July 28, 2022

Queer Masculinity with Travis Stock

Travis Stock joins Jonathan and Britt for an illuminating conversation about how queer people can transcend our rigid ideas and cultural norms of masculinity, reclaim our authentic forms of expression, and just learn to appreciate, accept, and be ourselves. But most importantly they discuss all sorts of ways we can practice loving kindness in the face of cognitive dissonance, bigotry, and bias.

Join us on this wild ride, as we delve into the tough stuff and plumb the depths of our souls. You won’t want to miss it!


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Travis Stock

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Britt East

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Transcript

Jonathan [00:00:02] Welcome to Not Going Quietly the podcast where we inspire growth, beat down biases and get into all sorts of good trouble with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Britt East.

 

Britt [00:00:11] No topic is off limits as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.

 

Jonathan [00:00:19] So get ready to join us in courageous conversation because not going quietly starts right now.

 

Britt [00:00:30] Hey, welcome to another episode of Not Going Quietly, the podcast for outraged optimists and heartbroken healers all over the world, where we surface those searing truths in the name of radical togetherness. I'm your host, Britt East, with my fantabulous co-host, Jonathan Beale. Jonathan, how the hell are you today?

 

Jonathan [00:00:48] I'm good. We have some sun in the UK. Don't tell me one thing. I want to come and steal it. So I'm really good. I've recently moved. As you can see, my background is different and things are improving. How about you?

 

Britt [00:01:02] You're getting so good at that? I'm I'm really impressed. For those of you joining us for the first time, Jonathan had this horrible habit in the past of telling the truth when I would ask him how he's doing and I'm like, no, no, no, I don't care how you're doing. I just want to hear that you're fine or that you're, like you said, perfect and improving. That question has no bearing on reality. Let's keep it moving. Okay. So now now he's caught on. He's he's an honorary American, Jonathan, as he just indicated, is coming to us from Sunny UK and I'm actually in sunny Seattle, although not today. We had a glimpse of sun yesterday. Today it's back to rain. I think tomorrow things will be easing up again and get some sun. And what's really cool is our guest will introduce in a moment is also from Seattle and this is our first time meeting but so he feels our pains on it and he knows what it's like to live in the Arctic tundra. A permanent drizzle. And this year has been pretty great. So yeah, I'm really excited about today's episode. We're going to get to the heart of something that I personally, maybe even of all the topics that we've been discussing since we started this podcast way back in January, February, all the talk, this is the one that I maybe think about the most and wrestle with the most and philosophically, personally, emotionally. And so I'm really excited to pick our guest brain and get some good old fashioned experience, strength and hope and and see what we can uncover. So without further ado, let me introduce Travis. Travis Stock, MSW is a master certified life coach, Equus master facilitator and teacher. Travis helps others find what creates balance in their lives by first seeking acceptance of what it is. He utilizes the Equus experience to connect others with the often forgotten wisdom of the body, which I love that, by the way, allowing for more fully explored and developed choices in their lives so good, Travis has a passion for the balance between masculine and feminine energies in each of us, regardless of gender. And we're going to get into that and believes in the importance of nurturing a relationship with both types of energy to create a sense of wholeness. Travis brings with him interest and experience in the areas of emotions, the LGBT community, transformation of trauma and shame, interpersonal relationships, family systems, men and masculinity, and the living open heartedly. Travis Stock, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?

 

Travis [00:03:42] Thank you. It's such a pleasure to be here. As you guys were taking it off with the weather, that seems to be all we talk about is this people from the UK or from Seattle. Yeah, it's definitely back to being a gray, drizzly day, but looks like the weekend is going to be a wonderful weekend. Just in time for Pride Weekend here in Seattle.

 

Britt [00:04:04] For those of you that don't know or haven't heard me whining for the past two decades is that is always a crapshoot. It's either gorgeous or it's like depressing. 100 degrees in 100 degrees. Yeah.

 

Travis [00:04:16] So I think I think my first pride here was like 96 degrees. And we're all dying of heat out here. Yeah.

 

Britt [00:04:23] Yeah, that's true. I might have come to Seattle for this pride. It's going to be going to be gorgeous. It's going to be gorgeous. Travis, let's jump right into it. You know, as I've told you, we kind of and our listeners know, we kind of get to the heart of the matter quickly here. One of the things that I want to talk or that we both want to talk with you today is is masculinity is such a charged word in our community and probably every community you hear, it's like there are so many rejoinders that it requires. You hear about toxic masculinity, fragile masculinity, healthy masculinity, unhealthy masculinity, mediocre masculine. It's like I was always some this the word is so charged. It's like we always have to have some adjective to precede it. So people are like, Whoa, we know where you're coming from. So with that word like, how do you think of it? What is masculinity do to you? How does that term apply to queer people? Is it separate from sexual orientation, sexual culture, etc.?

 

