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    The Most Frequently Asked Question

    By Tom Moon, MFT

    Q: I came here almost three years ago from a small town where there was no gay life. Maybe I was naïve, but I was sure that once I got here, I was going to find someone to love and spend my life with. I go out trying to meet guys, but mostly just wind up having quick sex. I spend a lot of time online looking for guys, but that just winds up being about quick sex, too. I’m very disillusioned and discouraged. What am I doing wrong?

    A: Therapists who work with gay men probably hear no question more frequently than: “How can I find a boyfriend?” Gay guys migrate from all over the country to urban gay centers in the hope of finding the one person who will make life worth living, and many wind up, like the questioner, feeling demoralized and discouraged.

    A good way to begin thinking about this question is to appreciate the obstacles to intimacy that are placed in the way of LGBTQ people. Most of us sensed from an early age that we were different, and most of us “knew” that this difference was bad. If we were identified as gay by others in childhood or adolescence, that usually meant enduring ridicule at best, or even abuse and assault.

    Many of us have had to leave families and whole communities where we weren’t welcome. Few of us reach adult life without having experienced ourselves as outsiders, as unwanted; and as a result, few of us have avoided at least some injuries to our self-esteem and ability to trust others. The most serious abuse and rejection for gay men tends to come from fathers, brothers and other boys in school—in other words, from other males. It is hardly surprising, then, that so many of us have both a deep longing for closeness with other men and a deep distrust of them.

    We collect together in large cities with the hope of finding love and community, but we bring our wounds with us. We form communities of outsiders. We often find that, even in these communities, it is not so easy to trust or to be trusted. We find that it is hard to connect with others or to allow others to get close to us, and we begin to doubt whether the term “gay community” means anything at all. We are hurt by the “attitude” of other gay guys, but we find ourselves building walls of attitude ourselves to cover our own fear of rejection. We long for the partner who will release us from this cycle, but this longing often becomes an obsession, increasing our sense of separateness and loneliness.

    The real issue, then, is not so much how to find a partner as it is how to be intimate, particularly with other men. How do you do this? I suggest that you set yourself the goal of finding five or six (nonsexual) gay friends whom you can trust enough to disclose your feelings and struggles. Don’t confine yourself to clubs and the Internet in this search.

    To help build community, commit yourself to participating in the life of your community. Familiarize yourself with the many LGBTQ organizations and interest groups that exist here. Whether it is political action, sports, art, dancing, etc., join with others who share your interests, or the interests you would like to develop.

    Don’t make the mistake of attending just one event in an organization and then quitting because you do not feel comfortable. Social anxiety will be part of the process of exploration. Don’t expect instant intimacy or belonging. In every venue you explore, you will initially be the stranger. Give others a chance to get to know you before you decide “this isn’t working.” Above all, don’t scan a room and leave disappointed if you don’t immediately spot your future husband. Real support systems develop over time that is measured in months and years, not days and weeks.

    The point is to focus on building intimacy in your life first. It is in creating your gay “family” that you will acquire the social skills—the trust, loyalty, and concern for others—that are essential to being a good partner. And, who knows? Maybe it is somewhere within this network that you will find the partner you are seeking.

    Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. For more information, please visit his website