Why Gay Sex Matters
A Gay Man's Guide to Self-Discovery
Why Gay Sex Matters
A Gay Man's Guide to Self-Discovery
By Michael Sigmann
Why Gay Sex Matters is a book about sex as seen through the eyes of gay men. It’s a story about an adventure in self-discovery driven by an insatiable desire to know the truth about homosexuality. Based on 20 years of experience and nearly 1,000 case studies, Why Gay Sex Matters focuses on gay men and their need to connect sexually. It looks at the how tradition has worked against gay men and their ability to satisfy this need, while expanding on an emerging paradigm that seeks to change this.
As a young gay man, eager to explore his sexuality, it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in the early nineties that I became serious about my exploration. Coming from the Midwest where I felt sexually repressed, I was looking forward to the freedom that a city like San Francisco could afford me. However, arriving at a time when the city was still coming to grips with the devastation caused by AIDS, this freedom came with a risk.
At a time when contracting HIV was still considered a death sentence, I was surprised to find so many men looking to engage in unsafe sex. And even though antiviral medications were starting to show promise in combatting HIV, there was no guarantee they’d work for you if you got infected. To complicate matters, because San Francisco was one of the few places where gay men felt safe, the number of single gay men moving into the city was on the rise.
Along with the high fatality rate of AIDS, there was a high rate of depression and suicide among gay men. Yet because the system for gathering data on gay men affected by AIDS was limited, it was hard to know who was depressed and suicidal, and why. I just assumed that high depression and suicide rates were limited to HIV-infected men and those with AIDS. As I soon found out, this wasn’t the case at all.
As my circle of friends started to grow, and I started to adjust to life in the Castro, the roommate of a guy I had met recently called to tell me that he had taken his own life. When I asked how he managed to do this, his roommate told me that his death was psychological. When I asked what that meant exactly, he said that he had been depressed lately, and that he lost the willpower to live. He said that when the paramedics arrived, they said it looked as though he had just crawled up into a ball and died.
Knowing that gay men would often commit suicide once they found out they were dying of AIDS, I figured he must have been HIV positive and just didn’t tell me about it. I came to find out that he had been tested for HIV just a few months earlier and the results came back negative. At that point, it was hard for me to fathom how a young, healthy gay man, someone who had his whole life ahead of him, could just give up like that. It didn’t make sense to me.
A few weeks after we laid him to rest, I started to think that maybe his death was an isolated incident. That was until I receive news about another friend who came home to find that his lover had hung himself. Suddenly now, I was aware of two gay men, both young and healthy, taking their own lives in less than one month. Trying to make sense of these two deaths, I began talking to some friends to see what they thought about them.
As it turns out, it wasn’t uncommon for gay men to have considered suicide at least once in their life, whether they were HIV positive or not. Moreover, gay men committing suicide, at least for guys who had been living in San Francisco for a while, had become a regular occurrence.
Listening to these men, I began to recall several times in my own life, when I had thought about killing myself. When the stress of being gay was so overwhelming, I couldn’t think of any other way out. Then I began to wonder how growing up in a homophobic environment made gay men more susceptible to depression later in life. I would have thought that living in a place like San Francisco, where gay men were accepted for who they are would have enabled them to get past that.
It wasn’t long before I started to get a sense of how isolated the gay community in San Francisco had become from the rest of society, and how challenging it was to feel like outcasts in the middle of an epidemic. Watching the interactions among people in the community, it was clear that people had no choice but to learn from each other or to learn from the experience itself. This was especially true when it came to the search for spiritual guidance. If you were a gay man and if you happened to look like you had AIDS, it wasn’t like you could walk into a church or synagogue and expect to feel welcome. It was at this point when the concept of community took on a whole new meaning for me.
In 1997, after spending time with a modern-day spiritual master who opened my eyes to the potential for healing that existed within the gay community, I began enrolling many of my friends into her programs. However, the sudden influx of gay men made her nervous, so she decided to ban us from participating. As devastating as this was, a straight man who worked closely with her, contacted me about developing a similar program just for gay men.
