What Can Miss Gay America Teach Us About Authenticity?

By Duff McDuffee on November 22nd, 2009 1


I just watched the fascinating and beautiful documentary Pageant which follows several female impersonators on their quests for glory in the Miss Gay America competition. These gay men transform into stunningly beautiful women, and perform choreographed dances and songs that make Miss America look like a 5th grade talent show.

One thing that struck me in relation to the themes of this blog was that many of the competitors spoke about the importance of “being yourself,” i.e. authentic. Fascinatingly, many of these men have felt from a young age that part of their authentic expression in the world was to impersonate the opposite sex. If impersonating a different sex is authentic, than what is meant by authenticity?

Authenticity and Gender: WTF?

I’ve written several articles here on Beyond Growth critiquing pick-up artist gurus who teach men how to transform into “authentic” badboys and players. This movie got me thinking—to what extent are all gender displays impersonations?

It seems to me that putting on a believable gender display is what matters to be recognized as “authentic” masculinity or femininity by others, and feeling congruent about your display of gender is what matters to be felt as “authentic” by the individual. Is there more to it, or is authenticity just a convincing story we tell ourselves and others? Is one’s level of authenticity to be measured by how much we are convinced the story is true, or is there “really” truth above and beyond the story?

The Authentic Man Program teaches men  to have “a magnetic presence,” which is defined as “women just notice you and feel drawn to you, before you even say a word, and naturally just love to be around you” (from their marketing squeeze page). Being “authentic” in this context is for a heterosexual man to give a convincing, congruent display of a particular socially-constructed masculine gender identity that nonverbally elicts a certain response from (some?) heterosexual women. In this case “natural” means “cultivated to appear natural,” for authentic magnetic presence is made, not born. What these men are selling is basically how to adopt a particular gender identity in order to have sexual power in certain heterosexual social contexts.

In contrast, being “authentic” to the men who compete to be Miss Gay America is to put on many layers of thick makeup, padding to hide their crotch bulge, and a sequined evening gown to convincingly appear as a beautiful woman. In this case, such a man (woman?) might get heterosexual men to naturally notice them for their “magnetic presence”—at least until they learn the true sex of this lovely lady that has caught their eye. I wonder if any former Miss Gay Americas have created any information products on how to be an authentic drag queen? Unfortunately, there’s probably not as much of a market.

In my previous critiques, I have challenged the notion that the “authentic” pick-up guru is truly authentic. But now I don’t know if there is such a thing as true authenticity when it comes to notions of gender, besides that of a convincing display and inner congruence. Is the quest for authenticity simply to find a character we can convincingly play and feel good about it? To become typecast in a social role of our (apparent) choosing?

In an early part of the movie, contestants were interviewed by the judges as men. Some had quite a magnetic presence or charisma when displaying masculine gender, wearing a suit, etc. If a man developed the ability to both have a magnetic presence when displaying masculine gender identity as well as when in drag, would he thus be doubly “authentic”?

Just as a straight man might fail to appear “authentic” in his display of alpha male magnetic presence and thus lose a woman’s attention, a gay cross-dressing man might fail to appear “authentic” in his (her?) display of femininity on stage at Miss Gay America and thus lose the competition. Both fail tests of authenticity when they appear incongruent to others.

Authenticity FTW!

Here’s a question for you: who’s more authentic—the gay men who are impersonating women in Miss Gay America, or the women who are impersonating women in the regular Miss America competition? Both give a convincing display of a socially constructed notion of femininity, and I assume that both are convinced that they are “being themselves.”

The eventual winner of the Miss Gay America competition (spoiler alert!) was a woman (man?) who shared a heartfelt and authentic story of surviving a personal hardship. Other competitors inauthentically boasted of their guaranteed victory. One wonders if the winner was chosen due to his (her?) convincingly authentic story—or was it actually more authentic to communicate in this way?

Almost everyone would say that authenticity is about “being yourself” regardless of how you appear to others. Yet if our displays of authenticity aren’t seen as authentic, we will modify them until they appear convincing. To be authentic is to be praised by others for being so, as in “he’s the real deal.” Central to the notion of authenticity is a lie about what the very quest is about. I wonder if in order to “truly be authentic,” we must lie to ourselves about the reasons for doing so, or else risk incongruence and thus appearing inauthentic.

