by Clinton Power, psychotherapist and Gay Therapy Center guest blogger
Unfortunately, feelings of loneliness and isolation are really common in the gay community despite the focus on love and relationships. Sometimes you might struggle with making connections at all, and other times you may feel “alone in a crowded room” because it’s so hard to forge true connections.
Let’s explore how you can constructively deal with these feelings and share a life you’re excited to live!
Why do gay men get lonely?
Loneliness is, in some ways, part of the gay experience. Since everyone is assumed to be heterosexual, we all start out in the closet. The stress of not being out is emotional more than rational, but it takes its toll. Even before you came out to yourself, on some level you might have known you couldn’t fulfill expectations of a heterosexual life. You may have grown up feeling different and separated from the majority.
After you’re out of the closet, things don’t necessarily improve right away. No matter who you are, as a gay man you’ve experienced homophobia (whether active or passive) from family, friends, and/or the culture at large. This is called “minority stress” and can be more harmful than many people give it credit for.
Some of the problem comes from the culture of gay men themselves. Gay men can often buy into the negative aspects of masculinity. Trying to be emotionally detached—and succeeding, too—can cause psychological harm.
Many gay men belong to other groups that are discriminated against even within the gay community, magnifying your minority stress and contributing to negative body image. LGBT spaces like clubs (and more recently, hookup apps like Grindr) are not designed for the creation of close relationships, leading many encounters you might have to be focused on the physical instead of the emotional.
Altogether, these factors mean that gay men—despite the chosen-family attitude of the LGBT community—often feel lonely and isolated. How do you learn to deal with these unhappy feelings?
The importance of overcoming isolation
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance abuse, and suicide, so it’s very important to make genuine connections as a gay man.
Substance abuse is, in particular, a common issue because many people feel that alcohol and/or “uppers” like cocaine or Crystal Meth give you the edge in social situations that allow you to interact more freely and with less inhibition. Using substances for reasons like these can create a dependence that leaks over into other parts of your day-to-day life.
Now that you know you’re not alone in your loneliness, here are 5 practical tips you can use to alleviate your feelings of isolation:
- Admit to yourself and others how lonely you’re feeling. Being open and honest about your emotions frees you from some of their weight, and reaching out to others can help you form more intimate relationships. Knowing and seeing that people care about you can make all the difference!
- Join clubs or sporting groups that meet regularly. It’s much easier to make friends with people who you see on a regular basis than to make friends with people you see once at a club.
- Get closer with your acquaintances. Many people don’t reach out to possible friends that they already know. This takes little effort and you can deepen your connection in less time because you have a pre-existing relationship.
- Get help for substance use. Using might make you feel more confident in the short term, but in the long run it will just make you feel lonelier and more isolated. If you’re abusing alcohol or drugs, seek out support groups like AA or NA, which often have LGBT meetings in most major cities.
- Seek out a gay-affirmative therapist. While there can be some stigma about seeing a therapist, including in the gay community, therapists exist to help you find creative solutions that work. You will learn to deal with your existing feelings of loneliness, as well as increase your confidence and self-esteem. Group therapy is also a good option where you can connect with other gay men and learn more about yourself and how you relate to other people.
Believe it or not, there are always going to be people out there who would love to create a true friendship with you. Use some of these practical tips to find new friends and reduce your loneliness and isolation once and for all.
About the Author:
Clinton Power is a psychotherapist who specializes in working with LGBTIQ people in Sydney, Australia. In 2003, Clinton founded Sydney Gay Counselling to support the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ singles and couples.
Clinton’s book 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship has been downloaded over 5,000 times and is available for Kindle on Amazon. Visit his blog to sign up for his free report, 10 Tips for Moving Out of Relationship Pain, or follow Clinton on Facebook.