On an evening in late July, 2020, I met with Rich Dalton, Captain of two squads: The weekly Red Dragon squad, and monthly Sacred Band squad, which is open to Brotherhood members who are gay, bi, or questioning.
We chatted about his experience in Samurai Brotherhood, supporting men in Sacred Band, following his career path from New York City to Vancouver, and getting sued for ten million dollars.
We sat across from each other in chestnut-brown leather armchairs, in the amenity room of his Coal Harbour apartment building.
As always, Rich’s natural resting intensity is permeated by sincerity, playfulness, and passion—each radiating freely through his eyes and voice.
Q: What is the Samurai Brotherhood to you?
It’s men getting together to spend time with each other, and learning to trust each other. We do that by being vulnerable, by sharing what’s going on in our lives, acknowledging our shadow, and being the best men we can be.
Q: What are a few core benefits you’ve experienced from it thus far?
I remember at a retreat one time, Phil (the founder) asked me very directly, “Why are you here?” And I said, “I’m here to break down the barriers that I have between myself and straight men.” Because when I joined in May 2016, that barrier was a total blind spot for me.
Even more than that, I think the key thing is becoming more of a King in my life. By becoming a leader in the Brotherhood, I’ve actually become a better owner of a business. I’m just better at being at the helm and delegating. I’m better at being direct. I take things less personally.
Q: You also run The Sacred Band. Could you explain what that is, and what function it serves in the community?
The Sacred Band is open to gay, bi, bi-curious, and questioning guys in the brotherhood. I started it in the Summer of 2019. The purpose is for guys to delve more into their sexual orientation. And for some guys, that is their shadow side. It’s something they’re trying to hide from other people.
There is the Kinsey scale, which is a scale of sexuality from 1 to 6. On one end, it’s completely heterosexual. On the other end, it’s completely gay. And then there’s everything in between. Especially for guys who are not at the extremes, it can be very tough at first. There’s a lot of wondering. “Who am I? What is this? I’m attracted to women, but I don’t know… I mean, I had a dream last night that I was jerking off my buddy, and I kind of liked it.”
I wouldn’t say I’m 100% gay. But it was easier for me to come out because there was so much certainty. There was no doubt. I think there’s a lot of questioning in men because there’s this notion that you’re either one or the other. Of course, there’s bisexuality, which would include everything in between. But still, our society tries to polarize people to be at one end. It’s only recently where it has become a lot more acceptable to come out as bi.
Q: When you set up Sacred Band, you made it a pre-requisite to be in a regular, weekly squad. Why is that?
I think there’s a benefit to have a mix of gay and straight guys in the squads. And I didn’t want it to be segregated, where we have our monthly secret group that’s limited to certain categories of people.
Because a lot of gay, bi, and questioning men have wounding with straight men, or at least the same barrier that I had. And that can be healed by being around straight men—being open and vulnerable with them, even without discussing sexual orientation. It comes from the same trust that builds between anyone in a squad and learning to trust other men.
I always do encourage the guys to bring stuff to their squads, whenever they feel comfortable enough. However, I’d say the big reason Sacred Band exists is because sharing this stuff is so difficult for some guys. Unfortunately, they’re not going to bring it up in their regular meetings. They’re not going to say, “Hey, I’m worried that if I get married, I’m going to realize I’m gay.” Our monthly meeting is just a more comfortable space to do that.
Q: Have you noticed any key patterns of men’s processes in Sacred Band?
Yeah, I think the commonality is there is still some shame that gay and questioning men feel. One particular point of shame, to be blunt, is about getting penetrated. There’s a lot of history behind that. For example, in South American culture, the guy who is penetrating is “straight,” and the guy getting penetrated is “gay,” and therefore perceived as lower in some way.
And I think there’s also shame in something that I’ve sort of broken through, which is thinking straight guys are hot. Or thinking guys in general are hot.
Of course, there no shame in it. But I’ve done a lot of work on that. That was big piece of fucking shame for me. And if a straight guy thinks a lesbian is hot, he doesn’t feel guilty thinking, “Well, she wouldn’t be attracted to me.” But that was something I realized in the Brotherhood, and also through other work that I’ve done. Since then, I’ve had huge breakthroughs in that area. My own squad is aware of the breakthroughs, and they’re totally supportive.
And you know what’s interesting—many guys have said that they just feel a lot more love in Sacred Band. It’s hard to say why. And I don’t mean to come across like gay men have something straight men don’t. But to a certain degree, there is.
I think it’s becoming more acceptable for straight guys to express their love to one another—brotherly love. Brotherly love and romantic love are two very different things. And there’s often the concern that one might be interpreted as the other. I think there’s still a lot of history and baggage around that.
Whereas when you’re in a group of gay men, you’ve already broken all the norms. You’ve already dropped that baggage. There is this notion of, “Fuck that, I don’t care. I can express my love to men.” And I think there’s still some inhibition with straight men.