His name is also Michael, and in addition to having a Master’s Degree in Psychology, he had spent a great deal of time in India sitting with OSHO; a teacher who many consider to be the most influential spiritual master of the twentieth century. In addition, Michael had spent his life traveling the world in search of gifted teachers. Listening to him talk about his experiences made me realize that most teachers, including OSHO, saw homosexuality as a deviant behavior.
Out of the goodness of his heart, Michael took me on as his student, teaching me everything I needed to know to become a facilitator, capable of guiding gay men through the healing process. Seeing how gay men needed a place to do this work privately, Michael also provided me with a structure, which became the basis for the Men’s Inner Journey.
In 2000, as a compliment to the work I was doing with Michael, I began pursuing a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. This allowed me to deepen my understanding of a wide range of spiritual practices from a variety of human cultures dating back thousands of years. With the support of other accomplished teachers and shamans, both in and outside the community, the work took on a life of its own.
Starting out, a lot of the men who attended my programs were in survival mode. Over time, however, as these programs started to catch on, the needs of gay men started changing. The focus went from helping gay men cope with the possibility of dying from AIDS to helping them to find a way to live with HIV, which was now possible due to the ongoing success of antiviral medications.
Unfortunately, one of the ways gay men had learned to cope with the pressure caused by the limitations AIDS had imposed on their sexuality was to use recreational drugs. To help lower their inhibitions around sex, drugs such as MDNA, commonly known as Ecstasy, had become quite popular. Originally used to help patients deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, ecstasy seemed like a perfect fit for gay men looking to get past the trauma they had experienced during the AIDS crisis. Unfortunately, this opened the door to harder, more addictive drugs such as meth, short for methamphetamine, and GHB, the date-rape drug. What these drugs do is perpetuate the sexual need in such a way that it becomes impossible to satisfy.
However, not all gay men were using drugs to lower their inhibitions. Many had regained a confidence around gay sex not seen in nearly 20 years. Witnessing this firsthand, it was clear that any doubts AIDS may have caused gay men to feel around sex, were beginning to dissipate. With the return of bareback sex, it soon became obvious that gay men’s attitude toward gay sex had now swung in the opposite direction.
Yet as liberating as this may sound, while the shift from one extreme to the other provided gay men with some much-needed relief, it didn’t help them to feel any more connected during sex. In many cases, the abundance of sex only made them feel that much more alone.
I remember I was online one night looking for sex, when I came across and ad for a guy looking for someone to infect him with HIV. He described himself as twenty-something, in good shape, sane, and completely drug free. And judging by his pictures, he looked exactly how he described himself.
In his description, he explained that he was doing this because the pool of HIV-negative men in San Francisco was shrinking. He said that he loved having sex and was tired of worrying about becoming infected; he wanted to stop putting off the inevitable. While I did feel compelled to respond by telling him to hang in there, a part of me could relate to what he was going through.
Today, with the advent of PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and the proliferation of online dating sites, there’s very little getting in the way of gay men having sex. Yet even when there’s nothing holding them back, the satisfaction of the sexual encounter is often short lived, which keeps them wanting more.
To get to the heart of what makes gay men tick, teaching them how to meditate has become an essential part of my programs. Meditation as we know, is about quieting the mind, which can be difficult for someone who thinks a lot. What gay men often don’t realize is that thinking isn’t everything, and that there are some things one can only experience when the mind is quiet.
Smelling a rose, for example, is not possible unless the mind stops thinking long enough for the receptor cells to receive the scent and for the mind to register the information. Because this happens at lightning speed, most people aren’t aware that a pause in their thinking pattern has occurred. Connection is a receptive experience. Like love, it’s not something we can think our way to. In fact, the more we think about it, the less likely it is that we’ll be aware enough to notice when it happens.
When gay men sign up for my programs, I ask them what it is they’re looking for in life. The answer I get most often is a sense of connection. While there are many ways for gay men to connect with each other, underneath it all, it’s the sexual connection that matters the most. For some, it’s not the sex they’re interested in as much as it is the connection. For others, however, it is the sex. It’s all they think about. Either way, it points to a predisposition I have found to be common among gay men.
