play a guessing game with ourselves and glean what we could from straight society, through therapy, or through self help books or whatever, and trying to make it applicable to our lives and create our own culture. And so were a lot of us in certain respects are like babies, you know, a little bit lost in the woods, and trying to find our way with the best of intentions. And, you know, just trying one thing after another and seeing what works and slowly accumulating knowledge and wisdom. And that's what I'm so hopeful for about our generation, is that if we do the work that we've been describing, we can stand tall and be those mentors and role models for future generations who are going to be just like we did.
Coach Maddox 30:51
Yeah, I said that. I love how you said that as well. You know, I look back on my life, I came out in 1981. And throughout my life as a gay man, I have never had any gay role models, never. This has been a DIY project since the get go. I had to figure it out. Through trial and error, and what I wouldn't have given you know, to have a mentor or, or a role model that was gay, and it could have shown me the ropes, but it never presented itself. I think that is part of what's now driving me to host this podcast. And I make myself pretty available to the people around me that I can tell her are struggling I don't, I don't want people to go it alone the way I feel like I did.
Randy Woodring 31:49
It's like we all share a common bond of being a wounded healer. From all of our past traumas that we are able to be in a place to, for the listeners and for our community, as resources to help overcome the shame that other people went through.
Britt East 32:08
Yeah, I'll combine all that pain into something really beautiful.
Coach Maddox 32:14
Yes, and that's available to us if we make the choice. Mm hmm. That's something beautiful i i can see it in my vision I can see it now. That doesn't mean we'll ever achieve it. But I can certainly see that the opportunity is there if we choose it
so what does not being authentic cost you? Or what has it cost you in the past when you weren't living authentically you lead off Randy I can just see you're just
Randy Woodring 32:55
what has it cost me 1000s and 1000s of dollars is cost me a criminal record a job it's cost me isolation It's cost me depriving myself of what loving myself truly means. It's cost me years of escapism and trying to find validation in and the people I sleep with or validation of the people I hang out with it's it's just cost me more than I mean that's a really that question hit me really deeply because it's it really did a number on me throughout my life yeah. I feel you've broken relationships I mean, I I have to this day have yet to have a have a loving solid committed relationship with a man because I never learned now. So it's cost me a lot of pain.
Coach Maddox 34:09
I would say my lack of authenticity caused me well a lifetime I've only really discovered my authentic self and and in a manner. It's so weird to me. It's compartmentalized. For most of my life. I've been able to be really authentic around my straight friends and family. That was a no brainer. I have never been able to be authentic with other gay men. I have lived and people are probably getting tired of hearing this part of the story, but I lived in a fortress for four decades. You know, fuck armor. I didn't need armor. I had a goddamn fortress around me. And it I had a million acquaintances and no friends. I've lived in Dallas for 30 almost 32 years and I know a shitload of gay men here. And I don't know any of them. I don't know any of them. It's only in the last couple of years that I am dismantling that fortress and becoming more authentic and, and having a completely different experience. Once I took the fortress down and started to let people see who I am. It's it's it's changed. But but there was there was a very defining moment here a couple of years ago, when I realized that I had a, I had a string of events at an early time in my life. When I first came out, and I pretty painful events. And I applied a meaning to that. And the meaning I applied was gay men were not safe. And I applied it to the whole community. And I live from that paradigm those that lens for four decades. And when I realized that I was the one that assigned that meaning and what that meaning had cost me. I cried, uncontrollably, cried and cried and cried, because I just couldn't believe that I had cost myself 40 years of potential really cool friendships.
Britt East 36:18
But you know, Maddix, you're going to help somebody. Or I just so frequently from gay guys, that it's so much easier for us to be friends in the straight world friends with street people. And that's how we've been conditioned to relate to the world is from the street perspective. And that's part of the cost of street supremacy, as we see everything through the mass media driven straight narrative. And so how do we learn to carve out a space where we can relate one to one, or even one to many as gay people? Gosh, I think we're all struggling with that. We are. So I think your story is gonna resonate and help so many people,
Coach Maddox 36:57
you know, there was a time not so long ago, where there would have been no way in hell, I could have sat here on this zoom with the three of you, and talk to the way I'm talking right now and revealed what's really inside of me, there'd have been no fucking way. I think after I finally stopped crying uncontrollably, I realized that I needed to be thankful that I got it after 40 years and didn't live my life that and die. Being in that fortress.
