Jaded eye for the queer guy
Gay men face subtle and not-so-subtle pressure to be more fabulous than ever these days. The images we see portray us as knowledgeable and sophisticated. We’re portrayed in the media as expert in decorating, cooking, grooming and God knows what else.
Sculpted body, expensive loft apartment, great clothes, fantastic car. Plus we’re supposed to know what’s hot and what’s not (culturally) and to take trips on fabulous cruise ships to exotic locales (recreationally). Everyone knows gay men are great cooks, right? And we expect one another to be conversant about the latest films, music, theater…. The list goes on and on. Sex? Gay men are bad boys who’ve done it all! More sophisticated and knowing than other folks, with fewer hang-ups.
Do you see yourself in this picture of worldliness and style? Probably not. Many of us aren’t models of tastefulness and sophistication. And many of us are secretly embarrassed about it.
Now imagine the binds that newly out guys find themselves in. It’s common to talk about how gay men value youth, but few of us pay attention to how much pressure our culture places on young gay men. Our community provides very few mentors for men who are green about being gay. We’re often pretty competitive and unforgiving. There’s a good deal of pressure to figure things out right the first time. Much of gay culture values being stylish and urbane – in short, looking good.
Where does this leave young gay men – or older men who are just coming out? Too often any sense of newness or freshness seems like something to get over as quickly as possible. Sexual inexperience, for instance, seems like an embarrassment that few gay men are willing to own – although all of us started out inexperienced at some point in our lives.
When we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy new happenings (and to make mistakes doing something for the first time), we risk becoming jaded. We don’t allow ourselves to become swept away, to feel too much. We’re more concerned with appearances than with being real. That can lead to feeling alienated, cynical and bored. Or we keep searching for newer and bigger thrills.
This is not the way to be happy in life. True happiness requires us to live in the present, notice what’s going on around us, to truly participate in life rather than worry about how we look or what other people think of us.
We’re going to be happier in the long run if we resist the pressures that turn us into big-time consumers. Working out regularly is great – but not if it makes you think of your body as just another object to be critically evaluated by yourself or others. There’s nothing wrong with having a sense of style, but why not develop your own rather than follow the crowd?
If you’re new to the community, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re less than they are simply because you haven’t had the same experiences. And if you’re a gay man who has been out for a while and who knows his way around the block, consider ways you can be supportive of your brothers. We could all do with more kindness and less judgment.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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