By: Lamar Greene
When looking at the specific segment of gay men, research has shown that we are at greater risk for mental health problems. One of the many reasons that contribute to this is the hatred and discrimination society imposes on us. Further, research shows that gay and bisexual men are at increased risk for major depression, bipolar disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder in comparison to heterosexual men. A significant portion of this increased risk for mental illness can be attributed to ongoing homophobia, stigma, and discrimination that is happening globally.
Many gay and bisexual men may feel like outsiders at home and among our own communities. For some of us, we realize that we are different from an early age and begin to internalize homophobia and feelings of shame surrounding our identities. Our hobbies or interests may have been different from heterosexual boys our age and we may have been bullied for these differences. Mistreatment often leads for one to isolate themselves from others and focus on aspects of themselves that is deemed culturally acceptable. Culturally acceptable focuses for gay men can include tunnel vision on excelling at school or working tirelessly to be the best in our jobs instead of pursuing activities amidst the multidimensionality of our identities. On the contrary, some gay men cope with the mental torment and stigma affecting us from freely living in our truths through unhealthful behavior such as medicating with alcohol or illicit drugs.
The stigma surrounding the gay identity and mental illness is further compounded by the shame that is associated with HIV/AIDS. Historically, HIV has been associated with men who have sex with men and therefore, has been labeled as a “gay disease.” This label stems from the initial AIDS cases in the 1980s, which were primarily among men who had sex with men. However, labeling HIV/AIDS as a “gay disease” further shames an already marginalized group and takes away from the fact that this is a public health issue that affects everyone.
As black gay men, we can feel that there is no one in our corners. Society essentially shames our entire existence based off fear and hatred for two identities that they do not understand: blackness and queerness. White, gay men have become the face of the entire gay community in spaces where gayness is accepted, and our voices often go unheard. When we seek support from members of the black community we can still be turned away because of toxic masculinity or the idea that our “lifestyles” go against commonly held religious principles, which often condemn homosexuality as a sin. When and if we seek love and support from fellow black, gay men we can be subjected to our bodies being viewed as objects.
For those who may be struggling with their sexual orientation on Emory’s campus, there are many resources here that are available to you. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Office of LGBT life, and the Emory HelpLine are just a few resources that you can use as you explore and affirm your identity. There are countless gay men suffering in silence, and we all need to do more to make a difference for this community.
- CDC. (2017, September 27). Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/msm/index.html
- Cochran, S.D. Mays, V.M. (2008). Prevalence of primary mental health morbidity and suicide symptoms among gay and bisexual men. In Wolitski, R.J., Stall, R., Valdiserri, R.O., Unequal Opportunity: Health Disparities Affecting Gay And Bisexual Men In The United States. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Hayes, R.B., Turner, H., Coates, T.J. (1992). Social support, AIDS-related symptoms, and depression among gay men. J Consult Clin Psychol. 60(3): 463-469.