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Are gay men fucked up?

Interview with Stuart Haggas of FS magazine

Stuart – Being gay isn’t a choice, it’s part of who we are – but we do have a choice when it comes to our health and wellbeing (whether we chose to drink or smoke excessively, have unprotected sex etc), so why do so many gay men mismanage the freedoms that we have?

Darren Brady – Ultimately, our habits and behaviours are the symptoms of the beliefs we hold about ourselves. The negative and limiting beliefs that so pervade gay people were formed in the early years when we felt alone, wrong and the odd one out. This lay the foundation and conditions for a whole plethora of destructive habits to form. In seeking to free ourselves from this negative inner mindset we seek ways to escape. Many of these routes lead us to dark places, addictive behaviour and ill health.

S – By accepting that we are gay and out and proud, we’ve rejected one cultural straightjacket – but have we simply replaced it with another?

D –  In many ways being out and proud is a courageous reaction to psychological attack. It is a defiant boundary line that enables gay people to live a life of their own creation. When there is no attack there will be no need for a reaction of this nature. It only becomes a straight jacket if we continue to live  in a reactionary manner. The challenge is to live creative and integrated gay, out and proud lives.

S – Many gay men will have experienced some form of discrimination or bullying – but is it conceivable to describe the gay scene itself as discriminating or a bully, where those with gym-fit bodies or those who love to party are more likely to be popular and fit in?

D – Our biggest bully is ourselves. If we reject our body, our shape, our uniqueness then being surrounded by muscle Mary’s will conspire with our own negative image. In many ways the gay scene is a manifestation of the internal workings of gay men- the desire to look masculine, to be the best, to look attractive is, in large part, an attempt to compensate for feeling ashamed of being gay. The scene is a powerful and dominant reflection of our own inner mindset. Once we shift that we will see the scene shifting too

S – Does being a gay man today mean “diversity, community and equality” – or is it all about “sex, drugs and disco”?

D – I think we are only just beginning to experience and understand what being a gay man today means. We are still finding ourselves. Homophobia and HIV helped us to discover our strength, compassion and determination and now we enter a new phase of our history. Sex, drugs and disco have dominated the discussion for a long time but I think we’re now seeking something else. Gay people are beginning to get involved in different activities, making new allegiances and having different kinds of conversations

S – Do you think a sense of community still exists for gay men, or has this been lost in favour of a gay scene that revolves around partying, going to the gym, and having as much sex as possible?

D – People always want a sense of belonging. This is the essence if community- belonging and collective support. Gay people need this more than most, having spent a large part of their life feeling an outsider. So the need is there. Unfortunately many look to the gay scene to give them the community they crave and it is not designed to do that. Getting a great body and having a blast dancing all night to house music is communal but not community. Heterosexuals would find it very strange associating nightclubs (for example) with community. So we need to accept that community is not nightlife and then go and build it.

S – Is being an active participant in the UK gay scene damaging to our physical and mental health? Is there a rudimentary flaw in our lifestyle choice that puts us at such risks?

D – The UK Gay scene is powerful and potent. Many enjoy it, make friends and meet partners through it. Others, in a bid to belong, find themselves introduced to drink, drugs and sex that can be liberating and dangerous in equal measure. What makes this environment all the more seductive for gay people is the desire to escape or feel free. The need to be wanted, desired, liked and included are stronger urges in us because we felt, or continue to feel, the sense of being an outsider. So when we get together it becomes a massive release that can lead to dire consequences.

S -When they’re not out on the scene, gay men spend a great deal of time cruising for sex on websites such as Gaydar or using apps such as Grindr – are gay men really horny 24/7 or do you think they’re often just bored and lonely? If so, why?

D – The search for sex I believe is really a search for connection. We are still only just learning how to fully relate to other gay men other than sexually. As gay children we never experienced a regular gay adolescence and so we never learnt how to integrate our sexuality into our social behaviour. The profound liberation we felt when we were at last able to be held, loved and desired by another of the same sex became our default setting when we needed to feel safe or worthy. So as we grow older we unconsciously associate sex with these basic human needs. We fail to distinguish our emotional and sexual needs and instead tend to have just one simple strategy: seeking sex.

S – Is the gay scene our friend or foe?

D – As part of a balanced diet, it is an important ingredient. As our only source of sustenance it can leave us malnourished. Asking the gay scene to provide us with everything we need is naive and unfair. Recognising and enjoying the scene for what it is creates a healthy way in which to interact and also demands that we create alternative spaces, activities and groups.

The Quest will be hosting a 2-day event titled ‘Gay Utopia: going beneath the surface’ on 3 & 4 November 2012, where the issues raised in this interview will be explored, discussed and debated.

For tickets and more information, click here.


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