Knowing Ourselves

Whenever men-who-love-men gather with intention and love, magic happens.

[Published July 8, 2015]

There is a point during every camp I attend at Easton Mountain when I fall in love with the place again. Last week that moment came when I was lazing in the pool watching the guys in John Salvato’s Sports for Faeries workshop. Dressed in various stages of drag, men were playing outrageously gay—and decidedly non-regulation—versions of sports. I couldn’t help but smile and feel like I had come home.

Later in the camp, Jay Michaelson delivered an insightful talk about Easton’s place in the LGBT movement. Citing a distinction between organizations or groups that provide sanctuary and those that create storm—bold change in the larger world—he noted Easton’s role as both sanctuary and creator of storm. John Stasio, the founder, echoed that observation—that a fundamental purpose of Easton is for men to experience transformation and bring their changed selves back into the larger world and change it for good.

Whenever I leave Easton, I experience the now-familiar and predictable Post-Easton Letdown Syndrome (PELS). It’s the experience of leaving sanctuary and re-entering a decidedly less-friendly and less-loving world. It’s mourning the loss of authentic connections with other gay men. It’s leaving an environment created by and for men-who-love-men. In this precious and rare setting, we create a culture based on who we are. We make an implicit agreement to open our hearts to each other. We see ourselves mirrored in our fellow men. And we learn who we are.

Of all the transformations that happen at places like Easton, I believe the latter is the most profound—that we come to know ourselves. We don’t get this kind of mirroring and validation in the larger world. We may get pieces of it, but rarely the whole. There is a place in our hearts that only men-who-love-men can touch.

It’s why I am such a believer in the importance of invoking the gay male tribe. Easton isn’t the only place that this happens—nor should it be. It can happen anywhere, and there’s little mystery to it. Whenever men-who-love-men gather with intention and love, when we agree to truly see each other, and when we open our hearts and suspend our judgments, we unleash magic. By seeing each other, we come to know who we are.

We can approach our activism—the storm that Jay talked about—from the level of politics alone, but the real change will take place when we augment action with self-knowledge. At Easton, I saw gay men’s gifts reflected all around me. From this mirroring I learned more about my own gifts. I may have mourned when I left, but I returned to my life with a fierce, open heart and stronger sense of self.

When men-who-love-men gather with intention, they reflect each other’s gifts and help each other learn who they are. Through this self-knowledge, we can truly become the storm that the world needs. 

This article was originally published at Words to the Wise, my blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.