Travis [00:05:28] Yeah, I mean, it is. Is a big topic. And I think as a culture, at least in the U.S. I can speak to, is as it where we're really looking at that conversation over the last decade in big ways with movements like Time's Up and MeToo and Black Lives Matter, we're looking at sort of the unsustainable path that we're on as men. And I like to differentiate masculinity from masculine and feminine energies to start masculinity being the social constructs that we as men are or male identifying people are asked to demonstrate and present, as it's the sort of the social rules of the game for being a man in our culture or as masculine and feminine energies. As as you read in my bio, I see them as separate from our gender. They're sort of the yin and the yang parts of us. They're the parts of us that are deeply connected to our own goals and our achievement oriented and can move directionally forward, that being the masculine and then that part of us that belongs to a community, that part of us that belongs within systems, the parts of us that care about it, care about others. That's the feminine side of things. And so I think of I think that gets confusing because we use language like masculine feminine to describe something that's outside of gender, but it really often connotations for people. The gender binary and being a queer person in the world, I think it's important to sort of highlight the difference between those things because there are community is sort of disrupting and undoing sort of the rigidity of the boxes around our gender expression and gender identity. And so I am looking for better language for how to describe that at some point in my life. That's the best I have right now. But I also think it's just important to differentiate masculine feminine from masculinity itself. And so I think that as a as a little boy growing up as a queer boy in this world, I did feel like masculinity was not I wasn't represented within it. And somehow I had failed as a man from the moment I came into the world because I'm gay. And so it felt like a topic that I wasn't a part of and that I didn't have a voice in and that I didn't didn't get to have an opinion about and didn't get to have thoughts about. So I think a lot of queer people feel that way. And then you get to see in the gay male community, at least you get to see a lot of romantic romanticization of of masculinity and setting it as the pinnacle. In some ways, it's just kind of like we were raised in a culture that set masculinity as the pinnacle for our and in the broader culture. And so we as gay boys adopt parts of that and see our value as being able to at least perform masculinity better than other people. And yet for me, it's like, wait, we already broke the rules of that where we already got to jump out of the man box. Why are we putting ourselves right back in that man box? Why don't we get to be more whole expressions of ourselves rather than the sort of limitations that masculinity puts on us from really early on? Like, boys don't cry, boys don't play with certain toys, boys don't wear certain colors. Boys don't care about the people that they are interacting with. They're just supposed to go after their goals and life. So for me, it's a big topic and it's something I'm really passionate about, is helping to evolve the conversation around masculinity. But as you said, with the whole isms that are the adjectives we use to describe masculinity, I want to do it in a way that's psychologically safe so that we can actually look at the hard stuff and and try to make some changes and create some new paths forward for us as men. That's a really.

 

Britt [00:09:09] Beautiful curious as to what psychologically safe look like looks like in terms of, you know, describing it. Because, you know, my experience as being and I can speak for the U.S. and Jonathan can speak for the UK and and you know, there's a lot of that I remember. I want to share a quick story just because I think it's pertinent. I. Growing up in a fairly liberal family, fairly forward thinking family, fairly queer, accepting family was definitely still brought up around men's men. Who. Yeah. Focused solely on one particular aspect of masculinity to define what a man should look like. And so that's what I've been really curious about in terms of psychologically safe when we're talking about breaking down so many of those stigmas, stereotypes. Yeah. How do we begin to approach the psychologically safe around masculinity in environments that are so heavily influenced by stereotypes and stigma and everything else attached to it?

 

Travis [00:10:27] Yeah, I think we really have to look at our relationship to shame as as cultures, because I think part of what makes these conversations so psychically unsafe is that there's so much shame embedded in them. There's so much who has who has masculinity and who doesn't. It's sort of a zero sum game of like, I have to take it from you in order to have it, and I have to prove that I'm more masculine than you are. So there's some shame elements to those sort of power dynamics at play out. But then even on the conversations when we're talking as a broader culture around toxic masculinity, that word of toxic already embeds a little bit of shame in there because it doesn't leave space for certain people to embody certain qualities that fit within the stereotypical norms of traditional masculinity, while also being openhearted and kind and emotionally literate human beings. And so when we immediately use accusatory language like toxic masculinity, I think there's value in that. And I don't I don't necessarily know that everybody needs to be having the same kind of conversations that I'm having. There's value in calling out bad behavior. There's value in highlighting what isn't working. For me, though, I really want to be having conversations where we're actually acknowledging what's not working, but painting a picture of where we're going forward. And in order to do that, I try to really work on removing shame from the conversations that I have that acknowledge that we're all brought up in systems. We were all top things. We are all in some ways have a wounded little boy in us that is sometimes steering in ways that we're not even conscious of and aware of. And so if I don't want to if I don't want my little boy shamed for the mistakes he makes and for the the challenges he learned growing up, I don't necessarily want to shame other men's little boys either, because I just don't know that that actually creates a ability to have a dialog and to move us forward in any real, efficient, effective way. I grew up in a family that also that was pretty accepting liberal. I grew up in a reconciling congregation of the United Methodist Church, so gays and lesbians were having commitment ceremonies performed in the church that I went to. And yet I still internalize this culture's story about my lack of my less, my lack of worth or having less worth than other men in the world. Because of the broader conversations that were going on as a sensitive little boy, I internalized a lot of those conversations. And so it's hard to even when you grow up in a really supportive family, it can still be really hard because the broader cultural conversation isn't very psychologically safe for us as queer boys to even exist or to belong. I mean, we're getting another another round of it as like sort of the Florida don't say gay bills are coming through. It's like our lives are in question again. Our rights as human beings are like just the ability to speak out about our existence is is a question again. And that's it's inevitable that we're going to internalize that. And so not embarrassed. That's an example of a not a very psychologically safe space where you don't even get to potentially exist in the lexicon. But I'm trying to go in the counter direction with removing the shame out of out of the conversation so that we can actually move forward together.

