Gay Loneliness is the Silent Epidemic Facing the Queer Community

Is loneliness a queer experience? What can we do as individuals and community to deal with this epidemic?

Health Mental Health Simon Elstad

This article was published on August 12th, 2021

Gay loneliness is real! Loneliness has become a silent yet dangerous epidemic within the gay community. It is a feeling that queer people can relate to so often. You see, growing up gay, or bi, or trans, or non-binary comes with accepting that you are different.

It dawns on you that you are separated from the majority. You somehow morph into a reserved person for fear of rejection or social stigma. Loneliness then becomes a companion that grows with you late into your adulthood. Forging true connections or companionship becomes a struggle, thus worsening your sense of isolation and loneliness.

To a larger extent, loneliness is almost part of the gay experience. But, why exactly is it more prevalent among the LGBTQ community, and are there ways to cope with it?

Photo by jose pena on Unsplash

Why are Gay men lonely?

Loneliness occurs when one is cut off or emotionally detached from others. You can actually be surrounded by people, including friends and still experience loneliness.

This detachment or isolation is a common feature in the gay community. According to research, gay men are lonelier and have fewer friends than their heterosexual peers.    

However, what is more alarming are the mental health issues that come with feeling lonely. From depression to substance abuse or, worse still, suicide, researchers allude this to a condition called “minority stress.”

Minority stress is the additional stress experienced by members of stigmatized, marginalized, or  minority groups owing to the prejudice and discrimination. In this case, minority stress could occur when you face homophobia from society after coming out having being closeted for a while.

Experiencing rejection and hiding your true identity under the pretense of acceptance can not only aggravate minor stress but also impact your health negatively. That’s why most queers prefer to remain safely ensconced in their own bubbles.

Masculinity

Unfortunately, sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. Some of the discrimination stems right from the gay community. For instance, those who don’t match the ‘masculinity setting’ find it hard to fit in a circle that glorifies such ideals. Such stigma could contribute to a negative body image.

Social dating apps have also contributed extensively to this epidemic. The assumption by most users is that it could often lead to a hookup and eventually an intimate relationship. 

However, the opposite is true. Most encounters do not lead to intimacy. In hindsight, these apps are a recipe for loneliness, as Steven Cole, a professor of medicine and psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA’s School of Medicine, told The Advocate:

“Using hookup apps excessively could contribute to social isolation by substituting momentary, relatively anonymous, and shallow relationships for deeper, more sustaining intimacy.”

“They’re like ’empty calorie’ socialization — fun snacks but ultimately not deeply nutritious for our sense of belongingness and deep connection. They don’t cause literal isolation but instead promote brief relationships that may sometimes come to substitute for or even displace a deeper sense of connection to others.”

Alcohol and substance abuse

It is no surprise that gay men often turn to alcohol, drugs, and even reckless sex as a “self-soothing ritual” to their emotional pain. However, substance abuse or sex might be pleasurable in the short term but do not alleviate the emotional pain associated with loneliness in the end.

How many times have you had a casual hook up with someone but ended up feeling even more ’empty’ after the encounter? You slipped back into your dark, lonely abyss. 10/10 relatable, right? 

That physical intimate experience is different from emotional intimacy. As you continue engaging in the former, you’ll find yourself in a vicious cycle which could end up more a harmful than beneficial addiction.

Overcoming loneliness 

That said, you don’t deserve a lonely life. No one does. As scary as it may look, there are various ways to shake off feelings of loneliness and improve your life. 

Here are some of them:

  • Admit feeling lonely: The first step is admitting to yourself and others that you feel lonely. This will help free up some of that emotional stress that comes with self-isolation. Likewise, in reaching out to others, you stand a chance of forming intimate relationships.
  • Join LGBTQ+ clubs or groups: It is easier to interact with a community of like-minded people than with people who don’t fit your niche. Whether it’s an LGBTQ+ group or club, they’ll go a long way in providing emotional support to combat loneliness.
  • Keep off social media: Limit the time you spend on dating apps, as they could take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. Go out there and meet people face-to-face in the real world! It’s difficult, messy and scary sometimes but the dividends in deeper friendships is totally worth it.
  • Seek help from a therapist: If you are still anxious about meeting new people, you can reach out to an LGBTQ+ therapist to help you increase your confidence and self-esteem. 
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