I think things are changing a lot. And I think men in the Brotherhood are definitely much more expressive and open. You can have edge, and you can have love. They can exist together. But I do notice there’s something different happening in Sacred Band.
Q: On a personal note, you were in New York for the majority of your life, right?
Yeah, I grew up on Long Island, and worked on Wall Street for a while. I was a computer programmer in a bank, right across from where the World Trade Center used to be. When the towers collapsed, they put a big slash in the building I had worked in. I did that for five years. And about half way through—way before understanding True Calling, or anything like that—I just knew that I wanted some field where I could make a difference.
So, I thought, “Journalism. That’s it.” I left a well-paying job and started grad school. Twenty-eight years ago, I knew the earnings estimates were under 20k a year. But I had just read the book, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. And I knew this is what I wanted to do. By the time I left that career, I was making four times what I thought possible.
Initially, I spent two years working in Missouri, or “Misery.” Then I got hired at Newsday in New York. It was my hometown newspaper. There’s really like four newspapers in the New York area: The New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post, and Newsday. I covered technology, and then got into computer-assisted reporting, where you analyze data. So, instead of just interviewing a person, you’re also “interviewing” numbers and figures.
Then I became a consumer reporter, as well as an investigative journalist. There was actually one piece I wrote that led to me getting sued for ten million.
A car dealership had overcharged an autistic man several thousand dollars, and undervalued his trade in. I drew the whole story out of the sales manager, and people ended up protesting in front of the dealership. That dealership ended up closing, and the owner filed a libel lawsuit against me. I was in Vancouver by that time, so I got free trips back to New York for depositions. But the judge finally tossed it out because I had everything recorded.
Q: Unbelievable. And what you do now?
I developed this method to help students excel on the SAT. That’s what my company, Your Score Booster, teaches. We get students into Harvard and Stanford, all the top universities.
Every career I’ve had sort of built on the previous one by accident. First, I was a computer programmer. Then, as a journalist, it turned out there was this niche doing the computer assisted reporting. So, I was a journalist using my computer science skills. While in New York, I did a training to teach the SAT, and continued on when I came to Canada. Newspapers were really dying at the time, and continue to, so I realized I needed to pivot to a different career.
I would just go to the library, take a full SAT, and sort of crack the code. It’s all math, reading, and writing. And that’s my background. My undergrad degree was dual, math and computer science, plus journalism for grad school. So, I took the actual test until I got a perfect 800 on the reading and writing sections. Eventually, the test administrator ended up sending me a letter banning me from taking the test (Rich laughs) Because its graded on a curve, they said, “You’re interfering with the validity of the scoring and security of the examination,” or something like that.
I love that phenomenon, where the little turns we take in life end up incorporating some core skills from our background, and build on the next thing.
Totally. I remember my boyfriend at the time said, “You’ll use your journalism and computer science in your new career.” I just didn’t foresee it.
Sometimes I lament that I didn’t get into men’s work earlier. And then I think, well, I sort of made some great decisions anyway. Early on, I feel like I was guided by some principles. Men’s work must be natural fit for me because I feel like it was in me for a long time.
Q: To close—In our squads together, what would you want straight men to know, and what would you want gay, bi, and questioning men to know?
For straight guys, there’s definitely stuff you can learn from gay relationships. In fact, I just read an article in the New York Times called, “How to Make Your Relationship Gayer.” It was geared to straight people. In a study, gay male couples reported the lowest levels of distress in relationships.
Because the biggest factor in determining strife in a relationship is measuring how household chores are shared, particularly washing dishes. In relationships where heterosexual couples take on traditional roles, where the woman is left with household chores, there’s more strife. The article described how, in gay relationships, you can’t rely on gender stereotypes about who does what. So those things naturally fall to the person for whom it would be more natural to do.
And for gay, bi, bi-curious, and questioning guys, I’d say the same. You can learn from straight men.
And what I really want them to know is that: The Brotherhood is totally open to all men regardless of sexual orientation. It really doesn’t matter. And if you think it does, you’ve got a story.
When I stepped up to be a captain of a weekly squad, I don’t think I dealt with the shadow side of me that said, “How the fuck can a gay guy lead a group of mostly straight men?” As I’ve become more self-aware, I see it come up. But now I’m beyond that. The men in my squad are so friggin’ supportive that it doesn’t matter. It blows any concerns I might have out of the water.
As a gay man, I had a lot of hang ups and blind spots until I did men’s work. I’ve become more aware of my feelings and my triggers, and made a lot of progress.
For current squad members of Samurai Brotherhood, The Sacred Band welcomes all men who would like monthly, confidential support in exploring and embracing their sexuality. If you’d like to learn more, visit the webpage, or contact Rich Dalton via email at – email@example.com.