This empowering book provides 10 positive steps gay men can take to identify and overcome self-defeating behaviors and move toward a healthier and more rewarding life. These steps have proved invaluable to the hundreds of gay men Joe Kort has helped in his 16 years of individual, couples, and ...This empowering book provides 10 positive steps gay men can take to identify and overcome self-defeating behaviors and move toward a healthier and more rewarding life. These steps have proved invaluable to the hundreds of gay men Joe Kort has helped in his 16 years of individual, couples, and group therapy. You’ll identify with and be inspired by the stories of the men who’ve followed this path to achieve emotional, sexual, and personal fulfillment.

Who Should Read This Book? Gay Men and Their Families / Counselors / Psychologists / Psychiatrists / Social Workers / Educators School Counselors / Clergy / Physicians / Psychiatric Nurses / Other Human Service Professionals

An Excerpt from the Book . . .

What Works? And What Doesn’t Alan was a 34-year-old consultant for one of the car companies in Detroit. He came to see me after experiencing depression over his gayness and his relationship with his partner of five years. He’d been seeing a heterosexual male therapist in town but felt he wasn’t getting anywhere—either with accepting his homosexuality or resolving the conflicts in his relationship. His therapist referred him to me, telling him that I was gay as well.

Alan was handsome, with boyish looks and tightly cropped hair. His body testified that he was involved with sports—he played soccer and baseball on a regular basis. For his first session, he came to my office dressed in his work attire—tie, white shirt, and wing tip shoes.

“Look at me!” he said. “I don’t look gay. You don’t either. Maybe we’re fooling ourselves. This is just wrong! This isn’t how I envisioned my life. I wanted to be straight, with a wife and kids by now!”

Alan filled me in. Six years before, he had been engaged to a woman—then broke up with her. Secretly, he’d promised himself that if their relationship didn’t work out, he’d act on his gay feelings and come out of the closet. He didn’t want to make any other woman suffer with his inability to commit to her. He knew why he could not commit —he was gay. He could have sex with women, but found it unfulfilling.

On the other hand, Alan didn’t like being gay. He felt he was giving into urges he was supposed to repress. He was horrified at the idea of being out and open with others —particularly his family—knowing he was gay.

Alan came from a rural town in Michigan, where his family still lived in the house he grew up in. Nothing had been painted. The furniture never changed. Appliances from his childhood, aside from ones that absolutely had to be replaced, were still there. It was as if time stood still. His parents had stagnated, plugging away in the same jobs they’d had their whole adult lives and drinking at a local pub they frequented every weekend. On a few occasions when he was a child, Alan recalled, his parents took him along and left him and his siblings in the smoky pinball game room while they went to drink in the bar.

Alan couldn’t conceive of admitting to his parents that he was gay. “That will never happen,” he told me. “They would die! I can’t do this to them.”

Soon after Alan came out at a local gay bar he met his partner, Matthew. Alan had done little or no dating before Matthew. Being with Matthew was fun and exciting at first, but after the second year Alan felt unhappy because their relationship was in a rut. Alan wanted to integrate his life more closely with Matthew’s—he wanted the two of them to live together.

Matthew initially agreed to their living together, but whenever it came time for either of them to move in with the other, or to sell both houses and buy a new home together, Matthew came up with some reason why it wouldn’t work out. This conflict simmered for three years.

In addition, Alan was angry at Matthew for not wanting to spend more time together. They saw each other once during the week and once over the weekend. Matthew claimed that with Alan in his bed, he couldn’t get a good night’s sleep and couldn’t function well at work. When Matthew resisted making any move or changing his behavior, Alan would lash out. They would argue, and Alan would become enraged, shout, and slam doors.

Alan admitted that part of the problem was his worry about what other people might think if they knew he was gay. If he went out to dinner, he didn’t feel people were staring if he went with a male coworker, but he admitted feeling that if he and Matthew went to dinner, everyone would know they were gay—much to his embarrassment.

Though Alan complained about Matthew’s avoidance, he was stuck in a pattern of unhelpful behavior too—with a large amount of internalized homophobia about being gay. He blamed his difficulties on the closet and on living in Michigan, and he resented Matthew for not participating more actively in their relationship.

In our work together, I tried to help Alan focus on his childhood, because he seemed to be replaying exactly what had happened to him then, back when his parents neglected him. Now he found himself with a partner who, he felt, also neglected him. His frustration with Matthew was understandable, but his high level of anger was an overreaction. It belonged to his parents.

He said that my making the connection to his childhood made logical sense, but he wasn’t experiencing any angry or hurt emotions toward his parents. “They did the best they could, and it makes me feel bad to think they did anything negative.”

No matter how much work Alan did, in both individual and group therapy, he couldn’t reach his true feelings about his parents. He came to my workshops for helping gay men heal and rid themselves of self-hatred and homophobia, went to gay events around the community—and still felt bad about being gay. He stayed closeted at work and to other members of his sporting teams. His relationship with Matthew stayed the same, even though many times Alan threatened to end it.

Finally, though, it was Matthew who broke it off. One night at Matthew’s house, Alan became so angry he threw something across the room and broke a window. Matthew told him he’d had enough and ended the relationship.

Now Alan found himself in a bind. Not seeing any progress, he’d dropped out of the gay men’s group the year before, and he had no network to support him. His symptoms of depression grew worse. He couldn’t tell his family what was going on, and he had no one else to talk to but me.

Isolated and alone, Alan was back where he was as a child, but he continued to deny that his childhood was at all related to his current situation or that his overreaction to Matthew’s distancing relationship was really a replay of how he’d felt as a child.

I didn’t think Alan could make much progress until he decided to live more openly, and I told him so. I felt that he’d find, stored away in his closet, many other feelings and memories about his childhood. But he wasn’t ready to deal with it all. I expressed concern that he’d keep feeling isolated, lonely, and abandoned—unless he addressed the issues of his parents’ neglect when he was a child.

Many of us find ourselves in a place like this. I’m a psychotherapist who specializes in Gay and Lesbian Affirmative Psychotherapy and Imago Relationship Therapy, which is a specialized program in helping people with relationship issues, men’s issues, childhood sexual abuse, and sexual addiction/ compulsion. Over the past ?? years, I’ve treated literally thousands of gay men in the Detroit area—in one-on-one individual therapy, ongoing group therapy, in workshops for singles, and for partnered couples.

Again and again, I see clients make the same mistakes. And inevitably, I find myself giving dozens of clients the exact same advice.

Reading this book, I hope you’ll recognize the stumbling blocks, both internal and external, that have held you back from living an effective, totally fulfilled gay life. Each of these 10 smart things is an antidote to a specific problem that clients have brought to my office time and again.

Through my work with clients over the years, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work. Now I’d like to make these “prescriptions” available, in book form, for every gay man to use.

These 10 smart things constitute a kind of checklist—answers to the challenges any gay man may face, at one time or another, throughout his life. Yes, every gay man can score 10 out of 10 if he wants to. But none of these chapters is a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all prescription. Throughout, I’ll give you real-life examples based on my work with clients who put these basic principles to work in their own way—almost always with considerable success and satisfaction.

I ask every one of my clients (and everyone who reads this book) to recognize that he’s a unique individual. Health and happiness are your birthrights. And yes, you happen to be gay. So to live a rewarding life as a gay man, you must tailor anybody’s advice—mine included—to fit your own particular goals and circumstances, always keeping your own values, lifestyle, and personal strengths in mind.

In upcoming chapters, I’ll introduce you to gay men who’ve crippled themselves emotionally (and often sabotaged their romantic relationships as well) by not coming out to anyone except themselves, their partners, and a few close friends. In most cases, their self-protective impulse only serves to keep them isolated. You’ll also meet heterosexually married men who in their 40s and 50s came out of denial and admitted they were gay all along. They experience a profound sense of liberation when they find the courage to come out, being honest with themselves and their families.

You’ll read how coming out to your family can reawaken—even worsen—the dysfunctional problems that have lain dormant in the closet. But you’ll also learn how men from 15 to 57 have forged deeper, warmer bonds with their parents, siblings, former in-laws, and, in some cases, their children.

I’ll explain why gay men are so often criticized for being “childish” or “immature,” and how to avoid succumbing to gay culture’s overemphasis on looks, youth, and glamour. Afraid of growing old? I’ll offer you numerous remedies, including meaningful involvement in your local gay community serving as a mentor and giving other gay men (both younger and older) the benefits of your own hard-won experience.

I will explore with you the specific ways that sexual addiction manifests in the gay male community. Most cases of sexual addiction are rooted in childhood sexual abuse and often respond to a combination of individual and group therapy. You’ll learn why so-called reparative therapies—to “cure” our homosexuality—can’t possibly work. At the same time, you’ll learn about the genuinely helpful “therapy workout” opportunities available to every gay man. Is the best therapist for you male or female, gay or straight? Stay tuned!

Perhaps most important, I’ll show you how to keep your romantic relationship with another man alive and evolving as you both pass beyond the first stages of infatuation, through the inevitable power struggle, and on to deep and abiding love. Believe it or not, your most serious quarrels and disagreements are potentially healthy and can lead to tremendous personal growth for you both, as partners and as individuals.

Even if a wedding or commitment ceremony doesn’t feel appropriate for the two of you, you’ll want to read about other gay couples who have taken that courageous step—with all the frustrations, surprises, and joys that went with it.

You don’t need to be a Mensa member to do smart things and to start reaping the benefits. Hundreds of my clients have already proven to my satisfaction (and, more important, to their own) that these choices work.

Psychology can seem dauntingly complex, and sometimes a bit scary. Might there be some things lurking down in your subconscious you’d rather not hear about? No need for timidity. I will work to keep things as clear, accessible, and practical as I can. My clients —from their early teens to their 70s, from every walk of life—help dramatize the issues and hassles that every gay man must face. Armed with their wisdom, clarity, and understanding, you can continued from previous page make personal breakthroughs while still enjoying the special advantages that gay culture has to offer.

You need not agree with every word I say. While reading about the dozens of gay men who came to me for help, however, you’re sure to recognize many of the challenges you’re facing right now.

Every one of these 10 smart things has the same goal: to help you live happily, confidently, and successfully as a gay man—inside and outside the gay community.

Author's Bio: 

Psychotherapist Joe Kort has been in practice since 1985. He specializes in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy, which is a specific program involving communication exercises designed for couples to enhance their relationship and for singles to learn relationship skills. It is based on the books "Getting The Love You Want" and "Keeping The Love You Find" by Dr. Harville Hendrix.

Joe also specializes in sexual addiction, childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, depression and anxiety. He offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men's group therapy and a men's sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. His therapy services are for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals.Now an adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he is doing more writing and workshops on a national level.