It has been such a pleasure to chat with Richard Schemmerer of PDX ART. In the process of answering Richard’s questions, I was able to contact some places in myself that have missed my own touch. Big hug to Richard. Follow his blog!
Tell us a little bit about your self and your background upbringing?
I am the Son of a Preacher Man. I grew up all over the South in a minister’s family. We lived in Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, very traditionally. It was unquestioned that I was to save sex for marriage and to devote my life to the Church of Christ. My family was highly visible, and from the beginning of my memories, I was vigilant to protect my inner world, because I knew that things were not going to be so good for me. I was both in love with and terrified of my father. He was really stern and had high expectations of me to follow in his footsteps and to be a good religious, sports playing, Jesus-defending, cowboy hat wearing, son. It was a pretty quintessential Southern rearing—you know, I got my mouth washed out with soap for saying the word “sex.” My dad had the best intentions, I do believe this, but totally missed who I was and what I came here to do. I hid nearly everything about myself and performed a role for my family to stay safe from a lot of physical punishment.
I was pretty sure that I desired men really early on, but I had no idea what that meant for me. I was getting into cars with strangers and heading out into the county when I was fifteen, coming home and washing my mouth out with Listerine and praying that I wouldn’t die of AIDS. I had tons of shame and fear around what I was feeling inside versus what I was expected to be. Indeed, I did go on to ministry school at nineteen years old and continued to live a bifurcated life. I married a woman when I was twenty-three. That was beautiful in many ways, but not fully authentic. Together, she and I left the church and set out to explore our curiosities around sex and spirituality while our life-path evolved into polyamory with multiple male partners. It was the best arrangement I could fumble at that time in order to navigate my needs for men while preserving the love and security I felt with her. I still lived a double life and had the most difficult time coming out of the closet, because I’d been fighting so hard since I was so young to prove to myself that I wasn’t really gay. I’d been beaten up, terrorized, abused by my father and many kids at school. The last thing I wanted to do was accept that I was a “faggot.”
My spiritual curiosity eventually led me to study Anthropology at the University of Texas. It was here, too, that I hooked up with men almost daily in a public restroom known for men jerking off and fucking. Speaking of anthropology! It was here, in the restroom, that I began studying the sexuality of men connecting with men in anonymity. I held a pretty high boundary to the men out of fear and judgment. I didn’t want to be like the guys that I was encountering in the restroom. I saw wedding rings on lots of fingers. I hid my own ring in my pocket so that I wouldn’t have to be reminded of the persona that was keeping me safe. I explored so many different kinds of guys and roles in that little room at the end of a long dirty hallway. I had already been hiding most of my life, except when I was in this bathroom. The thing that really has impacted me about all of this is that while straight people were getting to go to prom and homecoming and sanctioned relational milestones in high school, having their experimentation with sex held in a celebrated way, I had since age fifteen, been in public restrooms conditioning myself sexually in the very same places that people take a shit. It really did a number on me. I had always been jealous of guys that were openly out of the closet, even though I didn’t know how to even admit that I was jealous of that.
When my wife and I decided to move to San Francisco, a big shift happened. I was suddenly able to access more personal freedom, both behaviorally and psychologically. Ways of being a “man” in the South were very limiting, I thought. And being a gay man there, even more limiting. When I was in Texas, I would look around at my friends that were gay, and I truly didn’t relate fully to the culture and community that they were forming with each other. During those days, it was easy for me to “other” them and decide that I was not like them. I was suppressing so much. When I got to SF, I was confronted with all the different archetypes running about in male bodies, and I was drawn into a serious deconstruction of myself that began with heartbreak and ended in even more heartbreak. It was so painful to be pulled from my childhood illusions and to finally contact the deeply rooted network of pain within me that I’d been numbing for as long as I could remember. In the process of coming out of the closet, I lost my wife of ten years even as a friend, and started over again at life. I had always thought in the back of my mind that if I had to come to terms with myself inside, that she’d be there with me through it, but she just couldn’t do that. She left, and that’s when I changed my name to Finn.
Who was the original Finn?
Originally, my name was Seth. I was named after Adam’s third son in the Genesis account in the Hebrew scriptures. Interestingly, Seth originally came from Set, the Egyptian god of chaos and storms. By the time I was thirty-two years old, I’d had all the chaos that I wanted and on Bart one morning, stoned and reading a book about Pan, I looked up from my book and said, “Finn.” The name Finn was connected in etymology to Pan, the god of nature, sexual concupiscence, male-mysteries in the flesh, goat horns, throbbing cock, and the quality of brightness. I had no intention before that moment to change my name, but it kind of chose me, so I said, “Ok, I’m Finn.”
Somewhere early along the way, and I can’t remember exactly when, I had started trying to be someone else, really really hard. Being me was terrifying. When I was at home, even into my teenage years, I was really watchful of my father’s moods and judgments. At any moment, I could be disciplined pretty hard, and over the silliest things. At school, I wandered around the halls and playground keeping to myself and being watchful of other boys. I was an easy and frequent target. I got stuffed into trash cans, was beaten up and ridiculed a lot for being gay long before I had a word for that. I sought refuge in my creativity. I taught myself how to play piano, I wrote a lot, I made art. I excelled at my studies and theater.