Ed Salamanca 37:31
I'm going to add to what you're saying Maddox? Because, you know, you asked the question, what was the cost of not being authentic, and I'm gonna agree is realizing all the relationships that have been affected, because I wasn't available. You know, I wasn't I wasn't being authentic. So any relationships I did have, were shell, you know, you know, I add was never in a relationship, because it was a shell that was in the relationship with everybody else. And it wasn't until you had the courage to kind of defend who you are, that you can start attracting the relationships that will accept you for who you are, you know, so I, you know, I'm thankful that I, you know, have been able to step away from those shell relationships, those fake relationships. And I can do going forward, but I do realize the cost. Looking back, it's definitely, definitely lots of missed opportunities, Miss relationships, Miss moments.
Coach Maddox 38:40
Yeah, well, and you and I have played a very big role in each other's process in this, you have you have played an integral role in in me taking down that fortress, and, and being more open. You are one of the people that I have really, like, explored that with over the last three years in our friendship, and, and I, I know that the same is true for you, you have led me into places that you haven't led anyone else. We've had these conversations. We've played a very, very important role in this for each other and there's no, there's no real words to express what that means to me.
Ed Salamanca 39:34
It's been very healing, very healing.
Coach Maddox 39:37
It's been very healing. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Ed, and I see each other every weekend no matter what. When he is in town, we spend time together every single weekend. And when he is out of town, which he is about 50% of the time, we have a standing zoom call Every Sunday at 11am Central Time. And it's a rare thing for us to miss that. And Ed always says, as we get ready to get off the phone, he said, you know, this is, this is always like church without the bad stuff. Well, you're proof that
Britt East 40:21
you're living proof that there's a certain kind of love that we can only get from each other as gay men from our cultural space, then once white, gay only spaces are still sacred as they're diminishing and dwindling, they're still sacred, because there's a certain kind of love and awareness that we can only get from one another. And it's so healing, and sacred and foundational.
Coach Maddox 40:46
You know, and I think the same is true for physical affection. I have a plethora of women that love all over me, you know, the hugs and the kisses and, and I love that and it means the world to me. But there's a big difference in that physical affection from a female friend, and from one of my, my gay friends. It it feeds a hunger when I when I get that physical touch and affection from a friend, I'm not talking about anything sexual. I'm talking about platonic physical affection when I get that from one of my male friends that I feel love and closeness to it. it nurtures my spirit, it feeds my soul in a way that it's never been fed before.
Unknown Speaker 41:37
And I I cried that
Coach Maddox 41:39
I was listening to a story that the day was on a podcast and it was African American man. Any Are you he was he may have been African descent. He may not have been the American part, I don't remember. But he was talking about men and Kenya, it's walking down the streets, it's a very common thing for straight men to hold hands walking down the street. Anna, I got emotional Just hearing that. Because I thought what I wouldn't give to walk down the street and hold hands with my friend, no lover, just my friend, I would walk down the street and hold hands with you at any time, you would be willing to do that. I I longed for that. I longed for a time when we don't have all this bullshit that we've been programmed with where we can just love on each other.
Randy Woodring 42:38
And I want to jump in and say something that triggered a memory that you said it's been a while. But it also helped me in this last four years is to be able to look at other game and not as a sexual conquest. Like I think so for so long. At least for me, growing up in a culture where it was demonized and underground, there became this huge amount of shame. And my relationships with with men. 99% of the time always revolved around sex. So learning how to interact with gay men. Without that, that, for me has been so helpful in becoming more authentic with myself.
Coach Maddox 43:22
Yeah, I'm right there with you. I can look back at a time where if you weren't either a love interest or a sexual partner, it was like, get the fuck out of my way. I didn't have any any time or energy for you. If you weren't one of those two things, either a sexual partner or a love interest. Get out of my way. And once again, I It hurts my heart to know how many people I pushed aside. Looking for the end all be all bandaid.
Britt East 44:01
Yeah, I mean, I hear you guys both. It's so tragic. And I say in terms of culpability, and life choices. We all have our part to play. But I do want to put the blame where it's necessary to reside. And that is with straight supremacy. Because when you start to think about gay history, and the way that it was, depending on where you lived, and where you were in a given moment, it was literally illegal to congregate dance. We had to have sex in secret. We had to segment our lives. We had to filter our friendships we could not afford to associate with others, lest the jig be up, lest we be exposed. And so over time we develop this transactional cultural relationship with sex. And so we we viewed every every interaction as a potential hunt.
Coach Maddox 44:55
Oh, yes. Randy and I are shaking our head. Yes.
Britt East 44:59
So Of course, it's tough. We didn't learn to be friends without sex because everybody, every other gay males, ostensibly a potential partner or lover, like you were saying, and so we didn't learn. We were socialized and conditioned in such a way that disincentivize those platonic relationships.
Randy Woodring 45:21
Yeah, spot on. Yeah, cultivating those authentic relationships, I think is the bond for a lot of our wounds is getting. Amen.
Coach Maddox 45:32
Amen. Yes, beautifully said the bomb. The sad this soothing medication. Yes, I, I'm right there with you. So, how do you know when you're actually authentic? How do you know?
Ed Salamanca 45:53
I think a piece of it is you're not in your head, you know, you're, you're not worried about is this coming off the right way? Is this what I should have said not should have said not should have done, you know, this should have would have could have got who says it, but that's kind of like a great catch all. And if you're not in that space, and you're just being you, whatever that is, I think that'll come across as authentic, you know?
So I think the, I know, we've talked about this, this whole fear of living in your heart, you know, we have like, it's like, you have to develop the courage to be disliked. You know, it's like, you know, what, they don't like me, that's okay. You know, life goes on, I like me, you know, I had it, and it's learning to save that to yourself, because you know, we all have our bumps, someone client or potential, you know, whatever, someone may rub us the wrong way. But to be confident in your, your worth, as a human being, and without judging the other person, because, you know, I think in the initial part of the healing, you know, you might get upset, and then, and then, you know, maybe criticize the person or try to take them down a few notches. But then you you learn to not take it personally, I'm a huge fan, I think I've mentioned to you in the past, I'm a huge fan of The Four Agreements, and one of them being not to take things personally, that I know that's been a challenge for me. But by not taking things personally, you you give yourself grace, I think this is what Randy was saying earlier, you know, you allow yourself grace. And you're not gonna even if it is being a personal attack, you can you can give yourself grace and the person grace and not affect your sense of worth and your day, your peace you On you go. And I think that that's the feeling that people will label as authentic is, I think that's kind of what's happening inside. For me, at least,
Coach Maddox 48:05
I have gotten to the point where when I get rejected, or somebody doesn't like me, or they unsubscribe from my mailing list, I just say, Thank God, you had just made room for somebody that does want to come and sit right next to me.
Britt East 48:26
Yeah, what you're describing, it sounded like, to me, what I took away from it anyway, was an embodied approach to life, where it's like you sort of release the words. And you, you live your life from this. Almost like this. You're grounded in the physical, you're grounded in your body, you're grounded in your physical response to the world, you're in the present. you're releasing stories about the past and the future, you're approaching each present moment, you're approaching the here and now with beginner's mind and fresh eyes and without stories. And the more that, at least what I found, and I don't know if you are saying this, but at least what I found is that the more language starts to intercede, the further away I tend to be drifting from my authenticity. Words are wonderful words are really important. But I just find that words are how the stories start to open with me and pulled me a little bit further away from my, I don't want to say true self, but that you know, that authentic embodied, you know, ever present.
Randy Woodring 49:47
You said that as far as present, being present. That's how I know when I'm being authentic is being in the present and doing things that I love. And no matter what that is, is being comfortable with myself.
Coach Maddox 50:05
When I wrote that question down, I thought, dang, that's a hard question. I don't know if I have an answer for that. And I pondered over it a little bit and what came to me because I, and Ed, you know, this, I operate very intuitively and what came to me was the way you know, that you're truly authentic is when the world reflects it back to you. Nicely stated. Because, you know, that mirror image doesn't lie. When the world holds a mirror up in front of you, it doesn't lie.
What do you gain by showing up in the world fully authentic?
Randy Woodring 50:54
What's possible? Not not a criminal record? That's for sure. I hate showing up authentic is, is healthy choices. For sure.
Coach Maddox 51:13
Okay. With joy, not a criminal record. That was really good.
Ed Salamanca 51:19
I love it.
