The Velvet Rage : Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, Paperback Book

The Velvet Rage : Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Today's gay man enjoys unprecedented, hard-won social acceptance.

Despite this victory, however, serious problems still exist.

Substance abuse, depression, suicide, and sex addiction among gay men are at an all-time high, causing many to ask,"Are we really better off?" Drawing on contemporary research, psychologist Alan Downs's own struggle with shame and anger, and stories from his patients, The Velvet Rage passionately describes the stages of a gay man's journey out of shame and offers practical and inspired strategies to stop the cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behaviour.

Updated to reflect the effects of the many recent social, cultural, and political changes, The Velvet Rage is an empowering book that has already changed the public discourse on gay culture and helped shape the identity of an entire generation of gay men.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272 pages
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Gay studies (Gay men)
  • ISBN: 9780738215679



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Review by

As self-help books go (and I will admit that I am not a fan of the genre), The Velvet Rage is actually quite good. The problematic issue with many self-help books is that the underlying philosophy (or approach, or methodology, or treatment, etc.) is based on the assumption that everyone who reads the book is suffering with or struggling with the same condition (e.g., obesity, addiction, unhealthy relationship). This kind of essentializing or pathologizing of a condition usually results in overly generic (i.e., pretty much useless) strategies for correcting the condition. This book, however, is based on a more solid foundation—the belief that most gay men face similar challenges during the course of their development. These challenges result in deep-seated shame that often precludes any ability to maintain healthy, loving adult relationships with other men. And on this point, Dr. Downs pretty much gets it right.I recognized more of myself than I care to admit in Downs’ descriptions of men crippled by a shame that dooms any attempt at a loving relationship with another man. The book is therapeutic and enlightening without being overly patronizing. In other words, Downs explains how and why our contemporary culture (20th century America, to be exact) makes it well-nigh impossible for a gay man to grow up as a healthy, self-actualized person, yet he does not excuse any of us for our failure to overcome these obstacles. He uses clear, frank language and relates anecdotes from his private practice to illustrate the various ways in which gay men sabotage their own relationships. (Unfortunately, Downs’ practice seems limited to middle-class or upper middle-class white men, so there is not much diversity within the stories he tells. We do not get, for example, a clear idea of what it might be like to grow up poor and gay or black and gay or Latino and gay or Asian and gay…). More importantly, he offers practical, specific advice for overcoming the various stages of shame many of us grew up with. Downs never explicitly draws the comparison, but the shame-redemption process he describes seems to closely parallel the coming out process in general. And for many gay men, coming out is merely the first step on the long road toward mental, emotional health and self-acceptance.

Review by

This book on gay shame has done me a world of good. While some of the examples are really broad, the meat on this book still works for me. I can see how others wouldn't see it the same way though.