I think I’m really starting to be him again. The original Finn. I don’t think we ever really leave the child behind. He’s always here, and he’s been waiting for me to help him feel safe, and come back to him, because no one else can. I’m really tuning into him these days and listening to the wisdom of some of the oldest, most tender little parts of myself. As I align more deeply with my innermost truths and dreams, I notice all the while, the man I’ve become is intricately connected to the child I remember. He’s forgiving me for taking so long to come back and make it all ok.
What were some key moments in your life that brought you to this path?
I think, without even realizing it, being circumcised as a baby was the first severing of my sex and spirit. Here we are, born in perfection, and then edited to assimilate into a Judeo-Christian pretext. We hear all kinds of myth, from the religious to the medical, around why this still happens to baby boys, but I think the real underlying reason is because of a corrupt understanding of the Divine. I mean, the cock is the seat of a lot of psychological potential. It is the most widely imagined symbol of masculine status and power under the current Mythological administration—Patriarchy—and even more so, I think, in the gay community. In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh’s reason for the mandate of circumcision was to differentiate the Hebrew children from those of the land of Canaan. The enemy nations were doing all kinds of things that the Hebrew god was against, including a wildly expressive model of sexuality, and so the sign of the covenant was a cut dick! And we are talking about the removal of over 50,000 nerve endings. I think it’s definitely psychologically and spiritually experienced in the body as trauma, and I think that it’s one of the first times I lost trust with life. I did, however, stretch my foreskin back out through the process of restoration! It’s another way in which I’ve tried to get back to wholeness. I highly recommend it as a process and a result!
When I was nineteen, in my first year of ministry school, I was chased for hours in a car, trapped at the end of a dead-end country road and told I was going to be killed. Two large guys in a truck broke the windshield of my car and tried to get me out to bludgeon me in the woods. I narrowly escaped death that night by a few lucky strokes that involve a car chase, a 9-1-1 call, and a severe car accident at the end. Both men in the truck were hospitalized and later went to prison for “assault with a deadly weapon and intent to kill.” There is a lot more to that story, because it went on and on for hours, but that’s it in a nutshell. The cops were asking me if I was gay before I had even admitted to myself that I was gay, and the events of that night cemented my paralysis around coming out of the closet. The injury that struck me most was in my heart, because I had been a target since I was a child. This was one more time on top of everything I had been through to solidify the belief that it just wasn’t safe for me to be myself in the world. It’s taken quite a while to reverse that belief system. Currently, I work with guys a lot that have experienced similar, or worse, and it breaks my heart. I love being a space for men to experience compassion around the truth of our lives and journeys. I truly believe that being ourselves in today’s social climate is, in-and-of-itself, a political act.
Years later, I’ve been looking into the heart of all of this darkness, how it resides in us all, the shadow in myself, and how it gets splattered all over everyone in the form of judgment, fear, hatred. I have been learning to love everything that it took to get me to this place today. I’ve had a lot of help along the way from teachers, writers like Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Robert Johnson, Jean Bolen, Ether Perel, Jack Morin, and so many others, to understand the workings of the psyche, of love and relationships, and of the Erotic. I believe my path chose me, rather than me choosing it.
Coming out of the closet was probably the most humbling event of my life. It was, at once, liberating and debilitating—the experience of realizing deeply that I, myself, could not be trusted. I had been lying to myself since I was old enough to lie, and understandably so, but it was an enormous ongoing process to integrate. I don’t think of coming out of the closet as a single event. It goes on and on and changes information, and it becomes evolution. I didn’t realize to what degree I had been affected by shame, my sexual conditioning around anonymous sex, my personal inhibitions that I’d never fully named, etc. It wasn’t until I met my current partner a few years ago, and fell in love, did all of this shit start resurfacing. I had to deal with the residue of my life experience to be able to continue in that relationship.
One day, he was fucking me, the weight of his body driving me into the bed, holding me down, securely fastening me to the experience while my untethered emotions raced for continuity, a finish line, a story that could keep the moment alive, contained, permanent. I wanted him to fuck into me a sense of self-love, but he couldn’t do that. The shame I was feeling in that moment, for just being truly seen was so confusing. It’s what I had wanted my entire life—to feel loved, desired, and fucked in both my body and heart. I had been fucked so many times before, but not like this, because I was starting to really let him in spiritually. I couldn’t keep my boner. I had never encountered love like this, and I didn’t know how to integrate that into the parts of me that were being stuffed full of his cock. I mean, until now, I had been most available to my animal self exclusively in anonymous encounters. It was a pretty big shift, and I got into therapy—omg, I love therapy. At that point, I finally started to heal on a deeper level around the split in myself between sex and spirit. As I grew, I began asking other gay guys about their experiences and quickly found that not many people wanted to talk about this kind of stuff. I think that our gay culture is set up in such a way that these kinds of inquiries are tough to get to. I’m doing my best to contribute to our culture by having these kinds of conversations and holding space for my brothers and sisters who are looking to connect over these themes.
When did you start teaching and what is the drive behind it?
I started teaching when I was really young. Both my mom and dad really wanted me to be a teacher. When I was in junior high, my dad held a weekly training course at church called the Young Men’s Training Class to groom us into leaders—preachers, deacons, and elders. We had these little black books that were topically arranged into major doctrines of the church and corresponding bible verses. We had to memorize large chunks of biblical scripture and recite them in class each week. As we went along, we all took turns leading Wednesday night services for the whole congregation. It was when I really started standing out, I think, in my ability to organize thoughts and speak in public. It was also when I truly had my father’s attention. I was very aware of that. He was really proud of me and helped me craft sermons that I went on to deliver as I grew older.
Around the same time, at school, I was getting into public speaking, theater and debate. My dad also really got into my speeches. He had me reading stuff—in 9th grade—like Rush Limbaugh, LOL. Here I was in my freshman speech class, lost as could be, delivering speeches about the sin of abortion. I look back on those days with a lot of compassion. I so loved, and still do, taking symbolic ideas and developing ways to communicate them for people. I continued to excel in competitive speech and debate. I loved competitions. I’d have with me a file holder stuffed full of current media clippings and articles. Each competitor would draw a topic out of a hat, have thirty minutes to take a formal position on the topic, dig for supporting evidence in our files, and deliver a speech about it for a score. I was winning, and feeling like I finally had a “thing” that I was good at, since I totally sucked at sports and mostly tried to fly under the radar at school.
Ministry school was an extension of all this and a way for me to continue developing my toolkit. I even outlined the Bible, word for word, can you imagine? It was both wonderful and horrible. Wonderful, in that, I continued to grow as a teacher, speaking regularly in front of a number of participating churches. I didn’t consider it big a deal to speak to a gathering of four or five hundred people. I loved it! This was all horrible, too, because the excellence that I was enjoying required that I continue to divide myself into little pieces on the inside, living a double life. It was a trade-off. I was preaching every Sunday until I was twenty-four, and married, and at the same time, getting fucked in public restrooms by strangers and walking away like nothing had happened. I just truly didn’t know how to make sense of this. I’d leave the restroom at the University of Texas smelling like some guys dick and would go “back to life.”
Years later, when this division eventually caught up with me, I was finally able to begin my own quest for spiritual meaning. One of the deepest pains that I have felt was a sense of shame around leading and teaching. I didn’t know how to make sense of the fact that I did, indeed, love teaching, preaching and ministering. At the same time, I had to throw it all away. It took many years to come back around to teaching. This time around, my message is not something that has been handed to me. I’m sharing my own life and my experiences—not a story about a savior god to believe in. I’m trying to help guys be their own fathers, gods, and saviors. I have been utterly galvanized by the pain that I’ve endured as a gay man trying to understand the Cosmos, sex, and the intersection of these themes, both in and out of the context of relationship. So I guess, I’d say that my “drive” behind teaching is healing—my own and for all of us.
What does it mean to you to be born gay?
I think that there are a couple ways to look at that. For one, being born with an innate love and desire for men, and I know for a fact that I was born this way. I remember being turned on when I was in kindergarten and first grade by boys. There was a sexy high school boy at church that would let me ride his back like he was a pony, and I was maybe six or seven years old. I distinctly remember the feeling of blood flow to my cock. Sometimes, I’d have to shower with my dad, and I was fascinated by his cock. I loved seeing it. There were so many incidences as a child when I felt aroused by my friends wrestling around. I carried a perpetual sense of longing for those boys.
But beneath the layer of desire, I think that there’s also an inherent longing that fuels it—for everyone. In that sense, the “longing” is what turns desire into a “feeling” that we experience bodily. I was longing for my father’s love. I was longing to be accepted by other boys. I was longing for the love of the Father—metaphorically speaking.
So for me, being born gay has now morphed into being born with a spiritual identity—a mission, we could say, to help bring balance to the collective psyche around the Feminine. Gay men, queer men, and trans men are both blessed and cursed with holding more of the shadow of the Feminine for all men. And even all this is changing shape in the mythic field as trans people, two spirits, and so on, are more visible and are helping to change the domains of thought, experience, and expression around gender. I’m still learning so much about all of these different ways of being. Even straight men are not exempt from the inquiry. While they may be able to project onto their female partners what the rest of us are struggling with to be accepted culturally, that doesn’t mean that all of this is a “gay” issue. It just means, I believe, that here we are, us gays, bearing the cross for those of us who cannot or will not bring balance and reverence to the spectrum of human experience. So, I definitely think that I was born to be involved in this balancing act that we are experiencing. I hope that anyone reading this might also feel ignited and consider, or maybe even, recast, their genders and orientations as such—a mission to bring light to shadow.
What divides us from our state of happiness?
So many things—trauma, numbness, fear, believing that we are separate from others for whatever convenient reason we might be using to prop up our own egos. We often try to selectively mute the emotions and experiences that have totally sucked for us. We can’t just cut off the stuff that hurts and expect to feel anything else, especially joy. Shadow defines light. Anything that we’ve stuffed into the shadow bag that we drag around with us will come back and haunt us, and we can’t control that. If you think you can just shut that off, try and stop it from clanging around in your head when you’re on a date, or having sex with someone who really, really knows you. I’m not talking about a one-off, or a hookup that we can curate. I mean a deeply vulnerable experience—the kind that shows you all the shit you’ve been telling yourself. If we don’t have a way to really hold that and make it ok, it can be a really debilitating experience.
One of my favorite writers, Joseph Campbell, says that “love is the burning point of life.” I think he’s referring to love being the whole point of life—loving as big as we possibly can. Without it, life withers away and has no meaning. But to love fully, we necessarily have to acknowledge the pain that we have, that others have, that exists by default—for living, loving, and losing. We live in a time where it’s easy to try and avoid any kind of pain and at any expense. When we do this, we also shut off our capacity to feel alive, vibrant and creative.