Personal development relies on the fact that who we “really” are is a personally- and socially-constructed narrative. If we are the roles, feelings, and behaviors we currently exhibit, they wouldn’t be possible to change. But most personal development gurus go further and posit that their preferred narrative is who you really are—then they sell you the means to convincingly display this new role in a way that promises to someday feel congruent. A new role is still an act, new conditioning still socially-constructed, new beliefs still limiting. My bias is towards greater flexibility and perhaps even wisdom in those roles, conditioning, and beliefs, but I’m not sure that “flexibility” and “wisdom” are less problematic than “authenticity”!

Consciously becoming something else is perhaps the greatest act of inauthenticity imaginable—yet we all do it all the time. Perhaps we can be honest about the lie, even if in order to function effectively in society we have to act as if we believe it. I wonder if this honesty about the lie inherent to the quest for authenticity can perhaps free us from the notion that our authentic self is found in someone else’s high-priced advice.

In any case, I highly recommend you watch Pageant and consider these questions for yourself.

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52 responses to “What Can Miss Gay America Teach Us About Authenticity?”

  1. Casey capshaw says:

    You are dead wrong in your characterization of Authentic Man program. I’d invite you to explore it more before offering such a critique.

  2. elaine says:

    Awesome article!

    "Authenticity" can be hard to pin down. I think in some ways it's similar to how the supreme court judge defined porn as "knowing it when he see's it"

    I'm attending a Douglas Brooks lecture in Boulder this weekend. Today, I heard about the best definition and example of authenticity yet. "Authenticity is being true to your desire". He used himself as an example. He likes to be funny. Tries not to take things too seriously. It takes some self control on his part not to challenge the warnings in airport security about making jokes. As Douglas put it "I want to be funny not stupid. I want to get to Denver, not spend the next several days in jail…. "

    • Indeed, I think that there is an inherent subjectivity to determining whether someone (or yourself) is being authentic. Yet we praise others for being authentic, an inherent contractiction since authenticity is supposed to be about "just being yourself"! And who is this "self" anyway?

    • @mrteacup says:

      Authenticity is being true to your desire

      Lacan's notion of desire is an interesting counterpoint to this idea:

      [Desire] is caught up in social structures and strictures, in the fantasy version of reality that forever dominated our lives after our entrance into language. For this reason, Lacan writes that "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other." Even our unconscious desires are, in other words, organized by the linguistic system that Lacan terms the symbolic order or "the big Other." In a sense, then, our desire is never properly our own, but is created through fantasies that are caught up in cultural ideologies rather than material sexuality. For this reason, according to Lacan, the command that the superego directs to the subject is, of all things, "Enjoy!" That which we may believe to be most private and rebellious (our desire) is, in fact, regulated, even commanded, by the superego.

      This fits perfectly with personal development culture's superego impossible demand, "Be yourself!"

      • Thanks for the Lacan quotation.

        In family systems therapy, the injunction "be yourself!" is an example of what is called the "be spontaneous paradox."

        This quotation from a review of a Paul Watzlawick's The Situation Is Hopeless, But Not Serious summarizes the paradox well:

        "Do you love me?"
        "If you really loved me, you'd say so without my asking you."

        Any request or command for a spontaneous act will cause other persons to be unable to perform the act spontaneously. Whether it's to: "Go to sleep", "Show me you love me", "Be happy", or even "Do a good job", the mere gracing of their ears with the request will make it difficult or impossible for them to perform as requested. This is the reason why actors before a stage performance are told to "Break a leg". Since breaking a leg can only happen spontaneously, it will not happen on command, and the actors are not stuck in the exquisite "Be Spontaneous" paradox of being wished to "Perform well tonight". Even the simple request by a photographer to "Smile" will evoke a faked or posed smile in place of a genuine one. True unhappiness enthusiasts are experts at the "Be Spontaneous" paradox.

  3. Evan says:

    Learning is compatible with an authentic identity.

  4. @mrteacup says:

    One of the clearest indications that "authenticity" is as an empty signifier is that it has two meanings that are completely opposite from each other. One one hand, it means something like "true to culture", as in "authentic Thai food". But it also means the opposite, something like "free of culture or external influences", where it's understood that following cultural norms is inherently inauthentic, as in "be yourself".

    Obviously all the ideas around what is a cultural norm vs what is your authentic inner desire are themselves cultural norms, and wouldn't make a lot of sense to people outside of Western culture. The interesting question is why it needs to misrepresent itself in order to be interesting to people? What would happen if personal development teachers were honest about this? They wouldn't have any students, but why? What does it say about our culture that we want that lie?

