Michael Hobbes published a truly eye-opening article on The Huffington Post March 2, 2017 titled “Together Alone, the Epidemic of Gay Loneliness“. This article is a must read for anybody and everybody of the LGBT+ community and to anybody else who wants to have an insight on what it’s like to live life gay.
In the beginning of the article, Hobbes starts talking about how even though all of these great steps for the gay community have been made over recent years, there are still vast differences between the mental and physical health states of straight and gay men.
Gay people are now, depending on the study, between two and ten times more likely than straight people to take their own lives. We’re twice as likely to have a major depressive episode. 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…
Some people might think that once you come out of the closet that’s it; you’re happier, life is better, everything’s easier now. But that’s not the truth, far from it, in fact. To quote the article, “But now you’ve got millions of gay men who have come out of the closet and they still feel the same isolation.” So is it something with being gay?
We take the closet with us into adulthood.
Everybody knows growing up gay is tough, but how hard is it really? Some of the most damaging periods of your life can be in “..the five or so years between realizing your sexuality and starting to tell people.” Speaking from experience, I know that during these times little incidents can be exemplified and create huge amounts of stress. Because our body’s systems are so overwhelmed by this as adolescents, we end up producing less cortisol, the hormone that regulates stress, as adults. Hobbes phrases being in the closet perfectly. “…being in the closet is like someone having someone punch you lightly on the arm, over and over. At first, it’s annoying. After a while, it’s infuriating. Eventually, it’s all you ever think about. And then the stress of dealing with it every day begins to build up in your body.” We start to develop mechanisms, to monitor ourselves constantly and minutely, and without realizing it we carry these things with us through our lives. On this Hobbes says, “If you experience one traumatic event, you have the kind of PTSD that can be resolved in four to six months of therapy. But if you experience years and years of small stressors—little things where you think, Was that because of my sexuality?—that can be even worse.” Gay people use these tools that they’ve built up in adolescence—avoidance of feelings, emotional detachment—almost unknowingly in their adult lives.
So we show other people what the world shows us, which is nastiness.
In his article, Hobbes uses the term “re-traumatization”. Once you’ve come out, it’s easier to disregard what straight people think because they don’t really understand what it is to be a part of the LGBT+ community. But if you face discrimination within the gay community, that’s when you start wondering if there really is something wrong with you. To quote the article, “All of us were deeply confused or lying to ourselves for a good chunk of our adolescence. But it’s not comfortable for us to show that to other people. So we show other people what the world shows us, which is nastiness.” Being discriminated against by your own people is more damaging. Hobbes goes on to describe the two main stressors of the gay community: the pressure of masculinity and how members of the gay community reject each other.
As the article starts to conclude, Hobbes mentions young people and schools, saying, “Kids hear derogatory comments in the hall so they decide to walk down another one, or they put in earbuds.” This really rang true for me; I hear kids talking bad about gay people or yelling “queer” in the halls of my school and I just turn my music up. As Hobbes says, “…one of the hallmark symptoms of minority stress is avoidance.”
I implore all of you to read Hobbes’ article, what I wrote here barely touched the surface. To read it click here. YouTuber Zack Arad made a fantastic video discussing Hobbes’ article, which I also recommend everyone watch. Click here to watch it.