Where does one start? The wounds that we carry also contain the medicine and the wellspring of joy that we are looking for. At some point, we have to stop looking for power in others instead of within our own selves. This power comes through when we make the conscious agreement to hold our entire experience with compassion. This allows us to live from a place of full honesty. To me, that’s where happiness begins.
What are your basic spiritual beliefs?
I think of spirituality as the art of paying attention—asking questions and learning. To me, it’s a lot more simple than we often think. I don’t think that spirituality is something “out there,” to be found. I mean, if you can’t get it simply passing someone on the street, then you won’t necessarily find it in any kind of formally accepted pathway.
For instance, when we walk by someone on the street, we might size them up immediately. Maybe we decide unconsciously that someone is beneath us for whatever reason—maybe they are homeless, maybe they are not beautiful, maybe they remind us of something painful in ourselves. On the other hand, maybe we pass someone that we imagine might have something that we don’t have. Maybe I think he’s more handsome than me. Maybe he has a job that I think gives him power. Maybe I imagine that he has the perfect body or the perfect cock. We tend to treat people like this with privilege without even realizing it; these are all ways that we claw at each other for power, in the places we fear that we, ourselves, are lacking. Or, we relegate someone immediately to the “beneath us” category. It’s totally not on purpose, and it happens because we have been cut off from our own senses of self-authority. Ironically, maybe we even do this when we are on the way to yoga or meditation or church! I can attest that this happens, haha. I mean, there are a lot of places that we can go physically or geographically to feel like we are being spiritual, but when we walk out the door, are we really a liar? I say this in a flippant way, because we might think, “oh, god, I’m not a liar!!” But, I laugh to myself when I catch myself being a little liar sometimes—when I hear judgment start to cloud my view of someone. It’s a constant monitoring to hear what’s going on in my head and sort it out mindfully. I can be a total asshole, but I have to keep a sense of humor about that. A spiritual asshole, if you will, haha.
I do think that spirituality starts and ends with being honest with one’s self, whatever that may be for someone. For me, I’m intensely focused on integrating parts of myself that have been banished from my conscious awareness because of shame, or my desire for approval, or whatever. It’s about seeking wholeness, and in the process, accepting the wholeness of others, of the world in all of its beauty and terror. I think that this is the only way that we can begin practicing compassion and understanding—literally seeing any being that we pass by as an embodiment of divinity, no matter what the outside looks like. So we have to “snap out of it,” so to speak, and be present with our motives and choices.
I’m definitely NOT in the “fuck organized religion” camp. People are so quick to say that. I completely understand the sentiment, though I think it’s coming from a place of deep pain, because we have all been recipients of emotional and spiritual abuse. As soon as we are told that we’re not good enough because of who we are, we are cut, but I don’t think that religion is solely to blame for that. I believe that religion is, indeed, a vehicle by which a great number of people who often are not in deep personal inquiry gain a lot of momentum and access to some kind of power. At the same time, I know many deeply religious people who are brilliant lights and who are doing amazing work on the planet. I think that we do need to revise how we orient psychologically to religion, meaning, the answers are not born of current religious teaching. Instead, I think that we are all active myth-makers who could, if we wanted, create religious institutions that are founded on inclusion and connection. I’m not talking about making a new church as much as I’m talking about really breaking down our needs as people, as culture, as a world, and deciding where and how we can connect. What values can we find over which to align? From that place, we can, and I think, should organize together. To me, religion is no different than a big paycheck, a big dick, a big intellect, whatever. If you’re hiding from yourself, you’re hiding, and that’s that, as far as I’m concerned.
To this point, I think that a lot of ideas that we cling to are the result of cultural mythologies that go unquestioned. The dominant Christian myth has been forced into a literal story that one has to believe in order to be in God’s favor. When we make any myth literal, we absolutely kill the meaning of the metaphor. To me, myths are symbolic ways to communicate about universal human conditions and questions. I believe that it’s time for us to create new stories and attempts to explain our experiences in the shape of new archetypes. For me, the palate of religious symbol I inherited was about cutting off parts of myself and others—even my foreskin!
I love the myth of Osiris and Isis! It’s a way that I have symbolized the reclaiming of lost parts. The story is quite long, but in a nutshell, Osirus (the Jesus archetype from ancient Egypt) is murdered by his envious brother, as quite often happens in myth. His body is severed into pieces and scattered about the land. In deep mourning, Isis, the Divine Feminine goes about finding each and every piece of him. There are several versions of this story, but here’s my very favorite rendition. One by one, she finds all of his lost parts. The one piece that she just can’t find is his cock, because it was eaten by a fish in the river. So, she crafts a phallus from gold and mud and literally fucks him back to life. Isn’t that amazing? Now, I don’t go around insisting that this story actually happened, because to do so would be irrelevant to the enormous potential here. For one example, gay men are often terrified of the Feminine. It’s what has made us big targets, BUT she (the collective of all the parts of our psyches that we tend to project onto to cisgendered women) is what brings the dead savior god back to life. Wouldn’t that change the way we see women if we were to have a mythic understanding like that?
One of my teachers really drilled into me this concept: “the map is not the territory.” So if we are hung up on our particular version of how we, personally or collectively, describe the Mystery, then we are really only quibbling over the map, because the spiritual journey is experience. I don’t think it’s about arriving at answers as much as it’s about letting go of them, maybe.