  5. Joseph says:

    "to what extent are all gender displays impersonations?"

    "Performances", rather than "impersonations" (a la Judith Butler); but yes, very much so!

    Performances which depend entirely on time and space: think men wearing frilly shirts in Tudor England or Indian men holding hands on the streets of Mumbai, as we speak. All as authentic as the Authentic Man program, in their context.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Joseph.

      So is a gender performance authentic to the extent that it is accepted by the cultural context?

      • Joseph says:

        I think that's a reasonable statement, although the whole idea of the "authentic" is very difficult to use, as you're demonstrating.

        Gender is socially constructed (sex biologically determined): social/cultural context polices what is an acceptable performance and what is not. Drag, as a gender performance, works on numerous levels. It might be: a straight man mocking women and/or gay men (asserting gender norms in the process); a man or woman running counter to the regulation of their expected gender performance; an expression of an individual's gender-identification (which may or may not also be about the erotic and desire).

        I find female drag a much more challenging area. Society has got used to campy gay drag, which is some ways neutralizes its counter-cultural potency. Drag kings cut to the chase in a different manner. Judith Halberstam's stuff on female masculinities is the start here:

  6. Casey capshaw says:

    “Being “authentic” in this context is for a heterosexual man to give a convincing, congruent display of a particular socially-constructed masculine gender identity that nonverbally elicts a certain response from (some?) heterosexual women.

    I have attended one of there weekend intensives, volunteeered in the production of 5 introductory courses, and attended 2 facilitator training events. At no point was a socially constructed masculine gender identity referenced. The work is all about the discovery of deeper truth for the individual and helping them to see individual truth in others.

    I have seen dozens of lives changed for the better. Married men, committed men, single men, one homosexual man have all come through programs I have been a part of and all(except on person) walked away feeling like they know themselves better and can have healthier relationships because of it. Many have attended multiple events, took on regular coaching. And even yearlong training courses.

    How can you type this negativity and try to take this away from them or others potentially interested when you have no experience with this work? Marketing language and an introductory video are no indication of the merits of anything. I get that you don’t like marketing, but the fact is, that marketing gets people to show up in a room they would never have found themselves in otherwise, and the path of their lives are changed for the better because of it.

    Who are you serving with your deconstructive critiques?

    • Who are you serving with your deconstructive critiques?

      While my articles clearly aren't well-received by everyone, many people have commented that they are interesting and useful.

      At no point was a socially constructed masculine gender identity referenced.

      Yes, of course not—yet that is what is being taught. If it was explicit, probably fewer people would attend, for there would be less of a sense that participants are learning The Truth of how to be a Real Authentic Man. Instead it would be "here is one way you could behave and how to do it."

      This is what I object to–not marketing in general or therapy seminars and the people who love them, but promoting one subset of masculine gender performances as the True, Authentic ones.

    • EricSchiller says:

      Casey, I think you might have a negativity shadow.

  7. Casey capshaw says:

    You are someone I care about and have respect for which is why I am passionately engaged here. I am also someone with significant firsthand experience of the authentic man program. You continue to mischaracterize this work. You do not have direct experience and yet you are holding to your position. This is a program I passionately believe helps people and cannot stand by while you spread blatant falsehoods from an intellectually righteous position.

    I am open to critique of the program, of the marketing, of my trigger around all of this, but let’s stick to what you have actually experienced. I’d like you to concede this much.

    • Tyler Prete says:


      I believe you are missing his point. I don't think you can argue they try and teach you to be more "authentic," after all, it's in the title. Duff here is arguing that the very concept of authentic is constructed, and that what they teach you, effective as it may be, is only one of many identities that can be adopted. You say they walked away "feeling like they know themselves better," but Duff is suggesting here that they've merely installed a new program of behavior. Perhaps they like this one better than the old one, but neither is truly "authentic."

        • Casey Capshaw says:

          Your point is irrelevant to me. I take issue with your misrepresentation of what AMP is and what their aims are.

          • I'm still not sure what you mean by "your misrepresentation of what AMP is and what their aims are."

            Many men have reported benefits from AMP, yes. Many men have also reported benefits from the Promise Keepers. Does reported receiving of benefit exempt a transformational workshop from social critique?

          • I've gone through a lot of AMP material and interacted with the coaches, and had powerful observations. I have pretty much all good things to say.

