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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Self-loathing, isolation and depression among gays

“Evidence shows that gay men are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide. A research project at London’s University College hospital found ‘significantly higher’ rates of mental illness among gay men than their straight peers.”

So reports the UK’s Observer today, talking about the new issue – called the “Issues Issue” – of the lifestyle mag Attitude. Many homosexuals, says the Observer, suffer self-loathing, isolation and depression.

Well, it’s hardly surprising that there are such problems among sections of the gay community, given that they’re always having to fight the type of bigotry to be found spewing from the mouths of – largely – religionists.

Religionists are still given column inches and airtime (we reported on one such yesterday, who always gets wheeled out by lazy journos looking for a rent-a-gob quote), and it’s mostly (though not exclusively) they who have problems with other people’s bits and pieces and what they do with them in private.

Kids grow up with this shit happening around them all the time, whereas a heterosexual kid gets all the usual support from friends, family and extended family: “When are you getting a girlfriend, then?”; “Got a girlfriend, then? That’s nice. Getting engaged?”; “Oh, got engaged, have you? When’s the happy day?” And there’s nothing wrong with that, provided all this is being spoken to a straight person.

But if you’re gay you usually find matters of the heart uncomfortable to talk about, and it’s unlikely that, if you’re a gay teenager, you’ll take home your boyfriend/girlfriend and introduce them to your parents as such.

There are many understanding parents, but there are also unspoken expectations. When people talk of a young person’s future, it’s “When you have children, you’ll . . .”, and never, or rarely, “If you have children . . .”; it’s “When you get married . . .” (the implication being married to one of the opposite sex) and never, or rarely, “If you get married . . .” or “If you find a partner – of whichever sex . . .”

The world is still largely shaped for the man–woman family with the requisite two or three kids, and it’s hardly surprising if young gay women and men feel they don’t fit. Parents still see their offspring as heterosexual first, even if they later discover they’re homosexual, and are even supportive.

And most criticism of homosexuality, by far, comes from religions. They are making a big contribution to suicides, self-loathing, isolation and dangerous substance use among gay people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ironically, the preacher in the Southern Baptist church I grew up in used these same statistics about suicide rates among gay men as "evidence" that homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle. He didn't make the connection between the prejudice he was preaching and the prevalence of self-loathing and depression among gay people.

Here's the audio of the sermon if you're feeling a little masochistic: