The loneliness of Pride
Updated: Jun 10
June is Pride month.
As a gay man experiencing loneliness, being gay
isn't all rainbows and unicorns, is it?
Very few gay men seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless they’ve come to the realisation that they’re lonely. The stigma and shame we feel is real, and it takes a lot of courage to even engage with the subject.
I’m proud of you for opening this article. I recognise and admire your courage. Now that you’re here, let’s start getting you connected to yourself, those most important to you and to your community.
This article was written and published on Ngunnawal country. I wish to acknowledge and respect the Ngunnawal people’s continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of Canberra and the surrounding region. I would also like to acknowledge and welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may read this post.
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Happy Pride month!
I said, HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!
You’re happy, aren’t you?
In this post, I want to share a few thoughts about Pride month and extend an invitation to you.
Pride month is great
Visibility matters. All humans – including those who identify anywhere on the LGBTIQA+ spectrum – are worthy of being seen, heard and feeling like we belong.
Pride is an opportunity to celebrate being seen. It’s an opportunity for us to stake a presence within wider society. This is a good thing. Indeed, the visibility and rights we celebrate during Pride are what those who fought for those rights and visibility.
But there’s more work to be done.
Let’s talk about the work we need to do
As a global gay community, I feel that there’s work for us to do. Here are a few points:
1. Pride is not everywhere
Not everyone, everywhere can be seen. Not everyone can be heard. Not everyone feels that they belong.
To those of you who read these words in a country where it is illegal – either by law or by social perceptions – to be gay, I say please stay safe.
For those of us who live in places where we have rights and protections under the law, let’s commit to preventing their erosion AND commit to not pulling up the ladder behind us so that others cannot have the same rights and protections in other countries.
2. Pride is more than a consumer event
I’m sure your social media is also awash with advertisements from companies celebrating Pride. I’m curious to know where the line is between genuine support from a company for the community (genuine meaning that it supports LGBTIQA+ rights and celebrates and promotes diversity in its workforce all year) and leveraging marketing opportunities to an affluent consumer who wants to party for the month.
I want to be clear: Visibility and acceptance is never a bad thing. However, what is said and done over the remaining 11 months of the year also matters.
3. Not everyone feels that they belong
This may be a point that I make from a position of hearing many stories of not belonging from some of you – the awesome audience of The Loneliness Guy – but many of you don’t feel that you belong in the gay community.
For some, being gay and engaging in the community can feel like we’ve never left high school. There’s the gossip, the cool kids, the fear of judgment, the general awkwardness of not feeling that we fit in.
Pride can feel like all the cool kids are having a party. While the party is open invitation, you feel that you’re not invited.
You can feel that you’ll be ready to show up and be seen when you have a certain body, a certain look, a certain aesthetic and vibe.
4. Pride can make us feel lonelier
Seeing other gay men living their best lives on social media can often mean we generate lots of stories about how good their lives must be over ours. We churn these out at an alarming rate when we see others living the lives we wished we were leading when scrolling through social media.
For the gay man experiencing loneliness, this can mean that we compare what we see with how we feel. We start to look for points of difference between what they have and what we don’t: a partner, friends, an amazing body, money, a yacht, the whole lifestyle.
These stories can end with the same conclusion: that we’re unworthy of love and belonging and can make us feel even lonelier. But we need to remember that they are stories. They are stories that we’ve made up without the benefit of any verified facts. They are stories that we can make up and believe as self-evident truths about ourselves with alarming speed.
Even when were surrounded by people and when we look like we’re having the time of our lives, we can feel lonely.
Living THE gay best life is no guarantee of feeling connected and not feeling lonely. Living YOUR best life from a place of worthiness is the way to feel connected and to move beyond your loneliness. [continued...]
What can we do?
1. Be ourselves and work inwards
Resist the temptation to berate yourself for what you’re feeling if you’re feeling lonely and isolated from those around you. Please, don’t come down on yourself hard.
Instead of suffering through an attack of the ‘shoulds’ (characterised by thoughts like ‘I should be more [insert something here], then others will notice me.’), get curious. Ask yourself kindly and lovingly, ‘why am I triggered in this way?’
2. Spend your money mindfully – support small LGBTIQA+ businesses
Please, be a discerning consumer for some of your hard-earned money this Pride month – and every month of the year.
Pride is about our community. It's about supporting, encouraging and celebrating each other. It’s about being visible. It's about building each other up. It’s a reminder to the world that we’re here, that we exist and that we belong.
Pride is more than buying the products or using the services marketed to the LGBTIQA+ community by large multinational corporations.
This Pride month, please consider supporting the local business or non-profit run for the local LGBTIQA+ community. Please, support LGBTIQA+ businesses and solo entrepreneurs.
Not everyone has the benefit of global reach with huge marketing departments... yet. But with your considered support, they could. Imagine the power of LGBTIQA+-led companies sustained by the LGBTIQA+ community providing services – not just stuff – for LGBTIQA+ people.
Also, consider investing not only in goods for parties and parades, but also in your own mental and emotional wellbeing.
3. Be proud of yourself. Be proud of your community.
You have much to be proud of. You’re here. You’re brave and courageous. You live and work in a system that often has been designed to exclude us. Sadly, for many of us the system is still designed to exclude, hide and persecute.
But you’re still here.
There is a LOT of work to be done until everyone in the rainbow community’s rights are secure, but it’s OK to pause a few moments to recognise how far we’ve come, the work we’re doing and to celebrate this before getting ourselves together for what’s ahead.
For the gay man experiencing loneliness
Let’s have a real conversation to finish this article.
Once the parties, the parades, the glitter and the celebrating are done, I feel that we need to have a real conversation about mental and emotional wellbeing for gay men globally. Many of us are in pain but don’t know how to express it. What we can’t express, we often suppress.
But the statistics paint a picture of a community – and many of the individuals in it – in distress. Rates of loneliness, suicide, self-harm and substance abuse in LGBTIQA+ communities FAR exceed the general population.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m here to change that. By reading this, I’m going to say that you’re at least interested in changing this situation, too.
It’s fantastic that we can be seen and allowed to exist. Now it’s time for us to live.
I’m here to help with that. I’m here for you when you’re ready to take a step beyond the loneliness you’re experiencing as a gay man towards the type of soul-nourishing connection you need and deserve.
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You may need some help after reading this article. Please, reach out to your partner, a friend or someone in your orbit who you know is trying to put themselves into the world just like you are. That could be me through my mentoring services. That could be a therapist or a counsellor – including a crisis counsellor. That could be a coach. It could be a combination of all.
Be sure to check out my services page if you need help – including crisis help.
You can also join the growing community of other gay men in the exclusive Premium Connection Lounge on Facebook.
Want to chat more about the loneliness of Pride? Join me for a coffee and a chat in the upcoming episode of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’ from Thursday 16 June 2022.
Important notice: All views expressed above are my own/the authors and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.