 

Britt [00:13:52] It's so beautiful. I mean, you are obviously so kindhearted and loving and I love all of the space that you create and the way that you language this and talk about it and hold space for everybody from from all walks of life. And you kind of attach it to your role as a healer and you're different. You know, you allow space for differentiated roles. Like I think of myself as more of a provocative performance artist and activist. And so the way I language this is in my day to day world is, like you said, I'm a lot different than you might be given, given your work. And I think that's really beautiful. This work requires people to have a multifaceted approach and it requires, you know, people to it to work in their their lane wherever that resonates. And I would encourage people that might be inclined to move through the world like me, to really think about what Travis is saying. I mean, what do we not want these people to heal just because society deems them, quote unquote, masculine, whatever performative treat that is? Do we not want them to to do we not see them as equal? Do we do we want to punish them? And so I think that's a really important ongoing meditation for for all provocative activists to really hold dear. And you did such a beautiful job expressing that. What I'm kind of left wondering, Travis is and you alluded to this at the beginning even and searching for a new language is why gender, anything like what is the value or utility in in it other than being efficient? I mean, I get where these labels evolved. It's part of patriarchy, but why do we cling to them and what is the value? Like calling this If we all have masculine and feminine traits, then why not call them something different that maybe is less likely to at least inadvertently participate in street supremacy in the patriarchy?

 

Travis [00:15:58] I don't know why we cling to it. I do know that I choose to utilize that language because that's where we're at now. Instead of speaking out in the future, where I hope we will get to which certain amount of people will have access to being able to envision a reality where gender is not a part of the conversation, at least as much as it is currently. I want to speak to the people that are still on that journey, and I still want to use language that's accessible that we have grown up in and understand. And so I make a conscious choice while I also want to find new language that describes where the what's ahead of us. I also value meeting people where they are, and I think we are at a place that's still pretty gendered in our conversations. And so that's a choice that I make. But I appreciate you acknowledging, like, the differences in our approaches to how we have these conversations around this, because I think both are important. I think we can all play different archetypes. There's the provocateur, the disrupters, the people that create enough noise to get the conversation visible and seen. And then there's the people in the trenches doing some of the heavy lifting, the like policy change staff, the, the, the cultural movement kind of things that are more sustainable and that are, that are following through on the initial spark of a disrupter. I think we can all play different roles in that, and that's just a role that I choose, because I notice even even in my own family of origin, who is very liberal and very left leaning in terms of politics, as soon as we start having the conversation around gender identities for people, it gets confusing. And so I it gets hard for people to access that because they've lived 60 some years, not ever having to have that conversation or never even having to think about it. And so it's just the choice that I make is to stay in that language so that I can meet people where they are and help take incremental changes towards something new.

 

Britt [00:18:03] That's really cool. Is there. Is there do you think there's like a hierarchy of of quote unquote, masculine behaviors, like it feels like in society? There's a hierarchy of bodies. In fact, that's a term that Sonja Renee Taylor coined to describe the way people are socialized and treated differently based on their appearance and abilities and physical differences, whether that's race or other types of abilities. Is there do you think there's something similar with masculinity? Is there a hierarchy within the street supremacy that we're living in, within queer culture that that praises certain masculine traits and punishes others?

 

Travis [00:18:41] I think there if I reflect on our community as a gay male community, there's definitely hierarchies of of how people present themselves, and they may even present themselves physically and in images as masculine, but then their voice is a bit more effeminate, and then it becomes a critique of that. So there's like, there's like masculine and masculine presenting and performing. Then there's masculine presenting, but not but not as masculine performing. And then there's somewhere in the middle and then there's more femme. Like there's lots of different hierarchies. But I do think there's an interesting I'm more focused on how we use the feminine, how we use femininity as the biggest judgment of each other as men, the way that we hate each other into upholding this man box in this masculinity thing that we're all supposed to perform is that we feminized men that don't. And so we call them a sissy. We call them a girl. This happens from such a young age as as little kids. We're always calling each other names that feminize each other. And that's a hazing ritual. And so it's interesting to think about what are the long term consequences that land in the subconscious when we demonize or when we make the thing that we're supposed to avoid femininity. And there's what a what about the people in this world that exist on the feminine spectrum? What like what what message does that send to them? And so while I do think that there are hierarchies, even in the masculinity piece of things, I'm still really focused on, there's a bigger wound that's present for me that is really about how one version, one type of energy being masculine is acceptable and one type is not. And that's the feminine. And I think that's something that I really keep landing in. If it feels like strong language for me to say this because I want to create space where it's not so inflamed. But I think it's actually true to say that the way that we are as boys, we as boys are raised, at least in the US culture can speak to is inherently traumatic. It asks us to divorce ourselves from pieces of ourselves so that we can perform a version of ourselves to be socially acceptable. And that's inherently traumatic to have to leave parts of yourself behind and to never get to explore, experiment, try on different aspects of yourself and to be shamed every time you step out of line and to shame each other every time somebody else steps out of line and to shame ourselves eventually. And so I think that's where my focus is, is on how we have created this world, where only certain types of behaviors and ways of showing up in the world are acceptable, while others are unacceptable and need to be shamed out of us.

 

Jonathan [00:21:40] Yeah. I would say that the UK has a very similar problem. In fact, I would suggest that.

 

Travis [00:21:47] Yeah, I would imagine my yeah.

 

Jonathan [00:21:49] My own expressed femininity was, was suppressed from a very young age. You know, I'd get called a fairy and you know, all of the feminine things and, and, and it probably took me about 20 years to really integrate, reintegrate my feminine. And so there was a question in that and it would come to me. So, yeah, how do we begin to reintegrate? How do we begin to accept those parts of us when when our entire lives have been essentially it's been attempted to be beaten out of us. You know, how do we how do we begin to integrate, to accept, to think, to step into.

