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The Gay Guide Has Spoken

Matthew Dempsey talks gay friending and how to be a happy homo…

L.A.-based psychotherapist Matthew Dempsey isn’t a morning person, but he’s no slacker either. In his private practice, he works with clients in the LGBTQ community—primarily gay men—conducting sessions both in person and online. He practises mindfulness, keeps a gratitude journal and regularly hits the gym. And yet he still finds time to post inspirational quotes on Instagram and tackle important issues of the day via his YouTube channel.

IN chatted with Dempsey, who was recently crowned the “hottest psychotherapist on the block” by, about gay friending and how to be a happy homo.

How would you best describe what you do?
I think the easiest way to describe it is talk therapy. People come in with whatever issues they’re struggling with or ways they feel stuck, and I just help them process and understand things in a way that can hopefully be helpful for them so they can feel better and have more of the life that they’re looking for.

Your YouTube video, The Art of Gay Friending, highlights the challenges people who identify as LGBTQ, specifically gay men, face in finding and sustaining healthy friendships. How do we attract good friends and become a good friend to other people?
I would say it’s very much like Gandhi: Be the change you want to see. If you want to attract people who are really positive, openhearted and loving, it means having to practise those things yourself. It can be really hard if you’re looking around and you don’t see many examples of that, especially as gay men or generally in the LGBTQ community, so it’s hard to know exactly what that looks like and how to do it. My suggestion: look inward and see what ways you might be able to promote your own positivity and then that naturally has a ripple effect. It’s the law of attraction; you start attracting people who are likeminded and share similar values.

You say that as gay people, we need second families. What does that mean?
If we’re incredibly fortunate, we have a biological family that overwhelmingly loves and supports who we are, and that’s best-case scenario. As we know, that doesn’t happen for everybody. But regardless of where we fall, even if we have the most supportive and loving people within our families, there’s still the experience of having to come out and identify as gay or as part of the queer community, and that’s an experience the majority of our families don’t understand or know how to relate to. That’s why it’s really important when we make friends within our community that they become this second family, because they’re people who do understand that part of us and can help guide us. As close as I am with my mom, she’s not taking me to my first bathhouse! And if we have shitty, unaccepting, ignorant biological families, we definitely need the support of the community and to be able to connect with people, because family is a natural thing we all need so if we don’t have it anymore, we absolutely need to find it someplace else.

Let’s talk about your latest video: 5 Ways to Be a Happy Homo. What gets in the way of us being happy?
When you grow up in a world that doesn’t immediately validate who you are as a gay or queer person, there’s no way that’s not going to negatively influence how you see yourself, feel about yourself and move through the world. The biggest hurdle for us to overcome, post coming out, is how to dig deeper and find the ways that shame still exists, and uncover that and start challenging that. And then that’s how we eventually can find greater happiness, when we’re investing in ourselves more authentically and in a more meaningful way.

One of your keys to being happy is play. Why is it important to connect with the things that make us light up?
It’s so important because when we find that thing that does make us light up, and we’re not even paying attention to time anymore and we’re just having fun doing it, that’s self-expression. And when you’re doing that and you get goosebumps just thinking about the thing, or you get excited, you get charged and you invest time into that thing, then you’re reinforcing to yourself that the things I care about, matter. Ergo, I matter. That’s why it’s really important.

You love a good quote—your Instagram is full of them—so what’s your favourite?
One of the ones I spout out the most, and I’m just stealing it from Oprah who’s stealing it from Maya Angelou, is: When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.

JUMOL ROYES is IN’s Marketing and Sponsorship Manager and a Toronto-based PR and communications strategist with a keen interest in personal development and transformation. Follow him on Twitter @Jamul.

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