Thursday, November 5, 2009

The “I” Word

Intimacy was a topic of the night for a group of men for whom I facilitate. I was surprised at what I heard and saw that night. There was a big charge in the room. The conversation got heated up, no pun intended, as each man gave their interpretation of intimacy. One man said it doesn’t exist in the gay community because all men are dogs and just want to fuck like they’re in a porn video. Another man said after being married for 4 years the intimacy is gone. One thing that all the interpretations had in common was they were all about sex.

Today, the word intimacy has taken on sexual connotations. But it is much more than that. It includes all the different aspects of our lives - the physical, emotional, mental, sexual, but also the social and spiritual aspects as well. Intimacy means sharing of one’s total self, firm commitment with another person, and being mutually supportive, understanding and accepting of each other. Yes it does take some work. It involves trusting someone else, being vulnerable, selflessness, and honesty just to name a few things. This is why it is easier for most people to be physically or sexually intimate with someone than to be intimate in any of the other areas. So let’s move away from the physical and sexual for a while.

I’m not going to get into why it is difficult for gay and bi men to be intimate, because that’s all we hear and see. You can Google it and find all the negative stuff out there. I want to continue to keep it on the positive side. Because being gay or bi does not always lead to a life of gloom and doom. My blog is about reclaiming who we are and dispelling what society would have us believe about ourselves.

Let’s talk about social intimacy. Some of your close friends will reach this level. The people you spend time with, go to the movies with, go shopping with, or otherwise share common interests, form social intimacy. We all need this from time to time, especially if you are in a relationship. It helps you keep your own unique identity. Social intimacy in your relationship also means finding enough in common with the other person so that you will enjoy your time together.

Reaching mental or intellectual intimacy is the first true test of a relationship, and where you first begin to trust your partner with your deeper self. This is where you share your hopes, fears, opinions and beliefs without fear of being judged or chastised. This is where trust, vulnerability and honesty are put the test. Your closest friendships will also achieve this level of intimacy. Intellectual Intimacy will tell you more about the real person in front of you and give you a solid insight to the person behind the public image they portray.

Now we get into one of the most critical ingredients to a long-term healthy relationship; emotional intimacy. Lots of couples never make it to emotional intimacy because it’s here where we must accept the person for whom he or she is without reservation - flaws, irrationality and all. At this level, you feel comfortable sharing yourself without fear of repercussions. You both feel comfortable expressing and sharing your anger, happiness, secrets, sensual side, and sexual feelings with each other. You know you are loved and love your partner no matter how either of you feel or act. It's about trust and letting another see us at our worst and our best. Who do you first call or go to when something exciting or bad happens to you? For me, the first person I call is my partner, Patrick. This may steer you into the direction of spiritual intimacy.

Spiritual intimacy is where you find your soul mate. This is where we look beyond the physical and mental being of a person. It means loving the other person as you love yourself, becoming one spirit. You will now have an unconditional love for your partner. C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, describes it as a deep bond, involving the experience of another person which he calls a “kindred soul.” He suggests that kindred souls are people that see the same truth or better yet, care about the same truth.( C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.) We can also experience this with a friend who follows our same journey. Finally we can get back to physical and sexual intimacy.

First let’s talk about physical intimacy. Physical intimacy in the relationship is also a very important component of your happiness in that relationship. Many people think that physical intimacy and sexual intimacy are one in the same, but they are not. Physical intimacy can occur when two people hold hands, or just sitting on the couch together watching a good movie. Because intimacy is when two people become one with each other, physical intimacy can also happen when you gaze into each others eyes from across a crowd room. At that moment when the world doesn’t seem to matter it’s just about you and the other person.

Now to most, the most popular form of intimacies is sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy and fulfillment is something we all long for. Yes, having sex like you are in a porn video is fun, but it can still leave you feeling unfilled. Sexual intimacy involves the full range of sensual awareness, including touch, kissing, looks, expressions of endearment, communication, and of course, sex and orgasm. To get here you need to look inward and explore your attitudes and habits related to sexual intimacy - and let go of old constrictions about sex. Become aware of each other's feelings around sex, including fears, wants and needs. Communication and awareness are the keys to bringing pleasure to a relationship.

We don’t have to be afraid of the “I” word any more. We are all capable of being intimate. Let yourself experience it and sharing it. One way to get over the fear is to talk about it.

Next week, Wednesday, Nov. 11th, the wonderful folks at, Project Crysp, Steamworks, and the Feast of Fun ( are having a special gay men’s health forum at the Center on Halsted.

We're Taking Pleasure Back: When did gay sex automatically equate to penetration? Why do our conversations about gay men's sexuality consistently focus on disease and risk? Join us to discuss ways gay men can explore our desires and be intimate, sexual, sensual, lusty and loving with each other - without any worries of risk and/or disease. Let's think creatively and expansively - and learn about some research on pleasure as well.

Featured panelists include Gary Harper from DePaul University, activist and spoken word artist Keith Green (also Project PrEP director) and Samuel R. Galloway, a sex educator from Tulip Toy Gallery (also from the University of Chicago.) As always, Fausto Fernos and Marc Felion of the Feast of Fun will host the proceedings, and will be recording the event for a podcast.

Doors open for nibbles at 6:00p, program begins promptly at 7p. The event is FREE, but RSVP's are required. Please RSVP today. Click here to RSVP.

(Usual disclaimer applies, with emphasis: The suggestions on this blog are just that “SUGGESTIONS.” My words cannot heal your pain and or addictions. Nor can I change your life. Only you can.)

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If you are not sure how to begin your work-in or need some guidance please feel free to post a comment or email me directly at, I will response as soon as I can.
“We can overcome if we change the way we See: See ourselves, See our past, See our possibilities.” Daniel Beaty -Emergence See-

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this piece. Thank you for shedding some light on how vast and intricate true intimacy really. Understanding that intimacy can take many forms allows to release some of the pressure (no pun intended) around sexual intimacy and eventually, make sexual intimacy easier to achieve.