 

Travis [00:22:37] It's a really great question, and it's something that I'm still figuring out for myself and in my work with clients, because if you learned that so early on in your life, in some ways you've never experienced something different. And so your coping strategies and the parts of yourself that you left behind, you're not even necessarily aware that they're not there anymore. And your identity has become intertwined with your coping strategies that you've learned to adopt in order to survive, belong, receive love in our cultures. And so it's a really hard thing because if you if your identity is interwoven with those coping strategies, it's really hard to tell what's me and what's the coping strategy. And so I think in terms of being able to just I often start with men around with a concept of emotional literacy, emotional agility. What are they feeling helping create new a lot of language around feeling because that's one of the earliest stages that I see that we start to haze boys into. A certain thing is to say, you can't feel, you can't cry, you can't be weak, you can't show vulnerable emotions, you can't be afraid of anything. And so when we haven't practiced our skill set for even identifying what we feel or that we even have feelings, then I think that that there's an opportunity in there to use that as the doorway in, to start developing some language, to develop some awareness of our own emotional landscape so that we can start from that place because that inherently within our emotions, that's part of the feminine, our ability to feel things. And I really want to encourage men that there's it's not a subtractive game to add to more awareness of your emotions. It's actually a more additive game. It adds more complexity and more skill sets and more available like availability to the world and to feel the world and to make adjustments based on what you're feeling. And I think most of the time we're all afraid that it's going to subtract or we're going to be less, then we're going have less power. We're going to be feminized, we're going to be rejected by our culture. And yet, in my experience, it's been very additive to my life. It's been very supportive in me being able to create a career and to be able to do the work that I do with clients and to keep feeling my way through a tough landscape is I mean, it's it's pretty hard to be a human right now. I really resonate with the beginning of what in your intro around sort of heartbroken heelers like I really resonate with that. It's hard to be a human right now. It's hard to watch all of these things going on in our world and to not see very many of your own value systems like on any level of platform out there. And so it's really hard to be that way. And I think that being connected to my emotions is actually what's helping me survive and to continue to navigate this world rather than to being cut off from that and then unaware of what I'm actually feeling and needing in any moment. So I think emotions is the place I often start with. Men.

 

Britt [00:25:49] Yeah, that that's incredible. I identify as a sports loving sissy and I have reclaimed that word and use it subversively. So I'm a proud sissy and, you know, lift weights five days a week. I play the flute, I write poetry, I watch sports all the time. I know a lot about sports. So it's like I can I can I can navigate multiple worlds, but that has come at a personal cost, which in some cases has even turned to violent. Because when people first meet me or they encounter somebody, they tend to socialize as masculine. But then as I continue to display my inherent, intrinsic traits and status of being in my and share my energies, they're like, Whoa, this something is not right. And that immediate confusion, once I violate the boundary that in some cases they say in their mind, has led to confusion, verbal violence, physical violence, all sorts of different experiences. And what I want to suggest to the audience and what I have found personally and Travis, I think you can also speak to this, is that because of that potency, the converse is also true, meaning that what we will call masculine men, maybe they're cis, maybe they're straight, whatever. They have a lot of magic and healing energy for the world because of that, when they are able to paint with a richer, fuller palette. Then they have so many gifts to give. One of the things that we talked about in a previous episode, we were talking with the straight man, a straight cis man on on on this topic to kind of get that perspective. And and I shared a famous meme in video that went around pre-pandemic where straight dads were marching in gay pride parades, giving free hugs. Strangers in their middle age would collapse in their arms in a puddle of tears. I mean, that's powerful. As some stranger walking on the street and he just has a T-shirt on and says Free hugs and people lose it in the most beautiful way. And so one of the things that I love about what you're saying, Travis, is that there is so much magic and healing and love to tap into when we create space and allow people to be all of themselves, regardless of if we deem it masculine or regardless of if we deem it feminine or however we label it. Like I said earlier, what do we not want these people to heal? Do we not want them to experience love? Like you alluded to, our culture is so combative at the moment because we have people who are finally taking up the space that is their. But an unintended consequence has been, in some cases, to create unnecessary adversaries. And to weaponize our past, even inadvertently. And so, Travis, I wonder I mean, you have such a lovely, kind, intelligent energy. I wonder if you have any advice for us about how we can do that, how we can, even if we've experienced pain and trauma and harm and shame at the hands of what we will call masculine or straight supremacy, however we want to label, how can we, as we feel, as we develop our agency and learn to be more fully expressed? How can we? Ripen into a place where we are able to approach all people with a sense of gentleness and kindness and acceptance.

 

Travis [00:29:43] I love that word that you just use ripen. For me, that feels aligned with what I would a little bit more aligned with the feminine energy than the masculine energy. I think the masculine energy teaches us that there is a problem and a solution and we have to find the solution to the problem. And so I think that's often what we're in the middle of as we're looking for, we're looking at problems and needing solutions, problems and solutions, problems and solutions. And yet there are some things that are more nuanced and more complex than just a problem and a solution. Some things need to develop. Some things need to ripen. Some things need time and and care and support in order to blossom. And so I think that that's I think that when we get out of balance in our masculine energy, not masculinity, but sort of the male, the masculine energy of that, we all exist. We get a little isolated out there and out there alone. You become a lone wolf and our thinking gets really black and white that there's a problem and a solution. The way that I tend to start to think about how do we create spaces for ripening is to bring that out of balance, masculine into more balance by incorporating some of the feminine energy in there so that our thinking can be more flexible, so that we don't have to like put things in boxes which the mind, our, our human mind is really good at doing. It wants to categorize things, put things in boxes and to make sense of the world. I just I learned a new word recently that I'm adding to my vocab that I really just enjoyed, which was heuristics. It's the mental shortcuts that we that our brain does in order to go faster. And so they often it happen hijacks us where we categorize something and we immediately move in on our assumptions and move it. And it helps our brain move faster. Our brain needs that strategy to be able to effectively meet every moment of the world. But it also limits us because there are a lot of assumptions in there, there's a lot of pre bias judgments in there. And so when we think about the sort of when we like, as you were saying, that that people sometimes make an assumption based on your first presentation and they miss some of the nuance and then they're there sort of reality is shattered when you become a more complex and nuanced individual than their first interaction with you. How do we create safety for our own selves and how do we normalize that? That's an important part of the process that that our first read on something is important. It is valuable information, but it's not the whole picture. And how do we allow our even our thought process about things and about people and about gender and about masculinity and femininity? How do we let those things, as you said, write them and to gather more information over time and allow our opinions and thoughts to change based on that information, rather than just locking in on something and staying there completely stuck.

