• Phil McAuliffe

5 truths about gay loneliness

Updated: Jun 30

Let’s explore some truths about gay loneliness

and why you’re feeling lonely.


Hello!


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.


~ Phil


* * * * *

Here are five truths about gay loneliness – your loneliness – that I want to share with you. Let’s jump right on into it.


1. Society makes you lonely


We grow up in hetero-normative societies. The relationships that we saw modelled in popular culture were hetero-normative. We attended schools in which the prescribed texts depicted heterosexual relationships as the goal.


Gay and queer culture was pushed underground and out of sight. That which was easily accessible – like porn – possibly skewed our perception of gay love and relationships.


In the playgrounds, we were exposed to – and were subjected to – horrendous taunts for being different.


As adults, we constantly have to fight for our rights and the rights of others in the LGBTIQA+ communities.


We absorbed all of this, and more. Beyond merely absorbing, we moulded and adapted ourselves to fit in and to stay safe.


You grew up and live in a society that overtly or subtly tells you that you’re not normal, that you don’t belong. It’s little wonder that you struggle to connect with your self. It’s little wonder that you don’t really know how to connect with others.


We also live in a society where we're constantly under pressure to be positive: think positively, be positive, act positive. We've lost our collective ability to hold space for uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. We support others, and others support us, by telling us to seek professional help. Yes, this is good advice, but listening to each other and being in uncomfortable situations for a little can also help.


In such a relentlessly positive society, your loneliness triggers others to contemplate the possibility that they are lonely, too. This is deeply uncomfortable for those who have been denying parts of themselves and allowing only the 'good' about them to show.


It's much easier to focus on - and only allow - the good vibes.

2. Your loneliness is yours


While you grew up and live in a society that reminds you that you don’t belong, the loneliness that you feel is your loneliness.


As a gay man experiencing loneliness, your loneliness is possibly the culmination of events that happened to you and around you and the stories and beliefs that you’ve made those events mean about yourself and others.


For all that, you need to own your loneliness. You’re responsible for it. You’re responsible for learning what it’s telling you about the connection you need and then doing the connection.

This is a great segue to Truth #3 [continued below].

 
 

3. Prioritise DOING connection


To know that you’re a beautiful gay man experiencing loneliness and to then not prioritise the DOING of connection is to choose your loneliness.


Please, read that again.


Awareness without action is a choice.


To move beyond loneliness, we need to spend some time listening to what our loneliness is trying to tell us about the connection we need. And by connection, I mean connection according to the three pillars of connection: connection to self; to those most important to you and to your communities.


Once we’ve listened to what our loneliness has been trying to tell us about connection, we then need to prioritise the DOING of connection.

You’re going to encounter a whole lot of situations where you’re reminded about how hard it is to do connection. Modern life and our lifestyles seem designed to both make us feel lonely and then distract us from our loneliness.


People will be too busy to respond to your calls or messages asking to catch up (or will do everything to plan a get-together except making a time).


Old habits that kept you small and safe - and eased you into your loneliness - will prove to be tough to break.


Your inner voice will tell you that you're ridiculous, stupid or too [insert relevant word here] to do a new activity or meet new people.


This will get discouraging. This will wear you down and make you want to quit. Persist. Something amazing happens when we’ve committed to doing connection within ourselves, with those most important to us and our communities. Prioritise and persist.


4. You’re not alone


Loneliness is part of the human condition. Every human experiences loneliness. Every human experiences joy and happiness. Every human gets hungry and thirsty.


We don’t judge ourselves for getting thirsty or hungry. We don’t judge ourselves for feeling happy. However, we judge ourselves for experiencing loneliness.


There are many reasons for this – indeed, I’m here to explore the reasons for this – but one thing is clear: the thoughts and feelings of loneliness make us question our worth. They make us question our worthiness to feel loved and belonging.


That’s heavy stuff. It’s little wonder that we suffer quietly as gay men experience loneliness. Well, at least we think we’re suffering quietly. The statistics about suicide, suicidal ideation and mental health in the global LGBTIQA+ communities scream loudly.


All this to say that you’re not alone. The thoughts and feelings of loneliness can make you believe that you’re the only person around you, but chances are that a significant proportion of the people - gay or otherwise - you encounter every day are also experiencing loneliness in that moment.

Finally, loneliness is an emotion experienced alone and within ourselves. Other people are required for us to be connected to who we are within ourselves and to those most important to us and to our communities.


5. Vulnerability is the way


There’s a reason why moving beyond the comfortable misery of your loneliness is a gay man seems so hard. Sooner or later, the path towards connection requires you to admit your loneliness aloud: to yourself and to those who’ve earned the right to hear your story (and there’s always someone who’s earned that right).


There’s no way around the fact that vulnerability is scary. The fear I experience in the moments before I share a truth is shit-my-pants scary. I'm sure it is for you, too. Vulnerability risks judgement and further isolation at a time when we need empathy and connection.

For this reason, being vulnerable is a stunning example of living life courageously.


My tip: If living vulnerably doesn't feel like you're naked, then you may not be doing vulnerability right.


But as a gay man experiencing loneliness, I suspect that you’ve already had experience of the connective power of vulnerability: You came out. You continue to come out and live your live as a gay man.


You’ve been courageous before. I’m here to remind you that you’re courageous now.


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.


* * * * *

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.


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 five truths of gay loneliness? 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 7 July 2022.


 

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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 Services page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.

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