Why So Many Gay Men Are Serial Liars

by Vince Pellegrino
Monday Jul 30, 2012

How many times have you seen this in someone's personal online profiles: "No liars, flakes, or games please!"

Why do we lie, flake out, or play these mind games with each another? Are we hiding something truthful about ourselves, such as our age, weight, attraction to others, money earned, job, or, sexual orientation? Or, are we trying to keep others from being hurt if they were to hear the clear and honest truth?

Why, in short, do gay men lie or become dishonest so easily? How many times does any one of us have to be lied to or, "get played," before we finally yell, "Stop it!"

"Nearly any adult will tell you that lying is wrong," Jenna McCarthy wrote in "Truth About Lying" on the magazine Real People's website. "But when it comes to avoiding trouble, saving face in front of the boss, or sparing someone's feelings, many people find themselves doing it anyway."

But why do gay men in particular lie so frequently? Why can't we tell someone that, although flattered by his intentions, we're not attracted to someone? Are we really trying to avoid hurting feelings or simply trying to avoid an uncomfortable situation for initiator of the lies?

Feigning interest in someone and then never calling him back is an epidemic in the gay world. So is making a date with someone while having grave doubts that we are really attracted to the other person. Is this pattern of lies all about saving face and trying not to hurt someone's feelings (whose feelings get hurt in the end anyway)?

For an upcoming book project, I have been studying how gay shame affects communication between gay men in social settings. I've found that many gay men have lived secret lives of shame, hiding their true sexual orientation from others based on fear of possible rejection and familial and societal ostracism. Therefore, lying has become something we have become very able to do but, not without its consequences to our own emotional well being and the same for the others with whom we interact.

When you are about to tell a lie, first ask yourself: How would it feel to have to lie or be dishonest with someone who wants something from you whom you are simply not desiring or willing to give? Or, how does it feel to be lied to from someone you trusted or wished to trust?

When was the last time you arranged a meeting only to have the date postponed, even at the last minute, due to work commitments or other priorities? Or when had someone done that to you?

The Internet and cell phones are great conveniences and sources of information. But the digital age has also made it much easier to lie via online chat or text messaging rather than risking the awdkwardness of a direct conversation. Online and text messaging cannot convey emotion or deception as easily as direct interaction, either face to face or on the phone. Have you become proficient in lying or avoiding uncomfortable situations you set up either by going online or through text messaging?

Not that gay men lack face-to-face interaction. Gay men socialize intimately with other gay men frequently in bars, clubs, gyms, and social gatherings where we come in contact with a vast array of people. Now consider how many people you meet in these venues.

What was your communication like? Did you talk more about yourself or listen to what other people had to say? Were you honest and truthful about the information you shared or did you distort or exaggerate?

If you see yourself in the above, you need to ask yourself, "Why do I feel the need to lie or exaggerate when meeting new people?" Perhaps that lying or dishonesty comes from years of not believing in yourself and the feeling that you are enough -- a common occurrence for many gay men based on cruel remarks or societal rebuke.

But the feeling that you are not good enough is very far from the truth when you think that we all have the potential to be special and stand out for who we are if we can pursue a truthful and honest career or life path.

If you can look at your life that way, you will begin to develop a positive view of yourself. Once that happens, you will present that positivity to others in both your communication and actions.

In doing so, your desire to lie or be dishonest will lessen. People will see you as a good person who can be trusted and respected, rather than as a fake, a flake, a liar and a game player whom people will avoid and suspect your true intentions.

So choose: On the Internet, on a smartphone or face to face, think before you speak. Don't make plans you have no intention to keep and try your best to be honest as often as you can. No matter how hot, sexy and attractive you appear, once people get to know the real you, if they don't like what they see, good looks won't carry the day -- at least with people worth knowing.

The famous wit Dorothy Parker put it best, but when she wrote, "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone" she was referring to personal character, not physical presentation. So be beautiful both inside and out and stop with the lies and dishonesty that can make you less attractive to everyone, including yourself.

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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