Britt East 51:21
We have to start with the fact that there's no guarantees, though. I mean, being authentic, doesn't guarantee you anything. You know, the only thing that hurts worse than not the only thing that hurts worse than loving is not loving. And so I think ultimately, it's a really pragmatic choice, that there's definitely no guarantees. And I think there's honor in the personal expression of authenticity, regardless of any outcomes.
Coach Maddox 51:49
Yeah, that's beautifully said. And I think we have to be authentic for ourselves. It, didn't it and we're not doing it for everybody else. We're doing it for ourselves.
Ed Salamanca 52:01
I was gonna say the exact same thing, Maddox, I was just gonna say, it comes out of like, love for your inner peace. You know, it's like, I know, no matter what happens now, I'm not going to allow something to, you know, keep me up at night. Whatever that is, like, I want to make sure that I am making decisions during the day that when I sleep, I sleep without a care in the world. And I want to make sure that and I do things not to look right. Not to be accepted not to be validated. I do it because the more I can be who I am, the more like you said, I can attract the people who like me for who I am, and I will repel those who don't like the way I am and that's okay. You know?
Coach Maddox 52:51
Yes. You know, one thing about authenticity is it is polarizing. The more we get fully authentic, it polarizes people. And there's two kinds of people, the ones that screaming around in the opposite direction and the ones that want to come and sit right next to me. And just like I said earlier, I'm always grateful for the ones that scream and run because they're creating more space for the ones that want us to come and sit right next to me. That's, that's, that's my mantra, my attitude.
Britt East 53:20
I think there's something really interesting happening in social media right now, around personal authenticity, where culturally, we almost have a sense of hyper individualism right now, where many of us feel that it whether it's from a sense of entitlement, or maybe overdeveloped sense of freedom or individuality, it's like we in certain respects, have lost our sense of the collective good. And we're confusing. Authenticity, with see displays of praise and accumulation. Like we talked about the accumulation of wealth at the beginning of the of the episode. You know, what's coming to mind and for me is like the kind of performative Instagram posts where you have people in the same way that reality television is not based in reality, these many of these Instagram posts are not based in reality either. And so authenticity by some has been co opted. And it's, it's, it's this kind of me first movement that's masquerading as authenticity because I think true authenticity has at its heart, selflessness and specialists This service, because I just happen to, I happen to think that's the way hearts are wired. That when two hearts get together that you can't help but experience love, and you can't help but experience, grace and spaciousness and selflessness and care and concern. And so I think that we're in a little bit of a, I don't know if I want to say dangerous moment. But we're in an interesting spot in history, where this sense of hyper individualism and the accumulation of likes and praise and comments, we're using that to kind of bypass the work that we alluded to previously, the spiritual growth and personal development work to display a false authenticity, which at its heart is about is ego driven, and is about the the putting on the armor, the building, put living behind a bunker, even if it's bedazzled and pretty and gorgeous. And you're in Bali, and you're this influx, you know, so I think that I can, I could sort of hear in my head, maybe some of the listeners to this conversation. Like, yeah, but what about, and this kind of came to my mind like there are there, we have to be so careful with these words, because it's, it's easy to get it twisted. And for me, I guess, this long, rambling rant I'm on is that I think at its heart authenticity has selflessness and love at its core.
Coach Maddox 56:33
I would have to agree with you. wholeheartedly, I know is, as I have gone deeper into my own self love. I have been much more drawn to service of others
much more we oriented.
I mean, there was a point when I realized that I had always talked about gay men as the others. They weren't me and I wasn't them. And that's changed. That's changing. Now it's more of a Wii now. And I'm thinking more in terms of Wii, I'm talking about it more in terms of Wii. It's less of a dim in me. And that feels really wonderful. But I think you hit the nail on the head. I think we are on a slippery slippery slope right now. I think there is a lot of stuff out there that's masquerading as authenticity that is not particularly legitimate authenticity. And if it's based in you know, it's like that saying the word team doesn't have an AI in it. I think there's something something to that.
Ed Salamanca 57:55
I was gonna make a word old joke, but I think it's past
Coach Maddox 58:00
you didn't spit it out quite quick enough. Well, does anybody have anything else they'd like to add? Is that the way do we leave anything out? Is anybody got any other questions?