 

Britt [00:32:43] I'm a little bit curious. Something popped into my head then, because it just reminded me a cognitive dissonance, right? You still connected with something? The reality is very different. Our brains can't really cope with that. We're expecting something and we don't see it. And so the bit I'm most curious about in there, and I think it's really prevalent at the moment, is that when a lot of people are faced with that cognitive dissonance, the place they go isn't curiosity, it's anger or fear or something true. And and I wonder how we deal with that on an individual basis when when that's when our experiences, the people are angry or afraid because we're not who they think we should be or they're not who a group of people think they should be. Or Yeah, how do we actually begin to work with that on an individual basis.

 

Travis [00:33:43] MM Yeah. It's, it takes a lot of effort and it takes a lot of like. Ability to go inward and to notice what our assumptions are. Notice what we have the story or the image we projected on to other people. And then to actually check in with how does this person in front of me actually match or not match the image I had in my mind? And how is and we have to make it okay that sometimes it doesn't match what we originally put on it. I think that happens all the time in dating world. You start to date someone new and you put this romanticized version on that that you only see their good qualities. And then if you spend any long term relationship with them or move in together or live with them, then you start to see all their annoying qualities. Because we we're meaning making machines. We project on the people all the time and we create meaning that's all filtered through our own life experiences, our own sort of brain chemistry, our own set points. And so there's something about how do we learn to feel safe and to value difference. And I think one of my favorite ways of bringing people into that is the work, as you mentioned in the intro, that I do work with horses across coaching and so I like to take people out and do experiential learning with a being that doesn't speak the same language as they do. And I take all the normal control mechanisms away. I do have a round circular pen that sort of allows the space to be small enough for the interaction to play out. But now to beings on the ground, standing face to face that don't speak the same language as they do have to learn how to be in relationship with each other, have to confront what comes up around intimacy, around vulnerability, around an animal that size, around what comes up when I feel like I don't know how to build this really. I don't know how to communicate with this being it's in front of me. I love to take people into that because it's relational, experiential and embodied learning that really can help develop a sense of. Like putting ourselves out there into relationships, but then also reading the feedback that the other is giving us. And without the sort of messiness of human relationships, it's a little more clean when when somebody is interacting with an animal, they don't have as many stories about, Oh, well, this horse is trying to do this, or this horse is trying to do that because we sort of inherently know that animals don't live in the same kind of stories that we do as humans and don't have the same relational dynamics. And so my one of my favorite things, especially with my male clients, is to take them out and help them explore the difference between their intention, how they're showing up, what they're trying to create in their world, and what are the intended and unintended impacts that it has on the external environment. So when a man gets to show up in a certain way and they're they're showing up and they're being getting really hyper focused and goal oriented with trying to get the horse to do something they wanted to do. And the horse either shuts down or takes off and outpaces them. Then they're like, Hmm, I didn't mean for that to happen. How often is that happening in our other relationships where we're getting focused on something we're moving in on and we're missing out on the fact that they're that the people in our lives are running away from us or completely shut down and unable to like to move forward in the dialog because they don't feel safe or they feel pushed. And so I love to help men reflect on their intention and their impact and see are they aligning with each other or are you creating unintentional impacts? Because I think that's such an important thing that we need to practice as men is our empathy, our ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. And that's how we start to create space for differences when we can put ourselves in someone else's shoes and see from their perspective to feel from their perspective. A little bit. A little bit can go a long way when we're able to do that. But we're not taught that as little boys or girls are taught that little girls are taught how to care for and to be, to play house and to be very relational in their playstyle. Ours are more about winning competition activities that we do together and sort of winning without noticing the impact we have on other beings. And so I really think that that's a powerful way to start exploring. That is to start looking at where is the gap between your intention and your impact. And once you look at that, how do you start to create how do you start to make some subtle adjustments that allow your intention to align with your impact that you're trying to have in the world?

 

Jonathan [00:38:27] I really love that. And there's a there's a there's a part in there. I think I keep focusing in on kind of the broader how do we combat divisiveness and anger in society at large. There's a part of me that's like and and I'm catching myself. I'm trying to fix the problem and problem solution. And and and actually, you know, there's a piece in what you're sharing there where we get to show up in an embodied, empathic way, driven by love to to lead by example and to respond to the world outside of us, rather than trying to control it or lean on our base instincts or the things that we've been taught, I suppose I don't really have a question in that. I'm just saying that because I thought that was an important thing to add.

 

Travis [00:39:29] Well, I appreciate it, though, because it's actually still where my growing edge is as a as a person, as a human, as a coach, as a person that's facilitating men's work as a queer person in this world, is is that that divisiveness and that brittleness can be a for the sensitive little boy that I am can be really hard for me to navigate and can make me lose my own center and my own psychological safety. And so there are places where I don't feel safe confronting in terms of certain way that men show up in the world or certain spaces where we are completely at opposite ends of the spectrum. I think like cognitively, I think there's value in being able to come start taking steps towards each other, towards the center so that we can actually see each other. But there are plenty of different and ways that people show up in the world where I know we're just so far away from each other that I don't necessarily know that I'm going to have an impact in that situation or have the impact that I'm hoping for. And so I avoid it. And it's because I don't feel safe because I still have part of my own healing journey to do before I can step forward into those kinds of conversations. And so for in some ways, that's, as Brett were saying, the language of ripening. It's where I'm still ripening as a person and. Facilitator of this work, because in some ways the fear makes me really brittle. And my response to brittleness is to avoid. And rather than to be able to step forward and stand in that space and be able to feel safer than, I think my career wounding and my my awareness that I'm not physically safe and all spaces plays a role in that. And so I think that it's just, it's, it's a place where I'm still ripening and making and finding the balance between sort of like understanding the real risks that are out there in the world as a queer person, but then also being able to create enough psychological safety for myself to be able to step forward in places, even when I'm a little nervous or a little afraid.

