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Insight Into Myself From Article Together Alone: The Epidemic Of Gay Loneliness

So I recently read this article on The Huffington Post Hightline called Together Alone: The Epidemic Of Gay Loneliness this article is one that I would highly recommend reading.  It is an article that touched me in a significant way.  The article fouces on why even thought the gay community has come a long way in gaining equal rights, it still suffers from high rates of suicide, depression, anxiety and substance abuse.  The article points out that "are between 2 to 10 times more likely then straight people to take their own life. Where twice as likely to have a major depressive episode" And this pattern holds up in countries that where even early adopter to things like gay marriage.  While there virtually no study on the subject in the US in Canada it has been found that more gay men a year die from suicide them they do for HIV/AIDs if those finding are to hold true in the US suicide could be the next major epidemic with in the gay community taking countless number of lives. These issues and the sort of mental states that they bring with them have started to also be linked to why the rates of substance abuse and higher then average rates of risky behavior in the gay community. More after the jump.

The article then goes on to try to uncover the root cause of this disparity between the gay community and the straight community.  What studies are starting to show is that it in many ways is built on stress, but not normal stress that everyone including straight people go through but the stress that comes from being part of a minority group, and how it can creates unique stresses that those in the start community don't face, as well as creating a kind of stress where the person experiencing it places the blame for what is going on with them on themselves, and they start to expect the worse kinds of outcomes.  What is now beginning to come out as the effects of this minority stress which has been studied in racial minority communities but is still under studied in the gay community is that it can cause PSTD and create those symptoms in those that have experienced it, but it is different from the sort of PTSD that a lot of people are familiar with that comes from a single traumatic experience that can often be treated by short term psychiatric care (usually about 6 months) the kind of PTSD from minority stress that gay people experience can take years and years of care to overcome, and the thing is many gay men don't even recognize that they suffer from it. That is because they have been suffering from it for so long.

This stress comes from the build up of negative events that have happened to them or around them associated with their sexuality, especially during their time in the closet when they have only themselves and the sound track in their mind to deal with those experiences. Which can cause them to live in a constant state of stress fearing that they are not good enough, that they are not doing the things that they should be doing, and that it is their fault for the negative things that are going on in their life, and then they carry this narrative around with them even after they have come out of the closet which is another extremely stressful process even if they are met with support. It is carried around like a form of mental baggage.

This spoke to me as I can see this in my own life, even though I I have been out since 2006 so 11 years now, I still carry around with me much of what happened to me in the closet, and I can still see how it has an effect on my life today.  I knew I was different from most people at a very young age and by middle school I know what that was, I knew by middle school that I was gay, and that realization was a hard one to except because it meant that not only would I not have a life like those around me to me it meant that there was something wrong with me that I would always have to hide from every one around me and in my life.  It was also around that time that I started to get bullied by other kids, kids that where more popular them me, and it was for the fact that they thought I was gay.

I dreaded going to school and I dreaded making a mistake that would give away the fact that they where rights about me, and that then every one would know that horrible fact about me.  This only go worse by the time that I got to high school and those kids that where after me because they though I was gay where only getting more popular, now players on the school foot ball team, the top of the high school social ladder. Every day in the halls and on the bus they would make fun of me, harass me trying to make me trip up by trying to get me to come on to them.  I worried daily that I was doing things wrong to give them that impression.  I also felt that when they did that every one was paying attention to me potentially seeing what ever slip up that I had made.

I started to try to change my behavior and my mannerisms to try to hide what I thought must have been obvious to them, I would pay attention to how the other guys walked how they talked how they did everything and try my best to imitate that, and I would beat myself up internally when I would catch myself slipping up, just knowing that it was going to be the thing that gave me away and that it would be all my fault.  It would not talk about my interest least they be seen as a sign that I was gay, and I would stress over if the things that I liked and would want to do where things that where gay and not things that where straight and that I would be seen as gay.

It turned things that for most people where easy decisions into things to agonize over for hours and hours on end and to beat myself up for when I failed at making the right ones. I feared being called gay, or homo by those that did that to me as it was a constant daily occurrence, and I would blame myself of them doing so, thinking that it was something wrong that I had done to cause them to do so.

It made me dread things such a PE because I was always afraid that they guys would think that I was there checking them out in the locker room even though all I cared about was changing my cloths.  I would fear going to an elective class because I took art to try to get an easy grade as the depression and distress from the constant worrying was negatively effecting my grades in many of my other classes.

I would try my best in every class to talk as straight as I could to site how the straight guys sat and now how I wanted to sit.  Yet no matter what class I was in someone was always there to harass me.  I had one class around the time of a school dance where before the teacher was in one of the popular guys from the foot ball team asked me  while I was minding my own businesses lost in my head in a voice that the whole class could hear if I wanted to go to the dance with him, and when I turned to look at him he said "there is no way that's happening fag" and the rest of the class started to laugh.

To this day the fear of seeming to gay is something that continues to pop up in my daily life, especially when others make a point of pointing out that I am gay or that I have done something that seems gay to them, and when they do that the dialogue that I carried around with me all the way through school while I hid in the closet pops up.  It causes me to get upset and get mad at myself and to blame my self for doing the thing that made them point it out.  I also find my self changing the ways that I act when I am around straight guys, almost in an auto pilot type of way, as a way to keep them from thinking that I am too gay. To this day I hate it when people say that they know that I am gay, or that I have done something gay.  I feel uncomfortable in my own body because I am overweight and I feel that it makes me not manly enough, and that it contributes to people thinking that I am gay.  I also hide my interest in many things from others other then my best friends for fear that they will think that I am to gay because of that interest, and it makes those interest feel like dirty little secrets when I do so.  I know on a logical side that as an out gay man these things should not matter to me, but on the inside I still worry about it and blame my self when it happens

I also have a fear of being seen to be gay with the guys that I am dating to hold hands in public let alone share a kiss.  I carry around the times with me when I held hands with my first every boyfriend that I went out in public with, and I got snide remarks about our sexuality and how it was disgusting that we where doing that, and the disproving stares from strangers, all of which made me feel like I was doing something wrong, and now I can't bring myself to hold hands unless there is no one around for fear of those things happening again or even worse.

The stresses and the way that I dealt with them as a kid in the closet I still carry with me today, and they are only compounded by the new stresses that come with being out, the stress that comes along with being harassed on social media simply because you are a gay person and have said something that the other person disagrees with, to be called homo or faggot, the later being something that I have been called in person even as an adult, or getting death threats, I have gotten a fair share of those online. Yet I still blame myself for those peoples actions towards me, that if I had not done something wrong they would not have done that to me.  Even though the only crime that I committed was having an opinion or in the case of being called a fag in person simply going about my daily life. The worse though is when you get the street preachers who are obsessed with my sexuality and saving me from eternal damnation, as they often make it near impossible to get away from them, just like those that harassed me in school, and it brings back the feelings that i must have done something wrong that I was not acting in the proper way and that is why they latched onto me and guessed that I am gay.

This article is one that has stuck with me as I can see very clearly how what it is talking about plays out in my life on a constant basses. It has also given me an insight in to why I think the way that I do, and the deep effect that life and my sexuality have had on me in a way that the sexuality of straight people has not had on them.  I would highly recommend spending the time to read the article that I linked to at the top of this post.


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