As a gay man who’s quickly approaching his 30s, I had somewhat of a quarter-life crisis recently.
I finally moved in with my boyfriend of 7 years, and it totally freaked me out.
Up until then, we had been long distance. So while I was in a relationship, I was physically “alone” a lot of the time.
As soon as we were suddenly living together and being boyfriends 24/7, it’s like my brain shortcircuited and I didn’t know what the hell was going on.
A few weeks after we moved in together, I realised something – I never envisioned myself (a gay man) having my happily-ever-after and living with a partner long-term.
I wasn’t always this way – I used to be more optimistic as a teenager, and I’ve always been very romantic. However, a few short/bad relationships led to spending much of my teens and 20s on the hookup apps, which slowly eroded away at my idea of ever being in a healthy, happy relationship with another gay guy.
“I guess I’ll just be single and hooking up forever. That’s what I have to settle for,” I would think.
Luckily, my amazing partner came along and saved me from my perpetual loneliness. Still, accepting this “happy ending” was hard, and it continues to be hard.
And then I got to thinking – basically, all of my gay/queer friends are single.
Why is that?
Now I am not the first person to write about the epidemic of gay loneliness. While not a hard and fast rule, there are some rudimentary stats to back this up.
Pew Research estimates that in the US, around 47% of LGB adults are single, compared with just 29% of straight adults.
So basically 1 in 2 LGB adults are single, at least in the US.
As I get older, I do worry about my gay friends being perpetually single. That’s not to say that you need a partner to be happy (that’s very simplistic) but I can tell, deep down, that most of them seek affection and love from another person.
Some have admitted it to me after a few drinks, some have yet to admit it to themselves.
As strange and entitled as it sounds, I’ve actually started feeling kind of guilty for settling down. I feel like I have survivor’s guilt and I’ve left them to fend for themselves in a cruel abyss of poppers and meaningless sex while I’m off purchasing houseplants with my partner.
Do straight people with single friends feel the same? Am I attributing sexuality to too much of this?
I hear that a lot of straight people find it hard to settle down too, especially when there’s a catalogue of possible dates just a swipe away in your pocket.
Now I’m going to say something that will not come as a shock – the gay community, especially gay men – can be shallow and downright mean sometimes.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone in the community, but as someone who is not considered conventionally attractive, I was ignored, mocked, and treated with contempt by many fellow gay men when I was single.
After a few absent scowls and many-dozen Grindr messages calling you too fat, too fem, too *whatever*, you do start to feel self-conscious and ashamed.
And now I’m seeing it happen to people I know. Single people I care about. They’re getting into their 30s, they’re starting to see the early signs of ageing and they’re absolutely losing their sh*t about it… obsessively researching the latest skin cream or cosmetic procedure that will make that Dating App photo all the more youthful.
Sometimes it feels like gay men only have value in the community if we’re conventionally attractive, and I hate to say this… but maybe our standards are too high.
Even some of my single gay friends will have VERY SPECIFIC specifications for what they’re looking for in a partner.
“Well, he has to be at least 6’1, dark hair, Ph.D. educated, able to speak 4 languages, drive a nice car, live within a 10-minute walk, and never question my own various personality flaws”.
Girl, get real.
To add to this problem of gay loneliness, there’s a lack of representation of healthy, committed gay couples in the media and in real life. Internalised homophobia and this lack of representation undoubtedly play a huge role in these cultural attitudes.
For example, I recently realised that I gravitate strongly to YouTube channels featuring gay couples, partially because it’s just so rare to see healthy same-sex couples portrayed in the media. A friend of mine actually said that he likes watching gay couples’ YouTube channels because it feels “healthy” to watch as a gay person.
I thought that was a very telling and interesting way to put it… “healthy”.
It’s almost like we’re so inundated with sex and hookup culture in the gay community that we forget that love is also an option.
I recently saw a Reddit comment in r/askgaybros that I thought was very interesting and may be an additional reason why singleness is so prevalent in the community. In fact, it sparked the idea for this entire article.
“A lot of homophobia in certain countries discourages homoromantic relations, but may be willing to turn a blind eye to sexual behavior if it doesn’t go further. As a result, many men get used to expecting simply a sexual relationship even if they want something more.”
Isn’t that an interesting thought?
As queer people, we all experience emotional trauma to varying degrees while growing up queer in a cis-straight world. But the idea that societal shame has reduced us to “behind closed doors” sex rather than “out and proud” romance actually makes a lot of sense to me.
I mean, my first boyfriend’s parents made us sleep in a tent outside because they couldn’t stomach their son having a boy (me) in their house. I mean, what lessons are you teaching your gay son and his partner by doing that?
No wonder we’re all so messed up.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So, is it all doom and gloom? Are all gays doomed to a life of loneliness of shallow sauna sex?
Of course not.
And to be clear – I think a lot of this is not our fault. Growing up gay/queer is traumatic in a number of ways, even in pro-LGBT countries. It’s not surprising that most of us are dragging around a tonne’s worth of baggage from our past and present experiences.
We didn’t all grow up with Heartstopper and Drag Race.