Hi there! You new here? We love that you found our gay little corner of the web. Here at Debt Free Guys, we’re all about helping queer people live lives they truly love inside and out. We think happiness is a 360-degree experience (purpose, love, money, wellness, and lifestyle) that you also deserve. After reading our article below, see how we can help you more here.
Are you a happy gay man?
Ultimately, that’s what we all want – to be happier if not authentically happy. But what does it mean to be a happy gay man? Gay men don’t talk about that much . . . until now.
Are gay men happy?
If you Google “happy gay,” you get a weird combo of results on the definitions of “happy” and “gay,” and how they compare, along with travel sites and stock photos of “men + gay + happy”.
Weirdly, “happy gay” is searched about 600 times a month. Yet, we can’t help but think those 600-some folks, many likely gay men, are left disappointed. Are 600 gay men each month kept up at night pondering the similarities and differences in definitions of “happy” and “gay”.
Is anyone? Doubtful.
Are 600 gay men each month on their phones, drinking a glass of wine wanting advice on how to be happy gay men?
More likely, and it’s likely they were hoping for something more like this.
If gay men are unhappy, there’s a dearth of data that shows this. The lack of data could be because we’re simply not talking about whether we’re unhappy or happy gay men, and that’s a problem. Being visibly and vocally proud that we’re gay is one thing. Being deeply and authentically happy is another.
What we’re left with, then, is circumstantial evidence. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that LGBTQ people in general and gay men specifically suffer disproportionately from drug, alcohol and other addictions.
The CDC also says that men, gay and straight, are four times more likely than women to take their own lives and represent 79% of all deaths by suicide in the U.S. “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are at even greater risk for suicide attempts, especially before the age of 25.”
Even though data suggests gay couples may be closing the sexual orientation and gender identity pay gap (more research is needed), similar studies show that 58% of gay men stress about money each week.
If gay men are truly happy, there’s a lot of evidence that contradicts our glossy Instagram feeds and examples on Will & Grace and Modern Family.
Why don’t we know if gay men are happy?
Even today, talking about our feelings and mental conditions are taboo. Society, especially American society, expects that everyone should just be happy and not being happy suggests there’s something wrong with us.
Indeed, Victor Frankl said, “To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue (emphasis ours). One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’”
This stigma puts pressure on us to not be vulnerable, to put on the appearance of being happy even when we’re not. And gay men do a great job of putting on appearances of being happy. We have Will, Jack, Mitch and Cam to show us what society expects. None of these sources include the actual building blocks of a happy gay man.
Society loves a witty gay man, straight ladies a BFF accessory and personal stylist. Yet even while segments of the population are growing more comfortable talking about sex, even masturbation and lesbian intercourse, try bringing up how much you just love having anal sex with another man during your next sex talk with straight people.
Being a BFF is fine. Talking about lesbian intercourse is hot. Talking about two men playing in the backyard – don’t go there but “please be funny and do these shoes look?”
When it comes to our gay peers, it’s a competition. Who has the better car? What shoes are you wearing? The best outfit? My last vacation was better than yours. They went to that invite-only gala and got a picture with that A-List gay celebrity (and I didn’t) – said in your best Veruca Salt voice.
To be vulnerable is to publicly admit a feeling of defeat. But, as the CDC data alone suggests, many of us may be feeling defeated in silence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are tools for becoming a happy gay man, as you’ll see here.
Let’s talk about what it takes to be a happy gay man.
What does it mean to be a happy gay man?
The basis for being a happy gay man is the same as it is for being a happy human. Purpose.
“Happiness,” Helen Keller said, “is not attained through gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” This is a brilliant summary of Frankl’s opus, Man’s Search for Meaning. Ultimately, Frankl says, man’s happiness, even his survival, is dependent on him having a purpose.
Yet how often – to what extent – do we seek happiness through gratification contrary to Keller’s wisdom?
For men in general and gay men specifically, we tend to seek gratification in the visual and external. This may be why Prudential found in its 2018 LGBT Financial Experience Survey that more gay men identify as spenders than the general population. It’s likely why Experian found in its LGBTQ Money Survey that the top three non-discretionary spending categories in our community are personal hygiene, health & fitness and clothing respectively.
We’re seeking gratification from the external, by having all the things, all the clothes and looking better.
What we need is purpose and that alone feels vague.
Why is it so hard to find our purpose?