            Still I'll have to say Duff has upped my perspective on 'authenticity' itself. Might not be his perspective necessarily, but I now believe authenticity is something ever-present w/in us, and can't be taught or perhaps even cultivated. IMO, attempts to somehow be more authentic than we are is like trying to be more human than we really are.

            AMP in theory (i.e. the Holarchy) is universal. AMP in practice is geared towards cultivating a subset of qualities over others including masculine power, vitality, and attractiveness, and shifting away from formal, neutral, passive, reserved, or intellectual– even though these are all equally authentic and essential facets of communication.

            None of this is wrong–in fact this shift might be something some of us want to explore–as long as we're clear doing so is NOT necessarily making us more authentic. I think if AMP were called something like the "Expressive Masculinity Program" vs. "Authentic Man Program", it would be a more accurate representation of what's offered, and would prevent skewed expectations and the dreaded 'carrot on a stick' paradox I've seen people suffer through.

            Thus, it's no means a criticism of the value AMP offers, but just keeping a check on the limitations that ANY program can promise.

          • Yes, exactly. My critique of AMP in this article is a critique of the rhetorical use of the word "authentic" or "authenticity," and highlighting some behaviors, emotions, and psychic functions as more authentically male than others.

    • I have not attended the Authentic Man Program weekends, this is true. But my critique is not that of a consumer report, but questioning the notion of authenticity within personal development and culture, and specifically in relation to gender in this article.

  8. Ian says:

    One potential definition for authenticity would be a lack (or at least a relative lack) of internal contradictions. The less cognitive dissonance you carry around inside you, the more authentic you seem/are.

    Besides, if the mystical traditions are correct, there is no inherently true self anyway, all personality is conditioned/conditioning. Having a more cohesive personality makes one more authentic, and to have that cohesive self aligned with a proper non-dual (or whatever definition of "enlightenment" you prefer) understanding of the self would seem to be a good goal to aim for.

    And again, if the mystics are correct, and that true non-dual self is something we have all along, then being truly authentic would have to account for that in any case. Just a thought…

    • Joseph says:

      There's certainly something in this, when distinguishing from a gay and queer perspective (as this is the start of the post). There has been some discussion in American Buddhism about whether it is possible to talk about "gay Buddhism", as the "gay" label assumes some kind of essentialist notion of "Self" which does not tally with a true understanding of no-self in a context of non-duality. "Queer" Buddhism (or Dharma) is considered more appropriate, as queer questions the very nature of stable self-identities. Doesn't speak to authenticity, but a tangent to your comment, nonetheless.

    • One potential definition for authenticity would be a lack (or at least a relative lack) of internal contradictions. The less cognitive dissonance you carry around inside you, the more authentic you seem/are.

      This accords with my definition of authenticity as congruence (from the interior perspective). When you feel and act congruently, you have no noticeable inner conflict. However, congruence does not mean your actions are good, just that your actions/values/inner parts are working together. I think that this is usually better in a very general sense, but with notable exceptions, like when someone is congruent about values I don't hold!

      As far as a non-dual self, there is considerable debate as to whether there is a self or not there. For instance in Buddhism, the 5 aggregates are contemplated and seen to be empty of any self, i.e. they just arise and pass with nobody home (notably, the 5th aggregate is consciousness, something many meditators claim to be their and our True Self).

      Some Theravadan suttas posit a transcendental atman or Buddha-dhatu, a transcendent self, but others seem to say the opposite, that anatman is the ultimate gospel truth. I personally consider it an open question.

      I practice a certain methodology that goes to the core of being called Core Transformation. At first I thought these questions were answered for me by this technique, but as I've been working with clients, I've noticed that they get different answers about things than me with the same process! So on and on the dialogue goes….

      Thanks for chiming in to the discussion, Ian!

      • Ian says:

        Sorry for the late reply, been away from the internet most of the weekend. But I hope we can continue the discussion, it's certainly an interesting one!

        I think authenticity and congruence have to go hand in hand, although, as you say, there does still seem to be conflicts. But I see that as a question of depth.

        In the case of the pick-up gurus, for example, they're acting more authentically because before they wanted to sleep with lots of women but didn't because they thought it was bad. They never worked a way around that desire though, and so now, when they decide to act like assholes, and they actually ARE being more authentic, riding a wave of repressed karma, so to speak.

        The problem there is that it's a limited congruency. In order to be an authentic asshole, you have to completely not care about how your actions effect the other person. Once you do start to care, you've lost congruency, and have to either change your asshole behavior or become a more obvious asshole. In either case, success with women diminishes. Which is why, I'd say, most of them end up switching to something else after a while.

