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Are you comfortable “being yourself?” This may seem like a silly question. Who else would we be if we aren’t being ourselves? And yet, do you …
By Dr. Terry Drew Kaaren
If you’re reading this, there’s an 80 percent chance you’re female. My subscribers are predominately women and 35+. (If you’re a guy – thank you for subscribing and reading my work!)
Truth is, I’ve always attracted more women than men in my work, which given that I’ve been an out gay man for over four decades has always been a bit puzzling to me. Even when I had my church in Pittsburgh, I had a majority of lesbian members, and the lesbian minister at the MCC had all the gay guys. Go figure!
So, ladies, bear with me while I focus this week’s blog on a guy issue. Hopefully, you can forward this to some man you know! (Stick around though - there's some great stuff here for you to consider, too!)
Guys, regardless of sexual orientation, seem to have a more difficult time in our society making true, intimate, male friends. Women may have tons of girlfriends, but we guys may only have a handful of other men in our life – if any – upon we can call on when we are down and out.
Sure, we may have the “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, dude!” or “Get a grip, man!” friend who will tell us to stop whining and acting weak. “Be a man about it, for crissakes!” he’ll scream, as he tosses you a fifty-pound medicine ball.
Much of it has to do with our societal homophobia, and this goes for gay, bisexual, and straight men. We are taught to be terrified of intimate male friendships, because our western culture associates intimacy with sex. This misconception screws up our chances of male bonding, as well as making it more difficult for men to have deeper relationships with women.
The truth is all humans – male and female – will have times when we are feeling weak, when we have allowed ourselves to be victimized, or when we can’t see the forest for the trees. But men are more likely to tough it out and isolate instead of seeking help.
And this, dear reader, is the real message of this blog:
Male social isolation is killing us.
In the December 1, 2017, issue of Bottomline Personal magazine, then editor Karen Larson notes that “social isolation increases the risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and dementia while decreasing immune system functions” in males.
Further, Dr. Richard Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School believes male social isolation “has as important an effect on our health as smoking, high blood pressure, or obesity.”
Retired men often have few social connections other than their spouse. While women have been acculturated to make new friends, the same is often not the case for men. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible and we CAN learn to do so. Here are a couple of ways:
· Seek out the companionship of other guys you admire or connect with
· Join a community or group where you will be surrounded by other supportive men
· Refuse to buy into the men have to be powerful all the time and never vulnerable
· Create standing times with the men closest to you
· Learn that intimacy doesn’t have to mean sex
Terry is an author, speaker, licensed social worker and flight attendant. He is also the director of Spirit, Mind and Body Foundation (spiritmindbodyfoundation.org).