Lonely Gay Hearts Club: Musings on Hobbes’ Gay Loneliness Essay
Growing up in a relatively small town in rural California, I never met a gay person, not even in high school. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. There were gender-sexual minorities in my hometown for sure, but I never met anyone who was out and proud. And by that, I mean out-of-the-closet, queer man or woman who didn’t care what others thought of her/him and dated the same sex, or in some cases, a non-binary gender. It wasn’t until college that I was introduced to the possibility of gender-sexual minorities, and before I knew it, by my sophomore year, I actually had a gay roommate. Needless to say, he has been remarkable support system to this day, more than he’ll ever know. I love him dearly and hope he’s safe this holiday season.
I suppose what I’m trying to get at is I’ve always had the impression gender-sexual minorities were just that: a minority. A rare figure that my friends and I sometimes stumble across and soon becomes the juiciest gossip of the hour. I cannot, however, say the same for my church friends and family. To them, they were the poor, pitiful sinners who needed God, but not really. There were a handful of church members who, instead of recognizing their humanity and putting aside their differences of opinion and background, stood on the other side of the proverbial line and lamented how lost the poor homosexuals were, how they needed Jesus in their lives. And if you’re about to accuse me of throwing shade at the church, I suppose there’s partial truth in that statement. I do have my issues with the church from personal experiences, but it’s important to note that this an opinionated-media platform. I have my perspective as do you and everybody else. What I say is grounded in both truth and opinion. What else can I say? I’m human.
Enough digressing. Let’s get to the real issue I want to address. Gay loneliness.
This term is recent. For me at least. Huffington Post writer Michael Hobbes wrote an online essay titled Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness. Just to clear it from the get-go, yes, the essay has its flaws. Two prominent flaws that bothered me, just to name a couple, are bisexual erasure and undermining the significance of socioeconomic and cultural influences related to POC gender-sexual minorities. Even with that, however, I argue it’s an important read for my fellow queer friends as well as anyone who’s remotely interested in social behavior among the GSM community. I encourage anyone who has time to read it and decide for yourself if it warrants in-depth discussion.
Anyway, if I were to take one thematic statement from this essay, it’s that gay loneliness, the “epidemic” of loneliness and despondency sweeping queer men and women is partially, if not mostly, induced by the community itself. Specifically, the pressure of hookup culture, obsession with image, and body dysmorphia. In that sense, it can be assumed that social norms and cultural play a role in this epidemic of persistent emptiness. Hobbes’ general theory is the GSM society has overlooked this growing sense of disenfranchisement, and steps need to be taken to eradicate the causes and ease the tension queer men and women are suffering today.
And is there merit to this theory? Certainly. I believe each of these aspects of the GSM community contribute to this problem, and yes, it’s vital to address this epidemic among the GSM community and emphasize the importance of mental health facilities, suicide hotlines, and counseling. That, I shall not deny. However, the essay is content with ending the search there. I would argue to investigate the problem further, that the causes don’t end there. Heck, in some cases, maybe those aren’t the only causes. Every GSM, gay, bisexual, trans, pansexual, or another orientation, has a different background, a different childhood, a different support system, or none at all. I think it’s safe to say I had a generally easy and great childhood, yet I find myself dealing with this aforementioned gay loneliness. Hobbes’ essay was such a startling, uncomfortable read because the essay is basically my life since I came out to my parents almost six years ago (good God, I cannot believe it has been six years already). It struck a chord in me, and it made me examine my own experiences growing up in the church and how they have manifested in some of my neuroses and social interactions within the GSM community. Despite my grievances with the essay, Hobbes may be onto something, and I’m all for shedding light to this epidemic.
However, I’m writing this post to hypothesize that the issues are far rooted deeper than social norms and heteronormativity. That’s not to say these don’t contribute to the issue, but it’s crucial to explore further implications, that sometimes social norms are result of, say, background, ethnicity, religious upbringing, and so forth. I fear if there’s too much focus on one aspect of the problem, the other contributing factors will still prove to be an obstacle to the remedy. And from personal experience, most, if not all, problems are rarely caused by a sole instigation.
Allow me to revert back to my short bio-shpeel in the beginning. After giving this careful thought, I attribute my own loneliness to both my upbringing/background and social norms because I believe they intertwine in my case. I grew up with little to no exposure to the GSM community. I didn’t watch Will and Grace or Queer as Folk. I wasn’t aware of any LGBT community center in my hometown (I’m certain the closest one was in Fresno). Any mention about homosexuality was either scoffed with the usual, offhand-Leviticus-passage condemnation or uneasy chuckles. Any mention of equal rights or marriage was mocked as political correctness, as if the mere idea of it would cause mountains to crumble into the ocean or Donald Trump to not act like an ass. In a way, it felt like my church family wanted to erase any hint of the GSM community’s existence, and I don’t mean to dispense hurtful accusations at my home congregation; I’ll always love my church family and rely on them for spiritual comfort and support. I only mention this to exemplify how the people we love and cherish are capable of unintentionally hurting us, and hopefully, by addressing issues such as these, we can eliminate barriers, converge, discuss, and theorize how to remedy these issues. I merely use myself and my home congregation as examples of how times have changed, that gay rights and equality are political issues that can’t be ignored anymore, and for good reason.