        It's really a question of outer as well as inner integrity. How much can you integrate within your integrity? As you say below, it's a question of depth.

        But then, what bothers me, is that this creation of a congruent, integrated, authentic self seems to become just another aggregate, something held onto, something that we would rather not rise and pass away. Which means, I guess, that this congruent self must then somehow integrate an-atman as well. Not that I have any idea how one goes about doing that.

        As far as the end result though, I think leaving it an open question gets you closer than either Buddha-dhatu or an-atman would anyway.

        And as for your Core Transformation clients, it reminds me of the old Theravada/Mahayana split. What do you do after enlightenment? Go off to your own personal pari-nirvana, or head back to the relative to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings? As far as after death, who knows, but in life, it's a question of remaining on the mountaintop or returning to the marketplace…

        If it didn't keep going on and on, it'd be dead, you know?

    • I should also add that congruence may or may not lead to greater perceived authenticity. As MrTeacup mentioned above, authenticity has cultural meanings as well, as in "authentic Thai food."

      One thing I've noticed in particular about personal development culture online (and perhaps Western culture in general) is that acting casual is seen as more authentic than acting formal, which was the topic of a previous post of mine (see Which Video of Me is More Authentic? On the Style of Authenticity).

      This "authentic style" (or cultural norm) is seen as authentic above and beyond that of inner congruence, for one can be equally congruent in a formal way or a casual way. The irony is that this "authenticity" is apparently about bucking social norms of formality and old media in favor of YouTube and other voyeuristic social media, but this "authentic style" itself is a very popular social norm–perhaps even the dominant one within the online subculture.

      • Ian says:

        I think what you're looking at with cultural authenticity is just to sort of taking things from outside to inside, rather than inside to out.

        As far as "authentic Thai" food goes, unless you know who's declared it "authentic" and you happen to agree with that person, it's purely empty marketing. No substance there. It works because people want "authentic" thai food, but they want someone else to make the decision for them about what is and is not authentic. Like most advertising, it works mainly cause people are lazy. : )

        As for casual versus formal, it's a similar thing but more insidious. As you point out, the irony of it is that in this case, "authenticity" is something people want to be told that you have, and you tell them this by conforming to certain acceptable guidelines.

        Really though, bucking social norms of formality is a cultural phenomenon. It's really just a new social norm of formality replacing an old one. In and of itself, it's neither good nor bad.

        Again, the key here, I think, is being able to integrate the separate parts. Can you include both these dominant social-media definitions of "authenticity"-over-"formality" and still keep your own sense internal sense of congruency? Then great, go for it. If you feel something is lacking, but you're still drawn to these new social norms, then it's time for the old Hegelian dialectic.

        But the key to true authenticity is a sense of inner correctness, of "all is right between me and the world". And most, if not all, people can sense that, even if they don't know that they do.

        As Gurdjieff said: "Your nervous and restless movements make everyone know, consciously or unconsciously, that you have no authority and are a booby."

        The quote continues: "With these restless movements, you cannot BE anything."

        The same's true for restless thoughts and opinions.

    • And one more thing (you stimulated my thinking!:)…

      As far as a cohesive personality goes, if we look at the adult ego development models of Robert Kegan and Suzanne Cook-Greuter, personality seems to be more cohesive at less differentiated, earlier stages before going through the chaos of differentiated subpersonalities before (perhaps) becoming more integrated at meta-levels.

      So it could be progress developmentally to be less integrated and thus appear to be less authentic. Conversely, someone could be stuck at very low levels of adult psychological development and be very integrated and congruent, thus appearing very authentic. Think Obama (complex and fluid integration) vs. George W. Bush (integrated but not very complex). In addition, more meta-integration has the potential for deeper deception while appearing very congruent, which is why many people don't trust the charisma of an Obama or Clinton, but do trust the simple straightforwardness of a George W.

      • Joseph says:

        This links up with Lacan (not my thing, but seeing MrTeaCup quoted him above…): perhaps the search for the authentic is simply a more common-language approach to the Lacanian Real: the sea of meaning we inhabit before individuation which we constantly seek to reconnect with. Just thinking out loud.

        • Ian says:

          "the sea of meaning we inhabit before individuation which we constantly seek to reconnect with."

          Nice, I really like this! It points to a great endpoint (to rest at, if not to stop) in human existence. Can we, as fully individuated beings, also participate fully in that sea of meaning?

