In case you thought it was you, I received Ask Angelo letters from gay men all over from 2004-2010 when I did my advice column. Many spoke of loneliness and feeling that there’s something missing in gay culture. They told me there’s something empty about “gay life.” I listened to these men’s voices. I heard them echoed again and again in my private psychotherapy practice, when I worked almost exclusively with gay men, formerly in West Hollywood and Chelsea. The following letter is a composite.
I’m a good-looking normal guy, fairly new to the gay scene. From what I’ve been through so far, it seems to be mostly hooking up going on. I try, but I can’t seem to find a healthy, lasting relationship. I think gay men don’t want relationships because they are always looking for the next hot boy who comes along. Or they are such judgmental perfectionists that nobody’s good enough for them. Or they are too full of themselves for anyone else. It’s either about how much do you have, or what can you do for me, not to mention your youthful looks. I often feel down, empty, lonely, or angry. Sometimes to de-stress and escape I like to drink or get high. What floors me is that there have never been more ways to meet other gay men. The Internet, gay groups, sports leagues, political groups, personal ads, and the old ways such as the bars. But so much of our lives revolve around the bars/clubs/sex. Where does the relationship line start? I want to be first in line. Anybody talk? It seems like I hit the wrong mark a lot. They like me, but I don’t like them. Or I like them but they don’t like me. Or they just totally lie about themselves. I’m not discreet about being out. Some of these straight-acting guys won’t meet you if you’re too out. I thought it would be easy to find a gay relationship, but gay men treat each other like shit. I don’t get it. Is it just me? I knew that being gay was going to be tough, but I didn’t know I would be spending my life alone. I can’t think of a time in my life when I have been more depressed. Gay life can be so lonely, and I’m doing everything I’m supposed to.
It saddens me how we treat each other in our community. It’s like Mean Girls. This “attitude” can be shocking, disappointing, and anger making. But we can be empowered to change the situation if we understand what’s going on.
For closeted and out gay men, internalized homophobia has been found to be the largest impediment to mental health. Sexual oppression can forge gay men to view their sexual identity in a negative way. This often results in low self-esteem, emotional distress, addictive coping strategies, high-risk behavior, increased suicide risk and physical illness. Maladaptive coping responses like unsafe sex, excessive: alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, food, exercise, work, etc., decrease stress, but are ultimately self-destructive. Symptoms like anxiety, depression, overemphasizing masculine traits, body image issues, sexual objectification, addiction, disconnection, isolation, and loneliness emerge.
It starts with one. It starts with you. Be the change you want. Be the person you want others to be. Treat others as you want to be treated.