Several times a year at New York’s Stonewall Inn (yes, that Stonewall) a number of gay superheroes (well, gay men wearing spandex and fabric superhero costumes) gather together to discover their extraordinary powers. There are plenty of X-Men and Transformers and even a hunky Superboy or two. This is “Skin Tight USA,” a gay costume-fetish party that can attract several hundred masked, caped, and otherwise heroically-adorned men (photo by Casey Kelbaugh of The New York Times).
It’s great fun, but gay men don’t need to invest in spandex to be heroes – that potential is in every one of us. Most people think that heroism is a characteristic that one either has or does not (and most of us think we don’t). Others suspect that heroic behavior is related to some genetic trait, probably inherited by someone else. Each of us, however, easily has the potential to be a hero because, simply put, heroism is a decision that we make within ourselves to figure out who we really are, how we fit into the world, and then act accordingly.
There are three qualities necessary for heroism, and all involve “other oriented behavior:”
o Empathy: relating to someone in such a way that you see similarities between their feelings and needs and your own;
o Compassion: adding understanding to empathy, and wishing to alleviate another’s discomfort or pain; and
o Kindness: being considerate and helpful
We don’t have to lift an automobile off a struck pedestrian or discover a cure for AIDS to be a hero. Patricia Omoqui, a trainer and coach, wrote that the potential to be heroes lies within all of us if we act from our hearts, see the need of the moment, and step forward. There are heroes all around us. Are you one of them?
David Fawcett, PhD, LCSW