          I must read more Lacan, it seems…

          Thanks for the great discussion guys!

      • Ian says:

        "personality seems to be more cohesive at less differentiated, earlier stages before going through the chaos of differentiated subpersonalities before (perhaps) becoming more integrated at meta-levels."

        Yeah, this is exactly it. The more you are aware of, the more you have to integrate, or suffer cognitive dissonance and lack of authenticity (Buddha called it "dukha"). I think of it kind of like tetris. You want to build up high levels, but not without being able to clear the rows underneath. Building high levels and still being able to clear them is the sign of a true master of living, I think.

        "more meta-integration has the potential for deeper deception while appearing very congruent, "

        It certainly seems that way, because if I am less integrated than someone, I simply cannot see all the connections he does between things. Since I can't see them, he could just as easily be lying to me as not, I can't tell. Through in a little suspicion (caused by whatever you like) and it's a perfect recipe for conspiracy theory.

  9. Alexander says:

    Ooh! What a cool discussion! I had a comment half-written last night that my sleepiness wouldn't let me finish, and I come back today and the conversation had totally left me behind!

    I think that the full-congruence model of authenticity works well. If I think of the people that I would call most authentic they are those that know what they want, how they will go about it, that "know" what's right – compared to a [disappearing] me that is accustomed to doubting and disagreeing with and stopping itself. This definition of me is disappearing due to Core Transformation work also, and what is happening more, and at more levels, is something that I experience as "being myself" – the experience of no longer stopping myself. The lack of incongruencies.

    I mentioned to someone yesterday that I believe that the greatest gift you can offer the world is yourself, unhidden and unstopped. I don't know that I still believe this (it's been a number of hours since I said it), but I definitely see it as a cool gift. There's something special that is available from people that fit the full-congruence definition of authenticity that isn't from others. I don't know what it is, but it's what has me drawn to such people. Maybe it's the experience of being truly shared with.

    As for the apparent conflict around someone being authentic but not "good": Authenticity is not enlightenment. It's a helper on the road, I'm sure, but it's not the goal. From my understanding of enlightenment (semi-experiential – through Core Transformation among other things), no personality survives. That is, personality is seen to be empty as it becomes understood that "self" is a manufactured fantasy made of nothing much. This includes the atman. There is no inherent "my atman" and "your atman". There's only this one thing.


    • Tyler Prete says:

      It's quite possible though that someone who appears to be in full-congruence is only aware of its potential, and so intentionally appearing so, whereas someone who appears less so may actually be the more "authentic" by presenting a more honest version of themselves. Think Ted Haggard before the gay meth prostitute outing.

  10. If you are "trying" to be authentic you aren't and never will be. I love the play factor in the Gay Miss America. Play is play and the enjoyment of playing is authentic.

    Sorry but it seems fairly pitiful to me to go to something that that calls itself The Authentic Man Program.

    • Alexander says:

      I don't know anything about The Authentic Man Program other than what's been mentioned on this page, but I definitely advocate the quest for authenticity. Many (most?) people are trying to be authentic (no matter which of the above definitions of athenticity you agree with), and don't know how to not try. Anything that is able to teach us how to let go of this trying is able to do something helpful, I think.

  11. Florin says:

    being gay is lame and non responsible and non appreciative for what life has given you

  12. Keith says:

    Hey Duff —

    I'm a little late to the discussion, but better late then never. My question to you is this: if we look at "authentic" from a developmental perspective, ala Kegan, would you not agree there are many different kinds of "authentic"? Is it possible that me wanting to be popular with the ladies, popular with my friends, and well-thought of by most would be a completely legitimate form of "authenticity" from the 3rd Order perspective? From that place, "living up to meaning" is the moral imperative, not "questing meaning". "Needing" the approval of others, far from a negative, is a very important part of meaning-making here — healthy, natural, and normal. Since I "am" my role in society (I don't "have" a role yet, but "am" my role) sharing that and deepening that role, or finding a slightly "better" role, is what my authenticity calls me to do. The 3rd Order seeks comfort "in relationship" AS relationship.

    The 4th Order seeks comfort in a self who HAS relationships. At the 4th Order and beyond, these things begin to morph. I no longer "need" the approval of others, and might look down on those who do (since I recently came from that place). I no longer AM my relationships, but I HAVE relationships. A 4th order expression might mean that I would need to be "the real me" ALL the time, despite what others might think or what culture said. "Authentic" here means I speak "my mind and live my truth".

