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The Velvet Rage: 10/12/07
With "rage" in the title, I expected to find a great deal of anger inside of The Velvet Rage. Instead I found a book full of hope, encouragement and practical advice.
Alan Downs is a therapist who specializes in counseling gays. As a gay man himself, he brings a lot of his own personal experience into this book. His perspective helped to bring a well needed dose of humanity to this book that would otherwise be dry reading to someone outside his target audience.
The Velvet Rage is broken up into four parts. The first part, "The Roots of Rage" explains how things go wrong in childhood with parents, friends and society all setting standards that young gays can't conform to but feel they must to fit. The second part, "Overwhelmed by Shame" covers the first stage of recognizing one's gayness; in Downs's patients this is a stage of anger and self loathing. Stage 2, covered in "Compensating for Shame" is a time of self destructive behavior where men try everything to be the perfect gay only to realize that perceived perfection isn't the same as happiness or self confidence. Downs's goal is to get his patients to Stage 3 or the "Cultivating of Authenticity" where they can just be themselves and be happy with who they are. In stage 3 being gay just becomes another facet of one's identity instead of being either something to hide or the only defining feature.
Downs ends his book with a few simple rules. While he says that non gays won't "get" these rules, they actually sound like practical advice that can be modified for anyone's day-to-day living.
Sounds like an interesting book. Wouldn't it be nice if there was no cultural prodding towards those shame stages. :("