Raymond L. Rigoglioso is the founder and executive director of Gay Men of Wisdom and author of Gay Men and The New Way Forward. Through his book, Ray has synthesized the body of literature that explores gay men’s nature and purpose and created a framework describing gay men’s 14 distinct gifts. I’ve spoken about a few of these gifts in previous episodes of the podcast, based on my experience being part of Ray's group.
In today’s episode I speak with Raymond L. Rigoglioso, the founder and executive director of Gay Men of Wisdom (www.gaymenofwisdom.org) and author of Gay Men and The New Way Forward (Mond Press, 2015).
Through his book, Ray synthesized the body of literature that explores gay men’s nature and purpose and created a framework describing gay men’s 14 distinct gifts. I’ve spoken at length about a few of these gifts in previous episodes of the podcast, listed below.
What began as anger when Ray came out at 19 – as a human being to express his needs, wants and feelings – has turned into a creativity. According to Ray, anger is an energy that you can use for positive or negative ends. You can turn it inward or outwards. It can consume you, but if you channel it correctly, anger can do a lot of good if you channel it into something positive and thus creative.
How we responded as gay men to the AIDS epidemic was an indication of a positive and creative response. Gay men embodied the authentic masculine traits of taking action, being bold, courageous, and taking risks like shutting down the New York Stock Exchange. The entire movement changed the FDA’s approval process for drugs, which facilitated the quick release of anti-virals.
But gay men also changed hearts and minds. Gay men and our allies created entire new systems of care. There was a lot of masculine energy that gay men channeled without violence. What’s interesting is that no one is surprised that we never did anything like bombings, nor did we shoot people up, yet we never reflect on this. It’s worth considering because this tells us a lot about who we are as gay men.
Ray asks us to consider three different levels of the masculine and feminine:
We pick up on all of the clues and cues that tell us someone else is gay – our “gaydar” – but we haven’t developed the language to describe these clues. This is what Ray has attempted to do with his program, Gay Men of Wisdom.
Magic happens when gay men gather with intention and purpose. When we remain open to each other and see who we truly are, we feel and step into a connection that defies language. Tribe is the only word that seems to define this “coming home”; that we are among our own. Tribe allows for an ecstatic communion and a continuity of our shared energy as gay men and how we express our role in society.
Ray’s work helps gay men recognize their magnificence. He wants to change the conversation gay men and society have about difference – to recognize that differences are gifts. This doesn’t just apply to gay men, this applies to all of humanity. If gay men develop a way to value our differences, we can give this gift to the rest of humanity so that we can better get along and belong together on this planet. Ray want to break down the linear hierarchy of difference and help people see difference as something that is circular.
Holding up the mirror to reflect back our gifts and to each other
Ray brings to Gay Men of Wisdom an extensive background in fundraising and writing for nonprofit organizations. In 1989, just months after he came out, he co-founded the Danbury (Connecticut) Area Gay and Lesbian Youth Group and facilitated this group for a year. Ray lives with his husband in Hudson, New York.
Gay Men and The New Way Forward is available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.
Living OUT episodes on the distinct gay male gifts: