My name is Jakeb Arturio Braden and I am a gay man living with ADHD and occasional mental health issues (Anxiety) and body dysmorphia. I am 47 years old and I have (this will hopefully put some context into what I will say) spent the majority of the past 25 serving my community in a variety of paid and voluntary roles. Challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Raising awareness of HIV and AIDS, Promoting safer sex and volunteering to keep the community safe. Now if I was isolated from my community and excluded from social events, photo shoots, parties, projects, rejected for sex and relationships and not given a job or work because I was HIV+ there would be outcry and rightly so. However with in the Gay Community and this is supported by the silence from gay charities and gay men’s sexual health there is a huge amount of stigma and discrimination targeted at gay men with mental health issues.
Just last week I shared my story on Gay Star News in relation to a young man with body dysmorphia (bear In mind young gay men are SIX times more likely to use steroids and having eating disorders that straight young men) I shared how on three occasions I have wanted to take my life because I have felt so isolated and rejected by the community, that I wasn’t muscly enough and didn’t meet the standards for the various communities with the gay male community (e.g. bears, leather men and rubber men) How I have not socialised because of this, how I have spent weekend after weekend not talking to another human being. I got attacked by at least three guys as attention seeking! When I was raising awareness that this is a real issue. Now how could I be attention seeking when I kept it to myself? I wrote the notes to my two closet friends, got the tablets ready and was prepared to follow through, although something stopped me, the thought of what it would do to the perhaps two people who care for me.
There are times when I have not socialised because I feel judged and unwelcome, I have hardly had sex in five years because of this. I can go weekend after weekend not talking to another gay man. I get no pleasure being like this at all. I would rather be out there socialising with people and having a good time.
Now this is real and the judgements and discrimination is real and accepted. Ironically there is a lot of awareness and challenges around HIV and being HIV+ which is it should be. Now don’t misunderstand (I am not making a judgement here stating, just stating a fact!) me when I say HIV is contracted through unsafe sex (is preventable) Mental health issues often aren’t and manifest for a variety of reasons and ironically stigmatising guys, isolating them and ignoring them because of this makes these issues ten times worse as it feeds into the fears and anxieties that cause the mental health issues in the first place.
Now I do all I can to manage this, I rarely drink alcohol or do drugs, I don’t visit saunas to have sex with loads of guys all in a bid to mask my insecurities or bury any issues I have I face them head on and acknowledge them and speak openly about them for this I am discriminated and stigmatised for. I am seen as weak and needy where the opposite is true as I am facing my stuff head on and not engaging in risky behaviour, alcohol consumption, using drugs or having numerous sexual encounters to mask and hide issues I have.
I understand the roots come (for me growing up in the care system, something I didn’t choose) and I have taken actions to remedy this.
There is a confident outgoing side to me, due to the ADHD though I have issues with filtering things and I am outspoken and passionate about things which means I speak my truth as I see it!
I also done all I can to manage it through a range of techniques so I have not passively sat back and allow it to control me. However a lack of support in the community and a lack of awareness makes this really hard to manage sometimes. We as a gay male community need to be able to talk about mental health issues, issues such as body dysmorphia in an open and honest manner with out fear of being judged or suddenly off the invite list because we are seen as too needy. I can tell you it takes a lot of courage to do as I am doing now and sharing my story and opening up about this! I have experienced the consequences for doing this and that is as it is however I will not be silenced on this I want above all a better community to be in one where I feel I can be myself and people will make a little extra effort to accommodate me. Not just for me but for all the other guys out there I know are going through the same.
So please be more aware of this issue and how you can support not stigmatise your brothers going through these issues.
Best wishes Jakeb