Leather Life: Book Review: “Redefining Normal” by Brent Heinze
“I have been looking for someone to date for a long time and I feel like just giving up.”
“I thought online and mobile dating opportunities were supposed to help people meet, but I feel more alone and disconnected than I was before everyone was online.”
“I really try not to surround myself with negative or mean people, but they seem to find me and screw up my life.”
Do these comments sound familiar? Have you, or someone you know, said or thought things like the above? They are just a few of the issues dealt with in Redefining Normal: A Modern Gay Man’s Guide to Happy and Healthy Living, a new book by Brent Heinze, LPC.
Heinze, who competed in the 2011 International Mr. Leather contest as Mr. Leather Colorado 2010, has written his “Heinzesight” column since 2011 for OUT FRONT, a Denver-based GLBT periodical. Heinze’s book contains expanded versions of some of these columns.
Redefining Normal deals with relationships and other issues affecting the gay male community, although much of the wisdom in this book can benefit anyone, regardless of gender or orientation. Basically, Heinze wants you to live an awesome life. In the book’s introduction, Heinze says he wrote these columns because he wants to “make people think about their lives, realize that they are not alone in their struggles, and enable them to take better control of their emotions, choices, and happiness.” In other words, if our “normal” isn’t providing us with a healthy, happy, and satisfying life, Heinze shows us that we have the power to “redefine normal” by making some changes.
Chapters in the book discuss topics including dating, navigating online cyber-social culture, developing personal social skills, negotiating both intimate and sexual relationships, dealing with addictions, and finding a fulfilling place in a satisfying community.
Throughout the book, Heinze mixes three types of writing: commentary, questions and answers, and lists. Heinze’s lists shine with a disarming wit. Lists in the book include “Top 10 bad gay habits,” “Mom’s advice for hooking up,” “Mom’s advice for having a successful relationship,” and sarcastic tips on how to “develop your inner douchebag.” It’s amazing how much concentrated thought-provoking wisdom Heinze can pack into each selection on his various lists.
In the question-and-answer segments, Heinze answers questions mostly with positive, upbeat, uplifting, and hopeful answers. However, he is appropriately critical and minces no words when faced with situations involving dishonesty and a lack of personal integrity, such as a gay but heterosexually married man who is living a double life. Heinze’s response: it is just a matter of time before the man’s double life will be discovered, and no good will come of the discovery. “Grow a pair,” advises Heinze, “and either figure out how to improve your relationship [with your wife] or end it. It is not fair to your partner to keep […] things from her.”
As a licensed professional counselor, Heinze is well qualified to write this book. But in addition to his professional counseling knowledge, Heinze brings to the book a writing voice and style that make the book easy to read and very much a reflection of his personality: big-hearted, enthusiastic, and sometimes a little sarcastic and twisted (in a good way). Redefining Normal is further strengthened by Heinze’s inclusion of moments, stories, and lessons from his own life.
In the chapter on community, Heinze writes eloquently about the value of mentoring for people who are gay, kinky, or both, and how the AIDS epidemic caused a breakdown of the community’s mentoring system. He suggests a return to mentoring as a way of creating a stronger community made up of empowered individuals. With this book, Heinze has made a valuable contribution to mentoring others in his community.
Redefining Normal: A Modern Gay Man’s Guide to Happy and Healthy Living by Brent Heinze, LPC (foreword by Race Bannon). Published by Brent Heinze. $14.95 at Amazon.com.