We often hear that everything is much easier now for gay people. While it is true that major progress has been made over these past years legally, when it comes to social normsal, homosexuality is still heavily stigmatized and leads to considerable stress, particularly for many young people who feel different from childhood. The term “pédé” (“faggot”) which we hear every day on the street and in schoolyards is still the term society uses to designate gay men and boys whose gender expression is considered feminine.
Coming out is always a risky, lonely process and living in secret is almost always a major source of anxiety. Unlike other stigmatized minorities, young gays do not speak about the discrimination they face with their parents out of fear of disappointing them or being rejected.
If it goes well, coming out can help one live happier by accepting oneselfthrough self-acceptance and, allowing oneself to find love and openly build a relationship. If it goes badly, it can lead to depression, suicidal behavior or, self-hatred or hatred of other gay people.
Coming out is a source of stress that is never truly resolved once and for all. Gay men deal with this question over and over again throughout their lifetimes: “Should I just be quiet, lie or say who I really am in this situation?” A gay man who comes out can decide to go back into the closet if he receives too many negative reactions from his surroundings.
Coming out of the closet is the expression used to describe both the process of acknowledging and accepting one’s self as gay and announcing it to others.
A median age means that half of people came out younger and half of people came out later. The graph shows the median age for the four main steps of the process.
No one chooses to be gay, nor does someone wake up one day and realize that they are. Many gays say that they had always felt different when it came to interests, tastes and behaviors since they were children and they knew from an early age that they did not meet up to the expectations of their parents or society. This accounts for the “first feeling of difference” part on the graph.
For some years now, we have noticed a trend towards earlier coming- out earliers. The advantage of coming out earlier is an end to silence over opening up about your feelings and desires, ending the social and emotional isolation caused by secrecy and the fear of being rejected by your family and/or friends if everything goes well. Nevertheless, coming out of the closet younger also carries the risk of major rejection at the hands of your parents at a time when you are entirely dependent upon them, losing friends, being publicly stigmatized or harassed and can even lead to symptoms of depression and suicidal behavior.
This graph shows the median age where the first symptoms of anxiety and depression appeared in gay men who had suffered them and the median age for the first suicide attempt among those gays who had done attempted to commit suicide.
We found that the first signs of anxiety appear at age 10 at the end of childhood, the beginning of secondary school and before children realize they have same-sex desires. This confirms how many children feel different and before they can even put a word to it, they know their difference is not accepted by society.
With puberty, an adolescent becomes a sexual being. He will come to be aware that he is attracted to people of the same sex. It is often over the same period that he realizes that the insult “pédé” (faggot) describes his desires, him as a person, and what he loves. The taboo surrounding homosexuality often prevents young gay men from engaging in teenage romance and can lead him to suppress his desires and even feel shameembarrassment not over something he has done, but rather who he is as a person. All of these sources of stress can lead to depression whose first signs appear at 16 years of age, right between the age of realizing one is gay and having their first gay experience.
20, is the median age for a first suicide attempt which is very close to the age for the first time coming out to someone in his environment. This proximity makes it clear that coming out is still very stressful for many young gay men. Gay men list many causes for their first suicide attempt, most frequently love and relationship problems, difficulties accepting homosexuality and family problems.
This graph shows the findings from a series of questions which had three answers: high – average- low. It shows whether gay men feel at ease with their homosexuality or part of their community and if they accept or rather feel shame about being gay.
More than 20% of participants declared they would rather not be gay or bisexual and many of them consider being gay a personal fault or had tried to stop being gay. Only some 30% of them fully accept their homosexuality. This data highlights that the self-acceptance process is not automatic, even after having comecoming out of the closet for the first time. Dealing with the daily stigma of being gay, the lower social status attributed to gay men and gender-expression (femininity and masculinity) discrimination requires good psycho-social resources, which is not currently the case of many gay men.
Almost 50% of gay men feel a strong sense of belonging to the gay community.
47% of gays have come out to everyone in their surroundings: mother, father, brothers and sisters, friends and work colleagues. 50% of gay men had their first coming out before they turned 20, 21% after they turned 25.