Ever since I’ve considered gay relationships, I’ve had this lingering notion that there aren’t many gay men in the world. Most of the men that have peaked my interests turned out to be straight men who don’t conform to toxic masculine norms and embrace their sexuality. I would become confused and frustrated that I can’t be with them, and there have been times when, instead of delving deeper into myself or God for a purer convalescence, I lashed out at them, some who were close friends, thereby severing important, irreparable ties. Perhaps this is one of the factors contributing my own affliction of gay loneliness. Perhaps my lack of exposure to the GSM community instilled this notion that there aren’t that many gay single men available for me to date, that all my crushes are straight males in long-term relationships, that I’ll only be the drunk, pathetic gay man who will hit on you so be careful don’t get too close to him when he’s had too many gin and tonics remind him that you have a girlfriend and all that white noise. Perhaps, like everyone else, I’m generalizing a demographic by my own experiences. I mean, that’s part of the human condition: seeing only a small bit of life’s extravagant pageant. If anything, these are symptoms far too potent to ignore and serve as a reminder of a bigger problem.
And that’s not considering my socioeconomic status as a gay Hispanic male. I’m struggling to pay rent, a car lease, at least four hundred in student loans a month, and insurance while discovering a career that enraptures my passion and doesn’t make me hate myself and life. I feel more pressure as an individual because I’m from a middle-class family and the only one ofmy immediate siblings to graduate from college out of high school…and inevitable fall into thirty grand of debt. I can’t afford going out to explore the Cities or socialize with friends as much as I want, and there are days I feel confined in my home for this reason. Honestly, my depression has been exacerbated from worry over paying my dues and maintaining decent credit, depression I haven’t considered since high school. Feelings of insignificance, failure, inadequacy, doubt over my decision to move to the Midwest to start a new life, fear that I’ll fall behind in my debt and succumb to poverty. It’s a harrowing tunnel of self-pity and hopelessness that takes effort to ward off and resume a positive outlook. Some days are better than others, and I’m learning how to take better care of myself and my loved ones and how to grow and adapt as an adult in the present day. While, for some, this might seem irrelevant to my gay loneliness, it’s certainly a determinant in my dating life. Initially, one of the reasons I questioned entering a relationship was because I feared I wouldn’t be able to financial support him since I can barely sustain myself, as I’ve previously stated. Coming from a family who has struggled to send me to a private, liberal-arts college, I feel obliged to return that favor by working my ass off, providing for myself, and figuratively stand on my feet, and when that doesn’t work as well as I wish, it’s incredibly discouraging.
Again, I’m listing my own struggles to make my point. It’s easy to armchair-diagnose a person and provide a solution for the immediate effect, yet it takes more effort to sit back, examine the issue as a whole, and differentiate the true causes from the symptoms. It’s more than just social norms and straight culture which still denies the GSM community its humanity. The problem, as well as being human, is too nuanced and complicated for us armchair-psychologists to bestow blame on one factor.
I must reiterate this important note: Hobbes’ essay isn’t garbage. There are excellent points he makes in his prose, and he’s perhaps the first writer/essayist I know that has addressed this issue. It’s a first step, and first steps are clumsy and wobbly. There are generalizations that gloss over potentially-vital agents responsible for the symptoms, but I’m content with that. I’m grateful for reading this essay, and I hope you will find the time to take a look at Hobbes’ essay, which I will provide a link at the end of this post. I’ve only referenced it in my musings, and my words haven’t done it justice. It’s an insightful analysis of the “gay loneliness epidemic”, a term I still struggle to include in my vocabulary. Either way, I pray more recognition of this issue will start a revolution of perspective, that queer men, like myself, and women of all backgrounds are more than just side characters in stories or tragic, manic-pixie-dream-gays who go quietly into that good night (thank you, Lindsey Ellis, for that poetic phrase). We’re your aunts, uncles, nephews, cousins, friends, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. We exist, and I ask you, if you see us in need of help, please. Support us. Listen to us. Just be there.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to indulge in my musings. A link to Hobbes’ essay can be found here.
Until next time, stay safe and warm. Give your friend a hug. Kiss your parents before you go to bed. Savor each other. There might come a time when that’s all we’ll have for comfort.
Have a good night.