Columnists » Talk It Out

Why Bother? Gay Elitism or Fear of Intimacy

by Vince Pellegrino
Tuesday Oct 1, 2013

Having just completed all my interviews for my upcoming book: "Talk it OUT: No More Gay Shame," one of my last interviewees, Brendan, made what I considered to be of the most significant statements with regard to gay male communication or lack thereof.

Brendan, being young and new to the NYC gay scene, expressed a very blunt view with regards to the selective communication that often occurs with gay men in bars, clubs and gyms throughout the city and, I would expect, the gay world in general.

The specific group of men that tend to display this type of communication, according to Brendan and several others of the men I interviewed, are generally, very attractive gay men who have a very specific category of men that pique their curiosity and gain their attention.

"These guys are always looking for the next, new, shiny object!"

Working in the membership department in one of New York City's most popular gyms, Brendan has personally witnessed the transformation of men who come to his office excited about joining the gym. Within a very short period of time after building up their bodies to near perfection, they change not only in form but also, in personality from who they originally were.

"They become 'snooty;' they're always in competition, even with the next person they meet or encounter!"

When I questioned Brendan further of whether they treated other men as if they were invisible, he was very quick to respond in the affirmative.

"Absolutely! I see men in here actually look through other men when they walk by them as if to say, "Why bother?"

Brendan was not alone in his comments of invisibility but, his boss Jesse, the manager of this particular gym and an older and powerfully built man, went even further than the dismissive behavior of avoiding others.

"I was at a Toys for Tots party in the city last year, and when I walked by a group of pretty boys, they literally cringed when I passed them! What the Hell was that all about?"

After researching the communication dynamic of the GLBT community for the past fifteen years while conducting countless interviews with gay men from all categories, in my professional view, this type of selective communication is primarily based on sexual attraction; a basic human tendency to be attracted to physical appearance before personality.

As a professor of Interpersonal Communication at two large universities, textbook data proves that human beings in general, tend to focus first on physical appearance before personality, roles, or psychological similarity. But for gay men, despite great strides made, granting us both political and societal freedoms, many of us have felt ostracized or shamed by others within our social and familial worlds.

It is this shame and fear of being ostracized that has often subconsciously caused many gay men to act in less than desirable ways in order to feel better or, even superior to others, similar to beautiful straight women or men who use their beauty to, in a sense, separate themselves from others.

It is pretty evident that physical attractiveness has its significant benefits in our social order otherwise, the weight loss and beauty industries wouldn't be so amazingly profitable.

In a recent radio interview with Dr. Claudio Pinto, a renowned dermatologist and beauty expert in the New York City area, Dr. Pinto further commented that despite a downturn in the economy, "my business; primarily with gay men, was better than ever! After all, gay men know what is important, and what is important, even in a 'down' economy, is looking and feeling good!

But, despite feeling and looking good, what I personally feel is most important in life is the way we treat one another. For what truly makes us better as human beings, is the desire to love and care for one another, and with every act of kindness displayed, the more we grow both as human beings and good citizens of this planet.

So, the next time gentlemen, you feel the impulse to cringe or avoid the gaze of another because he doesn't meet your idealized image, "take the higher road" and be kind and smile or, even better, say something pleasant; you will be the better for it, as will the recipient of your message.

In the words of infamous comedian and film maker, Charlie Chaplin, "We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness."

Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.


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