This article was published on December 7th, 2015
Gay men are very good at denial. It’s considered to be one of the most primitive defense mechanisms, characteristic of childhood development. It’s used to avoid dealing with painful feelings that people don’t want to admit.
For gay men, denial starts early, often denying that they are gay. It’s a frequent response to initial internal feeling of attraction to other guys. It’s learned at an early age. Gay boys learn to hone denial, turning it into a useful way of dealing with issues and situations they don’t like or want to avoid.
In the work environment, gay men will claim to be bisexual. Yes, they could have sex with women, but these same guys haven’t looked sexually at a women in decades, let alone have sex with them. Not all guys who identify as bisexual are in denial, but some certainly are. Their dishonesty is giving bisexuals a bad rep.
Denial serves to protect the person from facing uncomfortable feelings. This can last either a short time, minutes or hours, or can go on form months, years, or even decades.
It’s a defence mechanism that is used and necessary, but it can easily cripple a person, and hold them back from growth and movement. It can distort reality, making an image that is more acceptable at the expense of truth. Facing the truth is hard. For more people, the path to living a gay life begins with denial of gay feelings.
Denial is not pathological, but gay men often find denial as a go-to method of coping with unwanted information. It’s recognized as part of understanding gay men.
David Marr in A Life: Patrick White described Nobel Prize winner, Patrick White:
“As he grew up he had been faced with the choice of all homosexuals must make between sticking to rules-perhaps for a lifetime-or making sense of life by following the irrational, often painful truths revealed within themselves. Curiosity, scepticism and doubt are second nature to those who choose the second path.”
While a gay man may try to ‘stick to the rules’, or follow the irrational, often painful truths, using denial is a way of avoiding the truth of what may happen if you face the gay feelings head-on.
Men who identify as gay have moved past their denial and see the truth, that they are attracted to men. Guys who want to find trust fulfillment have to go beyond just acceptance.
Acceptance is not the opposite of denial. It is tolerating, admitting, and recognizing. It doesn’t always bring about changes in life, it’s just the next phase of moving towards fulfillment.