Randy Woodring 58:18
Okay, as a therapist, a question I like to ask a lot of people came from when I asked myself is like, I'm wondering what parts of myself are healing that nobody else gets to see. And by being able to address those and heal those and tend to those parts that I keep hidden, continues to allow me to become more comfortable with myself and love myself. Hence being vulnerable with myself creates more of a true version of myself by admitting that there are still parts of me that are healing Yes. I get that completely.
Coach Maddox 59:08
So are you available to share a part of you that nobody gets to see that you're healing? Just so you know, he flipped me the bird right.
I can see that coming, Randy.
Randy Woodring 59:34
I stepped right into it didn't
Coach Maddox 59:36
like like a foot a cow patty.
Randy Woodring 59:39
Right. I can share briefly because it's so relevant is my relationship with my father. This has been going on since obviously childhood and being able to for almost 50 years now of getting to a place where I'm okay. with myself and not needing that approval, not needing that permission to be me, has been one of these wounds and being able to recognize what toxicity is even in my own family, even with my own parent, that's been a really, really hard area of growth for me.
Coach Maddox 1:00:28
Yeah, I can feel that I can feel bad. When? Go ahead,
Randy Woodring 1:00:39
I was just gonna add nothing you can cut this part out. You can edit this part out.
Coach Maddox 1:00:50
No, go ahead and say it. Go ahead.
Randy Woodring 1:00:53
Go ahead and say it. Well, you alluded to it earlier to Maddox about being okay with cutting people out that are even your family. And I'm one of those persons that I was, I was never that person until recently, like, I always went back for more and more, trying to get validation trying to get approval and, and for decades being swatted away like a pesky fly. I never well, it was really difficult for me to arrive at a place where I'm at right now being okay, if I in that relationship. So I think a lot of whether it's parent, Father, or mother or grandparent, I think a lot of gay men struggle with that, getting to a place of recognizing their own worth, without needing the validation from a caregiver or a parent.
Coach Maddox 1:01:51
I know that as I went deeper into my own self love, my sense of self preservation became stronger and stronger. And that's what would enable me to walk away from a toxic, even a parent. Because at this point, I love myself enough to take myself out of that toxic situation, even if it's a friggin parent.
Britt East 1:02:16
But I just empathize with all of you that it's confusing. It's paradoxical. We just said earlier a few moments ago, but it's so important, we learn to meet ourselves in the eyes of others. And now, we're also saying, sometimes we have to make boundaries. So how do you know?
Coach Maddox 1:02:35
It is confusing?
Britt East 1:02:36
You know, how do you know?
Coach Maddox 1:02:38
You're very right? This did for me, this is where my intuition comes in really strong. I have to trust me. And it's not something that I can logically figure out. It's something that I have to go within and feel my way through it. And my body will tell me what's right.
Britt East 1:02:54
For me, you said a lot there. And I mean, you kind of gave it away for a lot of the guys, you gave a lot in that response Maddix. I hope listeners kind of pause and rewind on that. Because I mean, that was great.
Coach Maddox 1:03:09
I had a situation last night, I had a date last night. And we were going to meet at a local restaurant. Well, my car went into the shop on Monday morning, and they've had trouble getting parts. And there's been this whole rigmarole. And I've been without a car all week long. And so it came time to go on my date, I thought I would get my car back in time for last night didn't get my car back. So a couple of hours earlier, I text my day that I said, My car has had to go in the shop. And so I'm going to be uber going over to the restaurant to meet you. I will do my best to be there on time, but I can't control Uber. So it will be what it will be. You know, I was just letting him know that if I if I'm late, it's not because I'm not intending to be there. It's because Uber comes when they come. And he this is the first date. This was my first time to meet this gentleman. We had talked on Zoom a couple of times, and he's text back and he said, would you like for me to come pick you up? And I stopped for a minute and I went in I went into my body I got out of my head I went into my body, you know and I thought is that okay? Does that feel okay to you to let him a seat where you live? b Get in the car with a stranger. And I went into my body and my body said Yes, it'll be fine. And I text back and said, What a lovely offer. Yes, thank you. I would love for you to pick me up. And he did. We had a light nice dinner and then he brought me back and dropped me off but my body did that for me. I didn't get up in my head. I always say the head of mind a lie to you like a pitch. The body never lies. It never lies.
