Last night, twenty-five gay men gathered for the monthly TRIBE Gay Men’s Discussion group to discussion intimacy. Enthusiasm was high in the room and several discussions started on their own before the meeting even started. Maybe it was the fact that we were back from a two month break so we could attend the two Pride meetings held next door during our regular time slot. But I think it was the topic. Many regulars who have been coming for years and some brand new faces were all very eager to dive into a topic men are often accused of avoiding.
TRIBE is more of a passionate think tank than anything else. It’s decidedly not a therapy group and we do not bring in “experts” to lead the discussion. My role as facilitator (along with my co-facilitator Brendan Rome) is to offer a space where these men can transform experience into wisdom, share differing lifestyle choices as options for other men to try on, and open up to each other so they might solidify their internal dignity and confidently lead a joyful existence. That’s a tall order. Why not aim high? Time and time again these men have met the challenge. They have taken the risk of exposing their vulnerabilities, doubts, and observations. They have vigorously, but respectfully, disagreed. Over the years and particularly last night, these man have grown both individually and as a tribe.
Identifying what intimacy means was a slippery bugger to pin down. After listening and sharing a bit, I came to the conclusion that intimacy is about lowering barriers between me and the person I want to become intimate with. It’s about me making a commitment to another person to be there for them when they show me who they really are. It’s way of being in the world that can be antithetical to the Hollywood and consumer culture we find ourselves in today. But if we make a conscious decision to focus on our what we really want, it’s still possible.
What I heard, were stories of successful and failed attempts to get closer to other people, how intimacy extends to many kinds of people in our lives and not just the ones we have sex with. That in gay culture, sex can lead to intimacy, and on rarer occasions intimacy can lead to sex.
What I felt in the room was an open and honest desire to dive deeper, to honor our desire for connection and take the risks necessary to get there. With that intention was set, something wonderful happened. I had a feeling.