All Rights reserved
I've been thinking about my life recently and a question popped into my mind -- can I be gay and happy?
My overanalytical mind didn't seem to give a clear answer. I started looking around me for some clues, paying particular attention to my gay friends. After all, don't they say we're a reflection of the people we hang out with? I did see a pattern emerge. Most of my friends continue to have confidence and anxiety issues. Thankfully, they're dealing with things, as many are on appropriate medication or in long-term therapy.
Well, what does this all say about me? I must admit, whether I like it or not, my friends do sum up my own mental state. I too suffer from a fragile sense of self-worth and I've been seeking support with therapy for several years. However, it's clear our experiences are not isolated cases. I frequently see mental health issues being pretty prominent on the wider gay scene. But more worryingly, many gay men just aren't reaching out for help. Instead, I see people numbing their issues and drowning in superficiality.
So what do I mean by superficiality? To me, it's when people indulge in activities or thoughts that bring instant gratifications but are actually damaging in the long term. For example, I see superficiality when men take uneducated sexual risks, abuse drugs/alcohol, or adopt body fascist views. All these ailments point to an underlying personal unhappiness -- a sadness. But it doesn't have to be like this. There is a way out -- we just need to air our thoughts about our issues, discomforts, and insecurities and confront them by seeking help if necessary. I find it strange that gay men will spend a ton of effort on their bodies but overlook their mental well-being. Perhaps it's time we all consciously face what's going on upstairs, because sooner or later it will catch up with us.
I believe much of the mental anguish seen in our community is linked with growing up in a heteronormative society. Well, it was for me, at least. I'm from a traditional Indian household where men and women had their strict roles, which left me feeling undermined. This in turn fucked up my confidence and caused me to lose track of my authentic self. I suspect many people could empathise with this, no matter what their background.
Talking of backgrounds, sometimes I question the mental well-being of the "gaysian" (gay Asian) community. I think the main issue that plagues us is the anxiety around coming out. As I mentioned before, South Asian society is a very heteronormative environment where alternative sexualities are considered nonexistent. Unfortunately, many Asian LGBT individuals still enter into arranged marriages due to suffocating family pressures. Standing up to this type of pressure can seem impossible. It's a tough situation to be in -- I've been there. A few years ago, I got cornered into getting engaged to a girl and it left me in emotional turmoil. However, I did work through it. The wedding didn't happen and I regained sanity with the support of my therapist.
It seems people in therapy are negatively stereotyped. We're either judged as crazy or pitied. Damn that attitude. It's about time we broke the taboo of discussing LGBT mental health. Therapy is the way forward. After all, discussing your thoughts helps to ease the mind and put things in perspective. As cheesy as it sounds -- if you respect yourself enough, negative behavioral patterns are avoidable. I just want to see more positive behavior in gay men and assure them that the dark clouds do pass. Yes, self-development is hard and time-consuming. But with the right support, which could mean therapy or a wide range of things, your future self will thank you.
Going back to my original question -- am I be gay and happy? Well, I've come to a conclusion. The concept of happiness can appear superficial at times in the gay community. However, I now realize happiness for me is more about a peaceful mind and personal contentment. So yes, I am happy. What is your answer?
VISH GAIKWAD is a London-living, Britney-loving "gaysian." Follow him on Twitter @vishdelishuk.