Since birth, we’ve been imprinted with everyone else’s expectations. Our parents, friends and communities all simply did to us what was done to them. Don Miguel Ruiz says in The Four Agreements,
Humans are dreaming all the time. Before we were born, the humans before us created a big outside dream that we will call society’s dream or the dream of the planet. The dream of the planet is the collective dream of billions of smaller, personal dreams, which together create a dream of a family, a dream of a community, a dream of a city, a dream of a country, and finally a dream of the whole humanity. The dream of the planet includes all of society’s rules, its beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures and ways to be, its governments, schools, social events and holidays.
Being born gay, means we don’t fit in the modern dream of “straight manly men”. When we rebel against a stereotype, we don’t fit the modern dream of “funny and stylish dandy”. In both cases, society pushes back on us, sometimes simultaneously.
Yet, except for who we are, why we’re here (our purpose) and science, everything’s made up. It’s all make-believe.
This is hard to wrap our heads around, especially after decades of indoctrination. Yuval Noah Harari says in Sapiens, “There are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights, except in our collective imagination.” Jacob Goldstein, in his book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing, supports this theory with his chronological history of the myriad definitions and beliefs about money that he says are all made up.
Add the generational challenge of wanting to pursue our purpose in a world convinced of the lie of duality.
Duality is essentially a state of separation – it is the opposite of reality, and it is the cause of all suffering. Duality is the product of the mind. In duality, we essentially “split” or divide life into “right/wrong,” “good/bad,” “pretty/ugly,” “holy/sinful,” “love/hate,” and so forth. As a result, our lives become centered around judgment, condemnation and fear.” – Author unknown.
Then, layer on top of all that our self-designed world constructed of tiny little boxes, and it’s a lot to overcome, and it’s not a surprise why so many of us who “don’t fit the mold” struggle with inauthenticity, unhappiness, depression, addiction and more.
It’s no wonder 600-some gay men a month are Googling how to be a happy gay man. We’re surprised that’s not higher.
How can gay men [and everyone else] find our purpose?
As we’ve concluded, then, finding our purpose is half of the first block (out of 5 blocks) to the first block (out of 5 blocks) to becoming authentically happy gay men.
A synonym for the word “purpose” is the Japanese word “ikigai,” which roughly translated means “a reason for being.” Originating from the island of Okinawa, which has the highest number of centenarians (people 100+ years old), there may be more to finding our purpose than finding happiness.
Our ikigai is the intersection of what we’re good at doing and what we love doing. Adapted for today’s [made-up] reality, it also often intersects with what the world needs and what we can get paid for doing.
But how do we discover our purpose or ikigai?
Most of the books, videos and articles on finding our purpose focus on the external, foreign forces, such as donating our time, money and talent to various causes to see what inspires us, listening to what friends and family think we should do (the very problem we highlighted above), dabbling in various hobbies or activities to seeing what sparks our fire.
All those recommendations are good, but they neglect the most important variable in the equation. You.
What we’ve found that works for us and most people, including gay men, is doing the internal work first. “Know thyself,” as the Delphic oracle said.
The three steps to start knowing yourself are:
Starting with five minutes a day, sit in a quiet, dark space. Close your eyes, and silence or ignore any thought.
Focus on your breath. Be still.
This time and space of silence, as hard as it may be, will let you get in tune with yourself minus everything and everyone else.
Ideally just after you meditate, journal freestyle for as little as five minutes or as long as you like. Journal your thoughts and emotions post-meditation. Get acquainted with your feelings.
Then, over time, use a highlighter to highlight thoughts of yours that stands out and notice any trends. These thought-trends are signs.
3. Expressing gratitude
Finally, regularly express gratitude. So often when we’re looking for our purpose, we’re focused on what’s missing in our lives, and we want to avoid that low vibration.
We must trust that the universe, god or mother nature is working in our favor. Expressing gratitude for what we already have recalibrates us to focus on our present abundance.
Give yourself some grace and be patient with these exercises before adopting the advice of seeking guidance from outside yourself.
Without the right tools and patience, people spend their whole lives not finding their purpose. Thus, this work isn’t necessarily easy but is important. As Mark Twain famously said, “The two most important days in life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.”
The second half of the first building block to becoming an authentically happy gay man, then, is to find direction and chart a course toward your purpose. This is how much of the popular advice on finding your purpose helps because while we might yearn or love to do something, we may not necessarily know how it fits in our society made of tiny little boxes.
The foundation for being an authentically happy gay man is having Purpose & Direction, as we’ve shown. But that’s just the foundation. There are four pillars that make up the total five building blocks of a happy gay life.
Identifying and understanding these five building blocks for a happy gay life is something we have a lot of passion around (it’s our ikigai), and it’s something on which we’ve spent a lot of time perfecting.
If you want to learn more about all five building blocks and how they work together to build a holistic and authentic happy gay life, get our free guide, 5 Building Blocks of a Happy Gay Life, here.