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"Discrimination and marginalization may hinder queer men from seeking help...try to remember that there are queer practitioners out there who can provide culturally-competent care."

An Interview with Alvaro Luna of the Health Initiative for Men

AlvaroAlvaro Luna is a Latino queer counsellor and psychotherapist, as well as the mental health program specialist at Health Initiative for Men – HIM, an organization dedicated to strengthening the well-being of queer men and gender diverse people through tailored mental, sexual, social and physical health programming. You can check out their mental health programming at www.checkhimout.ca/mind, where you’ll find information about counselling, queer men’s health, and queer competent counsellors.

How does discrimination affect queer men?

“Most queer men (GBQT) experience discrimination and marginalization for being queer. From a young age, those who express femininity or feelings of attraction to the same sex tend to be ridiculed, and receive constant messages telling them there is something fundamentally wrong with them (as they don’t adhere to expected masculinity standards and heterosexuality). This affects them in different ways, in particular, low self-esteem, overcompensation for the “fundamental flaw of being queer”, interpersonal difficulties, anxiety, and depression, as well as other mental health issues that can unfold.

Discrimination also reflects in other areas of life, where queer men are frequently targets of violence and aggression, and have fewer job opportunities, access to resources. etc.”

How can queer men cultivate self-acceptance?

“We can cultivate self-acceptance by observing queer role models, connecting with other queer people who can support us with our mental health (through queer-led community organizations, for example), learning about gender and sexual diversity, cultivating self-compassion and kindness.

In particular, psychotherapy can be helpful to build coping strategies, and to unpack and deconstruct internalized homophobia (homophobia directed at the self, which maintains the low self-esteem and the suppression of queer gender and sexual expression). Queer therapists can be of extra help as they are able to relate personally to the experience of being queer, and can serve as a role model as well.”

What are some factors that may hinder queer men from seeking help?

“Discrimination and marginalization may hinder queer men from seeking help. Many queer men report having had negative experiences with healthcare providers who make assumptions about them, ridicule them, or pathologize them. For example, going to a clinic and having doctors or nurses immediately ask if one’s had an HIV test when one says they’re gay; or healthcare providers making derogatory comments about queer culture, sexuality, etc. without being aware the person in front of them is queer.

Self-esteem issues could also play a role, where queer men might not feel that their health issues are important enough to seek support. However, try to remember that there are queer practitioners out there who can provide culturally-competent care.”

What are three tips you’d give to queer men battling depression?

  1. “You are good enough PERIOD. Your worth is not dependent on anything you do, your worth is unquestionable because you are human. There’s nothing wrong with you for being queer, the problem is queerphobia (homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, etc) and its violence.
  2. Try to be as kind to yourself as you can. Society has been hard on us for being queer, but we don’t need to treat ourselves that way. Talk to yourself with love and compassion, like you would talk to someone you love very much.
  3. Take small steps towards where you want to be. The more things you do that take you where you eventually want to be will make you feel good, and increase your mood. Give yourself credit for the small victories.”

How can allies help support a queer man they know?

“Allies can support queer men in different ways. In social settings, making sure they don’t use queerphobic language, and using queer-affirming language (no derogatory jokes, name-calling, posts against LGBT rights, etc). If you notice a queer person being attacked, intervene and focus on protecting that person if you can. If a queer person you know is struggling, check in, ask if there’s any way you can support them, and offer to connect them with some queer resources (if the person is out to you). If not, you can just ask how you can support them best.”

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