 

Britt [00:41:40] So beautiful. I love it. I absolutely love it. And what I want to I mean, that's a lot of vulnerable truth in that. And what I also want to encourage you and all of our listeners to do is investigate ways that they can that we can build community most efficiently and effectively, because we're at a critical moment in our culture right now. And I have a theory that I encourage everyone to to explore, which is that we can be more efficient and effective when we mobilize our allies into activism and advocacy, rather than trying to convince those that might be experiencing hate towards any one particular group that we are deserving of our intrinsic dignity. So I hear what you're saying, and I think that you can we can all I hear this a lot. So I think we can all also be gentle on ourselves like that. Like you said, those risks are real and the goal of life isn't to iron out all of our wrinkles of our of our souls. And there's a lot of efficiency in mobilizing the armies that love us. But they're busy or they have lower capacities because, you know, they're working three jobs or have kids or they're dealing with the the the disappearance of abortion access or they're dealing you know, there's a lot going on. So, I mean, I think that's I think that's really beautiful. But the work you're doing and I'm sure, you know, this is obviously very meaningful. And I'm so glad that you brought up the Aquis experience because I know nothing about it. So I bet a lot of our listeners don't. And I want to explore a little a little more because I suspect you're creating a lot of magic. And I suspect then what men need right now is a little magic and that you're disrupting the natural that's not the right word. The socially ordained, the roles, the orders of their life. You're bringing them out of their everyday life into this space, creating a container for them where they can meet themselves in a different light, and then introducing this other being. Now I'm not, like I said, I've never done Equus. I had a Nicholas experience, but I did grow up around horses and I grew up in Tennessee. And that was part of my story. And my suspicion is that the horses weren't chosen by random you know, random horses have some sort of intrinsic magic to them that helped facilitate this work, this attunement process, that you're creating almost a catharsis in these men who aren't used to a tuning to their emotional state, and thereby they're meeting themselves for the first time and experiencing benevolent witness in the safe container so that they can then go out in the world and practice it. Is that kind of what is going on here?

 

Travis [00:44:31] Yeah. Well, let me first say, I would just want to thank you for sort of offering the grace that you offered after my vulnerable share, because in a sense, that's creating psychological safety for me. It's just a demonstration that I get to be where I'm at, and then I'll have to push myself to be any better. There's a there's a perfectionist in me that really wants to always be ahead of where I'm at and to present with perfection. And so I appreciate you creating psychological safety to be where I'm at. And on my podcast, The New Masculine, that's what I'm doing is gathering allies and talking to people that are already somewhere in the vicinity of where I'm at, not reaching for somebody that where we're going to have a debate online. I'm not we're reaching for somebody that we're so far away from each other that we're not going to be able to convince each other of anything or or come to any sort of agreement on anything. That's not interesting to me. And so thank you for just reminding me the scared little boy in me at times that I, I get to feel okay with where I'm at. I get to be as I am, and that's enough. And then I don't have to constantly be a work in progress. So thank you. And then yeah, I know horses aren't chosen randomly in some ways. It's an we're an interesting species like our two species have really developed over tens of thousands of years together. And yet they're an animal that we interact with on a regular basis. Or not everybody does, but humans do. That isn't necessarily in our homes and sort of as bred to our own neuroses as our cats and dogs are. Our cats and dogs are kind of become members of the family that are internal. Horses, on the other hand, are a little bit more connected to their natural instincts, their natural way of being, even though they many of them aren't domesticated. There are wild horses in the in the United States and the Bureau of Land Management land, the wild mustangs of the US. And we are we don't interact with them very often, but the domesticated horses are safe enough for us to interact with and yet are still connected to their own intrinsic instincts in the world. And they belong in communities that exist outside of us as humans. Horse herds are still a thing, and while we can make them and kind of put them in their own little herds, rarely do you have a person that has just one horse all by themselves. It's not really a very kind thing to do to a herd based animals to isolate them alone from their other community members. And one of the cool things about them is, is that they have they're the emotional center of the brain is about the same size as it as is in the human brain. So the same capacity for emotional experience and connection with each other, they just do it in different ways. And they belong to communities much like we as humans do. But they do it in different ways. They view leadership differently. They they view power and boundaries and connection. They hold all of those things differently. And so it's this opportunity to go into a relationship with a being that has some similarities to the way that they create safety and belong and exist in the world. But get to reflect on new models for for what's it what what else could we be doing as humans? How could we be connected to the health of our herds, our communities, as much as we are connected to our survival instinct of being able to have enough to eat and drink and to be able to have enough in our lives, they're both individuals and a part of the collective. And so there's some really amazing things that come along with that. And the last thing I'll say is, is that they're on the prey end of the spectrum. They are not seeking to eat you. They're not going to adopt an attack you if you do something that is startling to them, they're a flight animal. And so they're much more likely to leave you if they feel something that they don't really enjoy than they are to attack. Now, horses obviously can make some associations if they've had some abuse and will stand up for themselves, but it's very unlikely that they're going to move into an aggressive posture. They're much more likely to move into a I'm going to hightailing it out of there before they're willing to go into attack. So this becomes a safe place, a safer place than if you were to be interacting with a bear or a lion and you made some sort of quick movement. And then the animal felt it needed to protect itself in a certain way. But also it's a large and impending like it's a large animal that requires a lot of presence for you to be around. They are potentially lethal. One kick from a horse could be really potentially damaging to you. And so something about needing to be present with it being that that size that really asks us to show up in the moment in different ways than our actual real lives ever ask us to do. And in that presence. Present moment awareness. A lot of whatever we've been pushing down with our coping strategies starts to come to the surface. For us to be able to reflect on and to talk about and to be able to explore. How is that working for you? If it's not, let's try on new ways of showing up and see how the external environment being the horse in the situation, responds to that new way of showing up.

 

Britt [00:49:52] And I suspect if you're a person that feels trapped or stuck in a story of masculinity, then those moments of tenderness could be earth shattering and in a beautiful way could really cause you to question everything you thought you knew about yourself and give you. And this has been a cliche for years, is that men are quote unquote, men are more affectionate to their dogs than their than their family and stuff. And so I suspect that the combination of this large animal that you're describing, plus you as a healer, can can be really potent and powerful for a lot of guys who've maybe struggled to crack open this can of worms.

 

Travis [00:50:34] Yeah, it can be. And I love that you use the language of magic beforehand because I've been doing this since my first session as a client in this work in 2010, and then I started training and leading and now I teach it to other coaches in. I started that about 2012 and I've been doing it for this long and it still feels like magic to me. There's times when I'm like, There is no way that we got to this conversation with this person just by standing in a round room with a horse. There is no way we got here or there's no way that that horse could have done that exact great thing that cracks that thing open for that person. So it does feel like magic to me. And as you were saying with men, there's actually a lot of work going on right now around the work with people who are diagnosed with PTSD, working with horses. So it's often done in veterans programs. So the Wounded Warrior programs or those people that come back from war and have PTSD and have flighty nervous systems that take over, there are actually a lot of programs right now for that are taking those type of men into these experiences with horses. And there's something about intertwining our nervous system with another being that has a flighty nervous system. We learn to regulate with them, and it teaches us how to regulate our own nervous system. And so it can even the most hyper masculine presenting men who have gone to war, that have been through, who have seen a lot, who who may have numbed out, who may be disassociated, who may be disconnected from their experiences. There's something about this experience that with the right kind of facilitation that can really open up something for these men and that can bring them into a deeper connection with self and to start learning how to regulate and creating more safety internally. So you're right, it can look like magic and feel like magic, and there's something to the relational and embodied quality of it that's really teaches us something that we can't necessarily learn to the mind.

 

Britt [00:52:38] It's amazing. You know, we've been talking a lot about our own personal growth and development journeys on this role, on this road of the kind of culturally constituted masculine and feminine. Now I'm thinking about ways that we can pay it forward and create a healthier society. And, you know, I'm struck by, of course, all of the missing rites of passage, cultural transmission points, ceremonies, initiations that we, especially as queer people, have lost out on, whether it's due to simple homophobia, street supremacy or the impacts of the AIDS epidemic, you know, whatever, it's due to the war on drugs. I mean, that's in many ways was you know, I'm going to say I'm going to guess that the three of us identify as as white people. And so it's like we have to, I think, on honor that the war on drugs was basically a war on fatherhood and brotherhood that was waged on black and brown people. And so they've experienced maybe something similar in a certain vein to a lot of queer people have experience in the absence of these role models that would provide these cultural transmission points. So how can we be that change? How can we create a healthier society that we can be part of and then, you know, make it easier for for others coming up?

 

Travis [00:54:08] It's a big question. And I think that it happens individually for differently for each of us as individuals. I think in some ways doing our work to show up in our most in the most authentic ways that we can by doing our own healing work, by engaging coaches and therapists and any other kind of modalities that actually support our own healing and transformation work really then gives permission for other men to do the same thing or other people to do the same thing. And so I think we have to always start with ourselves and then we start looking at like, what? What am I really? What are what is one of my what are my sights set on? What are my values telling me is the place that I can make an impact? That's why I started my podcast was because that I started thinking about how do I want to participate in men's work and in as you were sort of pointing out, as queer people and like hetero supremacy kind of stuff like in there's a lot of men's work communities that are out there right now that still when I look at them, the makeup of them is still cisgender, heterosexual, mostly Christian white men, men of color, not feeling safe being in there. Queer men are not feeling safe in there. And so there's actually very few communities that are doing the work to invite in other voices. Those that are asking others to be a part of it. And so when I kept looking going like, I really want to go to that, but I don't necessarily know that I feel safe being in a room full of straight men, being the one gay guy there. I don't know what. I don't want to continue to have to do my work in such a almost like violent to self way. I want to start creating work that feels safe and that feels nurturing, that I can heal within and that I'll invite others to come into that space. And so I think because I started noticing where my vision was being trained to and where my mind kept drifting to, then I started to pick a zone and a lane where I felt like I could have an impact, where I could start to invite other men who have maybe necessarily not felt like they had a voice in the conversation to the table. Because I know that to me, I knew I didn't feel like I had a seat at the table in the masculinity conversation. I knew exactly what would happen the second I launched my first episode, which was I'd be called a fag and say, What does this fag have to tell me anything about being a man in this world? What's this better man have to do? I knew exactly what was coming my way, and I got to a point in my own healing journey where I decided. It doesn't matter if I'm given a seat at the table. I'm ready to take a seat at the table and say that I have something to offer, and I'm going to do it in my own way. And I'm going to continue to invite people to come into that space if they want to. I'm not going to force people to be there, and I'm also not going to continue to force myself to be in such uncomfortable positions where I don't feel like the work has been done to welcome me in. And so I think each of us as individuals can pick a lane for how we want to make change. It reminds me of when I was going through my social work program. We had to sort of pick direct practice or more macro level policy change, social work. And I just never I knew that I'm not going to be a policy driven person while I want policy change. I'm going to be in the trenches with somebody. I'm going to be deeply one on one, connected with people in the trenches, working on stuff, getting into the deep stuff. And so I think we all pick where our strengths are, where our vision is attracted to going to, and we start to bring our authentic, heart centered leadership to the world.