A city like San Francisco, for instance, has many possibilities for travel around the city. If you take public transit, you have options like Bart, Muni, both buses and trains. Then you have Lyft and Uber, who are using GPS to get around. You have bikes, cars, etc. The destinations in town do not change. It’s the transportation network that uses different routes, official each-and-every-one of them. I think religion can be like that. One may choose to travel around the nature of reality in one particular way. However, to go on foot, to turn off your phone and head off without a clue—that’s what it’s like to go off on one’s own. Then we may get lost, but we ask a passerby, someone we trust. These are guides that we encounter by chance—someone that we meet at a street corner that may start a life-changing process for us, and so on. If we trust ourselves to discover what we may about ourselves and life, the potential is limited only by our imaginations. I really think I’m holding myself accountable these days in this way. Although, I sometimes need to check in with a map again when I get stumped. So, we align with our truths and we end up where we do.
Sometimes frameworks can be really helpful to help us organize our experiences of reality, but if you think that Jesus and the Devil are enemies, then I believe you are missing a very big point.
What is authentic sex for gay men about and what is the difference?
I think there’s a huge difference. There’s friction, and then there’s expression. I think that it’s really important to recognize that you can walk into an archetype for the night, have a great time, be whoever you think you are for that moment, and then walk out of it again. I think we can get trapped when we think we are the literal embodiment of an archetype. We are at that point, possessed. I have to really watch that in myself when I’m teaching. As soon as I start making it about personal validation, I loose people. I have to stay true to the “facilitator” role, unattached to the outcome.
When it comes to sex, there’s a quite a big hustle for power in the gay community—who has it, who deserves it, how to work it out of a man. I think that we can move to a place like San Francisco and explore the limits of our personal freedoms, but in the process, we have to let go of the illusions at some point, or we crash and burn. I’m sure we can all connect over that. I was just talking to a colleague over lunch yesterday, and he was telling me about an article that he had read reporting about gay guys and the chem-sex phenomenon. One man involved in a fantasy about being used as a cum dump was literally left for dead in a trash bin in an alley. It’s heartbreaking, I think, that he was not able to just walk in and out of the fantasy. I don’t believe this man really understood what was underneath that fantasy and why he wanted it. Or I think the story would have been quite different. To me, there’s an obvious core wound there about worthiness.
Often our fantasies contain such powerful information about our emotional needs. When we have peak experiences, it is because we are lined up in just such a way that our inner most truths are being expressed. If you want to know what’s going on within ourselves at a root level—just look at our fantasies. They contain very unique psychological codes as well as universal patterns that reflect our enculturation. The problem with inheriting a handful of commonly active archetypes in the community from which to choose is that it leaves us without a diverse symbolic way to express all parts of ourselves uniquely. In other words, I’m left to circumstance. I could only be submissive with a stronger, older, or bigger man. Or, I could only be truly attracted to a muscular physique. These are some of the dominant reigning expressions in gay culture.
Now, there are definitely reactions against all this, and many subsets of the queer scene are exploring all kinds of kink, different roles, different gender configurations, etc. But these open channels are not readily available to men all over the world. Most of our global gay/queer psycho-sexual expression is relegated to the shadow and experienced unconsciously or vicariously through porn. So many men risk their lives to be openly gay all over the place.
So, the idea of authenticity is to be one’s own true expression of one’s innermost self. That means to find out what really turns us on, cultivate our abilities to express those desires. We expand our sense of beauty beyond the stereotypically indexed roles and norms enacted within the gay “scene.” When we cultivate our abilities to know and understand the symbolic nature of our fantasies, our desires, and experience ourselves embodying them, we align with much more than the mere superficial craving to “get off” and be validated. We enter into the realm of the ecstatic. It then affects all areas of our lives. That’s where I’m leaning into these days. The full story in my head—even the parts that I would rather not deal with. It’s quite the challenge, but so rewarding for me.
How did you get connected with Davey Wavey and how did you collaborate?
I had followed him on youtube for a while, and I always really appreciated his candor and the shock value that he flirts with. I didn’t realize at the time that he was also a religiously raised boy, but I believe that I did see something in him that I really resonated with on a spiritual level, too. Suddenly, I saw him as a fellow minister, of sorts. After seeing an advertisement for himeros.tv, I messaged him to express my gratitude for his work and my desire to connect with him someday if fates allowed. I’ve messaged quite a few people in my field in a similar way, and not always do people respond. To my surprise, he messaged me back rather quickly. He had seen my website and asked me for a phone chat, and we hit it off. After that, we collaborated on some films, and that led to the podcast, and now here we are. I’m working on content again with him currently to be filmed later this fall. This time around, I’m am excited to be helping, in-person, to create the content on set, as well.
What’s to process about that leads to greater sexual truth?
I think that one has to start asking, What am I really truly saying to myself on the inside? We can’t do enough drugs to circumvent the reality that lives in our heads. We can’t get fucked enough to fill our soul’s longing to heal the deep fissure that remains when sex and spirit are severed within us. Along my way, I have gone about sex in all the ways that I was instructed by porn, the playground, religion—denial about my deepest fantasies, attempts to be someone I’m not, having sex because I needed some kind of proof that I was desirable, worthy, lovable. I think we spend so much of our time trying to prove to ourselves that we are fuckable (lovable). When that starts to clear some, we get out of our own ways; we can express who we are with a sense of aliveness that can only come from the soul.