Ed Salamanca 1:05:09
You know, you mentioned something, just to add to what you're saying, I, I've noticed the sort of like, epidemic of low grade anxiety, you know that this just, it's like unnecessarily unsafe, unnecessarily concerned about some, it's just low grade, just always, they're always they're always they're always there. And if you don't have the ability to ask yourself that question, but Okay, where is this? You know, is the anxiety supposed to be there? You know, what does my body say? Just kind of having that whole conversation? I think lots of people are not having that conversation. I think it's just the feeling of anxiety, and getting hijacked by the anxiety, whatever, wherever that manifests in their life. But just be able to stop and do what you did. Is, is bringing awareness to that because anxiety has its usefulness. But overdrive, you know,
Coach Maddox 1:06:08
overdrive, it's useful. And it's a form of our body trying to commute, communicate something to us. But you're right, you know, once intuition came through and said, it'll be fine, I'd have him pick you up. complete peace came over me. And I didn't give it another thought.
Britt East 1:06:25
It is spot on, a lot of us would just drink that anxiety away, or snorted up our nose, or ghosts have sex with the or whatever the behavior of the bandaid is we just anxiety got to make it go away rather than getting curious. And having some self love and empathy, and sitting with it.
Coach Maddox 1:06:43
Sitting with it. What's going on right now with me? What's going on in there the good way,
Randy Woodring 1:06:48
I like to describe anxiety as worrying about something that hasn't happened. And as a game and growing up in a very unpredictable world. That was my life. I think that was a lot of our lives. Yes, we didn't know what was going on. So this collective anxiety that I think that's within the gay community, stems from a lot of that same stuff.
Britt East 1:07:14
Well, Randy, it's not only that we that life was unpredictable that in many of our cases, not all, but in many of our cases, we were not imbued with the skills to manage our lives. We were not taught the skills, there are just gaps in our education, because we were cast out. And so you know, we just didn't have the technique. And so it's just you learn one mistake after another. And then hopefully, through grace, you find yourself here somehow, with some on some spiritual path with some support, some guides who will call you on your shit. And some guys who will lift you up and love on you, and then you start to learn from one another, that's community.
Coach Maddox 1:08:00
I also have come to believe that when we reach puberty and we realize we're different, we're gay, we realize we don't we, we reach puberty, and all of a sudden, we realize that we're attracted to what we're not supposed to be attracted to. That we, in that sense, repression of what's real for us, what's what's us. It actually stunts our emotional growth, our emotional, yes, intelligence, it stunts that. And this is why I believe that when a man comes out at age 55, he suddenly is literally an adolescent all over again. Because he never are not all over again, he's an adolescent in a manner that he never got to be an analyst the first time around. And when he finally lets go and, and, and stops all that repression, then the emotional maturity picks up where it left off when he was 12. You know that alcohol drugs do the same thing. When we get into a substances are our emotional growth stops. And then when we finally get clean, our emotional growth has to start where it left off, wherever that was back there.
Ed Salamanca 1:09:28
Coach Maddox 1:09:31
Anything else before we wrap guys, I think we've covered this and I'm very, very excited about this.
Britt East 1:09:38
I didn't know there was going to be this much honesty tonight. That was good.
Randy Woodring 1:09:43
That's wonderful. Yeah, absolutely. Wonderful.
Coach Maddox 1:09:48
Well, I want to thank you all for being guests on the podcast. Your contribution has been epic. It's been a privilege and an honor to have this conversation. With all three of you, and I feel like I know, all three of you a little bit better than I did before I started. Likewise,
Ed Salamanca 1:10:09
I hope you do too. Yeah, same here.
Britt East 1:10:11
Yeah. Thank you
Britt East is an author and speaker who uses his experience, strength, and hope to challenge and inspire change-oriented gay men to get down to the business of improving their lives. With over two decades of personal growth and development experience in a variety of modalities, such as the 12 Steps, Nonviolent Communication, yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and the Hoffman Process, Britt is committed to building a personal practice of self-discovery that he can then share with gay men everywhere. He lives in Seattle with his husband and their crazy dog. Learn more about him at britteast.com.
I currently serve as a Licenced Professional Counselor for the LGBTQ+ communities. I grew up in a strict, conservative, and religious environment and endured years of religious abuse, which in turn led to years of substance abuse. Through my own growth and healing, I am proud to serve my community and helping to make other's lives softer and more fulfilling.