27 Mar The Puzzle of Gay Loneliness
by Cathi Bond
Loneliness is an emotion that causes one to feel empty or have the perception of being alone, like when a college freshman feels lonely even when surrounded by roommates and fellow students. Earlier this month, Michael Hobbes, a gay writer, pondered why gay “marriage” hasn’t cured gay loneliness among gay men.
Hobbes lists sobering statistics of suicide for gay men and other psychological challenges, with accompanying behavioral issues occurring on a global scale. He asserts, “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.” Too many gay men feel empty and unfulfilled. Hobbes emphasizes, “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.” Studies show living in a gay community actually promotes or increases the prevalence of these behaviors and issues.
Travis Salway Hottes, Canadian researcher of gay men’s health declares, “The problem wasn’t just suicide, it wasn’t just afflicting teenagers and it wasn’t just happening in areas stained by homophobia…Gay men everywhere, at every age, have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, incontinence, erectile dysfunction, allergies and asthma – you name it, we got it. In Canada…more gay men were dying from suicide than from AIDS, and had been for years.” The devastating effects on gay men are physical and emotional.
Hobbes contrasts seeing his straight friends marry and have children while his gay friends struggle with isolation and mental health issues. Yet, he acknowledges he and some gay men he knows haven’t been victims of bullying in a homophobic society, nor have they been rejected by their families. Hobbes admits, “Minority stress doesn’t fully explain why gay men have such a wide array of problems. Because while the first round of damage happens before we come out of the closet, the second, and maybe more severe, comes afterward.” No longer can minority status be considered the sole cause of depression among gay men.
Besides the commonly cited minority stress, other contributing factors to their loneliness includes self-esteem issues, feelings of confusion, nonconformity, opposition, secrecy, and not fitting in. Gay men experience internal conflict from unfulfilled role expectations, guilt, shame, self-hatred, and a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness. Social isolation and taking sexual risks are correlated to feeling suicidal.
Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for G.L.B.T. Elders states, “We’re twice as likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times as likely to be childless. And many of us are estranged from our families of origin, and so are only half as likely as our heterosexual counterparts to have close relatives to lean on for help.” Besides adoption and other extreme measures, there is an obvious lack of natural ability for gay men to fulfill their desire of procreation. When it comes down to it, most people have a longing to be in a stable, close family for their happiness and life satisfaction.
It’s time to dig deep and discover the real sources of depression among gay men rather than blame this on homophobia. We owe it to the men whose lives are being ravished from the inside out. Dr. Michael Brown, author and speaker, responded to Hobbes’ article by asking an insightful question, “Could it be that, by divine intent, ultimate relational fulfillment for human beings can be found only in divinely designed heterosexual marriage?”