I’m a 26 year-old gay man, working in D.C., good at my job, acceptable looks, have some friends, date occasionally, but I’m not happy. I don’t really like being gay.
I haven’t told any of my friends about my feelings because I know they are really un-PC, right? There’s the “It Gets Better” campaign, gay marriage, gays in the military, the total uncoolness of homophobia, etc. Being gay is supposed to be terrific, but I don’t think it is. It makes my life difficult.
My family is pretty conservative Southern Baptist and while I am out to them, they make it clear that they are disappointed in me and disapprove of my being gay. Most of my friends are superficial. They put a lot of energy into the gym, clothes, and hooking up, and also act really bitchy, like they’re on a reality show trying to get laughs. I’d like to hang with gay guys who have more serious interests but can’t find them.
I’m tired of the gay dating scene being so hookup-oriented and I’m sick of the stereotypes. People act surprised that I like to play basketball and have no interest in “Project Runway.”
I don’t know how to be really happy about being gay when there is so much baggage attached. Am I the only guy struggling with this?
No, you’re absolutely not the only guy struggling to make peace with being gay.
Yes, being gay often does make life harder. We live in a predominantly heterosexual world with a lot of heterosexism and homonegativity. So most everyone who isn’t straight has to figure out how to feel OK with themselves.
Some of your concerns may be easy to remedy, so let’s start with those.
If you don’t like the guys you hang out with, why are you spending time with them?
True, there are a lot of superficial horndogs out there, but there are also guys who are thoughtful and interested in more than casual hookups.
How do you think you might be able to meet them?
Dating/hookup sites can sometimes lead to good friendships and serious relationships, but what about looking for real-life connections through pursuing your interests? You may meet like-minded men by doing what is enjoyable and meaningful to you.
As far as your family goes: It is heartbreaking, and unfortunately not an uncommon experience, that they are putting limits on who you must be in order to be loved by them. It seems to me they want to shame or guilt you into recanting being gay. As if sexual orientation is a choice.
I’m not suggesting you should be angry at your family. I’m raising these points to help you consider how your family’s judgment has likely infected your own sense of self-worth.
Given your family’s background, it may be a big leap for them to adjust to your being gay. The best you can do is to be loving toward them, hope they will open their minds over time and make efforts to educate them.
Of course, for you to have a chance at ultimately influencing your family, you need to do everything you can to feel good about being a gay man. Start challenging your negative feelings by finding positive role models. There are many in our history. Inspire yourself by reading about the long struggle for gay equality. Find yourself a gay-positive therapist to work with. Join a gay men’s support group to broaden your network and bolster your sense of who you can be.
Finally, as far as gay stereotyping goes, I agree with you, it’s tedious and insulting. Right now your work is to pull yourself together and feel good about who you are. When you’re more solid, you’ll recognize that other people’s ignorance has nothing to do with you and need not interfere with your living a full and satisfying life.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@personalgrowthzone.com.