The Erotic is so much bigger than sex. We have learned that sex is in a little box outside of our actual lives. On the other hand, we create and wear our sexual identities in order to organize our psycho-sexual realities and to facilitate connection. But the Erotic touches our core beliefs and, at the same time, directs us towards the places where we need deep healing. Sex is only a piece of that. In other words, the way I show up at work affects how I show up in friendships affects how I show up in a fuck, and so on. It’s all connected. When I started to get that, I started to let go of my inhibitions more. I stopped seeking the same old ways of having sex and connecting. I realized that I was using sexual approval as a stand-in for an authentic sense of self esteem. I started to get curious about how I could feel so powerful in some areas of my life, and then, if I got really honest with myself, could at the same time feel so fragile in my ability to feel safe and connected during sex. And that sucks, because we are so pressured to feel like sex-gods. Enter in the role of substances, hookups, and fantasy. These are avenues that can literally force our hands when it comes to connecting to the latent archetypes that we hold within. However, I think that in these scenarios we often aren’t aware of what’s happening beneath the surface. I might think I’m having a really hot fuck, but instead, I’m attempting to get my dad’s approval all over again. It’s just how it goes until we ask what’s going on. When we are having sex with someone that knows us very intimately—especially in the ways that make me NOT AT ALL a sex god, we can’t get around that. We can’t hide in the face of love, and that’s really tough, since we’ve all been treated like we don’t deserve a bit of love for who we are. But if we attend to the parts that are hurting in our shadows, we can then bring them to our present experiences with us. A healing occurs, and so much energy is unlocked within us!
What is SexCrafting and what is it dealing with?
Matt Sturm and I created the San Francisco based group Queer Connect. We host and teach a series of courses, intimate touch gatherings, and workshops called SexCrafting. This title suggests the idea of crafting, making an intentional use of this potent energy, the Erotic. It’s about really looking at sex and relationship as a self-study, including the parts that have been historically scary to look at. Intimacy, desire, and healing are three pillars around which we organize the structure and content of our courses.
Queer Connect is a community as well as our brand. We meet every month and teach around these concepts, utilizing somatic exercises in varying levels of emotional intensity to help guys learn how to get in touch with their authentic desires and how to express them with partners and/or purely sexual connections. We have a lot of guys coming that are feeling kind of lost as they look for an authentic way to express sexually out there. We, along with the community, are attempting to inspire guys to heal and become active creators and myth-makers in the world of gay sex.
Is polyamory the future of human sexual interactions?
You know, I think that a lot of pressure exists out there to conform to a polyamorous ideal. Especially in the gay community, there is a lot of pain about and reaction to the monolithic model of monogamy. To be sure, we have suffered as a result of the monogamous assumption. That doesn’t mean that monogamy, in-and-of-itself, is suspect. I think it means that the underlying issues within us, monogamy can’t really deal with even though it promises to. It promises to keep us safe and secure, when it can’t. In my opinion, any institution must be questioned in its claims at legitimacy by fiat. I believe that everyone is unique and gets needs for sex and intimacy met in different ways. It’s not a “fix-all,” to pick a new title and act accordingly. That’s what it seems like, that you go down the path of monogamy and a heteronormative replay, or you go the way of poly/open. For a lot of guys, it seems like monogamy equals death of the Erotic and poly offers the fountain of youth. I don’t think it’s that simple, and I think there’s a huge misconception about poly life—that it fixes the woes of monogamy.
To me, I think that there is a sacred way to hold ALL types of relationships and a shitty way to be in all of them, too. If you suck at monogamy because of any number of issues like poor communication, lack of personal containment, lack of integrity, or struggles to be open with yourself and your partner about your real desires, then poly life is not in any way going to fix that. It might bring these issues into the focus more rapidly, but in-and-of-itself, it’s just another label. People are always people and will continue to engage with the struggles of relationship(s) with whatever level of self-awareness and skillsets that they bring in to the relationship.
So, it’s tricky. Personally, I have been in open relationships and poly relationships, and I was absolutely a horrible partner in them all. I lied all the time. I broke boundaries that I, myself, created. I’ve never been monogamous until now. It’s a choice that I’ve made. But even that is flexible and in constant revision. My partner and I are always fantasizing with each other what we might or might not ever do with other guys. For the moment, that’s really hot and satisfying for us both. We are enjoying the connection that we share and are fleshing it out, if you will.
Will it be forever? That’s irrelevant, because I’m in service now to my deepest needs, those of my partner and our connection. We’re total sluts with each other. I’m absolutely having a raging affair with him sometimes. Sometimes it’s stale and we get stuck, but if I hadn’t made this choice for the moment, to hold this container that I have around us, then I wouldn’t have been able to look at and work through some of my conditioning around shame. There have definitely been times when I have wanted to go outside and attain a specific sexual transaction that maybe at that time was challenging with him to achieve between us. But by slowing down and waiting, I’ve been able to free myself from these constraints considerably—not 100 percent, but a lot! I think he’s had his own version of that dynamic and has also worked through some inhibitions with me. I’d love it if more guys out there would trust their guts and move slowly if that’s what they want. On the other hand, I do know people that are poly and wildly successful at it.
