Lonely, guilt-ridden sex addict fighting back the years? Stressed, celibate guppie
convinced you've got HIV? OutUK's Adrian Gillan lies back on the couch with gay psycho
duo John and Steve to unearth just what taunts a 21st Century boy. And we also talk
to an American psychotherapist about how best to create and maintain a gay relationship.
"I do use a couch," gay psychotherapist John confides from his Central London pad,
"but not for everyone and it is not black leather - more a Middle Eastern cotton print design."
Until fairly recently John admits that many in his profession failed their gay patients. "When I set up practice over a decade ago, it was hard to find properly
qualified practitioners who did not regard homosexuality as a sickness."|
involved in gay rights for almost thirty years, I still find it rather disturbing
that some young gay men in the 21st century are so riddled with guilt, with a shame
that is palpable."
Couples tend to bring issues to with distance
"People usually seek counselling," insists John , "when their emotional pain is too
much for them to bear or when their time-strapped GP gives them a prescription for
anti-depressants without asking why they are depressed."
ACCEPTING THERAPY IS A SIGN OF MATURITY
"There's still a stigma attached to therapy," he concedes. "Some people think you've
got to be 'crazy' before trying it. Or they think it involves electric shock therapy!
Many clients also worry they are being overly indulgent. But isn't it more self indulgent
for a person to live with their misery, making those nearest to them miserable too?
Going into therapy is about maturity and being ready to take a frank and sometimes
unnerving look at oneself."
"If you think you need to see a therapist," counsels John, "seek one out who is
properly qualified and experienced and who can offer you treatment appropriate to
your needs. There should be a good chemistry between you. See how three or four
sessions go. Then if happy, continue. However clients should never feel manipulated
or trapped by their therapists."
"Many of our gay clients have high powered jobs and suffer from anxiety, depression
and overwork," he says. "Sometimes an hour or two of therapy is the only time for
real reflection that these busy and stressed people get. Others may lack a sense
of community - ill-at-ease in the world of gay clubs and bars - and we provide them
with a safe environment to explore their problems and look at them from a different angle."
"In recent years we've noticed an unusual phenomenon around HIV hysteria," says John.
"Some people are convinced that they have HIV or a related illness and demand HIV
tests on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, when they know that they could not
possibly be infected. We see this obsession as a smokescreen hiding the real problem.
Once the real problem is unearthed and thought about, the obsession often vanishes."
"I see a lot of gay or bisexual men and same sex couples," says practice colleague
Steve. "Overall, gay men bring many of the same problems as straight ones - erectile
dysfunction, premature ejaculation, loss of desire - though recently I've seen a
lot of gay men for sexual addiction."
PROMISCUITY OFTEN HIDES DEPRESSION
"These men often describe themselves as 'promiscuous'," he continues. "Yet promiscuity
isn't really a problem in itself: it just means you have a lot of sexual partners.
However such people commonly lack a particularly strong sex drive to match - they
might not even feel horny! In fact, they are often masking something like depression
or fear. And when asked to abstain from the addictive behaviour during therapy, the
true cause usually emerges."
Says Steve: "Couples tend to bring issues to do with distance and closeness. A man
may love his partner to bits whilst at the same time wanting to have a bit of fun
with other blokes. Moreover, gay couples of long-standing are often unhelpfully put
on a pedestal, like some idealised romance, by other gay men perhaps not in such
stable relationships. But this 'ideal couple' probably needs just as much support as everyone else."
"And," he adds encouragingly, "whilst it's true that gay clients over fifty have
often experienced greater oppression than younger lads, there is life for the gay
man after forty! Many of the happiest and most well adjusted gay men I have known
have in fact been older."
"Naturally," Steve muses wryly, "I get straight clients who are really gay or
bi but in the closet. But it also works the other way round - gay guys who are
seriously considering going straight. There are as many sexualities as there are
people, or colours in a rainbow."
The Power Of A Partner