Let’s just admit that it’s not always sunshine and roses
By Adam Segal
Basically, dating sucks and leaves me miserable. I walk into a bar and can tell that no one is paying attention to me and that I don’t belong. I feel rejected online too—guys chat with me but they disappear and then I just feel crap. I want to believe that a relationship is possible, but just can’t imagine anyone wanting to be with me, or that there are guys who aren’t phone and superficial and would actually want something real. I’m left feeling like I did in high school: on the outside looking in. I’m tempted to throw in the towel and just have a monk-like existence, but that also makes me so sad. Is there hope? —Sebastian
Something ironic (and not in a funny way) is that many of us queer folk grew up without a place of belonging and felt unworthy, only to defiantly come out and feel similarly within the queer community. Feeling different from others through childhood, whether it was in gym class or within our own families, invites a sort of hyper-vigilance—a perpetual monitoring of how others might perceive us, and a bracing against possible rejection. We create an invisible shield that helps us feel in control in a situation that is much bigger than us.
Skipping ahead, you are now an out gay man who has to venture into a bar (or a virtual one on your smartphone) and revisit that sense of apprehension and self-consciousness. The experience of ‘otherness’ persists. It’s so easy to imagine that all other gay men are experiencing some sort of sacred brotherhood—a big gay Friends episode that you’ve been barred from accessing.
This is where you will need to cultivate a mistrust of any inner voices that are perpetuating such a mythical lavender universe, and be willing to resist the narrative of yourself as ‘not good enough.’ By constantly imagining you are being rejected and by judging others for their phoniness, a sort of cycle emerges where you retreat from other gay men; this simply keeps the stories alive that either you are a failure or everyone else is.
That shield you created long ago to help you feel safe might have served you well then, but it is now shutting the world out and leaving you all alone.
ADAM SEGAL, writer and therapist, works in private practice in downtown Toronto. Ask him your relationship or mental-health questions @ firstname.lastname@example.org.