Again, I think we need not outsource authority to a particular label or relationship style. When we pick a label, we also often choose a subsequent way of being. I’m in favor of sculpting custom relationships around the personal and collective needs within it. That’s true intimacy, to me. It also puts the ownership on the couples, themselves, to clarify their desires and communicate about them—a practice that could really facilitate a workable poly life or monogamous one. I think even the language around relationship should change. The opposite of “open” is “closed.” Well, I don’t want to be closed, and neither do I want to coach people to be “closed.” I do, however, want to encourage people to figure out what it is that really makes them hot and then to make space for that with their partner(s). My partner and I are exploring through group workshops and love-making rituals that include other people. So what does that make us? I can’t really answer the question are you poly or monogamous.
Has monogamy still a realistic chance to survive in contemporary gay culture?
I believe that unquestioned monogamy, as an reining institution must be questioned. It’s a continuum, anyway. It’s not necessarily sexual-exclusivity that makes one monogamous. I mean, people have all sorts of definitions about what makes an exchange count as “infidelity.” If we get really honest with ourselves about what needs and desires we are getting from sources outside our relationships—friends, acquaintances, exchanges online, secret fantasies, then we have much more gray area to navigate. Each couple needs to sort out what that means for themselves. Sexual exclusivity and monogamy are not “fixed,” and every couple must negotiate between themselves what feels good, where to keep the boundaries, where to stretch, etc. We naturally undulate, depending on what else is going on in our lives besides sex, between desire for more people or the desire for less. Sometimes, I couldn’t imagine being with anyone but my partner. At others, I want multiple people throughout the day. We don’t have to choose a banner and fly a flag. We really can negotiate about our inner realities.
When it comes to the collective gay community and its attitudes about monogamy, I do think that there’s a lot of power reflected in the idea of reactive permission, for permission sake. When we have been told that we can’t do something, even have had our very lives threatened for our sex, then I think that we can really benefit from the freedom we acquire in saying “yes” to an experience. I think it’s really hot to a lot of us to break rules and be rebells. But I think that there’s also an edge to personal freedom. We’ve all seen that repeatedly, the crash and burn, and that, too, is a hallmark of contemporary gay culture. So, I think that what we need to do is really break down what all this means to us, the sex, the permission, what we’re looking for underneath it all. I wholeheartedly believe that we are all trying to heal in the deepest shadowy places within ourselves—sex and spirit. I think that all of our relationships, both open and otherwise benefit when we clarify our needs, wants, and desires, and connect over our journeys to the here-and-now, not solely connecting over our love of fucking men.
What are the principles of ‘tapas’ and ‘spanda’?
These are terms from Tantra that refer to the process of creating awareness through sex. “Tapas” refers to the container that one sets, out of intention, and “spanda” is the emergent life force that comes through. One can take these principles as simple metaphors, as well as guiding principles for life. For example, I can set a container in a variety of ways. Maybe my partner and I decide not to cum for a set amount of time for a particular intention—the tapas. During the time when we are holding back our ejaculations, we often have very creative sex, the spanda that we may not access if we had just shot our loads and went back to work. When we goal-orient like that, and if, in the process we lose presence, we lose life force in the experience as a result. So making fun little “containers” for our sexual experiences can get us out of playing familiar roles, having stale sex, and into the art of intention.
What does love mean to you?
I like to think of love like a rock falling into a pond. You see the original splash, and then you see the ripples moving in concentric circles away from the center. In this sense, love starts with the self and moves outward. I can’t fully love anyone else until I love myself, bringing empathy, acceptance, forgiveness to me, first. I think love is very different from the high that I feel during connection with someone, the oxytocin dump that floods the body—that’s just the sensation that we feel when we are connected, safe, and feeling happy. We can get that feeling from sex, cuddling, a good hug, a deep eye gaze—anything that helps us connect more deeply with our own selves. That feeling of connection is a guide inward where choices are made. To me, love is the idea of wholeness within myself, or what mystics might call union with the Divine. When I was in church, they used to say that love is really a verb. I still like that concept, and it ripples out person to person.
What can you say about healing the feminine?
I could go on about this for a while, because it’s so “up” for me in my own personal growth right now. I have carried a lot of shame for what my culture has deemed feminine in me. I mean, here’s how deeply affected we can be. My partner and I were reading a very emotionally impacting conclusion to a book that we’d been reading together over this summer, The Song of Achilles, a beautiful gay love story between Achilles and his lover Patroclas. When I got to the last few pages, I could hardly read out loud to him, I was getting so choked up with tears. I felt shame for letting him see how affected I was by this story. The story was touching on some very deep vulnerabilities within me, so to let it show was very difficult. I looked up, and he was crying with me. It was a powerful healing moment for us. I love him so much.
Queer people are carrying, as I mentioned, a greater share of these traits in the visible sphere, and hence, we’ve been beaten up and tortured a lot for these traits—even ones like compassion and sensitivity. These are basic human characteristics, but they don’t have a rightful place in the mythic American male. So reconditioning ourselves on all levels is what I’m suggesting. This goes so much further than simply moving to a city where I am safe to date men. It’s inside of our heads. It’s been absorbed even at a cellular level.
