The Silent Suffering of Gay Men
with Clinton Power
It may sound crazy, but gay men are lonely. Most of us think they are happy and lead a life filled with love, but this isn’t even close to the truth. Loneliness in gay men is reaching epidemic proportions.
In this episode entitled “Gay men and loneliness,” host Joe Kort, PhD, psychotherapist and certified sex therapist, talked with an expert on the subject – Clinton Power – a relationship therapist based in Sydney, Australia, who specializes in couples therapy and relationship challenges. In 2003, he founded Sydney Gay Counselling to support the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQ singles and couples. From working extensively with same sex couples, Clinton has found that gay men cannot find their niche in the gay community, and those in the community are not making it easy to break down barriers. In fact, this in-group discrimination can be evil and devastating. Gay men need face-to-face socialization, however, the gay packs are hard to penetrate.
Gay men struggle with being included, with penetrating the pack and being accepted. They feel left out because there is no tribe for them. They feel isolated and lonely, and all of these feelings are compounded with mental and physical health issues. Social media as well as the pandemic have intensified the situation.
Traditional gay spaces – bars, nightclubs, bathhouses – have been replaced by social media and hook up apps. These apps fit into their insecurities and do more harm than good. As a result, gay men end up feeling worse about themselves. (At least 70 percent of gay men now use hook up apps like Grindr and Scruff to meet other gay men). Sex is easily available, but connection, companionship, and love are missing. Being pushed away by your own people hurts the worst because you expect them to accept you the most. And so, the life of rejection continues to follow gay men – from pre-coming out to coming out, to trying to find their “tribe.”
This negative culture becomes embedded and the long-term effects of rejection, isolation and loneliness often lead to mental health issues, Clinton is finding. He also urges gay men to begin connecting their loneliness with their childhood experiences as gay. Validating this is an important step toward healing, he finds. Often, gay men choose self-medicating as a way to relieve these feelings. It makes them feel good for a short time, however, once they get past the tipping point, self-medicating can become an addiction. Others may use sex as their self-healing tool of choice and they go from hook up to hook up hoping to feel better. They are seeking intimacy and connection, but they end up feeling empty and worse.