    So it seems to me that there might be some understandable judgment of 3rd Order "authenticity" from the 4th Order, or higher, in your post and in the responses. Or, at the very least, some confusion around different understandings of what "authentic" means from different perspectives.

    Casey seemed to point out that AMP strives to bring men to a 4th Order authenticity, by advertising/marketing to a 3rd Order mentality. That's the "trap" they set, and then act as the bridge to move from one kind of meaning-making to the next. But you feel that the AMP "trap" is "inauthentic", I gather? That they should speak about THEIR understanding of "authentic"?

    I would argue that those who are cross-dressing are, by and large, asserting a 4th Order authenticity — they are looking to create a healthy self-identify on their own terms and in a culture they have chosen to embrace and enter — since this was largely denied them in the mainstream. Traditional Ms. America-type stuff is more likely to be 3rd Order, or a confusing intersection of 3rd and 4th, depending on the woman.

    Anyway, just my two-cents. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  13. "Being yourself" is not necessarily being authentic — especially if "yourself" is a fabricated persona you retreat behind in order to cope with the vagaries of life. And in either case, something tells me neither attribute is really on display in a beauty pageant where contestants are judged according to preconceived notions of attractiveness.

    Then again, is there anyone who doesn't operate without preconceived notions of who "they" *really* are, deep down?…

  14. @mrteacup says:

    It's an interesting idea, but I think authenticity is a way of dealing with the post-modern problem of shifting, fluid identity — gay/straight, male/female. It's really a way of repressing the anxiety and conviction that one is a fraud.

    It's like walking past a graveyard, loudly declaring that you don't belief in ghosts in case any ghosts happen to be listening. Even though in authenticity programs, you are being taught to follow a script — notice, for example, how they are filled with jargon and catchphrases — you are told that you are finding your authentic self. You're taught to believe that beneath the shifting sands of post-modernity, there's a real, solid identity that you just need to learn to recover.

    I think this is ultimately regressive, a self-delusion that is used to escape from the fact that you really believe you are a fake. But, Miss Gay America is slightly different. I haven't seen the movie, but I doubt that these men sincerely believe that they have been literally transformed into women. Perversely, this is what makes them authentic — authenticity can only be achieved by fully assuming and adopting one's fakeness. As Picasso said, art is a lie that tells the truth. It's the people in the Authentic Man program who sincerely believe they are authentic who are not; instead, they're in deep denial that they don't really believe it themselves. Why else would they need a spiritual intervention to discover and sustain the belief?

    • Alexander says:

      An interesting point. I definitely believe that to be truly authentic one needs to be willing to move along with one's evolution. It is in our nature to change in every way all the time, and so to hold on tightly to a particular "you" – or aspect of you – is to be inauthentic. It's like emotions: the times when emotions really cause us problems is when we've got them stuck somehow, unable to move freely and evolve. Likewise, when we hold on to any part of our personality – this includes beliefs about the world, opinions on music, our diet – we reject our personal evolution, and create an incongruity inside ourselves.

      Similarly, if what one learns to do when one attends these courses is to force a particular concept of personality onto oneself, what's being taught is inauthenticity.

      And yes, agreed: One can be entirely authentic and do the Miss Gay America thing.

  15. ourcryforhelp says:

    Hello there Duff. FYI…"Duff" is the nickname my oldest buddy gave me back in the 50's for obvious reasons! Having written a comment, I now find comments here are limited so I’ll send it in three pieces. Here’s piece-1. First off I must say I'm not a philosopher, psychologist, psychiatrist or horticulturist. Can't honestly say I know much about anything. Even so, I spent decades living a lie before blindly stumbling into the key to authenticity. If I may then, I'd just like to share my own experience of "being real". Feel free to go reductio on me. To set the stage I'd like to ask you to look in a mirror. What do you see? Hopefully the answer is "you". So how would you describe that experience? Don't know about you, but I'd use the word "recognition". In my case, I'd see an ugly looking dude staring back and say "I RECOGNIZE that Brad Pitt look-alike". In short, I know for sure who I'm looking at. Matter of fact, I have no doubt. If it turned out I was looking through a pane of glass at my twin brother….I'd be "wrong" about who was there. But I'd still have that doubtless feeling of recognition. Hold onto that feeling, because it's central to authenticity, albeit in a rather odd way. Alright, now I'd like you to look at the world around you. What do you see? Do you recognize yourself? Put another way, do you see the ONE way to take your life that will grow all your unique potentials until you blossom? If you do see that path ahead, you'll be DRIVEN to take it. That feeling of being driven to "express the unique soul within you" comes from RECOGNIZING who you are and can be. Why? Because the Path of authenticity is paved with "certain knowledge" about who you are. When you begin to see the Path ahead to take your life and know it's "you" like you'd know your reflection in a mirror, you're "being real". YOU know for sure, but do others know you're "being authentic". No. In life it's possible to pretend to be virtually anything you're not. I did for a long time for instance, and bystanders had no clue it wasn't who I really am. Even now I can tell you I'm living authentically of course, but I could be lying. Bottom line? Attempting to determine if someone else is "authentic" is doomed to failure. Authenticity is a solitary skill, practised by few but desired by many. Oh yes. I should add this. There's no way to tell if someone else is authentic or not….any more than there's a way to get inside someone else's mind. But there is a way to discover your own Path of authenticity. Ciao Duff from another Duff. John Duffield