One day, I was sitting outside the gym getting ready to go inside and “butch up” my body, haha. I was meditating and had an embodied experience of some of the more female parts of my psyche. I call the collection of some of these energies Heather, my pretty southern girl. She is beautiful and knows it, because she gets her way a lot, but she’s terrified to lose it, and knows that there’s not a lot beneath her looks. She’s a collection of more of my disempowered pieces, too. She is awfully concerned with keeping her body perfect so that her man will never leave her. I was terrified to let her in a bit more, to give her permission to have my body for a moment, to let her go into that gym in the Castro and lead my workout, haha. I decided to let her have her way, and I strolled into the gym to see all the boys moving their bodies in strict lines and angles—very masculine blueprints. I’d been working out my whole life to turn my body into an image that promises me that I might one day be safe from the abuse that I’ve suffered to this point. I mean, we’ve been eating this up since we were all little boys. All you have to do is look at the fantasy record to see what kind of man “deserves” our collective worship. What happened that day was a release that I had needed for so long. Heather laughed at me; she can be a real bitch. She chided me for being so blind and afraid of letting go of what my body may never be—the guy on the posters in the Castro. Instead, I let her lead me into a deeper sense of authentic masculinity, a kind of playful masculinity that is not merely crafted as an effort to suppress her.
Of course, I think that this touches us all on some level. Gay men are statistically using steroids much more than straight men. There is so much body hate and shame to wrap our minds around. To gay men, beauty holds a high position on the altar of our beings. There is a power there, to be sure, but it is only fleeting and tenuous. There are a lot of really beautiful gay men that I wouldn’t fuck, because there can also be a corresponding lack of depth.
Having been formerly married to a woman, I have experienced seeing my illusions around femininity projected onto my wife, and, consequently, shattered. I was so misguided. I demanded, overtly and covertly, that she look a certain way, maintain a certain weight, wear the right heels—be the perfect proof on my arm that I was, indeed, a “real” man. A lot of gay guys think that they are just fine with the feminine because they love a diva in heels and high fashion. They don’t necessarily know that they are blindly walking into a fantasy of a straight man’s fantasy of a woman. It’s very indirect. There’s certainly no place for the “mother” in all of that. The same guys turn around and say “pussy is gross,” or shame another guy for being a bottom. To me, it’s so much bigger than who we want to fuck. I think it has to do with moms, our fear of them, anger with them, lack of understanding of the Divine Feminine, too. I mean, look at politics—wounded little boys playing tag-the-fag around the globe.
So this is why I choose the path of healing and sharing my gifts with people in the ways that I do. Some people are really good at politics and fighting the good fight, organizing and protesting, getting things done like that. For me, I’m doing the best that I can to do my part by helping myself and other guys admit that they think that they are, themselves, “pussies” and that it’s ok to be scared. Being a fag or queer has been for centuries both a political act and a spiritual statement.
What are the tools you suggest to create greater intimacy?
I think, first and foremost, a context of healing is essential for intimacy. We can’t just edit out the parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of and expect to feel fulfilled. For me, a creative way to play with the archetypes and patterns in my being has been to create a “cast of characters,” literal characters within myself that comprise the whole of “Finn.” Heather is one of the energies that helps me get my life accomplished.
Until we really start honing in on the competing parts of ourselves, we can feel like we’re ping-ponging about, looking for meaning and sabotaging ourselves on all fronts. This is because some parts of us are very wise and some are very young and replaying trauma. When we open up with love to our full self and experience, we have intimacy with ourselves. It’s at that point, that we can start to share authentically with others. There are so many ways to do this. I practice mindfulness whenever I can. If I catch myself checking out, I try to come back to full presence. This can be done over the simplest of transactions—even buying a cup of coffee. It’s staying open to our full experience and to that of another. I go to yoga. I mediate off and on. I work out five to seven times a week. These are all very important times for me to care for myself and be “with” all the characters showing up in my drama for the day. I also think that therapy is amazing, if available. I’ve been able to have a couple years of therapy, and without it, I’m not sure how I would have contacted a lot and been able to truly hold it.
In a nutshell, if I have advice here, it would be to go towards the experience of yourself that’s wanting to emerge. That’s trusting your gut and moving into what’s being asked of you and holding what comes up in the process. You might have to have some help holding, and that’s what groups like Queer Connect are for. There are literally so many tools out there, so many groups that are willing to specialize around whatever vulnerability one might have, so go looking for yourself reflected in others, whatever that may be! Go to finndeerhart.com! haha, I have to do some of that, you know.
You are involved in Himeros.tv– what’s the intent?
My involvement with himeros.tv has been an organic process. It has served as an opportunity for me to hone in more specifically on the areas in myself that I want to express through the medium of film. I think Davey is an excellent director and producer. I’m excited to be part of an erotic expression that is questioning the paradigm and creating a healing vibe around sex and desire. I believe that the featured content leads people to question definitions around beauty, expression, ageism, racism, shame, and so much more. We are portraying sex in as many facets as possible, and I believe that is changing the thought-field of the Erotic. We’re all plugged into that. It has, on multiple occasions, inspired my partner and me, leading us towards an amazing experience or opportunity to open up with each other about deep truths as a result of watching! I think that this is what Himeros is about, and I am happy that similar experiences are happening for more guys out there, as well.
Where do you teach and how can people reach you?
I teach in San Francisco regularly and travel from time to time with some of this content. For latest information and upcoming events, or to contact me about a potential future event, message me through my website, www.finndeerhart.com.
Thank you so much for allowing me the space to share my passion. I hope that this finds your readers in a space of curiosity. We have to stick together!