First there were parks, saunas and bathhouses, then bars, clubs and dance halls. Next came gay book stores (regular and “dirty“) and even clothing stores and large social organizations. We have GLBT centers all around the world and Gay Pride celebrations that last weeks and even a full month in some places. Hell, we even have (had?) our own neighourhoods. But of course, there is the big daddy of them all; the Internet. This invention has brought us everything from Yahoo Groups and Tumblr to Grindr, Adam4Adam and all of the dating and sex sites you can imagine. Whatever, or whomever, you are into, there is an App for that. Gays can order in a man faster than straights can get pizza take out. Who needs saunas and bathhouses when you can get dick delivered? Finally, in most of the Western world, we have marriage equality. So, if things are so great, why are so many gay males lonely?
Back in March of 2017, Michael Hobbes published a piece in The Huffpost on this topic. Many guys have seen it, but not enough understand how we contribute to the problem as much as are effected by it. One of the most thought provoking and scary paragraphs he wrote, is in the beginning of the article and sums up many of our issues as gay males.
” ..the rates of depression, loneliness and substance abuse in the gay community remain stuck in the same place they’ve been for decades. Gay people are now, depending on the study, between 2 and 10 times more likely than straight people to take their own lives. We’re twice as likely to have a major depressive episode. And just like the last epidemic we lived through, the trauma appears to be concentrated among men. In a survey of gay men who recently arrived in New York City, three-quarters suffered from anxiety or depression, abused drugs or alcohol or were having risky sex—or some combination of the three. Despite all the talk of our “chosen families,” gay men have fewer close friends than straight people or gay women. In a survey of care-providers at HIV clinics, one respondent told researchers: “It’s not a question of them not knowing how to save their lives. It’s a question of them knowing if their lives are worth saving.”
But, as he notes, this is not just an American concern.
“In the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been legal since 2001, gay men remain three times more likely to suffer from a mood disorder than straight men, and 10 times more likely to engage in “suicidal self-harm.” In Sweden, which has had civil unions since 1995 and full marriage since 2009, men married to men have triple the suicide rate of men married to women.”
Now, if you have already read or heard about Mr. Hobbes essay, you might not have known about a rebuttal response from Mr. Ben Miller, over at Slate. As much as he disagrees with the analysis of the first article he dives deep into the issue of race and class which Mr. Hobbes either neglects or does not hold relevant, as all of the people he speaks of or to are well healed white gay men. The so-called A gays. Mr. Miller concludes with:
“What is needed to address the epidemic of gay loneliness is unlikely to be found in a psych study. We cannot think about how we might be better to each other without thinking about who we are, and who we have been, and who we might become. The various epidemics of queer loneliness and drug addiction and suicide will not be solved by the A-gays, or by a movement that focuses only on the personal happiness of individual people. We need a politics of solidarity, of standing up for ourselves and with other threatened communities. Working and thinking together, as any longtime queer activist will tell you, is a great way to start feeling less alone.”
We at GMJ want to keep this conversation going, that is why we provided links to both articles as they both do have a semblance of thought and relevance to many of you. But a broader issue is how we, as gay males, find the time and energy to be both victim and victimizer of our brothers. Many times we create the exact same conditions that we complain about. If you limit your dating pool by age, race, HIV status and even location and profession (all choices you are able to make), it seems silly to complain about your loneliness. If you say “no” enough times, guys will stop asking you to the dance. Within the grand scheme of things, away from major mental health disorders, many have gone from being bullied to being the bully. And then complaining about the world they have made.
If this is our community, all of our community, then why do so many of us feel unwelcome? If we have come so far, why are more guys at home jerking off to porn than actually out in the world meeting to date or even have sex? We all hear the stories about how hook-up Apps are a waste of time, but all of you are on them. Why do we enjoy reducing our brothers to pieces of meat, ready to be discarded at the first hint of unease or imperfection? We of course don’t know, but individually, you know what you do, and why you do it.
This is our community, and people literally died so that we can have it. Maybe, just maybe, we can make it easier on everyone else to join the party, no matter their race, age, body type or HIV status. Maybe.