 

Britt [00:57:50] So beautiful. I think that's wonderful. Yeah. And. And only you as well for the work we're doing around masculinity. Because. Because. Because I. Yeah, I understand what it feels like to shatter what we believe masculinity is as a as a concept and to let that go and put it down. Oh, yeah. I kind of I think I've mirrored some of your experiences in terms of laying claim to masculinity as though as an idea or a concept. I spent most of my adult life assuming that I had no claim to the concept of masculinity, and therefore it wasn't accessible to me or available to me. And so, yeah, I just want to just say thank you really for, for the work that you do, because I think it's really important and that throughout that process, so much of the language gets to be shifted and changed to so many of the conversations, get to be directed in a healthy way and and people get to step into all of themselves as part of the process. Right. And I think that's wonderful.

 

Travis [00:58:56] Thank you for the kindness and thank you for sharing a place that the places where we connect. I think having being able to see ourselves and someone else and being able to have you reflect back that you see yourself in me in some ways and that I get to see myself in you. I think in a sense is healing in itself, especially as men. I think we are taught to be so separate from each other. And so I think as queer men, we get to have our sort of physical intimacy with each other that is not allowed or that straight men or cisgender heterosexual men are not looking for. But but often that's quite transactional. And so being able to see ourselves in each other is there's an intimacy to that. That is, for me at least, is really healing. And it's something that I think is important for us as men to keep experiencing, as is that, oh, wait, I see myself in you. We're not so separate. We're not so different. We're not so far away from each other. So thank you for reflecting that factory.

 

Britt [00:59:52] And. One of my very favorite things about this podcast is that we get to meet people like you. And I think that your message is so extraordinary and so beautiful, and I hope all of our listeners find ways to connect with you and we'll be providing all sorts of links in the show notes. But in general, how do you advise people start to start to get to connect with you? You have podcasts, you have social media, you do all this different types of work.

 

Travis [01:00:22] Yeah. I think the easiest place to go is my website, Travis Starcom because it has some information about the coaching work that I do some information, but there is coaching that I do and it also has the podcast. All of the episodes are on their own page there. And so you can go to that and listen and start listening to the new masculine to get a sense of who I am, more of a sense of who I am, more of my value systems, the conversations that I'm holding, how I create psychological safety between me and other men, is there also. I really encourage people to follow me on Instagram. Trevor zero three You can just look me up by my name as well because it's where I'm sharing a little bit of my personal life. But I'm also having ongoing conversations around the new masculine and around the conversations that I'm having. So while the conversations that are recorded are a little bit static now we get to participate as a community around what came up in that conversation. And so that's a real another really good place to connect with me there. So website or Instagram is really good. Place is.

 

Britt [01:01:24] Wonderful. And like I said, we'll be putting all of those links in the show notes just to make it easy on everybody. So I encourage listeners to to go check that out. Travis, thank you so much for the Bottom of My Heart is was such a pleasure to talk with you today. I think that there's so much health and joy and healing and and the energy and love that you bring to the world. And you're such a bright light for our community. I really hope people take the time to get to know you. I think they'll be so inspired. And I'm just so grateful for your presence.

 

Travis [01:02:02] Yeah. That's incredibly kind. Thank you for the sweetness. And I just really enjoyed talking with you both. And I am so glad that I met a friend that lives, like, 30 minutes away from me and then one that's coming to Seattle Pride this weekend. Yeah, exactly. We'll be meeting up. So thank you. Thank you both for for giving me space to share a little bit about my views on on this topic that we seem to all be really fascinated around masculinity.

 

Britt [01:02:32] Yeah, absolutely. Well, dear listeners, you have made it through another episode of Not Going Quietly. Thank you so much for inviting us into your to your home. Whether that's the on podcast platform or on YouTube or on our website, whatever your your platform of choice as we really appreciate it, these conversations are so near and dear to our heart and we hope that they are helping you reclaim a sense of sanity, grace and peace during all of the upheaval that we are all experiencing. So on behalf of me and my co-host, Jonathan Beale, thank you so much. You've been listening to Not Going Quietly. Have a great day. Thanks. You've been listening to I'm Not Going Quietly with co-hosts Jonathan Biehl and Brett East. Thanks so much for joining us on this wild ride. As we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy. Check out our shownotes for links, additional information and episodes located on your favorite podcast platform.

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Travis Stock

Coach

Travis Stock, MSW is a Master Certified Life Coach, Equus Master Facilitator, and teacher. Travis helps others find what creates balance in their lives by first seeking acceptance of what is. He utilizes the Equus experience to connect others with the often forgotten wisdom of the body, allowing for more fully explored and developed choices in their lives. Travis has a passion for the balance between masculine and feminine energies in each of us, regardless of gender, and believes in the importance of nurturing a relationship with both types of energy to create a sense of wholeness. Travis brings with him interest and experience in the areas of emotions, the LGBT community, transformation of trauma and shame, interpersonal relationships, family systems, men and masculinity, and living open-heartedly.