Matthew J. Dempsey is an openly gay, licensed professional clinical counselor who has worked at both the LGBT Community Center and Gay Men’s Health Crisis of New York City. His current practice is in West Hollywood, where he also creates videos for social media discussing some of the issues his patients deal with. In his latest video, Dempsey explores why it’s so hard for gay men to have gay friends, and our difficulty connecting with others in general.
Dempsey recalls that when he first moved to Los Angeles, it was easy to meet people who wanted to make plans. But he explains, “What I quickly realized was that I was mistaking everybody’s general pleasantries with people who were actually willing and able to follow-up and wanted to create some friendships. And that was really hard.”
So Dempsey attempts to answer this question: “What can we do to find people and also keep those relationships in our lives?” He calls on his friends to help him explore.
Dempsey says that coming out can be a challenging experience for many. What can be more challenging is the struggle to create a strong group of gay friends afterwards.
“So when we do put a lot of work and effort then into eventually coming out we can feel really excited and hopeful and like, ‘Yes! Finally, I’m gonna meet my people and I’m gonna connect and there’s gonna be this big warm welcome for me,'” he says. “And then we quickly realize it’s not exactly that. We can see that not only is it not exactly that warm, but people like other gay guys even might be kind of standoffish, a little aloof and even sometimes kind of mean.”
“You’d think it’d be easy to find your chosen family and feel like you belong in a community where everyone has struggled to come out, but side-eyes and thoughts of ‘these kweens’ often times dominate over a friendly hello,” he says.
Dempsey’s friends chime in about why they think gay men can be so mean. Some claim that being mean is just part of the gay experience. One says, “I think being catty and vicious is part of our nature. I think it’s one of those a gay genes that, like, is unexplainable.”
While others answer that meanness is a result of gay men being labeled as different or being bullied all their lives. “I think there’s a lot of insecurities with gay men from when they are children, and the greatest easiest way to get rid of those insecurities is to be mean to someone else,” one says.
While they say it can be challenging to form these relationships, once people spend the time to invest in people, the pay-off can be fulfilling.
While fighting back tears, one friend says, “I just feel love and acceptance. I know it sounds so cheesy but it’s like that’s all anybody really wants at the end of the day. They just want to go to bed accepted and loved for who they are.”