Steven’s story is all too revealing about a silent health crisis afflicting gay men. The words “health crisis” in conjunction with “gay men” normally conjures up the HIV catastrophe that decimated the gay and bisexual community in the 1980s. In the developed world, HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was, although the treatment can cause health complications, and in the UK an estimated 6,500 men who have sex with men live with undiagnosed infections. A far greater menace is mental distress – impossible to disentangle from a society riddled with homophobia – and the drug and alcohol abuse that can follow.
This is all because of us cis, hetero types?
It’s an issue covered by the former Attitude editor Matthew Todd in his utterly brilliant – and disturbing – recent book Straight Jacket. He identifies a number of problems that most gay men, if they were honest, would at least recognise: “Disproportionately high levels of depression, self-harm and suicide; not uncommon problems with emotional intimacy … and now a small but significant subculture of men who are using, some injecting, seriously dangerous drugs, which despite accusations of hysteria from the gatekeepers of the gay PR machine, are killing too many people.” He lists a disturbing number of gay friends, acquaintances and people in the public eye who struggled with addictions and took their own lives.
I have a feeling that this thesis needs examination.
One question would be, well, is this rate of whatever higher among gay men than single men? Are we, as with the promiscuity question, just talking about what men are like without the calming constraints of women?
A second would be that, as we are always told, prejudice against lesbians is as prevalent as prejudice against gay men. Do lesbians suffer the same rate of whatever as gay men?
I’m perfectly willing to accept that the rates are indeed higher for gay men. But I’d like to see the causality examined just a little more before we go all Heinz Kiosk on this.