Why Gay Sex Matters takes a closer look at what happens to gay men when they grow up in a society in which people not only condemn them for being homosexual, but due to the lack of information people are unable to support them, or defend them.
In addition to having a profound need for connection, the other thing my work has revealed to me, is that when gay men are feeling lonely and depressed, what shows up for them is this notion that they are not good enough, and that no matter what they do, they will never be good enough. By taking them back to their earliest memory of feeling like they don’t fit in, it’s usually a time in their life when sexual energy first awakens.
When two people feel sexually attracted to one another, whether they decide to engage in sexual activity or not, it’s the attraction that tells them they have a need for connection. Along with the need for air, food, water, and sleep, learning how to satisfy this need is a critical part of growing up. Yet when you’re told that this need for connection is biological, and that sex is driven by an innate need to propagate the species, as a gay youth, one can’t help but feel left out.
Having worked with gay men from all walks of life, it’s clear that by suppressing this need for connection, we’re suppressing a need that is spiritual in nature. In the same way the body craves air, food, water, and sleep for its survival, the spirit, as a form of energy, craves connection.
Without connection, the inspiration we depend on to keep us feeling alive and present begins to fade, which causes us to feel lethargic and depressed. When these feelings persist, we start to feel suicidal. To cope, gay men begin to view sex as a form of escape. By using sex as a form of validation, it becomes addictive.
When it comes to satisfying a basic human need, the mind needs to receive the right information at the right time in life. When the information the mind seeks doesn’t arrive, or if the information it receives is misleading, a vital link in the mind-body connection is left unformed. Because this information is so vital, the mind will naturally keep searching for it.
It’s clear that the health of the human body improves when we’re present with the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and even understanding the importance of a good night’s sleep. Imagine then, what can happen to the health of the spirit when we’re conscious of the connection we seek. As gay men, we know that coming out as a homosexual has nothing to do with our biology or our need to have children. But rather it has everything to do with the vibrancy of our spirit and our zest for life.
On a fundamental level, everything exists as energy, and it’s on this level that we experience the connection we seek. What’s important to remember is that this level exists far deeper than where our biology is concerned. What most people don’t realize is that it’s the circulation of energy on this level that’s responsible for triggering a biological response. Meditating on the sexual experience, we find that the sperm doesn’t push its way up out of the head of the penis on its own. But, rather, it lies in wait for the buildup and release of energy that occurs during sex when the door opens and sets it free.
If we’re in conflict with this energy or if we lack the mental acuity to facilitate the flow of energy in our lives, we feel disconnected. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we start to feel disconnected from the universe itself. To feel connected is to feel like we belong and that we matter, which is one of the things gay men struggle with the most.
A big part of the work I do with gay men involves releasing stuck energy, energy that becomes stuck when gay men feel cautious around expressing themselves. Having to repress one’s natural way of being causes stress. Overtime, prolonged stress diminishes our capacity for connection by drowning out the neural synapses we depend on to keep connected and inspired.
Not surprisingly, our capacity for breath, which is critical for circulating energy, can decline by as much as 30 percent by the time we’re 30 years old. Once this stuck energy is released, not only do we feel more connected to self and others, the vibrancy of our spirit increases, changing the way we perceive things. Yet working with gay men, it’s clear that restoring their sense of connection requires more than just removing stuck energy; it requires a framework to keep the energy from becoming stuck in the first place. And with so many people fighting against homosexuality, this framework is needed now more than ever.
Having facilitated workshops in gay communities across the country, there’s a desire among gay men to develop a new way of looking at sex that’s not only more inclusive of homosexuality, but one that is factual. Gay men instinctually know that there’s much more to sex than what science and religion have been telling us. While terms such as two-spirit and third gender seem to resonate on a visceral level, not understanding what these terms actually mean puts gay men at a loss.
For centuries, we’ve been conditioned to think of ourselves as biological beings, allowing the concept of procreation to take hold in our culture and in our psyche. However, this concept has turned our society against homosexuality to the point of demonizing anyone who engages in it. There is nothing more disturbing to me than to hear about LGBT people being tortured and killed simple because of who they are. As gay men, we know that homosexuality is an inherent part of our humanity.
Approximately five years into my training, once I was skilled enough to facilitate transformation for gay men on my own, Michael suggested that I travel to India where I’d be able to experience eastern spiritual practices firsthand. In 2004, under the guidance of Sri Bhagavan at the Oneness University in Andhra Pradesh, I experienced what’s known as a kundalini awakening.
Kundalini is a Sanskrit word. It refers to an energy source located at the base of the spine, which can become activated when a person enters a deep meditative state. Yet as fantastical as that sounds, all it did for me was make me more aware of the fact that the energy moving through my body was a form of electricity.
When people think of electricity, they think of currents running through the wires inside our walls, not as something running through the neural pathways inside our bodies. They think of it as a utility, not a life force. But that’s exactly what life force energy is, a form of electricity being generated from inside our very own bodies. Biology aside, it’s the generation of this electricity that makes life possible.
All one needs to do to verify this is to view an ultrasound of their own heart to see a continuous flicker of light, a tiny bolt of electricity passing from one node to the other, creating the contraction that causes the heart to beat. Looking at the body’s physiology, we find it’s made up of electrolytes, which like the alkaline found in an alkaline battery, conducts electricity. Without electricity running from our bodies to our brains, we wouldn’t receive the information we need to respond to our most basic needs.
Physics, the study of energy, is a relatively new study for the general population to understand. Just the mention of the word is likely to conjure up images of mathematical formulas too complex for the average person to comprehend. Yet physics also includes the study of electromagnetism, which is the basis of attraction, even on a human level. While our biology works as a filter to hone our attraction to certain traits in an individual, it’s the nature of our energy that points us in the general direction.
When it comes to physics, the basics are easier to understand than most people realize. As an example, when we look at the forces driving the generation of energy on a fundamental level, we find three distinct particles, each with its own energetic activity, known as an electrical charge. While these three particle-charges hold little meaning for the average person by themselves, as a force coming from within the human body, suddenly it has relevance.
Even though all three aspects of energy exist within us, as a society we tend to align with one more than the other two. We can sense from our desires which of the three particle-charges feels more dominant by the way it inspires us to behave. Interestingly, the generation of electricity has three positions - not two - for us to choose from. There are the two opposite positions we find in biology, male and female, and then there’s a third, neutral position that biology doesn’t mention.
To put these three particle-charges into context, visualize for a moment the in, the out, and the ground of circulating electricity. While the two opposite positions do not change, the third neutral position does, making it interchangeable. While the opposite positions are responsible for circulating energy, the neutral position is responsible for keeping the flow of energy balanced so it doesn’t short circuit. And the way that it does this is by flipping positions.
Online looking for sex, barring any physical or psychological limitations, it’s clear that gay men are sexually versatile beings, and that flipping positions is essential. Having experienced this versatility firsthand, it’s when they’re with someone with whom they can flip position that they feel most alive and connected. Let’s keep in mind however, that it’s not just about flipping positions sexually.
When gay men can embrace both their masculine side and their feminine side equally, the grounding force they were meant to embody comes through, not only on a social level, but on a spiritual level as well. Gay men can feel this, which is why repressing this energy within them is so traumatic. With divisiveness occurring on virtually every level of society, the balancing force gay people possess is needed now more than ever.
Writing Why Gay Sex Matters has given me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned about homosexuality with gay men everywhere. Why Gay Sex Matters is not a claim to truth, nor does it seek to impose yet another doctrine for gay men to follow. It’s about giving gay men the tools they need to break free of the concepts and beliefs that hold them back. It’s about the teachings that have allowed gay men to be more present in sex, in love, and in relationship with each other. It’s about satisfying the longing that exists deep inside them, so that they can know what it’s like to experience a sense of connection that goes beyond the physical.