Gay men are more lonely than straight men.
It pains me to write that. Gay men need positive inspiration and role models, not more negative statements.
However, I am highlighting this fact because I know it is easier to make change when we acknowledge painful truths.
Let’s start by reviewing some of the research on gay people. Academic journals can be incredibly boring so let me give you the brief highlights:
- Gay people are a lot more likely to commit suicide than straight people.
- Gay men have fewer close friends than straight people or gay women.
- Gay men are much more likely to be depressed than straight men.
Why are we statistically worse off on these measures of mental health? Is it something we ate?
You probably can guess the answer. It’s called “growing up gay.”
Even in today’s more enlightened times we experience more rejection as kids. And that’s especially true if we appear more feminine than other boys.
Many of us grow up expecting rejection and we remain on high alert for it in social situations. Even if you personally have never received blatant rejection, the negative culture has an impact on you. No one has to call you a fag for you to still fear being seen as a fag.
We don’t just experience this fear of rejection once or twice. We experience it for years until we come out. Science shows us that prolonged exposure to stressors has the most negative impact on our mental health.
LGBTQ individuals experience what researchers call “minority stress.” For us, minority stress is compounded by the fact we have to keep a secret from our own families or friends. Like, for example, when we are 10 or 11 years old and develop a crush on our male gym teacher.
When you finally do come out as an adult and find other gay men, you may notice that that the gay bar scene or the gay dating app experience isn’t always so warm, friendly, and accepting. Sex is easily available, but not necessarily connection, companionship, or love. That’s a further recipe for loneliness and depression.
Gay men do not show up at the Gay Therapy Center saying “I feel bad about myself because I have been marginalized as gay person growing up in my family and community.” They come in saying “I’m lonely” or “I’m having relationship problems.” Until they have done some exploration, they don’t link their current issues with their childhood experiences. Validating this fairly universal experience of growing up gay is an important first step in the healing process.
The Path from Loneliness
So what do we do about gay adult loneliness? There’s a lot we can do. The core of everything the Gay Therapy Center does is dedicated to personal growth so that we can connect more easily to others. You’ll find many answers about how to do this in our 100+ free blogs and videos and in each of our therapy sessions.
For this blog post I want to highlight the very best tip to overcome LGBTQ loneliness once you decide you are ready to tackle this challenge.
I want to ask you to join a gay group that meets once per week. The group could be artistic, political, athletic, social, service-oriented, personal development-oriented, academic, cultural, or spiritual.
When I suggest this to clients and friends I typically get a blank stare. Then silence followed by crickets chirping.
In their minds they are quietly thinking:
“I went to a group once and I didn’t like anyone.”
“I don’t like to be tied down to a schedule.”
“After work I go to the gym and I don’t have time.”
“I’m too shy to walk in the door.”
If you are lonely you will have to manage your own version of some of the above excuses and fears. You may need support from an LGBTQ therapist to help you do this.
Unless you are highly extroverted, attending an event and seeing someone just once typically is not enough to build a safe friendship or relationship. Research shows we have to see a person regularly to feel safe with them. And that is especially true if we have survived the trauma of repeated cultural rejection.
Personally, my muscles still get a little tight when I first walk into a room of people. However all the good stuff in my life has flowed from these group experiences. Organized groups make socializing easier. You connect with others by doing something together rather than just making conversation. Party conversation can get competitive and confusing quickly. That’s why so many people drink more than they want to at parties. But shared experiences in a group bring down the walls.
Loneliness is perhaps an emotion that has been developed through evolution to signal to humans when they need more people in their lives for optimum survival. It may be that simple.
Remember, you are not alone in your feeling of loneliness. When I write on this topic on Facebook I always get the greatest number of reads, likes, and shares. Some therapists believe, in part due to technology, we are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. This is hard stuff, but it is something you can change.
What should I do if there are no gay groups near where I live?
Thanks for your comment. Fortunately lots of groups now meet online. Don’t discount the power of making connections through video conversations. It’s real. Over the long term, it is worthwhile to consider the idea of moving to a community that has more LGBTQ activity. The sobering truth is that there are fewer of us on the planet and we need each other to feel good about ourselves and to develop romantic relationships. If your town does not have LGBTQ groups then is it really supporting your development?
I agree to this but circumstances are opposed to this. I started my own adventure to a city and I ended up getting agoraphobia when COVID hit. Now I’m back at my hometown and can’t leave, how am I supposed to travel to an area with higher lgbtq groups? I live I. A rural small area.
I hear you. If there are few LGBTQ+ people in your area then your options for making LGBTQ+ friends is limited. Anxiety is treatable and I do hope you are reaching out for treatment. If you have insurance it should cover a big portion of online therapy done with a licensed therapist anywhere in your State. Once your agoraphobia is treated you will have so many more options for achieving your friendship goals.
Hello, your article is captivating thank you. I meet a guy in Grindr and he is very shy and reserved, we have had sex thrice and it was very good. I have feelings for him and I told him but he didn’t respond, and he hardly calls me or chat me up. He only call or chat when he wants sex. Am a sex object? Or what , cos lately I have been crying and trying to die this feelings for him but it ain’t working. He treat me like a lover when we together he makes me feel loved but the moment I leave his presence, he shut the door of attention towards me and it’s killing me inside am confused please help me thank you
Gay men are lonelier…not more lonely
I’m a 50 something gay man that’s been out since I was 19. I’m perpetually single, yet sweet kind and handsome. I frequently get ignored or the feelings are not reciprocated as I reach out to other men I sense that enjoy my values of nature and hiking. I’ve been single for 9 years now and I need help. People reflect back at me that I need to go away and do some deep inner work to deal with my pain and inner child trauma in order to be loved by anyone else and to be in a state of mind where I’m always happy whether alone or with others. I need help with this. I can complain about it all the time and get sympathy from others but at the end of the day I remain labeled as a victim and hence unattractive to most people in our community. So this is where I’m wondering which modality would work best for me to be self empowered to my own happiness, and magnetically attract love from within and in my experience. I’m a deeply spiritual person with the realms of shamanic realities and earth based indigenous medicine ways. My guides and teachers advise me to get outside help —- so I’m wondering what is the best modality to help with this? CBT? Or is there something more somatic or deep energy based?