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Interview with urbangay founder Stephan

Tell us a bit more about the idea behind urbangay?
Urbangay is really an invitation to pause and build an individual philosophy about your life and your sexuality. As such it is collection of different tools and ideas to help live happier and more purposeful lives for gay men. In some ways, I guess, it is about finding a positive response to the often toxic environment in which gay men live. It combines both life-coaching and sexuality skills and tools to help guys create the life and sexuality they really want: a place where they can fully live and be comfortable and happy with whom they are.

Why do you think modern gay life can be a toxic environment?
If you look at gay life, despite all the advances in gay rights, a big issue is that there are still far too few positive examples, which show how to live a happy and purposeful life, or even develop an individual, positive philosophy for yourself as a gay men. Much of the gay scene is based on competitiveness: Often, happiness is synonymous with having the most beautiful body, being young and having lots of a particular kind of sex. The more you fit that ideal, the more ‘successful’ you are assumed to be. And while that is really great for some, and interesting for a while, it can become quite shallow and unhappy as time goes by. For others, especially if you don’t fit into one of the established categories, many people who don’t fit that particular ideal feel excluded and lonely. Either way, rather than liberating, welcoming and inclusive, the quintessential gay life often makes people feel unhappy – others seek more and more ways of finding happiness and fulfilment, often self-destructive. The results can be really devastating. But the point is, they don’t have to be.

What alternatives does urbangay provide?
With urbangay I’m trying to build a community of men who want to embrace a more meaningful life together, including both life in general and their sexuality. Rather than being based on competition, appearance and material and sexual success, urbangay is based on working together and helping each other, accepting differences, encouraging finding your way in life and sex and embracing diversity. That, in a nutshell is the urbangay philosophy.
The core is about developing an individual philosophy, where you combine both happiness in life and sexuality to define who you are and who you want to be. For me, it is really important to be comfortable with whom you are first: only when you feel secure and happy with yourself can you really embrace others and different ideas. As a first step, the programs are designed to make everyone question what it is that they want to achieve in life, and how they want to express and embrace their sexuality as an important part of whom they are. Based on that, everyone develops their own models and puts them into practice. Once they have achieved that, they can then help others achieve the same.

How does the urbangay philosophy work in practice?
There are really two different, interconnected parts: life and sexuality. As for the life part, urbangay offers different tools to ‘design’ a life that you are really happy with. Something that is fulfilling and bring together different skills closely resembling traditional life-coaching ideas.
For the sexuality part, urbangay follows a similar path: the programs try to broaden the mind and let you experience and explore different types of sexuality and ideas about it. Then everyone can choose what is right for them, based on their own ideas and experiences, rather than what ‘is expected’ (or often expected to be expected!)
Both parts are then fused together. This is really important, so that every urbangay is both comfortable with the sexuality they are living and the life that they are living.

What methods does urbangay use to achieve this?
Urbangay mixes different methods or tools if you so want: the main tool is mindfulness. Mindfulness brings awareness to the feelings and emotions in us. This helps to observe and define what you want out of life and sex and see more clearly how and what is important for you, irrespective of what others tell you. So that establishes a foundation from which to grow and develop.
Apart from mindfulness, the different programs borrow other tools: for example, there is a focus on tantra as an alternative to the usual sexual paradigm. But as it is about finding your own way, nothing is prescribed, and you don’t have to become a tantra practitioner. The programs simply contain many  tools and ideas, and everyone is invited to pick and choose to establish their own mix – and share their experiences.

How is urbangay different to other programs out there?
It really depends on which programs you compare it to. In many ways, I think it complements lots of programs more than being different. Mostly it is about developing and individual philosophy for combining life and sex, rather than either one in isolation.
So, for example, there are many general life coaching and happiness programs out there, but they are never really taking account of sexual orientation, and rarely try to bring sexual expression into life as an important aspect of the individual.
Similarly, there are many really great alternative sexuality programs out there, some of whom are linked on the blog. They do fantastic work offering seminars and meetings to explore different forms of sexuality rather than the typical suck, fuck, cum idea. The difference there is that they are often based on particular philosophical or spiritual ideas (e.g. Tantra), and they are often quite focused mostly on sex, rather than bringing both sex and life together.

What about the bootcamp? Is that all that there is?
The bootcamp has just recently finished. I’m really excited about the positive feedback and many people seem to really enjoy the experience. Of course, it is more like dipping your toe into the urbangay ideas. It spends a few days on each of the points. It gives a pretty good grounding of the main ideas, and a basis from which to explore everything more in depth.
Over the next year, there will be many more programs coming up on the site, which explore individual aspects of the urbangay ‘philosophy’ if you so want. So look out for them! They will be available for free during the time they are scheduled to run. So check the website for the details!

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