  16. […] you agree that authenticity is always “according to whom?” then the story is a little bit different. In this case, I am authentic—according to […]

  17. I found this perspective on the Authentic Man Program interesting.
    From… :

    I took the course in San Francisco and before you decide to take this course, let me save you the $2500 so that you can spend it elsewhere. The seclude you in a room for 8-10 hours continuous and during that process you are emotionally brainwashed into their world that you think you've taken the best workshop since sliced bread.

    The weekend basically begins with a bunch of AMP women so to speak, and they only appear on the third day where all you do is stare at them and your suppose to increase your consciousness and be present, both of which would be better done with some coffee and a good sense of social intuition.

    The first day they make you sign a waiver for an breathing exercise, in which you breath hard constantly in and out for an hour while playing this loud corny music which is supposed to make you vivid imaginations and during this process the room is dark and everyone is screaming and crying because they're supposed to follow the emotions of the music (presumably due to their tiredness in breathing). This is then followed with a series of exercises where they force you to cry or become angry.

    The next day there is an exercise where you basically assume that there is only 1 parachute, and there are 5 members, and they have to choose between them who survives. In this process, the only way your authentic as they call it, is if you take the exercise up to the point where everyone starts crying.

    The final day a bunch of men stand in a circle and the AMP girls from earlier are in the middle, the room is dark with no light, and they are howling, screaming, and crying at you, and presumably your suppose to be enlightened so you'll know what to do in this situation.

    All in all, this was definitely some feel good ripoff gig to get a bunch of older men to cry together, and it will teach you nothing that they claim on the website such as

    How to eliminate neediness and shame, once and for all. (Hint: Your neediness may be destroying your chances with women, and you don't even know it!)
    What you need to do to have her her surrender completely in bed – And why she can't be that vulnerable with you, until you get this right.
    How to avoid the "Just Friends" category by accessing your masculine, sexual power — even with the most intimidatingly beautiful women.
    How to penetrate her outer facade and connect with her on a deep emotional level.
    How to have your dates feel like you're already making love (And have her feeling exhilarated and alive, just by being around you!)

    The picture currently on the website, the guy with the beard, is known as Bryan Bayer. I personally saw him along with several others standing around 111 Minna (a club in SF) with his drink and for the WHOLE night he did not talk to a single woman, so if the above claims are so true, he should have been able to use his seduction process to charm the women in that bar? Spend the money instead on improving your life or better yet save it, or if you really want to take a workshop, look elsewhere.

    San Francisco, California

  18. I used to have poor social and relationship skills. In those days, I equated my behaviors with my rigidly defined identity. So I didn't allow myself to do many things that would have gotten me better results, but seemed "inauthentic."

    Then I learned NLP, and shifted my focus from following rules to getting results. I figure that since identity is a construct anyway, ANY role I play IS a role. Dressing this way or that way, interacting with people in one way or another, isn't "authentic" or "inauthentic," but merely means to achieving an outcome — such as connecting better with people, making myself more approachable, and helping others feel good. Rather than worrying about "authenticity," I concern myself with how well what I do works to get the results I want. With that focus, my social and relationship skills have improved immensely.

    "Authenticity" sells seminars, especially to the insecure, but I'd rather have honest marketing that says, "We'll teach you some specific skills, behaviors, and strategies that will help you get X kind of results from Z audience."

  19. Spot on with this write-up, I really assume this web site wants way more consideration. I’ll probably be again to learn much more, thanks for that info.

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  21. Kim Mcghehey says:

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